Monday, 20 April 2015

New Things...

"See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and Streams in the wasteland."

-- Isaiah 43:19

Faith renewed.
Fears stilled.
Hope stirred.
Trust resurrendered.
He is making all things new...

And I can't exactly put words to it. I can't see beyond this one moment after the last one. But I can feel Him moving. I can feel Him "working in [me], giving [me] the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him..." as I "Hold tightly to the Word of Life" (Philippians 2:14 &16). He is speaking in a way my soul can hear again, popping off the pages of all I read, whispering between the words of every conversation I'm having... I don't know what's happened, but I know it's Him. And He transforms whatever He touches.
And at His touch, I am so humbled and so exalted, all at once...

The light of God surrounds me.
The love of God enfolds me.
The power of God protects me.
The presence of God watches over me.
Wherever I am, God is.

And so, we watch and we wait and we follow. And life is so much more extraordinary than any of us truly perceive...

"Here [we are], Lord. Send [us]..." -- Isaiah 6:8

Friday, 19 December 2014

Do Not be Disturbed...

I saw my husband off to work while it was still dark outside this morning. I still can hardly believe the regular, adult hours we keep nowadays... I'm not sure I feel that grown up yet.

Instead of pouring my coffee and firing up the photoshop to continue working my way through a backlog of sessions, something (someone) drew me to crack my bible open instead. It's been awhile since I've opened the Word to just read, not searching for a specific verse to share with someone, or following a bible study, or keeping up with the preaching points in a sermon. I've missed it. I've missed encountering the Living God through the tiny print on the thinnest pieces of paper. But it's so easy to not take the time as everything else competes for my time and attention. And there have been deeper things holding me back. Cracks formed in my hope through various circumstances over the past few years that the enemy would use to discourage me and leave my soul homeless, but which God will turn over into good as He beckons me toward Him, not away...

I opened to 2 Kings. Random place to go, I know, but I had a bookmark there from however long ago it was that I had been working my way back through the Old Testament again page by page (it doesn't help that since being back in the states, I only have my travel bible, my study bible left in storage somewhere in Europe for the time being).

I still can't quite comprehend how it works. I know the Bible is not magic. And yet I randomly open up to 2 Kings and start reading about the reign of King Hezekiah on this random day, my heart full of random thoughts and random feelings, and suddenly, it's as if this part of history was recorded just for me to read on this very morning, in the midst of this very life. And I find that happens again and again and again when I turn to this book which is not magic, but certainly is something. God-breathed. The Living Word of a Living God who sees into my soul and loves every corner of it...

You see, Hezekiah was a good king of Israel. 1 & 2 Kings in the Old Testament read like a historical list of the leaders of this ancient nation. A few chapters explaining an overview of what happened during one king's reign, and whether he was with God or against Him, and then a few chapters giving an overview of what happened in the nation of Israel in the next king's reign, and whether he was with God or against him. And on and on it goes, the cause and effect on a an entire people of a leader working with God or working against Him unfolding before our eyes through decades and centuries condensed down to a few thin pages.

Hezekiah "did what was pleasing in the Lord's sight" (2 Kings 18:3). He "trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was never another king like him in the land of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did" (vv. 5-7). Great, right? But I have to wonder as I read the story if Hezekiah felt successful all the time, felt the Lord with him all the time. Because during his reign in Judah, King Sennacherib of Assyria attacked and conquered their fortified cities. I've never experienced warfare, but I can't imagine being conquered by the Assyrians felt particularly "successful" to Hezekiah or his people. And if I was Hezekiah, my faith would have flickered to naught when the Assyrian king sent his commander in chief, field commander, and a personal representative (and a huge army, I might add) with a message for King Hezekiah and the people of Judah.
"This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Which of your allies will give you military backing against Assyria?... (vv.19-20)"

"I'll tell you what! My master, the king of Assyria, will strike a bargain with you. If you can find two thousand horsemen in your entire army, he will give you two thousand horses for them to ride on! With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master's troops?... (vv.23-24)."

