Thursday, May 15, 2014

i worry about god sometimes

there are times in my life--all too frequently, it seems--when one thing starts to get hammered home into my consciousness. this happens most in epochs of my life, it seems. for instance, when i was in zambia, it was the simple exhortation to trust: trust me, trust my son, trust my provision, trust my leading, trust me to blow your mind and change your plans and rock your world, because i'm going to do it anyway and you might as well enjoy the ride. in china, it was that he had already overcome, that the stomach ache i had and the difficulties in language barriers and the tears that constantly prickled at the back of my throat because a country of one billion people who were effectively blocked from ever hearing about jesus were transitory, that he had already taken care of it, that a brighter future opened ahead, he was god of this city, this nation, this world, and he would reign. in romania, it was service to others; stop putting yourself ahead, be humble, obedient, submissive, look for how you can serve others, amen. at cyia, it's nearly always about jesus, about meditating on who and what he was and is and will be, all the beauty of the cross and the empty tomb and the reigning king, sovereign above all.

and lately, it's been all about resting in christ. about trusting his grace. about knowing that he is god, above all, beyond all, and i don't have to fear because he is so.

fear not, for i am with you;
be not dismayed, for i am your god;
i will strengthen you, i will help you,
i will uphold you with my righteous right hand
(isaiah 41:10)

i always think that maybe i'm about to figure life out, that all of this will begin to make sense. it never does, sadly, and i'm starting to think that this thing they call adulthood is simply a series of half-informed decisions, bumbling against each other and getting all mixed up because nobody is quite sure where to put their feet. and i guess that's okay (after all, if everybody's screwing up as much as i am, that makes my mistakes okay, right?). so here i sit, contemplating whether i should go to school or not, what i'd go to school for, whether it would be a waste of more money than it was worth, whether the organizations i'm working with are where i'm supposed to be, whether i'm supposed to stay in my hometown. oh yeah, and i have a boy now. so that's exciting.

i have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
in the world you will have tribulation.
but take heart: i have overcome the world.
(john 16:33)

amid all this, god continues to tell me to rest in him. that he has it. that all things work together for good to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. and i am called, and i love him. and so all things will work together for good, every snarly problem and unfamiliar emotion and misstep and hard decision. resting in him brings its own rewards--i can focus on every kid in my clubs, i can love my boyfriend and my family and my church and free myself from worry. live in eucharisteo every day. it's more fun that way--even if constantly being told to rest is a little worrying, because precisely what is about to happen?

- kyla denae

Thursday, January 9, 2014

prayer without words

she presses into me, small limbs still overflowing my far-too-narrow lap. too narrow because i want to gather her up and never let her go, i want to rock her until she's forgotten whatever made her so desperate for this much love, this attention she craves from all of us but most especially me. i've become her favorite, this little dark-haired, winsome eyed girl with the too-jaunty smile, the ecstatic hugs and the quiet looks that let me know this one isn't any different from the others here.

she's been through the fire, and she's survived.

so i sit behind her on the floor, let her press herself into me even though i probably shouldn't--someone will get upset with me, surely, think i'm breaking rules--but this is the ranch, where kids are sent to be loved into knowledge of god's grace and their true potential. so she presses herself inward, the beat of my heart feeling loud and hard under her head. her hair rasps against my chin, the neat braid with its little flower, pressing into my cheek when i rest it on top of her head.

she curls her sparkly converse boots closer against my legs, pulls my arm around her. i pray for her, almost on reflex, pray love and healing and whatever else she needs into the tiny body that's wrapped itself against mine. the prayer is not so much words as simple impressions--as if by simply forming the intent of words in my mind, they will become so (but isn't that truly prayer without ceasing; sending every thought, like a rare bird, toward god, bringing every one of them into the substance of something worth going before the throne?).

in that moment, with the little ball of warmth against me and the unspoken prayer and the constant reminder that she should listen to the teacher instead of playing with my fingernail--or at least more obviously multi-task--i think i could do this forever. i could sit on a hard floor that's barely covered by ancient blue carpet, surrounded by kids who've been through things i could never imagine, for the rest of my life. i could do this, could pray prayers without words, could smile and laugh and gently guide, could pray some more when it seems nothing's going right.

and in that moment, i feel my heart open a little more, my dreams and hopes and plans flying away a bit more properly. i am content, i suppose, is what i'm trying to say. content to stay here, to love on what's in front of me, to pray the words that must be prayed. and i imagine this feeling will go away at some point and i'll be left desperately wanting out of my hometown, away as far as i can get, to the reaches of the earth, in places i can't speak the language and don't know how to eat the food...but for now, i am content with whatever is in store.

