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Eleven years ago, I decided to go to a Discipleship Training School (DTS) in Closkelt, Northern Ireland.
Seven years ago, I got on a plane and flew across the Atlantic to fulfill that vision.
Within one week, I knew six months in Northern Ireland would never be enough to fulfill my heart’s desire of seeing God’s goodness and healing sweep the streets there, like He had done in my own heart.
Five years ago, I came to Rostrevor for the first time to visit the new base and to seek God’s vision for my time there. He spoke to me about building a foundation for the base that others who came after me could stand on – especially in hospitality.
Four years ago, after I had sold or given away all my possessions, I moved to Rostrevor indefinitely, telling anyone who asked that the Lord had very specifically called me to Northern Ireland and I would remain there until He very specifically called me somewhere else.

And it was a few months ago that I came to our leadership team (of which I am a part of) and said that to my great surprise, I felt that God was indeed inviting me somewhere else, and that at the end of my current commitment to YWAM Ireland, I would be moving back to Washington for a time.

When people asked me how long I would stay with YWAM, and I told them I would leave when God called me elsewhere, I said it rather flippantly. I didn’t stop to consider what it would look like to again pack up my life into a few suitcases. I didn’t think about leaving the house I’ve lived in for over three years, or the ministry I have poured my blood, sweat and tears into, or how to say goodbye to my friends who have been with me through wonderful and difficult times. It occurred to me only when I started saying, “Lord, REALLY? After all this time and sacrifice? Now? When I have the most responsibility I’ve ever had, and the most opportunity?” The more questions I asked, the more I realized it made no logical sense at all to leave now. It was completely ridiculous. But as I leaned into the sense of God’s leading me away and asked, “Could this really be?” The more I felt peace beyond my understanding about the idea. Now, months later, I can clearly see God’s hand in every aspect – timing, provision, with my health and above all, His utter faithfulness.

What’s next? Next autumn, I’m hoping to attend another training program with YWAM, the School of Biblical Studies Studies (SBS). But firstly, I’ll be taking a time of rest and physical healing. I’ll spend the next several months taking a “health sabbatical” to get some medical issues resolved and to rest from my sucessful (but very tiring!) service.

It’s incredible how when I packed up and moved here, I felt this sense of anticipation, trepidation and joy at the unknown joys and sorrows of the unfolding adventure ahead ahead of me. Now, four years later, I feel almost exactly the same about returning back to Washington and all that was familiar but is now unknown. You can expect continued blog posts and updates with more details, or I’d love to speak to you about all that God is doing. I’d appreciate your continued prayers for my health, and for a smooth transition back into my home culture.

Today I was out for a date with my dear friend Kadie. We were having all kinds of wonderful chat time, and sharing what had been going on in our lives in the last few months. While we talked, I thought about how lovely it is to spend quality time with a person – to slow down long enough to appreciate the gift of a person I have before me right now.

I know I’m not the only person who is busy. I have a to-do list that occasionally seems longer than the hours that remain in my life. I have stacks of thank you cards I should write, emails I should send or reply to, people I need to catch up with, my family members I ought to call, not to mention the usual time killers – laundry, dishes, cooking, and so forth. My to-do list does not make me special. What makes me special is the moment when I am able to tuck away that list, look into my friend’s eyes, and listen to her heart.

We live in a fast-paced, efficiency oriented world, and productivity is king. The temptation is to multitask all the time, but you cannot subject your relationships to schemes of efficiency. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of people that I know and care about in the world. Even if I only consider the people I know who live within five miles of me, there are still too many relationships in my own geographical vicinity to be able to commit fully to. I often feel guilty when I receive text messages or emails saying that I am missed, or that it’s been too long since I’ve written. I feel the same way.

But lately, I’ve been doing my best to let go of that guilt and trust that I am doing the right thing when I focus my attention on the beautiful individual that I have before me. I know that the people I am spending time with appreciate it when I listen to them not only with my ears, but also with my eyes, and don’t glance down at my phone while I’m listening. I trust that the next time that I am with those dear friends who text and email, they will appreciate that I am fully present in that moment that I am with them, and forgive me for the times I have been unavailable.

