A Tale Of The Girl Who Ran From Grief

A Tale Of The Girl Who Ran From Grief

I kicked my feet into the air and pressed my back into my yoga mat, hoping to dissolve into the floorboards of the church basement.

I took a deep breath in. “The Lord is my shepherd.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that famous chapter in Psalms. I’m pretty sure I could recite it without any effort of memorization.

Exhale. “I lack nothing.”

But that wasn’t the case over a month ago. If you had asked me 6 weeks ago, I was lacking everything. I was in the throws of a delayed grieving process and pulled all of my emotions into a month long tornado of wreckage.

After not traveling for 7 months, I went to visit family and came back to my soul finally reached a breaking point. We could only run for so long and the my time was up. I’m not really sure when or how it started, but I began the grieving process. And guys, I grieved hard and loud.

I grieved the loss of my passion and calling.
Of community.
Of friendships.
Of my self worth.
Of my identity.

And I bought into some serious lies.
Lies that I was never truly good at ministry.
Lies that people thought I was poisonous.
Lies that God told everyone to abandon me.
And the loudest lie of all, that I had failed.

I had spent so much time running from these thoughts and emotions, and the process of grief as a whole, but we can only run for so long.

It began to spill over on I95. I had reached out to every person I knew for a week and only to be met with rejection. Because summer and people are busy, which actually was the hardest reminder since this was my first summer in 15 years not going to camps. I drove up and down the interstate, crying and yelling. (Did you see the Meryl Streep yell on this season of Big Little Lies? Yeah, that kind of yell.) I turned up a worship album and argued with it, as if trying to convince Kirby Kaple that God is not actually good at all and her song was a complete and total lie (aw, it’s not, it’s really a delightful song).

Grief can be really ugly. It can be really beautiful, but if you try to suppress it, it can get messy. A wise friend was overjoyed when I finally allowed myself to feel something and cry. She watched me avoid conversations for months in fear that I would burst into tears or feel something at any moment. Each time we sat down, she told me “the only way out of this pain is through” and so I repeated those words in the gas station parking lot that night.

The only way out is through.

I did the things you’re supposed to do to take care of your mental health that next morning, especially in the midst of grief.

I scheduled counseling appointments.
I told friends I needed help (like, just invite me over for dinner or call me and tell me about your day, because sometimes that’s what “help” is).
I went to lunch.
I allowed myself to cry and feel.
And I listened to good words.
I filled my head with books and podcasts and sermons that did not pretty things up.
And I set out on a journey to find a church (Ok, one day I’ll write a whole series on this because oh my word, why didn’t you guys tell me how hard that is? Finding a church is hard if you don’t work at a church).

I also tried a new yoga class that involved prayer, scripture, and meditation.

I cried through the entire first class, as I attempted to open up a healthy line of communication between me and God. You know, one where I am not crying and calling Him a liar. Because grief.

Which brought me to this mat and me staring at my feet, straight above me head, in a mixed glow of street lights and candles.

I heard “you have met this season of restoration with a spirit of resistance”. I thought to myself “wow, I wonder how the instructor knew that”. But she didn’t. And she actually didn’t say that at all. But I heard it loud and clear.

Once you allow yourself to go through grief, you get to start the refining process of restoration. I am in that season. I am crushed and bruised within my soul and faith, but not beyond repair and not abandoned. I have resisted the process because I didn’t want to feel it. I didn’t want to face the lies that I had bought into. I didn’t want to face the hurt and rejection I was feeling or the loss of identity. I wanted to run hard and fast away from all of it.

But when we run, we grow weary. We need rest. We need to be restored into a more whole version of ourselves, especially after we have been hurt or have dealt with loss.

And we need to know loss looks different for everyone. I kept telling myself I didn’t need to grieve because I didn’t lose a person. But I lost who I am and sometimes that’s just as tough to come back from.

