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25 things in 25 years

25 Things in 25 Years

Usually, commemorating another year on the planet would fall within a couple of days of the day itself. However, when I turned 25 on September 13th, I was in Iceland with no access to a laptop. And it was GLORIOUS. (See the end for a couple photos.) 

Spending 10 days abroad with no laptop, no pressure to write and think was really nice. But I firmly believe that touchpoints like birthdays, the beginning of a new year (season…month…week…day), and the like are amazing opportunities to stop and remember. And 25 years was a substantial enough point that I felt the need to really sit with the years, think through them, and assess where I’ve come from and what God has done. 

So, nearly a month after the fact, here are 25 things I’ve learned from the last 25 years that I feel like you should know: 

  1. You will become a different person through different stages of life. It’s okay. Sometimes letting an old self die will feel like a funeral. That’s okay too. 
  2. The Church is not perfect, but it’s worth fighting for, and it needs you. Serve it. Love it. Commit to it. 
  3. Keep reading good books. And any way you consume a book counts (yes, that includes listening to it). 
  4. You need exercise, but you don’t have to hate it. Find something that gets you moving that you love, and ignore the idiotic ideas we have about fitness. (No, how long it takes you to run a mile is not the only marker of athleticism.) 
  5. Giving up meat is not that hard. It saves you money, it’s good for the planet, and it lets you find more animals cute without feeling guilty. 
  6. You’re not God. You need to sleep. Channel a bear and try to hibernate at night. 
  7. The Sabbath as a crucial practice didn’t disappear when Jesus came. You need a day where you cease doing and just practice BEING and communing with God. 
  8. You don’t need to be a master chef, but you need to know how to cook a few things. Trust me.
  9. Do the thing that scares YOU. But know how to make yourself feel safe too. Adrenaline in doses is good but you also need security. Give the speech, but buy the weighted blanket and candles. 
  10. Use a budget. It’s just a tool. It isn’t set in stone. Think of it as your money roadmap and reroute it as needed. 
  11. And use your money well. Be generous. Learn how to invest. Financial stewardship is important. 
  12. Relationships of any form don’t just HAPPEN. They need your time and attention. And, if you give your relationships time and attention, proximity is not a factor. But the relationships that last are the ones where both sides are equally committed to the romance/the family/the friendship/the fill-in-the-blank. 
  13. Get out of debt as fast as you can. But buy the freaking coffee. One great drink won’t set you back 50 years. 
  14. Don’t stay in a toxic job. If it’s eroding your boundaries and killing your spirit or causing you to set aside your ethics, it isn’t worth it. You CAN find another one – it isn’t the end of your career, and you don’t have to stay in a bad situation out of some false sense of obligation. 
  15. But don’t quit a job just because it’s hard or someone hurts your feelings. Resilience hurts but grows. Commit unless there is a very good reason to not be committed. 
  16. Travel as much as you can. Even if it’s to a different town in your state. Travel opens our eyes to the lives of others, lets us see beauty, and challenges us. 
  17. If you start drinking coffee, not only will you have caffeine options wherever you go, but you will have a very sweet ritual too. 
  18. Love your family. Commit to your family. Forgive your family. But don’t let genuinely toxic family members ignore your boundaries, and don’t feel like toxic behavior has to be ignored because you are related. Forgiveness erases any debt they owe you, but it doesn’t create an obligation of time spent together. 
  19. Talk to people about your struggles. Vulnerability hurts at first but it takes weight off your shoulders.
  20. You don’t have to live a Pinterest worthy life. Live quietly, live faithfully. It’s enough.
  21. In our society that loves independence, know that God made you dependent. You NEED Scripture. You NEED prayer. You NEED community. 
  22. It is always better to support policy instead of a political party or politician. When was the last time you saw policy wonks screaming at each other in the streets? (If you did see something like that, please send me the video. I would love to witness how a screaming match over Section 230 goes down.) 
  23. You can think a lot of things are good and worth doing or achieving. The government is usually the worst vehicle to get things done. 
  24. It is not always easy, but you should adopt a shelter pet. You’ll see how radically an animal can love and you’ll change a life. 
  25. Tech addictions will kill your spirit. Frequently resist. Delete the apps. Turn off the phone. Outsmart the attention economy. 

And, a +1 to complete the list: 

Salvation through Christ is the only true hope and security you will have in life. The Gospel is that Jesus entered into His creation, lived the life we couldn’t live, died the death we deserve, and conquered death so that one day, only through Him, we will too. It’s THE good news, and I pray you accept it.

