Friday, September 24, 2010

moving to murky hope

this will be the last post on this site for me. i needed a fresh start, a new space. so you can find me at thanks.....much love,

wow. it has been a long time…. i feel like the my life has just hit a giant pause button. from the moment 5 months ago when we got the call that i had lost my father… life stopped. movement stopped. while thinking and ruminating didn’t, writing and blogging did. so much of life has felt like i have been going through the motions and trying to work out some of the most intense feelings i have ever had. grief has been hard on me. it has paused me.

somehow, i think being paused has been very good for me.

a few weeks back i was doing one of my yoga recordings that i taped before leaving new haven in a back room by myself. it was early. it was quiet. as i settled into the classes rhythm, i felt my body expressing grief and surrender with each vinyasa. it was hard, but the kind of hard that is good because somehow what is taking place on the outside actually matches what is going on in the inside.

on this particular recording peg was talking during a deep hip opener about taking moments to pause. sometimes, she said, we need to think of our lives like a bottle. filled with water, dirt, sand…and most of the time we are shaking it up. in the shaking everything loosens up and what once was stuck to the bottom all the sudden is flying around the bottle. yoga is a place where just for a moment we let that muck settle and become still enough to allow clarity in the water to surface.

5 months ago my bottle was shaken, rattled, undone… and sediment that probably hasn’t ever been lodged from the plastic edges of the bottle was jarred out, along with all the normal dirt of daily life… it was dirty. the water was so filthy. and the water and muck spun and spun and spun…

after this tremendous loss and shaking, it feels like that bottle was just put on a shelf, in a far away corner and left to spin, to settle… how things would land was unknown (in so many ways they still are). i felt left alone with the world spinning around me, dirt spinning around me. the inertia from the initial spin had stopped but the consequence of the jarring was still taking place… like when you get off of the twirling tea cups and the moment you step foot on solid grown you actually feel more sick than at the height of the ride.

life is beginning again. movement is taking place. there have been moments that the water has almost been light enough to at least know someday clarity will emerge. i am still very much allowing the muck to settle, the water is still murky and i continue to process this profound loss. grief still dwells in my soul and heart, but in many ways i am learning to live with it and let it change me…

…let it teach me what it looks like to move through murky water

…let it teach me what it looks like to pause and allow muck and mire to settle so you can move with clarity

…to choose not to let the dark sediment settle back down in the nooks and crannies of my soul but pray that in its spiraling it is broken down or maybe even taken out by a hand that cares about providing fresh water that i may thirst no longer

if this didn’t change me it would be a shame.

in many ways this blog is to say “i’m back.” in others, it is an intentional step towards choosing life, choosing hope even in the midst of water still swirling. this past 5 months i am learning even more what it means to trust in the midst of pain. to believe even when your own heart doesn’t have the strength. to have faith in the things that are not only unseen but dark and confusing.

to hope in the middle of muck and mire… so welcome to murky hope.


1.) i won’t be using the alabaster jar anymore and my blogging world will now exist here (for those coming from the alabaster jar).

2.) of course i’ll write of kurtz family adventures, life in africa with a toddler, things i am learning about justice, jesus and redemption too but…

3.) i will write about “murky hope” because i want those that need it to know that even if the day feels like night, sorrow and pain feel like guests who drop in uninvited or your bottle has been shaken into a murky mess, hope is possible and even beautiful.

4.) to write about hope that exists in the dirt of life you have to talk about dirt…so i am sure this space will not always be pretty, perfect or shiny. which also means your dirt is welcome too…

5.) thanks for taking the time to be in this journey with me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

happy with a limp

so, we have been here 1 month. i can’t really believe it. i don’t know why i haven’t written more. this first month in uganda has been….hard. i guess there is no other way to really say it. i have thought about writing something and beginning to share life here but each time i sit down to write i just can’t. there are so many stories to tell…

…the one about the intricacies of furniture making

…the crazy things people do when they are finishing a house for you that they think you won’t notice like BIGHT GREEN mosquito screens

…what it feels like to look up at the stars with your son and realize you haven’t actually stopped to see the stars in a few years

…connections and difficult challenges i am making in yoga practice

…trying to describe how amazing it feels to have your feet filthy from red dirt and how awesome it feels to get them finally clean at the end of a long day

…how i went to a birthday party at the us military house (i didn’t know the us had a military house here either…that again is a TOTALLY different story to tell) and it was SO strange because it felt like i was at a frat party …with girls in mini skirts & leggings and a wii on the front lawn

…communal living when there is no water, no power and your son decides he wants to stop sleeping chasing butterflies, drawing in the dirt and dying easter eggs with a 2 year old makes me feel like a kid again.