I think this process is teaching me a lot (it is very much a present tense thing, I’m still learning and grieving and battling some lies). But I think the process to even get to restoration has so much beauty. And at the end of the day, God’s goodness and love will follow me all the days, even when I try to run from it. There’s no valley too dark for Him to walk with me in.

 

“What Are You Doing Now?”

“What Are You Doing Now?”

“So what are you doing now?”

– everyone, all the time

Right? So just over two months ago I left ministry. It was crushing and hard and all of the things I knew it would be. Ministry is everything I wanted and everything I knew I would do for the rest of my life. So how did I end up here? How is God still working in this? Are we sure it was supposed to end up like this?

This season, though. It has been healing and life giving. I’ve done a lot of things and a lot of reflecting in that time. I’ve been writing and reading and listening. I’ve slept in and I’ve eaten all of the food and finally reached Chick-fil-A red status.

I’ve prayed my heart out while sweating in yoga and I’ve run on the treadmill while watching Marvel movies (I’m an Infinity War away from being caught up), pretending I was as athletic as Scarlett Johansson.

I’ve been still when I felt the Lord tell me to be still and I’ve wanted to run away. I’ve had conversations that have shaped me and will continue to mend my heart.

I applied to go back to school for summer, but didn’t get into school 🤷🏻‍♀️ but have complete peace about that. I’ve picked up all of the side jobs (because everyone needs an Aunt Carol to employ them) and worked a bunch of events (who knew I would ever use my degree in it’s actual field).

But this season is not forever. So what’s next?

1. I’ve been doing some contract work for a company called JDLA. I do grant writing and research for non profits and I actually really super love it a lot (shoutout to Corner Perk for being my office a few days a week and my boss Helen who was my mentor in college…and also now). I never realized this would be a thing, but it’s kind of a thing. Basically there’s a lot of money in the world and I write long letters asking if a certain non profit can have it.

2. On May 1st, I’ll be starting something really cool. My friend Samantha Allgire is 15 and has a few disabilities that prevent her from living a completely normal life. She has a friend named Shannon who hangs out with her every day and teaches her life skills, but her friend is getting married (🥳) and moving to England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿. So her family and I decided that I’ll start hanging out with Sam. So my new job will look a little different and have some different hours, but we are all really excited about it. She loves elevators and ice cream and pranks. She knows I hate ketchup and I get a text asking if I’m ready to eat it every 👏🏼 single 👏🏼 day 👏🏼.

God has been really faithful in all of this. I think the most beautiful thing I’m learning (and honestly I always said I knew it, but I really didn’t) is that my whole life is ministry. I thought all of the real ministry was happening in the walls of the church, but it turns out there’s some stuff to do out here too.

Show Me What I Don’t See

Show Me What I Don’t See

“I just feel like my word for the year is rejection

I sat across the table from a friend at lunch. I wasn’t sad, or frustrated. I think I was just disoriented. Like I’ve lost connection to a GPS and no longer sure of the road I’m on. I received news that the grad program I applied to for the summer was full. But this didn’t sting. At this point, I was used to hearing “thanks, but no thanks”.

The last two months I’ve listened to people talk about their Word of the Year.

joy.
courage.
delight.

Those words sound so pretty, don’t they? Like they belong on a framed floral print or etched onto the cover of a notebook. While I’m sure the process isn’t as pretty as the words, it brings an abundant amount of hope to a year. So why does my word feel like rejection two months in? Can you imagine purchasing a brand new notebook with the word R E J E C T I O N etched across the front in pink, bubbly letters?

My friend, in her infinite wit and wisdom responded with “I don’t think your word is rejection, I think it’s redirection.” I felt it like a kick to the stomach. The word floated up to my throat. Redirection. She’s not wrong. My whole life has continued to be redirected since the start of this year.