And now, a couple of Iceland photos:

Icelandic Horse Investigating Camera
Gullfoss Waterfall
Horrifying circumstances are the training grounds for global intercession.

Let Horror Lead To Prayer

If I ever tell you I am praying enough, I’m lying. There will never be enough to be found while I’m still on this planet. Yet, there is one place where my prayer life has always faltered more than anywhere else: praying for the nations. 

But in the last few weeks, God has gently been working on my heart with a singular prompt: Let horror lead to prayer. 

There is no better example of this working in reality than the crisis in Afghanistan. We have become so desensitized to horror that it is extremely easy to read a headline, shake our head in dismay…and then keep scrolling. And I was ready to tweet my political take about this and keep going, but God stopped me.

He prompted me to pray. To pray through what I was seeing on my screens. To read through the stories of struggling Afghans, especially the underground Church in that nation, and PRAY. 

I’m not writing to you as an expert on prayer. I’m writing to you as someone who is decidedly NOT but who had a breakthrough lesson from God that she wants to share. 

We often make prayer too complex. I think one of the reasons I struggle to pray for the nations is that the concept is so BIG and often seems vague. How can I pray for what I don’t know to pray for? 

But praying for specific needs I’m seeing play out in practically real-time? That I can do. That I can put into words when the world altogether seems to be too big for me to make a dent in prayer. 

If praying for the nations is as hard for you as it is for me, think smaller. Pray for Christians across the world, that the Gospel would advance. Then, stop when you’re horrified by a current event and pray for that. It’s a learned habit, and I’m not completely there yet, but by God’s grace I even have the chance to advocate for others, and by His grace, I’ll grow in this discipline.

Women Need To Take 'Nice' Off Of Autopilot

Women Need To Take ‘Nice’ Off Of Autopilot

On a recent evening, I was at a coffee shop, headphones on, working on some writing. Suddenly, a man I didn’t know walked right up to my table. 

He was harmless enough. He wanted to joke about the fact that my table was the only one in the entire shop that had the full roster of condiments set out. Hovering awkwardly, he waited for me to laugh along with him, and finally walked away when he realized all he was getting was my blank, mildly irritated stare. 

As women, we have been unconsciously backed into this corner where we’re expected to be ‘nice.’ Unconditionally. Regardless of our feelings. 

And I lived like that for many years. Trying to be nice and laugh along, regardless of the circumstances. It wasn’t until certain situations played out in my life that I recognized the following: 

While I aspire to be a kind and Christlike human, I don’t need to make people feel okay with crossing boundaries or infringing on my personal space by responding in a stereotypically ‘nice’ manner. 

Continuing to use the coffee shop example – was my life in danger? No. But should I be expected to respond well to a strange man entering my personal space and forcing me to stop my work just so he can feel like he cracked a good joke? Absolutely not. 

Let’s use a different example. I live in a home that, before I moved in, had a long roster of tenants. Last summer, I pulled into my driveway to see a car full of strange men sitting there, waiting for someone to get home. 

Did I nicely ask them why they were there? Hell no. I let them know that they were trespassing and that they immediately needed to get off my property – that the people they thought lived there were no longer around and that they were not welcome to wait around or come back. 

Thankfully, they got the hint. 

I’ve told male neighbors with no boundaries that they are not allowed to cross property lines into my backyard as they tried to enter my personal space to talk about something. I’ve lunged out of the way and called out bad first dates who tried to kiss me when it was clear I didn’t want them to do so. I have put space between myself and men in professional settings who decided I should not have a normal personal bubble. 

We have been conditioned to set nice on autopilot. Women – we need to turn it off. I want to be a kind, gentle, and compassionate person. However, I do not want to be a person who compromises my boundaries, my personal space, or my safety just to avoid hurting a man’s feelings. 

Men are not owed ‘nice’ women. ESPECIALLY not when being nice costs us peace of mind or puts us in a dangerous situation. Let’s course correct.

5 COVID-19 Habits I'm Keeping

5 COVID-19 Habits I’m Keeping

COVID-19 made us all adapt huge portions of our lives – including our habits. Some of these habit adaptations were negative (Netflix, we really need to stop meeting each other like this). But some of these new habits were pretty positive.

Here are five habits picked up during COVID-19 that I’m planning on keeping: 

Religiously Sanitizing Gym Equipment

I definitely already used hand sanitizer religiously when at the gym but, gross admission, I was pretty lax when it came to thoroughly sanitizing my gym equipment. Then COVID struck. Fast forward to today, and the idea of touching gym equipment that hasn’t been wiped down grosses me out. 

