Our Wedding Day [Photos]

Our wedding day was perfect. It was cool outside and it drizzled a little bit, but inside the red brick historic courthouse that I grew up down the street from I married my favorite person. We cried and we giggled and we vowed to be each others’ forever. We took communion and we prayed for the Lord to make us more like Him through this new thing. And then we kissed and we danced and we celebrated with our closest people and we soaked it all in. Our wedding day was my favorite day and today I’m so, so excited to share our pictures with you!

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Photographer: Christi Lee Photography
Venue: Historic Crown Point Courthouse
Catering: Noka’s Cafe and Catering 
Hair: Thomas William Salon/Amber Cooper
Makeup: Britt Wilt Emery
Bridal Gown: Something Blue Bridal
DJ: Reeb Entertainment
Flowers: Rosemary’s Heritage Florist
Ceremony Music/First Dance Song: Justin Duenne
Bridesmaids Dresses: Union Station

How I’m Finding Meaning

Over Christmas break, Matt and I soaked up a rare morning together as we sat on the sofa at his brother’s house. I leaned my head on his shoulder and we talked about our Bible readings that morning. He told me about John 15, explaining how it was a passage describing vines and branches, death and flourishing, and how Jesus is who we grow and multiply from, that apart from him we can do nothing.

That apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

These words have been rattling around my head ever since, coming to the surface as I teach high schoolers and drive home from church and am engaged in conversations. I’ve heard them before. I’ve read through John’s account of the Gospel for classes and in She Reads Truth studies and John 15 was even the central text of a Youth Conference I helped plan in college. But as only powerful, life-giving texts can provide, I found new meaning in these particular words on this cloudy December morning in Kansas.

I’m reading through the Bible this year and as I spend my time working through my allocated chapters for the day, I find myself sneaking away to John 15 even though I’m not quite there yet in my reading schedule. I’ve spent a lot of time in this chapter, circling and underlining and coming away consistently refreshed, renewed and reminded to seek Jesus. I’m revived knowing that I don’t have to grow and multiply and influence and live well all on my own.

John 15 likens our relationship with Christ to vines and branches, that he is the vine and we are the branches. As branches, we are connected to the vine, abiding and growing and soaking in life and energy from our source. And our source here, as Christians, is Jesus and his love. The first part of this passage establishes that we cannot function well without Christ- that no good thing can come from us unless we are rooted in Jesus. The second part teaches us that when we abide in our source, we will find strength to follow what he says is best and as a result, live in the fullness of joy.

In the past few years, and really in the past several months, I’ve felt this push towards meaning. I want to create it, live in it and engage with it. I want my life to matter and I want this meaningfulness to seep into my relationships and classroom and writings and online spaces. I want to pack as much in as possible in every moment, trying hard to make sense of the things around me. I feel the pressure to do something with this meaning, and there are just so many things I want to write about and read about and so many people I want to sit down and learn from and share with.

Sometimes this pressure can feel so overwhelming, so daunting that I find myself doing nothing. That instead of writing or reading or planning coffee dates, I spend another half-hour scrolling social media because it’s easier. And then another day angry at myself. And another moment feeling jealous of the woman who is doing the thing I wish I was doing. And another minute believing that I’m not enough because I’m not trying hard enough. It’s a nasty cycle.

I’m slowly learning that instead of trying harder and living in my inadequacies, to turn to John 15 and to remember. I’m finding out that what I think is a craving for meaning is really a craving for Jesus. That my desire for influence is really a desire to abide in the Lord, to know him as my source and home and to trust that he can do more through me than I could ever imagine. The most important thing I’ve learned is that Jesus is better. He is better than my plans and dreams and good intentions and John 15 tells me one reason why- because he is my source. Because I wasn’t created to thrive on my own, to share this Good News on my own, to find meaning on my own.

John 15 talks about fruit, that when we abide in Jesus and let him into our spaces, into all of our lives, he allows himself to be known through us by how we live. Our fruit is compassion and love for others and patience. It’s our ability to connect with the people around us and to encourage, to uplift and walk alongside the hurting and to make good choices. And it’s this fruit that leads us to meaningfulness, but if we just keep trying hard to get this fruit we will be trying in vain, because it’s only accessible through Jesus.

