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Kayla Zilch - Been there. Done that. Jesus is better. - The World Race

older | 1 | 2 | (Page 3)

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    "Out of the goodnight, I was born into your arms.

    Like you're my country, like you're the hills where I belong,

    Like you're the hills where I found love at the end of the world."

    - John Mark McMillian, Love at the End.

    It's 1:20 in the afternoon at final debrief, and I'm jumping into the resort pool for the third time this morning. The sun feels like a heat lamp against my already dark skin, and the vivid blue of the tiled pool shimmers through my tinted sunglasses. "Grab her legs!" Lindsay screams, upending me the moment my feet hit water. "NO NO NO," I yell, but my protests are drowned out because I'm, well, drowning. She and Stephen drag me around the pool and my laughter slashes my chances at getting one solid breath, because Kayla Garrison is watching from a safe distance and intoning, "That's why I wear sunscreen. So that when people hug me, they'll slip right off."

    Eventually, we wear ourselves out and float to the shallow end, hair tangled, leaning into one another, quiet for the first time in hours.

    It's really real. This is really happening.

    The World Race is coming to an end.

    Last night, long after everyone had gone to sleep, I slipped out of our hotel room and walked to the coast - past the pool, past the dimly lit restaurant bar, down the stairs and over the hills of wet sand, finally stopping at the water's edge. And I looked up (which is always an important thing to do, especially lately, when everything here on the ground is so chaotic). And I thought about all of it.

    I thought about Syria, and Greece, and how the three weeks I spent at the refugee camps was a way of saying hello to my calling, and I didn't even know it yet.

    I thought about the stuff God and I have overcome this year. How at least five times a day this month, I've revisited the night in Cambodia where I seriously considered coming home. I was so mentally tired, so beaten down, and didn't have another hour's left of energy to pull from. God took me up to the rooftop, and what He told me has carried me through these last two months:

    "You can stop any time. Your choices can always be redeemed. But there is more here for you, if you want it."

    I thought about October 2014, the first time I sat down and wrote on this blog, and the first time someone told me they had been impacted by a post.

    And on that note, I want to let you know that this is my last World Race blog.

    I'll be home in three days, and I want to spend my re-entry processing all the strangeness with my family and best friends. Don't worry - in the days to come, I'll make sure to tell you where to find my stories! But for now, for this season, this is the final page.

    So...I feel weirdly obligated to say something cliché, or maybe sign something vaguely resembling a yearbook, just to give myself closure.

    "H.A.G.S. Never change!!!"

    Or if I had a hat, I'd throw it in the air and yell "WE DID IT!" and then make my family take me out to Coney Island where I would process all my goodbyes while crying into a Greek salad.

    Life, man. What a weird thing it is.

    One minute you and your team are sleeping in the storage container at a refugee camp, eating baby food with a flashlight, and the next you're throwing your arms around one another for the very last time.

    It doesn't seem fair that all of that ends with one goodbye. But the measure of change and the lessons learned this last year aren't meant to be justified in the pain of the goodbye.

    Our lives, from every moment here forward, are the proof that something incredible happened. We could try, but we can't go back to who we were.

    So this is to you, Y-Squad. And to you, Reader, wherever you are. None of this would've been possible without you. Because a girl can talk, or blog, and have no relationship or care for those on the other side of the screen, unsure if the words are having any meaning or impact at all.

    You've been with me through it all, helping me find my purpose, and encouraging me to keep saying the hard stuff when it all felt like a waste.

    I love you. I really, really do.

    And I believe in your ability to do hard things, to dream impossible dreams, and to live a better story.

    Nothing is impossible for the people who love God. 

    "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask for or imagine - to HIM be the glory, forever and ever."

    Congratulations, Badass Class of 2016.

    We did it.


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  • 08/08/16--17:00: The One About Re-Entry
  • "Leave me alone!

    Don't leave me alone!"

    - Twenty One Pilots, Kitchen Sink


    It's been two weeks since I got off a plane at LAX and walked across the arrival tunnel of the Los Angeles airport.

    A handful of passengers chattered about how excited they were to "set foot on American soil" again after 11 months of international travel. I was too busy wondering at exactly what point the airport carpet stopped representing "foreign soil" and began representing this sacred "American soil" being spoken of, given that no soil existed inside the Californian airport (and probably none outside, either).

    I strode across the terminal doorway, the sounds and sights of English restaurants washing over my senses with little fanfare. The "G" on the sign for T.G.I. Friday's flickered on and off, stuttering and tired - like me. A worker waved me to a long line of international arrivals, and the man stamping my passport smiled patiently as he asked, "So, where're you coming from?"

    "Vietnam," I replied at length, mentally shuffling through my last 48 hours to produce the correct location.

    He smiled again, passing my weathered blue booklet under the smudged glass. "Welcome home. Next!"

