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 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. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bloom (Or, If You Want to Know the Whole Story)

To start off, I will tell you the story of Michael and I, since that's the main question I have been asked over and over again since the afternoon of November 23.

Every summer, I work at camp for individuals affected by various neuromuscular diseases. It's the love of my life, the passion of my heart, and if you haven't heard me blabber about these camps before, then get out of my blog cause you literally don't even know who I am (I'm just kidding, please stay and make yourself at home, friend-to-be). We never have enough volunteers for camp, so in the summer of 2012, I posted in the KU Navigators Facebook group to ask for willing and able volunteers. This kid named Michael Just added me as a friend and messaged me saying that he wanted to volunteer for both camps I was advertising. My first thought was that he was clearly insane, since only a crazy person would volunteer for 2 weeks of camp without having heard about camp or knowing anything about muscular dystrophy. But I told him as much as I could about camp, and he showed up in Oklahoma for camp. I was late to counselor orientation because I was at the wedding of some high school friends, but when I showed up this Michael kid introduced himself as the guy I had invited to camp. I had actually invited several of the counselors for that year so I was just like "oh, hi, thanks for coming to camp, I'm gonna go sit with my Rainbow family now". I mean, I didn't totally ignore him that first week of camp, but I didn't talk to him beyond what my senior counselor duties required for checking in with volunteers to make sure everyone was happy and healthy. At the end of the week, Michael stayed at my parents' house for the night between that camp and the next, during which time he and I both slept in our respective areas for most of the time we were there (camp is pretty much the most exhausting thing ever). The next morning we caravaned  to camp #2, and as we were driving off, my mom called me and was like "hey I really liked that boy I think you two are going to end up together". ( was literally asleep the whole time........) The next week of camp, though, I kept thinking about what my mom said, and started to get a camp crush on Michael. To clarify here, though, camp crushes are a very real and yet not-so-serious thing. When you are volunteering with other nice people in a high-emotional and low-sleep environment, you fall in love with everyone and everything. For example, there was one particular camp prior to this one with Michael in which there was this one guy volunteer who was awkward and didn't say a word, but because of camp emotions, I spent the week thinking he was beyond beautiful and perfect. As soon as I left camp, the attraction was absolutely gone and I had to laugh at myself for falling for the camp hormones. Anyways, I started camp crushing on Michael and really thought nothing of it, but after camp was over, we started talking and I realized that we actually had a ton in common and that my crush wasn't just within the camp grounds. Once we were back in Kansas, we began hanging out a lot and talking more and realizing that we mutually liked each other. Before we even started dating, we realized that, barring some bizarre act of God, we weren't going to stop dating, but that this next-step of dating would end with us getting married (no, seriously, I have screenshots of text messages from 2012 seriously predicting marriage). We started dating in August of that year, and it's been beyond lovely ever since. On November 23 of this year, I ran my third marathon, and Michael surprised me at the finish line with his presence and with a ring. You can see the video on Facebook, and we are planning to marry on March 14, 2015 (and for those haters who keep telling me that's too soon, well, it's not really a surprise that we are getting married, and extravagant, 2-years-to-plan weddings make no sense to me).