Friends, I know I’m not the only one who craves meaning and I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt stuck trying to find it and express it. I figured you might need this reminder just as much as I do– that we cannot do anything good, beautiful, or meaningful without abiding in Christ, without creating a home in him and allowing him to abide in every moment of our lives. And so, as you go about your day, remember Jesus. Remember that he is better, that he is worth investing in and that he can create meaning through your life because he is the very meaning you desire.

Morning Commutes and Trusting the Lord

I moved to a downtown neighborhood this past summer into a cute, two-story historic house nestled closely within the surrounding homes. I live with roommates and travel a little bit longer to school and to church and to Matt, but it’s a lively neighborhood packed with people and hospitality and social events every month.

If you talked to me at all this past fall, you know how much I hated the drive to work in the dark, early mornings and during rush hour through downtown after soccer practice. I hated having to get up earlier to get to school obnoxiously early because I was afraid to leave and arrive to work too close to the time we started because it didn’t leave much room for error. What if there was a crash and too much traffic? Or if the weather was terrible or some part of my route was closed down? What if I arrived to school late when I had more to prepare for the day? I didn’t ever want to risk it, so I got up early in attempt to minimize any problem before it could happen. 

As much as I dreaded this new commute, when I think back to the fall, one of the most consistent memories I have was in my car in the mornings. It was always dark and the roads were empty and it was quiet. And around October, in a strained effort to up the game in my prayer life, I started to pray aloud for at least half of my drive. At first it felt weird to talk to someone who couldn’t audibly respond, but as all habits do, it became normal and needed and a necessary part of my morning routine.

Through these prayers every morning, I started to practice remembering what the Lord has done. Because on days when I walked into the classroom exhausted after emotionally draining late-night games, He gave me energy and the ability to connect with my students. And in the moments when I’ve been overwhelmed with wedding details, Matt has been there to calm me down and my mom has been there to take the reins on whatever needed to get done. And in the moments when I’ve needed rest, He’s worked through the people around me to allow me a break, even when it came in the middle of 2nd period. Through this practice of remembering, I’ve realized that even though the Lord has provided every single thing I have ever needed to keep moving forward and to thrive, actually trusting that the Lord is in control has always come as an afterthought; something I realized once the struggle was done.

Trusting in the Lord is something I’ve always tiptoed around, something I’ve tested before believing that He’s someone I can always and consistently count on. Because when I look back on this past year, in so many situations I only trusted when it was the last resort, when it was the only option I had left. When I had finally held up my white surrender flag after realizing that I couldn’t do it all– all the driving, coaching, teaching, loving, communicating, planning, and organizing– without Jesus.

I hate this reality even more than I disliked my morning commute at first. Because I’ve been a Christian my whole life, I don’t remember a time where I didn’t know Jesus. But I get stuck in the rules and the expectations and the ridiculous notion that I am in control, even though that’s failed over and over again. But the Lord is gracious and he provides well and I want this year to be a year where I trust more in these truths than in the unnecessary expectations I put on myself that only lead me to exhaustion and dissatisfaction.

And so, I want this year to be a year of remembrance, of always knowing that the Lord provides abundantly what I need. I’ve tiptoed around this reality for too long, testing God first only to look up at him in awe, wondering how he could do such a good thing. I want this year to be a shift from sheepishly wondering whether the Lord will provide to completely trusting that He will. I want to trust that he is enough for my mistakes and insecurities and anxieties before they get to be too overwhelming. I want to fully trust that he is a God who answers prayers and who fulfills callings, that he is a God who restores his people to himself, even in the midst of complete and utter mess and brokenness and especially during times of prosperity, joy, and excitement. 

This year, I’ll keep getting up too early and start to say my prayers once I pass the Keystone exit. I’ll continue to practice remembering who our God is with the hope that I learn to trust him more, before the overwhelming moments come. But even when I forget, even when I’m stuck in my anxieties and control, I’ll remember that my Lord has restored me before and will graciously do it again because that’s who he is and what he does. Today I’m grateful for this new year and this time to be reminded to start over, to inch my way forward in learning how to trust a God who has always been in control.

How to Grieve a Good Thing Gone

Anna got married to Ben last week in a chapel where people were sharing seats to make room and the homemade wreaths hung on the doors and Kiersten and I handed out programs with smiles on our faces even though our extremities were frozen from the abnormally chilly May wind.

