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

Saturday, September 7, 2013

i hate being sick

i despise it. with all of my soul. unfortunately, however, hating being sick is not enough to keep actually getting sick away.

strep throat has been circulating in my house for the past two months. everybody's gotten it at least twice--and i'm pretty sure i'm among them, even though i've only been treated for it once since my body is stupid and doesn't like to show symptoms. so it's been interesting...have you ever had three sick kids under seven, all at the same time? it's not fun.

there is always a silver lining however
at least
that's what i've been told
it generally seems to hold true
even if the silver lining is a bit odd

the silver lining to this indefinite state of sickness is that i've actually been getting writing done. and i got extraordinarily pumped. about two projects at once. i told you the silver lining was a bit odd.

with this excess of inspiration running through my system, i chose to start not one, but two rewrites. two months before nanowrimo. so at the moment, i'm rewriting caste and royalty, two incredibly different projects that i'm pretty sure wouldn't even pass crossover compatibility tests (well, maybe...i mean, jo and gwyn would get along great, and arthur and loki would have a tentative sort of peace, so...maybe). but ah well.

the life of a writer never did run smooth.

so yes. i hate being sick. but at least it does come with fun things like inspiration. and crazy ideas.

- Kyla Denae

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

i got a thing today

it's beautiful.

best thing is, by buying this watch, i'm helping this great organization do what it does: free the victims of human trafficking, one by one. the makers of the watch itself are part of sak saum, an organization geared towards giving purpose and means of employment to the men and women who come out of the situations the exodus road saves them from. and this month only, when you buy one of their freedom wrap watches

which are adorable
by the way
not gonna lie
i mean
just look at them
the proceeds will go to the exodus road.

so yes. join me in the land of awesome watchiness and help an awesome organization while you're at it.

- Kyla Denae

Monday, August 19, 2013

sometimes i do things and they turn out abnosome

occasionally, they add new words to my vocabulary. like abnosome.

it's a word that means
in equal parts
and 'awesome'

this past week, not only did i cut off all my hair (and i'm still very happy about it yoooo), but i also participated in a great program called gishwhes.


it's abnosome. thoroughly. so abnosome, that they actually had to come up with that word just to explain it. over the last week, i've made up anagrams

 (yes, yes i know the team name is interesting i was in no way responsible for that moving on), hugging roosters with tank tops on,

trying to explain concepts of theoretical mathematics,

shooting real-life comic book panels,

 and taking ridiculous amounts of pictures featuring hugs.


there was an insane amount of hugging involved.

but you know what? i really enjoyed myself. and i'm tolerably certain my team didn't win--probably didn't even come close to winning (i'm mentally preparing myself now, ahead of time, so that when we inevitably do not win, i'm not disappointed)--but that's okay. because it was amazing, and normalcy is overrated.

go and be abnosome dear people.

- Kyla Denae

Sunday, August 18, 2013

but there's just too much

sometimes, i look at all the things that are going on in the world, and it makes me a little sick. there are so many things that are so fundamentally, horribly wrong, that there's no help for, things that go beyond anything i've ever experienced or seen first-hand.

and it's too much.

i'm just one person, one american woman who rakes in a thousand dollars a month (oh yeah, i'm living high on the hog), can barely afford a car, and is too nervous to talk on the phone. what is that, against a world where 80% of children have never heard the gospel, where 27 million people are held in slavery, where the worldwide infant mortality rate stands at 49.4%.

but the great thing is that, truly, i'm not really alone. not so long as there are people like you, who are willing to step up and join me to help, in some small way.

combating modern-day slavery is something that is greatly needed, and the exodus road is an organization working to do just that. through their search and rescue program, you and i can have a part in helping, one person at a time.

check it out
it's majorly rad
not even gonna try to exaggerate

another way you can help, if you (like me), are not quite able to give $35 a month, is through buying some of these totally amazing wrap watches. they're adorable. also, during the month of august, they're donating the profit to exodus road. so. it's totally worth it.

- Kyla Denae

Thursday, August 15, 2013

i did a thing

so, for a long while, i've quite wanted to cut all my hair off. i find long hair to be hot, and annoying, and i'm rubbish at fixing it up, so having short hair that would actually have to be fixed up in order to look nice will be a good thing for me.


i cut all my hair off.
well, i didn't personally.
the nice lady at the salon did.
but it's the same thing, really.

i went from this
 to this

and it's actually really incredibly awesome. my head has never felt this...light.

as a side-note, i'm not going to just waste all that hair. i'm going to be donating it to children with hair loss, so that some (un)lucky little lad or lass will get my incredibly heavy ginger hair to wear on their head. so yes.

