Friday, May 22, 2015

Just Katie Thoughts--5/16-5/22/2015

(Or, in which I battle bronchitis, ask you to give me $25, and flash back in time to share a tweet about a personalized license plate from Missouri.)

1. Last Friday, I came home from work and began losing my voice. By Saturday, I was walking around in a haze and croaking like a frog. By Sunday I couldn't speak at all and went from feeling super energized to feverish and weak in the span of seconds. I finally went to the doctor on Monday and discovered I had bronchitis. I ended up missing the last two days of school entirely because I was feverish with mild laryngitis and a brutal cough. Being sick is no fun. I am terrible at being sick. I think of all the other things I could be doing besides being sick and then attempt to do these things, only to surrender after about 5 minutes in order to go sleep for 3 hours from the exertion that I put forth. The good news is that this was the first time I have been go-to-the-doctor sick in 5 years, and a week later (and with some scary strong antibiotics in my system), I am on the mend.

2. United Parent Support for Down Syndrome Fundraising update: I have now raised $275 towards my charity for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon! Only $725 to go! (that number sounds absolutely terrifyingly daunting, but most of this whole marathon-for-charity experience has been such a leap of faith that I am holding onto hope and trusting that funds will be raised by my deadline of October!) My goal for the end of May is to have reached $300 before entering June. That's only $25 away! Now, I recognize that only about 3 people plus my parents read this blog, but if each of those 3 people who are reading my words donated $25 (or $10.....or $5....or the pennies you find in the lint of your couch....really I'm not picky.), that would put me $50 over my end-of-May goal and only $650 away from my final goal number of raising $1000 for UPS for DownS (which, as a refresher, is a charity that provides support for the families of individuals with Down syndrome and is using the proceeds from this year's race to promote literacy and learning in DownS patients). Might I ask you now, dear reader, to help a sister out?

CLICK HERE TO DONATE YOUR PENNIES TO A GOOD CAUSE


3. Last July, Alyssa, my Dad, and I went to the Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah. This annual event became one of my favorite summer-in-Oklahoma things to do during my college years, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Oklahoma's native son and his legacy of folk music. Anyways, at the festival last year there was a lady named Amy Speace and she performed a song that she had written in honor of the late great Pete Seger. The song is called "Hymn for the Crossing" and is absolutely perfect for me in describing why music therapy is an important part of the interdisciplinary team of a hospice. Ms. Speace released the song for download a couple of months ago, and this week I finally got around to digging out my guitar and transcribing the song for my future musical endeavors. And speaking of which....
"Don't need my name carved into stone, just sing me a hymn for the crossing"


4. It is time for me to once again pursue my dreams of practicing as a music therapist. I recognize that those 3 of you + my parents who regularly read my words are probably thinking "good gracious, when will this girl stop having an existential crisis and stop boring us with details about her non-existent career?" All I can say is, sorry; not sorry. I'm still 24 years young and still figuring this whole "life" thing out. Being a para at Logan Avenue was a great transition job for me into married life and living in a new community. I will always be grateful for my brief time there. Also as of now I'm still working at Logan Avenue as a para next year and until a door opens for music therapy. But something in my heart has changed and I know that it is time to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy*.

It's hard to explain all the things that have changed to bring me to where I am right now. I've been seeing so many of my classmates and music therapist peers taking big chances, starting new jobs, and really following their dreams to provide music therapy. They have inspired me to once again follow my passion and take the risk of trying out my potential. Throughout my clinical training, my supervisors always told me that I had great potential, creativity, ability to go far in the field of music therapy. The problem with potential, though, is that the words means nothing if you choose to just sit and stagnate. Also on top of this new desire to take chances and follow my passion, I had my 30-day supervision meeting a couple of weeks before school was out for my job as a para. Long story short, I asked my boss if I could possibly include brief music therapy opportunities in my schedule next year with the kids in the classroom I serve; I was told a very kind but very definite "no". I like my job as a para, I really truly do. But it doesn't set a fire in my soul like my music therapy career paths have. So why am I investing my time in a place that doesn't set my soul aflame? Also there's this app called TimeHop that shows you status updates and other things you've posted from recent years. Lately my TimeHop has been filled with tweets from one year ago, when I first started a music therapy position at AseraCare Hospice in Lawrence and when the world was absolutely bursting with possibility Some of the more convicting tweets I've been reading about my life as a music therapist are as follows:

To be honest, this tweet could have been sent on most of the days in which I went out on patient visits.

