A New Hope and A New Hallway

A New Hope and A New Hallway

Three years ago I wrote an article called Hope in the Hallway. I wrote it for some friends who were waiting to hear back from some jobs. I referred to a season where I was waiting to hear back from a job. My first job in ministry.

I was standing in the hallway staring at doors, praying that they would open and invite me inside. I had a love/hate relationship with that hallway. I loved the anticipation. The hope. The closeness of God because of my need to rely on Him.

But I hated the uncertainty. I didn’t love the lies that would creep in, telling me that I was not good enough to walk through any of those doors that may open.

But there was hope.

It’s three years later, to the week, and I am back in the hallway. The one I had prayed so fervently for my friends who stood there. The hallway I was once in almost a decade ago.

Shortly after writing that article, I was presented with an amazing opportunity. One I wasn’t even looking for. To come be a part of an amazing staff, church, and youth ministry. I was invited to disciple girls and lead leaders and be a part of a team that would teach me so much.

I would spend the next three years falling in love with the community I served in. I would go to camps and mission trips that would teach me just how big God really is. I would learn about integrity and how to have it, even when it’s difficult. I would learn what it means to work hard for the glory of God. I would shed more tears than I could count with girls in my office. I would walk with students through some of their darkest days. I would learn things about myself. Things I didn’t even know I had in me.

It’s three years later and I have been stretched. I have grown. I have felt weary at times. And I have felt like I could conquer anything because of the nearness of God.

It’s three years later and I have stepped back into the hallway. Maybe even stumbled. But it’s a different feeling. The last 15 years, my life has been defined by student ministry. Even in the moments I wasn’t doing student ministry, it still consumed me. Not that it won’t still consume me, but this is new territory.

I’m not sure what my life will look like a year from now. I don’t know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future.

I have a divine sense of peace. One that couldn’t come from anywhere except the Holy Spirit.

I’ve never felt so scared, excited, sad, and hungry in my life (no, not because I’m eating healthy again…like, hungry for opportunity).

While I’m ready for what’s next, I am also ready to sit and listen and wait to see what that may be.

I invite you on this journey with me. To discover new callings, conversations, and prayers. My tribe is bigger and better than ever before and I’m excited for where the Lord is going to take us.

The Doubting Place

The Doubting Place

Do you think we could make some room for some doubts for a moment?

There are times where it’s really hard for me to understand what God is doing. There are times where I even doubt if God really knows what he is doing with some of the things in my life.

I don’t think I could necessarily do them better. I mean, I once messed up a Hello Fresh meal and they literally give you step by step instructions and MEASURE OUT THE INGREDIENTS IT IS SO NOT THAT HARD WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

I digress.

I think we all can live in a place of doubt, if we let ourselves go there. And I think sometimes it’s ok to let us go there.

Now, please don’t hear that I think it’s ok to go to a place of doubt and camp out for life, never believing in the goodness of God.

I just think we get distracted by the things that try to tell us that God does not have this down.

I was good at doubting from a young age. I questioned everything they tried to teach me in Sunday School at the Catholic Church my parents occasionally dropped me off at on Sunday mornings. It wasn’t until I stopped doing the homework and received an actual report card with an F that we realized maybe I wasn’t getting much out of my Sunday mornings (what did they expect, I already had to go to school FIVE OTHER DAYS…I didn’t need any more grades to botch).

But I remember that being the first space I expressed my doubts. I thought it was absurd that someone would have to die for me. I didn’t ask for that.

I thought miracles sounded like fairy tales and didn’t have any true context in my life.

It wasn’t until later in life where those doubts would turn into belief and my doubts would only get more complicated.

Like why is cancer a thing.

And why do miscarriages happen.

And why are people still hungry.

Why do people lose their jobs.

And does God really need me to do what I’m doing, because it kind of feels hard.

I’m not here to answer those questions. But I am here to tell you that the promises of God are bigger than my questions. Maybe they don’t answer them specifically for the people in my life, but they do provide the thing we need the most when these doubts creep in.

Comfort.

So if you’re like me and allow yourself go to the doubting place, let speak some of those promises over you.