- Kyla Denae

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

all the little things

i miss the little things about far off places

i miss the oranges in the african sunset
i miss the clack of chopsticks
i miss the smell of rain against a backdrop of cooking rice
i miss the lilt of words i can't understand
i miss different foods
i miss conversations that are missing half the words but nobody cares
i miss singing in gypsy
i miss getting to meet new missionaries
i miss learning about other cultures from the people that are in them
i miss that swing in the johnson's backyard
i miss exciting children's parks
i miss strange grocery stores
i miss not knowing anyone
i miss stumbling over words and having toddlers giggle at me
i miss walking everywhere i go
i miss simplicity
i miss dusky little faces and white teeth
i miss sitting across a room from a bunch of people and just grinning
i miss getting up early and reading my bible to an african sunrise
i miss the mysterious red moving guy from the xi'an expo
i miss dancing with three hundred chinese students
i miss eleven o'clock roommate sessions

i miss so many little, tiny things that don't seem like much, but that hurt me when i think of them.
and i want them back.
i want to stop missing them.
i want to go places, to see people and things i've never dreamed of before.
but i'm going to stay here anyway.
because for right now, this is where i need to be.
and i know i keep bugging you people with this same thing
but it hasn't ceased to be true.
and i'm happy here
and i love the people here
and i love the ministry i have here.
god is blessing it greatly, more and more everyday.

but god.

so i'll keep on missing it
and eventually it'll happen.
and i'll be even happier than i am.

- Kyla Denae

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

deep breath before the plunge

summer ministry in the texas panhandle is officially over. the last five day club has been held, the last thank you note has been dispatched, the last newsletter article been written. it's happy, on the one hand, because i no longer have to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, hoping i remembered everything for the day's club.

on the other hand
i'm really freaking bored
i want my kids back
why is there a month until good news clubs start
stahp it monthly calendars

i suppose that, for now, i get to see the un-glamorous side of ministry, the side that makes ministry visits and tries like mad to reach 100% of support and calls pastors.

have i ever mentioned that pastors intimidate me? they do. it's quite an interesting phenomenon, but i'm also having to get over it. maybe it's just that adults intimidate me. i don't know. but i've still got to get over it.

pray for me. 
i need lots of grace. 
and patience. 
and courage. 
and willpower. 
and nutella. 
mostly nutella.

along with all that, though, i know that it's only a matter of time before i get shoved back into being with kids all the time, because i have at least three good news clubs that need my teaching skills this fall. i'm excited. i won't have time to be bored, at least, and that's an incredibly good thing. my hate for boredom runs deep.

so i'm taking a deep breath before we have to run headlong into workshops and teaching and bible lessons and kids asking me crazy questions. because i love it, but it's tiring.

- Kyla Denae

Saturday, July 27, 2013

and a little child shall lead them

sometimes, i get really confused. i start worrying. like now, for instance. i was supposed to have quite a big chunk of my internship funds raised by now, the end of july. for those of you not in the loop, i'm working at child evangelism fellowship this summer as one of the local interns. it's been an adventure, and i'm having quite a bit of fun. it's fundraising is not my favorite thing. i don't think it's anybody's. and i'm stressing (just the tiniest bit) about that, though i'm giving it to god and letting him take care of it.

last week, i went to camp good news, which is a camp in oklahoma run by one of my teachers from cmi. i came home to some stuff that i'd not expected, stuff that's been in my family for a long while, but is beginning to manifest in new and exciting ways.

can you sense the sarcasm here
i hope so
i'm being really sarcastic
it's not exciting
it sucks
i hate drama

i came home to this, and i'm sitting here thinking, god, you said you were gonna take care of me this summer. you were very clear about how this internship was where i was supposed to be. i wanted to go to thailand, and you said no, god, and i know there was a reason, but i'm having a bit of trouble seeing it right about now. god, i'm confused. i don't know where i'm supposed to go. am i supposed to go finish out my internship down south, or am i supposed to stay in amarillo for another year. am i supposed to help do good news clubs or am i supposed to get a job and be a good little member of the workforce. am i supposed to buy a car and get my own place or buy a car and stay where i'm at or am i supposed to go hunting me a husband and hope you work it all out.

another thing i hate
it's full of all sorts of problems that my nine year old conception never did see
curse you unrealistic expectations about life

i could go on and on about my young adult angst, but it would bore you, so i shan't. to make a long story short, i'm confused and trying to figure out god's will in the midst of much weirdness. i'm in way over my head, and i just want out of most of it, and i'm unable to be.

at camp this past week, there was this little girl in the bible class i was teaching. on the second day at camp, she came to me and told me that she knew she'd believed in jesus, but she wasn't sure if she still was, because she'd done some wrong things and she didn't always feel that god was with her. one of my favorite promises in the bible is found in hebrews 13:5--it says, "for he has said, i will never leave you nor forsake you." it's a beautiful promise, full of truth and wonder and the awe-inspiring idea that out of all his creations, out of all the things there are to love, out of all the majesty and beauty that fills the universe, god chose to love me, to tear out a part of himself and sacrifice it, for me, and with that knowledge comes the idea that i'll never able to do anything that will drive god away from me.