You bet your bottom dollar I miss my patients. Also, unrelated tweet beneath, but #Missouriproblems.


So what does this all mean? It means I'm tired of waiting for an opportunity of breakthrough to just fall into my lap. I'm tired of just settling for options that do not stir my very soul. And so I begin the process of deep, intense research into where the road might next take me. My plan at this moment is to begin brainstorming a list of every single possible place in Lyon County in which my services could be utilized. Then from there I will start creating job pitches and begging for interviews and making battle plans for either opportunities to start full-time positions or to go towards more of a contracting approach with several different agencies. Creating a music therapy job could happen overnight or it could take 3 years, but I am ready to actively pursue the career that I love and am ready to prepare for whatever may come next with a spitfire spirit and a manic, passionate attitude.

5. And last but not least (and hopefully on a much shorter note than the saga above), the weather is warm and I am absolutely dying to go on adventures. Yesterday I went to Chase county to visit their courthouse (which was pretty but also a slightly strange experience to be meandering through a government building during working hours even though an old sign on the door promised I was welcome) and also went for a stroll in the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve while I was there (and didn't really get to stroll far before darn bronchitis side effects had me wheezing and choking).
Nalgene, tiny fire backpack, a map of the wonders of Kansas: all I need for summer adventures.

It was great to have tiny adventures, but Kansas is a big place and I have several lists of all the things I want to see here. So if you are an adventurous soul, or even if you aren't but are vaguely curious as to what could possibly be adventurous in Kansas, please. Call me up and join me on an adventure. We will get coffee and then go have an adventure. You might learn something along the way. I promise you won't be bored. And then before returning home, we will go for coffee again. Serious, open invitation here.



*if you got this reference, you win at life.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Just Katie Thoughts--5/4--5/15/2015

1. Last week at work was just really incredibly rough. But last weekend was delightful and filled with so much soul nourishment from time spent with loved ones. Friday after school I was surprised with a chance to Skype with my dear kindred spirit, Gabby! She's currently in Madagascar serving with the Peace Corps. She left last June and still has quite a stint to go, and since she is one of the people to whom I bare my soul/with whom I share my life, I jump at any chance I get to catch up with her in her electricity-and-wifi-limited locale. Catching up with her was so good for my soul, and I can't wait for her to return to Kansas for adventures (but am also so excited for her having adventures halfway around the globe!)! Also this time of the year makes me reminisce about the times when Gabby and I were active Jayhawk Hunters, and as I am also cleaning out my computer I am getting to relive old pictures and memories of all the Jayhawks on Parade that we tracked down :)


Gabby and Katie, Jayhawk Hunters, Inc.


2. Another great joy of the weekend was getting to spend Saturday morning with my beloved friend, Gretchen! We had chai on Mass Street and then went to the park where there was a weird dog festival thing going on. I haven't seen her since the wedding when I used to see her at least once a week, so it was good to simply rest and enjoy being with one of my dearest friends. Later that night, Libby met me in De Soto for a run. We had only planned to run a couple of miles, but we had so much to talk about that we ended up going for 7! Our trail was on one that Michael had told me about in a quiet wood in De Soto, and it was absolutely delightful to run and share life with my beloved so(u)l(e) sister :)

Run Kansas


Literally couldn't do life without this girl running by my side.

3. Speaking of running.....this week I reached $200 in my fundraiser for United Parent Support for Down Syndrome! I have been running a ton lately and have truly started reaching a place in which I am running not to train or to stay in shape but because I truly enjoy the beauty of running. I feel so blessed to be able to run, and not only to run, but to run for others. I am aiming to raise $1000 total for UPS for DownS before September as I prepare to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Only $800 to go! That number sounds terrifying, but so much of this race is already seasoned with grace and beauty, I can only trust that the funds will be raised and that this training season will be a time of refreshing and soul nourishment. I could go on about this race for hours, so if you have any questions about the beautiful ways in which God is using this race to nurture my soul, ask me and I would love to share more :) But in the meantime, if you would be interested in sponsoring my run and helping me get ever closer to that $1000 mark, you can click the link here: SPONSOR ME!