"My master wants everyone in Jerusalem to hear this, not just you. He wants them to know that if you do not surrender, this city will be put under siege. The people will become so hungry and thirsty that they will eat their own dung and drink their own urine... Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Don't let King Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you from my power. Don't let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying, 'The Lord will rescue us! This city will never be handed over to the Assyrian king.'... (vv.27-30)"

"Don't listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, 'The Lord will rescue us!' Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria? What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah [all other historical cities the Assyrians conquered]? Did they rescue Samaria from my power? What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? Name just one! So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem?... (vv.32-37)"

Had I been amongst the throng in the dusty streets of Jerusalem that day, I would have looked out at that vast army, heard the shouts of their representative, and despaired. When King Hezekiah's officials reported this message to him, that's exactly what the bible says they did. "They tore their clothes in despair" (v. 37). 

The thing is... isn't this exactly what the enemy of our souls is screaming at us every day? "Look around you, stupid! Don't you see the evil conquering the innocent all over this world? Is your God keeping militants from waging gruesome 'holy war' across the middle east? Did your God keep the Taliban from attacking those innocent school children in Pakistan a few days ago? Or what about Nazi Germany, the Rwandan Genocide, the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and the Congo? Look at the estimated 70 million martyrs who have died for trusting the name of Jesus since Christ's time. 70 million! Where was His recuse for them? And closer to home, did He keep your loved ones safe from the depravity of pedophiles? From physical abuse and neglect in their own homes? From families being torn apart by lies, hate, selfishness, and divorce? What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? Name just one! What makes you think your Lord can rescue you?" .....

Heaviness, heaviness, heaviness.

King Hezekiah also despaired. He tore his clothes and put on sackcloth (a sign of mourning).

But then he went into the temple to pray (2 Kings 19:1).

It all hinges here. Hezekiah might have taken this very serious threat (hello, huge armies outside his door!) and this very pointed intimidation and said, "You know, they're right..." But he remembered something. He remembered who His God was. His people had walked with the God of his fathers for generations, and they had experienced His power and His wonder and His care and His love again and again. So he decided to turn to his God and trust him once more. And God sent someone to minister to him. In this case, it was the prophet Isaiah. In my case, it's usually a friend, a mentor, a book, a poignant line in a film that reminds my soul of something it needs to hold on to, etc etc. Somehow, He comes. Don't forget in the dark what you learned in the light...

God told him, though Isaiah, "Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me... I myself will move against him" (v. 6-7).

Do not be disturbed by the lies of the enemy of your soul. I myself will move against him... 

And He did. 2 Kings 19 tells of how he moved against them in Hezekiah's time. But what has stuck with me this morning, and helped me to get up and face another day, is the thought that Hezekiah couldn't have seen it all playing out as it did, and yet he chose to trust. And he chose rightly.

Lord God, I want to choose to trust You! Despite everything my eyes ache to see unfolding. I want to choose to trust You. Because I know, I know, I know, I know that it is the right choice. You have drawn a line in the sand and allowed the enemy to come that far, but no further, Lord. You will move against him. And I will be on your side. Do not be disturbed by the lies of the enemy all around you. Your God Himself will move against Him... In fact, He's already begun.

"Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel [which means 'God with us']..."
-- Isaiah 7:14

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Shattering of the Sacred & Heavenly, Healing Magic...

I love him.  I love who we are together.

I didn't know when I said "I do" holding his hands, wearing my mom's beautiful lacy dress, dancing into the night with the people dearest to us, that I would love him this much. I thought I already loved him as much as any heart could hold... Little did I know.

Little did I know the quiet ways of real love, of real care. I hadn't seen it, really; not fleshed out. Sure, I'd dreamed of it. I'd written about it. I'd hoped for it. But in a broken world, love too is broken, and really rather extremely broken love is what I knew. And my husband and I are not perfect, far far far from it, in fact. And our relationship is still so young. We chuckle when we think of all the years of our lives we lived separate from one another, not even knowing one another existed. It was Sept 10th, 2009 when we happened into one another's [very different] stories. It wasn't until 14 months later that we took our friendship to that next level and blushed as we introduced one another as boyfriend and girlfriend. Nearly another 2 years after that we promised-- with a stunning diamond solitaire-- to marry one another. And it was only last summer that we joined our lives and hearts and bodies in marriage.  

