Author Archives: Kelly

Lean Back

 

My One Little Word for this year is Lean. My goal was to focus on a different direction/aspect of how to lean in order live a healthy life. I kind of skipped April and May because life happened, and I got overwhelmed. Somewhere in the middle of those months, I decided that June would be all about leaning back because it was evident I needed to do so in a desperate way. As my month of focusing on leaning back draws to a close, I’ve put together an alliterated list of five things leaning back means to me. I hope you enjoy, because I’ve enjoyed this month of leaning back (even the awkward and messy parts of it) immensely!

Leaning back means…

Resting – I tend to get caught up in “living” so much that I forget that rest is a crucial part of really living the life I’m meant to live. I wrote about what I’ve recently learned about rest here. By getting tangled up in a busy schedule through April and May, I forgot how to lean at all most of the time. Leaning back has been an imperative step for me in June. It’s been beautiful, wonderful, and the only way I could get to one of my favorite things to do (and the next thing on my list of what leaning back means).

Reflecting – Reflecting when I’m not actually leaning back translates into me over-analyzing and, inevitably, spiraling. The kind of reflecting that happens when I’m leaning back is intentional. It comes from a healthy perspective that brings about self-improvement rather than self-loathing. There’s a big difference, and it’s a necessary one to distinguish. The right kind of reflecting will always lead to the next two things on my list.

Removing – It’s impossible to rest and reflect without getting rid of some unnecessary or unhealthy parts of our lives. We recently purchased a storage shed to clear out some space in our garage. While we moved most of the things taking up prime real estate in our garage into a new building, we also opened up the opportunity to reevaluate what we could live without completely; there were several items that we decided to throw away. Cleaning up the right way can’t happen without throwing out the things that we no longer need. As I’ve leaned back, I’ve been able to see some mindsets, habits, and time wasters that needed to get the boot, and I feel lighter already now that they’re gone.

Restoring – When there’s an empty space in our lives (for example, when we’ve done some reflecting and removal of unnecessary things), I have become a firm believer in embracing the wisdom of Ephesians 4:21-24. It says,

 

“assuming that you have heard about him [Jesus] and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

The deal-breaking decision after removing something from our lives is how we’re going to refill the hole it leaves behind. No matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we will always find some way to refill the spaces we think will stay tidy and empty. That’s why, as a believer, it’s crucial to dig into God’s Word more when we’re in a time of redefining what’s important and what’s not. Removing becomes a pointless act if we aren’t choosing to restore ourselves to God’s intended purpose for our lives. No matter how mundane or crazy it might seem, there’s always evidence that He’s there to redeem us through the process. A fabulously weird example of this happened just tonight as we were having dinner as a family.

Rice Crispy Scrapes – We had one of those days. The kind that leaves everyone feeling like they’ve been on a roller coaster with the seat belt starting to fray out as you’re in the middle of a series of impressive twists. Our kids were feeling it, we as parents were feeling it, and we’d talked, disciplined, hugged, and distributed a couple dozen tissues and maybe a band-aid or two. We sat down to a thrown-together, late dinner just as the tension and heightened emotions began to stabilize a bit.

As I sat down at my seat, I let out a yelp as my elbow met some sharp object on the edge of the table. To my astonishment, the source of my pain was a rice crispy flake that was cemented to the side of the table from Daisy’s breakfast. (I told you it was one of those days.) As I lifted my elbow to examine the damage, blood started running down my arm, and we all started to laugh.

 

I had been injured by a Rice Crispy.

 

That little fleck of cereal was just the punctuation mark we all needed to cut through the stress of the day and laugh at the hilarity and ridiculousness of the day’s events. It was a reminder to not take life too seriously, and sometimes, even the things that hurt at first can ultimately make us laugh and remember that we are a family that is there for each other, even for putting bandages on injuries sustained by cereal.

So there you have it, just a glimpse into what my month has looked like. It’s been my favorite one of 2017 so far, and I’m confident it’s because of a renewed focus on what’s important, and without a doubt, a whole lot more sleep.

 

Choosing Kindness

As I’m easing my way into summer, I’m looking forward to writing more. To get reacquainted with my blog, I’m wiping away the virtual cobwebs with something I had the honor of sharing at my school’s baccalaureate a couple of weeks ago. The theme of the evening was the Fruits of the Spirit, and the students who put the service together had a different person speak about each fruit, connecting it to a physical piece of fruit. 