4. Ever since I moved to Emporia in March, I have been eagerly anticipating the chance to join the city's municipal band this summer. All week long I have been beyond jazzed about the open audition (which was Thursday evening), only to get there and discover that their horn section was already full before I even got there. I was put on the substitute list, but it just really sucks. I miss having music in my life and I was so desperately hoping that I could play in this band and somehow get more connected with this community in which I have found myself. I asked the conductor if I could even just come to rehearsals as a substitute just to stay active in playing horn and around other musicians, but he told me that I really can't be at a rehearsal unless I'm playing in the most upcoming concert as a sub. It was so beautiful to get to play in the rehearsal last night and just a little painful today to realize that I might not be getting to play again for some time.

5. And speaking of music....my heart misses music therapy. I don't know when I will get to actually practice as a MT-BC again, but I am planning to spend some of my time this summer compiling a list of absolutely all of my options for music therapy in this community. I still don't know on which population I would like to focus. I have been missing my hospice experiences as of late, but could also see myself working in a hundred different possible settings or scenarios. The good news is that I don't have to be in a hurry. I can spend the time to really do research and prepare job pitches and deliver them whenever the time comes. I feel a sense of urgency to return to what I do best, but I refuse to return in haste. Not sure where this will all lead, but I am trusting that there is a bigger picture I cannot yet see, and I am eager to see where my career path may flow.



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Just Katie Thoughts--4/25--5/3/2015

1. Today I ran half marathon #8! It was the Prairie Fire Marathon spring half series in Wichita. It definitely wasn't my fastest, but I felt strong pretty much the whole route and finished well. The reason I had originally signed up for this race was because I Run 4 Bailee and like to get races in for my buddy and because my past roommate, Bethany, had decided to run her first half marathon. We ran the first 4 miles together before getting separated, but she finished on her own and did well! This race made me so grateful for heart and lungs and legs to run and has me anxiously awaiting my next marathon in Chicago. Which brings me to my next point after some pictures....

Half #8: finished! (and wearing blue and yellow for Down syndrome awareness!)

Finishers! 



2. I have now raised $60 towards my charity, United Parent Support for Down syndrome, for the Chicago Marathon! This organization is using all funds raised to promote literacy for individuals affected by Down syndrome. The amount I've raised so far is not a lot in comparison to my goal of $1000, but it is so encouraging every time I get online and see even $10 more donated towards my running mission. My hope is to raise up to $300 of my goal by the end of May. If you would like to donate to this charity and my chance to run in my dream marathon for this charity, please click the link below!

Help Katie run the Chicago Marathon!!

3. All the people involved in my life are probably tired of hearing about how obsessed I currently am with the new Josh Garrels album, but it is literally one of the greatest things I have heard as of late. And, good news, it is FREE for a limited time on noisetrade! If you like music or just have ears, go download this. I am 99%
sure you will not regret this download. It is audible beauty and awesomeness. Katie endorsed.






4. The other night, Michael and I went for a walk and made a kitty friend. Her name was Maddie and she came when we called. She was super well-kept and friendly and let us pet her in the hospital parking lot for a significant amount of time. I love that cat. I want a cat. Maybe someday when we live in a pet-friendly place...



5. It is springtime, which means my heart is absolutely bursting with desire to go on Kansas adventures! If you would be interested in joining me on a Kansas journey at any time in the next several months, please let me know! Doesn't even matter if I know you well or not. Friendship can form on tiny road trips to see random stuff. Adventures will be beginning quite soon and I have a whole list of Kansas things to accomplish!










Friday, April 24, 2015

Just Katie Thoughts: 4/17--4/24/2015

Just some Katie adventures from the past week!

1. Perhaps the biggest news I have to share...last Friday (4/17), I found out that Gretchen, Libby, and I get to run the Chicago Marathon this coming October! I know that I swore that Tulsa would be my last full marathon, but I've always said that the only reasons I would run a fourth marathon would be (1) if Gretchen decided to run a full marathon and asked me to run with her, or (2) if it was the Chicago Marathon, as this is my dream race. And both of these reasons are happening! We all decided to run for charities, so Gretchen is running to race money for Ronald McDonald House Charities, and Libby and I are running in support of United Parent Support for Down Syndrome! We are all slightly dying of excitement. What's better than getting to run my dream race with 2 of my dearest friends? I am seeking to raise $1000 in order to run, and if you would like to donate or learn more, I have included a link!

Click here to help me run Chicago!



