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It's Not Too Late For Advent

It’s Not Too Late For Advent

Do you ever refuse to start something if you can’t start it from the very beginning? I’m like that in a lot of ways, and that list used to include Advent. 

I’d think about it about halfway through the season every year and set it aside. The liturgical element didn’t seem complete without the fullness of all the days leading up to Christmas. I figured I would try to get it next year. 

And then the next year. 

And the next. 

And the next…

Finally, the year I looked at my calendar in time and stepped into the season with an aim toward intention, thoughtfulness, and slowing, I realized what I missed out on for all those years. The fullness of Advent can be found in even a few days. 

Ann Voskamp writes in The Greatest Gift (my favorite Advent devotional), 

“If, just for a moment, you stand in the doorway, linger a bit in front of the tree, it’s strange how you can see it – how every Christmas tree is a ladder and Jesus is your ladder who hung on that Tree…so you can have the gift of rest. When you are wrung out, that is the sign you’ve been reaching for the rungs. The work at the very heart of salvation is the work of the very heart of Christmas: simply rest.” 

And later,

“Stars will come in the night sky, shimmer somewhere. Advent will keep coming, this love story that never stops coming. Love like this could make us wonder. Somewhere, carols play.”

If we refuse to let ourselves step into Advent imperfectly, we ignore the purpose of Advent. To come, be with our God. To slow for a season. To remember for a season. To see things through His eyes for a season. 

C.S. Lewis once said, 

“When the year dies in preparation for the birth 

Of other seasons, not the same, on the same earth, 

Then saving and calamity go together make

The Advent gospel, telling how the heart will break. 

Therefore it was in Advent that the Quest began.”

If you haven’t been remembering Advent, or if you have still been rushing through this season, it’s not too late. It’s not too late to read back through the Old Testament and everything it said about Jesus before his birth. It’s not too late to sit on the couch, stare at the Christmas lights, slowly sip a cup of coffee, and simply let yourself think. It’s not too late to embrace this season with intention. 

Because isn’t that the truth we cling to in Jesus? That even at our worst, his birth meant it wasn’t too late for humanity to return to and be saved their God? Advent is time dedicated to rest in that truth – lean in.

Words from Ephesians 5 for Thanksgiving 2020

But Instead Let There Be Thanksgiving

What passage from Scripture makes you cringe? I’ll give you one of mine – the word “cringe” is even scrawled in the margins of my Bible next to it:

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” 

-Ephesians 5:3-10, ESV (emphasis mine) 

Wow. I find myself swallowing a little harder every time I read this passage. There are so many places where I have partnered with the dark in my own life, and it often seems innocuous enough that I don’t even see what it’s doing. 

But while this is a weighty passage and reveals a lot about what Jesus followers let slip into the cracks of their life, there is a part that has always struck me as an odd choice to include. Read back through the above passage. See what I bolded? 

In the midst of commands to get rid of sin, a seemingly oddly placed command is given: “…but instead let there be thanksgiving.” 

At first glance, it seems like an odd shift from speaking about sin, to urging thankfulness, back to speaking about sin. But when you think about this, it actually makes a lot of sense. Have you noticed that when your life is full of joyful gratitude, the dark lure of sin fades a little? 

I find it extremely hard to praise God for a beautiful morning and then curse my neighbor the next second. 

There’s a weight of conviction that comes when you praise the goodness of God with a family member and then slip right into a conversation laced with jokes that make it look like you don’t know him. 

A universal truth is that one becomes what they behold. Behold the goodness and glory of God constantly, and your life will start to align with his. And, from this passage, I think another truth can be implied: You’re drawn toward what you meditate upon. 

Think deeply about what makes your heart grateful and watch yourself be pulled away from dark lures toward the light of Christ. 

This Thanksgiving, turn toward Jesus and strive to put aside the sin that clings so closely. Instead, let there be thanksgiving. 

