Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What I Learned By Being Still

It's too bad I don't live in a more beautiful place. 

I thought I was going to die.

I was asked to sit QUIETLY FOR 45 MINUTES in the chapel, as part of a class. 

My skeptical mind kicked into panic: Um, is that even possible?  

So I tackled the task as any Type A would: Get some action items. NOW.

I scanned the chapel for potential activities.  Oh goodie, I can light a candle!  Oooh make it 3 candles!  And look!  I can scribble a prayer request!  In fact, I will write a novel of a prayer request! 

Relief washed over me as I accomplished my time-killing tasks.  I would be ok.  Then I glanced at the clock.  Seven minutes had passed.     

Uh oh.

Then I remembered that I brought my journal.  Hallelujah!  I will write like the wind!  I will sketch portraits of my classmates!  I will start a grocery list!  Oh the possibilities are endless!   

Feeling restored, with a smile on my face, I found an empty seat, made my myself comfortable, and breathed a sigh of relief as I began to write.

Except…huh.  That’s funny.  My pen wasn’t working. 

It was working earlier that day.  But now it’s broken???

I sat there for a second, beyond irritated.  Then my annoyance turned to amusement.  In fact, this crazy lady started giggling in the chapel.   

And that’s when I heard a loving message: Just be with me.  That’s all.

So I did.  I let go of the need to do, to just be. 

I sat there, so touched by this thought, that tears began to mix with laughter.

That was last February. Since then, I’ve become much better at slowing my pace, and being still.

Lately, I’ve been craving a lot of stillness.

This season of quiet has taught me three valuable lessons:

1. I like me. I think I’m pretty neat.  Sometimes I get so crazy busy with my life, that forget this very important fact. 

2. I learn my most valuable lessons in stillness.  Incredible ideas have arisen during this time.  Most importantly, I have a new clarity on what I truly need in my life. 

3. I can’t hear God in the noise.  He wants me to slow down, and enjoy being with Him. 

This week, I invite you to take some time not to do, but to be.  

All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone. – Blaise Pascal

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
 my hope comes from him. – Psalm 62:5

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why Change Doesn't Suck

Look at all this beautiful organization.
Do I sometimes open my closet doors
just to stare? Yes. Yes I do.

I’ve been making a lot of changes in my life.  

From cleaning my closet (truly a masterpiece of color-coded perfection), to a new career (I’m bursting to share that news very soon), to carefully choosing my friends (with some unfortunate goodbyes).

Thankfully, change is easy, painless, and lots of fun.

Said no one ever.

Changes are challenging.

And I’m no stranger to life modifications (thank you, thesaurus).  My philosophy has been, hey, that’s not working for me, so let’s:

Get a new job! 
Leave that relationship!

Not all of those choices were good decisions.  The one thing they did have in common: they were hard.  And I liked to complain about just how hard they were.

I’m seeing things differently now.  One of the most impactful adjustments I’ve made is changing my perspective.  Because everything that’s led me to this exact moment in my life is due to the growth I’ve experienced through change.  

So maybe, while change can still be extremely challenging, I can find joy in the process.  

Look, I will never downplay my downright horrific cross-country move with my giant dog kennel and 3 bursting suitcases all by myself.  But maybe I can embrace it.  Revel in it.  Get all down and dirty in it.   

And see change for what it truly is: Opportunity.  Growth.  Progress.

Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of scene. – AC Benson

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thirteen Years Later

I was walking to work in Times Square the morning of September 11th, 2001.

This adventurous little Hawaiian moved to the Big Apple after college to pursue big city dreams.  And I hit the jackpot- I somehow got a job at MTV, the coolest brand in the universe.  I felt incredibly lucky- I worked with fun people at a fun company in New York City.  I was living the life.  

I clutched my Kate Spade bag as I arrived at my building on 44th and Broadway. The elevator ascended swiftly to the 13th floor.  

When I emerged, I noticed something odd: no one was at their desks.  I turned the corner and saw a group of colleagues in the conference room, crowded around the television.  

As I walked in someone whispered: A plane struck the World Trade Center.

We sat in reverent silence as we watched the news, awaiting updates.  The question on all of our minds: What happened?  How could a commercial airliner have crashed into that mammoth building?

No one thought it was anything more than a horribly unfortunate error.  My friend Shirley told me I should call my parents, just in case. Though it was 3 am in Hawaii, I woke up my mom to assure her that this plane crash was at least a few miles from me:

Mom, I’m fine.  Just wanted to let you know.

But then, the second plane hit.  The mood shifted from sadness to uneasiness.

Maybe it wasn’t an error at all.  Maybe we were under attack. 

A wave of panic washed over the room.

We desperately watched the news, and struggled to determine next steps. There weren’t any manuals for a situation like this. 

We waited for an announcement over the intercom, a fire alarm— something-- but nothing came. Tension was rising in the room when my boss announced that everyone should evacuate the building immediately. 