We may only be two months in, but I can’t help but notice my answer to most things is “I don’t know”. That phrase has almost become a theme. Like a tagline to the word “redirection”. I’ve never walked into a season knowing so little. Yet there seems to be a settled peace and feeling of trust that I’ve never experienced before. Yet I just can’t seem to shake that feeling of a GPS that is consistently recalculating. Each time I get a mile in one direction, I feel myself taking a different route than I had planned. And asking the questions:

What does tomorrow hold?
Or next week?
Or next year?
I just don’t know.

But I think my call in this season is to be ok in the “I don’t know”. To settle in to the idea that I don’t have to know every little detail and how it will plan out. This is still so difficult for me to do. It’s probably difficult for any of us to do. Who doesn’t love certainty? Sure, many of us thrive in change, but I think if we love change, it’s because we know there is certainty within that change.

I spoke with a friend this morning who challenged me to write out the stories I’m creating in my mind to fill in for the “I don’t know” moments. She told me to pray:

God, here is how I am perceiving things.
Show me what I don’t see.

Because while the grad school redirection didn’t sting, there have been others that cut a little deeper. Things that perhaps I just can’t see the big picture. And maybe it’s important to see the big picture before I write the story of what is really going on.

It’s not the year of rejection. It’s the year of asking God to show me what I don’t see. To give me clear vision as I continue to recalculate and redirect. To teach me to trust when I want to embrace all skepticism telling myself that surely it won’t work out. And to know that “I don’t know” does not mean “no”, but that maybe we don’t get to see the full story quite yet. And in the meantime just ask that He continues to reveal what we don’t see.

Wherever Is Your Heart

Wherever Is Your Heart

We have all heard it said that home is where the heart is. Yes, it’s cliche and most of us don’t really put a lot of thought into the most basic phrases, but this phrase has been on my heart a lot this last month.

Today was the fourth week of me encountering a new, yet familiar home. Four Sundays of worshipping in a place I once called home and a place I am calling home today. I feel like God is teaching me a lot about home and hearts and Sundays where those two things collide.

Today, though. Ugh, you guys…I committed the very worst of sins. I went to church. But I went to church with a cold. Coughing and sniffling (in my elbow, I’m not a complete heathen). It’s not like I had to serve or work. I didn’t have a specific responsibility, I just didn’t want to miss. So I went to church. With a cold. I know, I am the very worst.

But I think there were some lessons for me to learn in that. Today I learned just how much the Lord gets me. And gosh, it feels so right when you realize someone really gets you.

I felt it in the scriptures that were read and the psalms we sang. I felt it when Bruce Springsteen was quoted from the pulpit. I felt it when we stood to declare what we believed and when we kneeled to confess the ways we hadn’t measured up this week. I felt the Lord show up to meet me there with each poorly contained cough.

Home is where we feel the most comfortable. Where we can come as we are and nestle into our true selves. Though it took some time, I allowed myself to truly do that today.

God is writing something new on my heart. He is getting his hands dirty working in the muck and mire of who I can be, but my heart is ever so open to it.

I coughed a lot in service today. You need to know that because I’m sure you would have cringed a little. With every cough that tried to leak out, I tried to plan my escape for the door. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Until a defining moment of grace. I watched an usher walk over to her purse and pull something out and walk over to me and place it in my hand. I opened to find a cough drop. I could have cried at her grace and kindness.

Not 15 minutes later, another usher walked over and handed me a cup of water. I savored every sip with a new understanding of home.

Grace has landed on my sick and broken heart and is engraving something beautiful and new. I have felt infinite amounts of joy more and more each week.

I am finding it in cups of water and hearing Hungry Heart quoted on Sunday morning. I am finding it in familiar faces and the comfort of reading each scripture so carefully in the bulletin. And I am finding it as I let some words settle into my heart and push others out onto the pages.

If home is truly where my heart is, I am watching God pave the path of many different versions of home for me and it’s really been beautiful.

If I Had Known Then What I Know Now

If I Had Known Then What I Know Now

With tears streaming down my face, I sat down on my couch and began to dial the phone number of my new boss.