The 5 Stages of a Social Media Detox

Social media impacts the mind the same way a slow I.V. of poison impacts the body. 

At least, it does for me. 

Whether social media has such an obvious negative influence on you or not, I think everyone benefits from a social media detox. I regularly try to step away from social media for a day or two a week for my own sanity, but my brain and soul need a longer detox at least once or twice a year. 

If this isn’t something you’ve done before, let me walk you through the five stages that come with a social media detox: 

RELIEF

After the buzzing happening on Facebook and the fighting happening on the dumb bird site and the overhyped and overfilted life posted on Insta, deleting apps from your phone will feel like RELIEF. Suddenly, the political conversations you have will happen in person (and hopefully with a lot more civility). You can live in a moment instead of taking photos of it. People will just have to compliment your new look IN PERSON. Anonymous trolls would have to do a lot more to get your attention. The relief feels good. 

ANXIETY + EXCUSES

This is the most difficult part of a social media detox, and it highlights the very reason why you start one. The timeline is different for everyone, but it sets in at some point: A slight buzzing anxiety that you’re missing something, which leads to ridiculous reasons why you should log back on. Power through, it gets better. 

TWEETING IN YOUR MIND

If anxiety and excuses are the most difficult part of a social media detox, this is probably the most humorous part. This is the point where your brain starts coming up with incredible social media content. Seriously – I have come up with my best tweets before remembering that I couldn’t post them. I have taken amazing photos that didn’t end up on Insta. This too shall pass. 

SURPRISE

I love the moment when you realize that you’ve been off social media for a while and for the last few days…you HAVEN’T MISSED IT. It takes a while, but that surprising realization feels good. You recognize that you don’t need it, and it doesn’t need to dictate your day. 

PEACE

And finally, the best stage of a social media detox: peace. When the notifications stop coming, when you’re not constantly reaching for your phone, when the anxious twitching and longing for false connectivity fades away. The goal of a social media detox is not to simply step away – it is to reset. To reset with less dependency on your devices; with a clearer head; with a calmer heart; and with a better focus on Jesus. 

Let this be your encouragement to step away from social media for a bit – it’ll feel weird, but it’ll be great in the end.

Retrospect shows how God was working for good all along.

Retrospect Is My New Best Friend

I’m a planner. I think things through. I’m not a fan of abrupt life changes. 

So I had to laugh at myself when one year ago, I resigned from my stable job, said goodbye to friends, packed a moving truck, and left Missouri to move back to Iowa. When I got to Iowa, I had a temporary political gig waiting for me. (Side note: this ended up being some of the most challenging work of my life and while I was very happy to say goodbye to it, I’m glad for the growth.) I didn’t even have housing lined up – good thing my parents like me enough to have me stay with them for a few weeks. 

All things considered, the entire move seemed like something I wouldn’t choose to do. But there have been a few times in my life where I have clearly felt the Lord guiding my choices, and in the weeks leading up to the move, His voice was clear: 

“You need to be near your family. You need to be closer to the friends you’ve known for years. You need to leave your comfort zone here.” 

I listened. Through the chaos of the move, the frustration of house hunting, the hard days of work, and the hours I spent on the road away from home for said work, I hoped that God had a purpose in me uprooting my life. 

Retrospect has become my new best friend because, without it, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the goodness God displayed in guiding my steps. 

I had no way of knowing that God was going to provide a house that would be more of a home than my little apartment in the city. A home that would see more tears, more joy, and more fellowship than that apartment ever did. 

I had no way of knowing that a global pandemic would sweep the world. I didn’t know that my family members would be the only people I would meet with in-person for months and that doing that would have been impossible if I still lived out of state. 

I had no idea that I needed to be close to my family for the storms we would weather. From health issues to hardships, physical proximity allowed me to be there for my family in a way that texts and calls never could have replicated. 

I had no clue what wonderful work and opportunities God had lined up. That my rescue dachshund’s separation anxiety would lessen after he became best friends with my sister’s dog. I didn’t know that God had a church community lined up for me, one where I could grow deep roots of fellowship. 

