Thursday, December 10, 2015

Heartfelt goodbyes

To my dear and faithful readers,

We've been through a lot together! Living in Fargo, being a FOCUS missionary, taking foreign mission trips, running half marathons, learning through suffering, and so much more. I suppose I didn't tell you, but I also got married in October! I've been pondering my next step and have finally made a decision.

I'd like to consider this my final goodbye from this little piece of the internet I've called home for the past four years. Change is difficult for me, so it's hard to believe that this will be my last time scribbling my thoughts here. For me it means that:  my FOCUS days are really over (though they have been for some time), my single life has come to an end (which isn't a bad thing at all if we're being honest!) and that it's just the end of an era. A really good and fruitful era.

Blogging has given me space to process, look inside myself a little deeper, and of course be built up and supported by the many readers who have helped to make this time feel worthwhile. It has aided my growth in honesty--honesty of what I am capable of, accepting failure and unmet expectations, and of course it has been a part of my journey towards personal freedom.

So with that, thank you. I've felt nothing but love and appreciation from my dear readers at Answering the Call.

On that note, I have decided that giving up in the blogging world just isn't for me, at least not for now. If even after four years you are still interested in what I have to say, I will be e-thinking over at a new domain:  The Kersting Order. In the best interest of myself and our family, and because the internet can be a scary place, I've decided to make the blog private for now, but I'd love it if you all came to join me over there! If you don't know how to make this happen, just shoot me an email at, and I'll help you out. Otherwise, when you go to the link it should prompt you to create a login and password, and that should be all you need to follow along. *Please use part of your name (first, last, first letter last name, etc) as the login to help me out; random usernames may or may not be approved. Thank you!

I look forward to the next months and years of writing adventures with you, and can't wait to see what the future holds!

God bless you and keep you in His peace during this Advent season!

With love,
Kelsey Marie

p.s. I will leave you with a few of our favorite wedding photos which I've meant to share with you anyway. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

He loves them both.

In light of recent events, I've been listening to this song all day. All of it just speaks so perfectly to the nature of the situation, and not only the words are beautiful, but if you take time to watch the images in this video you will literally be moved by God's beauty. I'll return to this later.

An old friend from Fargo was killed in his home early Tuesday morning. I know I'm not the only one asking questions, thinking the "what ifs?" and still just reeling over Tuesday morning's events. I've been refreshing newsfeeds and news websites more frequently than I care to admit, searching for answers, information, anything. Anything that will bring Sam and his story to life.

But then I'm reminded of  the reality of what occurred, and the incredible community supporting one another, his family, and all those who Sam befriended. And to top it all off, as one of my closest friends said regarding his final act of love, "There he was giving Jesus a drink of water. I mean there's no doubt in my mind he went straight to heaven with that single act."

Where to begin with a guy like Sam Traut? I think Norm says it beautifully here. Sam truly was "a Saint among us." He, more than almost any other person I know, was the first to jump in and help accomplish a goal, but always brought a joyful and intentional spirit of friendship. He always seemed to have his priorities in order, valuing relationships of his family, friends, classmates, and most importantly - God. I remember thinking on more than a few occasions, "Man, I should really learn how to enjoy time with my friends and just being the way that Sam Traut does." He never seemed to let life cause him stress, he just loved. He loved the present moment. He loved each person he met. And I know he answered the door on Tuesday morning out of love. A true love for his neighbor, in every sense of the word.

As Josh Garrels has been speaking to my soul through his lyrics today, I found both solace and heartache in these words:

Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
and Jesus cries because he loves 'em both

There is no doubt that Jesus weeps at this incident:  not only at the tragic taking of Sam's life, but that a man whose soul he died to save would risk his life to take another. Jesus cries because he loves them both. So hard to accept, nearly impossible to wrap my mind around. But I would be a fool to turn back on God after all he has given me, and the many walls he has broken down in my own heart to see him in other people, regardless of who they are or where they live. Shame on me for feeling hatred for a man, when instead I should feel sorrow, sadness and pain at the emptiness that led up to this tragic turn of events. 