so i shared that verse with jaylin. i told her what it means, what god has promised to us. and every day after that, i heard her repeating the promise. she told everyone she met. she put a marker in her bible at that verse and opened to it every chance she got. it was what she shared at testimony night. she made up a song with the words, so she could repeat to herself every chance she got the promise that "i will never leave you nor forsake you." to her, that was the most important thing of camp, the most important thing about god. the only important thing about god.

and so, as i sit here surrounded by a bunch of stuff i can't comprehend and can't see my way through, i am humbled by the faith of a little child. the faith that will accept something so earth-shattering as "god is never going to leave me ever" and translate it into a song and into a chant that is repeated to oneself over every meal and before every bedtime and to everybody i meet. i am left in awe at the sort of faith that can accept that so completely, and i know beyond a doubt that i want that faith, that that faith is something to be reached for.

so i'm going to reach for it. i'm going to trust that promise--that even when i can't see my way, even when everything's cloudy and weird and beyond my wisdom, god's got me. he will never leave me. he's sealed me in the palm of his hand. he's three hundred steps ahead of me, scouting out my life decades in advance. 

for he has said
i will never leave you nor forsake you
so we can confidently say
the lord is my helper
i will not fear
what can man do to me
hebrews 13:5-6, ESV

- Kyla Denae

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

i'm all growed up

About two years ago (or so, I'm hardly counting or anything), I posted this.

And I looked like this.

Frightening, I know. Well today, a two-year odyssey of pain, suffering, and rubberbands has come to an end. Mostly.

That's right. I am no longer an active part of the orthodontia industry, except so far as my retainers are concerned. Boo-yah.

- Kyla Denae

Sunday, July 14, 2013

bursting out of the bubble

In America, people very often get to thinking that there are certain things that are...'over'. We don't have to worry about deadly communicable diseases anymore, because we have modern medicine. We don't have to worry about getting to someplace quickly because we've got instant communication and cars. We don't have to worry about injustice, because there's ways to deal with it. We have police officers, and laws, and a military that can go enforce its will all around the world. Most of all, we most definitely dealt with slavery 160 years ago. 

we don't have to worry about that anymore. 
we're safe. 
surely that doesn't happen anymore.
this is the twenty-first century.

And, little by little, we climb back into our bubble of safety and comfort, where nothing ever goes wrong and, above all things, justice is done.

Yet that's so far from true. Statistics show that there are 27,000,000 people currently in slavery all around the world. 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. Every six seconds, a child is sold for sex somewhere in the world. This industry, this market of people, is the third-largest global industry, just behind drugs and guns.

in other news, people just generally suck.
did you know that?
they do.

Recently, I discovered an organization, The Exodus Road, that is working to do something about this problem. They're not just talking. They're not just sending money--they're funding investigators who travel to hotbeds of trafficking activity and attempt to rescue as many as they can. Collectively, this team of investigators have 622 victim rescues to look back on, and they're looking forward to many more. Within the life of the organization itself, there have been 189 supported rescues.

I'm partnering with The Exodus Road as a blogger, to help spread the word about this amazing organization, and to raise awareness about this problem that still plagues the world. To learn more about The Exodus Road, you can visit their website here, or watch the video below. Or both. Both is good.

- Kyla Denae

Sunday, July 7, 2013

i like to know people's thoughts

I like knowing what people think about things. I like listening to them expound upon something that they're passionate about. Even if I don't quite agree with them, or if I have absolutely no interest in what they're talking about, I still like it. Because getting to share in that exchange of ideas, to have a second-hand sense of that passion...asdfjkl; I just love it.

One of the ways I think people can really effectively share their thoughts is through fiction, which is why I love to read fiction so much. Don't get me wrong, nonfiction is great, because it can give you a whole new view of certain works of fiction, and allow you to consider viewpoints that you hadn't before, but fiction--fiction will forever be a love of mine.

I love helping people with their fiction, too. I've read so much fiction that, at this point, I'm pretty familiar with the mechanics of it, and how certain genres tick. This means that I can help other budding authors hone their craft, because I know good writing. Not to toot my own horn. It's true.

Which is what I've been doing practically all day--writing reviews for teenage authors and a couple adults, and working on a beta read for a friend.

I suppose the entire point of this rambling post is to tell you that I'm wanting to get experience doing this, because I think I could actually, like, make a job of it. So if you're a writer and you need someone with an experienced eye to look over your novel--hit me up. Because I will do it. And then when you get published, I will list you on my resume. So yes.

- Kyla Denae

Monday, July 1, 2013

i am a child of the twenty first century

I hate phone calls.
I hate making them.
I hate taking them.
I hate having to sit with a phone pressed to my ear, saying words into a person's ear, without fully knowing whether that person is, in fact, at all willing to listen to me say those words, or whether they want me to stop, or whether their face is screwed up in disgust because ew this person is so stupid.

