Category Archives: Friends

An Open Letter to Chris McClarney: Thank You

I wrote this intending to send it as an email, but when I didn’t find one I decided to post it here. I’m thankful for the music and lyrics and how it will forever remain in my mind now. I don’t know if Chris will ever see it or not, but I had to let it all out.

Dear Chris,

Last Saturday was an emotional day for my family and me, and your song, “God of Miracles” played a powerful role in it. A dear family friend, Charlene, went on to meet Jesus a week ago, but my mom and I spent her last moments in this life with her first.

She had been sick for several months, but I didn’t realize how ill she was until she chose to move into a Hospice facility in New Orleans last Friday.
Charlene was an amazing woman of God, and several years ago while I was steeped in sin, shame and bitterness, she told me that God had a plan for my life. I scoffed at her with condescension as she said, “He’s never going to stop pursuing you, and I’m never going to stop praying for you.”

A few years after that conversation, I realized for the first time (even though I grew up as a pastor’s kid) that I’d never be able to earn salvation; it was God’s free gift for me, and I didn’t have to work for it. I simply had to accept it. That realization changed my life, and as a result of my relationship with Jesus I’ve surrendered the anger, self-loathing and bitterness that I carried for far too long.

Now, as a worship leader at NOLA Church, a place I swore I’d never go to when I was initially invited, I listen to a lot of amazing music, and our bass player added “God of Miracles” to my playlist a few months ago. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times since I first heard it, but it helped shape my view of death and eternity over the weekend.

When we arrived at Charlene’s bedside my mom sang one of her favorite songs, “He Touched Me.” (We always sang when we were together.) I thought she’d ask me to follow up with a different Southern Gospel tune, but instead she said, “sing the song you were playing on repeat in the car.”

Charlene was on morphine to ease her pain, so I assumed she wouldn’t know what we were singing anyway. In spite of that I sang the song a cappella, struggling to get through it without breaking down. At the same time Charlene began to lift her hands, and though she had not been responsive before that, her sister asked her to give us a thumbs up if she knew we were there and wanted me to continue the song. She gave a feeble, yet distinctive thumbs up, and at that moment I realized that the Holy Spirit was empowering me to walk with her through the painful moments shortly before all of her pain would cease. By the second verse, the four of us in the room, knew that God’s presence was there and filling in what would be the last few minutes of her life.

“Let faith arise, and see the kingdom come, I lift my eyes, for the battle has been won. My God is faithful, and every single word He says is true.”

As I sang those lyrics I thanked God for His mercy and comfort and for the example of unwavering faith that I saw first hand as my precious friend went on to see Jesus.

Today I sang at her memorial. I woke up heavy hearted, knowing that we’d all be saying goodbye to her a few hours later, but what happened instead was a celebration of her life and her choice to live her life fully surrendered to Jesus.

family

“God of Miracles” is the last song that she heard before moving on into God’s glory, and I’m forever thankful that I was able to worship through her last moments with her, filled with the promises and truths that exist in those lyrics.
Thank you, Chris…

Sincerely,

Kenlie

The Post Mardi Gras, Good Grief I Need To Get It Together, Valentine’s Day Blues, Or Something Like That

I’ve sat down to blog several times lately, and I’ve been almost immediately distracted by other things. I wanted to share the details of my food intake during the week of Mardi Gras. In short, I ate a lot of random junk that can barely be considered food. If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have seen the fried Oreos that my neighbor delivered to me during my afternoon nap. You may have also noticed that I enjoyed King cake with friends on more than one occasion.

king cake sucre new orleans

This city shuts down for Mardi Gras. It’s amazing. Stores close, and everyone goes to parades…lots and lots of parades. The revelry lasts for two weeks, and people take it very seriously. I had more fun this year because I found a way to get back to my apartment while avoiding most of the traffic. (This isn’t easy to do when you live at one of the most popular parts of the parade route.) I also went to a couple of parades with co-workers who have become friends, a former colleague and friend and the guy I started dating recently. My favorite neighbor spent a lot of time with me during the week too, and I got very little accomplished. On Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday) I brought Christopher to Starbucks with me, and we met several of my friends there and played board games all afternoon. It was such a simple day, but I loved every minute of it.

My friend, Andrew, who was here in New Orleans for over a week, returned home to New York late last week. And Christopher  is there right now for work, so I took the opportunity to get some sleep, clean house, spend time with people who matter to me and to consider meals for the next few days.