I am an infant in the art of giving and receiving love. I have everything yet to learn. But if I have learned one lesson, a lesson I am continuously, infinitely learning, it is that love is presence, and presence is love.

I’m sitting in my living room tucked under a blanket; I’ve got my coffee in had, the candles are lit, the Christmas lights are glowing, and I can hear the church bells continuously ringing. I don’t know if this is a preemptive welcoming of the new year, or just an effort of Rostrevor to be a little more magical than usual.
It’s hard to wrap my mind around today being the last day of 2014. For me, this particular day just feels like Wednesday (or perhaps a Saturday.) Part of me feels that I should do something “significant” to commemorate the occasion (though I’m not quite sure what that might be), or perhaps reflect on the previous year. I have been on holiday since the 23rd of December, and I have been using this time to sleep, drink coffee, sleep, read, and for a few moments – reflect. I have not reflected so much on what has come before, but rather, where I am going – and with who.
For the last few months, in all the things that have happened, all the traveling, the transitioning, and the turmoil, I have become aware of the still, small voice of God whispering to me that a new season is on its way… That the preparations I have been making will not be in vain, that the little smolder of hope in my spirit is not to remain a flicker, but will ignite and light the path as I walk forward.
I haven’t taken these whisperings particularly well. I want details! Dates! I want to know what to prepare myself for – do I need to buy things? Clear my calendar? Write a newsletter? I don’t know, but I get the distinct impression that God has been creating something spectacular in secret for me, a surprise too delicate to withstand any scrutiny or interference.
This morning, I drove one of our outreach teams to the airport – and as I was driving back in the van alone, I had a quiet, sweet, long overdue time with the Lord. It wasn’t flashy, I didn’t cry or sing or look from the outside like I was doing anything other than driving an enormous 15-seater down the motorway. But in that very normal moment, I finally dropped the defenses of my heart and said to God, “I don’t want to try to control what you are doing in my life anymore. I trust you to do all the best things, please just make it obvious so I can keep up with you.” It was a moment of palpable relief and joy – to surrender not only my efforts of trying so damn hard all the time but also, that quiet little lie that God isn’t truly trustworthy.
The rest of this day has been so peaceful, so sweet, and I already feel a sense of expectation – that the little dreams of my heart are beginning to be fulfilled.

Well, 2015 – I’m not going to to charge into you with my sword drawn and my battle plan in place. I’m going to rest here in my living room with my coffee, and my candles, and let your clean waves wash over me.

In just over two weeks, YWAM Ireland’s Reconciliation Discipleship Training School (RDTS) 2014 begins. The pantry will be stocked. The classroom will be prepared. Bedrooms, all ready, will await their newest inhabitants. Trainees will arrive from multiple continents. And I will be a DTS leader.

I have had the privilege to be a “follower” of really excellent leaders in my lifetime, who gave me very positive experiences of discipleship and authority (and this includes some people I currently serve with in YWAM.) However, this has also set my mental bar of leadership very high. That, combined with my stubborn streak of perfectionism, and my human self is convinced that if I can’t be the most bold, dynamic, inspiring leader that ever was, then I probably shouldn’t do it.

During the time of my own DTS, (five years ago already!) I never gave a thought to being staff on DTS, let alone taking on the full responsibility of planning, preparing, and leading a school (and in this case, a two month outreach.) When I was asked to consider leading this particular school, I actually laughed out loud. I eventually agreed to pray about the idea, and as I did so over the next few months, I was startled to find God thinking differently about the situation than I was.
Our conversations were much like this:
“God, I’m not qualified for this!”
That’s okay. I’m qualified, and you can lean on Me.
“God, you know that if I led this, I could fail. I could fail BIG TIME.”
I know, Kayla. But I’m God, and I never fail.

