A Life Lived Beautifully: Kelly Halsch

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Last fall at the Influence Conference I met several women who I have been able to keep up with and be inspired by ever since! One of those ladies was Kelly Halsch. Kelly and I were able to talk for a while at the conference and she shared her story with me. Kelly is one of those women whose joy and passion for life and Christ is contagious! She writes on her blog Legacy of Beauty and is also the author of several books. All I can say is, grab a box of tissues, a cup of coffee, and cozy up as you read Kelly's story and encouragement. It is a powerful story of redemption and hope!

Meet Kelly.

Introduce yourself like we are having a cup of coffee together. What kind of coffee/tea would you drink?

First of all, we would be drinking tea.  I lived in England for a season of my life, and discovered the wonderful beauty that is a tea break.  Breaking during work, during teaching, during school, during church (yes, that happened)—any reason to pause multiple times a day for tea and a biscuit.  There is something so comforting about wrapping my hands around a mug of tea splashed with coconut milk.  I do also love coffee, but caffeine (even decaf!) gives me the crazy jitters, so I have to be prepared for it!  Anyway…I’m Kelly Halsch, a single gal in my late twenties living in the glorious sunshine of Southern California.  I’m a writer, blogger, and lover of all things creative.  In everything that I do, I’m striving to live a life of imperishable beauty, one where I am truly leaving a mark on this world and those that I meet by trying to live my life out in the open to be used for God’s glory.

What is your definition of a "life lived beautifully"?

To me, a life lived beautifully is one that is willing to be broken.  God has so laid on my heart this desire to minister to those who have been beaten up by life and circumstances so beyond them and to show them that He is truly present with us in the thick of it.  This stems from a season where God completely allowed my heart to break wide open.  When I was eleven months old, my mother was killed in a terrorist attack (Pan Am 103).  It was something that I have grown up with, a loss that has been so public that everyone knew about even when I didn’t know how to personally deal with it.  My life from a very early age was shaped so much by tragedy, and while it doesn’t define me, it has impacted so much of who I am.

It wasn’t until I was in college that God truly opened my eyes to what I had lost in a way that I couldn’t have seen coming.  It was during a Missions Conference at my university when a speaker randomly started to talk about my personal tragedy as a piece of history and I completely lost it for the first time in my life.  My mom had been the single most important person in my life for eleven months that I will never remember, and it wasn’t until I was twenty-one years old that I began to mourn the loss of this woman I will never know.  God took me through the dredges of the deepest grief for the one person that I have always wanted to know more than any other.  He called me to spend four months of my life in the place where she died, confronting an evil that happened in the skies on a cold, dark night that I will never be able to recall or fully imagine.  He broke me and somehow gave me the courage to sit in that brokenness for three years of my life—three years where He did impossible things and ministered to my heart in enormous ways by showing me just how present He was in the darkness.

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So yes, I believe a life lived beautifully is one that is willing to become broken.  One that is willing to lay all the pieces of their life before their Savior, trusting that He can redeem every single one of those broken moments.  He will redeem the jagged fragments and put them back together into a tapestry where He weaves His story—not like they were shaped before, but into something new and even more glorious to behold.  I believe in every fiber of my being that there is beauty in every broken thing.  It is in those moments when we are being so tossed about upon the waves and torn apart completely, yet still looking to Him as Lord, that beauty is being made.  When we allow God to break us so that He can build us back up again then share the story of what He has done with others—that is a beautiful life.

When did you start following Jesus?

I started following Jesus when I was a freshman in high school.  I was always a book nerd, and lived in the young adult section of my local public library where every week I brought home new books to read.  Always in my selection of books there was one story that I had just randomly picked out that was about a girl my age that had given her heart to the Lord.  Over the course of that year, I heard the gospel through Christian fiction (special shout out to the Christy Miller series by Robin Jones Gunn!!).  It fed my heart so much so that one spring night that I will never forget I got down on my knees before God and asked Him to have my whole heart.

the tie that binds
the tie that binds
What are some verses you constantly cling to and bring life to your soul?