I was delighted to receive the task of discussing a quality that I believe in so much – kindness. 

 

It’s a human tendency to fail to see the beauty in the ordinary. We are attracted to flashy things that make bold statements. Trends draw us into them and make us lose sight of the things that seem common or dated.

It’s this very tendency that makes the fruit of kindness such a strong evidence of the Spirit’s work.

Sandwiched in the middle of the qualities listed in Galatians 5, kindness isn’t there to blend in. Rather, it’s there as a backbone for all of the other fruits. Its quiet strength speaks volumes, and it is completely content to go about its invaluable work, even when it goes unnoticed by others.

When I was thinking of which fruit I believed best represents kindness, I thought of the apple.

Much like kindness, one might argue that the apple is one of the most ordinary of fruits. There’s nothing flashy about it. It’s the fruit that people go to without really giving it a second thought, but at its core lies the tiniest, most powerful source of the life of faith.

We decide whether or not we like an apple by its skin. Each color embraces a distinct flavor that the consumer will either find off-putting or appealing. What’s fascinating about kindness is its ability to be pure in how it functions, in spite of how others view it.

Kindness doesn’t pay so much attention to the color of the skin, rather it realizes that underneath the skin, all apples have the same color of flesh. Kindness is the great equalizer. It’s the thing that sees what we all have in common and, as a result, pours out empathy on everyone around it. It understands that there is no point in judging because we all have a common need for grace. Grace can not be understood without kindness. Showing kindness is living out grace so that others see that it is possible, even though it’s undeserved.

The thing that is the most compelling about the fruit of kindness is the power of its tiny seeds. While the world might scoff at kindness and view it as weakness, in reality the small seeds of kindness that are intentionally planted understand their potential to change the world.

Much like the apple seed, when a seed of kindness is planted, it will often go unnoticed by those who pass by. It will even be trampled upon as it silently yet diligently sprouts its roots into the soil. Given time, the seed of kindness grows to provide a better world. A world with a tree that provides shade, a place for a traveler to rest while on a long journey, a place where children can climb and see the world from a new perspective, but most noticeably of all, it produces an abundance of fruit.

This is the beauty of what might have seemed just a simple fruit: it is most effectively accomplished in the ordinary. It can look quite different from one kind to the next, but on the inside it sees itself and others for who we really are. And it provides seeds that, when faithfully planted and tended, grow into one of the strongest producers of rest, joy, and nourishment – kindness.

Why It’s Imperative to Lean On

I watched her grade drop by the day. Another assignment not turned in, another excuse or knowing giggle when I talked to her about it.
After two years, she and I have learned to be real with each other about parts of our stories that we had carefully guarded, building a trust that suspended the judgments that had kept secrets that needn’t be secrets. I knew what it meant when she read book after book rather than write a paper. She was going into self-preservation mode, knowing exactly what she should be doing – making her story worth the pain she’d endured for years.
Bit by bit, she has begun to climb out of the darkness of secrets, but the pit in which she has dwelt for so long is a looming one that takes immense courage, faith, and strength to escape.
“You always make me write about the things I don’t want to think about,” she would claim time and again.
“On the contrary, my dear, it is your heart that is begging you to unleash your powerful story. To move past being enslaved to it, and to victoriously share hope with someone else.”
It’s true. The stories within us will eventually reach a point of no return. A point when we know it’s not meant to eat us alive even after we’ve convinced ourselves we are worth nothing more than the false names and claims the villains in our stories have repeatedly whispered.
And writing those stories we never wanted to live takes all of the energy right out of our souls until we actually begin doing the work of getting those words out for others to hear.
Then all of the sudden, we realize how much we need to lean on others to lead others, to lead ourselves, to hope – to victory.
When she refused to even read anymore, I knew there was something more – a new painful chapter she was living on her journey out of the pit.
I waited. I prayed. I waited some more until one day she told me her new chapter of uncertainty.
And we cried together, leaning on the Truth that binds our hearts together in hope.
It was during that conversation that I knew stories like hers are exactly why I need to work harder to lean on others.
Climbing out of pits created by tragedy, evilness, and grief cannot be done alone. We are meant to lean on others, especially when we face feelings that tell us that we are burdening others too much. Because what we believe to be burdens for others, actually end up being glimmers of purpose, necessary shifts in perspective, and the stuff that genuine relationship is made of.
While she walked away feeling a bit lighter by not feeling the weight of trekking her difficult road alone, I walked away feeling all the more inspired to lean on the incredible people who are begging to walk alongside me in life rather than allowing my own burdens to weigh me down.
Living the victorious life and letting freedom happen is an intensely personal journal many miles along the way, but it will never be accomplished without tried and true friends who stick beside us, especially when we try to push them away.
So lean on.
Walk on.
Purpose on,
and start by sharing your story.