Ok, so now that we've gotten the big story out of the way, here comes the part about blooming. About accepting and loving where you are planted and allowing yourself to grow and bloom and be all that God wants you to be. About singing at the top of your lungs every time you are in your car because you are just so blissfully happy with the story that is being written with your life. That's pretty much where I am right now. Obviously I'm really excited to be marrying my best friend in 2015, and I'm super blessed to also love his family and to get to be one of them soon. But one of the greatest blessings in my life right now also comes from the fact that I have literally been surrounded by people almost every day since August. I can't even say I'm an introvert in this season, because my life is being colored and blessed by the fact that I am surrounded by others. Whether it's family dinners with Libby or Bethany, tea time with Gretchen, time spent with Michael and his family, or even being around the chaos of the family I nanny, I am seldom alone. Even yesterday at church, I was helping with the kids Christmas play, and on my way home I just kept thinking "Holy goodness, the people at CBC are genuinely good and beautiful humans". Last year in Iowa, my whole thought process was "I'm only here for 6 months, so I'm gonna fend for myself and take care of me". As a result, I struggled to emotionally survive, much less thrive. Now, I have 3ish months left here in Lawrence with this continual community that I've been given. But this time around, my mindset is "I'm only here for 3 months, so I'm gonna do everything I can to make this time count". I'm trying to surrender to service and trying to focus on loving others rather than myself. As I focus on others, I find that Jesus keeps filling me up with more joy than I thought my heart could ever contain. This is a biblical concept and nothing new, but hey, I don't always learn lessons until I live them. Even though I know that I only have 3 more months in this soil, I am choosing to bloom where I am planted. And simply living every day intentionally desiring to shine and grow and thrive is making all the difference in my life and love and joy and peace. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but for today, I am content watching as my story unfolds over the last chapter in my Lawrence life and content to be resting calmly in His love.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Healed: A Raw Katie Update from August 2012--Present Day

Once again, I suck at keeping up with a blog. I pretty much write on here when I have something profound I have learned and want to remember or when I have news that I want to share with a large number of people. This post is more of the latter, with a dash of life lessons sprinkled in parentheses and general tangents.  

I guess I should start with a basic outline of the past two years of mine in order to familiarize those who need some background perspective. This morning I was listening to the Casting Crowns album "Come to the Well", which was my primary soundtrack during the fall semester of my senior year of college, now two years ago. Listening to the songs brought me so many memories of why August 2012 was truly the best of times. It was at that time that Michael and I started dating after meeting at camp (and earlier on the same day we met I swore off boys FOREVER). A few weeks before we became "official", I met Gretchen, a girl that I expected to be a totally annoying sorority girl but who ended up becoming one of my absolute best friends after a few months of getting to know each other over Bible readings and chai tea (ironic since the summer before I had met a Jesus-loving sorority girl and had finally decided that people in Greek life might possibly be tolerable on rare occasions--but would NEVER be my close friends). Also around this time, I joined a Navs Bible study and met this hyper girl named Libby (who I thought was slightly crazy and I didn't really ever think twice about her beyond bible study but ended up becoming my so(u)l(e) sister). I met several other people that August, but these particular people are mentioned for a reason which will be made manifest later. 
(Life lesson learned in this paragraph: don't judge a book by it's cover. You never know which people will become most important in your life over time.)

A few months before August 2012, I had been in San Diego on a CRU missions trip. We spent 2 weeks doing beach evangelism and learning about the Spirit and His work in our lives. I truly believe that trip opened my eyes to God in ways that I had never experienced before and have yet to experience again. There were about 30 of us students living in community and striving to honor Christ in all that we did under the guidance of very godly and wise staff mentors. When August came around, I had a fire within my soul, ready to follow wherever God led me and desiring nothing but to know Him more. This experience set me up for a semester of being pure in heart, open and willing to be all that God created me to be. August 2012 was a beautiful time.

Also in August 2012, I moved into an apartment dubbed Grimmauld Place (or Holiday Apartments, for you boring people) with two of my best friends from the mellophone section. This action resulted in magnifying one of those friendships to a beauty I could have never imagined beforehand, and, unfortunately, destroying the other friendship. The first semester in Grimmauld Place was appropriately beautiful. But when winter came around, I began to grow bitter towards the roommate with whom things had gone sour. I was angry at her and unforgiving of the things that she would say and do. Instead of trying to mend the relationship, I let the bitterness take root. Also at this time, I began struggling with the hypocrisy I saw in so many other Christians. I felt as though I didn't belong in the "Jesus Club" because I didn't fit the stereotype of being a fashionable model of a perfect Christian and didn't openly support Sarah Palin/Duck Dynasty/Chik-fil-a. This spring semester began a season in which my faith wavered quite often, and in which the seeds of bitterness that had been sown towards my roommate began to spread out towards these hypocritical Christians that so frustrated me. 