The Brick House was reunited, but everything was different this time. Kiersten is in grad school and taking summer classes and Kayleigh is in Colorado, doing what she does best– adventure and hospitality. Audrey is also in Colorado, but doing the hard work of teaching young minds to care about words and each other and not running in front of cars during a field trip. I sat in the tent in a much different place than I expected, confident in my job and community and with a man who loves me and whom I love deeply and who filled in for the ushers even though he didn’t know the bride or groom and who took care of me when I felt my worst that day. And Anna, beautiful Anna, is married to her person– to gentle, kind, loving Ben. She filled each space with calm and grace and poise and beauty because it was so evident she had found rest in where the Lord brought her this year and it ended with this celebration.

For one of the first times this year, it hit me that we’re never going to get the Brick House life back. I knew that last year- in the months and weeks leading up to graduation and as I sat in the Von Maur parking lot ugly crying the day after because that beautiful, restorative, safe year was over. And so was the season of living with the most incredible women I ever had the privilege of doing life with. Gone was my safe bubble of dancing to Beyonce while doing dishes and singing the Doxology as a prayer before dinner. Gone was walking out of my room to a living room full of women graciously willing to let me externally process the hardest year of my life-who let me lay my head on their laps as I cried in frustration and sadness while I unraveled the past two years and waited as God created a new thing in me. Gone was doing life with my people, all under one roof in a safe place.

That year was sacred because the Lord was so evidently there. We all knew it. We felt Him in the quiet moments following a prayer or a Scripture reading at dinner. We felt Him when we gathered with each other for movie nights and house breakfasts and lunches and dinners and porch times. We felt Him when we ran and biked and then sat on the dock one last time, knowing that the sacred year, our year of safety and rest and restoration, was over.

I think it’s natural for humans to want to hold on to these sacred moments. I remember struggling knowing there was a defined end to this good thing- how were we ever going to find anything like it again? How do we cope with a looming new season of hard and danger and lonely and inexperience?

How do we grieve a good thing gone? A thing that always had an end date?

As I sat in church last Sunday, in my exhaustion, I worshipped Jesus in my new place that the Lord so abundantly provided. It was one of those rare moments where I felt completely raw, without the strength to bury the things that hurt, like the reality that although I was with my best friends last night, it just wasn’t the same because we’ve all changed in the past year and because we aren’t all sharing the same space anymore. We’ve moved on to where the Lord needed us to go.

I stood next to Matt and looked around at my new community and up at him and felt a small twinge of guilt- guilt for enjoying this new thing that is so different than my Brick House community last year. But even more so I felt sad because my best friends, the ones who walked me through some of the hardest, ugliest moments, weren’t here to share with me in this good new thing and I wasn’t there to share with them in their new things like we had done so well in the Brick House.

As I sang the words on the screen on the verge of tears, I realized that we grieve a good thing gone by believing and knowing and trusting that Jesus is always better than even the best season. That the sacred moments are just glimpses of His glory, pockets of heaven that He allows us to experience now, moments that hold eternal weight and hope because we’re promised a forever of these heavenly moments when we leave our last season here on this Earth.

Even when the season ends, even when that good thing is gone, our Father promises us an eternity of good things. What a beautiful hope to cling on to.

So, my dear Brick House friends, I feel so honored to have lived life with you and experienced glimpses of heaven with you, and even though we won’t ever share that Brick House on First street again, I’m excited to share in new moments with you in new spaces when life allows. I think it’s taken me this past year to process through our safe haven year, and I don’t entirely think I’m done yet, but thank you for that year. Thank you for exemplifying Christ’s love and servant-heartedness and helping create one of the safest places I’ve ever known. Thank you for sharing your beautiful lives and hearts with me, and thank you for becoming my forever friends. I miss you deeply and love you even more and am rooting for you as you flourish in your new pockets of the world.

 

Becoming Wild and Free

“If Christ is in you, the wild nature of God is ready for you to access and practice and live out…This means, simply put, that you don’t live subject to any constraints or categories. You can defy expectation and throw off all assumptions because that is the nature of God in you.” Jess Connolly//Wild and Free

I am not much of a risk taker. I like to play it safe, to weigh all my options, and to plan out my days down to the hour. My planner has become one of my favorite personal objects and there’s a small part of me that is overly satisfied every time I get to write something in the little boxes.

