Reflections of Christ

I am on the receiving end of short-term mission trips. Now, I am the host for these energetic teenagers seeing the other side of the world for the first time in a 2-week intensive experience. And wow, what a joy they are!!

I’ve heard all the arguments about the danger of short-term mission trips and I’ve even felt the guilt about going on them myself. I wondered if I was just taking work away from the locals or imposing on their system that works quicker without my interruption. I wondered if the money I was raising to go would be better used if I just wrote them a check. But now that I am on the side of the host country with mission teams visiting “my people” and these kiddo’s, I can honestly say they are so needed for our health and vitality as individuals and as an organization. It’s not always about the money or “getting the job done”; we live for relationship, and the ones we make with our visiting friends breathe new life into our spirits.

For me, the first week and a half of life in Nairobi were full of change, questions responded to with ambiguous answers leading to even more doubt, and numbness. I hoped it would improve with time since I am committed to a year, but God wanted to show up quickly so He could show off!

Cue the arrival of 10 hyper high schoolers and their 3 amazing chaperones, as well as the sweet Simply2Love team of 4 ladies! Over 11 days, we all became close friends, and I’m so happy to have 17 new friends praying and supporting CCP from California. It makes a HUGE difference to see the faces in our context who have said they support us. Their actions speak loud; they stepped out in faith to raise support and leave their families and friends for 2 weeks to do life with us in Nairobi! We laughed and cried and sang and danced together! We kissed giraffes, bounced along a 6-hour bus detour (a trip that should have been just 2 hours) through the African bush, were cornered by stampedes of orphan elephants, prayed over the sweet kiddo’s of CCP and their families, and ate A LOT of chapati!

Christ heard me in my loneliness, and He sent 17 reflections of Himself to refresh my heart and soul! I have no doubt in my mind now for the need of short-term mission teams. As long as the visitors are seeking God’s will and supporting the host organization with excited and humbled spirits, they are absolutely a help to us. Let this be encouragement to you as you consider going on a mission trip yourself or supporting someone else who is going!

living loved,
kelli klaus

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

26 Reflections on Silence

I “checked myself in” for a 3-day private Silent Retreat at a Benedictine Monastery this week. Nestled into the San Bernardino mountains in Southern California, St. Andrew’s Abbey is not necessarily a beautiful location. But the prayers and reverence for God that cover the small acreage bring a tangible peace for retreatants.

As I clipped that badge to my shirt “Shhh, I am on a Silent Retreat”, I focused my heart, mind, and soul on stillness. I wanted to experience Jesus in a new way.

Here are the reflections my time of silence brought:

