June 29, 2015

Onward with Genuine Love

If you've logged onto Facebook or scrolled through your Twitter feed the past few days, I would be willing to bet that you, too, have been bombarded with and overwhelmed by statuses, article links, and comments by/from everyone and their mother. 

"It's Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve!"
"Love knows no boundaries!"
"You can change a definition in the dictionary, but you can't change things in the eyes of the ultimate Judge!" 
"Gay marriage doesn't exist...it's just marriage!"

Leviticus 18:22 is quoted. 1 Peter 4:8 counters. Sides are taken. Comment threads grow. Another status is updated. Another article is shared. People around you start whispering about how so-and-so is sporting a rainbow colored profile picture. Your newsfeed now appears to be the makings of World War III -- and on the front lines are the people who have invited you to church, begged you to come to Bible study, and commented on the status update chronicling your rough week with the words, "I'm praying for you."

Suddenly, you begin to wonder...what is this faith thing all about, anyway? If Christianity is about love...why do these people have such a strange way of showing it? If we are all God's children, how can a "God fearing" individual be against gay marriage?

I want to first say that I am not writing this post to condemn or dismantle opinions, lifestyles, reputations, or teachings. I am not publishing this post to say, "look at me, I have it all together!" or to turn my back and pretend that cultural decay does not exist in our fallen world. I am, however, writing this post to discuss an issue of the heart and share what God has revealed to me through my seeking for answers on a topic much larger than (and not specific to) marriage equality. Today, I want to talk about genuine love -- the kind that sent an innocent man to the cross for the salvation of many and the kind that should revolutionize the way we think about and interact with the world that we live in. The kind that has the power to encourage growth, bring hope, and change lives.



I find that the more I try to write about this subject, the less I have to say. I could quote Scripture, link to an article I read, hashtag "love wins," and be done with it...but I feel as if there is an even shorter and more effective way. And so, instead of doing those things, I'd like to suggest we stray from the road most traveled by these days and try something new: 

Let us be so concerned with the desire to show genuine love that we forget to even form opinions on hot political topics, take sides in heated religious debates, and assume that we understand circumstances that we have never endured ourselves. 

Let us realize that no matter what the court system, hardship, victory, or other finalized outcome states/reveals, our call as Christians still remains the same. Let us avoid litigation, condemnation, and vilification. Let us fight for the equality of others and advocate for humanity. 

Let us care so much for LIFE that we quite literally feed the hungry, clothe the naked, invite the stranger in, and visit the prisoner. Let us remember that the actual lives of individuals is far more important than the nitpicking of lifestyles.

Let us love profoundly, deeply, and genuinely. Period.

Last night, I had a lengthy Facebook chat with my friend Alan. Alan is not a Christian and describes himself as a "confused Buddhist" -- someone who was put on this earth to become stronger spiritually. He questions many of the things listed above and says, "I think it's time we start challenging the "strange" ways. It's time more people start self-reflecting versus shouting whatever they see on pop tv {or hear within a religion}." After about 2 hours of messaging back and forth, he said, "the cool thing about our conversation tonight is that I think we are more similar in our spiritual beliefs than we realize. It's our starting point that differs, but luckily it's where we end up that matters most."

Though Alan is not a Christian, I cannot help but apply that last tidbit to my faith life and the way I view the subject of marriage equality. We really do serve a God who is in the midst, and the second we forget that is the second that we need to stop what we are doing and reevaluate what the word "surrender" means. He was with us last week, He is here with us now, and He is in the future where we will eventually be. He is moving us onward to fullness. To redemption. To the renewal of all things. In the meantime, let us move onward, too...and let us do so with genuine love.

This world did not begin with us/our opinions and it's not going to end with those things, either. May each and every one of us simply find rest in our place/call in this world and the part we play in God's story...and may we do that PEACEFULLY while appreciating the unique journey of every other person in this world no matter what the difference is between the lives that we live.

The love I follow and desire to live by was shown on the Cross. Genuine love wins; in every form, despite every circumstance, and through the test of time. Jesus wins.

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June 19, 2015

Doing More of What Summer is For

In April, I realized that I hadn't read a book for fun in far, far too long. That night, I picked up my iPad, downloaded some new reads to my Kindle app, and got back to doing something I love dearly. 

