Kenya Believe It?

Is the day finally here?! Is it already time to go?!

I’ve been praying over and hoping for this since early December of last year. God’s timing is always perfect as we know…but often forget since we like to take matters into our own hands and think we know exactly when everything should happen.

If I’d had my way, I would have been on a plane first thing after Christmas back to Kenya to serve with Chosen Children of Promise in the Kawangware slum. As it would happen, God had me stay a few more months to pray, fast, and grow our relationship before moving to Africa all gun-ho without a clue. I still don’t have a clue, but it’s a better place to be of acknowledging that than naively assuming I know exactly what I’m walking into. I’m in a new place of surrender and dependence on God. He is my validation. He is my affirmation. And as He “…comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) Amen!!! I have tasted and seen and felt and received. What a joy to live loved by Jesus and to be an overflowing bucket of His love spilling out to others! 

I pray to walk into each day with that image and mindset. On the days when it’s a little harder to do that, I’ll follow the wise advice of a dear missionary friend: pray. When it’s sad, pray; when it’s hard, pray; when you’re tired, pray; when you’re homesick, pray.

Thank you for joining this journey with me! Thank you Jesus for the call and your reckless love.

Now I need to go catch a flight!! 😉

live loved,
kelli

 

Has My Dream…Come True?

I barely finished reading the subject line on the email before I was dancing around the kitchen like a maniac. The term ‘dancing’ is used loosely, for it would be better described as a combination of jumping, thrashing, and knocking everything over in a 5-foot radius of my flailing arms. The first innocent bystander to see me in that state was my mom. I pulled her into my crazy dance, then looked her in the eyes.

Tears welled up as I told her, “I’m the top blogger for the month of January on StudentUniverse!” I had the shakes, and I hardly managed to read every word of that email by the StudentUniverse blog manager, describing how my blog posts reached over 10,000 views in the respective 9 and 6 days that the 2 were on the site.

There was even triple the average amount of time engaging with the content than with any other blog content in January.

My dream for the last 2 years has been simple: be a travel writer. Breaking that down, this means being paid to write on my travel experiences. (FYI, the top blogger per month on StudentUniverse is paid a nominal amount as a token of gratitude for sharing their travel smarts!) I’m still in absolute shock that this happened, and my praise immediately went to the Lord for orchestrating this and to my support system of friends, family, and wordpress followers (LOVE YOU ALL), who made this happen! Thanks for clicking on that link, reading through those posts, and sharing with your fellow adventurers!

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Me, Anna, & Sky>>>bæs&espresso in Israel

In case you missed them, you can get up to speed on Backpacking Like a Boss on a College Budget OR determine Where to Backpack By Personality Type!

I can’t thank you all enough for reading, enjoying, and spreading the word. There’s someone out there with wanderlust hidden deep down, needing a little encouragement to go out there and see this beautiful world!

stay lovely,
the tall girl

 

 

 

2016: The Year of Sacrifice

Our new family tradition is to choose just one word to focus on in the New Year, as opposed to a list of lofty goals usually given up on by February.

I started thinking about my word for the New Year around Thanksgiving, and contemplated it while serving at the Missionaries of Charity Mother Teresa Home in Calcutta in December. In hindsight, it seems like an obvious choice for a word to focus on, considering the poverty and destitution I was so exposed to. Truth be told though, it’s an uncomfortable word to have. Continue reading “2016: The Year of Sacrifice”

When the Empire Falls

As I hurried down the metro stairs to catch the train out of Paris, I saw the mother with her empty stroller just in time to slow down as I rounded the corner. Her little boy had almost achieved a great victory as his stubby toddler legs escalated the final step.

IMG_1139I couldn’t help but stop and beam down at him as I tried to understand his world. Each 6-inch step was a 14-er mountain, one block along an avenue with his mother was a half marathon.

He looked up from his intense focus on climbing, and I immediately started clapping and “cheering” for him. The smile that lit up his face was too perfect. My surprise grew as he flung his arms wide, stumbled/ran to me, and wrapped his short arms around my calves, the highest he could reach.

My day was made. No fancy ordeal, no exotic new sight or taste, just a baby. Trusting without hesitation; innocent and perfect.

The wheels started turning. As the Parisian city skyline faded into rolling green hills of Chantilly, I thought of my travels. How was it possible that this 45-second interaction in a grimy subway station could have such a great impact on me? Even more so than the other events of the weekend, which I had truly enjoyed! Picnicking under the Eiffel Tower, acting like a local at the Sunday open-air market, exploring the City of Light in its high-fashion craze and juxtaposing architecture galore.

