Reflecting on the Future: Northern Ireland Part 3

Since the first time I left Northern Ireland in 2009, I have been scheming to find ways to return. At first, I planned a vacation in 2010, then after that I began applying to work for a Christian-based conflict and reconciliation center for peace. That opportunity, which I had really had my heart set on, quickly closed its door. Discouraged, I began to think about graduate school and started pursuing options to study in Northern Ireland again. The last time I was over in Northern Ireland, I met with a recruiter from a well-known university. Being a college recruiter myself, I wanted her to tell me how to make my dreams come true and move back to Northern Ireland. Much to my dismay, she told me exactly the opposite:

“With your interests and career goals, we just don’t have any degree programs to match that.” 

I nodded my head in silence as I watched my dreams fly away. I asked the recruiter what she suggested. She told me to pursue a degree in the States that more closely match my career aspirations. “If you’re meant to return back to Northern Ireland, Kari, you will.”

Those words both stung and encouraged me. They sting because I think I know what I want, and I don’t want anyone to tell me about what I’m “meant to do”. They encourage because I am not in control and sometimes that’s a huge relief.

I’ve recently been struggling through the question: how do I look forward and plan without worshipping the future?

I’m really good at creating idols. Most recently, my idols come in the form of decision making, future plans, and the all-power “What’s next?” I feel like I’m currently in a season of life where my “what’s next” is totally up in the air. I still have the desire to move back to Northern Ireland one day, but I don’t know if that’s in the cards. I want to get my master’s degree, I’m just not sure when or where.

I’ve come to realize that I have a choice in whether to worship the future or worship God. It’s a matter of me continually learning to trust the Lord with my plans and realizing that the things that I think I want maybe aren’t as good as the things that He has for me. It’s a tough place for me to be in as I’m a planning and want to know what my future holds. However, it’s a beautiful thing when I am willing to submit to the Lord and allow him to sanctify me through the waiting.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to him and he will make your path straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

Reflecting on my Sin: Northern Ireland Part 2

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I am not a reflective person. I don’t like to circle my thoughts around one specific topic or event. I think I just get bored really quickly. However, I will be the first one to tell you that I have a desire to be more reflective in my approach to doing life. The results of me sitting down and thinking through certain events or processing with a friend are certainly productive, and I can see how God uses these moments to allow me to grow in Christ-like character. Here are the results of one of my most recent processing sessions after my trip to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is a restful place. It’s a place with little anxiety and stress. However, during my last trip, there were moments of reflection, particularly on my sin.

I get it, God. I’m a broken person; I am a sinner. I have a deep, deep need for a Savior and for redemption. I understand the Gospel. I know, God.

But do I, really? Do I really realize how broken I really am? When push comes to shove, would I introduce myself as a “sinner” to someone I just met? Do I understand really how deep my need for the Lord is?

For some reason, when I travel, I feel like I can just leave my sin at home in Minneapolis. Leaving the physical place where I “do life” detaches me from my sin there. I convince myself that I am immune to sin when I am on the road. It’s not that I consider myself “perfect” by any means, but rather, I just don’t see myself as broken. I don’t feel the weight of my sin nearly has much as I do at home.

This particular reflection came to me during one evening after a fun-filled day with friends. I remember lying in bed and feeling like a ton of bricks had hit me. Without giving too much detail, I had a couple interactions with people early that day that made me think more than once “Wow, this entire world is broken. There are sinners living here, not just in Minneapolis.”

For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
Romans 14:7-9

I understand how silly a thought that is. My head knows. It completely understands that this entire world is a fallen world and sin has entered it and will not be fully redeemed until Jesus returns. But it wasn’t until that moment that I truly felt my emptiness without Christ. I remember there being a pit in my stomach, tears falling from my eyes and praying to the Lord to forgive me for neglecting to understand my extreme need for a Lord and Savior, who is mighty to save. And there was grace received.

Reflecting on Community: Northern Ireland Part 1

Aside

Just over four years ago, I studied abroad in Northern Ireland. It was there that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I still remember those months as being some of the hardest, most joyful, most eye-opening days of my life. God used that time to not only give me abundant life, but also to give me amazing gifts. I have had the opportunity to return to Northern Ireland twice since leaving in 2009 and each time I return, I learn something more about myself, my friends abroad, and the Lord. Most recently, I was in Northern Ireland visiting friends, two of whom were getting married. I was asked to be apart of their ceremony as their Scripture reader, and I couldn’t decline such a beautiful invitation.