     

    This might be a really weird analogy - but have you ever seen one of those Lifetime movies where a character has a major organ anonymously gifted to them by a deceased donor, and then can't shake the feeling of deja vu?

    (Maybe a bit of a stretch...)

    The way I've felt since being home - it's just like that. Dizzy. Disoriented. That I've just woken up from the blur that was the World Race, and it now mainly resides on the fridges of my psyche, choosing the most awkward and unsuspecting moments to crash back into my consciousness with the reminder that, HEY. I happened!!!

    The first week of being home felt like being strapped onto a roller coaster going 120 miles-per-hour. And, dang, man. I hate roller coasters.

    At every turn, just when I'd be brave enough to open my eyes again and spit the bugs out of my teeth, I was plunged back into a high-speed corkscrew, metaphorically puking my guts out (and then apologising for it).

    Events, reunions, laundry machines, and literally every emotion imaginable.

    There were moments I was so happy I thought I'd die, and a few moments I actually wanted to just die.

    And in the mix of jet lag, visitations, car rides and re-learning how to use a microwave, I think I sort of just...went into survival mode.

    While everything that I wanted and missed was available to me again, I responded by running from it. My first six days back, I wore a variation of the same outfit six times, completely forgot to shower, and ate mostly leftovers. And while I was dying to just lock myself in my room or spend the day in the woods, off the grid, I had everyone I loved trying to track me down and hold me close.

    Something I didn't expect about re-entry at ALL is that it's a two-way thing. I'm getting back after a year away, sure. I'd be spending time catching up with and soaking in all my loved ones. I knew as much.
    What I was blindsided by was the adjustment process everyone around me would go through, also.

    My enthusiasm for spending time with my family and friends was outmatched only by their enthusiasm. And after two weeks of intimate coffee dates, mid-day brunches, sleepovers, glasses of wine and a tri-state road trip, I came to one conclusion:

    I am more loved than I ever knew.

    I'm also feeling guiltier than ever for asking to spend time alone.

     

    Every night last week, I laid in bed being wracked with guilt for every little moment that day when I had felt overwhelmed or annoyed.

    I really rushed her through that sentence, I shouldn't have done that.

    He asked if I'd stay longer, and I decided to leave early.

    Could she tell I was frustrated when she kept quizzing me about my year? That was so uncool of me.

    Eventually - I swear this is true - I'd get up and crack my bedroom door a little, as if the act of creating an opening to my room somehow atoned for the space I'd attempted to put between me and the world that day.

    Leave me alone!
    Don't leave me alone!

     

    To be horribly honest with you guys - the mere thought of sitting down to write something has been giving me that same foggy feeling as being chased in a dream. Like, you know you should probably get your butt in motion and get going in any direction, but your body feels like lead and, whadaya know, you're standing in three feet of wet cement.

    Even writing this blog has me feeling like a bit of a failure. I spent my last month planning and designing a new website, full of features and categories and stories. I even had a logo made.

    And yet - it's not time yet.

    It will happen, I'll make sure of it.

    But it's not time yet.

    So I'm back. Back on this blog, back inviting you to journey with me all over again. Only this time, the journey isn't a multi-continent, missional-minded backpacking journey.
    The journey this go-around is more learning how to live every-day life, walking in the freedom I received on the Race.

    It's allowing myself to rest without shame.

    It's maneuvering through the next five weeks of life in Michigan before the next chapter in Georgia begins.

    Many more stories are to come.

    As always - you're invited to come along for the ride.

    With love,

    Kayla

     


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    "'The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.'

    Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people of Israel to move forward!'"

    Exodus 14:14-15.

    The title of this blog is probably a bit controversial. I'm prepared to explain.

    I'm sitting here in yesterday's makeup, stray hairs from my topknot tickling the sides of my face. I just spent the majority of my morning alternating between bending over a calculator and the pile of support letters I'm designing, slurping a cup of coffee that's long since gone cold.
    An Elevation Church podcast is playing in the background, and I look up for just a second when I hear Pastor Steven pause to catch his breath, winding up for the sermon's inevitable TKO:

    "God will handle the things you can't, but God will not handle the things you can."

    I'd be lying if I acted like I was hearing that line for the first time.

    In reality (and my dear squad-mates came to know this better than most), I don't really like a wide variety of things.I just like the same things over and over again - be it books, movies, songs, sermons, or Taco Bell's number 5 with a medium Dr. Pepper and a side of sour cream.
    There was one night on the Race when I sat at our host home desk, writing and looping Jon Bellion's song Jim Morrison thirteen times before Tabitha politely leaned over and said, "It's a little loud."

    And, okay. It's not that I "don't enjoy new experiences". I went on the World Race, man. I feel like that should kinda give me lifetime supply of rebuttals to any thinly-veiled commentary that I'm stuck in my ways (or in my Taco Bell order).

    I just really don't like surprises.

    There's the time in middle school that I eagerly guessed my little sister's Christmas gift to me, unintentionally making her cry because I'd "ruined my own surprise".