Oh, and remember those people I mentioned up top? In this season, they became absolutely critical to my life. Michael has always been and continues to be a strong support even when I'm moody and not at my most graceful. Gretchen helped me to stay in the Word and to still try to trust God even when I had no trust in His followers. Libby and I started running together and shared many meaningful conversations while putting in the miles towards a marathon. Their influence in my life deepened, and when graduation time rolled around, I felt as though I had known these people all my life instead of only 9 short months (and I promise there's a reason that they're listed in this post. This is turning into a saga of a tale. Mea culpa.).

In June 2013, I went to Russia for a month. While there, I was convicted to let go of my bitterness towards my roommate and the hypocritical Christians. But then I encountered teammates who also made me feel bitter and unforgiving even while I explored a foreign country. I continued to harbor a bitter, unforgiving spirit, but I didn't even realize my disobedience in allowing this poison to enter my life and inhibit my relationship with Jesus. I felt fine, I was happy, but I was also realizing that I wasn't where I needed to be spiritually. I was living for less than Christ died for me to receive.

In September 2013 I moved to Iowa for internship. When describing internship, I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life. The hospital was amazing. The experiences were beautiful. My fellow intern was darling. Our supervisors were brilliant. I could go into detail about being an intern, but that's irrelevant to this particular saga. What's relevant is that, even though I had an absolutely beautiful experience while working, living alone in Iowa was hell. I had my fellow intern to talk with, but I spent so many nights all alone, hundreds of miles from the people I loved. My faith was already being harmed by my stubborn desire to hold onto bitterness, and all the time alone gave me too much time to think--and to doubt. I questioned if God loved me or if He even cared. I questioned my purpose and most everything about my life. I was overwhelmingly grateful to have the internship of my dreams, but I also felt torn, knowing that the people I loved most were living lives without me, that I was missing out on 6 months and felt as though I wasn't even missed. I didn't want to connect with anyone to tell them that I was struggling spiritually, but I felt like I was losing grip on all the things that I believed.

Then in March 2014 I moved back to Lawrence, pretty spiritually numb on all levels, but so grateful to be back near Michael again and to have his support and love. I met up with Libby for a run and found that she had also been having a spiritually difficult time, but was still clinging to faith. Gretchen and I hung out several times, and she suggested we begin reading our bibles together again. The week before Easter, we were reading in Galatians and there was a verse that basically talked about people depending on themselves instead of allowing God to work. Gretchen told me straight up that this was what I had been doing for so long, and to snap out of it and ask God and other believers for help once again. I began to pray honestly (for the first time in a long time), and it was then that Jesus showed me so clearly that the problem wasn't in His lack of care for me but rather in my lack of willingness to forgive and to release the bitterness I had held and let grow. I saw for the first time that all interactions in relationships are based on a love balance. When I am kind to others, when I am willing to forgive and respect them in spite of my feelings, I add love to the equation. When I refuse to forgive someone, I am essentially telling them "my feelings are more important than your need for love". I remove my love from the equation as a way to punish that person for my hurts. Often, they may not even know that I have removed love from the equation. But I know when I have deemed a person unworthy of my love. And when I deem someone unworthy, I begin to harbor bitterness towards them and begin to allow hate to enter the equation. I put my feelings and needs above their humanity until it becomes impossible to add love to the equation and allow for redemption. At this point, I am so far gone in hate and bitterness that only Jesus can redeem, restore love to the equation, and allow things to balance once again (I really hope that makes sense. I've been toying with this thought for the entirety of the summer and still can't word it as I would like). 

With all of these revelations, I decided to re-trace my steps to make things right, recognizing that my actions were covered with the blood of Christ. I wrote my ex-roommate an apology/forgiveness letter, all the while asking Jesus to help me love her. She still has never responded, but I don't feel hate when I see her anymore. God keeps giving more grace so that I remember His love for me and then have the strength to love her even when I don't want to do so. I began praying about my feelings towards the hypocrites I saw and about the feelings of frustration I experienced with my teammates to Russia. It hasn't been an easy process, but every day my vision has gotten a little clearer, my love for others has increased, and I can see Christ working in my life once again. I will never be completely healed (because I am a sinful, imperfect human), but I do know that I am better now than I have been since August 2012. God is still moving in my heart, and I am excited to finally be able to wake up and worship without inhibitions once again. 