2. Also on Friday, we received our engagement and wedding pictures in the mail! It was super fun to look through them all and then upload them in order to share them with our friends and family. Thank goodness for social media to connect between far-apart places!

This is Michael. I like him.

3. This week I have discovered the downside to moving to a farm-centric county: allergies from hell. I've spent the last 4 days feeling rather icky and fluctuating between extreme sinus pressure and chest congestion. I am never again going to undermine those who claim that allergies are terrible and am ready to figure out what I can do to kick this crud.

4. Last weekend I made a boutonniere/corsage set for prom! The colors requested are black and gold and the paper used was Harry Potter pages and old band music (their request, not my idea although I love it!). After the wedding I thought I would never make another flower, but now I actually kinda enjoy making flowers for special occasions. Career option #673? Most definitely.


5. And last but not least, this week I have decided to be gracious towards myself, which you can read about in my blog post Grace Notes and it is making my life a lot more joyful and a lot less works-based! 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Grace Notes

I have an actual, genuine fear of falling into laziness. Maybe that's why I am always running just one more race or finishing just one more craft project or reading just one more positively-terrible-but-critically-acclaimed novel. I know how very capable I am of giving up or quitting or binge-watching Netflix rather than doing something useful with my life. And so I go and go and go and have a difficult time resting or being still. I enjoy being busy and productive. I thrive on the pressure to be successful and to learn and grow and be more than I already am. I have a deep, physical and spiritual hunger to live life loud and cannot bear the thought of settling into a boring existence.

This tendency (or personality flaw, if you see it that way) is three-fourths good and one-fourth deleterious. Especially lately when I read all the music therapy blog posts and tweets that I got connected with when I was in undergrad. I recognize that all the successful music therapy giants in the field are trying to be motivational when they say things along the lines of "you just have to work hard!" and "anybody can start a music therapy business!", but for an overdo-er like me, it makes me feel as though I have fallen into laziness and failure since I am a year into being board-certified and yet am working at a school as a paraeducator rather than as a music therapist. If I wanted to be a successful music therapist like the rest, it seemed as though I should buckle down, go forth, and conquer all the clients and solve world peace through drum circles and relaxation techniques. Instead, I took a job as a para and spent my first two weeks at this job feeling all grumbly inside, mourning that I wasn't getting to work with music therapy and fearful that my life had become directionless and overwhelming. I hadn't even allowed myself the chance to try a new career path in special ed before dreaming and scheming for where I should go next in order to follow the ultimate music therapy career path.

But the truth of the matter is....my life path of moving to a rural Kansas county just does not match up with the "typical" music therapy career. Heck, my life path doesn't even resemble anything of which I ever dreamed.

And this week, I decided that this is ok. I have decided to give myself some grace.

The fact is, I am 24 years young. Yeah, I'm not where I want to end up. I may not plan on being a para forever, but for this season in life, I need to allow myself time to be still and to grow. Before focusing on my career dreams, I need to discover who I am in the present time. I need to learn how to be a supportive wife and how I fit into the community as a new Kansas citizen. I need to find a faith community where I will be deeply connected with other believers and can be supported in my relationship with Christ. I need to learn what my ministry is and how I can fulfill my spiritual gift of loving others deeply and completely here in Emporia. I need to connect with others in friendship and sharing life. In regards to career dreams, I need to figure out where my passions lie and where I should focus my music therapy efforts before jumping the gun and accepting a job to which I will only give half of my heart (and for a girl who's really just in love with the human race, choosing a population to serve is tricky enough without also having to figure out all these other life things!).

In short, I have a lot of things I still need to figure out right now.

And someday, I will be able to focus on once again being a "real" music therapist. But for now, I realize that I have to be still for awhile, I have to learn to be more human before I can learn how to fully be a professional MT-BC (Even as I write this, I feel fear that other professionals in my field will judge me, saying that I am a quitter or that I am not living up to my potential. But there I go, allowing myself to feel pressured to be and do more. It's a vicious cycle).

As I have been processing all of these epiphanies this week, I have been thinking about grace notes in music. For you non-music folk, grace notes are essentially little tiny notes that ornament the actual notes in the musical piece. They aren't always essential to the chord, but they help to emphasize or bring interesting aspects to the notes that are already written on the page. I feel as though my decisions to take the time to learn to be still and to allow myself grace are kind of like grace notes in music. The days of my life right now may sometimes seen non-essential and like mistakes, but in reality, in view of the bigger picture, they are working to ornament my story with beauty, shaping me into who I will become down the road and helping me to uncover the confidence and passion that already reside in my heart.