Six months prior, my first full time church took a chance on 22 year old Katie and decided to bring her on as Director of Middle School Ministries.

As ready (or as not ready) as I was, I skipped in through the doors of the church and welcomed myself into this exciting new ministry. An adventure filled with pudding wars and all nighters at camp. No one was more elated about this job than I was.

But now. How could it be over that fast? I dialed the number.

Ring.
Ring.
Ring.

Through tiny sobs I managed to get it out:
I just want *deep breath* to thank you for *deep breath* this opportunity and *deep breath* for taking a chance *deep breath* on me.

My sweet, kind supervisor, Meg responded:
What happened?

I broke the vase.
What vase?
THE vase.

It was not registering. She did not know what vase I was talking about. How could she not know the vase? The one in the Bridal Parlor. Probably the only item to survive the 1984 fire. At least this is the story I made up in my mind. And now it was in approximately 1000 broken floral pieces on the ground.

I explained that I had been foolish enough to turn off all of the lights in the building and allow 60 middle schoolers to run around in a game of Underground Church. I didn’t think to lock the door to the precious parlor. I didn’t think that maybe this was not the best idea for our Sunday night activity in our 160 year old church. I was young. I just didn’t think.

Meg responded in her oh so soothing voice, “Ok, well just shut the parlor door and we will take a look at it in the morning. Get some sleep.”

Get some sleep? I did anything but sleep that night. How could I sleep when I worked so hard to get this job and now I was going to lose it. Over a vase.

The next morning I was sitting outside Meg’s office at 7:15 am (that’s so early for me). I waited until I heard the doors of the Greenhouse open and met her at the entrance to her office. Did she forget? She seemed far too calm.

Not me. I was in a dress, my face all splotchy. But I figured if you’re going to get let go over a broken vase, you should probably be dressed up.

We walked over to the parlor and she took a look at the pieces on the floor.
More tears began to fall down my face and I sniffled quietly.

“We’ll buy another one. I think it’s from Home Goods.”

Ha. Haha. I’m sorry, wut? It’s from…Home Goods? Martha Mae didn’t hand make it during the Civil War? But…I could have sworn…

We walked back to our offices and went on with the rest of our day. I stayed at Isle of Hope for 5 more years and made way bigger mistakes than a broken Home Goods vase.

But I learned about grace in my time there. I learned about courage and failure and everything in between.

Fast forward 8 years and we laugh about that story over lunch in the backyard of our favorite cafe.

If I had only known then what I know now.

We talked about what if we could do it all over again. Without the fear of failure (as our dear friend, Brene Brown calls it).

Without constantly wondering if I would make it another day or week or month. Without the narrative of negativity. Gosh, wouldn’t that be so freeing?

Over the next five years, I began to relax a bit. I worried less and loved more. There were times I didn’t know what I was doing, but I wasn’t as paralyzed by those moments. I had been given permission to fail and knew it would be ok if I did. The only true critic I had to worry about was myself.

While that moment paved the way for a lesson for me, I have not always continued to live in that mindset. There have been times that I have allowed myself to live in fear. I have given in to my biggest critic. I have spent seasons living in that fear of failure.

But knowing what I know now. What a beautiful thing it is to fail. To abandon fear and shame and know that no matter what you do, you’re giving it your all.

My hope is that we all have people in the arena with us, cheering us on, even if we fail. And if we do fail, my hope there that there is grace for each of us in that. No matter how broken the vase is.

 

When You’re Not What You Do

When You’re Not What You Do

When I turned 16, I received a call. It wasn’t on my navy blue Motorola Razor (which was graciously provided with my four year contract at Suncom that I decided to pay for myself). It was from God. I felt as though God had placed it on my heart to devote my life to ministry. It quickly became everything I wanted.

I poured my life, my heart, my soul, everything I did. It became about ministry. I went to bible college, but quickly came home when I realized that bible college was expensive and ministry money would not pay that off well.