Arriving

There is always this haunting calmness that comes over me when I go back to Ireland. I’m a rather anxious person, so when don’t feel stressed, I know that it is something special. One of my friends, Ruth, picked me up from the airport in Belfast, Ireland. I saw her and skipped over to give her the biggest hug someone could give after not seeing such a close friend in over three years. We didn’t have too much time to gush over the fact that I was back in her presence because we had to surprise my friend Leanna (the bride). You see, I told Leanna I was coming in on June 6th. That’s what she believed the whole time, the best kept transcontinental secret ever. When Leanna saw me standing next to the car when picking her up, she was speechless. It was really one of those “fist pumping” moments to hear her say over and over again, “I can’t believe you’re here.”

After a weekend in Dublin with loads of banter, a week in Belfast doing life and a wedding to boot, I was overwhelmed by the amount of love and selflessness that my friends showed me. It was over three years since I had seen them, but the moment I stepped off the plane, it’s like the piece of my heart that had been missing since 2009 was returned.

The Importance of Community

My friends in Northern Ireland made me realize the importance of intentionality with my community, both near and far. Without the time and effort they invested into an overseas relationship with me, everything we had come to create in our friendship would have fallen by the wayside. If we hadn’t been texting, skyping, facebooking and emailing, I would have been so concentrated on getting to know everyone all over again, that I wouldn’t have been able to cherish “doing life” with them.

I hope to take this lesson and apply them to my community in Minneapolis. I want to be more intentional about investing in my small group, my friends from college and my colleagues at work. I want to be able to cherish every moment with them as people who I care deeply about, rather than letting relationships die off. My community is too important to me to let that happen and by God’s grace alone, I won’t let that happen.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10: 24-25

We are called to be intentional with one another. We are called to live with one another through our joys and our sorrows. We are called to hold one another accountability. I feel honored and blessed to have people that I’m able to be intentional with, and by God’s grace, I won’t take that for granted.

Happy birthday, Leanna.

Dear Leanna,

You were exactly what my soul needed when I first met you 3 years ago. I distinctly remember the moment we met. Ackey had come to pick Kelsey and I up UUJ to bring us back to North Street for Youth Service. He introduced you to us, you promptly moved seats to sit right next to me. I have to be honest, I was so tense and nervous being there that night, but you my lovely friend, you were the best. I knew from that night we were going to be friends, at least for the time I was living in Northern Ireland.

Our very first picture together. 🙂

Then something happened. God happened. You spoke so much truth into my life those five months, I’m sure you hardly realize how much of an impact your words had on me. You were one of the first Christ-centered women I have ever met and there was a glow about you that lit up the room when you walked in. I wanted to have what you had. And it was apparent that you had Christ. The Lord used you as a vessel to bring me back to Him. That has changed my life.

Seatbelt models for the WIN!

There was a moment I knew we were going to be besties forever. That moment was when you and Gav brought over the scale to weigh my bags. We had “said our goodbyes” the night before after eating out in Belfast and I cried. I cried hard, but I sensed a calm coming over me when I hugged you. It was one of those times that God clearly told me “don’t worry, you’ll be back with her”. It was amazing and it made me not feel so distraught. It made me feel like God clearly brought me to Northern Ireland as broken as I was to be mended by friends, who have since turned into precious family. When you and Gav had come over the next day with the scale, we just talked. We talked like we were old friends. We made little mention of when I we would see each other again, but I think deep down, we both knew it wouldn’t be long.

Just one of your many talents.

And it wasn’t. You came to Minneapolis. And it was EPIC. Between dinners out, shopping at the mall of america, chipotle, walking around the lake in the dark, eating oreo ice cream, and taking loads of pictures in the sculpture gardens, we were exhausted. But I was more refreshed than I had ever felt. And still, we said our goodbyes and I think we both knew it wouldn’t be long again until we were together.

Your first glimpse of MOA!

And it wasn’t. It was only a year later that I hopped on a jet plane and headed back to Northern Ireland. Within that year and a half that I was in Minneapolis and you were in Carrick, we grew close. I told you my struggles with school, relationships, boys, God, prayer, everything. You knew these things about me and you didn’t judge me. And I started learning awesome things about you, like your love for medical school and being a doctor, and doing medical missions in Nigeria. We then promised if you ever end up doing your own mission over there, I would be there to run sport and just love on the children. I’m still praying for this to happen.

oh, remember that one time in London?