But lately I’ve started to question and wonder why being organized and safe delights me as much as it does. With as much joy I put in this planned life, there is also extreme dissatisfaction when plans go awry. I’m not sure I’m ok with that kind of life.

Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan released a book today- Wild and Free– that, among many other things, confronts this struggle and more importantly, the joy found in living the kind of life Christ calls us to. I had the privilege of being on their launch team and I’ve spent the past month reading and processing and praying through the idea of being completely free in Christ. The more I soak in this idea, the more I realize that so much of my life is bound by my perceived expectations of those around me and the more I am growing in my desire to step outside the lines I put around myself and fully participate in a wild and free life with Christ.

Up until recently, wild and free were simply not words in my vocabulary. In college, I found myself bound by the expectations of my Christian community: wear the Chacos, go to Chapel, work at camp, and create the pretty Instagrams by the brick wall. Find the boy, and if not, then be content in singleness because hey, Paul was single and he was pretty great. Create the façade of wild and free, but stay confined by the trends and expectations even though it’s impossible to perfectly create the picture as aesthetically pleasing as that person over there.

For my first three years of college, I crumbled under this pressure when my experience looked differently than I thought it would, finding myself in zero on-campus leadership positions, in an unhealthy, stagnant relationship, and severely insecure in my major all because I couldn’t match the perceived expectations I thought others were holding me to. My world felt small and it was hard to experience God working in the midst of all of this disappointment and failure.

Throughout these past two years of finishing college and my first year post-grad, I’ve started to loosen the ropes tying me to the expectations of my communities by believing and living in the reality that the Lord offers something better. Through this process, I have experienced more freedom than I thought possible and have made some wild choices that have led to some of the most life-giving experiences and relationships I couldn’t have imagined on my own. I’m just beginning this wild and free journey, just getting a taste of the goodness the Lord offers by slowly scrapping my life of meticulous plans and living fully for his glory- wild and free in this beautiful, unpredictable, get-to life with Christ.

Friend, if you find yourself living a small life constrained by the expectations of the culture around you and are craving something more, I urge you to pick up a copy of Jess and Hayley’s book Wild and Free (you can order it here). This book is rooted in Scripture and breathes Gospel. It consistently points to God’s glory and proclaims truth with every word. It has pushed me to places of reflection and wild dreams, of prayer and gratitude and grace. This book is an invitation to the wild and free life, a beautiful place that is fully ours without having to meet any standard or expectation. So, friend, I invite you through Hayley and Jess’ words to come join in this life, to join the women discovering that we don’t have to live such constrained, small lives, that we can truly live freely in Christ.

Feature Picture: Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly

Good Friday and Staring into Fog

This time last year, I trekked up a steep trail with my missions team on a mountain in Bolivia.  My calves burning and my lungs out of breath, the promise of a beautiful view propelled me forward. But as we reached the top, we stared into a foggy abyss, blocking the waterfalls and rivers and colors we expected. Disappointment filled me as I sank into the side of the mountain, my arms wrapped around my knees, exhausted and angry.

The year prior to this moment carried the most pain I had experienced up to that point. It started with a breakup and from there progressed into a process of recognizing all the things I had been hiding and manufacturing and controlling in order to look like I had it all together. I cried a lot. I experienced more anger and resentment than I thought possible. I allowed myself to experience God’s brutal truth, giving Him free reign to mold and shape and refine me. It hurt.

I experienced a lot of life that year. In the midst of being refined and learning what I wanted, I faced great fear. I was graduating soon and had no clue where I was going to be even though I knew where I wanted to go. I remember reading Donald Miller’s Scary Close for the first time, resonating with the concepts of finding authentic community and being real with the people around me in order to experience some of the best of life. I knew that was what I wanted wherever I ended up.

But what I remember more vividly was laying on the bottom bunk of my bed staring at the mattress above me with the book open upside down on my stomach while fear consumed me because I didn’t believe the Lord would provide that community or those people for me to be real with once I left my safe college bubble.