Normalizing Canceling Plans When Sick

It was incredibly easy to cancel plans during COVID-19 when you felt sick – just add in a, “Sorry, but I want to be cautious, especially right now.” But why do we need that disclaimer to cancel plans or use sick days? You’re sick, germs are real, and healing takes rest – cancel the plans with no remorse. 

Spending Extra Time Making Pets Happy

When you’re away from your pets for a lot of time during the day, you miss many of their habits and what makes them happy. The part of COVID-19 I have LOVED is working from home and getting to see my dogs for much more of the day. I now know exactly how much they like to sleep during the day, what toys they will play with, and the number of times my dachshund wants me to give him scratches (note: it is far more than reasonable). And knowing these things, I WANT to do what makes them happy. They’re a part of my life – I am their entire life, so I want to make it good for them. 

Listening To Your Body When Planning Workouts

Before COVID-19 I would usually push myself through hard workouts, even if my body was telling me not to do it. Now, I can recognize when I need to keep pushing and when I need to adjust. Hard workouts are good – they aren’t good ALL the time. 

Making Things From Scratch

I would bake from time to time before COVID-19, but the number of things I made from scratch during this stretch exploded (at least, by my standards). Normal bread? Sure. But cornbread, frozen Greek yogurt, homemade mug cakes, hot chocolate mix, and more too. Everything tastes better when you make it yourself…and, you know, do it well. 

What are the COVID-19 habits that you want to have stick around?

The Scariest Part of Concealed Carry

People have asked if carrying a concealed weapon makes me nervous. The implication is that I must be scared of it potentially going off, shooting myself accidentally, etc. Truthfully, I’m not afraid of anything in that line of thinking. If I was worried about my ability to handle a weapon or its reliability, I wouldn’t be carrying it. 

No, the scariest part of concealed carry is other people. 

I vividly remember when I was first struck with this particular anxiety. I was in Tennessee for a weekend of hiking and relaxation and had flown my handgun with me since I was traveling solo. Definitely a confidence booster when you are in the mountains alone. 

One night out, I was wearing my holster with clothing that was a little tighter than usual. Suddenly, I had a moment of panic. What if people could see the outline of my gun? The rest of the night was spent continuously adjusting my clothing and surveying the people around me to make sure no one was reacting oddly. 

Folks, I am a law-abiding woman who hopes to never, EVER have to dispatch my weapon outside of a shooting range. There is never anything that suggests that I’m a threat to others. 

I should not be worried that someone might catch a glimpse of the outline of a gun and start freaking out. I shouldn’t worry that if an inch of my holster became visible that I could have someone cause a scene, get in my face, and potentially call the police and name me as a threat. But such is the state of gun insanity. 

Many in our nation have linked law-abiding gun owners to those who would commit violent crimes with a weapon. In their mind, anyone who carries a gun is a threat. This mentality is dangerous. 
I’ve written about this before elsewhere, which can be read in full here. Maybe someday our legislators and leaders will stop with the inflammatory rhetoric that turns all gun owners into enemies. Until that happens, to answer my friends, no – carrying my weapon does not make me nervous at all. What makes me nervous are the strangers around me who view me as a threat because I carry a weapon.

About to pet my dog without permission? Just don't.

Don’t Pet My Dog

When I take my dog for a walk, I’m really tempted to wear a sign around my neck that says, “Don’t pet him.” 

I would follow this up with a second sign that reads, “Our dogs are not friends – don’t act like they are.” 

But, signs around the neck are a little overboard, so I thought I would explain this to you, my readers. Then, it is your job to tell your friends so that they tell their friends, and the friends tell their friends until the whole world knows not to pet my dog. Or, for that matter, ANY dog. 

One thing COVID-19 put to a halt was being approached by strangers while out on walks. Sometimes it would be somebody who decided to pet my dog without asking permission. Other times, it would be somebody who allowed their dog to run up to mine without permission. But during COVID-19, keeping a six-foot distance prohibited that. 

However, more than a year into the pandemic, fewer people are religiously abiding by the six-foot rule. Thus, the return of my frustration. 

You should never, NEVER go pet a dog without talking to its owner. And you ESPECIALLY should not let your dog approach it without seeking the same permission. 

I’m going to use my dog as a classic example of why forgoing permission is a problem. I rescued him when he was picked up off the streets, and while I don’t know his background, I do know his triggers. He hates being approached suddenly, dislikes tall men, and gets really aggressive with big dogs. All probably for a reason, but for a reason unknown to me. 

