8th grade was a tough year for me. Who am I kidding, isn’t all of middle school tough? I was attending a small Catholic school, in which by the grace of God I was not kicked out of (for mass producing the answers to a take home test in exchange for goods…no joke, I’ll elaborate another time). School let out in May and I ran out of those doors, never to return. While I loved my friends (and even some teachers) there, I wasn’t on board with what they were teaching. I didn’t have much of a spiritual upbringing, aside from a Precious Moments bible that had some cool pictures and a collection of prayer cards my great aunt had given me. I didn’t want to be cornered into believing anything, and I’d argue anyone who tried to convince me otherwise, including my teachers. Not to mention, they had already suspended me from a church service or two from my behavior. They did, however, allow me to go through Confirmation. On the morning of my Confirmation, I begged my mom to let me stay home. She bribed me with a necklace and a nice meal afterwards. We went with the understanding that I wouldn’t have to go to church again after that day.
Shortly after school let out, I packed my bags and headed to my favorite place in the world, Buffalo, NY. I had lived there until I was 7, and was not at all bitter over the fact that my parents had dragged me down south (ok, maybe a little bitter). I spent a few weeks there every summer there visiting with friends and family and eating as much food as my body could handle, while enjoying the cool weather.
This specific year, I had stayed with my best friend, Kristina. We stayed up late every night eating Oreos and watching Mallrats, laughing harder and harder at every ridiculous line. My time up there was drawing to a close and I wasn’t quite ready to go. Kristina’s mom asked if I wanted to stay one more week and attend a nightly retreat called Mission at their church. I politely declined due to my angst against all things holy. I’m still not quite sure how, but she convinced me to stay.
Mission was weird, but I liked it. I can’t remember what we did each night when we gathered at St. Catherine’s, but I know it was special. I heard people share their stories and was moved by how “God” had worked in their lives. I was still weary. Even when I left. But, God had begun a work within my heart that I still can’t quite explain.
On the night before we finished Mission, I wrote out my story, much like I had heard the testimonies of the college kids that had spoken at the retreat. I wanted to do what they did, but as I got to the end, I ran out of words. My story ended with Mission and I wasn’t quite sure where I stood with God.
I met a girl at the retreat named Betsy and we connected and she was the first person I really remember investing in my faith journey. I love her for a lot of things, but that especially. She encouraged me to find a church when I got home and I told her we didn’t have any (haha what? I lived in the Bible Belt…whatever, weird middle school Katie). I told her I would keep an eye out, but didn’t make any promises.
That was the first time I really remember experiencing God, even in my doubts. I wasn’t quite ready for the goodness of Jesus, but God planted a seed in my heart during Mission and throughout the next year, I would meet more people who would invest in my faith journey, sometimes with no return.
I think we all would have laughed if you had told me I would be where I am today. I was defiant, and in many ways unreachable. But God is on the move, even in our doubts. Thankful that I get to be a walking testimony of that.
The picture above, was taken on the last night of Mission. Please ignore my blue hair and the fact that I thought it was socially acceptable to wear pajama pants in public.