Marriage: that courageous vow to not only love, but to cherish another person. To stand by them regardless of what the years bring, to support them-- with wise love-- to be forever becoming the person God meant when He dreamed them up. To take the hand of someone who is not you, who does not think like you, see the world as you do, feel as you do, and promise to put him first, to choose to lay down your own needs in order to serve his needs, trusting that he'll look after yours. And in that way, everyone's needs are met. It's terrifying. It can go so badly. Again, the broken world gets in the way... But when two people are daily trying (this is a key word since there's no such thing as perfect outside of Jesus' love) to love this way... the result is nothing short of heavenly, healing magic.

My husband's love is my own taste of heavenly, healing magic.

Our scant year and a half of marriage has happened upon one of the most difficult seasons of my emotional life. I don't have words to describe it, really. Circumstances have made me feel like all the things I thought sacred have been broken, mutilated, ripped apart, scattered. I don't know how to put them back together, so instead I feel like I just sit in the pile of the pieces and weep. And rage. I feel like I'm always teetering on this precipice, praying I won't fall into the dark abyss beckoning me to forget all the beauty, all the love, all the grace in the midst of all the evil, all the brokenness, all the despair that surrounds and closes in.

And there, stalwart and steadfast like the majestic Coastal Redwoods (and did I mention over-the-top handsome? My God is just THAT generous!) beside me stands my husband, quietly reaching out one stabilizing arm to massage the back of my neck. There he stands, offering me his strength, his perfectly kissable broad shoulders with their toned valley between them leading down to a muscular back beckoning me to rest against it. God's timing is more perfect than I have ever before known. May I hold on to that when everything makes me forget. I could not have met this season of life without the strength of my husband to borrow from, without the kindness of my husband to rely on, without his thoughtfulness, compassion, and care. Without his supportive love. Such a heavenly, healing magic! Such a gift from a loving God, and proof that evil does not get to win... That is the message my husband's love is sent from heaven to give me.

We took a once in a lifetime road trip a few weeks ago which made me ponder and grow. Flew out to Seattle, rented a car, and drove down the coast all the way to L.A., soaking up the beauty of one corner of the world our tremendously creative God made. Soaking it up together-- catching one another's excitement and wonder as we kissed in the ocean winds on the beaches of Oregon, hiked out to the sequoias in California, scaled the enchanting coastal Redwoods with our eyes (I love his eyes; golden brown and Long-lashed, speaking volumes in their gaze), walked down rows of vines in golden Napa Valley, and maneuvered traffic in L.A. Even outstanding beauty is more beautiful when I breathe it in next to him. When I feel his hand on the small of my back, guiding me over the rough patch of the trail, or when he insists on escorting me out to the motel office to keep me safe. This love he shows me... it is Jesus' touch. I recognize the divine in it, and I cannot bow low enough in gratitude and amazement. So the times when it's not easy, and little annoyances and hurts between us-- marks of living in a broken world-- rear their ugly heads, I remind myself of that hand on the small of my back, keeping me safe, looking out for my best. Because I know in good faith that that's my husband's heart... And my choice to show him love and grace and faith in his heart creates the same safe and strong place for him as he makes for me.

And I know that this masterpiece of a man whom God's given me to live life with is a gift to me from a loving God. And THAT is my Jesus' heart. So I cannot let this shattering of the sacred bring me to forget the heart of what God is up to in this world, His heavenly, healing love shed abroad to anyone who will accept it. I must hold on to all the ways He places his hand on the small of my back, guiding me over the rough patches of trail...

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Face of Joy

She had lived through the Holocaust.

Anita Dittman came to speak at my church the other night. She had survived one of the darkest experiences in human history. She had had her family stripped from her when she was still only a girl, really, living for months on her own, praying that her mother would survive the concentration camp. Then forced to work digging trenches for the Nazis while starving, dying from an infection that she had to hide lest she be shot on the spot. When she was finally "safe" in a hospital, the Nazi nurse tried to kill her. She was spared brutal rape by the incoming Russian soldiers only because of the wounds they saw when they stripped her naked. She had seen more indescribable evil and horror than most of us will ever even come close to...

