Today, Keelia speaks to us about an honest book, faithfulness in the small things, and how she came to feel belonging in Christ.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, the daughter of two immigrants from England and Colombia, and the youngest of three girls. I was raised Catholic and often went to mass and have fond memories of it. However, the relational aspect of my faith was nonexistent and the idea of pursuing and knowing God wasn’t part of my upbringing. It felt like God was only present in my life on Sundays for an hour at a time, and so as I got older, faith wasn’t very much a part of my life.
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) I tend to get caught up in needing to know all the answers and possibilities before I make any moves. This verse helps me remember that I can’t rely on my human understanding, because it never tells the whole story.
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: I’ve struggled in the past with feeling insecure in my knowledge of the Bible, and Christianity in general. I didn’t grow up reading the Bible, so I’ve often felt like I’m playing catch up. This year, I’m focusing on growing in confidence in my faith and in God – I’ve been on a Bible plan that has me reading more than I ever have, and I’ve never felt closer to Him.
Profession/Mission: I work as an actress, writer, and filmmaker. Along with producing and editing my first feature film, I recently launched an online women’s magazine called Wallflower Journal. The aim of Wallflower is to create a space where women are inspired to cultivate more beauty and goodness, deepen their thought life, find helpful and thoughtful advice, and be recharged.
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? But Now I’m Found: Thoughts From A Girl Who Once Was Lost.
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I was 22, on the Upper West Side of New York City at a women’s conference a friend had convinced me to go to – she even Venmo’d me money to attend. I wasn’t a Christian at this point, but I’d been slowly introduced to Jesus by the guy I was dating (and would later marry) – but I was still unsure about this whole “God” thing.
Still living in LA, I’d been thinking about moving to New York, and had chosen random dates to visit the city that just “felt” right. It just so happened that the conference’s dates were the exact dates I’d planned to go to New York – it felt like too much of a coincidence to not go after that. So I went all alone, in a city where I had no friends. I didn’t know any of the Bible verses everyone was repeating, had never heard any of the songs the band played, and yet, there was this sense of finally being home.
I was struck by the belonging I felt in a world that I didn’t know much about – I realized at that conference that God must be real, and that this was the relationship I’d been missing out on my whole life.
“I was struck by the belonging I felt in a world that I didn’t know much about”
How would you describe Jesus? Jesus is. He is everything that is glorious, lovely, strong, perfect, safe, and challenging. He is my friend, my Lord, my confidant, my Savior, my everything.
How has your relationship with Him changed you? It’s interesting to think about the person I was before knowing Jesus – it feels like whoever knew me then has a terribly outdated idea of me. I was depressed, in many ways. Harsh, thoughtless, and purposeless. Knowing Jesus has softened my heart, stretched my maturity, challenged my mind, and forced me to reach beyond myself. I’ve been told countless times how drastically I’ve changed since knowing Jesus.
“Knowing Jesus has softened my heart, stretched my maturity, challenged my mind, and forced me to reach beyond myself.”
What has been the darkest time in your life, and how did you see God in it? The darkest time of my life was right before I met Jesus – I guess this made it so I couldn’t deny the light that suddenly swept through my life. As Madeleine L’Engle said, “Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” – I see now that God was in my darkness with me, but it took my darkness to see His light.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Choosing to see faith as less of a competition, and more of a unique journey. After becoming a Christian a few years ago, I started to feel dumb and less-than because I wasn’t as well-versed in Christianity and quoting Bible verses as the lifelong Christians I was coming in contact with. I’ve found recently that being at peace with my unique walk with God has helped me feel at home in it and more able to take ownership of it.
“I’ve found recently that being at peace with my unique walk with God has helped me feel at home in it and more able to take ownership of it.”
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I’m normally reading a couple books at a time, but I’d say God’s Smuggler by Andrew van der Bijl, John Sherrill, and Elizabeth Sherrill is standing out to me at the moment; while I’m not quite halfway through yet, it’s shaping up to be an incredibly powerful book. So far, I’m struck by the author’s honesty and God’s ability to use even those who’ve been running from Him.
Top three essentials: A good book, a good cup of coffee, and a good internet connection.
How did God speak to you recently? I’m one of those people that’s constantly questioning if I’m truly hearing something from God, but recently, through circumstances in my life, I’ve felt Him assure me that I’m on the right path, and that this is my time to be faithful in the smaller things. I’ve found that my resolve to just keep going, more for the purpose of saying ‘I did it’ than being applauded, has made me more able to feel God’s hand in my life.
Hobby: Baking (I’m quite good, if I may say so), cross-stitching, and watching DIY interior design videos (despite never doing anything like that myself, I love watching an ugly or plain space be transformed into one of beauty).
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: First, be consistent in reading the Bible – I use an app that records my “streaks”, and find myself much better about reading everyday when I have a good streak going. Second, talk to God, even when it feels silly or like you don’t know how – it will change you. Third, surround yourself with people who inspire you to love God even more.
Favorite person in scripture? I go through seasons of identifying with different people, so I don’t feel like I can ever truly pick a favorite other than Jesus – I know that’s a bit like saying Harry is your favorite character from Harry Potter, but oh well!
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? That God isn’t just for the blameless, perfect, or lifelong believers – He is for you, too. He’s for those who are sick, lost, suffering, and melancholy. No one is too far gone to be found, and God can’t be shocked.
“He is for you”
How do you engage with your community? COVID has made it difficult (especially in New York) to meet consistently, but my husband and I like to invite a small group of friends over every week, make dinner for them, watch a movie, and discuss life. It started off as something we off-handedly decided to do, and recently we realized we’ve had them over close to a hundred times — so often that it’s now just a part of our routine.
Favorite holiday? Christmas! Is that boring? I love waking up on a frosty, white morning, seeing my loved ones, snuggling under blankets all day to keep warm, drinking too much hot chocolate, and reflecting on a year passed.
A goal you have? To be the light in someone else’s life that leads them to His light.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: A few months into the pandemic, my husband and I started something called ‘Adventure Wednesday’ – we go to a local cafe, get some coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and spend the day exploring. We’ve both said we want to continue Adventure Wednesday as our family grows.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? “What was I wrong about?”
What does your morning routine consist of? I like to wake up before my husband and enjoy the quiet of my living room for a moment. It’s not like I get up at an ungodly hour (I don’t think being a morning person is in my DNA), but for some reason, it feels like the world is still and groggy-eyed with me. Then I make breakfast for us: buttered toast, over easy eggs, and strong coffee. Sometimes, we add avocado or tomato. Simple as it sounds, I look so forward to it every night as I fall asleep.
What is on your nightstand? My journal, my current read, and lip balm.
Define Christianity in a sentence: I think 1 John 4:16 states it perfectly: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
For more Keelia:
Online women’s magazine: wallflowerjournal.com
Until next time, keep witnessing!