Psalm 138:8—“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands.”  This was a verse that I have clung to since I first became a Christian.  I used to wear it engraved on a bracelet around my wrist to constantly remind myself that God is using my life for a purpose even when I can’t see it.  I have gone through many different seasons when I have wondered about the point of it all, but I know, even when I cannot see it, that God is at work and fulfilling His good purpose for His glory.  It amazes me that He allows me to be part of the story.

Ezekiel 37:1-14—This passage records Ezekiel prophesying dead bones to come to life.  I have been so changed by the truths behind this passage, and the assurance that God is breathing life into the dead places within us.  I have literally stood in the place of my tragedy where once the ground was covered with bodies—a place that holds all the reasons in the world I have to say no to God and all the reasons in the world that I have to keep saying yes to Him.  He has shown me where He was in the ungodly moments in my life, creating life out of so much death.  These words tell so much of the story that God has written in my life.

John 10:10—“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  These are words that I’m trying to pray over my life currently.  Even when I couldn’t fully conceptualize it as a kid, so much of my life has been spent in mourning and in a reactionary stance dealing with the circumstances of my life.  Recently God has been building new dreams within me, new hopes for the future that allow me to leave pieces of my past behind.  He is constantly reminding me that He wants me to experience the abundant life that He won on the cross for me now.  Not just in the future, but now.  I’m learning how to embrace goodness and abundance and beauty in my life that isn’t so entirely built on loss.  It’s softening me in some really good ways.

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How did the Lord give you the vision for “A Legacy of Beauty"?

Honestly, “A Legacy of Beauty” began merely as a private, personal way for me to record my own thoughts, particularly as I was journeying through a dense season of suffering.  When I first came to the Lord, I was filled with this strong desire to leave a legacy behind me—one that points to His goodness and sovereignty no matter what happens in my life.  After a very intense season in England, which had been a mountaintop season of my life when I truly began to mourn the loss of my mom in the place where she died and was truly ripped apart but also healed at the same time, I was floundering to make sense of the amazing ways that God moved in my life there once I got back to the life that I had left at home.  My blog in the beginning was just a means to navigate through all that God was teaching me about suffering and redemption.  He has taught me so much about joy in the hardest moments, and I just wanted to record it all because I knew it mattered even when I couldn’t make sense of it in the moment.

Over time God truly put it on my heart to share these pieces of my journey with others.  My whole experience of mourning my mom started with a call to tell my story (link to blog post where I explain receiving that call??).  I reached a point where I couldn’t keep it to myself anymore.  What began in the beginning as merely a journal for my thoughts has turned into a place of refuge that holds so many difficult moments of my life that are somehow also my favorite moments.  It is a place where brokenness and beauty have combined in the telling of a testimony.  It contains so many parts of my journey, and I hope that one day it will be the catalyst for me to tell my story in full.  I so hope that it can be a place of refuge and hope for others in broken seasons, ministering to hearts that are thirsty for glimpses of God in barren lands.  I also hope that it in the future it will be a place where those same broken hearts will one day be able to share their own story of how God has created so much beauty out of so much hardship and ugliness.

tulips
tulips
How did you begin writing books? Tell us about your most recent book, “The Tie That Binds."

Writing is my greatest passion.  It is the way that I make sense of the world.  Something happens when I put a pen to paper or hands to a keyboard—all these thoughts and ideas that filter around in my mind that I don’t know what to do with suddenly find a home and purpose and begin to make sense.  God called me to Him with the words of the many Christian fiction books I read as a teenager, and that sparked a fire in me.  In the same way that others words have had such an impact on me, I hope that my own can have an impact on others, for His glory.