    Or the time I actually, legitimately hinted that I wanted a surprise birthday party...and then uncovered all of the plans so I wouldn't be caught off guard by the guest list or the moment when people were gonna jump out and throw confetti in my hair.

    God help the poor man who proposes to me one day, trying his darnedest to wife me under the sneaky guise of, "Heeeyyyy, let's just go out to a nice dinner," or "Look at the Jumbotron! Oh, it's on us?! SO CRAZY, right...?"

    I doubt this will come as news to anyone, but life is full of surprises. And if you're a lover of God, your life track frequently resembles a Mario Kart racing terrain. Bananas, coins, and vaulted canyons galore. Our level of faith comes into play when we decide how gracefully and faithfully we respond to the challenges set before us.

    "God will handle the things you cant, but He will not handle the things you can."

    Can I be super brutally honest for just a second? I've struggled the last two days not to just cancel plans, stay at home in my favourite sweatpants, and wallow in a fog of frustration. Why? Oh, I don't know. Surprises. Challenges - some big, some easily overcome. Life. There's so much life that happens off of the couch.

    It's easier to just stay here in the neutral zone, milking the "re-entry" excuse and hiding away from the stuff that's hard.

    Hard like, I never expected that the family I left last autumn to look completely different when I returned...and I didn't expect to feel shame for that.

    I never expected to be on the receiving end of someone else's financial mistakes, and as a result, have to scramble finding ways to take care of myself.

    I didn't expect to feel so completely at home in America after leaving it for a whole year. Wasn't it supposed to be the other way around? Wasn't my biggest challenge supposed to be ordering off a menu?!

    I'm continually catching myself praying prayers like, "Hey God, can you please give me confirmation that this internship is where you want me....like, really?" As if suddenly, I'm spiritually six years old again, asking my mom to check under my bed just one more time.

    Just to be sure.

    Why does the $700 I need by September 1st suddenly feel like a way bigger deal than the $16,000 I had to raise last year?

    Did God get smaller? Less capable?

    What I'm really doing when I pray prayers of confirmation, though, is telling God that His promise isn't enough for me - like Moses in the constantly misquoted verse, Exodus 14:14. 

    Moses: "God'll handle it, guys! Just sit and wait!"

    God: ????

    God: "I told you what you needed to do! I've given you the resources! MOVE FORWARD."

    Because God doesn't go back on His promises. We might, but that's not really His style.

    "I believe. Help my unbelief!"

    Belief, even when I don't feel it. Belief, even when the numbers don't add up. Belief, when my spirit fails me and the solution isn't showing itself.

    God will handle the things I can't, but He won't handle the things I can.

    All He asks of us is that we take that next step, stride after stride, walking in obedience. Always that next step. As far as the road will go, He asks us to take it.

    And after we've been faithful with what He's given us, He handles the rest.

    If you're struggling with something today, please know you're not alone. I'm right there with you. But promise me one thing: that you won't stay in this spot. Take some time, feel the hurts, and maybe even admit that you don't know what to do right this moment. But afterwards, get up and take a step. And then take another step. All the way to the fridge, and grab yourself a snack. Because snacks help.

    Face that thing that's weighing on you, threatening to derail your plans and progress.

    And then go out there and handle it.

    God will be right there to take care of what you can't.

     


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    “Social media is just the market’s answer to a generation that demanded to perform. So the market said, ‘Here, perform everything to each other, all the time, for no reason.’ It’s horrific. It’s prison. It’s performer and audience melded together. What do we want more than to lay in our bed at the end of the day, and just watch our life as a satisfied audience member?

    I know very little about anything, but what I do know is that if you can live your life without an audience – you should do it.”

    - Bo Burnham, Make Happy

     

    I cannot in good conscience recommend that any of you go watch the Netflix comedy special, Make Happy. So in neutral conscience: I absolutely recommend that you watch it. Bo Burnham is a comedic genius.

    I took a break from packing last weekend and went downtown to people watch at a local park. While I was there, I ran into someone I sort-of know, and she shared with me some sorrowful details of her current struggle with body image. She was unhappy. She felt compelled to present an image of herself as aired-out and effortlessly beautiful - which, at some point, had been the truth. 

    She told me how scary it was to present herself online, let alone tell the truth when the truth didn't frame her yoga poses in a soft golden-hour light.

     And even though she had something of a strong, voyageristic social media presence, all of this was news to me. 

    Back home, I logged onto Facebook, and at the top of my newsfeed was a photo. I was surprised to see that the person I talked to at the park had posted a photo caption that appeared to be the first draft of an E-book; but what shocked me was the tone of her post.

    Here's how you can become as happy as I am.

    And as likes piled up, I thought, Good for her. I hope she's happy.

     

    (Stock photo, let's just be clear.)