Not long after, I found out about the goodness that is Goodreads. And now? Well, let's just say the inner bookworm in me is still alive and very, very well! My goal is to read 25 books this summer -- so far, I have 10 down! I call it doing more of what summer is for. :) A few people have asked about #kenzssummerofbooks on Instagram, so I thought I'd do a post sharing a few of the ones I've read lately + a few that are anxiously awaiting their turn on my bookshelf!

Thanks to CARE.org for sponsoring today’s post and raising awareness about Child Grooms in Nepal!
1.) Little Princes // STATUS - up next

Description according to Goodreads: "In search of adventure, twenty-nine-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children's Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.  'Little Princes' is a true story of families and children, and what one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and hilarious, 'Little Princes' is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our wildest expectations." 

My two cents/expectations: Based on the description, I can pretty much guarantee that this is going to be an amazing read. Nepal is one of 8 countries in the world where more than 10% of boys are married before the age of 18. Nearly 39,000 girls become child brides each day. If trends continue, 142 million children will be married by the year 2020. As painful as these stories are, there is hope. Former child grooms are now using their voices to end child marriage...and we can help many more do the same through CARE.org and raising awareness about this tragedy.

2.) A Love Worth Giving // STATUS - read

Description according to Goodreads: "Finding it hard to love? Someone in your world is hard to forgive? Is patience an endangered species? Kindness a forgotten virtue? If so, you may have forgotten a step -- an essential first step. Living loved. God loves you. Personally. Powerfully. Passionately. Others have promised and failed. But God has promised and succeeded. He loves you with an unfailing love. And his love -- if you let it -- can fill you and leave you with a love worth giving."

My two cents/expectations: My favorite genres to read include memoir and Christian self-help. I have struggled a lot with forgiveness this past year and remembered I picked up this book back when I worked at Barnes and Noble and got an awesome discount. ;) I never had time to dig into it, so I knew it was the first one I wanted to check of my reading list this summer. It may sound cliche, but this book changed me and I know I will return to it for future reference. I highlighted the goodness out of it -- so much good stuff on every page!

3.) Jesus Feminist // STATUS - unread

Description according to Goodreads: "Gender roles have been debated for centuries, and now Sarah Bessey offers a clarion freedom call for all who want to realize their giftedness and potential in the kingdom of God. Through a thoughtful review of biblical teaching and church practices, Bessey shares how following Jesus made a feminist out of her."

My two cents/expectations: I'm intrigued by this selection and can't wait to dig into it. I have friends who have read it and recommend it over and over and over again. I've paged through it a bit and read bits and pieces -- I like Bessey's writing style and think this will be an enlightening read to say the least. Update to come!

4.) Constructive Wallowing // STATUS - unread

Description according to Goodreads: “Constructive wallowing” seems like an oxymoron. Constructive is a good thing, but wallowing is bad. Right? It’s tempting to turn away from menacing, uncomfortable feelings like anger, grief, or regret; however, ignoring them just seems to make them stick around. By learning to accept and embrace difficult feelings, readers keep their sense of personal power and gain greater understanding and ultimately esteem for themselves."

My two cents/expectations: I found this one on the bargain shelf at Barnes and Noble the other day and could not pass it up. I think it's going to be a pretty dense and informational read (something I love, but have to take slowly), so I wanted to wait to start this one until I'm finished with Boundaries...another dense read! Though I haven't read it yet, it appears to be a book that absolutely everyone would benefit from reading.

5.) Scared // STATUS - read

Description according to Goodreads: "Stuart is given a one last chance to redeem his career: A make-or-break assignment covering the AIDS crisis in a small African country. It is here that Stuart meets Adanna, a young orphan fighting for survival in a community ravaged by tragedy and disease. But in the face of overwhelming odds, Adanna finds hope in a special dream, where she is visited by an illuminated man and given a precious gift. Now, in a dark place that's a world away from home, Stuart will confront the harsh reality of a suffering people in a forgotten land. And as a chance encounter becomes divine providence, two very different people will find their lives forever changed."

My two cents/expectations: This one is a work of fiction, but the experiences the author describes and the characters he develops are all too real in the tiny country of Swaziland today. The heart wrenching and compelling stories of the characters the author develops brought me right back to that tiny African country where I spent just about 3 weeks last summer. The circumstances Davis describes in this novel are ones that are eerily existent and equally horrifying in Swaziland today. Davis has accomplished much through his writing and his organization, Children's Hopechest, and I am honored to be apart of their sponsorship program.

