I grew up amongst wild flowers that rose up to my waist. My small fingers ran down their stems and picked the very best ones to bring to my Mother. I touched their leaves and
hummed as the wind blew my brown hair across my freckled cheeks.
I danced in the rain, sometimes with an umbrella but usually without one. I would let the rain pour over me and soak my hair as I jumped barefoot into puddles. I would sing while I danced, in the rain amongst the wildflowers. Today I still stand at the very edge of my porch when it rains, so that I can feel the splashes of the drops against my arms.
Smells always take us back to specific moments, specific memories. Things we hadn’t thought of in years, suddenly so present. I walked into a bookstore in Nashville and suddenly I was in my Grandmother’s living room in California. The smell of fresh wood makes me think of my Dad – the first carpenter I ever knew – and the smell of dirt takes me home. To my backyard. To dirt under my small fingernails and my Mother’s whistles from the door, letting me know it was time to come in.
I made fairy homes out of branches and bark and leaves and cloth from old shirts while the sweet smell of gardenias encircled me. We planted sunflowers that grew past my head and I thought they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I ran through them pretending I was Pocahontas and sang “Just Around The Riverbend” with the kind of abandon only little kids have.
I live in a city now, but I grew up with room to run. I grew up with trees and gardens and quiet. Quiet that was filled with my singing as I ran and planted and made bouquets. I plant my hyacinth bulbs and succulents and sweet potato vines because the dirt reminds me of home. It reminds me of when I didn’t feel bogged down by mean politics or when life didn’t feel really heavy on my small shoulders. It makes me feel connected to my parents who have always worked with their hands.
I pull on the stained and worn green gardening gloves that my husband bought me long before he was my husband and think about the children I hope I have one day. I’ll tell them they are wildflowers: free and beautiful and a little magic.
Sometimes life is so complicated and cloudy that I can’t sleep. Sometimes when I pray I feel like I’m just talking to myself, so I exhale, shrug my shoulders and give up. “This is just the season I’m in right now,” I’ve been saying. But sometimes it feels like an awfully long season. Sometimes my inner voice is so mean she makes me doubt myself, my relationships, my abilities. She also refuses to let those extra pounds I’ve gained go unnoticed. Sometimes I spend an entire hour in a counseling session unashamedly crying as the pile of tissues in my lap gets bigger and bigger.
But then my counselor stops me. She tells me to breathe in deeply – as deep as I can till I can’t breathe in any more. And release.
But then I receive a note from a kind friend who describes me with words I wouldn’t have used for myself. Edifying words, words that build instead of break.
But then I look across the table and my eyes are met with Timothy’s eyes: eyes I love and want to look into forever. And I know that when I don’t know anything.. his love I can trust.
But then I go to a wedding and I watch a woman whom I have loved and respected and admired for a very long time marry a man who looks at her in a way that makes me cry silently, and happily, in my wooden pew. She’s a vision in her white, lace dress and I think about all the ways she has been so kind to me since I met her, and how her new husband is going to be loved so well and so.. big. I can’t sing along with the hymns because I’m distracted by the way he is holding her hand on the altar and looking at her like he doesn’t realize we are all there.
Glimpses of bigger, beautiful things. Heart, hold fast to these glimpses. To these things that make life worthwhile and full, because sometimes life doesn’t feel very full or even very kind. When its hard to breathe, remember the way he looked at her in her wedding dress. Remember Timothy – always Timothy – and the way his bearded cheek feels against yours. Remember that you’re loved by people who know you deeply, have seen you in your lowest.. and stayed.
Typically my blog posts consist of me just emoting all over the place: talking about feelings and friends and wine and all that is lovely. I’m a feelings person – it’s what I do. But since Timothy and I got married a year and a half ago, I’ve wanted to do a post that shared how we saved money on our wedding. Saving money and budgeting is my life long hobby (mama didn’t raise no fool) and it was really thrilling to watch everything come together.. and under budget. So, this is how we had our wedding for (just under) $6,000.
I will say, this wasn’t our dream wedding. Our dream wedding would have been outside, mountainside, in a meadow of wildflowers. Unfortunately, living in Tampa, that would have meant oodles of money flying to said mountainside and expecting all our friends and family to also spend oodles of money flying to said mountainside. During the planning process I would say “If someone gave me $50,000 and said I HAD to use it on our wedding… I could easily use it on our wedding.” But we didn’t have $50,000. We had $6,000. And as our idol Tim Gunn says, we made it work. Having a budget friendly wedding can absolutely mean cutting back on some of your “dreams” but for Timothy and I, we chose not having any kind of financial burden (for us or our family) over having that wildflower wedding.
I will also say it is incredibly possible to have a wedding for a lot less than we spent too. We could have done more DIY, a potluck instead of catering, a cheaper wedding dress, etc. Our goal wasn’t to have the cheapest wedding in the world, but rather a wedding that fit into the budget we felt good about spending, and for us that number was 6k.