Aside from just being rude, people and dogs who approach my dog without asking could cause someone to get hurt. My dog doesn’t have teeth (again, no idea why!) but still has the ability to clamp onto a person or a dog pretty painfully. And, if he does that to a dog that responds aggressively in turn, my little dog could get really hurt.

Some people may be okay with you and your dog visiting with their dog – that’s great. I’m not one of them. Either way, here is your public service announcement for the day: Always, ALWAYS, ask permission for you (or your dog) to approach another dog.*

*Obvious exception being dog parks. Go crazy there.

Fear and Hope Don’t Exist On A Spectrum

As I draft this, I can see a church sign blinking outside my window. One of the messages rolling on the sign is, “Hope, not fear.” A nice sentiment, but the more I’ve seen it flashing across the screen, the more it has bothered me.

Do hope and fear actually live at opposite ends of the spectrum? I don’t think so. 

First of all, the hope and fear pairing is not necessarily accurate. I would propose that the more accurate pairings are actually hope/despair and fear/trust.

But while I don’t think the ends of the spectrum are hope and fear, I think that things likely look a lot more like this: 

Fear and despair can certainly be friends, and hope and trust also go hand-in-hand. Thankfully, Scripture speaks to all of these things. I think a beautiful example is Isaiah 41:10: 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

You see the opposites on the grid play out here. Do not fear – trust that he is with you. Do not despair – hope that He is your God who WILL strengthen and help and uphold you. 

Knowing that fear and despair tend to plague me at the same time and that I should turn toward hope and trust help me understand my emotions and tendencies more. Maybe not the deepest train of thought prompted by a church sign, but one I appreciated today.

Here are five pointers to help you plan the best (BUDGET FRIENDLY) trip yet:

Kelvey’s Five Point Trip Planning Guide

Here’s something very few people know about me: I LOVE planning trips. Love it. I love finding great deals, getting hyped to go to new places, and, above all, I love planning the trip agenda. 

So, as someone who would totally plan other people’s trips for them just to do it, here are my five pointers for planning a great trip: 

Establish Parameters Based On Who You’re Traveling With

Who is traveling with you? Your family? Your friends? A lot of people? One other person? Traveling by yourself?

Nailing this down makes all the difference. One thing it impacts is the location – I typically save super outdoorsy trips for when I’m traveling solo and try to emphasize more local, cultural, and food options when I have a group. It also impacts budget – you may be able to buy a ticket to Europe right now, but if you’re traveling with a group, you need to know what they can afford. 

Set A Budget

Set. A. Budget. Do not spend on a whim – you WILL spend way too much. But at the same time, don’t set your spending limit too low, because that’s the fastest way to guarantee failure. When I plan for trips, I usually have a housing budget and a travel budget.

I also have a spending budget that includes a realistic amount for every meal I will eat, coffee money, the money for all the planned events, and some flexible spending money. For example, on my recent trip to New Orleans, the flexible spending was put toward artwork for my home and local chicory coffee. I would have bought these things with or without the budget because I loved them so much, but having them in-budget protected the rest of my finances.

Do NOT Only Look At One Option

If you’re rolling with the first option you see, you’re not getting a good deal. Compare airlines, or, if you’re loyal to a single airline for the points (like me!), compare flights. Is it less expensive to take a super late flight out a night early versus a morning flight the next day? Do the same with housing and car rentals. I’m constantly flipping through hotel versus Airbnb prices and if I can’t take public transportation like the Metro, comparing car rental companies to things like Turo.

Read All Sorts of Reviews

I literally planned a trip last night, and you know what I had pulled up? Yelp, Google reviews, Reddit, and all sorts of local review blogs. Getting perspective and hearing what other people (ESPECIALLY locals) think will help you prioritize where you should go. While not always foolproof (some NOLA reviews ended up letting me DOWN), this process has proved useful 90 percent of the time. 

Block All Your Time In A Trip Doc, But Leave Wiggle Room

Finally, the part I love most – pulling together a trip document! When I travel, EVERYTHING goes into one document. This can either be accessed on your phone or, if you’re worried about a lack of service or your phone dying, can be printed out. I always go the phone route because that makes life easier, both for navigation and for updates on the fly. 

All my research gets pulled together in this document, along with all addresses (because just having to go one place for your phone GPS serves wonders) and any tips or notes I may have. Since I apparently lost the last couple of trip docs and am not about to share the one from my upcoming trip with the public (sorry folks!), here is an example of a morning in one of my trip plans: 

NEW ORLEANS

MONDAY

8 am: Get ready, walk over to the coffee shop for breakfast. 