6.) Boundaries // STATUS - currently reading

Description according to Goodreads: "Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. These boundaries impact all areas of our lives. Often, Christians focus so much on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limits and limitations."

My two cents/expectations: I really don't have words to describe this book adequately. I'm only about halfway through it and just about every word on every single page is underlined, circled, highlighted, or copied down on a post-it note hanging on my bulletin board. I have gained a better understanding of what exactly boundaries are and how the inability to set limits in any relationship is a recipe for destruction. This book has challenged me and changed the way I look at every relationship in my life.

What are you reading this summer? Let's be friends on Goodreads!

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June 18, 2015

Gratitude is Transformative & Life is Good

Whew! It's been a hot minute since I've published anything other than emotionally fueled health related posts (which I love doing and am going to keep writing, FYI). But today, I feel like doing an old fashioned photo dump and chronicling of my summer adventures thus far!

I really am loving life at the moment despite some challenges/pain that have not so gracefully entered my day-to-day schedule (told you I was going to keep writing about health stuff). Nonetheless, I am in a wonderful place for the summer and beyond grateful for that. Instead of moving home at the end of the school year, I moved in with a family approximately 2 minutes from where I attend university...crazy convenient! My blog friend Jen and her husband have so graciously opened up their home to me and allow me to adventure with and love on their boys a few times a week. I'm nannying for another family in their neighborhood part time as well, so it works out perfectly. Lots of kiddo time makes for a happy Kenz!

Blogging has given me the most amazing opportunities/experiences and friendships I never could have dreamt of. I love this little space something fierce...even when I neglect posting, replying to comments/emails, and keeping up on social media. Anyhow, life is good, summer is sweet, and I'll let some of the photos do the talking!


My siblings came to visit me one BEAUTIFUL Saturday at the end of May. We decided on hiking at Minehaha Falls. It was one of those days where the weather is teetering on the edge of becoming summer and holding onto the freshness of spring. In other words, it was was perfect. The kind of sibling bonding day you never forget. I miss them more than anything in the world now that I'm not living at home, but I also cherish the time I do get with them much more deeply than I ever have before. I guess that's growing up, isn't it?


The family I'm living with for the summer has the cutest and most hilarious boys -- ages 7 and 3. Axel is an adventurous leader with a crazy love for animals and is way too wise to be 7. Oliver is a mischievous little fellow with an infectious laugh and outrageous vocabulary. From biking/strolling Axel to one of his final days at school to spending the day at the St. Paul Children's Museum with little O, I have soaked up every second with these active boys. Time with them is so, so good for my soul and reminds me why being a nanny is something I was created for. 


A family wedding allowed me to catch up with my little sister some more in early June. Being apart this past year was difficult for us and continues to be, but we've managed to remain one of each other's best friends. She's going to be a senior this year (WHAT?!) and I pray every night that she decides to come to Bethel so I can play with her long blonde locks and snuggle with her anytime I want...I know, I'm selfish! ;)


Sometimes I feel like a bit of a zookeeper these days...it keeps things more interesting than ever and I sort of dig it. The family I'm living with this summer has a sweet old dog, adopted 3 little ducklings this spring, and is currently raising a bunch of tadpoles. The other family I have part time has a HUGE sweetheart of a poodle/mix...Libby and I have taken many walks together and I know we'll continue to into the "dog days" of summer... ;)


Last week, I went kayaking with one of my Bethel friends who lives in the area. It was a glorious summer day and despite applying sunscreen 3 times, I found myself good and sunburned at the end of the day! I was also exhausted...you know, because 6 hours of kayaking the land of 10,000 lakes is no joke. My shoulders were swollen the next few days, but it was worth every second of the intense pain that followed. So many emotional benefits come from being active and I know it's good for my body even though it likes to think otherwise!