Eventually, I came to the realization that I may not be qualified to my own standards, but that God had chosen to appoint me to this role for this season of life. He also encouraged me that this would be season of challenges and growth, and to prepare myself by “being saturated with Jesus.” (These are the specific words God spoke to me over and over – asking me to spend time sitting at his feet, in his presence, and learning his ways.) 

It has been my joy to do this over the last four or five months – and it has also been a challenge. The start date of the school is rushing towards me, and I am more convinced every day that I do not have it nearly “together” enough. I want to wait for the school to start until I am sure I can gracefully rise to meet any and every difficult situation I may encounter. And yet, day by day, as I am stretched, I feel my weak places growing thinner and thinner until I am nearly see-through. And while this is a singularly uncomfortable experience, the Lord has encouraged me that this is where He wants me. As I become transparent in my vulnerability, there is altogether less of me and so much more of the Jesus that lives within me. I do not actually want the people coming here from all over the world to spend the next six months learning to be more like me. I yearn for them to be captivated and transformed by the love and power of the Living God that I serve. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

So here is to the next six months of my life… May I be an ever increasing lamp for Jesus.

.

 

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come before His presence with singing!
Know and understand that the Lord is God! It is He Who has made us, not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name!
For the Lord is good; His mercy and loving-kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations.”  – Psalm 100

This morning, I am very tired. I had a long day yesterday and am looking at a few long days ahead of me… I sat down in the office to answer emails and do my work, but I found myself looking at my computer and feeling grumbly and unhappy. I just stopped and said, “What is wrong right now?”

Even just yesterday, God was speaking to me about joy – the word He said over and over again was, “Do not let anyone steal your joy!”

So this morning, when all was wrong it the world (so it seemed) something clicked with me and I went, “My joy is being stolen!” I’m so grateful that yesterday God spoke to me about joy, so that today when that area of my life is lacking, that encouragement from Him is fresh in my mind. I decided to combat this negativity with the Psalms… the first one I opened to was Psalm 100 – Praise Him!

Today I make it my choice to practice joy, to celebrate God’s goodness with praise.

I praise God, for He is my watchman and keeping an eye out to what is ahead of me.
I praise God, for He is my Advocate who looks to my best interests and intercedes on my behalf.
I praise God, for He is my faithful friend, my everlasting love.
I praise God, for His character and love never change.I praise God, for His mercies are new every morning!
I praise God, for He is the King, He sits on the throne, and He is worthy of all praise!

It’s interesting how when I reflect over a period of time, I can almost always pull out a theme that God is speaking to me. Since I have arrived back in Ireland, there has been an overarching theme: that God’s character is unchanging.

I’m human. I change constantly. Within a day, an hour, sometimes in a minute, I change my mind. It is easy to think of God as being like me in that regard. I’m affected by my surroundings, the people I am with, the weather. It’s raining, so I am pensive. The sun is shining, so God loves me. It’s an easy but very flawed perspective to attribute to God.  He never changes, regardless of my situation. 

In the last few weeks, I have been experiencing fibromyalgia pain in my body again. It’s been about five months since I have had any pain of that kind, and it’s been several years since I have had any such for longer than a few days. However, I have felt God encourage me to continue lifting Him up as a healer – whether or not I am currently experiencing healing physically, that does not change the fact that God is a healer, and loves to heal. In fact, in every area of my life right now where I am experiencing a lack of anything (finances, peace, etc.) I am continuing to lift up God as a provider, as my refuge, as being a good father. My experience does not dictate who God is! 

When the Lord was first encouraging me to do this, to actually focus my prayer times on lifting up His name and giving Him glory, I thought it was kind of funny. It seems a lot easier to ask Him for what I want or need. But as I have been doing it, I realize that what He is asking me to do is turn my eyes on Him, and off of my problem. He already knows my problem. He already knows how it is going to be resolved. He is longing for relationship with me. 