September 11th was a beautiful, sunny day in New York City.  I was wearing a steel blue blouse, black cotton pencil skirt, and four-inch heels.  It was a challenge as I descended the thirteen flights of stairs.

We rushed into the streets, where huge crowds of people were milling around, equally stunned and confused.  Not sure what to do or where to go, my friend Brad suggested we head north.  The trains had stopped running, so we trekked 50 blocks to his apartment on the Upper East Side.   

A few minutes into our journey, my friend whose cell phone was still working, announced that one of the buildings had fallen.  We walked in disbelief as the situation seemed to get worse with every minute.    

We were glued to the television at Brad’s house.  When it was clear there wouldn't be any immediate answers, I decided to start walking home to Queens.  It would be a long journey, as I would be heading from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, across the Queensboro Bridge, to Astoria.  

Some memories are still so vivid: I clearly remember Brad assessing my terrible shoe situation, and handing me his much-too-big slippers to wear instead.  While awkward, they were a welcome relief to four-inch heels.

The next few days were somber and confusing.  Should I go to work? Are we safe?  Why did this happen?

I’d love to tell you that I tried to find the positive in the situation.  But at the time, all I remember is feeling completely terrified.

Thirteen years later, as I reflect on my experience living in New York on 9/11, time has given me the gift of perspective.  

It would be so easy to dwell on the evil.

I’m focusing on the light.

I remember the compassion and kindness of New Yorkers.

I remember hundreds of people lining up around the block to give blood. 

I remember total strangers, grief on their faces, yet nodding with encouragement as we walked across the Queensboro Bridge, with smoke rising from the towers in the distance.

I remember the overwhelming feeling that we were all in this together.

I remember the light.

Today as you reflect on this momentous day in our history, I pray that you find peace and love. 

And look for the light. 

You cannot force out the darkness; you can only bring in the light. – Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. - 1 John 1:5

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stressed Beyond Belief

Ahhhh....a gorgeous sunset will always 
turn my day around. 

Something very interesting happened last week (and by interesting, I mean terrifying). 

What happened? This Type-A-I-Can-Do-It-All Wonder Woman decided she could handle 15 gigantic tasks, all at the same time.   They were ALL urgent (we're #1!), required my immediate attention (NOW, lady, NOW!), and nothing could be dropped (hey-I’m no quitter!)

Except I couldn’t handle it all.  

In the middle of the night, I awoke to a raaaaaaacing heart.  Unfortunately, this pounding-heart-is-that-an-earthquake-oh-no-that’s-just-me sensation was terrifyingly familiar because it occurred frequently during my divorce.  In other words, one of the most traumatic times of my life.  

I needed to address my stress, so I quickly implemented Operation Stop Freaking Out:
  1. Breathe. 
  2. Pray. Hard.
  3. Reach out to friends and ask them to pray for me. 
  4. Make a list of everything on my mind (this whole Type A thing can come in handy too) 
Scanning the list of All The Ridiculous Things I Committed To made it abundantly clear why I was anxious—I was drowning in an ocean of Yesses. 

And something had to give.  Though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what.  

In that moment, I realized I had a choice: Continue being Stressed Beyond Belief, or…not.  


When I looked at the situation from this new angle, my choice became simple.

I said no to being overwhelmed, and I said yes to me.

Looking back, I’m happy that I started to unravel. 

Because sometimes, in my quest to do it all, I lose myself.  And since I’m incredibly stubborn, I needed a shocking wake up call to inspire change. 

So today, I’m remembering that it's ok to say no.  

And to breathe.    

*How do you de-stress?  I'd love to hear from you, please share in the comments below.*

If we want things about our lives to change, we have to change the way we use the two most powerful words: yes and no. -Lysa TerKeurst

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth  I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.  I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  - Psalm 61:1-4

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

That's Not My Name

Hello my name is Kalei

It was a beautiful morning, so I loaded my dog Daisy into my car and headed to my favorite hiking trail.  After a serene and peaceful workout, I returned to my car and checked my phone.  

There was an urgent email from a colleague I’ve worked with for many years.  The email began: 

Dear Kaleigh…

[Screeching record halt]

I’m sorry who?  

A tad annoyed, I immediately responded: 

Hi Jake, I’m Hawaiian, not Irish. 


(Confession: I spent at least 10 minutes debating whether I should address him as JHAYKE.  I ultimately decided that yes, I’m remarkably clever, but no, that was a bit snarky). 

He responded, Ok I’ll try to remember that next time.  

Huh? I thought. No big deal, guy, it’s just MY NAME.

A few minutes later, a new voicemail popped up.  I pressed play and was greeted with this: 

Hello, um…Kay-lee?  I’m calling about…


Anxious to shake it off and get my day started, I arrived at my neighborhood Starbucks.  When I made it up to the counter, I took a deep breath. 

Me: Good morning!

Starbucks Guy: Hi Kalei. 

