Strong Girl: Kelsey

Meet Kelsey. Kelsey Kava.

When we arrive to new places, I don’t think that we ever fully know why we have been brought there. I think that takes time.

When Kelsey came to Portland, I’m not sure that she was clear of her WHY — why she decided to drive across the country with her best friend, Steph (who we met last week), and land in a city that she knew little-to-nothing about, save rain drops, and vegan restaurants and green, lots of green.

When I first met Kelsey she was about four months into her Portland life. It was at an event she was helping lead for a local non-profit. As I watched her greet guests and talk to volunteers with such grace, it seemed like she had grown up here — for only a native or close to it could love their guests so fully, right?

It has been nearly a year since Kelsey moved to Portland, now. I’m sure that it has been both long and short, beautiful and trying. Most of all, I’m sure this move has been revealing.

When you get down to it, the journey is much more than the book ends of year one to two. It’s more a compilation of the day-to-day, the blessings and the struggles, for that is each day: blessing and struggle… and questioning.

And in that questioning, as we try to figure out why we are here or there, or not there, I’m pretty sure that the search for a crystal clear reason is a lost cause.

For the most beautiful life journeys are the ones when the traveler, looking out on a fog-covered path, dedicates her whole heart to Trust, and so she walks.

One step at a time.

She listens, takes a step, listens, takes another step. Or waits. Sometimes there is waiting in the journey, too. Truth be told, there is often a lot of waiting. And then there are big jumps. Jumps across chasms filled with rubble, darkness.

But you must jump. You must jump or risk never knowing, never living the calling that was placed on your heart.

Kelsey’s journey, as you are about to read for yourself, is one of Trust.

As I’ve learned from Kelsey, the path will have many stops that we can never expect or anticipate, but what we are called to do at each stop is the same.

We are called to love.
We are called to love fully.
We are called to love fully everything.


How does the word “movement” fit into your life? How does it relate to what you are currently doing?

Ah, movement. I think movement is my constant state of being! Since the time I was little, I’ve always been on the move. Even more than running and playing – the body’s actual, physical movements – I started my life on the go. My mom and I have lived in several different apartments and homes together, and combine that with moving in and out of college dorms, time spent living abroad, and the move to Portland, I’ve lived in as many places as I am old. (That’s 23.)
So, while movement and, in particular, the act of physically shifting your life from one place to another, can seem tedious and hard, it has helped me learn to embrace change. Transitions and shifts and movement are natural, and while I often think of them as uncomfortable, I try to lean into them and rethink how I see transitions. There might be loss, yes; there might be anxiety, yes; but there is always something else that’s movin’ and shakin’ on the other side of transition that is just waiting for me to arrive.

Even though I’ve been in Portland for almost a full year already, I still see all aspects of my life as moving. All parts of my life still feel very new – friendships, work, church community, bike commuting, learning about my city – so I’m still moving into them. Still finding comfort, familiarity, and stillness.

How does “stillness” fit into your life? How does that word sit with you?

Because of the movement I experience daily in navigating a still new-ish life in Portland, stillness is something about which I have to be very intentional. Sitting still was always my punishment as a child; I inherited a sense of “go go go” from my mother, which has stuck with me to this day. I fill up my calendar outside of work with coffee dates, going to the gym, phone conversations with friends back home, and other meetings/events. Stillness hasn’t been an important part of my vocabulary – until recently.

As I’ve gotten more connected with my church community, Leaven, I’ve been drawn to find stillness and Sabbath within my busy life. Finding a space to be quiet to focus on God; to focus on myself; to sit/stand/lay in wonderment of the world around me has become a vital part of my spiritual practice. Finding time to be still each morning allows my brain the space to put the moving thoughts in my head onto paper, and into deeper clarity. Finding time to physically move my body, by running or walking, allows uninterrupted time for prayer and reflection. Finding time for stillness is essential to my spirituality, connectedness to the Creator, and overall wellbeing. 🙂


What is one goal you have this year?

I actually made a bucket list for my 23rd year of life! There are a lot of things – both big and small – that I want to accomplish within the next nine months. I hope to read the bounty of unfinished books on my bookshelf. I hope to train for a half-marathon. I hope to take a free online course called The Paradoxes of War.
But, even bigger than that, I sense myself moving into a year of discernment. For a few months now, I’ve tossed around ideas of what I might feel called to pursue as not just a career, but as a vocation. Something that makes my heart jump for joy while also giving back to make this world better, happier, and more just. I hope I dive head first into that journey this year.
Currently, who/what do you draw inspiration from? When you wake up in the morning, what pops into your head and gets you saying, “Today is my day!”?

I draw inspiration from possibility. Every day holds so much room for the unknown – for beauty and love and inspiration to take place. And while I usually have slated activities or engagements each day like work, every day is filled with the chance to start over and to be made new. I don’t need to hold on to whatever “junk” I experienced or felt or dealt with yesterday. I have the opportunity to make a choice and say, “Today is my day!” everyday no matter what the circumstances of my life are.

What is one thing you know to be true? What is your statement of faith that drives you to keep doing what you’re doing?

I know that the Creator loves every stinkin’ single thing in this universe – and my purpose in this world is to make that known to every stinkin’ single thing. 🙂 Every one has worth and value and is beautiful just the way they are. If my interactions with others can be a reminder of that, then I believe I’ve made a good dent in this sometimes messy and hard world.

What is something new that brings Joy to your life?

Everything! Seriously. I understand that’s somewhat of a cop-out answer, but there are few things that don’t bring me joy these days. Friends, a church community, and mentors that bring me laughter, love, and hope on gloomy (and sunny) days. An awareness that God is alive and present, working through people to eradicate the injustices and heartbreaks of this Earth. Every new experience or interaction or possibility for a new experience or interaction makes my heart so excited for what is to come.



Thank you so much, Kelsey, for sharing part of your story with us. Your insight to make lovingkindness known to every living thing is something that can spark Joy in the hearts of everyone. What a different world we would live in if we would all live by that truth. Thank you for inspiring us to do so!

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