Fear stuck with me that year, always creeping around in the back of my mind, clinging itself to any hope or thought about what I desired. It was especially sticking to every hope I could imagine as I sank into the steep hill and wet grass in Bolivia, staring into the fog.

The day I sat on that mountain was Good Friday. How perfectly metaphorical was it that, on the most hopeless day in history, I stared into fog from a mountain slope, unable to experience the wonders ahead because they were blocked by darkness.

As I fumed in my anger about not being able to see the beauty below me or the future in front of me, I wondered if this was how the disciples felt once they learned Jesus had died. I wondered if they felt they had climbed and worked and endured what they thought would reap eternal benefit only to be left alone in their despair at the top. I wondered if they felt as if their future was full of whisp-y fog because the Man who had promised them life was now dead.

Last year, sitting on that mountain, I hated the fog. I wanted it to be lifted, to see the grand wonders underneath and experience every drop of the beauty right then, as I imagine the disciples desired for their fog to be lifted on this day thousands of years ago; to be assured that the life Jesus promised, the life they believed in, could carry eternal weight.
But as I kept staring into that fog, I remembered Easter. I remembered that Lord promises us life and that we can cling to that promise because Jesus defeated death permanently. I remembered that the disciples, and all of humaity who chooses to believe, had been freed from their hopelessness because Jesus did what he promised by not allowing the Cross to be the end but rather the beginning of something eternally life-giving and freeing.
Good Friday reminds me of the death that our expectations and perceived futures and need to control will inevitably face. Sometimes we need the fog to push us to Jesus, to remember how desperately we need Him. The best part of Good Friday is that Easter always comes soon after and the promise of the Resurrection allows us to cling onto the hope that the Lord has something better, that He gives abundant life.

Bolivia!

Hi friends!

I am leaving for a ten-day trip to BOLIVIA to serve at a high school camp for my spring break! If you’re interested, I’ll be blogging just a step away on the site for Taylor University Spring Break Missions here.

I encourage you to partner with us in prayer as we leave tomorrow morning! My team and I are beyond excited to get there, get working, and soak up the Bolivian culture. There’s going to be a lot of craziness, a lot of Jesus, and a lot of love happening in the next ten days. I cannot wait.

Also, if you feel inclined to give financially, you can do that here. On the site is a video describing more about where we’re going and what we’re doing!

THANK YOU in advance for your support! You’re all the best! Can’t wait to catch up once I get back 🙂

Kelsey 🙂

Finding Good in the Cornfields

I absolutely love everything about fall. It’s always been my favorite; I love the low, overcast clouds and cool air and changing leaves. I love the refreshment fall brings after a long, hot summer filled with activity and movement and sun. It’s a time to settle down and be cozy, preparing to move from outside to inside for a season.

Because of the way my student teaching schedule worked, I had the past two weeks off. After a short summer and my first student teaching experience, these two weeks to enjoy my favorite month were celebrated and enjoyed. During this time, I reflected on the past autumns, especially the ones I’ve spent at Taylor. It hit me how this is my last fall here. Fall in Upland is one of my favorite things and knowing I won’t be able to experience it the same way after this year feels like I’m on the verge of losing something big.

I’ve been asked before if I like going to school in the middle of the cornfields and my answer is always yes. I’ve come to love every season here, but fall in the midst of cornfields has it’s own beauty that I cannot get tired of. It’s open here, there’s space to explore and to slow down and to build relationships with those we live with and those we learn from.

This place is built around community and creating relationships with those we share space with. And during this particular fall, I am reminded of how my relationships here carry more meaning and life and joy than I realized.

I’ve felt that the past few months I’ve spent in Upland living in the brick house with some of the best women I know has been idyllic, almost like a dream. We talk together and laugh together, sing together, cook together and run together. We come from different places and have different desires, but we aim to live well and authentically, seeking to glorify God on the way.

The community I’ve experienced with my housemates is safe and challenging, fun and peaceful and alive. In the midst of excitement from the change to come, my heart hurts while I think towards graduation, moving somewhere new, and leaving this space with these people.

It’s hard for me to imagine a community quite as good as what I’m experiencing right now.

I think back to how I got here, to this house with these four women. God provided. God provided so well in the best way possible. I’m happy here with these people. I’m learning from the way they live and the way they see the world. Living with them pushes me to love better, to laugh fully, and to think about myself less.