Perhaps you will say that you never think that about someone who you're talking to on the phone. Perhaps you're right. However, I still much prefer talking to people face-to-face. I prefer even more managing to never see people face-to-face at all, and instead texting them, or popping them a Facebook message, or otherwise avoiding the unfortunate necessity of actually speaking to them.

I am told this is not a good thing.

However, it is a perfectly logical thing. Let me explain. If I send someone a text, they have a multitude of options. They can ignore that text, deleting it and sending it out into the cosmos. I will simply assume the text got lost in cyberspace, and unless it was really important, probably won't even bother sending another. They could also answer this text at their leisure if they so desire. That text will stay on their phone as long as they want it to. It will still be there in six years when they finally get around to answering my appeal for funds! It will still be there, just as it was the day I sent it, awaiting the kind person's pleasure! I'm not bothering them! They have freedom to answer whenever they choose! Texts have the added bonus of not being interruptible. People's words get in the way of other people's words, and if we just cut out people's ability to butt into other people's words until said person's words are done, then said person won't get nervous!

In a phone call, it's very hard to just ignore it. If you hit 'ignore', the person is going to know you hit ignore, because the call will cut out. This leads to inevitable hurt feelings, because you can't just ignore a call from a potential donor, or from your best friend, or from your Great-aunt Beth without there being serious repercussions. And there's the issue of having to call back. If you miss someone or go to their answering machine--yeah, you can leave a message...but you're still going to have to call back. And then you will have to say words, and these words could be interrupted and that's just awkward for everybody.

How do people words
I don't understand

A Facebook message also has many good perks. It has all the bonuses that come with texting, with the added amazingness that is everyone uses Facebook. Don't have somebody's number? No problem! No need to go be a creeper and use to stalk them down. You just find them on your friends list (or, occasionally, on your friend's friends list) and shoot them a message! And Facebook even notifies them for you! And bugs them if they don't answer you!

Of course, I will forever prefer simply talking face-to-face with someone. Because then, at least, you know whether you're bothering them or not. Sometimes. Then there's the poker-faced people who you know are judging you in their minds.

You can feel it. Like this crashing wave of disapproval. And it hurts. But at least you can see them, and know.

As an intern for CEF, though, I've got to raise support. Which means finding ministry partners. Which means I have to make phone calls. Which means I must put aside my discomfort as a child of the twenty-first century who is way better at writing words than she is at speaking them.

But it hurts.

So, dear people of the world, let us consider turning away from this odd invention that is the telephone, and going entirely to text-based communication. Again. Life was so much more comfortable when you wouldn't know precisely what somebody thought of you for six months.

- Kyla Denae

Saturday, June 22, 2013

my job description includes

hugging little kids
throwing dead frogs away
after picking them up out of the office bathroom
being completely ridiculous
eating lots of nutella and sour gummy worms
reading large books
praising jesus
knowing the answer to questions like "what's the number for child support"
or, sometimes, just flat not knowing the answer to questions like "what's the number for child support"
playing with hula hoops, parachutes, and a very large rubber inflatable ball
praying for dead, dying, and not-yet-living dogs, cats, and other assorted pets
knowing why the sky is blue, why rainbows appear, and what jesus was like when he was six
always being 'teacher' no matter where i am
knowing prayer is the first resort for any problem
always being ready to give a hug, even in the middle of walmart
being willing to be silly
and, more often than not, actually being silly
juggling visuals, cds, kids, and more games than i care to think about
singing ridiculous songs at the top of my lungs because they are cool, darnit
remembering that jesus is the reason for everything
and above all
investing in the lives of everyone i meet, for jesus' sake

- Kyla Denae

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

going stir-crazy

Next Tuesday, it will mark the one-year anniversary of the last overseas missions trip I took. One year since I left the States for Romania. Fourteen days beyond that will be the one-year for being in the States mark.

And, in a way, it makes me sad.

I know that God wants me here for something. I know that my work here is important, that working in the local CEF chapter here in my hometown is important. That there are kids here who need to hear the Gospel. That I'm following God's will--at least, as much of it as He's revealed to me so far.


I don't want it to be God's will for me to be here. I want to go someplace. I want to feel the press of g-forces as a plane takes off beneath me, carrying me thirty thousand feet up into the air. I want to be on my way to someplace on another continent, with strange smells and different foods and beautiful languages. I want to be running through an airport, trying to find an eatery with somewhat affordable food so that I can eat before I get on the plane. I want to have colorful money in my hands that crinkles oddly and shines when I hold it up to the light. I want to learn how to twist my tongue around the words of a new 'hello'. I want to see dark little hands put into mine. 