What seemed like chaos and hardship at the time was God’s design for goodness in my life. Retrospect allows me to praise Him for that. His ways are not our ways. 

What has God done in your life that you can fully appreciate now? Take some time to reflect – He’s working for good even when we don’t fully see it.

Kelvey's book picks from quarter three of 2020.

The Quarterly Reading Roundup: 2020 Q3

2020 is somehow both crawling and flying by. I think I blinked and the last three months elapsed. But that means that it is time for my quarterly reading roundup! 

Here are my picks from quarter three of 2020: 

CRAZY RICH ASIANS TRILOGY BY KEVIN KWAN

I was skeptical before I started the first book in this trilogy, but they ended up being fantastic. Kwan transports you into a different culture, one that rattles all our American assumptions about the rich and powerful. Packed with cultural insight, witty commentary, plenty of detail, and eye-rolling dialogue, these fast-paced books are some of the best fiction I’ve read all year. 

ORTHODOXY BY G.K. CHESTERTON

I like the way Chesterton’s mind works. This beautiful, imaginative work paints Christianity in a way that makes the heart, mind, and soul run wild. Below is a quote I loved from the book, one that summarizes the grand perspective Chesterton held: 

“That a good man may have his back to the wall is no more than we knew already, but that God could have His back to the wall is a boast for all insurgents forever. Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete. Christianity alone felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point – and does not break.”

SEVEN WOMEN BY ERIC METAXAS 

Metaxas is one of my favorite biographers, and his Seven Women did not disappoint. These seven, chapter-length biographies cover everyone from Joan of Arc to Rosa Parks. I finished the book inspired and having learned a lot about these seven remarkable women. 

What is the best book you’ve read lately?

You calendar could be your new favorite tool.

Why Your Calendar Could Be Your New Favorite Tool

When I was in college, the calendar on my iPhone raised some eyebrows. It perfectly color-coded and divvied up my life, from waking up and heading to the gym in the morning to getting ready for bed at night. It allowed me to make sense of all the homework, classes, work schedules, and social events that I was juggling. 

After I graduated, my weekly schedule got much more predictable. I wasn’t juggling multiple jobs and classes anymore. My work schedule was the same every day, and most events in my life happened on a weekly or regular basis. So, I abandoned my color-coded calendar. 

It wasn’t until the last few weeks that I brought it back. COVID-19 took away any regular routine I had for a very long time, and I was left floundering. Even now, with some of my schedule returning to normal, working from home and adapting to this pandemic way of life has taken away a lot of the external rhythms and routines that allowed me to function regularly. 

So, I brought my iPhone back out and plugged my week in. 

When I was heading to the gym. 

When I was writing. 

When I had appointments.

When I had meetings.

When I was working. 

When I had church gatherings. 

It all got entered back in. 

And you know what? I realized that I missed having this tool in my life. 

People who like flexibility may protest trying out a calendar habit like this. It may seem like it’s too rigid to allow for freedom. But having things laid out so clearly actually provides a lot more flexibility. 

You can move things around as you need while still  knowing that everything is accounted for and written out. You can meet a friend and know you’re not missing a meeting. You can schedule out convenient times to run errands because your calendar shows you where you’ll be and when. 

I thought that when I was out of college, I wouldn’t need a calendar like this anymore. But in getting rid of it, I got rid of my favorite tool. Life is a lot better with having such a clear-cut schedule back at my fingertips, and if you don’t already do this, I would suggest you try it out. 

You may just find it’s your new favorite tool.

Resolutions and restrictions are for seasons, not a whole life.

You’re Not A Slave To Your Resolutions

When I was in college, I was determined to never drink a drop of alcohol. Now, I always have a bottle of red wine to crack open when friends come over and enjoy a great cocktail. 

What changed? Did I fail in my resolution?

The first answer? I did. The second? Both yes and no. 

