Two of the Biggest Mistakes I Have Made

Mistake No. 1: I think I can change people.

“Wait..then why do I even do what I do?” “How can I make an impact?” “What is the point?” I ask myself.
At the end of the day, the most I can be to someone is someone of influence. And that is enough. By being there, by sharing what I am passionate about, my sharing my faith, just my demeanor and presence can have an impact on someone. I can’t twist their arm, get inside their head, and create a change. Lasting change is a gift from above; and it comes from within. So in the meantime, I can be the change that I want to see in others. At the very least they will observe that I do things differently, and perhaps become influenced by the example that I set.
As it pertains to myself, I find that it is the closest circle of people I associate with that influence my actions (for the better, or the worse). Which, yes, can cause me to change overtime, but true change comes from within. I’m often a stubborn person, I don’t like change. Once I get settled into a routine, I am pretty tight fisted about it. But because I am saved by grace, there is a world of opportunity for me that exists in the sphere of change.

Mistake No. 2: I think I can’t change how I feel.

Let me start off by saying this: feelings are a good thing. It means I still have a pulse. However, when things get intense in my life, I have a tendency to be dramatic (sometimes I like to say “theatrical,” because dramatic gets a bad rep).

In the past, I have dragged out feelings and held onto moments of hurt in my life for far too long. Yet, it was my choice to do those things.
Sometimes it is hard to let go of pain from the past. For me, that pain was a crutch, a crutch that reminded me everyday that I didn’t deserve to be treated right, fairly, or respectfully. When someone does have a foot injury and has to use crutches, it is nearly impossible to go anywhere without them. With every step taken, the crutches follow. They have to. Weaning off of the crutches can be painful at first, but it is an important step to complete and total healing.
Healing is a choice, and a difficult one at that. I have this phrase that I totally made up called “wax on water.” Basically I picture pouring water on a wax candle; and how the water cannot possibly penetrate the outside layer of wax. Scientifically, it just. wont. happen. If I can make myself this wax candle, every bad situation, mean jeer, or strike that comes my way will not get under my skin and it will roll off of me like wax on water. The faster I change how I react to a situation and how I feel about something that has happened to me, the quicker it is to get over it. When I let things sit and fester, then I question myself, my actions, my worth, and my relationships.
My Dad always says “you can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.” So I ask myself: are my reactions and words the taste of something sweet or bitter? Stay on the sweet side of things. ❤
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Just Say Yes

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What would happen if we just said yes?

“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 20:16 (KJV)

There is blessing and promise on the other side of discomfort. When I choose to say yes every day, to keep living a life full of the fruits of the spirit, then I have the power to impact the lives of those who see me living. Just by living in The Spirit of God, to say yes to Him every day, I am set apart. I am chosen and called to say yes.

The NYPL Building, 5th Ave

About a year ago, I was attending the She Is Free women’s conference my church Liberty Church hosts every year in New York City. Ordinarily, I would offer to volunteer, but it was my first time attending the conference and I wanted to “not miss a single thing” and wanted to get the “full experience.” A couple of my close friends, Louisa and Trish, asked me a few times to volunteer and I politely declined. After a few more asks, I felt a tug on my heart to just take the leap and volunteer. And boy was I glad I did. My station was in the green room, which was where the speakers and hosts of the conference spent some down time in between sessions. Not only did I get to meet and speak with some of the leaders whose books I’ve read and podcasts I listen to,  but I received a word from Kris Vallotton that would ultimately change my entire experience at the conference. Because I was expectant and because I had said yes to volunteering, I was at the right place and the right time to receive that word. Kris looked at me, and he saw me. He said yes to stepping out in boldness, and gave me a word of encouragement. He said I was a dreamer (…and then I broke down crying… because obviously…). At the end of the day, my ability to say “yes” is not just for me, but for someone else.

So today, I say yes. Yes to stepping out of my comfort zone. Yes to something I would normally turn down. Yes to something that I don’t feel like doing. And it’s not enough to say yes once, but I need to keep saying yes. I need to actively choose to do the things that push my boundaries and push me out of my comfort zone. I need to actively choose to be bold, to be a bit more curious, to be living and leading a life that that this world calls a bit “odd”.

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The Importance of Rest

This weekend, I had the opportunity to take a quick trip out to the beach with some girl friends. For me, the goal whenever I go somewhere for the weekend, especially the beach, is to “force” myself into a slower-paced and relaxing environment. Whether it be diving deeper into reading and prayer time (or – let’s be real – a full 8 hours of sleep).

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If I’m not careful, I end up filling my schedule with back to back activity. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good full filled social day. In fact, that is what is most tempting for me: to fill my schedule with coffee-dates or rooftop cocktails with friends. When my agenda steers from the core value or rest, I am not able to reconnect with God and feel more restless when I return to the city. Matthew 11:28-29 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Consciously setting aside quiet time allows me to rejuvenate and revitalize my life.