Mardi Gras consists of 14 days of over-indulgence, coupled with time off, but it’s over now. Thankfully, Valentine’s Day is over too. Every year I feel so much pressure to be loved on that day, and every year I feel positively ridiculous about that. I know that I’m loved everyday by my family and friends and Jesus. I’m also happy that I’ve met someone who’s smart, handsome and easy to talk to and makes me laugh until my face hurts, but the pressure of this holiday is way too intense for something so new. Instead of going out on a date, I spent today singing love songs at an assisted living home near my church. They ate ice cream sundaes, and we had some awesome conversations.  The idea was to serve and honor the lovely people there, but they ended up blessing me far more than I could have blessed them.

I’m ready to get back into the healthy groove that I’ve been carving out lately because I feel so much better when I’m doing good things for my body. I spent a lot of time discussing healthy recipes and nutritious lifestyles with one of my favorite people this weekend, and I feel motivated to consume healthy and delicious meals this week. I’ve also caught up on some sleep that I’ve been missing lately, which feels great.

It’s a new week, and I’m ready to make it a good one. I’m taking on more responsibility at work this week, which means I’ll have more opportunities to exercise. I also have my food planned out for Monday and Tuesday. Bring on the quinoa, black beans and chicken! It’s crawfish season too, and I’m already loving that!

crawfish

Is anyone else fighting to get back into the groove this week?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Did You Meet Your Mate?

Several of my friends have fallen in love with people they met online. Actually, I’ve done it before too. I think that finding love is wonderful regardless of how you meet, but I’m not interested in meeting anyone online now. I’m just not.

My friend, who knows me well, was surprised by my desire to stay single instead of “putting myself out there.” There are a lot of reasons for my preferences in this area, but the biggest one is that I just don’t want to.

I always envisioned meeting someone in my favorite coffee shop and falling for him, and I spent most of last year with a man who simply wasn’t right for me. I’m not saying I’ll meet the future Mr. Kenlie at a coffee shop either; I’m just saying that I don’t want to worry about it right now.

My desire is to be with someone who will complement the life that I already love, but I’d rather stay single than go out looking for him. I don’t want to be emotionally or physically attached to someone who’s not good for me, and I don’t want to waste all of my energy wishing, hoping or even praying about it.

Seriously, God knows my heart. He knows I’d like to meet someone tall, brilliant and fiercely loyal who will look adorable in our selfies, so before Christmas I decided to stop bugging Him about it. Instead I’m trying to help others, find my purpose and enjoy everything that’s already in front of me.

Is it weird that I’m so closed off to meeting someone online? I haven’t always felt this way; it’s just what I’m feeling now, at least in this season of my life.

Did you meet your spouse/significant other online? Did you ever go through a period in which you didn’t want to go that route? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this whether you’ve dated online or not.

Coffee, Cooking and Connecting

After a blogging break it’s always tempting to catch up on everything that’s been happening since my last post, but if we’re connected through social media you already know that I’ve been cooking up some amazing fall recipes, traveling and spending time with friends and family, reading a great American novel and knitting like a champ. (How did I ever drink iced coffee without a cup sweater?)

Cooking and Knitting

During my time “off” from the blogosphere I’ve been searching for opportunities to create change in my life. I’ve decided to make some professional changes, and I’ve faced moments of self-doubt, stress and challenges. I’ve also felt some relief, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in the horizon.

If you’re reading this I hope all is well for you, and I’m looking forward to connecting more with everyone soon!

 

Family, Love Updates, Grown Up Coloring and Hand Knitting

Last week had some bright moments and some not so bright moments. I talked about the rough part here last week, and I’m happy to say that we talked today. I didn’t know that I was going to see him, but I’m glad I did. I was able to share my thoughts and feelings (and French press) with him, and I was filled with a sense of relief when I saw him. He was relieved and happy to see me tooI don’t know what the future holds, but I’m happier today than I’ve been in the last week.

The fun parts of last week came as a result of my sister and nieces. They visited Mom’s house, so I spent most of my time there.

Baby Niece

oldest niece

We did some cool stuff in my neighborhood too. My friend, who is a veterinarian at Audubon, brought us behind the scenes and let my nieces feed the giant turtle. We watched them feed the stars as well, and we ran around in the fountains after that.

New Orleans Aquarium

They headed back home Friday evening, so I returned home and caught up on things that I didn’t do during the week. I went to church, spent time with friends, and did some meal planning.

I went to an Outcry concert last week too, which featured some of my favorite Christian artists including Kari Jobe, David Crowder, Hillsong and more. My friends and I sat in a suite, which is my favorite way to enjoy any event (except Pearl Jam because I need to be in the front row for that.)

I also decided to join the grown up coloring book craze. I colored with my nieces last week, but I picked up an adult book at Michael’s too. It’s fun and relaxing, and i finished my first page today.