- Kyla Denae

Sunday, January 5, 2014

new year (pt 2)

it's been months since i last wrote here. i wish i could say that during that time i'd figured out some magical formula for True Happiness, that i'd managed to achieve greatness, write a book, travel the world, that that hand had come down and written great things for me.

life doesn't seem so easy. and don't think i'm going to be all gloom-and-doom in this post, because i'm not.

today, the preacher at my church talked about a lack of new year's resolutions. how only 8% or so of people keep their resolutions in any given year. how we try and fail and eventually just get so discouraged that we make the paradoxical resolution to not make any resolutions at all, come what may, and spell our own failure out in the guise of our success. instead, he proposed, we should change our environments. environments--the ways and surroundings in which we live our lives, the patterns we style ourselves after--change us. we have to acknowledge that, he said, recognize it. then we have to decide to do something about it.

that got me to thinking, as it usually does (a nasty habit; i'm trying heartily to ingrain it in my consciousness), and i wondered if perhaps environments weren't so much our actual surroundings--our houses, the people we hang out with, our coworkers, our day job, our fantasies, the books we read, movies we watch--but rather a state of mind. the state of mind that made a difference between saul the religious zealot and paul the christ-follower, abram the stable nomad and abraham the man who crossed continents to follow god, peter the fisherman and peter the evangelist.

perhaps all that is needed to change our lives isn't a radical five-step plan. maybe we don't need some kind of fancy planner, or a self-help coach, or the benefit of a shelf full of books about becoming a better person (TM). at the risk of sounding trite (and potentially acting like i'm forgetting that there are real problems that can arise that can't be wished away i'm not that naive thank) is the simple acknowledgement that yes, i don't know what i'm doing. but that's okay. because every day i have a chance to do whatever i think is best, letting god guide my steps...and the only thing i can control about most of that is my attitude about my choices and the decisions that face me.

i'm reading the book one thousand gifts for a bible study i do with some ladies from my hometown. not only is it an absolutely phenomenally written book, which is always a plus, but she dares to propose something i'd never heard before: that thankfulness, thanking without ceasing, being in a state of everyday gratefulness, is powerful. she phrases this idea as eucharisteo, the act of remembering and thanking god. it is the word from which we gain eucharist, the last supper, the meal that reminds us of christ's sacrifice. eucharisteo, the thankful remembering of what god has given us, every day, every moment, every single breath that passes. joy is so often found linked with thanksgiving in the scriptures, as ann points out--the leper, the messiah, people throughout the ages who found their joy where they found thanksgiving.

and i wonder. is it that all that's come before can be made better--or, at least, not so daunting--if i take care to find the joy in it? if i seek eucharisteo wherever i am?

so yes. hi there. i'm kyla. i'm nineteen years old, living with my parents, and my car perpetually seems a few stray bolts shy of being shaken apart on the interstate. my plans have gone horribly askew. i'm back at the fast food job i left a year ago, having come little farther in my life. i have never found true love, not even the beginning glimmers of it. i blush too much. i have a propensity to use profanity. my talents are scarce, scattered, a layer of mediocrity in a world where you have to shine bright like a diamond. 

i'm kyla. i'm nineteen years old, getting the chance to live with my family for a few more precious months, see my parents every day, kiss small children, wake up late and yawn into a familiar bedroom full of things that are a jumbled mess of mine and theirs. i have managed to find steady employment, i am making money, i am planning and praying and hoping and waiting.

and this year, the only thing i can truly control is my attitude, my every day eucharisteo, my inner environment. and so i suppose that is the one grand thing i have to tell you all after three months of silence. my new year's resolution is to change my environment, paradox and all.