So I trust that someday all the "notes" of my life will come together to create a beautiful song. And I am choosing to give myself a little grace.


*Grace notes are the tiny notes with dashes through them pictured here




Thursday, April 16, 2015

Just Katie Thoughts

My friend, Jen, has started doing a Five Thoughts Friday thing where she posts five short things about the week. I like the idea so I'm going to try to do something similar to keep up with blogging!


1.  This past week, Michael and I hit our one month anniversary of being married! Marriage is awesome and getting to hang out with my favorite person on the daily is pretty fantastic. Also I am relieved to be finally finished with thank you notes and random post-wedding details.



                                    (This picture is old but it displays our personalities perfectly)

2. This is my 4th week working as a para at Logan Avenue! I'm starting to feel welcomed and starting to understand what I'm supposed to be doing. Parts of me really wish I was doing music therapy, but I'm realizing that with all the changes I've had in this past year and even this past month, I need to stay where I am working and learn to be still and content. For now, that means not actively seeking music therapy opportunities for the current time in order to maintain sanity and contentment. It's crazy, but it's part of this stepping out and living by faith thing. I don't understand, but I don't always have to understand. All that to say, I am really enjoying working with the kids in Connections (a behavioral-based classroom) and in Resources (more of a special ed setting where I'm working 1:1 with a kindergartener).

3. This week also brings me to my 5th runniversary! I ran my first half marathon on April 17, 2010, and never stopped running afterwards. It's crazy to think how I ran that race mainly because I was lonely from knowing no one in Kansas. 5 years later I am thriving in Kansas and am so much stronger at running. I am so grateful that Jesus gave me heart and legs and lungs to run, and that He has led me to a place where I can literally run in green pastures. I am also grateful to have been running this past year for Bailee, a little girl in the Houston area with Down syndrome. She is cute as a bug (see picture below) and I have been so blessed by the chance to run for her and her sweet family. My eighth half marathon is coming up in May, and there are possible plans for a 4th marathon in the works. Gotta keep running for my buddy!
 

                                              (I love me some Kansas running views)



                                                    (This is Bailee. I run for her.)

4. Last weekend, Michael and I went to Oklahoma to visit my parents and to pick up my spring/summer clothes from their garage. It was refreshing as always to be in Oklahoma. It was even more refreshing to take a walk around the Purcell Puddle (or Lake, if you will) with my best friend/twin/female soul mate, Veronica (aka Alyssa for you unimaginative folk).Even as all of life is in the midst of change, I still have my number one friend walking with me literally and figuratively through life. It was also obviously great to hang out and adventure with my parents and snuggle with my kitty, George!

                                                  (George is the coolest of all cats)

5. When I was working hospice/mental health/nannying, I would drive 100+ miles per day. Now that I live in Emporia, I drive no more than 5 miles per day. I bought gas for the first time in 4 weeks this past Wednesday. It's weird to not be driving as much but is also such a relief to actually get home at a reasonable hour. It's also nice to be spending $20 on a month of gas rather than $185+.

That's all for this week! We will see how long I keep this up!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Kansas Crazy

When I was 17, I had my first legitimately crazy God experience.

I had grown up in a small town with a magical life story of love and hope and community that can only come from growing up as the only child of two teachers in a small town. I was (and still am) desperately, madly in love with Oklahoma. While all of my classmates slandered the name of our town and counted down the days until they could leave, I remained steadfast to my roots, wondering why on earth anyone would want to leave such a wonderful place as the great state of Oklahoma. I had no real idea of what I wanted to pursue in college or as a career, but I knew that I would obviously be a Sooner, born and bred and until I was dead.

And then crazy struck. Junior year was when everyone began turning up the pressure on students to perfectly map out their future. I remember one night I lay in my bed and prayed that Jesus would let me pick a career that would involve music or helping people or something related. The next morning I went to school, and my now-older-sister-figure/bridesmaid but then-assistant-band-director (whatever, it's fine) Jen called me into her office and said something along the lines of "I don't know why, but I felt like I should talk to you about music therapy. It's basically where you use music to help people." In my next heartbeat, I knew that this was what I was meant to pursue. But then when I said I wanted more information, Jen said something along the lines of "If you are serious about wanting to pursue music therapy, you need to go to the University of Kansas in order to get the best education in that field." I think my heart stopped at that moment, but when it started again, I knew without a shadow of a doubt, even though it went against everything that I wanted, that this idea was so crazy that God had to be involved, and that I would ultimately go to KU.