  1. Your other senses are enhanced. I smell my surroundings more potently; I taste and enjoy my food more wholly; I hear others’ words but even more seem to tap into what their hearts mean behind the words (probably because I’m not worried about what I have to say in response!); I see because I intentionally open my eyes to be more observant; and I feel deeper emotions as I tune in to what the Spirit is revealing to me.
  2. It’s extremely challenging at first, but then you begin to enjoy and even revel in it!
  3. It allows you time and energy to not only ask yourself the big life questions, but to also hash them out. (What is my purpose, what am I here for?)
  4. Because doing this one thing is out of your comfort zone, it pushes you to do more things out of your comfort zone (like lay prostrate on the floor for an hour in prayer like King David modeled).
  5. It opens your mind to realize how much you complain and gossip.
  6. It makes you want to ask people a million questions and just stop talking and listen, despite what “good advice” or knowledge you think you can impart.
  7. It stirs up old bitterness and resentment you thought you were healed of.
  8. It causes you to pray. Nonstop.
  9. You become fully aware of the percentage of your thoughts in any given category. (I.e. Here was 8 minutes wasted in jealousy or given to lust. Half my day was spent in planning (quite in vain) for the future and the other half day-dreaming or contemplating my past, etc.)
  10. When you adore Jesus, you are humbled to feel HOW MUCH HE ADORES YOU!
  11. Everyone should try silence for a specific, extended period of time.
  12. It unsettles others and can make you uneasy to not respond – but in the end it’s a good challenge for both you and them to accept the difference in people.
  13. It takes a while to still the heart and totally check in to the silence…of the tongue and the soul.
  14. Perspective becomes clearer.
  15. Your heart changes. Rather than praying for my way and specific requests, I was asking God to move in hearts, lives, and give His guidance; I was fully surrendering to His will be done and being okay with that.
  16. You come to a sense of peace in who you are – who He designed and destined you to be. Because suddenly the things of this world grow strangely dim.
  17. You feel the sense of time more presently. It doesn’t speed by as in a busy day with many appointments, nor does it crawl on endlessly as an unintentionally unfilled day can seem ‘boring’. Every minute is pregnant with purpose, and you feel it as it is.
  18. People come to mind to pray for you would not have thought of otherwise.
  19. Jesus breaks chains.
  20. As the rhythm of life slows, you sleep better.
  21. You don’t want it to end, but you’re also anxious to bring the insights you’ve discovered back to the real world. (I won’t deny I was chomping at the bit to be home a little 😉 ).
  22. You drink more water…maybe I just remembered to more often? It happened though!
  23. It’s a catalyst for change! I want to talk rather than text, I want to live life with people rather than Snapchat my life to them, I want to ask questions rather than gossip or complain.
  24. It causes reflection on the past – and to ask hard questions.
  25. It makes you miss mom and dad.
  26. Once you introduce talking again, your pace immediately increases.

 

There were many breakthroughs during the 3 days, but I’d say the greatest praise I have was the Spirit’s assurance on my heart to start boldly proclaiming I AM MOVING TO NAIROBI, KENYA IN JUNE! I have been hesitant and timid to tell people for fear that it will fall through if perhaps I was wrong in discerning God’s call for me to go. This week He broke that chain of fear! I am not called to live half-hearted but to walk boldly in the call He’s given me!

I have held back so it wouldn’t hurt as bad if the rug were pulled out underneath me and I ended up not going. It would soften the blow of failure or disappointment. This fear is of the enemy, though, not of God Almighty!! It really did take the silence to name that fear, call it out, and fill the vacancy with the confidence of Christ.

Praise God!!

stay lovely,
the tall girl

 

10 Ways to Travel ‘Out of the Box’

 Researched and Written by Kelli Klaus (originally written as an article pitch for Foxnews.com, but as it wasn’t used, I figured I should still get the advice out.)

Americans are shaking out their numb, cubicle-trapped legs, packing their bags, and hitting the road -or the air- this summer. Warmer months are certainly the time to travel; an estimated $100 billion is going to be spent by Americans on their 2014 summer vacations according to the 2014 Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index. The thing is, you don’t have to break the bank for a little adventure. Here are a few “Travel Hacks” that will save you money and give you the experience of a lifetime.

1) Workaway

http://www.workaway.info/ is a site that connects you with people nationally and internationally who will provide free room (sometimes board) in exchange for work. You can give your preference for type of work and travel destination, then the site connects you with profile matches. Many will accept singles, couples, even families. This is my favorite option because I had the opportunity to workaway last year. I stayed with an amazing family in Senlis, France, where I cooked dinner, taught the kids English, and of course saw the sights of Paris.

2) Backpacking

This is a rising trend, evident by the blogs and books dedicated to narrating adventures done spontaneously; i.e. “A Year without Makeup”, “Wanderlust”, and http://gobackpacking.com/. The travel tales are diverse, from roughing it for a couple of weeks to becoming a paid traveler and blogger for months on end. Essentially, backpackers load up the bare necessities, book a flight, and hostel-hop around. Which brings me to the next greatest travel hack.