- Kyla Denae

Monday, September 30, 2013

wandering (pt 1)

"where are you going?"
"oh nowhere; just wandering"
"can i help you with something?"
"no thanks; i'm just wandering."

a week ago exactly, i turned nineteen. two weeks ago (minus a couple days, but who's counting?) i got a driver's license. a month ago, i was employed by child evangelism fellowship, wrapping up my last few days as a summer intern. five months ago, i was leaving cef headquarters, a cmi graduate. nine months ago, i was leaving home for cmi.

so much has happened in the past year. i'm in the process of changing churches. i'm trying to find a job. a couple friends and i are thinking about moving out once we're all on our feet, which will hopefully not be long. and here i sit. just wandering.

all throughout my adolescent years, there were milestones. i went to zambia, and god opened my heart to missions. i went to china, and god opened my heart for those who've never heard. he told me to go to romania, and i did, and it was amazing, if not in quite the way i expected. god led me to cmi, and back home, and to a summer intership with cef...

and now i'm just...lost. wandering through the beginning stages of adulthood, trying to remember all the pieces of advice that were given me, trying to remember how exactly i've seen people do this thing called life, trying to figure out where i'm supposed to be. and i'm waiting. waiting for a sign from heaven, i suppose, a disembodied finger to float down from above and write my instructions in angular english, tilted and supernatural, on a wall. i'm waiting for something to happen, something that will confirm what i'm supposed to do.

earlier this year, while at cyia, i felt that god was leading me to move four hours east to another city. i was going to be an intern there, and work within the cef framework, with the eventual aim of...well, i still wasn't sure, but it involved overseas service with cef and possibly directorships and teacher training gigs and being somebody who went and did things instead of just sitting still and waiting for life to run into her.

well, that whole plan fell through, as my own plans so often do. i didn't feel peace about it at first, and then other things happened, things that had been festering for a long while, things that could have called my entire ministry into question, through nothing i'd actually done. i had to do hard things and say hard things and generally be pretty damn ruthless and it hurt. i had to give up dreams of a future i'd been holding close for a long time, a future equal parts hopeless and beautiful, a future i would have gladly given much up for. a future that i'd already partly given up, because i knew there was no future in it at the beginning of this year. a future i'd been hanging onto with both hands, trying to preserve.

but i gave it up, because i had to.

and now i'm sitting here, at the cusp of, like, real adulthood, and i'm staring at all these other twenty-somethings who are bumbling through life, searching for the free food and the job that will Make Them Something, and i realize i'm just another cog in a dysfunctional machine that's slowly spinning into the sun, into an uncertain universal doom that will eventually claim all men, launching us off into eternity, into the hands of a loving god or a perfect judge.

and that's sort of depressing. and i'm still no closer to figuring out what the heck i'm going to do. maybe i'll end up just wandering through life. i hope not.

- Kyla Denae

Monday, September 9, 2013

just think about it


that's the part that gives me pause, every time i consider statistics about this issue. every time i read something new about human trafficking, or watch a new video, or do extra searching around, ferreting out information from the holes it likes to hide in on the internet.

50% of people trafficked yearly are children, some as young as five years old.

and it makes me think. it makes me think about the kids i see every day, the ones i teach, the ones i've met travelling overseas.

and i wonder...

what do these statistics mean? what is the chance that some of these kids are going to show up at the end of their hope, and are going to end up doing something that will change their lives forever? what are their chances of growing up without being touched by these things? and if it doesn't hurt them, if they go through life capable of avoiding these things, if they grow up normally, what about the others, those ones who don't make it?

how many young women, today, are going to find themselves reduced to a hundred-dollar transaction, a piece of flesh to be carted into the united states or to another part of southeast asia, or into a hundred other places where they can be lost, lost to hope and justice and love.

sometimes, here in america, we think we're safe, that we won't be touched by these things--but we will, and we are. it happens even here, though perhaps not in the same clear-cut way that it might happen in africa or southeast asia. after all, we're civilized.

the world has a responsibility; all of it. i have a responsibility--to do what i can, whatever that may be (at the moment, that includes simply blogging about this issue ~o~). organizations like the exodus road can only do so much without people backing them, governmental offices such as unicef can only reach where the law extends, and even then they need people...people who will know and tell what they know. because in the end, as alex said:

- Kyla Denae