Is anyone else here doing this to destress or relax?

Is anyone else here doing this to destress or relax?

Sunday afternoon I decided to try something new, so I signed up for a hand knitting class at Michaels. It was an inexpensive way to spend the afternoon, and I left with a finished infinity scarf. I already know how to knit, but I did this without needles. Actually, I used my wrists and hands as if they were needles, which was an interesting and easy concept.

hand knitting Michaels

It looks like a loose braid.

Last week I said that I was going to focus on all of the positives in my life, and I did that. I’m thankful that there are so many reasons to enjoy life, and I’m looking forward to the month of August. It’s typically the hottest month in New Orleans, so I’ll be okay with it when it’s over. I’m also ready to start school again even though I enjoyed the summer break.

I’m not sure what the future holds. I have some things to figure out, but I feel hopeful. I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep a lot better tonight too.

 

Fat Photos

I’m heavier than most women I know, but I don’t shy away from the camera. If we’re connected through social media you know that I take selfies by myself and with friends. I share full body shots, and I’ve been known to rock photos in my swimsuit too. (See my Instagram account.)

Yesterday my long time friend, Tammy, posted about our favorite author’s article in Good Housekeeping. Jennifer Weiner and I have never met (life goal,) but the woman understands the inner workings of my mind. She’s been writing books that make me laugh, cry, dream and hope for years, and she opened up about avoiding the camera in first year of her daughter’s life.

I have beautiful friends who avoid the camera because they don’t like how they look, and I know women who will take 20 photos of themselves before they find one that they don’t despise. (I’ve been guilty of that countless times as well.) It’s hard to be happy with oursevles when we’re engulfed in a culture that says we shouldn’t be.

I’m obese…blah, bah, blah…I know. It’s hard to forget, as I have to live in my own skin everyday, but I refuse to allow my size to have bearing on whether or not I choose to live my life or take a photograph.

I went back to school at 30 years old to pursue a career about which I am passionate. I moved across the country and thrived in the biggest, most intimidating cities in America, I sang a solo in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and I took on an entire industry in the hopes of making a positive impact for myself and others. I don’t back down from things that scare me, and I will not back down from capturing memories with loved ones.

I think it’s important to recognize our own value. I’ve learned that the hard way, and that learning process never stops. I put effort into how I look, what I wear, etc. I take pictures from flattering angles, and I pose with my big, cheesy grin.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care about how we represent ourselves; I’m saying that I don’t want to live as a slave to this unrealistic ideal that we measure ourselves and our happiness against.

I love myself whether you think I should or not, and I’m going to continue to make memories and photograph them when I feel like it because I love looking back at the little moments that make life so special.

Do you shy away from photos because of your weight?

Hurting People Hurt People, Or Why Blogging Probably Isn’t The Answer

I feel so much better than I have for the last month or so. After realizing that the contents of my work was bothering me, I was able to address it. I addressed everything else that bothered me as well, and I realized that people really are (mostly) good. 

Some of the feelings I faced were tough to navigate through because I’m insecure, but after some self-reflection and straightforward talk from someone close to me, I realized that I’m pretty lucky. It’s easy to count the times when someone has been mean to my face, but it happens countless times here on my blog. 

I find so much encouragement here, but there’s also a lot of negativity from the trolls who are still obsessed with hating me. There only seems to be a  couple of them, but they are loud and obsessive. It’s insane and a little disturbing that people who don’t know me are willing to waste so much energy obsessively hating me. It’s weird, but it makes me feel so sorry for them. I mean, how much does your life have to suck to be obsessed with spewing judgement and blind hatred on someone else’s? 

When I look around at my life, I see so much validation and fulfillment that didn’t always exist for me. I feel content in who I am and what I’m doing even though I still want to make changes. I think there will always be room for growth and progress, and I don’t think I’ll be a failure unless I give in to the feelings of self-doubt that I experienced last week. 

We all have bad days, and I had several in a row. When I think about the things that other people go through my issues seem pretty insignificant. My issues matter, in as much as I need to face them, but today my heart goes out to the people who are truly suffering – the people I read about at work and the people who are so consumed by hurt and anger that they target me and others like me. 

I love to write, and I love to share my feelings. It helps me grow, but I’m processing and progressing a lot right now outside of the blog. It’s hard to imagine not checking in here regularly, but it’s also not something that sounds appealing right now. 

I won’t make any hard and fast decisions, except to do what’s best for me regardless of what others think about it. 

The Slippery Slope of Temptation 

We all know that sometimes doing the right thing is hard; sometimes it just sucks. I’ve been struggling with desires that aren’t exactly in line with what God wants for me (and by ‘not exactly in line’ I mean absolutely not in line with His will.)