I had very, very good reasons for not drinking back then, ones that I still respect and hold in high regard. Those were protective boundaries at the time. But as I got older, matured, became more disciplined, I didn’t need those same types of borders. While I still have strong restrictions on how often I drink, how much I can consume before cutting myself off, etc., I can now enjoy a glass of wine at a vineyard or a cocktail at a cool new bar with zero guilt. 

Some would look at this as failed resolve. But should we be slaves to the same set of restrictions and resolutions for our entire life? Or, should they grow and change as we do to fit each season? I think the latter. 

Another example is my high school resolution to never watch ‘R’ rated movies. (Note: Unless discussing something that explicitly is sinful, I veer away from the word ‘never’ now when discussing things I will or won’t do.) I still have guardrails on the entertainment I consume (largely governed by what it’s doing to my heart and relationship with Christ on any given day), but that boundary is no longer in place. After all, there are many good, teaching movies that are rated ‘R’ for their own reasons. (13 Hours? Passion of the Christ? Ring a bell?) 

And this is not just subtraction. I have ADDED resolutions and restrictions over the past years. I try my hardest to be off social media at least a day a week and try to keep my phone off for large portions of that day as well. I’ve learned over the years what technology does to me, and that “restriction” is a way of fighting back against it. 

When I became a vegetarian, I added a “restriction” against meat into my life. My life has been a cycle of added and subtracted resolutions and restrictions. Don’t hear what I’m not saying: Guardrails are good, necessary, and Biblical. We just need the right ones to fit each season. 

So I first look to Scripture and attempt to apply the guardrails it contains to my life. Then, where there is freedom in deciding, I try to make the decisions that best fit me in that season. Godly people have a lot of freedom, so lets not become slaves to rigid, never changing resolutions that were never even placed upon us.

hands typing on desk with text

5 Positive Impacts of COVID-19

How long has your community been in some sort of lockdown or quarantine? It’s been over six months for my area. 

What began as a doable “15 Days to Stop the Spread” campaign turned into a harder-than-expected cycle of lockdowns, isolation, and disruption of routines. As things begin to open, talking heads are professing this to be the “new normal,” but there is NOTHING normal about this season – it’s just weird. One day we’ll be back to normal(ish), but right now we live in the weird. 

But thankfully the worst type of weird can bring some good things with it. In an attempt to stir up gratitude within me, here are 5 positive impacts of COVID-19: 

MOTIVATION TO TURN MY HOUSE INTO A HOME

I had been in my house for less than four months when COVID-19 struck. And as the weeks since then have passed, it’s motivated me to get boxes unpacked, walls decorated, furniture rearranged, and really turn the space where I live into a home. It’s made me think more deeply about things like my workspace, how to keep everything cozy without being cluttered, and how best to arrange the space when hosting (something I have happily been able to do, albeit in small groups, throughout COVID). 

TIME SPENT WITH PETS

I have a rescue dog with separation anxiety, and my sister’s anxious little dog also lives with me. It has been so good for both of them to have so much time with me, and I have loved it. While it might be a little bit more challenging during work meetings (they don’t quite grasp my need for them to stay quiet during my Zoom meetings), being able to curl up on the couch and write while they sleep at my feet is a delight. 

LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS

I reignited a childhood love of reading a year or two ago. I LOVE books. But there are so many other things pulling for my attention on a daily basis. Having a lot of the special events, regular meetings, and reoccurring calendar items canceled has opened up time that (when using my self-discipline to keep me away from Criminal Minds on Netflix) can be used to devour book after book. 

EXTRA TIME TO FOCUS ON HEALTH

My commute is gone, and my time to get ready every day has been slashed. This means that when I don’t sleep well, I can really focus on getting enough sleep by setting my alarm for later. It means that I have the time every day to get a really good workout in. I have the time to cook healthy meals. And, if I’m not getting enough steps in during the day, I can pace around my house while on that conference call with zero judgment. 