Luckily, as a reminder for each of us, this song finishes with an immense amount of hope:

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall
I'm free to love once and for all
and even when I fall I'll get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levee and my bluff
Let the flood wash me

As much and as well as Sam loved others during his 24 years in this life, there is solace knowing that now, in union with God he is free to love perfectly once and for all. Sam's ability to love is no longer confined by space and time, but he truly is free to love with Christ's love - each and every person, outside of earthly limits. Sam, with his missionary heart, reminds me of the words of the Little Flower
"My mission - to make God loved - will begin after my death. I will spend my heaven doing good on earth."
Sam, thank you for being a model of Christ and imitating Him with every selfless act. Bring to completion the good work that you've begun on earth and continue to show us the Father's love.

Let us continue to lift Sam's family, friends, and community in prayer. Too, let us pray for the conversion of Ashley Hunter, even if for no other reason than because Jesus loves them both

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  -  Jesus

Monday, June 22, 2015

A perfect Minnesota weekend in pictures.

This past weekend Lee and I had the opportunity to spend a lovely and relaxing weekend at a cabin in northern MN, just living the summer lifestyle. The weather was perfect and the company impeccable. The only complaint I have is the fact that it's road construction season and the drive to and from Minnesota ended up being over 8 hours each way (including a couple stops scattered throughout). Luckily for us we looove us some good quality time, so spending uninterrupted time as a couple in the car turns out to be pretty great.

I ended up forgetting my phone at mi casa, so I was without it for the weekend. I realized I forgot it before we even left town on Friday, but made the conscious decision to leave it, and I am so glad I did. The couple of phone numbers I needed Lee either had, or had someone who had them. It was a glorious, unplugged weekend for me, and a time to enjoy the weekends' four F's:  friends, friends' dogs, family and fishing.

Some highlights of the trip:

  1. Quality time with Lee's family and our gracious hosts.
  2. Learning to fish and actually catching a few.
  3. Swimming in the extremely clear lake. My skin says thank you.
  4. Loons! So many loons! 
  5. Running into some friends from Fargo who just so happened to be on the same lake at the same time we were. And in the land of 10,000 lakes, that's almost enough evidence to go buy a lottery ticket!
  6. Passing through small-town, rural Minnesota dreaming of life's simple joys presented there.
  7. Lots and lots of doggy playtime. 
  8. Wearing my WI Badgers hat.
And now for some pictures, courtesy of my charming fiancĂ© unless marked otherwise (no phone = no camera = I do what I do best:  mooch): 

Off for the first fishing expedition!
This does not accurately describe my freak-out sesh of trying to hold the fish for a picture.
My first fish of the trip really spoiled me! A nice large-mouth bass.
A record-setting perch on day 2! (For this year at the cabin at least...) My third species caught, too :) 
Because everyone takes a selfie with the fish they catch, right? Lee caught this bass.
Not once, but twice did a fish eat my entire hook and worm right off the line. I'm just guessing they were
so big that the line couldn't hold their weight. Here is Dean helping a sister out.
We went out on Saturday evening and it was honestly the perfect night. Here are some pictures as the sun was setting (all credited to Lee). You can even see Venus and Jupiter next to the moon! It was so fun.

Does this not just scream "Summer in Minnesota"!?

Celestial bodies on a trip back into the dock for the evening.
And here are a few from the sunrise on Sunday morning, courtesy of Dean (our gracious host). Just goes to show that God truly is the greatest artist:

One of the shorelines along which we fished
(and the only thing I caught swam away with my hook and worm).
I never thought I'd say this, but I like fishing. I didn't just put up with it because it was something that Lee enjoyed, but I actually enjoyed standing in a boat for long periods of time, casting line after line and having time to just take in being at the lake.

As I watched fish after fish bite on each of our lines, I started thinking about how stupid fish can be. Don't they see the ginormous hook sticking out of the extremely fake worm? The worm even has little colored sparkles in it. As I continued casting with no luck, I started to think deeply about how we humans aren't too different from these fish. I imagine some of these guys have even been caught and released back before, so getting hooked on our lines wasn't their first rodeo. Luckily for them we only take their measurements, maybe a picture and then send them back. They'll live to see another day.

As humans we get lured into the same traps time and time again, too. (Feel free to appreciate my pun.) I particularly thought of sin and vice, and how we can convince ourselves that something is good for us, or that it won't necessarily hurt us, even though it has before. We focus our eyes on the sparkly worm and fail to see the large pointy hook.

That was all the farther I got into that train of thought when I decided to derail and leave the deep thinking for another time. Mostly because it was an extremely beautiful night (see above photos for proof), but also because there are plenty of other opportunities to think about how fishing can relate to humanity, so I decided to bookmark it for now (and likely not return until the next time I go fishing, or ever). 