And yet, the joy in her face shone brighter than all the pain.

And I left church Sunday night mesmerized. By her story, yes; by the incredible opportunity I'd just had to meet an 87 year old Jewish survivor of the Holocaust; but mostly by the joy in her face.

I came home, sat down on my side of the bed-- my heart communicating with God even while my mind raced-- and concluded: I want to be that faithful.

I want to stand in the face of this personal darkness and respond with faith. I want to pray and know that He hears and I can trust Him no matter the outcome. I want to face my personal Nazis and watch as God uses them to help me escape (she literally was given a train ride to freedom by some German soldiers after she escaped with 4 other girls from their work camp as the Russians closed in...) to freedom. I want to someday stand before a cloud of witnesses and shine joy from my face because of the grace of my God. I want to stand that firm in the love of Christ, that the deepest darkness can't muffle my praises because I KNOW that this tiny blip of time on earth where satan has reign for a time is just that-- the blink of an eye. And my King is bigger. Bigger than all this pain. Bigger than all this evil. Bigger than all this sin. Bigger than all this betrayal. Bigger than all this heartache...

I just forget so easily how little light it takes to dispel the darkness. The most miniscule flicker breaks the heaviest dark. How can I forget?

Lord, please, in the midst of it all, rise up in me faith like I have never known, and joy that shines out of my eyes midst the tears of gratitude that You see me, You love me, You never leave me-- not even for a moment-- in this inhospitable world. May I not only see your hand in this, but may I grab hold of it so firmly that my faith only increases in the face of evil. And one day, may I give Joy a face for another...

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord."
-- Psalm 31:24

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Though the Mountains be Shaken...

We drove out to the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota last week. Through the Badlands, into Custer State Park and up the awe-inspiring Needles Highway at sunset (after an appropriate meal of buffalo stew), soaking up the ethereal beauty, the majesty and might of those otherworldly, glorious spires poking up into the heavens. Mountains which have stood the test of time...

And gazing at this beauty, such a calling card of God's, Isaiah 54:10 kept echoing against the walls of my mind, "'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the LORD, who has compassion on you."

Have you ever wondered where in the heck your peace has gone? Have your mountains all been shaken to their core, and the hills which used to be a constant on your horizon slipped away who knows where? When everything you thought was sacred, suddenly... wasn't?

The world becomes a very unkind place, very very quickly. I am well-acquainted with this feeling. Such desperate disillusionment. Crying out silently to God with the last bit of energy you have after just surviving another day, Lord, I know you're here, but I can't see you in this! You want to pull up close to Him, but the old familiar paths seem closed to you now, grown over with brambles of hurt and confusion. You want to sing His praises, but it hurts too much to even breathe, how are you supposed to sing? You're just holding on with whitened fingernails...

But as we drove that narrow, curvy road through the magnificent needle formations at the pinnacle of that mountain range in the Black Hills, He whispered this scripture through the near-numbness. Even if these mighty mountain formations all around you were to shake and crumble into dust, my love would hold you. My love is holding you. It is all around. Trust me, little one...

And I came down from the mountain knowing afresh that He is with me.
"Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea..." -- Psalm 46:2

And I just thought maybe you too might need to be reminded of this love that will never be shaken if you trust the Son...
"When hope is lost, I'll call you Saviour;
When pain surrounds, I'll call you Healer...
Through the darkest night of my soul
You surround me and sustain me."
-- Tim Hughes, "When the Tears Fall" 
"When your doubts have got you thinking...
That nothing's ever really sacred...
And you're afraid you might believe it
Believe in Me, and I'll make a light to guide you back home...
Because after all the sky has fallen down
And after all the water's washed away
My love's the only promise that remains
My love's the only promise that remains..."

-- J. Timberlake, "The Only Promise that Remains"

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Kelton Christmas Letter - 2013 (Our Extraordinary Year in Review)

2 months married!

Happy New Year from the newly established Keltons!