Now, I can’t always take a weekend trip, but I can make sure I set aside a day or two for rest and re-connection in my daily life. I’d rather give 100% effort for 5 days, than 70% for 7 days. And in case you were wondering about the math, it’s 500% v. 490% ;).

I’ve included some snapshots of Ocean Grove and Asbury Park New Jersey, where the weekend trip was. Last Saturday morning, we stumble upon a mod 60’s – 70’s era type coffeeshop called High Voltage. The decor is very East Coast beaches meet the Pacific Northwest. I recommend the iced latte. Enjoy!

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1 + 1 = 7

Things aren’t adding up.
So many times in my life I have got a great momentum going and then I’ll stop for a bit and ask myself how I got there or where I am going next. I’ve reached a dead end and suddenly everything I have been doing doesn’t seem to add up. I have reached a point where my sense of direction is a bit cloudy. Anyone else with me on this?
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Well, first I am reminded of the story when Jesus first meets His disciples and asks them to drop everything they are doing to become “fishers of men.” Without questions, the disciples stop everything to follow Jesus, to complete their mission. But fish for men? That doesn’t make “logical” sense. To me. Let’s talk about the time when Jesus told the disciples to fish on the other side of the boat even after they had not caught anything all day (as if that would have changed something – and it DID! They caught so many fish that their nets began to break). Or, my personal favorite, the time He asked the Israelites to walk around the city of Jericho 7 days in a row (including 7 times on the 7th day) until the city walls fell down. On the surface, on paper, it just doesn’t make total and complete sense.
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If what you are doing today doesn’t make sense, it’s okay. If your vision is cloudy, ask for God’s wisdom. His eyes and His guiding hand for will provide discernment over your life. You will often experience months, even years of life where things don’t add up. It is only when your kingdom assignment is complete that you will be able to understand more the cloudy seasons of life.
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You have to have blind trust: even when the outcome isn’t quite clear or you really don’t see what is happening, you trust anyway. Becuase on the other side of blind trust, is the promise.
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New Territory

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Lately I have been experimenting with different forms of art: taking pictures, making videos, getting back into watercolors. By no means am I a professional, but I guess the only way to improve is through experience. I get nervous about sharing things that I create for a few reasons.
1) I don’t want to come across as someone who knows it all. After all, the more you learn the more you find out how much more there is to learn.
2) To try something new is nerving.To try something new in the public eye is even scarier. (Even if that public is just your friends and family).
But you know what? I tell myself that taking small steps to pushing boundaries is key to getting rid of fear when it comes to much more important things. Like going on that interview for a job you feel unqualified for, or taking a trip alone for the first time, or signing up for that foreign language course that seems intimidating.
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With every small act of faith you will be rewarded. I am reminded of this verse: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Check out some of the recent experimental videos that I have been working on here:
Enjoy!
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Why I Go the Distance

This past Sunday, I completed the longest run of my life (by a long-shot), a marathon. As physically taxing as 26.2 miles sounds to some, so much of your experience comes from months of training beforehand both physically and mentally.

Marathon Medal

So many people I know talk about “The Wall.” This mental block that comes somewhere usually between the 18-24 mile marker (I know, 24 miles, I still laugh in disbelief at myself). By the grace of God, I didn’t hit “The Wall.” Maybe it was because I exaggerated in my head how exasperating it would be for me, maybe it was the killer playlist (definitely was the playlist), or maybe it’s becuase I walked when I felt like it (muscle cramps always get the best of you, amirite?). Most importantly, I learn how to train my mind to anticipate and counteract any sort of struggle that would come my way.

Running a marathon is more than just finishing a race that is 26.2 miles. It’s saying that you have the mental toughness to accomplish anything, even when it hurts, even when it sucks. It’s being able to say “yes” to things you don’t feel like doing and saying no to things you would rather do. It’s not shying away from the hard things in life. That is why I go the distance.

When you finish a marathon, you’re training your mind for life. It sounds weird, it sounds cliche, but all my friends who have run marathons are some of the bravest, toughest people I know. So many trials you face in life are overcome by months of preparation beforehand; and I’ve personally learned that by running long distances. A lot of people have recently asked me how to train for a half marathon, so I’ve attached a handy little “schedule” to follow (and a link to some fresh AF workout music if you need some new jam suggestions). Note that this schedule is just a suggestion and everyone trains differently for each and every run, this is what I know works for me! The most important thing is to listen to your body and not over do it. Train smarter, not harder.

Enjoy!

Are We There Yet?

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The waiting and timing of promises can be frustrating, especially when there are many unknown factors. I was reading through Isaiah this morning when it hit me that God is an artist, a creative, and a creator. (Something you always know but you see it differently some days).