…how it feels to know that your son just simply greeting an old man in their tribal language made the old man’s day so much he is probably still laughing and talking about it with his friends in the village

…how i am still in a little bit of mourning from not being in new haven, where i thought i would be

…how much malaria sucks

…what it feels like to worship with music both alone in my room with only with a guitar and my voice and in a loud vibrant ugandan church…how they both kind of feel like home

…how not much of anything feels like home and there have been moments that i have cried because i know this is where jesus has brought us, knowing that staying here is going to be a beautiful challenge…

…yes, indeed there have been stories to tell. the bad ones i haven’t wanted to tell at the risk of worrying mothers and dear friends who are far away…the good ones i haven’t wanted to share at the risk that mothers and friends would think that we are doing great. both felt a little shallow and incomplete….i guess they are. how can one month in a place where your world has been flipped upside down really tell anything different. so maybe i’ll just start telling them… so promise me mom, don’t freak out AND know that it isn’t all roses. so….meet happy!!

happy is ogeiko’s new friend, a 3 month old ugandan mut that is really just always happy. when she came over for the first time a few months ago she was very quickly named happy. all she wanted to do was play, run and snuggle up against your leg. she is just happy. so ben named her that.

she doesn’t belong to us but to the neighbor down the way. she is always here though. in fact i think there has only been 2 nights where she didn’t sleep right by ogeiko’s side. one of them was the night she was beaten for being a “thief.” the next morning she hobbled into the compound with a very sad broken leg and her tail still wagging…still happy.

after 15,000 ugandan shillings (roughly $7) the vet fixed her up with a cast and gave her some pain meds right with Judah and I watching on the front porch (which is an entirely different story for another time). she got up after the procedure (which also could have been mistaken for a mild form of torture) and just licked the very hands that were holding her against her will howling a few minutes before. she kissed the vet on the nose and then just hobbled off to find a shady spot to rest…tail still wagging. still, even still, happy just with a limp.

i don’t feel very much like happy with a limp right now. maybe more like a broken body that sometimes smiles and laughs pretty hard. i want the tables to turn and the scales to balance a bit the other way. maybe if i could find shady places to rest, friends to play with and be willing to show my broken paw.

the vet said he’ll be back in 3 weeks to take the cast off…a lot can happen in 3 weeks. bones can heal. wounds can be mended. i imagine happy will still be happy just minus the limp. maybe in 3 weeks the scales will look different for me too.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

when life flips you on your head...learn how to do headstands!

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

It has been a long time. We have come and gone in Denver and spent some amazing time with friends and family. We have now been in Uganda for nearly 2 weeks…2 weeks the amount of time it take for the symptoms of malaria to set in. Yup! Looks like I have malaria. Think one little malaria mosquito bit me the night we landed in Kampala. Needless to say the last few days I have been hanging out in bed with a massive headache and ridiculously sore joints. My hips have just wanted to fall right off. The doctor told me yesterday malaria is Africa’s way of saying “Welcome to Africa.” What a welcome! (photo above from church can hardly tell that I feel like junk!)

Judah has this crazy heat rash all over his body yet he still manages to bring just some gigantic smiles to everyone in and out of the house. He wore his little suit to church today. So stinkin’ cute! He just stole my heart. He is enjoying chasing butterflies, jumping in puddles and “coloring” in the dirt with his new little friends in the village….and of course greeting everyone we pass on the street.

Kimbal has been amazing. He has really been a strong rock for us weak folks, helping me to not feel so crazy when I feel so bad. We have all been running around trying to find a house that will work for all 7 of us. And he has been thinking of ways to design kitchens and beds that will be both cheap and a little fun. I am sure I’ll post pictures when we find the place and have taken residence. I know it is really a short update but it is one indeed…

…in the middle of all this chaos I have been thinking of something…

Back in New Haven (my how that seems forever away), during my last few weeks of yoga practice I decided I would just take a chance at doing headstand. I tried. I kicked up my legs and used all my gusto to get up. I didn’t get very far. “I’m just not strong enough yet,” I thought.