It was just our first Christmas season as man and wife and we can hardly believe we've been married for over 6 months already. God's grace has held us so tightly on what's already been an adventure, and we thought we might catch you up a dash through sharing a little online year-in-review Christmas letter.

My sweet baby niece Terra :)
Leah was in the USA, babysitting for my darling new little baby niece Terra, starting my small photography business Whispers of Light Photography, and planning our June 1st wedding!

Charles was in the UK and after having been laid-off from his great job web-developing for The Money Advice Service, he looked for temporary work before he planned to come to the states and ended up working long, long hours at a London McDonalds :( So proud of my humble, handsome man for being willing to do whatever it took!

More wedding planning and more long-distance relationship-ing-- rounded off by my getting to attend the birth of my littlest niece Gracelyn Mae as the birth photographer! What an incredible experience to witness such a miracle!
Miss Gracelyn's first day outside the womb! She was born Feb 24th, 2013.

In March, Charles' closest friends threw him a "Stag Do"-- a British tradition to celebrate the groom before his wedding! They went clay pigeon shooting and out for a nice meal, just the guys :) I got to spend Easter with my family, which has been a novelty these last 8 years studying & working in ministry!
A few of Charles' besties on his Stag-do
Easter 2013
Then finally, April arrived and on the first weekend I hopped on an overnight bus to Chicago to meet my handsome fiance off an airplane with a kiss for the first time in half a year! We spent a wonderful few days with my darling Breyette aunt and uncle and cousins there, and then back up to PR where my Dad promptly gave Charles a cold (it was still blizzard-ing in April this year!) and dirty job feeding calves. Straight from the streets of London to the sheds of the ranch :) At the end of April, my American bridesmaids and personal attendants threw me such a touching bridal shower at my cousin Jackee's beautiful lakeside home and so many of my aunties and cousins made it. I was so blessed to feel everyone was celebrating along with me. I lovedlovedloved being the bride!

Reunited in Chicago after half a year apart!
Working for the future father-in-law on the ranch feeding these constantly hungry little guys-- up to 30 at a time!
Almost all of my aunties made it to my bridal shower :)
My matron-of-honour (my big sis!) and I at my bridal shower
My 3 sweet little nieces who came along to my bridal shower :)
Two of our best friends, Amanda and Jon, and Charles' Mum arrived from England in mid-May! It was surreal to have our best friends over in Minnesota!! They dug right in and helped us tirelessly in the final weeks of preparation for our homespun wedding (like making 300 mini-cheesecakes and 150 party favours), but we also got to have a little fun showing them around my hometown (The Good Life Cafe was very popular, as was Minnesoda Fountain, Dean Park at sunset and Heartland Park at night, Itasca State Park to visit the headwaters of the Mississippi, and Dorset). The last week of May, 2 more of my darling friends from college, Abbie & Paul, arrived! And almost the whole of the rest of Jon's family, The Cannons, arrived-- Charles grew up from the age of 2 as if he were the Cannon's 6th child, so having them with us on our wedding day was absolutely precious. My family quickly took to every one of our English visitors-- Kenan even developed a little crush on "Big Abbie" (which he called her since his sister is also named Abby), until he met someone a little closer to his own age in the Cannon family, 2 year old Chloe, whom he now calls his girlfriend :) As a whole family, we enjoyed playing games with our guests, having a huge bonfire to make room for wedding parking, and sharing a house amongst all 12 of us-- many of us sleeping on the floor! Our whole wedding experience was such a blessing which we are so grateful for, but especially heart-warming was having all of these English guests come all that way to be with us. We cherished every moment of our time with them. Charles and I even had 4 of our dearest friends share a hotel room with us on one night of our honeymoon when we were bringing them down to the airport-- hahahaha!
We bought a car! We call her Doris the Taurus :) She's well-used, but we're grateful!
Having a bonfire with my family and our English friends!
My darling besties from college who came all the way from England to be with me at my wedding!
I love you so much, Miss Manda and Abbie...
Our English/American group at the Headwaters in the week before the wedding!
We started out the month of June 2013 by GETTING MARRIED! We are just so incredibly grateful for the beautiful, meaningful wedding day my parents' gave us. We were surrounded by 110 of our family and dearest friends in my parents' enchanting back garden when we said our vows to one another, feasted, toasted, and danced the night away! Visit my blog post about it here: Our Wedding. They say a picture speaks a thousands words, so feel free to peruse our wedding photo albums and read the story of our day in the captions. My dear friend Jo came over from Sweden to be our photographer!
Check them out--
Part 1: The Dreamy Details
Part 2: Getting Ready to Walk Down the Aisle
Part 3: Sacred Vows on Holy Ground
Part 4: Wedding Party & Family Portraits
Part 5: The Reception & Ceilidh Dance
Part 6: The Bridal Session at Fish Hook River