3) Hostels & Airbnb

Travel agencies can be helpful for certain vacations, but there’s so much you can do on your own to book that dream trip that will tailor more specifically to what you want and be a much smaller number on your credit card bill. If you’re willing to sacrifice conventionality for your pocketbook, look no further than the growing world of hostels, http://www.hostels.com/. They provide budget-friendly living in a sociable environment. Also, the newest trendy way of finding a temporary home for the transient is https://www.airbnb.com/. Find a secure place to stay in a home or apartment wherever you’re going for unbelievably low prices.

4) Teach English as a Foreign Language

TEFL! The title says it all, because sites like http://www.footprintsrecruiting.com/ will connect you with schools and organizations that will pay you to teach English. This is for a longer-term trip, so it’s not for everyone, but my cousin was able to spend an entire year in Russia where he simultaneously took Russian courses, taught English, and explored the country and surrounding area.

5) Nanny/Child care

Love kids? Love travel? Love to be paid to travel and hang out with kids? There are websites galore including http://www.aupair.com/ that connect you with families in need of a nanny. You’re paid and have free room (sometimes board), available in hundreds of cities around the globe.

6) Home Caretaker

Ever seen “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black? Well, I’m glad to report that home caretaking is not a Hollywood invention; you can be paid (quite a lot, too) to live in and take care of another person’s home while they’re away. Check out www.caretaker.org.

7) Short-term Jobs

If money’s especially tight while traveling, why not pick up a short-term gig? http://www.backdoorjobs.com/ can connect you with numerous types of jobs in the states and abroad. Explore the area, meet locals, and keep the inflow of money moving while you travel.

8) Cruisin’ Around

A creative way to cross that expensive cruise off the bucket list is to sign up to be part of the crew for a season. How about tapping into a lesser known opportunity and signing up as crew for a private yacht cruise? Be paid to travel to exotic places; I know I’m planning on using http://sailingpoint.com/ for a couple weeks to get away from the harsh Iowa winter.

9) Peace Corps/Human Service

Joining the Peace Corps is a great option to combine travel and human service interests, although it is a two-year commitment. http://www.idealist.org/ can hook you up with shorter-term volunteer human service projects, along with internships and jobs stateside and abroad.

10) WWOOF!

This travel hack doesn’t necessarily involve pups, but working at an organic farm with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms http://www.wwoof.net/ just might include some canines. You give your time to help work on a farm with plants and/or animals in exchange for room and board and of course an awesome experience.

For your summer travels, think outside the box. Save, or even make, money on the move, which will give you more resources to enjoy the sights and culture wherever you may be. Good luck planning your ‘out of the box’ vacation and bon voyage!

stay lovely,
the tall girl

Input Junkie

I’m an advice-taking kind of girl. Give me constructive criticism, personal opinion, or experiential knowledge, and I’ll soak it up like a sponge. I really only realized this trait in me after taking the “Personal Strengths” test freshman year of college, and this ambiguous word “Input” showed up on the list. Turns out I like “collecting” ideas and thoughts and other miscellaneous information about myself and others. I admit I like collecting clothes too. Honestly, I think it shows why I love Pinterest so much; a site where I can collect all the DIY crafts, recipes, workouts, wedding plans, and life hacks a girl could dream of? Yes, please!

Anyways, I suppose that this love to hear what others have to say makes me a smarter traveler, since I’m taking the top tips from the ones that have gone before me.

As I’ve prepared for my 2 months in NYC, I’ve read blogs, websites, magazines, I’ve asked friends, family, and complete strangers for their advice or just experiences in the Big Apple. You could call me an input junkie, I guess. So I thought I’d compile most of them here for anyone else like me who loves taking all the info in, or maybe you’re part of the aforementioned group I got all this advice from, and then…well, thank you! You made it happen, and I’ll be so much more prepared in NYC!