For the next week or so, I knew in my heart that this idea of moving to Kansas was an answer to prayer, a very clear directive to step out in faith, trusting that God would still see and hold me in Kansas as He had in Oklahoma. Still, I DID NOT want to do this. I specifically remember sitting in the high school library, typing in the website for KU, and then sobbing as I looked through pages of information on the university and its music therapy program. I mentally made an ultimatum with God: If this is something You actually truly want from me, I need confirmation. And confirmation I received. When I told my parents I was thinking about moving to Kansas, my Dad just smiled and grudgingly told me he would have to start cheering for the Jayhawks. My Mom was (and still is) supportive of me and my choices and promised her love no matter where I ended up. My two best guy friends told me "well, they couldn't keep Dorothy out of Kansas forever", referencing the many times I had worn the Wizard of Oz costume my Meemaw had made for UNICEF trick-or-treating. Eventually I gained the courage and absolute desire to move to Kansas for college. I actually don't know how 18-year-old Katie was ever brave enough to move 350 miles away to a place where she knew no one and had no tangible view of what would lie ahead. I feel as though the ease of transition experienced in moving to Kansas was just further proof that this was absolutely 100% from God and not from my own strength.

That whole experience was Kansas crazy.

The whole process of deciding to come to KU was so crazy and such a wonderful time of clinging to Jesus and learning to trust in the goodness and grace of His love. The experience of even one absolutely crazy God moment is more than one expects. But for some reason, over and over again, the things in my life that have been most worthwhile have occurred as crazy God moments, thoughts that are so crazy that I know they cannot come from me, that the only response is to take the unthinkable leap of faith. Some examples include joining a CRU project for San Diego, volunteering at camp, going to Russia the summer after graduating, moving to Iowa for internship, even dating Michael after swearing off boys. All these were crazy thoughts to which I was committed to follow as soon as I realized that the crazy thought actually came from Jesus saying "Daughter. Calm down. Trust me." I don't know why so many significant events in my life have come across as crazy. Perhaps I'm just too stubborn for my own good. But no matter the cause, I had another such "crazy Kansas" moment recently and am still in the process of being lavished in love and grace and very clear direction.

When I had originally realized I would be marrying Michael and moving to Emporia, KS, to join him, my first impulse was that I would obviously work to start a medical music therapy program at the local hospital. I've been doing a ton of research and work to prepare for a job proposal. Oddly, I was experiencing optimal levels of anxiety about the job attempt, but I chalked that up to nerves and stress over planning for a wedding and held steadfast to my dream and idea that I should obviously work in a hospital. Every time I did more research on the hospital, though, I was met with more discouragement. Despite being the largest hospital in 9 counties, it was only an 18-bed facility. They had some clinics within the hospital but they were mainly for people with scheduled doctor's appointments for check-ups. Most discouraging was the fact that every connection I attempted within the hospital didn't necessarily tell me that the hospital was a bad place to work, but strongly hinted and highly advised that I steer clear of working there. And despite all the negative things I was hearing and the voice in my heart that was telling me that this was not a wise career choice to pursue, I felt as though starting a hospital program was my absolute only option. I started losing sleep from worrying about the future, wondering if I was doomed to never find a job and asking questions about my purpose. I knew that I would eventually figure my life out, but it seemed as though I was close to tears anytime I would be asked about what I was planning to do in Emporia.

Then one night I heard that a member of our camp family passed away. I've been working at neuromuscular camp every summer since I turned 17, and I always say it's the true love of my life and passion of my heart. Unfortunately due to the condition of neuromuscular disease, losing campers is an event that happens and really hurts every time. That night I went to bed but once again found myself to be an insomniac, anxious about my future and upset about the death of my friend. After an hour of tossing and turning, I realized that lying in bed and staring at my wall was a perfect chance in which I could talk openly and honestly to God in prayer. I realize I should know better, having grown up in church and with strong examples of faith, but I have a bad tendency of shutting God out or closing down communication with the Spirit whenever I get overwhelmed or anxious. It's the exact opposite of what I should do, but that night I began to pray, even though I knew that the answers God might give could very well be different than the answers I wanted to hear. I began to pray that I could see clearly without my own ambitious desires clouding my view. I prayed that whatever job I might get would be glorifying to God and not to myself. Beyond that, I didn't know what else to pray in regards to my job choices or personal ambitions.