We spent 2 nights at the beautiful Red Bridge Inn in Park Rapids (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this B&B!) before we headed down to Mpls to bring Charles' Mum and 4 of our English friends to the airport, and after a couple of days enjoying what Mpls had to offer for a honeymoon, we boarded a plane down south to the smothering heat of New Orleans for a week's stay in a timeshare of my grandmother's! What an awesome wedding gift :)
At the famous Cafe De Monde on our New Orleans honeymoon

Visiting an old mansion in the French Quarter
Eating an alligator po'boy!

St. Louis Cathedral at the heart of New Orleans
Upon arriving back in MN, my amazing sister and brother-in-law had prepared their camper for us to spend a few weeks in while looking for work! This mean, we literally camped in Hannah and Joel's yard, and had 4 little darlings knocking on our camper door every morning, so excited that all they had to do was go outside to get to Auntie and Uncle :)

Our nieces and nephews joined us in the camper for a sleep over one night!

We went down to Nebraska at the end of the month for the Fox Family Reunion
We had hoped that we might have found a job for Charles by July... but we ended up spending longer in the camper than we intended! We were so grateful to God for providing enough photography sessions for me to keep us going. And we also enjoyed a quick roadtrip down to Chicago with my Grandma Pearson where we camped out in my Aunt & Uncle's backyard for my twin cousins' graduation party :) We've been so excited to get to make so many fabulous memories with family this year back in the states!!

We were still on the job hunt for Charles and were actually in Fargo/Moorhead visiting my little brother Jonah when we got the call that my Dad had been in a terrible car accident and they didn't know if he'd survive... The next few weeks we spent most of our time in the ICU and helping to keep things running while he was laid up, as well as fielding all the questions and concern for him! He is STILL recovering-- on crutches still over 5 months later. But he's alive and well. Burning the candle at both ends, like usual, he fell asleep at the wheel and ran into the back of a semi-truck. The force of his crash actually broke the hitch at the FRONT of the trailer, believe it or not. It is truly a miracle that he is alive. We're anxious to see what God has in store for his life in future!


We moved a few hours south to central MN in  the last few days of August to move in with my Grandpa, closer to a nearby city with job opportunities. Grandpa lost my dearly-loved Grandma the summer before and was pretty excited at the idea of having us move in to his empty house for awhile since Charles wanted to stay and experience living in the states.

We took a quick trip down to Southern MN to visit my aunt and uncle at their cabin on the mighty Mississippi and had a picnic on their pontoon boat on a sandbar in the middle of the river at sunset :)

Charles had lots of interviews but it was Sept when he finally got offered a contract! The company wasn't even advertising a position-- he just sent them his CV because they were the kind of company he knew-- a small digital agency in downtown St. Cloud. They are experiencing rapid growth and needed an account manager to come on board, and there Charles was. So, they offered him a job in management! And after about 4 months job-hunting, he landed one by God's grace and provision, and we began to settle in to a new area.

With one week to go before the job started, we headed up north on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Canada so Charles could cross it off his North America bucket list :) We had a dreamy few days traveling up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Our most memorable part of the trip may be when we coaxed Doris the Taurus right up a mountain to watch the sunset over Lake Superior on the edge of a cliff, only to nearly run into a bear both on the way up the mountain and on the way back down! Our night in Duluth, MN was also just dreamy. So much beauty!