After class, I gathered my things and then Peg came to find me. She told me how I was coming into headstand wrong and tried to show me how to do it differently. I told her my thought that I must just not be strong enough, she smiled and said back, “Oh, no I think you are plenty strong. You just need to make a few conscious adjustments.”

After some long days with malaria and all of these other crazy adjustments our family is making—like the never-ending battle to try to keep Judah somewhat germ-clean-ish, living in a new place, little power, little water, battling to get Judah to sleep with out a fan in a crib that he just learned he can climb out of, I have broken down several times. Each time in the middle of it all I think to myself “This is hard and I just don’t know if I’m strong enough to do this.”

I feel as though as we sit on the other side of the world that our lives have been flipped on their heads. Literally, they have. Today I am remembering that day in class and wondering what conscious adjustments I could make to wind up stronger and in a beautiful headstand…

[insert photo of me on amazing African Grass with the sunset behind me doing a doesn't exist yet because my head hurts WAY too much from the malaria and it take oh, 2 hours to upload a you only get one today! ]

Friday, February 26, 2010

Great Expectations!

Day 40. Complete. Just finished, it’s 9:47pm in this beautiful snowy New England town.

I pictured what this night would look and feel like. The culmination of the 40-day yoga challenge, but, also the end of an amazing year here in New Haven. I pictured how I would feel and what it would be like to walk out of Peg’s 6:15 Hot Power Practice… The Friday night class is one of my favorites. Candles, music, some amazing people, and it generally kicks my butt in a good way. I longed to finish the challenge that way!

I pictured it and it looked completely different. All the classes were canceled today due to snow! BUMMER, right?!?! So I completed this challenge on my mat in the floor of my kitchen with my dad chuckling to The Office in one room, my hubby packing suitcases in another and my baby trying desperately to go to sleep, too excited about flying on the plane tomorrow.

It looked and felt completely different. My great expectations for this challenge “let down” and yet as I sat up to turn off the yoga DVD I grinned….

This moment was indeed picture perfect. Thankfully I was able to let go of those expectations tonight and engage with what I had… a beautiful full house, a yoga mat and a decent recording of one of my favorite classes.

We leave early tomorrow morning for the next great adventure. I am eager and excited to reflect on this past year a bit more…to have time to think and be with my Denver friends & family and get into a rhythm of playing with my son! I am eager to share more about this next great leg of our journey and dream a little bit about what it holds...

But for tonight and the next few hours here, I am content to catch a re-run of The Office with my dad, snuggle on the blow up mattress & sleeping bags with my hubby and exit the mat knowing we made it!

New Haven, thank you! Denver, I’ll see you soon! Uganda, I can’t wait to be with you!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

If this week were a long practice, KICK ME OFF THE MAT!

It’s snowing outside. All yoga classes were canceled today. Crazy, but you would think the east coast never gets snow!! You would think this because EVERYTHING shuts down at the site of a few flakes. School is canceled. We got let off work early. Stores close. Anyway, SO NOT THE POINT…

As I was saying, there is snow and yoga is cancelled. Once again I wound up doing yoga in the kitchen tonight. Day 24/40! A few weeks ago in class I can remember an instructor saying something to the effect of “Stay in the pose! The pose actually begins the moment you want to get out of it.” I guess you could say the pose is beginning for me!

I had one of those days (actually if I am honest, one of those weeks) where chaos, disappointment, fear, anxiety and the unknown just left me undone... Sent me spiraling and kept me grumpy to say the least. As I lay on the mat tonight I had the thought, “If this week was one long practice, I should be kicked off the mat…” I feel like that. The way I responded under pressure this week has been filled with judgment, frustration…the opposite of grace under pressure.

In my thoughts I just asked God to help… help me to show up tomorrow… help me to trust that we will make it… help me to somehow enter into this chaotic state where my house is a mess, our lives are in upheaval and dreams that I once had are beginning to look different. In the shifting dreams I am realizing there is sadness… and mourning taking place. Yes joy and excitement about the next step but it feels like messy joy… murky hope.