He not only pronounced my name correctly, he spelled it perfectly on my little white cup. (If you’re thinking, wow she must live at Starbucks.  Yes.  Yes she does).

I couldn’t help but smile.  After my I-don’t-care-what-your-name-is morning, someone took the time to know my name.  To know me. 

My name and I are synonymous- it’s my identity, my truth. Hearing it (pronounced correctly, which is an entirely different story), makes my heart sing. 

I love Dale Carnegie’s Success Tip: Remember that a person’s name to that person is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

I know I have an unusual name that’s difficult to pronounce.  My point is this: I appreciate when an effort is made.  It tells me you care. 

Do you have an unusual name?  Or maybe you’ve been called by the wrong name?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below (especially my fellow Hawaiian peeps). 

What's in a name? that which we call a rose 
By any other name would smell as sweet.
- William Shakespeare

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
- Isaiah 43:1

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Uncertainty Sucks

There is one thing that's certain:
my nieces are the cutest things ever. 

I’m not a fan of uncertainty.  Never have been.

Even as a kid, if I was told at the last minute to Get in the car, we’re headed to a birthday party!, I’d FREAK OUT.  

Me: But I didn't know about this!  It’s not on my calendar!
Mom: You’re 6.  Calm down.

I’m a planner.  If it were up to me, I’d know exactly what was going to happen every minute of every day for the rest of my life.

Having certainty gives me peace.  I like knowing exactly what’s going to happen next.

Except I don’t always know.  Because life doesn’t work that way.  

The truth is, there will always be uncertainty.  

So, I've come to a challenging conclusion: I might as well find peace.

See, I originally set out to write 10 Things You Can Do To Be At Peace.  I ended up staring at my computer for a long time.  Then I attempted what turned out to be truly horrible writing (Smile! Go hiking! Hold a baby!).

I kept coming back to one thing.   Pray.

(Maybe you're howling, Cop out! and rolling your eyes.  I get it, I was annoyed too.  Hello, you said 10 Things!  Come on, Kekuna, you're better than this!) 

But I couldn’t.  Because that was my best answer.  Prayer.

Let me be clear that my prayers won't be found in any church pew anytime soon.

Because I pray boldly authentic, heart-gushing, crazy-time prayers.

I mean, sometimes they're sweet and cuddly: God, that sunset was freaking GORGEOUS! You are so creative! Thank you for all this beauty! Amen!

But sometimes, my prayers are gut-wrenching hail storms: God this SUCKS and I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO and I’m TERRIFIED and and and...I HATE this!  But. I trust you. 


Trust that has brought me peace.   

I used to think anxiety was a normal part of life.  I was wrong.

Thank God for that.

Peace begins with a smile.  - Mother Teresa
We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.  -Dalai Lama
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What the Heck is Going On?

I saw this on my morning walk the other day and just
stood there, completely mesmerized.  What a great
reminder that in darkness, there's always, always light. 

I was going to tell you a story about my 6am morning walk, where I was worrying about 457 legitimately worrisome things, when all of a sudden I felt something super sticky splat on my right ear, which turned out to be not bird poop, but something worse: tree sap (tree sap?!) from a pine tree I was walking under (did you know sap just, like, falls from trees?!) which has never happened to me before in the history of my life, and it took me a good HOUR to scrub the unbelievably sticky crap off my ear AND out of my hair because, guess what, friends, soap doesn’t do P. Diddy squat except create an exceptionally sticky paste, so I had to Google how to remove tree sap from your skin and hair and who knew but apparently the answer is cooking oil, so I frantically searched my kitchen cupboards for the best smelling cooking oil I could find, and now the tree sap is thankfully gone but I smell like a Tuscan olive oil-basted christmas tree as I make my way to a business lunch.
I guess I needed to get that off my chest.
Clearly, there’s a lot going on in my head.  And no wonder- there’s a lot going on in the world.  That’s why, apart from my little tree sap story, I had a hard time sharing something light and fluffy. 
There’s a lot of sad and scary stuff happening.  Plane crashes, genocide, hurricanes, suicide. 
A friend shared with me that’s she’s just angry.  I get it, because I’m confused, upset, worried.  
The world can be depressing.
So one option is to hide myself from the world, and hole up in my apartment where it’s clean and safe and quiet.  I don’t have to shower, I can lay around in my bathrobe, work from my couch, order a large Dominos Pizza. (Not that I’ve ever done that.  This is purely hypothetical).
But that’s not life.
I wish I had answers.  But I don’t.
So instead, I’m trying to see this as an opportunity. 
To love.
To be kind.
To lend a hand to a stranger.
To listen when a friend needs to talk. 
To be peaceful amidst chaos.
To be light when the world is dark.
To see the good when it’s so easy to see the bad.
To not lose hope.
I choose to combat the craziness- with love, light and hope.  I invite you to join me.   
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.  -Isaiah 40:31
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. - Desmond Tutu
Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear.  If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. - Thich Nhat Hanh