I used to be really closed off. I know that’s hard to believe because I’ve been spilling my guts here for years, but it’s true. I like attention, and I don’t have to work hard to get it these days. That can be a good thing, but it isn’t always. 

I’d love to say that I don’t know what draws people to desire a friendship/relationship with me when I meet them, but I know exactly what it is. I have a pretty positive outlook. I have some cool characteristics to offer. I’m friendly, sincere, and I extend a lot of grace because it’s been extended to me. I listen more than I talk, which is a relatively new characteristic for me. (I’m still striving to improve that one.) In short, I’m kind of cool, blah,blah, blah…and I love people. 

A few months ago I met someone that I had seen nearly everyday for months prior. He’s tall and handsome, and I often felt the desire to pray for him even though I didn’t know him. Earlier this year a mutual friend introduced us, and a friendship was born. There hasn’t been a single day that we’ve crossed paths without him hugging me, having a seat, and exchanging stories about our day, our past, our favorite grocery store, etc. 

He’s adorable and easy to talk to, and lately I’ve found myself struggling to keep boundaries in place in my mind even though he’s married. We have absolutely not done anything inappropriate outside of my agreement with his acknowledgment that we need to be careful with each other. We’re always in public, and we’re typically surrounded by other people that I know who come in to chat. I’ve just noticed that I think about him even when he’s not there. (I’m thinking about him now, and he’s not here.) 

I’m acknowledging this here for a couple of reasons: 1. It’s the truth, and I face the truth now even when I don’t like it, and 2. Loving Jesus doesn’t mean that life suddenly becomes perfect. Yes, He paid the price for my sins, and He extended His grace because without it, I’d be damned to hell. I’m so thankful for that, but I still struggle with doing the right thing. Right now I’m struggling more than I’d like to admit, but I’m facing it anyway. 

Religion likes to make us believe that once we become believers that we’ll no longer have problems. Religion urges us to act as though we no longer face temptation. God didn’t promise that life would be filled with sunshine and rainbows. Actually, Paul said just the opposite. In some ways, at least in this moment for me, it’s harder to fight the desire to sin. I didn’t feel tempted nearly as often when Satan wasn’t bothered by me; now he preys on my weaknesses, so I have to be on guard constantly. 

I have no plans to act on any of the thoughts that have played in my mind over the last week or so, nor will I be throwing him on the floor to do ungoldly things at any point…ever. I just won’t. I value myself more than that, and I value my relationship with God a lot more than that. There are lines that I simply won’t cross, but it would be naive of me to think that I’m immune to falling on my face if I try to deal with this without inviting God into the situation. (God knows I’ve done it a million times in different circumstances.) 

The thing is…Jesus was very clear when He said that anyone who even looks at another person lustfully has already committed adultry in his heart. (Matthew 5:28) Ouch!

God takes repentance very seriously, yet I seem to be struggling with turning away from my sinful thoughts (which include a desire for more attention from him among other things.) Confessing these feelings won’t change anything unless I stop giving them space in my mind, yet I’m having trouble wanting to do that too. 

The man is often at a place that I frequent, and that won’t likely change in the immediate future. I like him. I want to be his friend. I want him to experience the love and grace that I’ve experienced since getting to know Jesus. I just need to get out of the way so that can happen. 

Proverbs 19:23 says that the fear of the Lord leads to life, and He who has it will abide in satisfaction. In Monte’s sermon yesterday, which was timely, he said that living satisfied is a choice. Jesus is all I need, and I know that if I focus on Him, he’ll work this out just as He has in every other situation. 

My goal is to focus on who He is, to worship Him, and to fill my mind with gratitude for that and all He’s doing. He’ll just have to take care of the rest, and He will because, you know, He’s God and everything. 

Embracing My Selfie, Or Why I Take Lots of Pictures of Myself

I’ve been taking selfies since before they had a name. I avoided the camera for years, but at some point on my journey through life, it became common for me to snap photos of myself.

Kenlie

Last week I got to spend time with a long time blog friend, Cathy, who was in New Orleans visiting for a conference. When she told me about her upcoming trip, we knew we’d meet up, and we did. We met at Cafe Dumonde, where I resisted beignets. (Yay for me!) We also walked around Jackson Square, which is the prettiest part of the French Quarter in my opinion.

This woman has been my friend since at least 2010. The moment I saw her, it was like seeing someone that I hadn't seen in ages!

This woman has been my friend since at least 2010. The moment I saw her, it was like seeing someone that I hadn’t seen in ages!