Our first month of settling in to some normalcy in our tiny new town-- the same town where I lived for the first 7 years of my life :) So strange to be back in MN so long! I found part-time work to supplement the quieting down photography, so Charles and I commuted the half hour together. Happy days settling into married life. So thankful to be in it together!

November brought with it Charles' first Thanksgiving!! And our first time celebrating this important American holiday as a married couple :) Due to work, we couldn't go up north to my family til the weekend, so we spent the actual Thanksgiving Day volunteering in the local nursing home to spend some time with the elderly who didn't have family to celebrate with, and then had a Thanksgiving meal with my lovely aunt & uncle and cousins in the area. Then over the weekend we went home to have our family Thanksgiving! So, score! Two Thanksgiving meals to kick off Charles' first time celebrating the holiday! haha :)

Now, Minnesota is known for its snowy winters and below 0 temps. But, just Charles' luck, it was the coldest December on record here!! With weeks of temps in the -20's Fahrenheit (which means -30's Celsius!) Nonetheless, we have loved celebrating our first Christmas season together :) In lieu of having our own home with our own tree, we managed to help put up 3 different trees together this year, to help out various family members. And the nieces and nephews and I took Uncle Charles sledding as soon as we got back up north to my parents' backyard :) My big brother even let Charles have free reign with his prized snowmobile! Now, we need to organize an ice fishing trip, some snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing and his winter experience may be complete :)

We were married on this bridge in my parents' backyard 6 months prior to this!

2013 was such a highly anticipated year for us, and a crazy one at that with all the changes and transitions it brought! It has been such a precious blessing to have so much time with my family, a great foundational time for they and Charles to get to know one another as we look toward a future farther away. The children are wild about their fun Uncle. Just the other day 14 month old Terra started calling him by name-- "Ga-ko" for Uncle :) He's trying to train her to call him "Uncle Cool"-- haha! We just spent the past weekend celebrating Christmas with first the extended Pearson family (which is HUGE, with Dad's 5 sisters and their families) and then the extended Seger family, and it is just so precious to get to share these people I love and whom I "come from" with this man I love. I'm so grateful.

We are still counting dear our ordinary moments together, as we spent so much time apart in our courtship! But we're also looking forward to planning some more extraordinary times, like trips about the US to visit various people and places in 2014, while also praying for wisdom for next steps. Please pray for my husband as he clarifies what career moves he wants to make, including going back to uni before we start our family! It is such a privilege to be given this gift of building a life together. Pray that we do it well, with wisdom, and with grace for one another, and plenty of overflowing love, so that our loving God may be glorified in The Keltons :)

We're so thankful for all of our friends. You have been such a support to us in this life-changing year of 2013, and we can't tell you enough how much you mean to us. Know that we are holding you up in prayer at the cusp of this new year! May it hold all that you hope for...

With so much love,
The Keltons <3

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

On being Homeless (And on being Home)

It snowed again last night. Winter is wrapping its icy arms around Minnesota and very soon will be squeezing tightly.

I dropped a few more wedding Thank-yous in the post today on my way to work and right outside the post office stood a man bundled up against the cold, holding a cardboard sign reading, “Homeless. Anything helps. God bless.” 

And I couldn’t just do nothing. 

Last night Charles and I started watching a dated documentary on street children in Bucharest, Romania. When I was 20 years old, I spent a few months working with abandoned babies in that very city and had my heart stolen away by their glinting brown eyes and bewitching smiles. Our babies had been saved from the streets and the sewers. The children in the documentary had fled to the streets and the sewers. These particular ones were sleeping in a subway station with a little gang of other children who had, for various reasons, ran away from their hopeless homes, chosen the streets rather than remain under their tormented family roofs.  The streets kept them hungry, constantly tired, cold, and riddled with lice. Huffing paint kept them from noticing those things too much. When they’d get any money, they’d spend it on paint rather than food because when high, they’d forget they were hungry. One of the children maneuvering his way through life on the streets was the same age as my little niece Abby. 