  1. God loves you a lot and forever.

Gosh, it doesn’t feel like it somedays, right? I mean who could love me? I’m a mess. I wish a Hello Fresh meal was the biggest mess up I’ve had this year. But God provides a love that is bigger than burnt rice and softer than the smell of smoke filling our house.

His love is soft and sweet and yet jerks us into course correction in a way that gives us whiplash. But at the end of the day we are claimed by a love that is bigger than the life or death or angels or demons or your life today or your life tomorrow and it’s not going to separate us. No matter your mistakes and no matter your doubts.

  1. You have a heavenly home.

This life is sucky. I won’t sugarcoat it. The news shows that this place is not our home and it’s too messy for us to live here forever like this. But one day we will have a home that is safe and beautiful and filled with more joy than our little hearts can imagine. It is in the blood of Christ that we are washed clean and prepared for that home. In the meantime, our job is to make this place a little better because it really needs our help.

3. You have purpose.

Psalm 139 says that God knit us in the womb so if for some reason your doubts are telling you otherwise, know that you have a purpose here today. You are not a mistake and there is a purpose for you in whatever season you are in.

4. God is not out to get you.

God really is out to bless us, but I think we mistake all of the grossness in our life as God trying to harm us so that we love Him a little more. I don’t think that’s what He is doing. He is out to satisfy our deepest desires and heal our deepest wounds. He’s not causing them. This broken world may be breaking us, but God is here to heal all of that broken.

5. God is going to give you strength.

I was recently talking with friends about an old song that I love to hate. If you were in church 15 years ago (or an older church today), you probably sang Trading My Sorrows every. single. sunday. (I hope it’s stuck in your head for the rest of the day). While that song drives me crazy, there’s a line I genuinely love.

Though the sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30 takes us deeper into this line singing praises because He restores us and gives us strength. He makes it so we can dance even though we may be really sad. It may feel like it’s been a long time since you’ve seen the morning, but look for the strength that God has given you to get through to the morning. His promise is that morning is not that far off.

I could say yes and amen to those promises all day long. Yes, there is room for our doubts, but we must know there are promises that are larger than any doubt we could ever live within. I hope your doubts never allow themselves to be louder than the truth. And I hope you find freedom in those truth, you deserve it.

Dear 18 Year Old Katie

Dear 18 Year Old Katie

There’s a song by Nichole Nordeman and it’s a letter to her high school self. It’s a pretty cool writing activity and you should try it. I did. Here we go:

Dear Me,

Wow, congratulations. You made it to senior year. You know exactly what you want to do, and I promise, you will get there. While it seems silly to have to do these ridiculous things like go to college and live some life before starting full time ministry, I promise it will be worth it.

In the meantime, know some of these things:

It’s ok to be comfortable with who you are. Stop tugging on your shirt and assuming people are thinking about how big you are. No one is noticing, and if they are, they don’t matter.

You had a breakup and it was sad, but everyone was right and it’s ok to admit that and move on in confidence that you were saved from a lifetime of complication.

Your struggle with these friends will fade. The person you constantly fight with will be your forever friend. It’s ok that you aren’t talking in this season because you will talk in all of the other seasons and it will be so worth it.

People will continue to make mistakes. It’s ok to give them grace. Shame does not need to be the way we get our point across. Listen to your friends. There are reasons people do the things they do. It’s ok to hold your close friends accountable. Or to even hold them at all when they fall short. It is not ok to shame them for the mistakes they make that we are all one step away from. Mercy is key.

Your breakup with the church will be tough, but it will eventually make you stronger. While many don’t make it to the road back, you will and you will be more compassionate because of it. You’re so young in your faith and even just in general and seeing behind the curtain will be a learning experience, but don’t let it ruin you forever.

Stop eating out. Seriously. Spending $20 on a dinner at a fancy restaurant with your best friend every week is probably too many dollars. You’re 18. What are you even ordering? You can’t drink. While those memories will be great, you could eat an equally delicious meal at Chick-Fil-A and maybe save a little.

Maybe take out less student loans too, while we are on the topic of money. Apparently you will have to pay them back.