During this summer, my joy has returned in abundance. I am working part-time hospice and part-time adolescent behavioral health (opposite areas, I know). I went to camp at the beginning of July and have been staying relatively busy. But even as my joy was beginning to truly blossom once again, another trial arose. I was back in communion with God, and that relationship needed a test by fire to keep me moving along through the refining process. I recognize that this struggle was absolutely minuscule on a global scale, but June 2014 rolled around and I realized I had no place to live and a lease that ended July 31. I decided that I should move to Johnson County so that I could have better job opportunities and that I should live with a roommate so I would not be repeating the loneliness of Iowa. But to make a long story short (and to not bring attention to the parties involved in this process), I ended up with several no vacancy apartment searches and fall-through roommate options--and only one week to go until the eviction on July 31 (yes this was only a couple of days ago). Up until the 2 week mark to eviction I was absolutely calm, knowing that God would bring me where He wanted me to be and that there would be enough time to move. As time grew closer to eviction, I began to feel the pressure. But instead of panicking, I started praying desperately "Yahweh, PLEASE show me very clearly and directly where You want me to be." With that prayer, I began realizing that Johnson County wasn't the right option for me. And when I went to my current apartment complex and asked about openings, they shared how that exact morning, a couple in a 1-bedroom apartment had come in to break their lease with plans to move out within the week. 

So my big exciting news is this: I am moving about 100 yards away from where I currently live in Grimmauld Place. I have a 1-bedroom apartment that is within my budget range and is, amazingly, in Lawrence, Kansas. I thought it would be best to move away from my college town, but for some reason God has landed me in Lawrence for another season of life. And the main reason I cannot stop smiling about this fact is that I will be in the same town as these beautiful members of my Christian community that I mentioned earlier. I will be able to read my Bible and drink chai with Gretchen. I will be able to train for and run many races with Libby. For the first time practically ever, I will live in the same town as Michael. Even though I missed out on 6 months while in Iowa, I'm getting a free year back to be with those I love best. Even though I will be living alone, I am within walking distance of people who have been my support and encouragement throughout the past 2 years. Most importantly, I get to spend time in a place where I have received so much spiritual nurturing, which I trust will continue in this next year and allow me to be all that God desires for me to be. 

Above all, I am grateful that God has been healing me from myself and still desires me, still wants me to be more like Him. I'm not sure what this next year in Lawrence will bring, but I look forward to the journey and the discovery of the plans that Yahweh and Creator has for me. I covet your prayers as I continue to seek God's heart and His plans for me. My personal goal for this season in Lawrence is to have a pure heart and to be open to whatever God desires for my life. I can't see the road ahead, but I trust that it will be beautiful and beyond my wildest expectations.

And in honor of feeling healed and finally on the right track after so is 

Love and hugs, 


Friday, April 25, 2014

So You Want to Run a Marathon

This blog post in honor of my so(u)l(e) sister Libby McCollom who is running her second marathon this coming Sunday. Happy running!

I'm definitely not a super athlete. I really like food and reading and watching various nerdy tv shows on Netflix instead of taking a daily run. I get annoyed at those daily posts where people think they need to post every healthy thing they have eaten/run/experienced in a day for all the world to see. But on the back of my car rest two stickers with those familiar numbers of 13.1 and 26.2, signs that I have completed half and full marathons.

Running to me is not my life, but it is definitely a hobby which I enjoy. I love getting out on warm days and letting my legs carry me far and fast as my lungs burst for need of air. I love getting all sweaty and not caring, flopping down in some grass after a long run and feeling like the whole universe is giving me a hug via my endorphins and the sounds of my heart pounding in sync with all that is around me. I really love when people talk to me about running, and share that they, too, run; that they have also experienced that runner's high and have felt the joy that is the marathon. What confuses me is when I share that I have run half and full marathons and I receive a response along the lines of "Oh! You must be so brave/strong/athletic/etc." I usually turn around and state the truth, that anyone can run a marathon.