     There's a saying that those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and my house got floor-to-ceiling windows installed the day I logged on here and clicked "New Post" for the first time.

    This blog is an image that I present. This blog is social media. When I'm done writing it, I'll post it on Facebook. Afterwards, I'll check my email every few hours to see if someone left a comment. 

    I'm a hypocrite, and I know it.

    I also know that popularity today has little to do with personal integrity, compassion and kindness. Guys and girls who are famous and idolized gain esteem because of physical beauty, creative camera angles and wit that’s been drafted, re-drafted and perfectly timed in a post.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to bed with a head full of EDM Snapchat stories full of young celebrities licking the camera lens while news of racial minorities, scientific advancements and a good, old fashioned book went unread.

    The amount of hours I've spent trying to neutralize the pain in my life by crafting a post indirectly asking others to accept me when I cannot accept myself.

    I lay in bed at night and analyze the hurricane of self-promotion that I see ripping the roof off my generation's psyche.

    And yet, I wake up the next morning and give the best of my time (morning social media scroll) to filling my head with comparisons that drain me of my joy.

     

    I don’t really know where this blog is going, honestly. This should be about the end-point, but thoughts and metaphors keep tumbling towards my fingertips and dissolving before they even strike the page, tissuepaper in water.

    I thought about all of this yesterday as I walked past a pond near my house, every head bowed in prayer to the digital deity cradled in hands below. People around me shuffled slowly, uncertainly, and I walked through them like Brad Pitt walked out of the zombie-infested laboratory at the end of World War Z. All around, life was unfolding. The swollen tangerine sun was 30 seconds from dropping below the hill of the cemetery, shooting golden rays through the oak tree’s twirling leaves like a dying cowboy emptying his last round.

    One slanted ray intercepted my line of vision, and I knew in that moment that should anyone meet my gaze, they’d see that my eyes turn green when overexposed. 

    So this shoebox full of thoughts dressed up as a single thesis statement would be this:

    Your worth isn't tied to how well you can sell an image to your audience. I’m tired of not looking into your eyes.

    Maybe it’s time for me to accept the fact that the majority of the population prefers playing Pokemon Go instead of spending an afternoon on the worn carpet of a used bookstore, laughing at old Shel Silverstein poems.

    Maybe I'm outdated.

    Maybe I’d be less disappointed with my generation if I quit bemoaning the omnipresence of dinnertime texting, news via Facebook’s trending topics, and the compulsion to filter and Snapchat every pedestrian detail of a birthday, tailgate or vacation.

    But I can't give in. I love your eyes too much.

    And I love the way hands fiddle with straw wrappers during the lulls in conversation, and the uncomfortable humbling of myself I have to perform every time I'm lost on a street corner and have to ask someone to point me on my way.

    I'll never get offended by your honesty.

    I'll never stop trying to look you in the eye.

    Maybe, one of these days, you could look up into mine.


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    Has anyone else aged 21-29 ever woken up at 3:30 am on the cusp of a major life change and decided that the pitch black of night was the most perfect time to call into question the meaning and purpose of your entire metaphysical existence?

    (Asking for a friend.)

     

    1. What is for you will not pass you by.


    Surprising or not, I don’t much like to commit to things. I took a personality test once that asked the question, “True or False: The best decision is one that can be easily undone.” And I remember thinking, there, someone else gets it.

    Things like the Race and the Fellowship are inherently uncomfortable to me, because they require long-sightedness, dedication and commitment. (All good qualities, no?) But in the act of saying “yes” to the Fellowship, I’m automatically saying “no” to, like, 12 billion other things. (Rough estimate.)

    But what is meant for me won’t pass me by. Sometimes, all it takes is a step. You don’t really know what you’re agreeing to by making a definite choice, and you also don’t know what you’re closing the door on.

    Trust that God will honour your forward motion by blocking the wrong paths and clearing the right ones.

     

    2. No, that wasn’t “The last good job offer” or “The last of the good men”.


    It just isn’t. This one kind of goes hand-in-hand with point number one. I have this annoying tendency to get super fatalistic about this kind of stuff – stuff being my career (more like, my future career), my health, and, yes - guys.

    GUYS.

    I said it.

    I’ll see someone get a boyfriend, receive a promotion or land a job two weeks out of college, and my FIRST thought is, ITS OVER. THAT WAS IT. Like my entire physical existence and metaphysical purpose as a member of our universe somehow culminated and evaporated in the scorching spotlight of that one person’s brief, momentary achievement.

    And it doesn’t. But it can sure feel that way.

    I truly think that one of the most gracious, attractive things a person can do is celebrate another person’s success. Not only does it demonstrate that Person A is able to show love and support to Person B, but it shows that Person A isn’t threatened.

    I want to become more like Person A. Because, no, it wasn’t "the only job worth having" or "the last of the men able to carry on a conversation about vector fields and gender norms" - there will be others. Another woman’s success is not my failure. I haven't missed my chance.