You will exchange wearing PJ pants in public for amazing black stretchy pants. This is the trend and will be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they are not leg prisons and a curse because they will trick you into thinking you have not put on 25 lbs. Don’t listen. Take advantage of the stretchy pants, but trade them out for real pants with buttons every once in a while.

One day you will see Justin Timberlake in the middle of nowhere outside of Nashville. You will run. Yep, that’s right. You won’t say hi or ask for a picture. You will freak yourself out and run in the other direction. This will be your biggest regret.

The qualities you want in a man are important, and even still valid 10 years later, but there are other qualities that are more important. Make sure it’s a priority to find someone who loves you and communicates clearly. Guitars and beards are great, but these things are the very most important.

You think you’ll end up in Buffalo, but it’s farther off than you or I realize. You will still have a heart for that place and visit often, but it is not our home. We go where we are called and for now it’s Georgia and that’s actually not a bad thing at all.

Also, don’t let this crush you.

You won’t be married by 23. Or 25. Or even 30. Not even an almost. It sounds like a sentence to singleness and like it could be the most miserable thing, but it’s actually not that terrible. Your friends will have babies and you’ll wish it could be you, but you get to be an aunt to those babies and sleep in a little longer in the mornings because you give those babies back at the end of the day. That’s ok. You’ll get to be a mom to many students and walk with them through a lifetime of bright and dark moments.

Just because it doesn’t happen when you think it will, doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid dream and it’s definitely not a dead dream.

Your life will be filled with so many beautiful things. You know some of your lifetime friends now and you’ll make even more that will brighten your life and make you laugh until your whole body hurts. You will find a dog who will snuggle you and teach you so much about life and the character of God. You will travel to places you never thought you’d see and they will change you and enlighten you. Cherish those moments. Love others well and care for them. God was so serious about that command.

Storms and Celebrations

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Two years ago, in October, I headed to Myrtle Beach for a friend’s wedding. My days were perfectly planned out: we had a great place to stay on the beach, we would prep for the wedding and have a great weekend celebrating some new friends. Weddings are great, however Hurricane Season is not.

As Hurricane Joaquin developed, so did new plans. We would eventually move the wedding just hours before to the warehouse where their church regularly meets. However the night before is when the storm showed it’s strength, picked up speed, and brought along a storm surge which would result in me swimming in three feet of water just to get to the twelve flights of stairs I would need to climb to refuge for the next two days.

The last several weeks we have experienced absolute chaos centered around storms. We had an evacuation call, a retracted call, the storm moved, and now we see developments of new storms appearing on the map. I’m over the storms. I just am. I would like to opt out of participating in any hurricanes for the rest of the year.

There’s a story that I love in the bible and it takes place in a storm, not unlike the ones we’ve experienced lately. I love the story because I love Peter. Peter is a disciple of Jesus and the most impulsive one. After Jesus performs a miracle, He sends His friends out fishing so He can have some alone time (I see you, introverts).

A storm hits that just about knocks these guys out of the boat. When all of the sudden they see Jesus walking over the wind and waves toward them. Because walking on water is totally normal. Peter is the kind of guy who jumps first and asks questions later, and he asks Jesus to call him out of the boat. Jesus does and Peter is doing great, only to drop when he begins to focus on the fact THAT HE IS WALKING ON WATER BECAUSE WHAT IS HAPPENING PEOPLE DON’T DO THAT THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

The story is so often used to highlight the fact that Peter doubts Jesus and we should never doubt and blah blah blah. Sorry, while that’s not necessarily an untrue statement, can we just talk about that fact that Peter was brave enough to get out of the boat in the first place? Can we talk about the fact that there is a full blown storm happening? When storms happen in my life I want to curl up on the couch, watch 7643567 movies and eat all of my hurricane snacks in one sitting.

Peter teaches us that we don’t have to be afraid of the storm when we worship the One who has the power to calm it.

The reality is, storms are coming. Physical, spiritual, emotional. As much as I want to pretend there won’t be another storm, there will be. It’s just how I handle it.