Sometimes it’s hard to be fully present in all the good. I sit on our porch or in our living room or at the table with my people and wish these moments wouldn’t end, that I wouldn’t have to stop living them after this year. I think about the longing I’ll experience for this community once we graduate and live in different corners of the world.

But thinking this way, thinking about future longings robs me of the ability to be present and soak up all the beautiful things happening right now. I don’t know where I’ll be after graduation, but I do know that God will provide me with a space to live and a community to share life with just as He has this year.

I don’t want to look towards my future with disdain and fear because of what I may or may not experience again. God is too good for that. He promises us His best, to think He won’t provide His best again in a different space with different people creates this limited box in our minds of His power and plans. We have to trust that Jesus will provide for us tomorrow just as He has today. We have to start waking up every morning in thankfulness and rhythmically be reminded of His love and grace and ability to provide for us in every moment.

Right now, as I sit on my porch and look up at the changing leaves and overcast skies, I’m thankful for where I’m at because I’m happy here. I’m safe here, I laugh here, and I love well here. I’m grateful for the women I live with and the amount of joy they’ve brought to my life. I’m thankful that the Lord has given me this year with these people to learn and to love and to live life together.

Give thanks for the people the Lord has given you and live well in that community, investing in your friendships and trusting that Jesus has tomorrow covered, that He promises you His best even when you think it may end.

The Process of Living Simply

Living simply is a concept that has captivated my attention for a few years now. Through my experiences and studies and relationships, I’ve become attracted to the concept of simple living and it’s been something I’ve started to practice while at Taylor and a lifestyle I plan to pursue after I graduate.

When I first started reading and learning and studying what it meant to live simply, a lot of what I found had to do with living “green” and in tiny houses and wearing the same outfits a lot. While I agree that these aspects can contribute greatly to simple living, I don’t think that they fully encompass what living simply truly means.

I’ve wrestled with this concept, feeling like I’ve messed up my practice of living simply a thousand times. I felt that there were restrictions and condemnation around this lifestyle, that when I didn’t perfectly fulfill the lists of physical things I needed to do the label would be stripped from me and therefore, I wasn’t worthy enough to be pursuing this life. This bothered me and one day I decided to really figure out what living simply meant to me.

So in this pursuit of simplicity, I looked up several different definitions of “simple”. I decided that if I wanted to live this way, I had to specifically know what I was trying to do and why I was trying to do it, without condemnation and feeling restricted. After looking through many definitions on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, the one I found that most fits the life I want to live is defined as: “not limited or restricted: unconditional”.

In a paradoxical way, I’ve discovered living simply has a complex depth to it. It’s a fluid concept, changing alongside the people who chose to live it out. With each transition and ushering in of the new comes an altered version of simplicity tailored specifically to the life it accompanies.

Because of this, it’s important to remember that your story of simplicity will look different than mine, and that’s ok. Your simple lifestyle is just as valid and meaningful.

To me, simplicity doesn’t primarily look like living “green” or only environmentally friendly or in an extreme minimalistic way, although I think it involves those things and they’re aspects I’m learning to practice as I live in a house with friends who also value a simple lifestyle.

Simplicity means more to me than that, it runs deeper than the physical reality of my surrounding environment.

To me, living simply means living closest to the things that matter without the distraction of excess.

Living simply means investing deeply and wholeheartedly in my relationship with Jesus, my family, and those around me. It means working hard at the things that matter, such as teaching and writing and consistently learning and growing as I aim to love those around me in the purest way possible.

Choosing to fully live this way means I have to cut out certain aspects of my life in order to fully engage in the relationships and moments and work I find meaningful.

This takes sacrifice and intentionality and making hard decisions.

Living simply means I have to analyze how I spend my time, shifting a few things around and carving a few things out completely, such as excessive time on social media or leaving my phone behind during dinner. By making these small decisions, I’ve found the space to fully engage in what matters because I have the time to do them, such as being with Jesus and unrestrictedly doing life with the people I live in community with. I’ve found the time to run, to write, and to laugh. I’ve been less distracted or worried about getting everything done because I’m being intentional with how my time looks, cutting out the meaningless activities.