And so of course my thoughts strayed to camp. I remembered my friend and all the things that he had done and contributed to camp. I then started revisiting camp memories and the feeling that I always get at camp, the feeling that every breath and action I give is completely in God's will for where I should be. This got me to thinking, why is it that camp makes me feel this way? What exactly about camp has captured my heart so fiercely? I realized that it isn't necessarily the fact that it is working with individuals affected by neuromuscular diseases (although I do have and love many friends in that category) but was more related to the fact that when I am at camp I am living purposefully and giving fully and loving with all that I have. Church people always love to talk about spiritual gifts, and as I thought and prayed I started to realize that even though I'm not sure it is necessarily a spiritual gift, I am my best self when I am loving wholeheartedly and with all that I am. I was put on this earth to love freely. The next realizations came in a quick blur, but I realized that if I am alive in order to love, I should probably put myself in positions in which I could actually be around people that may not be as loved. I also recognized that I work well with differently-abled people, and that I come alive whenever I get to work with people in that classification. Like a lightning bolt it hit me: if I am passionate about working with and for and beside individuals with disabilities, why was I spending so much of my time yearning for a hospital job that would rarely allow me to interact with the disabled? Why was I spending my money on what was not bread and my wages for what would not satisfy?

So the next morning I woke up and, with waking, realized that I was going to apply to be a paraeducator with Emporia Public Schools.

Just as when I had surrendered to coming to Kansas, I had the thought, I knew the thought was insane, it went contrary to all that I knew to be true, and yet I knew with every fiber of my being that this was the path on which I should be placed. I went to have some quiet time and opened my study bible to the page where I would be reading, only to find a devotional titled: "Disabilities: Friends with Special Needs" at the top of the page. Some stand-out sentences included "If I don't reach out to this differently-abled individual with love, who will?" and "Unconditional love overlooks physical or mental handicaps and focuses on the true person, a special object of God's care and concern." Everything about considering becoming a para was absolute insanity. I mean, I still just really want to be an actual music therapist with a real music therapy job. But as I got on the school website and saw many para positions open, I felt Jesus whispering to my heart "Do you trust Me enough to follow where I am leading?" Why sure, Jesus. "Even if it means putting your music therapy career desires on hold in order to love those whom I have called you to love and serve in a place where you never expected to serve but where the need is great?" It took me a few days, but my answer to that one has become "Yes, Jesus. Let Your will override my desires and planning."

The rest of the story played out pretty quickly and effortlessly. I submitted an application to Emporia Public Schools and went through two interviews at different elementary schools. Both interviewers were incredibly enthusiastic about my music therapy background, expressing a long-held desire to hire a music therapist in the school system. The first school I visited made me an offer, and starting March 23rd, I will be employed as a Logan Avenue Elementary lion, working part of the day with the behaviorally disturbed classroom and part of the day with the life skills classroom that works with children affected by Down syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other related cognitive or genetic disabilities. The principal has also mentioned that they would like for me to do music therapy sessions with the behavioral classroom at certain activity times during each week as a way to demonstrate to the school board and faculty how a music therapist could be used to enhance learning so that I can potentially receive funding. My long term goal is to be a para for half a year to a year and then branch out to being a full-time music therapist for the district. I do still really want to be a "real" music therapist, but I also know that for this specific season of life, I am supposed to focus on blooming where I am planted and on loving the kids that are put in my care. If the doors open to someday transition to becoming a school-based music therapist, I will greet the opportunity with open arms and a grateful heart. But if I never do get to transition to being a music therapist, I will still sing praises, grateful that Jesus sometimes asks me to do things that seem absolutely insane but that ultimately bring Him glory and give me the greatest fullness of life. I know that being a para will be a difficult job, but I know that for however long this job lasts, whether for a year or for a career lifetime, I will sing praise, and I will do what I can to follow Jesus and to love the kids with whom I work with all that I have and all that I am.

So in summary: I'm an Oklahoma girl who is marrying a Kansas boy and soon becoming a paraeducator in the school district of a town in the middle of rural Kansas. Life is most definitely, undeniably Kansas crazy, but I really wouldn't have it any other way.