    Which brings me to my last blurb.

     

    3. You cannot mess this up.


    You really think that you and I are in control of this thing? Look around.

    Life and time are constantly unfolding without our help. I don’t need to worry about the well-being of every tree, tide and fallen leaf. My heart beats with a series of electronic impulses that operate independent of any effort on my part. These things are not affected in any way by my perception of them; they simply do what they were created to do.

    Here’s a refreshing, inconvenient truth: I could die today, and the Earth would keep on spinning.

    Amazing.

    The success or failure of my endeavours do not ultimately begin and end with me. That really takes a lot of the pressure off, when you think about it. That means that as long as I’m walking in integrity and following God’s instructions, I can’t put my identity in my success. I also cannot use my defeats as the measuring stick of personal worth.

    This control thing – it’s all a perception. The Earth is just pleased to have me here, along for the ride.

     

    So now that I’ve shared my three unsolicited opinions on a topic that I myself am currently still navigating, here are three things I ask of you, Reader.

    1. I need just $403 more dollars to hit my first financial deadline of $3,000. This deadline needs to be met by September 19th in order for Adventures to begin providing my monthly living stipend. If you are looking for a way to bless me, financial support would shout that love the loudest. You can support my internship right here. Afterwards, click here.


    2. Pray for me. Specifically, pray that God is glorified in me during this next season of the Fellowship. I don’t feel like I’ve had enough time since the Race ended to process, or to be with my family. Several painful things have occurred in the last six weeks, and I do not want to carry worry or hurt around anymore. I want to walk in freedom.


    3. Lastly, thank you for being here - wherever you are. Thank you. In this moment, on this webpage, you chose to be here with me, to let my words become the voice in your head. I never take your attention lightly.


    In case you missed it, here’s a video about the time I drank too much caffeine and talked about my internship. (Not interested in the logistics? Skip to 4:56.)

     

    With love,

    - Kay


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    I need to tell you the truth.

    And the truth is this: my first day of the Fellowship starts tomorrow, and I am terrified.

    The truth finally began to unravel me like a knit sweater Thursday afternoon when I went into the driveway to pack my car, the most non-threatening of backseat fabric stains proving to be the one, teensy straw that broke the camel’s back. I left various objects scattered around our front lawn, sprinting back inside and slamming the door.

    “Did you know that you left your floormats in the lawn?” my mom gently inquired, blissfully unaware of the geyser of emotion she was about to crack open.

    “YES. LEAVE THEM. THEY BEST REPRESENT MY CURRENT EMOTIONAL STATE.”

    Later on that evening, we curled up on our couch, and I burst into tears – hateful, hot tears that ran into my ears and dripped off my chin, damp reminders that I was, once again, letting myself down.

    What is WRONG with me? Why can’t I get excited about this?! Shouldn’t walking in obedience to God’s will feel GOOD?

    Last week, I found out there had been a miscommunication about my internship pay, and that my salary was cut.

    I immediately started looking online for part-time jobs in Gainesville, now fully aware that the only way I’d be able to do the Fellowship was if I supplemented my income with an additional income.

    This would have been a totally different patch of quicksand, had it been a standalone.

    Two weeks ago, my old car showed back up in my driveway. Before I left on the Race, someone I trusted had agreed to take over the lease and make it their own, but I didn’t bother to legally change the payments into their name. So when they found themselves in a bad place financially, the car was what they chose to rid themselves of…transferring the burden back to me. I threw the mud-stained floormats into my lawn Thursday morning and just let them lay there, ugly, used, and allowed myself one very dramatic moment of human-floormat empathy.

    GOD. WHAT THE FRICK-FRACK PADDYWACK IS GOING ON HERE. THIS HURTS.

    A job to pay for my other job. Leaving my family in it's current state. This car. THIS MAKES NO SENSE.

    ARE YOU SURE THIS IS WHAT YOU REALLY WANT ME TO DO???

    On the Race, I learned how to be bold, assertive, committed. I was a woman who made up her mind to do something and would stop at absolutely nothing to see that thing through. Lately, I’ve felt very far away from her, and that shame has kept me bent like a sack of bricks on my back.

    Following God is not always easy or fun. It will not always make you feel good. Sometimes, it will make you feel very, very bad. 

    It will confuse your non-Christian friends who do not understand why on earth you would do something you are so uncertain or afraid of. They will gently say things like, “Babe, you don’t have to do this! Why are you doing something that is making you unhappy?” And you will be tempted within an inch of your self-control to release the word of direction you’ve received, and agree with them.

    Yes, this is ridiculous. No, I shouldn’t need to jump through hoops. Yes, I should assert myself and make a decision that makes me the happiest. I deserve to be happy.

    Reader, I still need you – but I need you to know that I’m afraid.

    I need you to know that this internship is the most uncomfortable act of obedience I’ve ever said “OK” to, and I am walking forward in complete blind faith that my God will clear the path for me, making sense of the wall of doubt not ten feet from my face.