I want to run through a weed-infested churchyard, chasing a Romanian five year old who's challenged me to a game of tag. I want to walk through an African compound with a child on my back as we head home from church. I want to be in a Chinese high school where the beds are made of wooden slats and I don't have the option of a fork. I want to stare down from a plane window at the Sahara Desert, or the Pacific Ocean, or the soaring mountains of Germany. I want to stand below Big Ben, and walk along the fence of Westminster Abbey. I want to stand in an airport terminal and press my nose against the window and try to see beyond the fence that surrounds me. I want to go into a mall and feel that relief at air conditioning. I want to hug an orphan whose teeth flash white from a dusky-dark face.

I want to feel the press of a hand from someone who's just heard the Gospel for the first time. I want to see a smile from a child who's hanging upside down from a rusted carport, and know that as I smile we're communicating, even though he doesn't speak a word of English and I can't say more than three words in Romanian. I want to be able to sit next to an old woman and watch her prepare a meal for her family, knowing that words aren't needed, because we're sitting here, listening to the village celebrate the miracle of Christ. Words aren't needed. Our English and Nyanja is sufficient, because we don't need to use it.

I want all these things.
But I don't need them.

I know I don't need them. I know that there's something in this time here, firmly in the States, sitting behind a desk, reaching out to little kids who, more often than not, are of precisely my skin tone, that God has to show me. I know that He will use this time. I know He has appointed it. I know that He's going to reveal this whatever-it-is to me in His perfect time. I know that, when He does, I'll understand (at least in part), and I'll be the better for it.

But it's hard. And perhaps it shouldn't be. Because, everyday, God is revealing to me just how deep the hurt runs right here in my country, in my hometown. How deeply some of these children are hurting. How much of them simply need to be pulled into a bear hug and told how much He loves them.

So yes, travelling overseas is thrilling. I doubt my heart for international missions is going to go away anytime soon (at least, I hope not, because that would be sad). But for now, I'm working on being content right where I am. Giving my life up for the One who gave up His own.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

- Kyla Denae

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

falling in love with jesus

There's something about serving others. About reaching out to people who may have never heard the Gospel. About sincerely, genuinely getting down to a child's level and simply showing them how much you care. There's something about it that lifts the fog of a world that's broken and hurting, and for a few simple, beautiful moments, shows the wonder that Jesus brought to earth.

This year at Christian Youth In Action© (a training camp Child Evangelism Fellowship© holds around the country to train teenagers how to effectively share their faith), I was a team leader for the first time. My team and I, consisting of two fourteen year old teenagers, went to a Boys' and Girls' Club, community centers that bring in kids during the year and teach them respect, discipline...or, at least, attempt to.

Community center 5 Day Clubs are always difficult. A lot of the kids in these places come from broken or troubled homes. Both of their parents--or their only parent--have to work all day long, and so the kids get bundled off to these budget daycare facilities, because it's all they can afford during the summer. The school systems are, very often, failing these kids spectacularly. They're faced with parents who don't care, or are abusive, or try really hard but can't make ends meet. Many of them have absent fathers--some because their fathers are in jail, some because their dad just up and disappeared one day. Some, the ones who really break my heart, have different daddies than their siblings, and their mom has a new guy these days.

As a consequence of all these factors, many of these kids have behaviour problems. Respect is earned, not freely given. And it can only be earned very, very slowly, by continually pouring into their lives. Everyone else has left them; the chances of your doing so, in their eyes, is extremely high. They see no need to listen to some teacher they don't know. Add into this a racial divide that's still very much alive in some of these places, and it becomes downright impossible.

We walked into this community center, and I could only glance back at my team and say one of those quick "dear Jesus, please help us," prayers. Neither of my team was particularly prepared for the challenge presented by these kids. One of my team members was a second-year in our program. He's a great teacher, but he's also very focused. He has to focus entirely upon his lesson, or he'll lose it...and the discipline problems in this club didn't help the whole focus thing. My other team member was a first-year, a little fourteen year old girl who's almost whiter than I am, with perfect hair and nails and a bit of germophobia.

To say that I was a bit nervous about the outcome of this club would be an understatement. I could handle it. But I was the team leader. My job was to sit in the back of the room, observe, write things down on sheets of paper, and pray really hard that my team wouldn't tank. Okay, maybe that last bit isn't technically on the job description, but it fits. So that's what I did. For five days, I helped how I could, I gave pointers, I prayed for my team, and I loved the kids in our club. I loved them with every bit of me.

It was a hard club, I'll tell you that. My team wasn't quite sure what to do with them. Some of them smelled bad, and my poor little germophobe didn't know what to do with them. Some of them wouldn't sit down for love or money--or, what was more immediate, the promise of candy. Some of them were attentive and got as close as they could to the teacher. Some could answer every question at the end, but during the lesson looked as if they weren't listening at all...and did their hardest to distract everyone around them. My team wasn't quite sure how they were supposed to love these kids. How just standing up and teaching them a lesson constituted loving them at all. How they were supposed to reach into these kids' lives and make a difference.

How, in short, loving them was at all possible.