Copy of -POP by kwesterf

February: Lean Around

“I’m totally judging you right now.”

A student’s snarky response to what was an attempt on my part to connect with him cut me right to the core.

I know better than to take things students say personally, and most of the time it’s easy for me to let statements such as this one roll off my back, but not this time.

This time I had to put on a mask to hide the intensity with which his words echoed into my soul. Because this time? I felt like I should be judged.

My inner voice had been whispering messages of self doubt into my heart in recent days, and hearing one hurting, unsuspecting person’s attempt at humor at my expense confirmed that the murmurings in my heart were true. I was a worth being judged. I should stop fighting it and accept that it was true.

As I continue on my journey to lean this year, I’ve been learning in the most painfully vulnerable sorts of ways that it is crucial to lean around the obstacles that stand in the way of me living in grace.

I believe in grace and it’s power, and yet there are more times than I usually acknowledge that I want to earn it. I want to be worthy of it.

If those silly desires were true, however, then grace wouldn’t be what it is. Grace can’t be grace if it’s able to be earned. Grace is the most genuine driving force in my life in spite of the countless ways I screw up and don’t deserve it.

And yet there are times that I get stalled in front of voices of negativity, where I shut out the message of God’s grace so that I can soak in the painful blows of self-doubt that spew out, washing over my confidence and peace. The acidity of the lies burn through my shield, and I become a sponge that expands with each backhanded comment, deflecting truth and joy as I swell up with despair.

It’s during the times in life that I get this lethargic with anguish that I must choose to lean around the hurdles that say I can’t live a joy-filled, grace-permeated life.

For some reason, I tend to resist this necessary stretch. I despise hearing the voices that bring me down, yet I willingly make myself susceptible to their toxic messages.

Thus I’m making myself learn to stretch rather than cower. When I stand before an impugning barricade of any kind, I willfully choose to defy its deft attempts to hold me back by leaning around it so I can instead blaze a curved yet determined path towards freedom and truth.

The winter seasons of life require a staunch effort to survive, fight, and plow through dark days. There will be voices of doubt and criticism that will practically shout hopeless lies. The trick is to hear them, but then lean around them to keep moving forward anyway.

Learning to lean is tough, but each day that I endeavor to do it, I become more convinced that it’s the worthy way to truly living.

So lean around with me, won’t you?

Learning to Lean

My one little word for 2017 is Lean.

It’s not a word that is commonly considered beautiful, and I would have never even considered it until I heard it this summer on a raft, dodging rapids down a feisty river in Colorado.

The truth of the matter is, I am terrified of large, ominous bodies of water. Even so, I married a guy who loves the adventures they contain. Since I’ve proven myself a less-than-exciting partner to him on more than one occasion when it comes to exploring the water, I was determined to take on white water rafting when we were celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary.

It was exhilarating, and I’m so glad I let go of my reservations and took the plunge, but you can be assured that I meticulously filed away every word of the guide’s instructions before boarding the raft. As they explained how to move the paddles in certain situations, I tried not to think about the chunk of my knee I left in a much calmer river when my canoe capsized 15 years before.

I was determined to do everything in my power to stay. in. the. raft.

So when I felt my body jostling and all of the forces of nature taunting the threat of tossing me right on out of that bloated piece of plastic, I followed the adamant command of my guide, “Lean! Lean! Lean!”

What he meant by that was, draw in your paddle and lean your head into the middle.

And thus began my appreciation for the word lean. I was able to see first-hand that it’s pointless to try taking control of life’s unpredictable challenges. No amount of paddling would save me; leaning was my only hope. Ever since, I’ve begun to appreciate the beauty of the word lean and the depth that comes with living it out.

I’ve subconsciously begun incorporating the charge to “Lean” into conversations. Sometimes those conversations are with students or family, but often it’s with myself.

Lean, Kelly, Lean!

Whatever you do, don’t back down. Don’t fall out of the raft. Finish the course. It will be worth it, difficult and exhausting as it most definitely will be.

