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.


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!


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. :)