Then I got to Northern Ireland. And I waited one week for you to get there. And it was the longest week of my life knowing that I was somehow in Northern Ireland and you weren’t. Then you came home from Nigeria and you were such a champ that first night. You wanted to be in bed so badly, I could tell, but alas, you did what a best friend does, stayed up and tried to talk through your sleepy eyes. Thank you for that. Those next two weeks were filled with more love than I had ever experienced ever in my whole entire life. Our late night chats at Roo’s were amazing. Our road trip to your Granny and Grandad’s was one of the most treasured memories I will ever have with you. Just you and me. It just seemed right. Oh and boooooyyyyyyfrrrrriiiieeeennnnndddd and ccuuuuuuuttttttteeeee. Remember?

This will always be one of my most favorite pictures of us.

And then I left to go home. I cried the entire trip home, not because I didn’t think we were ever going to see each other again (because let’s get real, that’s an insane thought), but because for the first time in my life I had felt so comfortable with someone who I was able to tell anything to, any struggle, any heart issue, any silly thing, and would not judge me. You, Leanna, have taught me how to be vulnerable. What an amazing gift you’ve given to me.

and this is my most favorite picture of the 3 of us. I have pretty besties.

So now after 3 years of beautiful, wonderful, amazing, God-given friendship, I continue to praise the Lord for bringing you into my life. You were my first real glimpse of a what a gospel friend does: encourages you toward the Lord even when I don’t want to move that way. Your love for silliness, fashion, cute coats from the kids section, missions, medicine, cheryl cole, late night tesco runs at night, mid-day mcdonalds runs, sitting the car park in the pouring rain, anytime dance parties to lady gaga in the kitchen, the lonely island boys, and God have me give thanks to the Lord for creating you exactly the way you are. You my friend, are brilliant.

🙂

Happy birthday, Leanna, bestiefromanothercountry. My prayer for you is that your sole reliance will continue to come from God and God alone, and that you never lose your love for life. I pray that God blesses you today and everyday after.

Love,

Kari

The awesome of Fall.

Here are my top 5 reasons that Fall is my favorite season ever and it should be yours as well.

1.) Lovely Weather: This kind of weather has so many positives. Mostly, I love this weather because it reminds me of Northern Ireland. It’s the kind of weather where it’s a-okay to wear cuffed jeans, a short sleeve shirt and a cardigan or sweatshirt. It’s not too hot. It’s not too cold. It’s just right. Also, it’s the perfect walking and running weather-my muscles love me because it’s warm enough to keep them from cramping, but cool enough to keep from sweating. Let’s get real, what girl really likes to sweat?

2.) Hot Apple Cider: Need I say more?

3.) The leaves are changing!!: Autumn colors are my favorite colors. I love maroons and golds and mustard yellows, and bright reds all put together. I feel lucky to live in the midwest because we actually get to see the leaves change colors and allow it to give us a whole new perspective on life.

4.) My birthday: I love my birthday, a lot. This year, the official first day of fall is on September 23rd. I get to celebrate me and fall?! What an awesome day!

5.) Apple pie à la mode: Apple pie is one of my absolute favorite desserts and since apples are in season in the Fall, it always, and I mean always tastes better! I can’t wait to try out some new recipes!

Honorable mentions of Fall Awesome: Football season (Go Packers!), Knee-high boot weather, open windows, cool pj weather, and the last sign of life before winter rolls in (especially in Minnesota.)

I hope you see the awesome of Fall as much as I do 🙂

An ode to Ruth Cowden. Happy Birthday!

Everyone, meet Ruth [Roo] Cowden, friend extraordinaire.
Today, Roo was born 23 years ago. This makes it her BIRTHDAY!


I met Roo over 2.5 years ago while I was studying abroad in Northern Ireland. The Lord placed her in my life because He knew that I needed a community of believers as friends who would help guide, encourage, and love me. Over the years, I have learned quite a few things about Roo.
Here are just a few.

1.) Her tick-tock addiction love has exponentially grown over the years.


2.) The Lonely Island boys are some of her favorite musical influences.

3.) She has a brother [whom I nick-] named Protein Pete and a lovely sister named Jenny. She loves them and her parents very much.

4.) She likes Cheryl Cole and has also made me like her.

5.) She is currently a graduate student at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.


6.) She is a fan of Michael Buble [sorry, I don’t know how to put the little line above the ‘e’] and we connected over this.

7.) She’s always up for an adventure be it zorbing, road-tripping, eating McDonalds in the car park by the marina, watching The Lonely Island until someone falls asleep, or dancing in the kitchen to Lady Gaga.


8.) She showed me the light when she took me to Boojum last summer. Now if only she will come try Chipotle.

9.) She blesses and encourages others like it’s her job.


10.) She loves the Lord and loves people.

Happy Birthday to one of the best friends a girl could ever ask for. I’m celebrating you and our friendship today. Lots of love to you. TIA.
Te Amo, my friend.