9 am: Head out for swamp tour (address here)

9:30 am: Arrive at swamp tour. (Parking for free around the corner, check-in at the gift shop)

11 am: Wrap up swamp tour, head to French Market (address here)

11:30 am: Arrive at French Market, shop

12:45 pm: Grab coffee + beignets at Cafe Du Monde (leave car where it’s parked – it’s walkable)

The trick to this? ALWAYS leave wiggle room. For trips I’m taking solo, I just leave enough wiggle room for if travel time or a planned item takes longer because I get to plan exactly how I want. When you’re traveling with a group, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Leave a LOT of flexibility for if you’re running late, if the mood of the group doesn’t match the mood of the plans, etc. 

Happy travels!

What Movies Point You Toward Jesus?

Christians have a particular problem when making choices about our film intake. Some proclaim that only the movies with a distinctly “Christian” label and plot are allowed – they will watch only films like “Facing the Giants” or the “God’s Not Dead” franchise. Others swing in the opposite direction and watch anything indiscriminately. 

While not quite indiscriminate, my film habits could use some finessing to follow the Phillippians 4:8 mandate – films that are lovely, true, just, commendable. Thus, the film-watching path I’m striving to walk centers around a question: What movies point me toward Jesus?

This doesn’t narrow my options to be just movies that may have sub-par cinematography, but at least the characters quote Scripture. In fact, this question points to a lot of films. And, not all of them are happy or allowable around children – some of them are gritty, hard to handle. 

I recently saw Liam Neeson’s “The Marksman” in theaters. This movie, while hard to stomach, made me think hard thoughts about how I as a Christian should approach our immigration system and how I should love my neighbor. It made me want to “do justice” like the call of Micah 6:8. It pointed toward the fact that God is just.

One of my favorite movies of all time is “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” While I don’t walk away from viewings of this movie with hard questions or grand thoughts, I walk away still thinking about Christ. That is because the cinematography of this film is astounding – beautiful shots, the perfect soundtrack, a creative plot. The visual storytelling makes me think of my creative God, the one who spoke into being the very places in nature the movie shows us. 

There are certainly movies that Christians should avoid – movies riddled with explicit sexual content, gratuitous violence for the sake of gratuitous violence, and that only exist to numb the soul and kill the brain cells. But that doesn’t mean that we are limited to Kirk Cameron movies for the rest of our lives. Even the gritty films that expose realities of mankind that we would prefer not to think about can point us to Christ. We should seek to watch stories that point to a better Storyteller in some way, shape, or form.

Don't Try To Learn Like Them Just Because It's Popular

Don’t Try To Learn Like Them Just Because It’s Popular

I don’t have YouTube downloaded on my phone. 

Any app I use regularly (with the exception of social media in an effort to deter use) is downloaded. Any app I even use semi-regularly is downloaded. So what is the logical conclusion here? That I don’t watch YouTube videos regularly. 

And that conclusion is correct, much to the confusion of many of my friends. 

If you remove the percentage of my friends who use YouTube simply for entertainment, I am still left with a high number using it as a means of education. Learning new recipes, makeup tutorials, music lessons, academic lectures – you name it, they’re pulling it up. 

We could look at podcasts in the same way. My friends (along with the rest of the planet) are avid podcast listeners. It’s very normal to hear a thought from them begin with, “I was listening to a podcast and…” 

For a long time, I felt oddly guilty about the low number of YouTube videos I watched and podcasts I listened through. On the surface, that would seem like a weird thing to feel guilt over. But when a learning method is popular, when a lot of the people you’re surrounded by are into it, it’s easy to fall into the trap of, “I must do this thing or be looked down upon.” 

Or maybe it’s not that extreme. Maybe it’s more like the interactions I’ve had where you’re asked all sorts of questions on your thoughts about a YouTuber or podcaster…but you’ve never heard of any of them. 

It’s taken me a while to be okay with the fact that while I watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts from time to time, that’s not how I learn. I had to figure out what works for me. 

And I have! I don’t naturally turn to podcasts or YouTube videos to teach me something. Instead, I pull up instructions and do it. I talk about the things I’m trying to think about, learn about, or develop my opinion on with other people. And my favorite: I write about it, and use the research process behind the piece I’m writing to fill in the gaps. 

If you don’t learn best through audio or visual, don’t hop on the video or podcast trends just because they’re popular. Put that time into learning the way that works FOR you. You may not have answers to all the questions lobbed at you during parties, but you’ll certainly be in a better place educationally for it.