WHERE MOST OF OUR MONEY WENT: Three things took up about half of our budget – our venue, the food, and my dress. We chose to get married in our church here in Tampa, Watermark, entirely because of sentimental reasons. Watermark has been a big part of my life for about 7 years and getting married in that space (that space where so many other big things in my life had happened- good big and bad big) was really satisfying to my soul. We had both the ceremony and the reception there to save money, and to make it easier on us. We didn’t hire any kind of coordinator or staff to help with the transition, so we just set up the tables for the reception ahead of time and our guests just transitioned from the ceremony side of the church to the already decorated reception side of the church. The church (plus officiant) was $1,000.
We were originally going to do the food ourselves (seriously trying to save money) but my dad graciously offered to pay for catering from this local, delicious Mexican restaurant called Taco Bus. I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING… “Taco Bus” doesn’t sound very sophisticated. But the thing is, we’re not that sophisticated and we really love tacos. And so did our guests, it turns out, because folks were going up for thirds. It worked out to being $10 a person which is infinitely cheaper than most catering, but frankly it was also a lot more delicious than many catering options. And, it was a very “Tampa” decision. Half our guests weren’t from Tampa so they got to try a local delicacy… in the form of tacos. Friends made home made salsa & guac to go along with the tacos and we bought big bags of chips when they were BOGO. Drinks weren’t a big budget item – we didn’t do alcohol for personal reasons and we just stocked up drinks as they were on sale at Publix before the wedding. Since we didn’t pay servers, I had three detail oriented friends (and even one of their mothers!) come to the church before the ceremony when the food arrived and they put together the food tables and made those last minute set ups look lovely. We purchased some affordable drink dispensers and no one went thirsty. In total, we spent about $950 on food and drinks
I expected to spend $200 on a wedding dress. I spent more than that. By a lot. The wedding dress was easily the thing that was the most important to me – which was surprising because if you see how I dress normally, fashion is OBVI not my life blood. But for whatever reason, this dress was really important. Because of how important it was, Timothy and I agreed that we didn’t have to be set at $200. If I saw something I loved that cost more we could nix something else on our list. So, renting chairs and having flowers on every table, got nixed because the dress that I fell in love with was four times that measly $200. Everything about buying a dress surprised me: I found it the very first time I was out looking (I went out with two trusted friends who ended up being honest enough to say “yeah that dress makes you look Amish” and “you look extra pale in ivory”, bless them). I didn’t even like this dress when the girl at the store showed it to me, I only tried it on to be polite because blush and embroidered flowers? Too much. And then I put it on… and I kind of liked it. So I went out and showed my gal pals.. and they kind of liked it. And then I walked around in it … and we all kind of loved it. And the loving grew exponentially over the next half hour as I tried on other dresses that made me feel like I was wrapped in toilet paper. So I bought it. And we used chairs that were already at the church and didn’t put flowers on the reception tables. Additionally, since the dress was so pricey, I wore shoes I already owned. My dress was very billowy as it was so no one noticed I was wearing nude flats from Target I had owned for a year.
WHAT WE DIDN’T DO: There were several traditional wedding customs / expectations we decided weren’t worth our money and thus didn’t do.
We didn’t have favors because of one main reason: we have never cared about favors at any wedding we have ever attended. I have enough koozies already, I don’t like plastic ray ban sunglasses, and I really don’t need a mug with two names on it from a wedding I went to one time. Favors, I’m sorry, are unnecessary. And can seriously add up in cost. Because Timothy’s last name is Dills, we did think for about two minutes that it would be cute to have homemade pickles in small jars for people to take, but then we thought about the price, how half the guests wouldn’t take them – leaving us with more pickles than we would know what to do with.. OH, and also that we had never made pickles before and didn’t want our tiny apartment turned into a pickle factory.
We didn’t have a bridal party. This I think was the strangest to people (though I suspect no one missed watching people they didn’t know walk down the aisle) but there were a lot of reasons for this decision. Firstly, I wouldn’t have known how to pick just a few friends. I’m sentimental as heck and I would have wanted to include every friend who ever had even the slightest impact on my life.. and that’s a lot of friends. Basically my guest list. More over, I have had my feelings hurt on a few occasions when I wasn’t asked to be someone’s bridesmaid and I really didn’t want to accidentally do that too. There was also a money saving angle: bouquets, bridesmaid gifts (because apparently you have to give bridesmaid gifts), longer photography time… small things add up. Plus my friends would have also had to spend money on dresses and maybe even shoes. And to be honest, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not having bridesmaids. My closest friend still threw me a bridal shower and a bachelorette party, so many incredible friends helped with setting up and steaming table cloths and making home made salsa. They all understood the decision to not have bridesmaids, and they all knew that if I had had a bridal party.. they would have been it. Turns out they didn’t need to be in my wedding to know I loved them.
HOW WE SAVED $$$: There’s infinite ways to save money on your wedding but a few things that we did are as follows.
When we made our guest list we were really strict – more so than we wanted to be. We wanted to invite every single person we like, but the more people you have the more money you’re spending. So, we listed our families first then only the friends who we had actively spent time with the last year (or friends who I have known since first grade and had to be there). This was a bummer to do, but it was a good rule for us. Total we had about 75 guests attend.