They're smelly.
They don't pay attention.
They're disrespectful.
They make snide comments about us.
They hate us.

Slowly, I got them to look past that...or, at least, attempted to. Yes, they're disrespectful. But God made them, and loves them. And it is here that loving others and loving Jesus intersects. Telling people about Christ--especially children, who Jesus loved above all others--seems to bring Jesus from the past, from the realm of abstract intellectual knowledge, and makes Him a present, living reality.

Christ lived and died. 
For each and every one of these smelly, disobedient kids. 

Christ gave His blood. 
For each child who turns around in their chair while they're supposed to be listening. 

Christ came alive again. 
For each child who complains as he's being led into the classroom on day three. 

When I really make an effort to think about the sacrifice Jesus made, about how much he suffered just for the love of sinful, horrible people who were, in that very moment, nailing him to one of the most brutal torture implements ever devised by human imagination, it's hard to ever despise the people you're trying to tell about Him. It makes it difficult to say bad things. It makes it difficult to undervalue those who've never heard that He did, in fact, make that sacrifice.

And as I ponder it, this incredible, immense sacrifice that was made on my behalf, it makes me fall in love, too. It makes me realize that, as I am loved, as Christ loved me, so these children are loved. And that's why the end of a 5 Day Club always makes me cry. Why I can only pray during our last few minutes with them, praying life and love and hope over them, praying for those who came so close to a knowledge of the Savior during the five days, yet still fell short of quite getting it, of fully grasping it, of understanding the truth we'd been pouring into their lives.

Yesterday, I was reading in 1 Peter. I was actually studying for a lesson, but then my eye landed on this, and it so perfectly sums up the reason I do what I do.
Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
I am not redeemed by anything I can do, with corruptible things that will pass away. My deeds cannot ever atone for the other deeds I've done, can't begin to cover the sin I've committed. Yet Christ came, a lamb without any defect. He knew this would happen, eons before it came to pass. And yet He still came. He came to earth and died. He came to earth and came alive again, to be a testament for us, to make a new covenant forged under his blood, by his suffering.

And now my faith and hope are in Him, in His Father. And that is why I go to these places where the kids are tough and hurting and broken. It's why I go into a sick, broken world. Because I know the One who heals all hurts. And can I sit by and simply not take it? 

I've fallen in love with Jesus. Totally, irrevocably, utterly in love with Jesus. I love Him who first loved me. And now I can't help but speak of this faith and hope that He has given me.

- Kyla Denae

Friday, May 24, 2013

you know those people you get to know

There comes this point, when I'm writing, where I get to know characters so very well that they become a part of me. I can hear them speaking to me even when I'm not actively writing their story. I begin to think about how they'd react to the circumstances I'm in--how would they deal with this or that, what would they say, that sort of thing.

I don't know if this is particularly healthy. But there comes a point where I simply can't help it. But it begins to hurt just a bit more than it did before when I finish telling their story.

Take, for instance, Joanna and Loki from Caste, the novel I recently finished.  It's the classic story: boy meets girl, girl hates boy's guts, boy's people are keeping girl's kind know.

Joanna is a human girl, an erstwhile serf who hates her position. You see, in Djarkat--Jo and Loki's world--the humans are subservient to massive, fire-breathing Dragon shapeshifters. They choose to walk the earth in shapes like those of men...but only so they can take control, so they can beat the humans into the dust. At least, that's how Joanna sees it. And it makes her angry. It makes her very angry. 

Loki, in contrast, is one of the Shifters Joanna hates so much. He saves her life, snatching her from an execution they were both going to fall prey to. That doesn't mean she forgives his people their many sins, nor that she particularly cares for him...not for a long while, anyway.

 They're forced to work together, but they don't quite like it. Even when they decide to work together, you're forever getting the feeling that they're not quite happy about it.

But they got over it, at least in part, and they're still up in my head, clamoring for my attention. And I love it, because it means I can make my characters come alive.

And no, I am not crazy.
Okay, maybe a little bit.
By-the-by, if you wanted to read this particular story, I'd love to hear your thoughts. You can read it here.

- Kyla Denae

Friday, May 10, 2013


I was reading through some of my old blog posts and writings earlier.

it's embarrassing.
it makes me realize just why adults laughed at me.
because i was a little idiot.

I was what could be termed a precocious child. And then a precocious teenager. Constantly thinking I knew way more than I actually did. I realize now, looking back, just how utterly silly I actually was, and how silly I still am. But I suppose that that, too, in its own way, is definitely a form of growth. I've realized just how silly I was, and know it. I've realized that the world is bigger than just me or my beliefs, that there are things that can't be pushed into a box, that sometimes the world isn't just black and white, us and them, what's known and what's unknown.

There is grey. And I find that kind of amazing. That there are things in the universe that I, quite simply, will never be able to understand. That there are processes that transcend my paltry understanding.

