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". (Umm....mom.....he 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 long.....here is 




Love and hugs, 

Katie

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 body.....it'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 long....you 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?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Doubting Thomas

Let's be honest: when life gets busy, I get really bad at journaling or blogging. I just re-read the last post I had on here, and it was from the end of October when I was only 2 months into my internship. But here I am, writing again, in April, having received my board-certification as a music therapist and having started work towards some various music therapy contracts. Life is looking pretty great, and there are a lot of things to be excited about.

But in the midst of the excitement that is my 23rd year of life, I'm still struggling. When I was in Iowa, I was pretty isolated. I saw my fellow intern quite frequently, but as far as a spiritual community atmosphere went, I was alone on my own little island. I visited a handful of churches while in Iowa, but there was always that sense of recognition that my time there was short and that I didn't want to put down roots in a community that would only last for a small season. So I stayed isolated, telling myself that it would be fine on my own, and that nothing could touch me. Being away from a supportive community, though, had some major detrimental effects. Around December, my heart grew cold and apathetic. Absolutely nothing negative had happened in my life, but without the ongoing support of fellow believers and the subsequent hours of silence in my house, I began questioning my beliefs and my values and pretty much everything that I had believed to be solid. When I was 20, I had added the item "go to a monastery and take a vow of solitude for a week or more" to my bucket list. I'm a proud introvert, and the prospect of extended solitude brought images of me leaving that time a triumphant super-Christian, on first-name buddy terms with God and surrounded by an air of an overwhelming purpose revealed for my life as I marched stoically out across a rolling meadow singing hymns. Although I didn't go to a monastery, I got my wish of solitude, 6 full months of it. The reality of it was more in alignment with me emerging from smoke, covered in dirt, unable to walk or think or feel much of anything other than what was felt in the day-to-day living and doubting everything about myself and God. Don't get me wrong, I was definitely not miserable during this time. I have so many fond memories of Iowa and all the adventures that occurred while there. But spiritually, Iowa was definitely a low point in my life. My apathetic heart told me that I didn't need God to get by, and so I set out to fend for myself, hoping to be okay.

And then Iowa ended, and I packed up my car and moved back to Kansas. I had a couple of positively perfect days with my Kansas loved ones, then went to Oklahoma for almost 2 weeks of refreshing time with family. I returned to Kansas and have since been working on career things, preparing for my boards and applying for jobs. It's refreshing to be back. But even in my "normal" community, I'm still feeling my heart grow apathetic, still feeling a sense of doubt and unfeeling in relation to my faith. Having grown up in a loving church home, it's really hard to admit that I have doubts. It's not even that I doubt that God is real--I believe that with all my heart and feel that it is true, as easy as breathing. I guess it's more of a sense of knowing that God is real, but having lost that sense of feeling, of waking up in the morning grateful for the promise of a new day and the continuing, merciful love of a Savior. My head knows it is all true. My heart has gotten cold.

Last Sunday in church, our interim pastor was preaching about Palm Sunday, and how it was that the crowd went from worshiping Jesus on Sunday to calling for His crucifixion on Friday. The gist of it was the fact that the people had wanted a Savior, and Jesus had definitely come in that role. What they hadn't expected was Him requiring to also be Lord of their lives in addition to their Savior. Claiming Christ as Savior is a passive thing. Nothing that we do can make Him save us; it comes from His grace and mercy alone. Claiming Christ as Lord is a bit more tricky. It requires allowing Him control and living in a way that is honoring to Him. It requires dying to self and seeking His glory above all else.

So this week, my prayer has been that I will be able to make Christ the Lord of my life, even when I don't feel. That I will be able to truly connect to and be vulnerable with the fellow believers in my life who have always been so supportive of me in the past. To die to myself on a daily basis, even when I would rather be selfish. I know that God doesn't need my faith to exist. I know that faith is more or less the hope that God is true to His promises and in His love for me (see: Hebrews 11; Romans 8). And so I am hoping that this apathy will end, and I am leaning on the promise that He is God, and that He knows me infinitely and intimately, even in times when I doubt myself.

In conclusion, I leave you with a song called "Doubting Thomas" by Nickel Creek. The lyrics basically outline a struggle with doubt, but ultimately ends with the singer choosing to believe in spite of his doubts. Click on the link; I promise it is worth your time.

Yahweh, I believe. Help my unbelief.


Doubting Thomas by Nickel Creek



Saturday, November 9, 2013

Homeless


Homeless

For the past 4.5 years, I've struggled with the concept of "home". I spent 18 beautiful years of my life in a little white house in Purcell, Oklahoma; going to Oklahoma is definitely home. But then I spent 4 years in Lawrence, Kansas, starting my own life and growing up with wonderful people surrounding me; in a way, Kansas is also home. Then there's that whole concept of "home is whenever I'm with you". Sometimes home is whenever I'm with Michael, or Alyssa, or Bethany, or Gretchen. Every summer when I hit that old dirt road and arrive at Rainbow and see the cabins in the quad, I also feel that sense of "home-ness", knowing that I belong at camp and that great quantities of camp aspects have my heart. 

All of these feelings of home are nurturing and life-giving. When I am in Purcell, I feel free to be me and loved unconditionally, even as I am fully known by all townspeople. When I am in Kansas, I feel free to be independent, free to grow and make mistakes and still be loved for my quirky self. When I am with my favorite non-family people, I feel joyful and part of relationships that will last no matter what, free to kick off my shoes and share a glass of tea (or watch tv shows on conspiracies without being judged). When I am at camp, I feel connected to God and others and grasp that greater sense of community and purpose that stirs my heart to want more.