While many spent their time in college living it up with weekends and parties and getting good grades, I lived mine on the 4th floor of an old building in downtown Savannah. Leading worship and games and playing cards for too many hours after VBS. I spent it writing songs on a ukulele while riding in the back of an old church mini van that smelled like cheerios on the way to some mission trip or ski trip. I spent it doing what I loved and what I knew I would do for the rest of my life.

Over the next ten years, ministry was my whole world. Sometimes I felt like I was good at it and sometimes I was overwhelmed by how much I had to learn. I lived for the relational side of it and dreaded staff meetings. I jumped from camps to retreats to kick offs, and sighed out massive amounts of exhaustion over aggressive parent emails.

I spent a decade learning and falling in love with the ins and outs of the local church. I learned denominations and practices. I learned the differences in what each church believed and what they valued. I served in three very different churches, but loved each one so differently. I loved them because of how they loved Jesus and taught others to love Him well.

I’ve been out of vocational ministry for one week. I never thought I would say that. I never thought I would step out. But I truly believe that God has called me to step out in this season. That’s not a fancy way of me prettying up a circumstance. I believe that to be the truth. It’s my truth, and even if it makes my heart hurt sometimes, it’s a truth that God will continue to unfold in the coming weeks and months and years.

If I’m being honest, there’s a part of me that I feel like I’ve never gotten to know. I’ve never really discovered who I am outside of ministry. Of course student ministry has always been important to me, but I think at some point, it became who I thought I was. I have found that a lot of my identity has been found in ministry and sometimes, dare I say, less in Jesus. Messy, right?

I have grown in my faith and of course I love Jesus. But I also sometimes feel like, I wonder, if I don’t know who I am outside of vocational ministry. It’s time consuming and has consumed a lot of who I am. When it got hard, like really hard, I felt like I started to feel like I was having an identity crisis.

This is what I always thought I would do. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. Do I still want to do this? Am I bad at this? Have I gone my whole life thinking ministry was something that it’s not? Was I something I’m not? 

Identity Crisis. So dramatic, right?

I don’t think I’m done with student ministry forever. Probably not even in this season. I’m just blindly stepping out in faith and allowing God to guide me instead of telling Him what I should be doing. What I’m supposed to be doing. What we talked about me doing.

It’s a weird feeling. Not being in total control. But I also feel like I can finally rest because I don’t have the choice to be in control of some of these things.

It has only been a week, but I think a lot of this season will be me learning that I am not what I do. While I have always loved what I have done, I think I will be learning to truly love who I am, in or out of ministry.

Your People

Your People

Sometimes your contacts are connected to your work email.

But then you don’t have a work email.

It’s ok, though. Because you’ll find your people. They will call you and text you and send you funny memes. And they will love you and ask to take you to get coffee or lunch. Or they will track you down at your favorite coffee shop. Because even though they are your people, they reached out and you couldn’t reach back. They are there, though. They’re your people. That’s their job.

They will love you well in all the best ways. The ways that you need to be loved. They know those ways. Target and snacks and baby snuggles. They know. They’re your people. That’s their job.

They will highlight the best parts of you and correct the parts that are maybe not so good. But they will let you be you. They’ll help you remember what that looks like. They’re your people. That’s their job.

They’ll come pick you up. Physically. In their car and roll down the windows while playing your favorite song. Spiritually. With every bible verse you couldn’t remember when you needed it. Or the sermons you haven’t heard that will make you feel seen by the most high God. They’re your people. That’s their job.

And the ones who don’t live close. They’ll beg you to come closer. They don’t want to be far from you when you’re looking for your people. They’ll be as close as they can even if it’s a couple thousand miles in distance. They’re still there. They’re your people. That’s their job.

We all have our people. We are those people. We know how to show up even when we don’t know how to show up.

Find your people. Love them well. It’s our job.