And while I try to navigate through things that just seem really, really absurd and difficult and know, the universe is so much bigger than all of that. And someday, I'll look back at all of this, and laugh a lot and cringe a little, and think you know what, I wasn't all that bad.

- Kyla Denae

Thursday, May 9, 2013

the power of the almighty

I'm currently reading through the minor prophets. I love the minor prophets, in a rather odd way. They're little snapshots of a time when Israel was slowly drifting away from God, getting further and further away. Yeah, there are brief moments of revival; Zephaniah's warnings are believed to have been the impetus behind Josiah's reforms of the religious system in Judah. Yet time and again, no matter how strident the warnings, the people always seem to drift farther from God yet again, forever forgetting just how great God is.

This is a common thread throughout the minor prophets. The people get so entrenched into their materialism, into their deep apathy, into their worship of other gods, that they forget how amazing the one true God truly is, how well He's taken care of them.

Hosea condemns this drifting in likely the strongest language--

For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully.
...the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. (Hosea 1:5, 4:12)
Joel speaks in the midst of physical destruction, just after a plague of locusts that is a judgment upon the people of Judah for their sin of idolatry. Amos rails against Israel's sins of gluttony and drunkenness, their lack of compassion for the poor, and their immorality.Obadiah speaks of Edom's attacks against "thy brother Jacob". Jonah's whole dilemma centered around the sin and immorality of Nineveh, as does Nahum's. Micah speaks of the greediness of the people of Jerusalem, of their apathy toward God, and their lack of trust in Him. In chapter two, he enjoins them to
Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction. If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people.
Micah is referring to the place of rest and joy that was promised to the people of Israel all the way back in the Torah. Deuteronomy refers to the inheritance that God had promised (12:9). Even then, they'd not yet come to it, even within sight of the promised land of Canaan. Micah is warning the people that even this, this land of seeming plenty that he's talked about in the preceding verses, still isn't the one of ultimate rest that God has promised to his people. It is an illusion, built upon the greed of people, independent of the power of God; they've built it seemingly all on their own...and, in consequence, they've begun to listen to false prophets who speak to them only of further prosperity, rather than the judgment that Micah warns is coming.

Habbakkuk warns against wanton war, against robbing from others and enriching yourself through it. Zephaniah tells of Judah's spiritual adultery--trying to serve both the one true God and Molech, covering all the bases, per se. Verse twelve of chapter one tells of the people of Judah. They are
...[settled in complacency: they] say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.
They had denied the power that was God's, and refused to see the power that He held over all of them.

Yet consistently, these same prophets speak out powerfully about the power of God, affirming it over and over to God's chosen people, reminding them of His greatness. Habakkuk praises God most of all because
the Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
Nahum takes the path of reminding the people of Nineveh of the destructive power of God's wrath:
But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness will pursue his enemies.
Jonah documents God's saving grace, not just toward Nineveh, but towards Jonah himself. Obadiah highlights the illumination that will come after judgement (verse 18). Amos simply shows how great God truly is.
For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, the God of hosts, is his name.
Joel speaks of God's saving power, His ability to follow through on His word, His power to do great things. Hosea declares that God is a loving spouse to a wayward Israel, constantly drawing her back, and He has power over all the angels.

My favorite passages that demonstrate this attention to God's power, however, are found in Micah and Zephaniah. Micah chapter 7 talks about how God is going to build up his people once more--regardless of their sin, regardless of how far they strayed; it is only temporary. Micah gives hope. Even despite all the transgressions, God will still hear. He still cares. We are His flock, His heritage, and He will build us up again--and "the nations shall see and be confounded at all their might..." He continues on, and gives the most amazing picture of God's power toward us.
Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
He is all-powerful. He will cow all nations. He is supreme. And yet he forgives. He cares about us, so far beyond what we can ever imagine. Zephaniah continues this theme, in chapter 3.
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
He is great, yet He saves. He is great, yet He rejoices over us. He is great, yet He will allow us to rest in His love. He is great, but he sings over me with great joy. God is mighty, yet He cares so wonderfully for each one of us. This was the thing Israel was consistently forgetting--God's power, and God's powerful love. I hope I never forget that truth, because it continues to amaze me every time I really, truly think about it.

- Kyla Denae

Monday, May 6, 2013

the way god blesses a poor missionary

Ah, it's endless, this list of things God does for me everyday. No matter what situation I'm in, it never ceases to amaze me how God provides, just in time, for so many things.

I have another new (or at least, mostly new) laptop computer, for completely free. This is after I was quite convinced I'd have to buy a new one, because my old one was about to give out. For a quasi-college student who's just come home from CMI, is pretty much penniless, and looking at a summer full of fundraising and ministry, it was a rather daunting prospect.

But God came through, once again working through a couple I love so very dearly. So tonight, I'm just praising God--for friends, for technology, for the twenty-first century, for just being overall amazing (also for not making me live through ninety degree weather just yet). There are so many reasons to praise God. And it's amazing.

