Celebrating Heritage

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The three generations who came before. Thankful for a heritage of joy, affection, and voluminous hair. Remembering my dear G.G. (stage left) who passed away four years ago yesterday and lived with more fervor and flair than any woman I’ve ever met.

And though death brings mourning, there is comfort for those who bear sorrow, a legacy to carry on in light of loss.

…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).

G.G., Nani, and Mom, “I love you more than tongue can tell.” Thank you for the ways you’ve strengthened my roots, filled me up, and inspired me to gaze upward.

Taking Risks Will Ruin Your Life (In a Good Way)

Guest post by John Weirick 

Years ago, when I was a college freshman living happily in a comfortable Minnesota life, I stepped into one of the biggest risks I had ever taken. I agreed to join a team of complete strangers, drive around the country for two months, and work at events to connect students with local churches.

My introverted self was terrified. But something about it inspired me.

Before that whirlwind of a summer hit, I walked through the Minneapolis airport alone, except for my guitar and luggage. I wondered if all the big changes in life felt like a movie, accompanied by some grand soundtrack to emphasize the excitement of the moment.

I was taking a risk into a new and very different adventure, far from the people I knew and the places I was familiar with. With nervous energy, I put one foot in front of the other until I stared down the jet bridge, sensing it was not just my next flight, but a portal through which my life would be changed forever.

It was not easy to leave the familiar behind. Through that summer of travel and new places and new people, I gained perspective I would never have gained otherwise. I watched fireworks over Houston’s skyscrapers, heard the stories of students with big aspirations, learned what it felt like to be a foreigner when I set foot in Canada, and watched endless deserts and mountains of evergreens unfold before me in the great American West.

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Escaping the Status Quo

My normal life of school and work and routine was ruined. The risk of venturing into the unfamiliar made me realize that there was more in the world I wanted to experience, and staying comfortable in the status quo was no longer an option. I vowed to travel and explore more, to see and taste more, to do and learn more.

Taking that risk allowed me to learn something. My passion to travel and explore grew far more than I expected it would. That risk gave me confidence to travel more the next summer and the next after that. It gave me the willingness to move across the country for a job in Oregon, where I didn’t know a soul.

Instead of fearing risks, I learned to embrace them. I entered the risk of romance and got to know a woman who would become my wife. And when I sensed the seasons changing again, I looked and found that the next risk was to go to a place I never thought I’d live, doing something I never thought I’d get to do for a living.

Risks built my life story. Risks are how I got to where I am today.

I’d be willing to bet that you owe some of the greatest things in your life to risks. Because of taking chances on something, you got to where you are.

If you’re in a relationship, you’re taking a huge risk.

If you’re pursuing a career, you’ve made some sacrifices and rolled the dice.

If you’re dreaming about making a bigger impact in the world, you’ll have to take more and more daunting risks.

In short, your life is more about risks than you think.

You Can’t Escape Risk

Humans are creatures of habit who seek the most sustained comfort. However, risks welcome and even seek out disruption in the cycle, while inviting us to escape from the status quo. That is why they are so dangerous; that is why they’re so essential.

The beautiful and terrifying thing about taking risks is that they are inevitable.

To be alive is to take risks. We simply choose which ones we’ll take on and how we’ll handle them.

We can try to use all our energy to avoid conflict, take the easy route, and stay away from anything that seems too dangerous or different. But all the while, risk is a creature lurking in the shadows. It will relentlessly stalk us until we finally face it.

Once we take a risk, we realize the outcome isn’t as frightening or disastrous as we thought it might be. We can gain confidence from the clarity that comes on the other side of taking risks, because we’re forced out of our normal comfort zone and usual perspective to see what we couldn’t before.

Simply in considering risks, we’re able to take the first step in dealing with the issues that often drive our lives.

We don’t need to skirt around, waiting until we have permission from someone to do something. To summarize a popular sentiment from famed poet Henry David Thoreau, go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you’ve imagined. Risks are waiting for us, ready to take us in the direction of the life we wish we had. But don’t equate taking risks to achieving exactly what you’re hoping for. The very nature of risks is that you may or may not get the desired results, but it is worth the attempt regardless.

When you find yourself in a position to take a risk, abandoning boundaries and entering the unknown, I hope you take it. And in embracing that risk, I hope you find risks take you much further than you could go on your own.


Author Bio:

John Weirick is a writer and adventure seeker living in Greenville, South Carolina. He writes regularly on faith, culture, and intentional living at newspring.cc and johnweirick.com. His first book, a memoir, is in the works, and he procrastinates by curating way too many Spotify playlists. Say hello on Twitter or Instagram (@johnweirick).