And I struggled to fall asleep with images of their sunken brown eyes in my head. What was heartbreakingly bittersweet was watching their childish nature break through as they played together. Their lives were desperate and their worlds were more adult than any 8 year old should ever have to deal with, and yet, their eyes would light up as they’d strip off their dirty clothes and play in a fountain with a dog, or walk through a buzzing metro station singing to themselves and dancing…

When I worked in Romania in 2007, it was just after the post-communist country had become part of the EU.  I rarely saw any street children. It was rumored that to clean up to become part of the EU, the corrupt gov’t had rounded them up one night and taken them away to be killed and buried in a mass grave, because one day they were there—an estimated 20,000 of them in Bucharest alone— and the next day, gone… Their numbers were only slowly building back up as destitute families in the country would send their children in to the city to beg. 

The documentary makes me want to hop on a plane and get back there, even if it was over a decade old since its filming. But my life is very different than it once was, being back in America and having a husband now. The struggles in front of me are very different struggles. The heaviness is a very different weight. And our good Father is reminding me to do whatever I can to live it well, to live it for Him. Reminding me that wherever He has me, I am called to be all there. Fully present. Listening for His voice, extending His hands…

So when I saw the homeless man standing in the snow at the stoplight by the post office this morning, I couldn’t drive by. And I was strangely afraid to approach him. I am led far too easily by fear which cuts me off from my faith… So I stopped at a grocery store and picked up a few things to sustain him, and then pulled into a nearby parking lot, took a deep breath and some of Jesus’ courage, and walked up to him. 

He had eyes as blue and clear as the Minnesota winter sky. He was gentle and kind. I told him that this was a particularly cold state to be homeless in. He agreed and said he tried each night at 6pm to get a bed at the local salvation army, and that he was trying to get back down south. I asked him about his life. He told me that his father was a pastor in Arkansas and actually ran a homeless shelter! I asked him if he had any way to contact him. His Minnesota-winter-blue eyes shifted and he changed the subject. I wish I would have told him that I know what dad-issues look like. He told me he had kids in Wisconsin, and a girlfriend in North Dakota in the hospital. I wondered why with so many connections, he was homeless on this cold street. He gave me a smile when he told me how much he appreciated the groceries. I gave him a smile and a “bless you”, but didn’t tell him how much I appreciated the lessons taught in his eyes. 

Maybe he was on drugs. Maybe he drinks away his money. There are usually reasons for being on the streets. I would fix it all for him if I could. But this morning all I saw was Jesus’ love for him. All I felt, once I pushed past the fear, was God’s tender heart for him. And a longing for Him to bring us all home…

I think we’re all a little bit homeless. I know I am. I think we’re all a little bit desperate and somewhat choosing to live on the streets and huff paint to ward off the hunger pains. Hunger for heaven, hunger for the deepest connection with the designer of our hearts which it is so hard to maintain this side of heaven.  So hard to hold on to how He loves us when everything around us is beating the tender flesh of our hearts against the rocks. I’m realizing with sometimes overpowering intensity that even the most decent of people are walking perilous inches away from devastating evil, sometimes flirting with it, sometimes jumping right in and dancing with it. Letting it break them, and those who love them. Sin does this. Sin breaks our world down. Sin leaves us homeless, high on drugs to numb the pain. Jesus said that our sin was unbelief in Him. “Lord God, I believe, but help my unbelief.” We are all sinners, we are all breaking one another down. 

But, oh, how He invites us to be built up, and to build one another up. To turn our faces from our unbelief and believe. And after realizing the depth of His grace, to be set free from the system of breaking down ourselves and those around us with our sin. It’s the most basic tenet of Christianity, really. Belief which changes us. But things have been so very hard. I’ve felt so very broken down. It becomes a new realization all over again. 

Somehow, He’s constantly speaking to me most powerfully in encounters with “the least of these”. And it gives me hope that even when I am at my weakest and most broken and at my least, He can use me to pull someone else’s eyes up to His face… 

His grace, His love, His attention, His care is just astounding.
And I want you to see it, feel it, know it, perceive it for yourself.
I’m praying (albeit a weak whisper at this season in my life) for you reading this. How I want you to find your Home in Him.…
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