The hardest thing about summer so far is being separated from the girls I got to know and love so much this past year. It's really strange to suddenly not be living next door to a bunch of your best friends...it's also really strange not to wear flip flops in the shower! One of my dear friends, Carrie, was my saving grace for much of the school year and continues to bless me immensely with her intentional words and investment of time. Even though we're hours apart, we have been able to talk on the phone nearly every night and help eachother navigate the ups and downs of this odd transition. I don't know what I would do without her. My sweet friend Julia is spending her summer as a camp counselor in North Carolina, and while we haven't been able to talk the way we're used to talking...we've been able to write letters back and forth and continue growing in faith and friendship with one another. I am in constant awe of the relationships God has given me in my short time at Bethel thus far. Wow, He is good.


My best friend from high school and I decided to have a girls weekend at the end of last week. We had life-giving conversations, watched our favorite movies, went shopping, and even decided to make a pie...just because! It's always a delight to spend one on one time with my Amy and we always have so much to catch up on. I just love that girl.


This week, I knew I had Monday off...and then I found out unexpectedly that I had Tuesday off, too! It was the perfect opportunity to pack, catch up with myself, fly through an amazing book (summer reading list post to come on Friday!), and take another yoga class. Yoga has been my saving grace these days. My pain/swelling has kept me from running as much as I'd like to, but kayaking, walking and taking a yoga class here and there has helped me remain active and hopeful for my Mayo Clinic appointment in July. 

Today, my mom, older sister, and I leave for our roadtrip to Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.! Excited is an understatement...girl time AND travel!? Count me in. I'm praying that I'm able to keep a handle on my pain until I can see one of my specialists after we get back next week, but I'll take it as it comes I suppose.

I've been surprised by God a lot this year. The future/journey I typically anticipate and attempt to plan for is almost never accurate. I've learned much more about taking it one day at time and not having an answer for everything -- especially things that go wrong. Learning those things has strengthened my endurance and helped me learn to enjoy right where I am even though it's far, far from perfect. I kinda love that. Gratitude is transformative and life is good. I welcome the rest of the summer with open arms. :)

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May 12, 2015

A Work Not Yet Finished

About 5 years ago on a brisk October day, I was curled up in bed after suffering what doctor's believed to be a heat stroke following a cross country race. I was a freshman in high school, my only life plans were to get through the day at hand, and I hadn't yet had the opportunity to discover who I truly was or what I wanted out of life. As I was lying in bed that day -- missing school, spending time with friends, and cross county practice -- I recognized something: the pain I felt was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. That was the day I knew the tides had turned in a way that I wasn't sure I was prepared for. That was the day God began to prepare my heart to endure a life of chronic pain...that was the day He began a work in me that He is not yet finished with.

In the days and weeks to come, I struggled to get out of bed, dress myself, and put on a brave face. Somehow, by what I believe to be the grace of God, I did it. One morning around 5am, I woke up abruptly. Pain was shooting up and down my legs, through my abdomen, and back and forth between my head and neck. As I writhed and tried to restrain myself from screaming, I quite literally rolled out of bed. Using what little strength I had, I crawled to the bathroom, turned on the water to a somewhat scalding temperature, got into the shower, and laid down. I curled up in the fetal position and tears began to stream down my face as I came to terms with the fact that I may never, ever know what "pain free" felt like again.

In the months to come, I visited my primary care physician more times than I can count on two hands. The people in my life at that time may not remember me missing from class, family dinners, cross country races, or sleepovers...but I can assure you that I missed them, and in more ways than one. Not only did I miss them physically, I missed them emotionally. Every aspect of my day-to-day life had changed. Suddenly, the free spirited, naive freshman I knew myself to be had become a miserable sufferer who felt trapped inside her own body and mind.

It was at this time that I began to shut anything and everything out, convinced that I was the only one who felt the way I did...convinced that there was something wrong with my mind. Doctor after doctor told me that I was clinically depressed...that the blood tests were normal...that I would be okay with time and visits with a psychologist. They did not acknowledge the widespread pain that continued to overrun my body. They did not acknowledge the weight I continued to lose. They did not acknowledge the pain induced nausea that prevented me from eating. They did not acknowledge the swelling or redness in my joints or along my spine...and every time I broke down crying because no one acknowledged those things, I was handed some more little white pills and crinkled sheets of paper that contained referrals to mental health professionals I had not yet seen.


I can tell you one thing for certain about this chapter of my life: I was in extreme physical pain and I wanted to die because of said pain. I was grieving the loss of a "pain free" life (I'm STILL grieving that loss) and what it meant to be a teenager without much of a care in the world. I was grieving the loss of the freedom that my own body had taken from me.