He formed each and every one of us uniquely and with love. He has painted and fashioned a beautiful life for us; and all of His promises for us are ours when we choose Him and let the Holy Spirit guide us every day. Imagine an art studio, where understudies watch a seasoned master paint. The artist isn’t finished, but the students don’t know that. The artist begins to pack up for the day, clean his brushes and the students say, “so that’s it? Are you done?” The artist then replies “My work is not yet finished, and I will be back tomorrow to paint again.” Unlike the artist, the creator, the students cannot see the end vision, they cannot see the complete and beautiful painting.

How is that different when we question God’s artistry and orchestration of our lives? Isaiah 45:9 says “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter ‘what are you making?’…” (NIV).

While we are on this journey called life, trying to fulfill His purpose for the Kingdom, we need to have faith in His timing. I had this vision, where I find myself on this road trip, in the back seat of a car (probably a G-Wagon becuase this is, after-all, my daydream); and God is driving. We are in the middle of the desert, and I find myself asking God “Are we there yet?” “Have we close to our destination?” “Are we out of the desert?” “Have we reached The Promised Land?” Meanwhile, He’s driving the car, turns around and says “We will get there in time, trust me.”

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God’s timing is not our timing. When you feel yourself unfulfilled by the promises of God, know that you aren’t finished with your journey yet. Trust God on the windiest of roads, and know that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” (Philippians 1:6). Don’t be weary in your well doing.

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Time to Get Un-Funky

I’ll admit it – the last few years of my life I feel like I’ve been in a funk. Like I’ve been caught up in a routine of life, that I haven’t been living out my purpose. I feel lost and confused, like walking through a maze with a blindfold on.
For me, trying to spark up creativity can be a trying and frustrating process. Especially when everything I am drawing, painting, and writing is just a bit off, but I can’t put my finger on why. What I find is that the most passion comes from your projects, is when your work comes FROM joy, not for it. You don’t have to prove your talent to anyone, you are already so incredibly gifted. Create art from your happy heart, and your work will show your joy.
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Create because you see beauty that gives you joy, and you want to capture the moment and share it with someone else because you want them to feel the same way. It is easy to spot when someone’s work is not for themselves, and the best way to counter that and to be authentic is to find pure unfiltered and joy in what you are creating.
I was walking around one of my favorite New York neighborhoods on a cool rainy Sunday morning and snapped a photo of some Gramercy townhouses (I mean… house goals right there). I absolutely love line drawings and I wanted to share this serene moment because it reminded me why I fell in love with New York almost 10 years ago.
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You can watch a full time-lapse of the drawing here.
So ask yourself: what are the things you like to do? And more importantly, what brings you happiness in both good times and bad? Someone once said to me, “what do you love to do so much that you would do it for free?” If you are still trying to figure it out like I am, that’s okay. Answering those questions is a good place to start.
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Finding Purpose in Everything

To be frank, I reflect on my life and sometimes feel underwhelmed with my accomplishments. I feel like my life is at a stand still, nothing is happening and the world can just move on without missing what I have to offer.

As I read more of other’s success stories, learn more about how thought leaders have overcome challenges, and study the lives of entrepreneurs; I find that it is the spirit of resilience that has carried them through seasons of stillness. They are resilient, knowing that endurance is a direct byproduct of challenge. One of my favorite speakers, Bianca Juarez Olthoff, states it beautifully in her new book, Play With Fire (which, I totally recommend buying and reading immediately if you want to learn anything about dealing with frustration). “We all go through desert seasons and have the opportunity to determine how we will respond.” It is in our hands how we react to stillness and frustrations in our lives. One of my favorite excerpts in Romans to recite when I feel like I’m losing my nerve comes from Chapter 5. “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (NIV). 

In my mind I know I want to impact lives in some way, but I don’t know what that looks like just yet and it is beyond frustrating at times. Be on the lookout (or, as my mother likes to say “BOLO”) for areas where there is room for growth, and areas where you already have grown. Having the ability to identify what skills you gain as a result of being tried and tested is of upmost importance. Plus, it is a source of encouragement.

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New York is more than just a place I live. It is a place that lives me energy in times of exhaustion, it gives me hope when I feel burnt out. Just exploring the streets gives me peace. As I walk through the city in the snow, I am reminded that every season of life, no matter how bleak or how bitter cold it is, can and will come to an end. “There is a time for everything: and He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiasties 3, Kylie Translation).

With every trial and frustration, comes strength. With strength, responsibility. With responsibility, wisdom. (And…. probably more trials). The key is to find the challenge in everyday, and turn it into a learning experience that you can leverage as you move onto your next season in life. Capitalize on these trials: know that what you are going through will absolutely prepare you for what is coming next. Everyone, everything, and every day has value and a purpose. You just have to look for it.

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