How Little Questions Lead to Big Changes

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Some days, I feel a little noisy—a bit like an inquisitive, four-year-old child. More or less, I make a living out of asking questions. Who, what, when, where, why, and how combine to form an infinite roadmap of exciting possibilities and deep-seated truths.

I am a career coach. From reviewing resumes to interpreting career assessments to troubleshooting job search campaigns, I help people of all ages, primarily college students, identify where they want to go and how they plan to get there. I also seek to make weighty terms like passion, calling, and purpose more accessible. Through strategic sleuthing, I help my clients bridge the gap between inaction and meaningful change.

Some days, I only have to ask a few questions. And tears come. Motivation is unearthed. The light bulb illuminates. Other days, I prod and poke with equal parts persistence and care, but revelation is slow to come. The wheels aren’t turning. Ambivalence is too deep.

Gradual Revelations

Some days, revelation comes in bursts, some days in slow trickles. The latter was true for Deb (name changed, as I was unable to ask for permission during our impromptu heart-to-heart). I met Deb on a recent airplane ride from Kansas City to New York City and immediately connected with her about career and calling. She, too, was a writer of sorts. Deb had actually written two books, but never published either. While composing these unpublished manuscripts, she continued to work in corporate public relations.

And then, one day, she was done. She was finally ready to move her passion project from a side hobby to a full-time gig. Deb and her husband downsized their house, and she quit her salaried position to start a brand-new work of science fiction.

Crazy, right? I admit, that’s a close-ended question, not ideal for career coaching. But the thing is, Deb’s not crazy. She simply took stock of the cues, hints, and hunches around her and started trying it out. She started writing on the side, honing her craft one day at a time. Her decision to eventually quit her job was far from knee jerk reaction—in reality, she was slowly pulling away for years. For Deb, small, daily action steps paired with continual questioning led towards big, life-changing outcomes and ongoing revelations.

The Importance of Inquiry

Every day, it’s important to question. Whether you’re in search of talent, flow, motivation, interest, or purpose, there’s likely a question that will get you one step closer to recognition.

Here are a few of my favorite questions to help people discover something about themselves:

  • What do I do so naturally that I find it challenging to explain my process to others?
  • What gives me an instant kick/high after I practice, complete, or talk about it?
  • What do I find myself daydreaming or talking about, unprompted?
  • What are recurring themes in the books I read, the movies I watch, or the leisure activities I enjoy?
  • What causes would I be willing to invest my money in or put my neck out for?

Without spoken or unspoken inquiry, we remain stagnant. Socrates’ famed saying rings true: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Without questioning, we stop exploring. Without exploring, we stop discovering. Without discovering, we stop celebrating. Without celebrating, we stop living fully, joyfully, and wondrously.

Question: Where do you go and what do you do to get inspired?

An Impromptu Song

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In the middle of a massive, potentially foreboding city, my mom and I discovered a slice of unadulterated joy…at the Times Square Starbucks, no less. After artfully navigating through a sea of people, we finally reached the front of the line for coffee, pastries, and trinkets. As I gently passed over my souvenir mug to the cashier, a slow bass melody started to fill the establishment. The cashier looked at the others and, within moments, a store full of Starbucks baristas started singing “My Girl.” Without hesitation, my mom and I joined in. (Yes, I used to voluntarily take part in a rousing cover of The Temptations’ classic at family gatherings of old.) And, in a moment, joy replaced fear; calm overtook stress; peace beat agitation.

As I continue to traverse the bustling streets of the city that never sleeps, I’m keeping the Times Square Starbucks in mind–the setting for an unexpected, Everyday Holiday moment.

The Question that Changes Everything

“So I heard there’s this test…” Nine times out of ten, that’s where the conversation veers when I start discussing calling and career. Generally, we know what we like. We know what we’re good at. However, we often look for a neutral third party, an expert, a formula, or something more statistically reliable than inclination and hunches. While assessments and counseling can reveal new insights, more often than not, these tools simply unearth what’s been there all along.

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Yet we want to find something surprising. We want a hidden talent to burst into our seemingly mundane realities. However, reflection, assessments, and expert opinions often reveal what we knew all along. When did the self become so unsavory? Why do we push ourselves aside when we’re trying to figure out who we want to be?

Whether counseling a friend or coaching a college student, I find one question to be extremely powerful (Questions, in general get at the root of the issue must more swiftly than poetic lectures.):

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? 

Forget practical for a moment. We’ll get back to it. Life will force us back to it.