As a fairly outgoing extrovert I never thought I could enjoy quiet and stillness that fishing requires of me. But luckily I've got just enough competitive spirit in me to cast each line thinking, "THIS one will be the 4 pounder, I know it." Looks like you still can teach an old dog new tricks, and it's never too late to try something new.

Have fun trying a new hobby this summer, stories are welcome!

Kelsey Marie

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A belated happy one-year Iowa-versary to me!

Today marks my one year and a week and a halfish-iversary of living in Iowa. I drafted an entire post complete with pictures and the whole works on the actual day of the celebratory event, but even I got bored with the year's recap that I just decided to scrap it and start over "in a week or so." Well, hi. It's been a week or so.

Because it's been a while and I'm long-winded I could bore you with a long litany of things that have been keeping me ever-so-busy in recent weeks. But instead I'll just give you a short list, for "funsies," as they* say.

((* they = me))

1) Vacation Bible School.  (Who is this a vacation for anyway?) A friend at church convinced us we'd "be great" as crew leaders, so we thought we'd give it a go. It did not go unnoticed that the other crew leaders were either mothers that had their children there, or teachers, but it was good to see how we worked together as a team while trying to constantly gather up the little chicks as we moved from station to station.

VBS summed up in our words:

Kelsey: "What is the actual purpose of VBS? I feel like a glorified babysitter. But without the glory."

Lee:  "VBS was like herding cats. Regardless of how hard you tried, the kids just kind of did their own thing."

And there you have it. We decided that we'll help out again (maybe) when we have our own cats kids to herd...

2) Strawberries. I just really like 'em. A lot. And they are in season. And that means they are cheap. Or at least, cheapER. I love me a good helping of these delicious, red berries. In fact, I bet I could write an "Ode to Strawberry," or even an entire post dedicated to my shallow affection for this outer-seeded berry. Instead, all I will say is that, mmmm. Strawberries.

In AN attempt to live within my means, I only buy berries when they are on sale (because otherwise GOODBYE food budget), so I have been livin. it. up. the past few weeks with the strawberries being 2/$5. Never have I appreciated that more than I do this year for some reason. #adultlife

3) Wisconsin. Yep. Went there last weekend and soaked in some really happy family time. Rusty's favorite thing (aside from a b-i-k-e  r-i-d-e, which you better not actually say in front of him lest you have a crying pup within seconds wondering why you aren't getting your shoes on) is climbing in the laundry basket as soon as clothes exit the dryer. I brought home my dirty laundry and as soon as I set the basket on the floor, this happened:

Oh Rusterford (as Lee calls him). You cute little devil, you.

4) Wedding planning and family time. Mom and I did wedding planning galore (flowers, linens and decor, oh my!), and on Saturday night the whole fam-dam'ly was able to kick back, eat supper, porch-sit and play Mexican Train Dominoes (contender to be my all-time favorite game...this month). Mom's cousin Kurt stopped over after playing a harmless prank on us and ended up getting in on the domino action, which made me desire small-town and/or a more integrated community life even more. Kev isn't in the picture, but you'll notice the Mexican beer he proudly (and very intentionally) enjoyed while we played.

5) Soccer. Remember how I mentioned the soccer league I signed up for? We had our first game on Monday and I am proud to say that not only did I survive, but I enjoyed it. I wasn't sure how playing soccer for the first time in eight years would go, especially in an unseasoned poorly warmed-up body. All things considered (and all the things were: having no subs, being the only female on the team, playing defense while being one of the biggest wusses ever), our first game went pretty well. We also have some stellar forwards and outside mids (Lee), so that made my job as defender a whole lot easier.

I was feeling all happy and riding out that endorphin high on Monday night and then Tuesday morning hit, and I could barely walk. Embarrassingly so. I have been sore before, but this definitely reached a new level. I thought I was doing a good job of hiding it until I met Lee for lunch yesterday (Wednesday) and he pointed out my "gingerly walking" and asked how my legs were feeling. But it's okay because healthy competition = good for me every once in a while. And apparently so does exercise.

6) This video. And that hat. Mostly just because I bought this hat in the name of skin protection.

Linking up today with Ana over here for a summer link-up!

p.s. 4 months from yesterday you can refer to me as Mrs. Kersting! Lee's thoughts on that:

Nailed it.

Hasta sometime soon,
Kelsey Marie