We can attain fame and popularity, money or a “quality of life” we nestle comfortably in, and create an empire for ourselves. So why are there so many depressed and anxious people, searching for what’s missing in their life?

This post isn’t to give you my opinion on this, although I of course have one. It’s much easier to read an op-ed, say something like “interesting perspective”, and then completely disregard and forget about it 20 seconds later. No, this is much too important an issue for that.

Instead I’m proposing a heart search. What is (who are) the most important thing (people) in your life?

But are you living like it?

stay lovely,
the tall girl

Why India

Dear Family, Friends, and curious Reader,

There’s no other explanation for “Why India?” than with “Because God.”

The series of events that led to me booking a roundtrip ticket to Calcutta, India for 3 weeks in December each point to a sovereign God. Before I get into the details of that, I want to explain the nature of the trip. With a friend, I’ll be serving at the Mother Teresa Home for the Sick and Dying. The following quote of Mother Teresa’s fits like a puzzle piece to my recent thought process, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Many times I wrestle with the thought that anything I do can’t possibly make a difference. I’m just one girl; not rich, not famous, not powerful.

And then the part of me that always finds hope in God as my anchor asks, But what if I can be there for just one other person? What if I can maybe, just maybe, impact one person’s life for the better halfway across the world in Calcutta, India? And what am I here on this earth for if not to leave it better than when I got here, to bring God glory through my words and actions, to serve all people, most importantly widows and orphans, the sick and dying?

Then 2 drops were added to that ocean.

ocean

Now for an explanation on how this came about. It goes back to August of this year when I met the amazing Morgan Motzel on the Covenant Journey tour to Israel. We hit it off right away when we realized our mutual love of travel and adventuring. By God’s grace we kept in touch even after the trip ended via Facebook, where she gave me advice on Italy and we caught up on random things.

Late August I received a promotional email from this website StudentUniverse that hooks college students up with cheap airfare, hotels, and tours around the world. This email was for cheap flights to India of all places. Most of the time I delete these emails without opening them. For some reason, I clicked on it and proceeded to look up flights to India for February or March 2016. (I didn’t know where I’d go, why I wanted to in the first place, or what I’d do once I got there.) The round trip airfare was a screaming deal at $450, so of course I facebooked a friend from college who loves to travel, seeing if by any chance she’d want to be spontaneous with me and just go.

It didn’t work out, and now I know why. Morgan and I had been messaging back and forth about the Milan Expo when she asked me out of the blue, “This is totally a long shot, but have you ever been to India?”

Cue jaw drop.

Cue frantic typing.

Cue Facetiming parents the next three days to pray, talk logistics, and finally gain an assurance on all fronts that this would work. (Another small God moment was reading that you need to start immunization shots 2 weeks prior to leaving. I return home to Iowa on the 17th, 13 days before I’m off.)

My heart and mind has wrestled between excitement, shock at the peace I feel in doing this, and nervousness at potential heartbreaking sights or personal illness (Delhi belly).

In the end, I know God is in this. And if He’s for me, what can be against me?

Please keep Morgan and I in your prayers as we embark on this life-changing journey. This post is not a request for money, but I did create a gofundme.com page if you feel so led to donate to the trip. Anything over the amount raised will go directly to the Missionaries of Charity Mother House in Calcutta, India.

My deepest and most heartfelt thank you, lovely reader, for reading through this post.
I will be sure to keep you updated on how the Lord works in the time that we serve there.
Kelli Klaus
(the tall girl)

The Soul Behind ‘the tall girl’

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” ~C.S. Lewis

How can you know there’s a real person behind the words on an impersonal screen?

You can’t see me, you aren’t in my presence, you don’t know who’s really behind the blog, telling of her experiences.

Many times when I see a blog post or any social media publication, there’s a hint of doubt about its origin and the author’s intent. It often seems detached and soulless, like a news story to be read and tossed away. That being said, I wanted to share my travel confessions so you know I’m a real, living and breathing human, and not a robot pumping out lifeless posts. Continue reading “The Soul Behind ‘the tall girl’”

Faith to Move

The waves lapped against the side of the boat, lovingly named Sea Note. 53 American students stood transfixed by the scene all around them. A cool, sea breeze was embraced with widespread arms and content hearts after a record-setting day of heat. God himself seemed to breathe out grace and love on this eclectic group brought together on a journey through his purposeful will.

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Hazy sun over the Sea of Galilee.

Looking out across the sea, my minds’ eye created slideshows of Bible stories I’ve known since I was a teeny tot in Sunday School. Jesus calming storms, walking on water, calling his beloved disciples to fish for more than temporary sustenance but for men’s souls.