Here in Iowa, I feel none of these things. Yes, I have a physical apartment with my name on the lease, but on nights like these where the plumbing in said apartment has somehow completely broken over night, I begin to live out of my car, driving around from place to place in order to occupy my time until I can finally fall asleep somewhere. This feeling of homelessness sinks into my heart, making me feel overwhelmingly lonely and helpless to take care of myself. 

But then I think of how millions of people around the globe are actually really truly homeless, and how awry plumbing would actually be a blessing, because it would mean that they actually had a shelter in which to sleep (even if there were no place to pee). True, I don't really have a place of my own at which I can stay tonight...but I have been blessed with a wonderful fellow intern who let me shower at her place this morning, made me a warm, home-cooked breakfast while I was using her facilities, and is letting me camp out on her couch later tonight. I have a supervisor who is letting me move into her empty two-story house to keep it occupied for the remainder of my internship (she even has a working heater and a fully-functioning oven!). Even better, I still have a tangible home in Oklahoma, a tangible home in Kansas, a spiritual home in my friends, and an annual weekly home at camp, all of which I can pretty much visit at anytime.

And when I put it into perspective, I see how incredibly blessed I am, and how selfish I can be to be throwing a pity party because I don't have plumbing. In this season of my life, I think God is showing me how He created me to need other people and to stop leaning on my own understanding. They say the average human only has 2 people whom they can truly trust; I can think of at least 10 such people in my own life. I am loved beyond my comprehension. I have people who truly care about me, and, on those occasions where I do find myself homeless, are willing to take care of me and to instill a small sense of home in my heart in whatever way they can. It's hard for me to tell people I need help, or that I need a place to sleep, but what I have found is that when I am vulnerable about my needs, it teaches me how to be strong AND dependent, and gives me a chance to receive blessings from the goodness of others. Since it's November, I keep seeing Facebook friends writing a post every day about what they are thankful for. I have nothing against that (and actually kept a thankfulness journal log for an entire year....if you are REALLY bored you can delve into blogs past to read that insanely long list....) but I think that we so often only think of what makes us grateful when it is the cool thing to do. As I am continuing to learn lessons about how great is God's love for me and how much He provides for me and wants me to accept love and care from others, I find my soul overflowing with thanks. I will continue learning to reach out to others and to admit my needs. In turn, I hope to also be able to give back to others even as I have received. I pray that a spirit of gratitude continues to be formed in me, and continues growing across my lifespan. Hopefully, this time of homelessness will not last long. Hopefully, the lessons that God is continuing to teach me in this season of life will continue for years to come, even after I once again have a place where I can pee. 

And so, tonight I will be somewhat homeless, and I will be okay. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

But....God.....


But.....God.....
(A Heavenly Conversation as I Imagined It Might Occur While Driving)

Katie: God.....I don't really want to go back to Iowa.
God: Why is that?
Katie: Well, I guess it's just that being in Iowa kinda hurts.
God: Just 7 months ago, weren't you begging Me for the door to that exact internship to be opened?
Katie: Well, yes.....but Iowa was never in my original plan!
God:  I know, daughter. You were kicking against the goads when the seed of the idea of Iowa was planted in your mind. Eventually you started asking that My will be done, all the while hoping that My will correlated with your comfort and staying where you were. But as you prayed, I started replacing your dreams with My own plans for you. You may have wanted to remain comfortable, but My plan was for you to move and grow in ways you still can't fully see. Hasn't My faithfulness led you to places beyond your wildest imagination before? Haven't I remained faithful even now?
Katie: Well, yes. I guess You're right. Sorry for being so stubborn.
God: My grace is sufficient to cover you.
Katie: But....God...I mean, I get all that, but being in Iowa still hurts.
God: How so?
Katie: These past 3 weeks have been really emotionally tough. My apartment is in constant need of maintenance requests. I've had friends hurting and making poor life choices. The pastor of my Kansas church ran away. I had a patient die in my session. I'm working with babies in the NICU that, although they are receiving services now, probably won't be cared for when they leave the hospital. I feel like there are so many things wrong, and I'm too small to fix anything.
God: Daughter, it's not your job to fix anyone or anything. That's My job to bring redemption and to fix broken hearts. All you can do is show compassion to those you encounter, and to place your trust in Me.
Katie: But God.....I'm not always the most loving or gracious person to others.
God: My grace is sufficient to cover you. Let yourself allow Me to love others through you, because I loved you first.
Katie: I guess that makes sense. But God....another reason that Iowa hurts......I'm so alone.
God: Daughter, you have so many people who love and care for you. And on top of that, I am the Creator of the universe. Even though you are poor and weak, I think of you. I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; you are Mine. And I will never leave you nor forsake you. You may be lonely, but you are never alone.
Katie: Well, that is encouraging. But God....one more thing. I mean....I am lonely. And I mainly miss Michael, and my friends from Kansas. It just doesn't seem fair that I have to leave them so often. Why did You send me to a place where I am so lonely?
God: I have called you in this season of life to solitude and learning more and more how to depend on Me. Basically this is a time where I am growing you to be more like Me, where I have pulled you out of your comfort zone for a purpose.
Katie: You know....I have been wanting more of You lately. And I have had a few times where I've woken up in the middle of the night with praise songs on my heart.
God: You wouldn't be calling to Me if I hadn't first called out to you. I love you, and I will do whatever it takes to shape you to be more like Me. Now, daughter....are you going to continue trying to lean on your own understanding? Or are you going to place your trust in Me and let Me guide and provide in this growing season of your life?




Oh Son of David, I want to see.