During this time, it may have appeared that I began to internalize things and remain inside my head. It may have appeared that I rapidly became more withdrawn and distant. While I will openly say that all of those things are 100% accurate, I can also say with complete assurance that none of them happened because my pain was "all in my head," nor did they happen because I was seeking attention. They happened because my body was and IS attacking itself.

It wasn't until nearly a year of suffering that some answers were granted to me and my mother who was beyond desperate to understand. It was then that I was diagnosed with juvenile enthesitis-related arthritis, fibromyalgia, and moderate disc degeneration in my cervical spine. It was then that my pain was acknowledged. It was then that I was finally listened to by healthcare professionals. It was then that I finally had a name for the monsters I had been fighting.

Was I depressed at this time? Absolutely. Was I anxious and afraid? 100%, yes. Were those feelings caused by a figment of my imagination? Absolutely not. Those feelings were caused by underlying issues that went unacknowledged. Those feelings were caused by the extremity of distracting pain I experienced as I sat through Civics class trying my hardest to pretend it wasn't there. Those feelings were caused by the school events and sleepovers I missed because I was at home in bed, begging a God I wasn't even sure I believed in to heal my body or take my life (and I preferred the latter). Those feelings developed over time as reports of my pain were diminished, my judgements were questioned, and my time was wasted by people who did nothing but abuse my naiveté and try to talk me out of something that had so physically manifested itself inside my feeble body.

Not being acknowledged or accepted began to destroy me. And then I met Jesus. And Jesus taught me that we may not be able to understand or empathize with everything everyone goes through -- we are not Him. He taught me that we may not be able to find just the right words to say or just the right gift to give -- we are not Him. But just because we cannot or do not understand something does NOT mean it does not exist...and what we can do is precisely what He created us for. 

We can get on people's level and sit with them there. We can put our hand on their backs and rub it gently until the tears cease. We can offer warm, inviting hugs and we can lend a listening ear when they need to vent. And even when a mix of all of those things seems exhaustive...there is more. We can be transparent and share the truth. The truth that says we as humans are not all-knowing or invincible. The truth that affirms the fact that we may not be able to understand everything, but we genuinely desire to understand the best we can without experiencing it. The truth that acknowledges that we may not be able to take away the pain...but if we could do so, we would in a second.

A morning not too long ago, I woke up in my dorm room to the sun shining through the blinds. As I tried to get out of bed, pain shot up and down my spine. I shrieked and fell back onto my pillow as I began to have flashbacks from that brisk October morning just over 5 years ago. The pain. The fear. The desperation. It felt all too familiar...except this time, I didn't begin to wish my life away. Instead, I simply spoke 6 words aloud: "I can't do this without You..." And as I said that, I just knew. I just knew that I was not alone.

If someone you love has a chronic illness of any sort, I want you to know that it's not personal. The cancelled plans, the quiet demeanor...none of it is because of you. Most importantly, I want you to know this and this alone: acknowledgement matters. Complete belief, unending love, and absolute support are all things that matter. And though you may never be able to fully understand, loving people through and because of their pain in those ways will mean more to them than you will ever know.

I don't know who I wrote this post for. I don't know if anyone will read this and think, "WOW, I swear she took these thoughts right out of my own head." I don't know. I really don't. But what I do know is there's a chance. There's a chance someone out there is laying in bed, curled up in the fetal position, and writhing in pain right now. And whether that is because of chronic pain or mental illness or something entirely unrelated to either one of those things...they are waiting. Waiting to be acknowledged. Waiting to be heard. Waiting for someone to get on their level and sit with them there. And if that's you...if that's you there waiting, I want you to know a few things: you are not alone, the God who created you is the God that is with you, and He is not finished with you yet. 

I know it hurts and I know it feels like your world is crumbling. I know it feels like you will never be well again...and maybe you won't be on this side of Heaven. But He has promised marvelous things and He who promised is FAITHFUL. I believe that there is a reason for every ounce of pain in this world and I believe that He can use yours -- yes, even yours -- for your good and His glory. It doesn't mean it will be easy. In fact, I know it won't be...but He will be your strength and He will complete the work in you that is not yet finished.

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