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I couldn’t help myself. 🙂 #SnapchatGameStrong

The film paused when I thought of Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection (found in John 21). From the shore, his identity obscured by distance, Jesus suggested they throw their nets to the right side of the boat after a long, unsuccessful night with their nets on the left side. Being on that sailboat a few nights ago in the middle of a large sea, rocking slightly to the flux of waves, revealed to me in the most obvious sense how little that slight change could have helped. This man really thought ten feet away in those vast waters would help them catch more fish?

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Praise and Worship on the Sea.

Yet they blindly trust the stranger on the shore and throw the net to the right side. Immediately their faith was rewarded with a full net, too heavy to pull up from the large catch. The disciples on that boat had spent three consecutive years with Jesus Christ, and they recognized one of His miracles when they saw one. In enters Peter. Impulsive, passionate, intelligent Peter, who had denied knowing Christ three times just a few days prior.

I put myself in Peter’s shoes at this moment: the Savior I’ve followed and dedicated my life to for 3 years has died the most shameful death, hanging on a cross. Although I believed undoubtedly who He was, in the face of questioning, I deny any affiliation with Him. I feel guilty, alone, confused, and shocked, overwhelmed with emotion and no idea how to process it all. I would do as Peter did: return to what I know. From John 21:3 we know Peter and the disciples went back to fishing, their occupation before following Jesus. This caused me to pause and wonder what do I return to when I’m guilty, alone, confused, and shocked by what life brings me?

Often it’s the usual insecurities, surrounded by walls of competency so that no one can see the weaknesses within. It’s the search for affirmation from peers or people I respect, usually leading only to disappointment when the praise is scarce or unfulfilling.

The mental movie continued with Peter realizing the mystery man on shore was Christ. He doesn’t hesitate for a moment to jump out of the boat to swim towards his best friend. All of the guilt, the heart-wrenching shame, the loneliness, and the shock are erased in the presence of Peter’s Savior. And we know He didn’t come for just one man, race, or gender, but for all humanity. And in the presence of His unceasing grace and love, we have hope for the future and peace in the present.

As the Sea Note returned to shore, it blasted old worship songs through the speakers. “He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the WHOLE WORLD in His hands!” brought me right back to my childhood, dancing with my brother to 100 Kid’s Bible Worship Songs on cassette for a boisterous audience of mom and dad. And it reminded me to trust.

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Beautiful sight to see these two flags waving together, united.

We spend so much of our lives worrying, but if we would just have faith small enough to move our net from the left to the right side of the boat, to step out of our comfort zones, to trust God’s plan over our own, we’d be much more content and able to more clearly see His will playing out in our lives.

stay lovely,
the tall girl

How To Justify a Backpacking Adventure

Being home in Iowa before jet-setting off has been wonderful to reconnect with people. So many questions have been raised though about the nature of my trip: why am I doing it now, how can I afford it, what about a job? I won’t name any names as to who’s asked these questions, but we’ll give the main culprit the alias of ‘mom and dad’.

I’m not going to lie, there are moments where I seriously question my sanity for wanting to rough it for over 3 months with one backpack of belongings around foreign countries of which I don’t speak the language. I’ll be stinky and bruised and in bad need of a pedicure by the end of it.

But once I calm down from the mini wave of anxiety I realize, why not now?

Health

As I was packing for my upcoming journey, rationalizing it in my mind, I had a flashback to three summers ago hobbling around Phoenix, AZ and San José, Costa Rica (CCU basketball mission trip) in a big ol’ boot on my left leg after bunion surgery. If I was injured, I wouldn’t be able to do this trip.

God has blessed me with physical strength (for the most part, though I definitely feel the years of sports in my knees and hips…gosh, I’m getting old!) and the mental capacity to figure things out in new places.

I don’t know what my health will be like at any point in the future, I only know I’m able now. And tomorrow is promised to no one.

Money

I’m a college graduate. I’m not rich. But I’m a college graduate. So I’m thrifty and a major saver! I started making travel plans halfway through my Sophomore year, and I’ve been saving my little paychecks from Centennial Institute, babysitting, and graduation money like nobodies business.

I have the Goldilocks mindset about my money for this trip: I don’t have too little that I’ll be calling home two weeks in that I blew it all and need them to buy my return flight; I don’t have so much that I’ll be staying in 5-star hotels and resorts and going on behind-the-scene tours at the major sites.

I have just enough for transportation costs within the various countries I’m going too, food, and sightseeing costs. Thought I missed the part about lodging? I didn’t. I’ll be staying with Workaway families, couchsurfing, friends or connections I have over there, and maybe cheap youth hostels when I feel like splurging.