My current plan is to add a different direction to the end of the word lean each month, thus requiring me to explore the various aspects of how I should lean to accomplish my goals and improve myself.

January’s “lean” phrase is lean in.

I wrote a bit more about my thoughts on “leaning in” through the post I’ll be sharing on a blog to which I contribute, Raising Generations Today, in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, you don’t need to be quite so weirded out if you see me chanting, “Lean in! Lean in!” to myself as I go about my day.

What is your one little word for 2017? I always love to hear what words people choose to set their perspective and priorities for the year.

A Look Back on 2016

I was kind of a rebel with my one little word choice for 2016: I actually picked a 2-word phrase.

Worth it

We had to make a lot of really big decisions this year, and being a person who isn’t by nature incredibly decisive, it was important to me to have a filter to run those decisions through.

Is it worth it?

Is the discomfort, uncertainty, and awkwardness going to lead to an end result that is worth it all?

We also deemed this year one of adventure. As a family, we wanted to try new things, make our own adventures, and have fun memories to hold onto.

The changes included things like

  • Selling our first home and moving closer to school
  • Family bike rides – this is our new favorite thing to do together
  • Daisy starting preschool
  • Tanner studying and testing to make the promotion list at work (He made the list! We are just waiting for the position to open up.)
  • An anniversary vacation to Colorado
  • New recipes and restaurants
  • Dash starting Mighty Mites football

We faced some serious bumps along the way, lost sleep, and even crashed and burned some days, but we all grew, too. We are learning what it means to work together as a family team, take risks, and say no to things that just aren’t worth it cost.

My heart is full at the end of this year. God has blessed us and sustained us, and I’m grateful for the memories and wisdom our family has gained by adventuring together.

Christmas is for the Broken

Christmas is for the broken.

christmas-is-for-the-broken

She was grieving and looking for something to fear rather than face the pain.

She sucked in her breath and let out a prayer that her broken heart wouldn’t scatter out of reach when she exhaled.

He held his own tears at bay and placed an arm of support around her broken heart.

He was consumed with paranoia so much that the truth seemed to mock him rather than free him.

His steady grin and shaking hands found a way to make peace with each other, all the while exhausting his body.

She leaned into the homesickness and remembered what was before.

She slowly started facing the fact that she was not solely responsible for fixing the brokenness of everyone around her.

She didn’t mean to break it. Neither did he, but eventually plastic can’t help but fracture.

The freshness of loss colliding with the memories of what used to be make for a broken Christmas.

But truly?

Those of us leaning into the reality of brokenness on Christmas have a fragile handle on something we might have failed to acknowledge in years past: Christmas is made for the broken.

It’s a reality that is often attempted to be glossed over with shiny wrapping and cute Christmas cookies.

A reality that we overlook as we break the seals and rip the bows on the gifts. In order to get to the treasure inside the package, we have to embrace ripping, tearing, and destroying of that festive cover someone spent hours getting “just so.”

The real brokenness that wove its way into Christmas this year made it a new kind of beautiful – a glimmer of beauty that the humble souls living out the bizarre events of the first Christmas might have felt.

The confusion and pain of a new mom who wanted nothing more than to offer the most comfortable and clean place to snuggle her king-child after the agony of bringing him into the world.

The fear and frustration of a man who watched his wife birth a child far from home after his efforts to at least provide her with a clean place to stay were repeatedly rejected.

The confusion of some worn-out, forever-changed shepherds whose routine and filthy work was broken by a glimpse at what glory actually looks like.

They all got just enough perspective to push through the broken dreams, rejection, and disheveled surroundings to see that Hope was born in the midst of their broken, screwed-up world.

It’s only appropriate that the fanfare that comes in the weeks, days, and hours preparing for the most wonderful day of the most wonderful time of the year ends with a day where everything is left in disarray.

Christmas is a thing because of flawed, broken people. It’s a thing because grace is the only answer.

Christmas can be celebrated when we don’t feel much like celebrating because it’s not about us. When we try making it perfect or about ourselves, disappointment leads to anger
leads to bitterness
leads to ugly attempts to salvage a meaningless day.

While the facets of pain are difficult to endure, the True Meaning of Christmas came to redeem shattered dreams and imperfect realities.

And that is why I can say with a joy that grows deeper with each year that I live,

Merry Christmas!