“Lord, you have been our home since the beginning. Before the mountains were born and before you created the earth and the world, you are God. You always have been, and you always will be.” – Psalm 90:1-2

 

 

The Helping Post

Dear friends,

I”m writing this for two reasons: First, to let you know what precisely is happening. Second, to ask for your help! As most of you know, I did not receive my visa in time to make my return flight to Belfast I had scheduled for January 5. I was at first surprised and very troubled when I found out I wouldn’t be able to return yet. However, as I kept speaking to people who encouraged me that God had things He wanted to do with this time, I took hope and continued to wait. I had to cancel my return flight home, and was given credit to use when I was ready to rebook. Now, when I flew home, I flew from Dublin into Vancouver, BC. It just worked out to cost less that way. But I was flying back from Seattle into Belfast (a more expensive trip, since I HAVE to fly into a UK entry point this time!) on United. Now, unfortunately, when I was given the flight credit, it is on Air Canada, the airline I flew here on. When I checked to see how much a flight on Air Canada would be, WITH the flight credit it’s at least $1400, if not more. So disappointing! I looked around at other tickets and found I could just buy a new one way ticket for about $800.

The other factor that I haven’t updated you on is my health. In December I went to a few regular appointments, teeth cleaning, eye exams, and such. It’s much fussier to try to do this in the UK (although should I become sick there I am able to take care of it.) Since I hadn’t paid my deductible yet this year, having been away for all of it, I ended up needing to pay a few hundred dollars to that and other odds and ends. I also as you may know made a surprise visit to the emergency room (everyone’s favorite place!) with a couple of unusual, scary symptoms. Everything checked out okay and resolved itself over a few weeks (which is the best way for these things to end!) but I also ended up needing to pay a few hundred dollars for that. All told, with medical expenses (I have paid some of them already) I still owe about $450.

This $1250 that I do not have is what is standing between me and returning to Ireland for my next year of ministry. I have been here, praying, asking the Lord what it is I need to do, and He made it clear: ask for help.

So I am asking… would you be willing to pitch in towards the goal of me getting back to Northern Ireland and my life and work there? There are four ways that you can…

1. By sending a check to me at my parent’s house:

Kayla Elmore
P.O. Box 925
Stanwood, WA 98292

2. Through PayPal (www.paypal.com), using my email account kayla.elmore@gmail.com.

3. If you would like to schedule a massage, I am still happy to take appointments! A one hour session is $50.

4. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation, you can send a check to
YWAM
PO Box 3000
Garden Valley, TX 75771-3000
You CANNOT write my name anywhere on the check, you must write the check out to YWAM and enclose separately a note with my full name on it.

Thank you all so much for reading this, for being involved in my life, for loving and supporting me for years, and not only as a missionary. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I couldn’t do what I do without you!

Blessings and love,
Kayla

Me, in front of An Cuan.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about hospitality lately. What does it mean to be hospitable? When I am working in Hospitality (the department I oversee), is that me being hospitable, or the outworking of the practical aspects of this job something else entirely?

Some of you may know that a few months ago (about the time the Discipleship Training School I was staffing left for their outreaches) I became, officially, the Hospitality and Housekeeping Coordinator. This sounds like a fancy job. When I imagine it in my head, I see myself sitting in an office, looking at spreadsheets and calendars, answering important telephone calls, ordering bellhops and maids this way and that, and demanding that the linen delivery arrive on time or else! I don’t know whose job I am imagining, but it certainly isn’t mine. I do occasionally sit in an office, though if I happen to be looking at calendars and spreadsheets, it is usually on the couch in my kitchen. I don’t tend to order many people around, considering that I am the bellhop, maid, and laundry service.

When I started working in hospitality, my role was mainly to organize our DTS students in their hospitality work duties. All the students had a daily two hour period in which they did practical work that helped keep An Cuan running. When I started doing this, the three girls assigned to hospitality had already been doing it for several weeks, and to be honest, they knew more about what to do than I did. I was the liaison between the person who really knew what needed done, but only came in for the morning, and the students who just needed instructions in the afternoon. My job was mostly communication at that point. As the months went by, however, and I became comfortable in what we do and how we do it, I started remembering the visions that God had given me about my time in YWAM Ireland.