As we walked down Royal St, we stopped at CVS to pick up a few things, and I found a selfie stick! I obviously bought it on the spot, and it’s the best $10 I’ve spent in a while. I haven’t used it to take any selfies because doing that would be ridiculous, but I’ve been in some hilarious group photos that wouldn’t have been possible without my Mono Pod de Narcissism.

I’m surrounded by an uplifting group of friends, many of whom take selfies, with exception of a few because they’re too narcissistic, and I understand that. I really do, and even though I kind of agree, I look at it from a different perspective.

There was a time when I hated myself so much that i avoided mirrors at all costs. I looked at myself long enough to style my hair and apply makeup, but I was mortified when I caught my reflection in store windows. I hated the way I looked in photos. I still took them, but I didn’t post them online because of my shame. For years the only photo that I had one Facebook was a picture of my hair blowing in the wind while driving with the top down. I didn’t want to be seen by others, nor did I want to take a look at myself either.

Sometimes I take full body photos to send to Ariel, so she can say yes to the outfit or no.

Sometimes I take full body photos to send to Ariel, so she can say yes to the outfit or no.

Now, years later, I’m still not skinny, but I love myself. I’m not pleased with myself for still having so much weight to lose, but I love myself. I haven’t accomplished every goal that I set yet, but I love myself. (You get the idea, right?)

Full body Selfie Lane Bryant

I also think that it’s okay to wear horizontal stripes even though I always hear that I shouldn’t. Whatever, folks. I’m doing it.

Sometimes when I take a selfie, I’m reminded of how much work I have to do. It’s also hard to accept the fact that I could have done so much more over the last few years. Those thoughts are important to face because it has helped me make better decisions over the last few months – decisions that bring me closer to my goal.

Gym Selfie

I was frustrated seeing myself in the giant gym mirrors when I took this around the holidays because I should be smaller now, then I remembered that I was in the gym doing something good for myself. I like capturing those moments.

Some days I post selfies because I want to hear that I’m cute, pretty, etc., and when that happens I admit it with proper hashtags. #PAYATTENTIONTOME

See? I have some pretty uplifting friends who encourage me when I need it.

See? I have some pretty uplifting friends who encourage me when I need it.

And some days (many lately) I take selfies because I feel pretty. I’ve been using a few products on my face since Christmas, and the result is that my makeup is still mostly in tact even after singing (sweating guts out) on Sunday morning. (Thank you, Smashsbox Photo Finish!)

Kenlie Naps

I took this selfie last week right before I took a long afternoon nap on my sofa. Sundays start early for me, so sometimes I nap.

Some people find success, at least temporarily, by tearing themselves down. I feel successful when I see myself and love the person that I see.

I have a lot to accomplish, and I’m happy to say that I’ve lost week for the last five weeks in a row. It may not sound like much, but I’m experiencing more consistency in my food choices than I have in a long time. I haven’t had a doughnut since September, and I haven’t indulged in any desserts in over two weeks.

I’m feeling good about my tiny steps in the right direction, and the selfies will continue to be a small representation of that. They might also lead to encouragement from people who care on days that I need that too.

Kenlie Car

How do you feel about selfies? Are they good? Bad? Do you care either way?

 

 

Forgiveness Isn’t Always Easy, But It’s Always Right

I’m generally pretty open about my feelings, but there are times in which I know I shouldn’t bother sharing them because they’ll fall on deaf ears.

Recently a friend made me angry and hurt my feelings pretty severely. While that friend probably didn’t do it on purpose, they have a tough time accepting responsibility for their own actions. That person blames everyone else for everything that’s wrong, and they don’t view life from the same scope as I do.

If I offend someone I want to know so I have a chance to fix it. I don’t like knowing that someone feels hurt or angry due to something I’ve done whether I think I’m right or not. I care about people, and sometimes I’m forced to recognize that they don’t care back. It’s part of life, and I’ve been on both sides of that situation.

Right now I’m too angry/aggravated to talk about it with that person, but I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. I also know that it probably won’t be well-received (because, again, it’s always someone else’s fault,) which makes me think that I shouldn’t bother.

I’ve been a selfish jerk before, and I’ve received more grace than I could ever deserve. I forgive the person who made me feel like crap, and I know that I need to make some changes in my friendship with them. I know that you can only do so much to care for a person before you realize that it won’t change anything.

Sometimes people suck. The fact is that God forgave each of us for every horrible thing we did and will do, and forgiving the person who hurt me is nothing in comparison to that.

Forgiveness isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary to live a peaceful life. I’m not sure when or if I’ll be able to convey my thoughts to the person who upset me, but I do know that I need to forgive and move on.

I’m working on it…