NEW PERSPECTIVE ON THE ROUTINES AND OBLIGATIONS I TAKE FOR GRANTED

I miss my alarm going off earlier than preferred on the weekend to wake me up for church. I miss a commute that guaranteed carved out time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I miss regularly meeting with others in the evenings, even if I was exhausted from the day. COVID-19 has breathed new appreciation into these regular happenings, an appreciation I would not have had otherwise. 

How about you – are there things that you can be grateful for, even in this weird and awful season? Let me know in the comments!

text with night highway

Out-of-Sorts Humility Is Spiritually Dangerous

“But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place.” 

Thus was G.K. Chesterton’s diagnosis in Orthodoxy, and it’s an odd one to be sure. For all of our letterboard worthy sayings about humility, we really don’t have a humble culture to start, much less one where humility seems to be in the wrong place. (Side note, “Stay humble,” is an odd saying – have you ever met a human who really needed to STAY humble? I’ve only met ones who need to humble themselves, self included) 

But following Chesterton’s train of thought for a little bit longer is illuminating: 

“Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert – himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason.” 

Oh. Wow. Isn’t that blunt truth? 

If we pull the curtains back and stare a little deeper into the darkest parts of society, we will recognize that humility lives in a home that we should have never let it move into. It now dwells in our convictions. 

We were designed to humble ourselves, to recognize our fallibility and neediness, to turn to One who is greater, and to deeply hold onto the truths and convictions that carry us. Instead, we now put deep faith in ourselves, our glory, and our ability, and we hold loosely to convictions. (And we loosen our grip even more when speaking them to others, as our wishy-washy disclaimers like, “That’s just what I think,” or, “Whatever works for you,” convey.)

Chesterton’s conclusion of where this road will lead is accurate: 

“We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced. The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern skeptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance.” 

This out-of-sorts humility is spiritually dangerous. Believing in self above all and holding firm to nothing will lead to our downfall. We must humble ourselves and hold deeply to well-rooted beliefs if we want to grow or see this world change. If we refuse to do so, we will lose anyone who is made strong through deep and guiding conviction as we gain those who have no foundation outside of their thoughts about their own self.

Would we give thanks for fleas?

Would We Give Thanks For Fleas?

I recently read a short biography about the ten Boom sisters, Betsie and Corrie. While these godly Dutch women and the way they lived, even in Nazi concentration camps, is wholeheartedly inspirational, there is one story about their faith that always blows me away. 

Corrie and Betsie were in their 50s when they were shipped off to concentration camps after hiding Jews in their home during World War II. While Corrie would eventually be released and live past 90, Betsie would later succumb to illness in the camp. But while they were there, the sisters were determined to make the most of their suffering, sharing the Gospel and the love of Christ as much as they possibly could. 

While Corrie and Betsie are both giants in the faith, the type of women I aspire to be, thankfulness and forgiveness came to Betsie very, very quickly, while for Corrie it often took more time. At one point when they had been moved into horrifying conditions, a rancid bunkhouse crammed full of hundreds more women than the capacity allowed for, Betsie encouraged Corrie to still give thanks for everything that was around them. For being kept together, for the proclamation of the Gospel, and for something unexpected: Betsie told Corrie to give thanks for the fleas. 

And give thanks for the little creatures that made their lives more miserable, they did. 

Weeks went by, and the ten Boom sisters wondered why the little worship services and Bible studies that they held in their bunkhouse were never broken up by guards who would certainly dole out even more brutal treatment as punishment. In fact, guards simply never stopped by during these times. 

Finally, the sisters learned what was keeping the guards out of the bunkhouse. The Nazis were worried about picking up fleas. 

The burden that they still gave thanks for became one of their greatest God-given blessings and defenses. 

Scripture calls us to have thankful and grateful hearts, praising the Father in all things. Am I the type of woman who would give thanks even for the fleas? I know I’m not right now, but that’s who I want to become.