God had specifically called me to build up the foundation of the house here. The vision is to be able to fulfill its purpose of being a safe harbour, a creative place of renewal and reconciliation. God’s presence is truly here, inviting people to come and rest with Him. That makes my job much easier, as He takes the initiative to make folks welcome here. That being said, we as YWAMers tend to be busy, creating many things and going many places all at once – which is completely part and parcel with our apostolic calling. However, when it comes to long term projects like the maintenance of a building, sometimes we can be a tad short-sighted. So many extremely visionary people, dreaming with God about big projects happening in the future can sometimes find themselves merely putting out fires when it comes to day to day projects like keeping toilets clean, staying on top of laundry, and taking care of guests.

I felt specifically called to come and work in the house, not just to be a housekeeper for the length of time that I am serving here, but to create an environment where the work can grow naturally from our love for the people coming here, and be sustainable regardless of the amount of people that we have serving here.

That being said, there is always so much to do here that to take the time and space to create means I have to first let things fall into some amount of disarray. A few months ago, this seemed impossible. I refused to let it be, and I demanded that I extract the most possible work out of myself. My slave driving self insisted that I make sure everyone had the best possible stay here by living in a spotless house, doing every task perfectly no matter the time it took or what it cost me. Not only was I backing myself into a corner, creating a job that only I could fill, and a standard that no one could ever live up to, but I also was robbing people of what they truly were longing for – relationship.

Over the past few months, whenever people have left thank you cards behind, I’ve saved them up and kept them. And the majority of people who were impacted enough to say something say these two things.
1. Thank you for making the space for us to find God here.
2. Thank you for spending time with us, whether it was a coffee, dinner, or just sharing your life.

They didn’t write, “Thank you for the lovely stay, but I’d make sure you dust inside the dresser drawers a little more thoroughly,” or, “We felt so relaxed on account of how there was not one speck of dirt in the entire house!”

I’m not planning on letting this glorious house fall into ruin, or never cleaning another toilet again. But the longer I do this job, the more I understand that true hospitality isn’t about having the nicest things or about the cleanest house. It’s about inviting people into a relationship, with God and also with us. If all the jobs don’t get done today because I felt God prompting me to make a cup of tea for a guest and listen to their story, then it’s simple: God values this person before me more than my to-do list.

I already “knew” that, but I am learning both to live with it, and to live it, and it’s a beautiful thing.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will shine in darkness, and your light will become like to noonday.” – Isaiah 58:10

Before I came back to YWAM Ireland, a lot of people prayed about this time in my life. I certainly spent much time in prayer about it. I took a two week trip here a year ago to seek the voice of God in this land, to put aside my own wishes and to unite my vision for my life with His.

In all of these prayers, there was a consistent theme – that my ministry in Northern Ireland would be a cycle of brokenness and healing. That pouring out of the brokenness of myself as a person, that healing for others, and then myself would come.

Considering I felt like this is the exact theme of my life of ministry, I was neither surprised nor concerned. When I got into a car accident several years ago and then became sick for a long time, I was so angry with God for allowing that to happen, and “ruin me” when I was planning on spending my life in service. During my Discipleship Training School (DTS), God talked to me a lot about this very issue. He said, “Kayla, if you had not experienced the reality of death, how could you comprehend the sacrifice of my death on the cross? How could you really love broken people if you don’t understand the depth of brokenness?” I started realizing then that every part of my heart that is stirred up with love and compassion for others stems from a place of knowing their pain all too well.

This proclamation of my brokenness being healing didn’t really faze me, considering all this. What I didn’t count on was that I am daily, continually facing my weakness (and having to lean on God’s strength.) I am living in a community of people – wonderful people, but people I don’t know all that well yet. I am with these people ALL THE TIME. If it were up to me, I would have liked to keep  a lid on my humanity for a while longer, till I felt safer. But that is not what this journey is about.