- Kyla Denae

Monday, April 22, 2013

lasts and new beginnings

I've been MIA for the past three months, I know. There's a good reason for it, honest.

I was at the Children's Ministries Institute...which was, quite frankly, so amazingly beyond words that I can't even try to fit all of it into one blog post. So I shan't try, and shall instead just simply say: if you are at all interested in children's ministry of any sort, CMI is the way to go. It is the best training you can get anywhere, I'm about 99.9% certain.

So there's that.

Because I had such an amazing time, though, it was very difficult to say goodbye. Myself and my classmates (and a few of the staff people that live at headquarters) became very much like a much so that our final, parting gift and "project" for the wall of pictures from past classes is an actual, legit family tree with our entire class mapped out as "relatives". No, we're not strange...

Well, okay, we are, but that's beside the point.

For the last two weeks, we were cataloging lasts.
Last trip to Walmart. 
Last game night. 
Last trip to the mall. 
Last walk to the lake. 
Last module. 
Last casual day. 
Last hugs.
Last goodbyes.

Lasts are sad. And yes, we'll all see each other again, but it'll never be the same as it was before, when we were all living at headquarters and seeing God do great and mighty things all around us, and being in the midst of such a spirit of prayer and encouragement. We'll never be in that exact same situation, with those exact same people again. Because we're all changing.

I'm changing. My life is changing, moving on, growing, expanding. I'm about to start talking with the local CEF committee, looking at possible employment with them. I'll change as I find ministry partners, and change as I begin ministry, and all around the country, my classmates will be changing, too--getting married, or finding their own employment or getting a car or buying a dog. So all those lasts add up to one gigantic last. And that's sad.

But at the same time, it's kind of amazing. All those lasts add up to a chance to find a beginning, too. Yeah, our time at CMI is over, and that's really sad. I've cried a couple times. And I'll always love those memories--because my CMI family is amazing. But now, it's time to move on, and to grow and change and simply Be.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that came up a lot during my time at CMI. Our entire class took this as sort of an encouragement verse, the place we went to when things looked like they weren't going well, and I love the two verses immediately after it, too.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
Corrie Ten Boom once said that "In the center of a hurricane there is absolute peace and quiet. There is no safer place than in the center of the will of God."

A little known fact about me is that I hate change. I really do. I love it, but I hate it, all at the same time. Change means the unfamiliar. Change means doing something I'm not good at, am not experienced with. And it's pride that makes that 'bad', yes, but there it is. So as I step out into this new beginning, into this adult world of ministry and teacher training and pastor calls and ministry coordination...I'm scared silly. But God knows the plans He has for me. I am safe in the center of His will. And in the end, it will be enough to stand before His throne and hear him say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

- Kyla Denae

Saturday, January 12, 2013

things are changing

It's snowing outside. Not very much of it is sticking, and it's beginning to slack off even now. Slowly but surely, though, the world is beginning to look a little whiter. The sharp corners humanity excels at creating are rounding out, turning into the softer shapes that nature loves. The world looks a little cleaner, now, so bright and scoured white by the clouds above.

In a day or two, the snow will be gone. It rarely sticks around long; it seems to have an allergy to the high plains. The sharp corners will be back, and only a few little bits of ice clinging to the shadows will remain to remind us of how the world changed, for a few shining minutes, into something spectacular.

I've forgotten where I was going with that. I'm sort of in love with description, and sometimes it takes over. Apologies.

Today was my last at work. Nearly a year ago, in late April of 2012, I became the newest team member at a local Chick-fil-A. I've spent nearly a year of my life handing people chicken and learning to be really good at it. Ask me a question about procedure, and I can probably answer you, at least so far as it extends to the front counter. I've made friends--and probably a couple enemies, too--and decided that people really are just as complicated as they are in books.

But now it's over. And I don't know quite what to think. On the one hand, I have days of freedom stretching before me. I don't have to worry about work. I don't have to put on a uniform and spend the best part of each day serving chicken. I don't have to say "my pleasure" anymore and put up with lemon juice getting into tiny cuts on my hands.

But at the same time, a whole new chapter is opening up in my life. In a week, I will be leaving home for the longest stretch of time I ever have. I'll be heading to Warrenton, Missouri to attend the Children's Ministry Institute. I'm embarking on a completely foreign adventure, something I've never done before. And I'm going to confess something: I'm not very good with things I've never done before. I think that's maybe why I've stuck to writing, sitting in my room and playing with imaginary friends. They're simply facets of me, and me knows right where she is and what's going on. Even when I went overseas, to places I'd never been, on a journey I'd never undertaken, I had somebody else right alongside me to tell me what to do and where to go and when to do it.

And I'm leaving all that behind. I guess, in the end, I'm just afraid of change and I might eventually get over it and be able to, you know, function like an ordinary human being. But until then, I'll just go on being sort of lost with everything around me.

- Kyla Denae