Simple living looks like evaluating how I use my resources and deciding what to invest in and what to skip out on, being intentional with how I spend my money and what I choose to buy in order to reap the benefits. By choosing to buy healthy, local food and pay for meaningful experiences with people instead of flippantly shopping every sale, I’ve been more satisfied in my body and experiences and financial situation.

Through these decisions I’ve found that I have more time to spend pursing what matters, more energy to participate in healthy, full relationships, and more resources to invest in what is beneficial. By cutting out the excess, by cutting out those things that distract from what I am made to invest in, I’ve found abundant life and meaning.

This is why I choose to engage in the process of simple living. I want to open up space to dwell in the things that matter, to live closely to those things and experience life in the most raw, authentic way possible; the way I believe the Lord intended us to experience it. Simple living is an ongoing, unlimited process, one that will change as I do, but the purpose stays the same. I want to live closest to the things that matter most, which takes sacrifice and work in every circumstance.

I hope you find a few spaces in your life to clear out and start to make room for what matters to you, for those things that fill you with life and love and a deep sense of meaning. Living simply means to fully engage in the life the Lord calls us to without restrictions and distractions, to experience every drop of it. I wish you well in this process.

Letting Go of the Hurtful Words We Hold On To

I believe there is power and strength in letting go of the deathly words we bury deep inside of us. It’s unfortunately too easy to find ourselves in a rhythm of negative self-talk, of constantly comparing ourselves to everyone around us and ignoring the things we truly struggle with.

We can forget that there are nasty words and ideas and feelings we harbor inside. We let ugly, untrue words about our worth and other people and real words of anger and jealousy and desperation become comfortable, allowing them in like a parasite, sitting and festering and becoming more toxic the longer we ignore the reality of their presence.

These words have a way of feeding into our souls, protruding deeper until we believe they were always there. We start to believe it’s natural for us to feel this muted bitterness and rage towards ourselves and those around us. These words find their way deep beyond the surface, nestling and finding home where they shouldn’t be welcome.

They start to constrain our souls, crowding the spaces where our passions and capacity for love and forgiveness and our known need for Jesus reside.

These nasty, repressed words and ideas and grudges take over, convincing us that there is no other way to live than to let them sit and sink deeper into our hearts and minds, eventually persuading us that we, too, are nasty and gross and unworthy. These words convince us that those around us deserve more than we do because their struggles seem bigger and need to take precedent over our own, that ours aren’t that bad, that ours can be ignored.

But by ignoring these words, by ignoring the struggles of negative self-talk and the constant comparisons and the justification of the unrighteous, we start to lose part of ourselves. We become numb to what matters, to our passions and skills and desires because we are too busy trying to bury and hide the nasty things we think towards ourselves and about others. We’re trying too hard to mask what we feel and believe deep in our souls, the words of death that suffocate and cover up the truth that is trying so desperately to break through.

But once we let these words surface, to let them come through letters typed on a page or screaming in an empty room or a really good conversation with a trusted friend, we can start to believe that we don’t need to hold on to these things anymore. That we actually cannot, for the life of us, hold on to them anymore.

We start to believe that these words are not true.

God asks us to move on from our sin, from our pasts, from the comparisons and jealousies and injustices we were convinced were truth. God is in the new space He calls us to, but He’s also with us on the way there, pushing and encouraging us keep going, to keep refining and uncovering all the hurtful and gross words. He needs to hear the lies we believe, He needs us to recognize them and whisper them and scream them and write them so He can throw them far away like He promised. He needs us to move, to cut the nasty thoughts and words out of our souls because they can’t be there anymore.

By lifting up the negative words, we start to make room for words of life. Our souls become less crowded, less complicated. They’re able to breathe again. Letting go of these words allows us to move on past the bitterness, past the jealousy and hatred and anger. Letting go allows us to make space for words that matter, words of passion and desire and the truth that we are loved deeply by a really good Father.

Letting go is a hard process, one where our hearts are stretched and molded and hurting from integrating both the loss of what we’ve harbored for so long and the expansion of the new finding its place. It’s a constant cycle of loss and growth, trading back and forth as we learn to live differently, as we learn to simplify our lives in the best ways. But this tension is good. In this tension of learning to let go we find the life we need to live, the one where we are aware of our passions and worth and we are free to allow Jesus to use us as He needs.