    I also need you to know that I am done saying what I think you'd want to hear. You deserve better. 

    I've been thinking hard about this one line: "If you can live your life without an audience, you should do it."

    Some of you (ya'll, now) are my Facebook friends. And I want to say that you have been best audience, and many of you, participatory ones. I absolutely do not feel like I need to get rid of my page on Facebook because anyone there makes me feel snooped on, compared to, or generally less of a human being.

    But in the pursuit of living a life wholly integrated, this is what will make me happy.

    Yesterday, you carried to my first financial deadline of $3,000. I went to sleep last night with a heart so light I'm surprised I didn't wake up on the ceiling. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    You know who you are.

    The choice to remove my Facebook doesn't make a lot of sense, but less so now because I'm relying on an audience to hear and engage with a financial need in this season of my life.

    To be absent from your newsfeed could mean to be absent from your mind. It could mean that this support-raising gig gets a whole lot harder.

    But I'm believing that acting in accordance to a value I have - striving to be fully present in every second of this life - is worth this risk of under-exposure.

    I also believe that you love me, think of me, and pray for me more frequently than the number of times I post.

    And I can’t polarize myself anymore. This my first step toward shedding the mask.

    Toward dropping this weird, misplaced shame, toward letting the tears flow and the smiles break like rainbows in a thunderstorm.

    Toward letting you, and people who are actually living life alongside me, be enough of an audience.

    (I hope it's enough for you.)


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  • 09/22/16--17:00: Guys, I Have NEWS.
  • Oh, and a quick Georgia Q&A!

    Lists! Lists! Lists!

    This one doesn't really need any kind of header, so we're just gonna jump right in.

    3, 2, 1...

     

    Are you in Georgia yet?

    Yes, I’ve been here since last Thursday. No, I haven’t said ‘ya’ll’ yet. Yes, I ate a peach. No, I didn’t like it…it was smushy.

     

    Are you eating?

    Yes, mama. No more smushy peaches! We will persevere!

    At home, I’m notorious for eating Moose Tracks ice cream for breakfast and calling a large fry a meal. Here in Georgia, though, I’m actually pretty sweet at this whole food thing (so far). Lots of lean meats and fresh vegetables.

    Turns out if you don’t own it, you can’t eat it. Amazing.

     

    Where are you living?

    I’m living in a farmhouse along a quiet road, only 2 miles from Adventures. There’s a tire swing in the backyard, and last night I sat on it and flew around in circles until the whole world was one gold blur. (I immediately regretted it.)

    (I’ll probably do it again later, though.)

    Seven girls share the house, and it’s already a space known by its joy. There is always someone making tea, baking cookies, playing guitar, burning a cool man-smelling candle or feeding someone chocolate. I share a cozy room at the back end of the house, and its walls are covered with photos - you’re probably in at least one of them.

    You’re more than welcome to come visit! Send me a message, and I’ll put some sheets on the pull-out couch. :)

    What are you doing every day?

    What a lovely question! Monday through Thursday this week, we had our welcome week.

    Welcome week consisted of four 9-5 days at the Adventures office, where the four Fellows worked on various projects. Most were focused around helping us outline exactly what the heck we wanted to learn during our time here.

    Right now (well, not right now, I’m not that talented at multi-tasking), I am working on an improvement project that my roommate and fellow Fellow (ha, ha!), Hope, and I will present to the Adventures leadership board. We choose to tackle mental health support for Racers struggling with anxiety, depression, and other interpersonal issues while on the field. Wooo!

    Starting next Monday, and every week ahead, I’ll be working 25 hours a week in the Marketing department. The other hours will be spent with our program director, learning how to run a small business and undertaking more projects like the terrific one listed above.

     

    Who are you working with?

    I’m in the Fellowship program with three other people: Hope, also my roommate; Marcus, not my roommate; and Joe, who will also be working with me in Marketing. All three of them are full of the Holy Spirit, and have incredible visions for their time here.

    My boss is a person named Mason. He believes in honesty, efficiency, and wearing white pants on Wednesdays. (The rest of us do not yet share this belief.)

    We are able to encourage one another openly, and probably laugh more than is professionally appropriate. God really knew what he was doing when he threw us into this journey together. I am happy.

     

    So, what’s the news?

     

    I THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER ASK.

    On November 1st, I am going to launch my own blog!

    I don’t think you can even possibly imagine how much excitement I got just from typing those words just not. You just CANNOT imagine. I am BEAMING.

    I’ve talked to Jesus, received feedback from multiple people here at Adventures, and it’s all the same: it’s time to start my own blog/website, separate from my World Race blog.

    It will be a place devoted to two simple ideas:

    Tell the truth, and

    Be the truth.

    I’ve known that having my own space here on the internet was something I’d get done…eventually. 