I want to show up different tomorrow. Lord, have mercy on me. I want to trust that he is faithful to bring us into a place that is good and right. Lord, have mercy on me. I want to be a person who gives grace and laughter in chaos (even a CRAZY house and moving strategy). Lord, have mercy on me. I want to be one that finds steadiness outside circumstance. Lord, have mercy on me. I want to be the person who has the audacity to continue to dream even when the ones you have had before don’t always end the way you thought they would. Lord, have mercy on me. I want to embrace joy, even if it is messy…and hope, even when it is murky. Lord, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

16/40...some refelctions

I am trekking along in this beautiful challenge. I am learning so much along the way. As I had expected the mat has been an amazing place for me to come, explore, and ask myself questions like, “how I am showing up for the day?”.

The last few months I have been occasionally doing some Celtic prayer. I have particularly found what they call the “morning office” helpful to start they day. The same daily prayer mixed with alternating scripture readings…a still center if you will. There is this one line at the end of the morning daily office that asks Christ to “be with in and with out me lowly and meek yet all powerful.” Many mornings I have dwelt on those single lines just wanting Jesus to somehow find me again and help me to live a meek, humble yet powerful life filled with love and justice.

Last week at the beginning one of my practices, I think it was 11/40; I sat in child’s pose and found myself reflecting on those same words. I started to pair them with my breathing. Inhale “Christ with in”…Exhale “and without me lowly and meek yet all powerful”… Inhale “Christ with in”…. Exhale “and without me lowly and meek”…Inhale “Be within”…Exhale ”and without me.” I was bringing my intention with the practice to those small words and deep longing.

I moved throughout the practice. I didn’t keep those words on the forefront of my mind at every moment of the practice …but every time I found myself in a difficult posture or loosing my breath those words would slowly creep in “be within and without me lowly and meek yet all powerful.” I moved… I breathed …and hoped… At the end of practice I laid there in corpse pose and again I found a soft breath. I intentionally brought back those words with each inhale and each exhale. I meditated on them. Took them in…. Inhale “Christ with in me”… Exhale “and without me lowly and meek yet all powerful.” I experienced something beautiful that day… Meditation in motion …a living active prayer.

They often say that the mat is a place to come explore. To take notice how we respond on the mat (without judging of course, right Peg J) and either keep the thoughts, motivations and intentions that come through out the practice or let them go. A place to explore the possible, expand into the possible… O how I long for what I experienced that day on the mat in my daily life. In the conversations with my husband, in difficult situations with friends, family and co-workers…

As I sit in a coffee shop now I notice my breath once more (I seem to notice it more often these days)… Inhale “Christ within me”… Exhale “ and without me lowly and meek yet all powerful.” Amen.

Monday, January 18, 2010

40 days...

so I have been doing a lot more yoga lately. i started going to this studio when we first arrived in new haven and I have really liked it. the mat has turned into this space where i have been able to escape, think and have some time for self reflection. combining breath and movement, mediation in motion…it helped me gain some new eyes along the way this year.

in practice a few weeks ago i noticed something about myself. no judgments, just noticed (as peg always says)… i noticed when i would first enter into a pose there would be a lot of self-confidence. then i would get tired. i would talk myself up in my head, focus on breathing…i would enter into a space of letting go through the pain…and then i noticed something else. the minute there were any cues that would tell me we were about to move onto a different pose i would rush out of the uncomfortable place (sometimes fall out) just to get to the next posture.

over the last week i have noticed this same pattern over and over again, pose after pose. needless to say, on the mat i have been bringing my attention to finishing the pose well and staying in it all the way through the exhale. taking everything, every moment in the pose… the last couple of days i have noticed a shift in what i am receiving from practice.

those that know me might be thinking, “hmmm that is something that i have seen take place off the mat in you kellen”. i too have noticed the same pattern in my life. when we know we are about to move on into something else or i can see something new coming into being, i will often rush to the next spot, not giving proper or any attention to the last few moments in my current location. in it I think i have missed a lot. moments… conversations… life. i don’t want to miss out anymore.

last week i also i noticed that the studio was launching a 40 day challenge. it intrigued my goal oriented, tangible results personality. i saw that the challenge ended the day before our flight is set to go back to colorado. i thought about it. and i have decided to take the plunge and spend my last 40 days here in new haven on the mat. it is my hope that it will be a space to remind myself, ask myself and check in to see if i am finishing well here. make no judgments, notice my response in the moments and readjust accordingly.

i hope to post some of what I am learning along the way in this challenge. i’m hoping that both on an off the mat something beautiful happens in me and my time here. here’s to finishing well and staying fully engaged through each exhale….1 down 39 to go!