I think it looks like running to Jesus even when it looks dangerous or difficult to do so. I think we need to spend more time praying and reflecting on the storms and acknowledging that He is big enough to handle it and He will deal with it.

I think it looks like calling out and asking for help. This is so hard. Failure doesn’t make us want to be known, it makes us want to hide. Peter throws his hands in the air and calls out for help. Maybe he acted too soon. Maybe he failed. But instead of letting himself drown and dwell on his failures and the shame that comes with that, he calls out for help.

And I think it looks like celebrating the storm when it passes. That Hurricane Wedding was one of the most beautiful services I have ever attended. We had prayed so much leading up to that wedding. Praying for the storm to disappear. Praying for direction and hope. And I think at the end of the day they would tell you they wouldn’t change it for all of friends, fancy napkins and Cha Cha Slides on a dance floor in the world. What mattered was that God’s glory was shown and the Holy Spirit was ever so present.

THAT is the celebration we all deserve after a storm.

Storms come and they are coming. Some last a day, a week, or several years. But Jesus doesn’t run from storms and leave us to drown. He shows up and shows His glory.

If not, He is still good.

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When I was 20, I was asked to be a bridesmaid in my first wedding. My precious friend from high school was getting married and I was so excited to be a part of something so great. I remember everything about their wedding day. Whether it was the songs they danced too, the ceremony, or the washing of each other’s feet, I could have exploded from the sweetness and love that they had for one another. I just remember thinking that I couldn’t wait until that was me.

Over the next year, I was in 6 more weddings. I danced and sang and caught countless bouquets. Weddings are a natural environment for me. Fast forward to today, I have been in 11, and each one holds a special place in my heart. I love celebrating my friends and walking with them on such an important day.

As a result, I started to hear a lot of “bridesmaid” jokes. If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked if I’ve seen 27 Dresses, I could pay for half of the dresses I’m storing in my parent’s closet.

Somewhere in the midst of that first batch of weddings, I started to feel a pain. It wasn’t physical and it wasn’t my wallet (although, guys, weddings are expensive). But there was a pain that started to develop in my heart.

At first I didn’t notice it. I was enjoying the fact that I was celebrating friends, but, eventually I started to get anxious. “What about me?” “Did I miss something?” “Was something wrong with me?” “Did God forget me?” “I thought I was doing all of the right things.”

I went from praying for my husband to not trying too hard to not being too desperate to date. I was trying to figure out this equation that everyone told me was necessary if I wanted to meet “the one”.

When “the one” didn’t come in my timeline, I became mad. Bitter. Jealous. My heart was wounded at the thought and sight of all things marriage. My identity suffered because of this.

I was so busy telling God what He should offer me that I missed out on what He was already offering me.

I told God that I would be satisfied with Him only when He would give me the desires of my heart, which completely blinded me to seeing that He needed to be the desire of my heart.

In John 6:35, Jesus is talking to a crowd and refers to Himself as the bread of life. “Whoever comes to Him will not hunger or thirst.” My hungers were never going to be satisfied because I was looking to the wrong thing to be fed. I had idolized this idea of marriage and nothing seemed to satisfy that hunger. I was hungering for what I thought God had for me instead of God alone. My love for Him quickly became conditional in certain seasons.

This went on for almost 6 years. Some seasons I was healthier than others, but I had become addicted to my desire and I wrestled with the idea that God was holding out on me. I had to reckon with the idea of not get married. Can I still serve and love a God who does not have that plan for my life? If not, is He still good?

Today I can confidently say the answer to that is YES. Do I want to get married some day? Of course. Do I truly believe like God has missed me, forgotten me, or failed me in some way? No. I believe that God is at work in my life, with or without a husband. With or without that perfect wedding day. I am complete in Christ, not in man.

The Story of Bagel & The God Who Answers Prayers

If we’ve had a conversation in the last year, you already know this story. Some of you have heard the play by play so many times, you have it memorized (and you’re tired of hearing it).

A year ago, my life changed in a way that I did not expect. Ready to hear the whole story?