It all starts with commitment. You will find a race that looks good, and you will sign up. Signing up is the easy part. What happens in the following months is difficult. Running has very little to do with your physical abilities and more to do with how willing you are to commit. There will be times in which you simply do not want to wake up early on a Saturday morning to go run in cold weather. There will be times in which you want to make unhealthy choices because they are easier than maintaining the front of eating and living more healthily. There will be times when running is really impossibly difficult, and you will want to throw in the towel and forget about ever becoming a marathoner.

Don't ever quit.

Not every run will feel good. At times, you will doubt that you are able to accomplish such a daunting task. If you are not a person who swears, you will still find yourself uttering more than a few curses on those difficult runs. You will hurt in places you didn't know existed and you will probably shed a tear or two in the training season leading up to your big race. Don't ever quit. Even veteran runners have challenging runs. You are not alone. Amidst all the pain, you will start to realize that you can go farther. Those 5-6 milers that used to be your long runs will become second nature. You will find yourself going farther, feeling better, and developing muscles that you can (and will) be proud of. Your body will become accustomed to running, and even on days when it hurts, you will find that you know your body better than you expected, and you will either push through the pain or instinctively know when it's time to rest. And if you have to take some time off to rest and heal your's really ok. You will still be able to run the race with endurance, as long as you are willing to get back in your shoes and run after that time of healing has passed.

As race day gets nearer, you will feel a little crazed. You will start imagining all the ways in which you might get injured pre-race and will start to notice all the things that make you feel inadequate as a runner. Do not let your mind win this battle. Trust your heart and your training. You are able to do this, and you will do this.

You will barely sleep the night before you run the big 26.2, and on the morning of the race, you will feel all kinds of sick to your stomach. The commitment that led you through months of training will drag your feet to the starting line.

Once the race starts, your heart and body will take over. You won't remember portions of your race, and that's ok. When the half marathoners split off from you, you will have a split second of panic before experiencing a moment of clarity, of singular purpose towards finishing the greater race as a whole. They have their race to face, you have yours. At some point around the 20th mile or more, you will suddenly hit a mental and emotional wall while starting to hurt in places you didn't even know you had. All of your doubts will come to the forefront of your thoughts, and you will know in your heart that you cannot finish the race. Drown out those voices by seeking help from the crowd around you; they are there to cheer you on. Focus on interacting with the crowd rather than on your own pain. People are more likely to cheer you on when you make eye contact with them, and you need their support (even if they are total strangers). Also, at some point in your race, you may start to cry, and that's ok, too.

At mile 26, you will see the finish line, and if you have any type of a soul in your body, you will start to cry. You will hurt in ways you never dreamed it would be possible to hurt, but you will force yourself across that line. At that point, so many things will be happening, but all you will know is that you are a marathoner, and that you have done something you never dreamed would be a possibility.

You will walk funny for a few days, and may get stuck trying to climb stairs. Don't go bragging about your feat, but when people ask why you are walking so strangely, tell them with pride that you are a marathoner. The high will last for as long as the soreness. But eventually your body will heal, and life will go on.

The title of "marathoner", however, will stick with you forever. You will remember how you pushed yourself and how you succeeded when faced with grey days, and the memory will make you stand a little taller. Whenever you experience difficulties, you will handle them more gracefully, having been tested and tried through the marathon and having come out on the other side. You will be more aware of yourself, more aware of others, more confident in your own skin and body, recognizing how amazing it is that your flesh and blood carried you 26.2 miles and that you survived to tell the tale.

And, before too will begin looking for another race. Because running is not a one-time thing. Running is all about that initial commitment, which will pulse through your veins and will make you long for more runs, more distance, and more of those finish line highs that come from running a marathon.

Anyone can run a marathon. Are you willing to commit to the challenge?