    Getting visibly stoked about, it, though, has felt borderline selfish. 

    But ignoring the gift of storytelling God's given me isn’t humility, it’s just me being dumb. God doesn’t get any glory when I hide my passion and talent (sound like a Bible story you know?). I think I’ve just been scared, honestly.

    Like, what if it goes nowhere? What if it goes somewhere, but I can’t keep up?

    WHAT IF?

    The graveyard of dreams buried in the cemetery of What If rolls over hills, on as far as the eye can see. I don’t want to be another big dreamer killed off by the fear of failure.

     

    The next time I post on here, I will share more details about what the website will look like. But right now, know this: I need your voice.

     

    This thing will be a joint effort between you and I. I will need Readers who are interested in guest-posting, telling their stories, sharing the raw truth behind some of their fluffy social media posts, and giving a behind-the-scenes look at their honest, un-Instagrammed life.

    It will be a radical, sassy, Holy-Spirit-filled creative collaboration, all centered around telling the truth.

    And I’ll promise to do the same.

    Interested in being a part of the launch? Leave a comment down here-ish, or send me an email at kaylaezilch@gmail.com.

    Excited?

    METOOISNTTHISJUSTTHEGREATESTTHANKYOUJESUS.

    Done reading?

    Leaving! 


    0 0

    The process of getting to Georgia was hard; so hard, in fact, that you might know that I almost didn’t come.

    Yet, it’s like I told a friend: every mile that I drove closer to the Georgia border, I felt another weight drop off. And another, and another, and another. By the time I pulled into the driveway of my now-home, I was so light I held onto my car handle for a moment, afraid I might let go and float away.

    And now I’m here, and I see why the process was so freaking hard: it’s because me being here was so incredibly important.

    It’s no mistake that the hardest part of anything is the beginning. The inception. The first step. A whole lot more people quit a marathon before every stepping onto a treadmill than those who give up at the starting line. Fear speaks loudly, and it also speaks steadily.

    The stable life that so many of us want can sound a lot like the voice of fear – the dull, inoffensive promise that everything would be so much better if you just stopped, stayed, or  - careful, here – rested. But take a step back, and you’ll see that most of us are passengers aboard a sinking ship. The journey of life sees us boarding and jumping many ships, and yet I always find myself hesitating when the thing is going down and God is presenting me with the lifeboat.

    But it looks scary. Turbulent. You said this ship was where I belonged.

    The premise is simple: transition, move, take the chance – or go down with the ship.

    I want to get better and braver at choosing the hard thing the first go-around.

    I want to be someone who, when given the option, goes above and beyond what’s expected. To see the act of changing, transitioning and just living life as something meant to be experienced intimately, instead of braced for.

    I’m climbing the most tangled apple tree, and I’m grabbing for the apple at the top. I’m running the trail and I’m going left, past the signs that welcome “All Skill Levels” and bounding toward the ones that caution “Advanced Hikers Only”.

    These things sound hard, and that’s because they are hard. But we should take life seriously. We should take our pleasure seriously. We should take our exploration of God, and all His mystery, seriously.

    If I want dessert, I’m going to spend three hours in my kitchen up to my elbows in flour and Mexican vanilla before I’m gonna pull out a box of Chips Ahoy and binge. Boxed cookies would satiate the craving, but there is an entire process passed over in-between hunger and resolution. Understanding the object of my hunger and getting it all over my hands feels infinitely more fulfilling than curbing the desire with something cheap and moving on with my day.

    Donald Miller says, “I always thought the Bible was more of a salad thing, you know, but it isn't. It's a chocolate thing.”

    Yah. That.

    The knowledge of the mystery of God is a journey I’ll be on all my life. The different ships that sink under me offer me many chances to re-evaluate the path I’m on, to transition bravely, and to choose the harder path in pursuit of something worth having.

    The apple at eye-level is still as sweet and worthy as the one hanging from the high branch, but my favourite part of anything is rapidly becoming the process of getting it. The climb through baby branches, losing my footing on the dry tree bark and drawing a speckling of blood across my skinned knee, and the secure snap of the stem pulling away from the leaves. They are all small, beautiful markers in the path to ultimate victory. Sitting on top of that tree with stray hairs blowing around my sunburnt cheeks sounds a hell of a lot more worthwhile than bagging a Golden Delicious from aisle 5.

    I think God wants me to climb more trees.


    0 0

    I went to sleep last night the way I remember going to sleep on Christmas Eve: fidgety, fingers tapping, buzzing with anticipation, and brimming with possibility of what the next morning promised to be. 

    At 10:30 pm, I shut my laptop, slid it under my bedside table and rolled myself up into a blanket burrito, eyes refusing to stay shut longer than a few seconds.

    Behind my forehead, fireworks were bursting.

    TOMORROW. TOMORROW. TOMORROW.

    Reader, when was the last time you actually lost sleep about something good?