At the age of fifteen I started writing my own Christian fiction series about a girl truly coming to know God for the first time.  While in college, a friend of mine read them and encouraged me to try to get them out there somehow, so I gave myself a crash course on self-publishing.  I only published two of them (they are meant to be a 12-16 book series!!), and I look back on them and laugh because my writing has grown so much since then.  But I still find them beautiful because they contain a heart that just wants others to know God as stated so well and bluntly by a naïve teenager.  I’ve always had a crazy, overactive imagination, and hope to continue to filter some of that through writing fiction.

While I was in England, I began working on my most recent novel, The Tie that Binds.  It is a story that is based off the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  The story struck me deeply one day at church when my pastor gave a sermon entirely on the other brother in the passage, and I realized how much I can relate to that brother.  I thought to myself that someone should write a modern-day story about it, and felt the challenge from God asking me to do it.  It is a story that I love so deeply with characters that I know so well.  I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this book particularly because it was one of the many saving graces while I was walking through one of the most difficult seasons of my life.  So much of my own story is poured out on those pages.

I have so many ideas and plots and people that are stored up in my heart right now (and notebooks) and hope and pray that one day God will use me to write them down—these characters that I have come to love, and maybe my own story as well.

What advice would you have for women who feel called to writing?

Write!  If you are feeling called to write, just write!  Write for yourself.  Write about what inspires you.  Write for God.  Write in private.  Write in public.  Carry around a journal or a notebook and put your thoughts on paper.  Makes lists of things you see and lines you like, the prayers you pray.  It’s not about having a crazy successful blog or a best selling novel.  It’s not about being a regular contributor in a magazine or having an agent finally willing to look at your proposal.  If you are called to write, just do it.  God will use it.  He may use it for you and He may use it for others.  But if it is your calling, just write.  Write and pray big!  God will use your pen as He sees fit.  For some, finding the courage to even pick up that pen in the first place is the purpose.  For others, it is being willing to share those words with others.  Our words have such an impact—I would know!  So commit them to the Lord and He will do beautiful things with them.  He always does beautiful things with willing hearts.  Your story is messy and imperfect, but it is also glorious and it should be told.  It matters.

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bible-giveaway-1024x683
How do you integrate your passion for fashion, photography, and creativity into a blog that also shares about Jesus? 

At the deepest level, I believe that God has just made me to create—to use words as art, pictures that tell a story and capture creation and beauty.  The purpose behind my blog is first and foremost all about Jesus—who He is, what He has done, what He has taught me and is teaching me still.  Over time I started adding pieces about fashion, photography, fitness—any number of things—as ways to not only share other pieces of me and life that I love, but to help lighten up some of my content.  My blog began in an intense season of suffering in my life, but I am not in that same season anymore, and the diversified content celebrates that.  God is present in everything that we do.  So much of our lives happen in the mundane of the everyday, not in mountaintop moments of our lives.  I share fashion posts because I find so much joy out of putting pieces together to create something beautiful and because I am finally learning how to truly be comfortable in my own skin.  I share my ever increasing passion for photography because capturing moments is another way to tell our stories—and one of the ways that I have learned so much about my mom’s.  In the past couple years my blog has transitioned to more of a lifestyle blog that captures the essence of the everyday, and it is my fervent prayer that my everyday points to Jesus.  God can use any platform and medium for His good purpose when we let Him.

What are some books you are currently reading?

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis—I’ve read a few of the books in the past, but oh my goodness!  I’ve found myself actually sobbing at different parts of these stories and the truths that are really being conveyed underneath.  So good!

The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson

If you could tell every woman reading this blog one thing God has laid on your heart, what would it be?

God sees you.  It may feel confusing and dark and He may feel so very far away, but He is nearer than you know.  The brokenness may seem so vast that it can swallow you whole, but it won’t.  God is at work, even if you can’t see it.  And He is turning your losses and your pain and your heartache into something that matters because You matter.  He redeems every broken thing and makes it beautiful in the process.  You may not see it now, but one day you will.  And trust me, when that day does come, you will realize that it has all been worth it.

Catch up on other "A Life Lived Beautifully" features here!