Job

I love explaining this one, probably because it’s kept me up at night the most! It’s the most common question I receive: What about a job? Well, what about it? Any job that God has lined up for me in his will is going to be there when I’m back in November.

On top of that, the experiences and skills I’m going to have because of these months abroad will set me up for exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Most college graduates go straight into their career, and all happiness to them. My resumé will be set apart because I did something unique, out of the ordinary, and risky.

Fear

There’s a healthy enough amount of it that I’m not going to jump into someone’s van offering me a free ride from the airport.

The concept I’ve been pondering is that God is still God and still in charge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as He is in Athens, Rome, or Paris. “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

As confident as I am that this is what God has for me right now, prayers are still so appreciated as I venture out! And if you’re considering any traveling coming up, just do it. Life is short, spend money on experiences not things, and for good measure I’ll leave you with the classic “Carpe diem” or in the millenial’s words, YOLO (you only live once). So get going, people. There’s a big, wide world just waiting to be explored by you.

stay lovely, and have a grand adventure today,
the tall girl

I don’t suggest this traveling schedule…

Now that my time as student staff at Centennial Institute, my universities’ public policy think tank, is over, I have free time to pause and write out what the near future holds (as well as dreams for the far out future.)

I’m currently typing this on my iPad at 38,000 feet with my best friend in the whole world sitting across the aisle where we lucked out with front-of-the-plane seats. I’ve traveled quite a bit with my mom, but this trip feels like a special treat. We’re flying to Seattle and then heading up an hour to the small town of Marysville where her best friend Anji resides with her sweet husband Kris on their 40-acre bayside property.

We’ve been up there once before to visit Anji and Kris. It was the vacation of a lifetime as my brother Kyle and I (we were 14 and 12 at the time, respectively) rode around the property for hours on ATV’s through their apple orchard, on the forest trails, and by pastures of cows. Our goal was always to find the elusive peacock, a casual pet of theirs, we’d seen wandering around a few times.

I’ve been especially excited for this mother-daughter trip to catch up on everything 3 years away at college and only several breaks at home a year causes you to miss out on. I think both of our #1 must-see for the trip is the original Starbucks store downtown Seattle. I guess #BasicWhiteGirl runs in the family, huh?;)

Following the return flight on the Fourth of July and a quick sleep in Denver, we’ll load the car and drive the rest of my belongings home to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I do hope it’s a time of relaxation, but when Billboard Bob is around, is there ever downtime? Probably not! Already on the agenda while home is a local organization’s banquet, solidifying Europe plans, NY mission trip details, and oh, a house party at our house for presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson! The craziness continues!

Two weeks at home will fly by before I head back to Denver to meet up with my mission trip team of 8. We depart July 23rd for the greatest city on earth. You already know I mean New York City.:)

We’ll serve kids in the Bronx at Graffiti 2 Ministries for a week as well as do service projects with WorldVision and Hillsong Church. To say I’m excited for these 9 days with some of the coolest people of CCU is a ghastly understatement! We’re all so pumped to show Christ’s love to these kids and see how God moves and works in our hearts through the time as well.

Back in May right before graduation, the VP of Student Life at CCU emailed students of an awesome opportunity to visit Israel for an unbelievably low cost. I followed up with him, applied, and was accepted the next week for a 12-day trip beginning August 1st with the Liberty Counsel to see Israel! 12 days has turned into a month as I’ll be staying there with workaway opportunities until I meet Katelynn in Athens on September 1st.

Katelynn was my resident last year when we got to talking about our mutual wanderlust and deep need to see the world. Plans started to form, and she rearranged her entire 4-year undergrad schedule in order to travel this fall. Greece is first on the list, and then we’ll be hopping on trains to the next destination, including Italy, Spain, France, and Germany (and many more, but these are the “for sure’s”).

This is when the future gets really blurry for me. Katelynn returns to America in November. I don’t know when I’m returning. Maybe I’ll be done with “roughing it” and living out of a couple backpacks and return home in November to find a job or go to grad school as well. Or perhaps I’ll find a job or a writing niche and jet set all over the world writing (a girl can dream, right?).

As hard as I’ve tried this past month and a half post-grad to put a name, title, and stamp of approval on my future career, there’s truly no way of knowing where the Lord will have me in even 6 months time. So I continue trusting, continue living in the present and enjoying the moment, and continue investing in the relationships I’m so blessed to have.

stay lovely,
the tall girl

A Brief Diary Entry by a Goody Two-Shoes

Alright, I admit it. I’m that girl who does extra credit before the teacher even announces it, that girl who Continue reading “A Brief Diary Entry by a Goody Two-Shoes”