Thursday, March 3rd, I was packing to head to Myrtle Beach. I knew I needed to get out of town and pray through some things I felt God was placing on my heart. They were things that were heavy, and I needed to be with people who could help me carry that load. When my plans got cancelled, I started to panic. I needed to get away and I needed guidance desperately.

I didn’t sleep much that night. I tossed and turned and when the sun came up, I gave in. I threw on a sweatshirt and brushed my teeth and drove two hours up the road to Lyons, GA.

I showed up at my friend Amanda’s door with a bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs and tears in my eyes. I just needed some chocolate and wisdom (those two go hand in hand). She welcomed me in and with the candy and her newborn baby between us, we talked through everything.

We headed to lunch and between Amanda and the pizza we ate, I felt as though God had spoken.

As we were driving home, I gazed out the window. I was exhausted. Emotionally, spiritually, physically. I was done fighting and I just needed a nap. I noticed a pile of trash on the side of the road and saw it move.

Apparently I was delirious because I told Amanda to pull over so we could see what it was.

I got out of the car and a 5 lb dog, as excited as could be, ran into my arms. I picked him up, got in the car and told Amanda I found her dog.

She replied that she had a newborn, so my dog and I would have to head home.

This was not my dog. I couldn’t have a dog. My life is too crazy and I go out of town too much and I can hardly take care of myself, how am I going to take care of a dog? I wasn’t ready for this kind of responsibility.

I desperately tried to give him away. I offered for anyone to come get him, but each time I started to talk to someone about coming to get him, I felt like I was giving up on something. (Side note: never name the dog you’re trying to get rid of. They’re right, it’s all over after you name it.)

I know this sounds crazy, but I know God gave me Bagel. That dog has taught me so much in this last year. I have learned patience and responsibility and how to care for something other than myself. I have learned how to love well. And in return, he brings so much joy to my life. I needed Bagel just as much as he needed me.

As I write this, I am watching him curled up next to me, chewing on a bone with his eyes half open. He has grown so much in the last year, and so have I.

I’m so thankful we pulled over a year ago and that God answers prayers in a tangible way.

If I could talk to Katie from a year ago, I would comfort her. I would tell her that big things were coming, and while that Thursday night was hard, joy would come in the morning. I would tell her that it’s ok to be scared, but she doesn’t have to fight it. We serve a great God who loves us well and will not lead us astray. And that soon, she will have something to care for and something that will soften your heart in ways she could not imagine.

Bless you, Bagel.

the God who sees me

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“I feel like I could fill this room with tears from the last year,” I said with a sigh in counseling. “And God held every single one,” he replied.

I can’t even say that I haven’t heard from God in this last year. If any year, this was one that will stand out because of how loud and clearly He spoke. I saw Him in sermons and in conversations and heard Him in songs and I poured my heart and tears out harder than most seasons.

I just needed to know He was with me in all of it. So I boldly asked in church one Sunday night. I argued and petitioned and made a bold statement over just how badly I needed to know He was with me and that He saw my heart.

We started to lead worship, and my heart was just in shambles. I wasn’t sure I would be able to sing a single note. I can’t even tell you what it was. Perhaps built up spiritual heartbreak. But I had reached my limit.

“You need to speak now,” I begged, in prayer when the music started.

And then He did. A friend turned to me at the end and said “I just feel like God wanted me to pray something over you” and she proceeded to speak in a way that communicated not only did God see me, but He was present in the midst of that hurt. He is with me in the pit of all things. He sees me and I am not alone and I needed to know that.

Hagar wanted to be seen in Genesis. She was a servant to Abram and Sarai and gave birth to Abram’s son when Sarai could not conceive. Jealousy took over between Sarai and Hagar and it drove Hagar out into the wilderness. God shows up for her in the midst of her struggle. He blesses her and sends her back.

Hagar needed to be seen. She says in Genesis 16:13 “You are a God of seeing, truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.”

Sometimes we need to know God sees us in our heartbreak and struggle. We just need Him to show up by the river and walk us home.

Our story doesn’t have to end with us fleeing and God cutting His losses. He shows up, takes our hand, and walks us home.

He is the God of seeing, and sometimes I think that’s all we really need. To be seen.