It is not about keeping up a facade of always being lovely, always serving, always saying or doing the right thing until everyone was so convinced of my perfection that when I finally messed it up, my mistakes would be overlooked with a kind of disbelief.

It is not about keeping silent my own heartaches or frustrations so I can properly disciple those who I am meant to disciple. I am always discipling them, and I am always being discipled, regardless of whether I am trying to or not.

This is not easy, but the path is a beautiful one, and I learn as I walk.

This is a blog I wrote February 22 of this year. I stumbled on it today, and it still rings so true today. I’ve been mulling on the idea that to understand what I’m doing in life (not only as a missionary but also in regards to my vision and purpose),  it’s important to understand who I am. For a while, I’ve felt specifically that God was telling me, “Kayla, you are a healer.” It took several years before I admitted that to another person. Right at the beginning of my DTS, we had a speaker ask us what kind of person God called us to be, and I said “Healer.” I didn’t want to say it. I argued with God about it right up until the time the speaker came to me for my answer. It sounds so… presumptuous. But I said it, and later, two of the staff members told me, “We don’t really know you yet, but when you said that, we knew was so true.” I’m still learning how to walk in that part of my identity, and this is just a little piece of that story.

I love working at the spa. To be more specific, I love giving massage.

I wasn’t sure if I was brave enough to give up a predictable and steady income, but I knew if this job wasn’t enticing enough to go for it, there wasn’t going to be another better one to win me over. I don’t want to spend my life hemming and hawing and changing my mind, especially since I know that this is part of the plan that God has for me.

I told one of my coworkers today that I don’t want to give up the glorious (if unknown) plan that God has for me, in order to grasp desperately at the tiny sliver of happiness I can imagine for myself.

I’ve realized recently, through a conversation with a friend, that what I love about giving massage, and also about my job at the nursing home, is that it is an amazing gift to be able to minister to people who are in a very vulnerable position. I know that often defenseless people get taken advantage of, bullied, abused, mistreated, and injured. So every time I go to work, and there are people in this situation, I have the choice to treat them kindly and respectfully, or take advantage of them. And every time when I make the choice to be as compassionate as I can be, and respect their vulnerability instead of exploit it, I’m aware that this is what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God. I’ve always loved that about the nursing home – that I have an active role to make someone’s life more full of dignity, respect, and love. One of the things I am growing to love most about my job as a massage therapist is that in addition to choosing to protect instead of take advantage, I get to participate in the amazing power of God to heal.

What’s been incredible is letting go of the need for me to fix people and yet at the same time, make an environment where God can work with me, and God can heal. For example, when I was in school, I always wished that I would pray during massage – I really love praying for people, and why not add that “extra special healing power” to it? First of all, I was too distracted by what techniques I was using, and what muscle I was on, and how I was going to chart it, and what assignment it would fulfill, plus checking in with the client, palpating the tissue… I didn’t have any room in my head for anything else. Plus, I was coming at it completely from the wrong direction. Like, “I have this great massage that’s going to fix people, and for an extra $10 you can get a dash of God!”

Now that I’ve started working and doing this as my job, my perspective has shifted. I realize I am, by myself, not very capable of helping people. Sure, I WANT to help them. But who can know what is really going on inside of a person’s body? If all I have is the desire to help that person heal, then God is going to outshine me on that front every time. He will ALWAYS win if He and I compare how much we want good things for this hurting person. So it’s been really neat to start by before even going in the room, just asking God to show me what He wants to do with this person today, to help me to be kind to them and their body, to be respectful and to use the right techniques to help the person the most. What’s been amazing is every single time, He shows up… So often what’s happened is that God starts whispering things to me that He wants to tell this person. “This is my daughter. She is so beautiful and I love her. I want healing for her. I want her to run into my arms.” So I pray about it, and as I am massaging them, I’m doing my best to express that nurturing care. God can do it, I know… I am not worrying about how the message gets through, I’m just giving a massage. But I have the best partner anybody could have.