When I consider my most confident, assured self, I think of a spunky, loud-mouthed little girl who ran around in a tutu singing, “Would you like to hear a secret?” At the ripe age of four, I thought I could sing melodiously. I thought I could dance incredibly. I simply wanted to entertain and to help people find joy. But I lost the spunk somewhere. I lost it because the eye rolls came. I lost it because no one had time to listen. I lost it because someone else was a better singer.

Beyond the “what” we would do if we couldn’t fail, lies the “why.” There is motivation behind singing on Broadway, starting a pizza chain, or becoming an adventure guide. You may love the creative process or have a knack for managing people or love to work in the great outdoors. While there are many ways to match up vocation and motivation, it takes time and patience to look inside first. Although the “what” may change during the course of our lives, we can always carry the “why” with us. We just have to stop and ask the question.

Instead of looking outward and onward, what if we first looked inward? After considering our natural motivations, we can better jump ahead, to a place where failure fails to scare us.

Sharing the Kitchen

I hate eating alone. Blame it on unresolved middle school fears or my propensity to gobble down food in seconds flat, I do best when dining in the company of others. I find it easy to take a breath, pick up my gaze, and look across the table at the good people sitting next to me. Although I used to roll my eyes at the exercise, my parents raised my brother and I to share our daily “highs and lows” over wild rice casserole, green chicken enchiladas, or whatever current experiment came out of the family kitchen. Now, I love sharing the highs and lows, the burdens and triumphs, the hopes and fears, the dreams and failures.

Although the table is often a source of strength for me, the kitchen is not. Despite the fact my table and countertop are a mere six feet away from each other, I often feel harried in one and calm in the other. This weekend, I was fortunate to host a dear friend from Minnesota to show her my city and share my home. Because Rachel had a long drive ahead, I assumed I would have time to poke around the kitchen to make a delectable, culinary masterpiece.

When my friend arrived an hour an a half sooner than planned, I realized that immediately relaxing over dinner would not be in the cards. No, what she would see would be me, sweaty and analytical, trying to figure out how to pulse apricots without a working food processor. Per usual, Rachel was gracious and complementary and, as I tried to string some sentences together about how her trip was and what nice weather we’ve been having, I prayed she would just sit at the table, tell me a story, and let Hurricane Kelsey run its course in the kitchen. No such luck. My friends are not usually the ones to sit by the wayside. If there’s a need, they’ll jump in, sleeves up and hands dirty.

Despite my poor ability to make small talk and pour drinks, Rachel gave herself a tour of my kitchen cupboards and drawers, while filling in the gaps for me. My ability to multitask was waining, but I finally surrendered and proclaimed we could get into the depths of conversation around the table later. I had, ever so keenly, chosen two new recipes that evening and, for now, we could both be free to focus on the task at hand, bobbing and weaving our way towards the end result.

And this is why I’ve decided to let people in. To let them cook with me. It’s messy, to be sure, and it’s humbling as all get out. However, every time I do so, the cliches ring true.

The process is often more of a blessing than the product, and our mess can be as beautiful as our finished creation.

As for my epicurean creation, it was pretty tasty. However, I’d bet just about anything that it wouldn’t have been half as good if I went at it alone. By welcoming one or two or three others into our lives, whether it be to our kitchens, porches, or dining rooms, we can create more dynamically. Because someone is better at seasoning meat than I am, someone is better at planting flowers than I am, and someone is better at picking paint colors than I am. It truly takes a village. And so I’ll daily choose to concede, to gladly let people into my messy, sticky, developing kitchen. Who knows what the process will yield?

Mood Boosters: The Summer Collection

Falling asleep at the computer? Longing for the sunshine while stuck indoors? Here are three simple ways to bring the joy of summer inside, while staying productive at your 8 to 5.

  1. Mix it up. Whether you’re a Pandora fan or a Spotify loyalist, create a mood-boosting playlist or a toe-tapping radio station to keep you on track and feeling grand. I personally recommend “Hipster BBQ” on Pandora and #WertzWednesday on Spotify.
  2. Bring the outside in. Adding a touch of green can do wonders for your mood and can add pizzazz to your cubicle or office space. It’s psychologically proven. If you’re like me and have a notorious black thumb or a dark office, check out Apartment Therapy for hard-to-kill house plants.
  3. Treat a coworker. If you have a coffee or snack shop at your workplace or across the street, ask a colleague is they would like to go on a quick jaunt to seek sustenance. While giving your limbs a bit of exercise and your brain a bit of energy, you’ll be able to bring a bit of joy to someone else’s day. Double win. Double rainbow.

Stay classy and stay sunny friends,

Kelsey