    If you can't think of one, don't sweat it - up until last night, neither could I. That's a part of what makes today so incredibly special.

    Today, I am launching my own personal website, apart from my World Race blog!

    Maybe you knew this, maybe you didn't. I own the fact that I've done a bad-ish job at keeping Readers here in the loop with this process, but I've been spending my time away building you something beautiful. 

    Something worth my time, and yours. 

    Readers, meet To Be Truth.

    I wrote 78 blogs on my World Race, and openly documented my struggles and victories over alcoholism, pornography, depression, loneliness, and co-dependency. For some reason, though, coming home and starting "kaylazilch.com" felt super not okay.

    Now I know why: It was never about me.

    To Be Truth was born out of anger for social media-fueled comparison, and has since morphed into a vision to see Artists and Creatives glorify God by living and creating in vulnerability.

    I'll be writing here, now, but I'm only 1/3 of it.

    The rest of the house is yours - and I want you to come contribute, subscribe, and share any thoughts you have.

    I created To Be Truth for you.

    Yah, you - the one reading this blog, pondering these words.

    I hope you like it.

     

     

    For the last time,

     

    Kayla Zilch

    tobetruth.com


    0 0

    1. It tested my obedience.

    For some people, the process of pursuing the Race was a gift. They were born to do this, man. Agreeing to follow God’s prompting and pursue 11 months evangelizing abroad was easier than dropping a letter in the mailbox.

    I respect those people.

    I was not this person.

    From the get-go, the World Race was a crash-course in releasing control and saying “yes” to God’s direction, and there were countless times when this blessed gift from God had me feeling like a four year-old behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz.

    But for all the awkward moments, all the mornings spent trying to divide $16,267 into a more reasonable number and every midnight I lay awake counting t-shirt orders instead of sheep, my obedience taught me something comfort never could: God lives in the space just beyond our comfort zones. There is never glory without sacrifice. All he asks of us to kick-start the journey from average to extraordinary is our (whispered, shouted, heart-pounding) “yes”.

     

     

     

     2. It taught me the importance of community.

    Community is to the World Race what a foundation is to a house. You can try to function without it, but it’ll be awfully hard to build anything capable of withstanding storms. 

    I came onto the World Race believing self-sufficiency was the greatest quality a human could possess, and made it a whole six weeks before I buckled under the weight of my pride.

    Some of it was in spite of my effort – there’s only so much you can keep secret when you’re sharing a two-bedroom house with 43 squad-mates and hanging your underwear over the same stretch of chicken coop fencing. But, dang. The deep dive into friendship was worth the few seconds of falling. I had the opportunity to access more support than I knew existed, and it exists to this day.

    My World Race friends are more than friends - they are the family I got to choose.

     

     

    3. It challenged my faith.

    I’ve never flung heavier questions toward heaven than when I was on the World Race. Why did God heal the Zimbabwean man I prayed for, but not my little sister? Did struggling with depression make me a bad Christian? How did a loving God allow hundreds of men, women and children to die just miles from the coast of our Syrian refugee relief camp? Could my life, a drop in an infinite ocean of souls, make the difference I’d been taught it would?

    In every one of those situations, God welcomed my frustrations with loving patience, clearing the room the way a parent does for a tantruming child. He let me wrestle with the big questions. He wasn’t intimidated by my anger or lapses of faith. And when I returned to him, tired and broken down from the weight of existential crisis, he comforted me with truth: he would never leave me or fosake me. Armed with this unconditional love, I dealt the death blow to struggles with anxiety, pornography, alcoholism, and loneliness.

    I came on the World Race clattering with chains, mistaking them as armor. I crossed the threshold of LAX eleven months later with a soul lighter than air.

     

     

    4. It launched me into my calling.

    There’s no way around it: you will come back from the World Race a different person. Whether or not you choose to maintain your growth and walk in freedom is up to you – but if you let God continue to guide you, the World Race is just the beginning. The World Race will not be the greatest thing you ever do.

    And I could sit here and type out a list of opportunities and accomplishments the Race propelled me into, but I prefer to measure the impact by testimony.

    The refugee who shared my teammate’s sleeping bag, the prostitute who buried me at Jenga, the Burmese schoolgirl who mistook my chalk-drawn dog for a donut – those people are my joy. Their hearts are the trophies lining the glass shelves of my soul.

    What an honour it was to tell their stories, and invite hundreds of others to look into their eyes from 13,000 miles away.

     

    In closing, the question I field the most isn't about community or donut-dogs. Its this one: "Would you recommend the World Race?"

    Yah. Yah, I would. 

    If the World Race is something that scares you, you should probably apply. You have everything to lose, and everything to gain. 

    You can be the radical who tells their story and raises their voice unapologetically, who lives life boldly. And you can do the thing that terrifies you the most, because fear is a compass, and God will bless your stepping out.

    I dare you to trust Him and give Him the chance to prove it.


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