  • Bring good walking shoes.
  • Pizza!
  • Go to a Yankees game.
  • Don’t take the taxi’s; way overpriced.
  • And if you must take a taxi, don’t tell them where you’re originally from. If I said I was from the Midwest, they’d go so far out of the way of my destination just to rack up the fare.
  • Go to Times Square a lot with people, cus’ it’s a blast; full of energy.
  • Pizza!
  • Don’t feel awkward in your Nike’s and pantsuit. Everybody’s doing it.
  • Go to the Frink museum. And go on Sundays between 11am and 1pm when it’s by donation rather than the $20 entrance fee.
  • Opinion 1: Central Park is awesome. Go there a lot.
  • Opinion 2: Central Park is dirty. It’s really not that great. (I think I’ll make the decision for myself when I see it;)).
  • Don’t go down alleys.
  • Walk fast. Stay with the flow of people. (Maybe I’ll finally feel right at home with my 6’1″ long legged stride!)
  • Bike around NY. Bike around Central Park if possible.
  • Get a week subway pass if you’ll use it a lot in a week. For long distances use the bus and subway. And it’s easy to pick up how the system works in regards to which line to take based on destination.
  • Have I mentioned that someone recommended New York pizza?
  • Toiletry/self-care items are very expensive so bring as much of your own as possible.
  • Thankfully food’s cheap, though. Pizza’s like $1/slice. And it’s really good, apparently.
  • Go to the Museum of Modern Art for free on Fridays 4:30-8pm. See Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I wouldn’t miss it.
  • Tons of summer festivals and parades. Why not? Meet people and feel immersed in city life.
  • A great way to getaway is to go to the Reading Room in the New York Public Library at 5th Ave and 42nd St.
  • Go to those hole in the wall, off-the-beaten-path joints for great grub.
  •  Sure, Soho will be great to experience, but I’m thinking the Century 21 Discount Store will have my style at more my wallet’s price.
  • Go to the Highline. (I’m actually really excited for this one.) It’s a former elevated train track that’s been turned into an urban park in the sky. From Union Square, take the 14th street bus West over to the Highline.
  • http://www.grubstreet.com. Great site for food deals.
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter to walk dogs around to do something good in the community and stay active. Can’t wait for the canine therapy!
  • http://www.theskint.com is a great site for finding free and cheap things in NY.
  • Go to Union Square. Especially on Fridays when they have Farmers Markets.
  • Go to as many Broadway shows as you can.
  • Use Google to find discounts to Broadway shows.
  • Go out. Experience it all. Meet tons of people. You’ll have a blast.

Oh, and I suppose since I’m going there for an internship, I should mention all the words of wisdom I got regarding that as well.

  • Know the brand.
  • Show your dedication to the internship, and go the extra mile.
  • I heard from a former intern that some kids get there and will be on Facebook for 3 hours and work for 1. They’re given little responsibility; maybe they’re using the copier machine, rather than meeting people, making connections, and leaving a good impression on the Fox people for a future reference.
  • New York businesspeople value timeliness. Better set that alarm a little earlier, Kel.
  • Fox is really great to their interns.
  • HR is always really slow. (You didn’t hear it from me or my other post 16 Days…)
  • Be enthusiastic!

Well, I got the last one down pat, for sure. We leave in 2 days now, Mom, Dad, and I. And in 4, all these words on paper (or on a computer screen if we’re being literal), will become 70-story skyscrapers on all sides of me, unidentifiable scents, and gruff men in aprons hollering at the passing tourists to buy their delicious hot dogs-(insert heavy East Coast accent here), “The best in New Yowk!”. And then, finally, the experiences others have had, have graciously passed on to me, and will always cherish, will become my own. They’ll be my own pictures and memories and new friendships that I can hold dear to my heart and maybe one day share with another curious traveler like me…

Look out, NYC, here I come!

Stay lovely,
tall girl

p.s. seriously, though, if you’ve been to NYC and have any tips/tricks/hints to making it awesome, let me know! comment on this post or something…thanks!