I hunted the internet for fake peonies and found a bouquet I really liked for $13. I then got a bouquet of greenery from Trader Joes, put it together and had a bouquet I really loved for a grand total of $17. I had greenery on the reception tables as well, some from the same $4 Trader Joes bouquets, but also from a big pretty bush at my parents house. I had a floral garland on our altar (pictured below) that I made entirely from stems from my parents home, so it cost $0. Total, I spent $25 on flowers. Yet, according to a survey from The Knot, the average amount brides spend on a florist—including personal flowers, centerpieces and other decorations—was $2,141. So yeah, I like my number better.
Timothy isn’t a suit guy and I saw no reason to make him be one on his wedding day. We bought him a nice pair of Express pants and a button down he liked a lot when the store was having a 40% off everything type sale and he wore a pair of Clarks shoes he already had and loved. Easy, affordable, and he was really comfortable.
Our photographer, Sindy, was a friend of ours who we adored and she gave us a rate that she shouldn’t have because she’s incredibly talented. We only had her come for 4 hours because it was a few hundred dollars cheaper. That meant we had to be really particular with our time, so Timothy and I did our first looks before the ceremony and had pictures taken beforehand. This ended up being really sweet and intimate and I’m glad we did it. When we saw each other for the first time it was just us… and Sindy. We were able to cry and freak out “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING” together, and we hugged a lot. The pictures from this moment are some of my favorite from the day.
We didn’t use a DJ and just made a playlist on our iPod. It was really fun picking out the songs with Timothy and deciding what order they should be. When we needed things to be announced (like time to eat, time for our first dance) we just asked a friend with a good speaking voice to grab the mic for a second and do it. If you give the people music – even on just an iPod – they will dance.
Our wedding invitations were actually free, besides printing. I found them as a free template online (from http://www.weddingchicks.com – but there are SO many sites with really nice free templates) and our friend who is wildly helpful and a designer tweaked them for us so they were perfect. She even coordinated them to be printed for us at a local print shop and I believe we only spent $40 to print them. Because we were only engaged for 5 months, we didn’t do Save The Dates which also saved us money. We sent out invitations out about three months in advanced (earlier than miss manners would say to send out invitations) but we did that to take the place of save the dates.
I really wanted to attempt our wedding cake myself.. but even I know my limits, so we decided to ask a friend who bakes to make it. We still paid for it, but it feels nicer paying a friend than someone at a bakery you don’t know. We didn’t pay for an extra top layer to bring home to save for our anniversary (freezer burn cake? Gee no thanks) and I had my sister who had worked in a bakery cut it when it came time to serve. Both choices saved us some green. Plus, my sister had strict instructions to bring me the first piece because I wasn’t going to be one of those brides who was so swept up in the day she didn’t get a piece of cake at her wedding. I wanted the cake. We spent $150 on a strawberry cake with buttercream frosting (drooling at the thought) that fed 80. And for those of you who remembered that we only had 75 people come.. yeah, we took home the leftovers from our wedding cake and ate it all week.
I paid $12 for hair and make up thanks to two kind friends. The hair style I wanted was really simple so one of my sweet friends came over that morning and helped me with it. The $12 was for a gold hair piece that I found online that I used in place of a veil (seen below). I was going to do my make up myself – even though I knew it wasn’t going to be amazing – because getting it done professionally seemed to be at least $100 (and remember my dress was over budget so other things got cut). A few weeks before my wedding, a caring friend and the wife of my pastor, told me that she wanted to do my makeup for me as a wedding present. I’m pretty sure I cried. This was particularly exciting because she is literally a make up artist by trade and someone I absolutely couldn’t have afforded. My mother and I went over to her house the morning of my wedding and she did my make up in the same room where I attended house church for years. “Sentimental” really was the theme of our wedding.
It took a lot of work (which wouldn’t have gotten done without our amazing support system called friends and family) and the closer to the wedding we got, the more my apartment looked like a storage unit with boxes full of sodas and decorations. But.. our day was our style, fun, free of financial burdens, and really full of love. Voila!
“I feel as if we love each other better in autumn”, I said on the blanket under the tree. “Maybe it’s because we fell in love in autumn and the air takes us back to those first new moments.”
We didn’t admit it till the winter, but we fell in love in the fall. And in Memphis, TN the landscape echoed the autumn crisp in the air – here in Florida it’s still green and brown, green and brown, but the cool air still sweeps over the water from time to time and feels like the most welcomed gift.
It feels like a pause. A pause from the intense heat – a pause from real life, even. Cool mornings are treated differently, almost ceremoniously: windows open, coffee cups clasped, sweaters dug out of the bottom drawer. “It’s beautiful today, we must go sit outside.”
Our living room curtains dance from the open windows and the candle flame on the coffee table flickers wildly, both enchanting to watch. The autumn breeze sends a small shiver down my back and makes the gathered hair around my neck dance.
As I listen to the breeze rush through the palm trees (a sound so full it almost mimics rain) I think about what this air means. It’s the first signal of holidays. It means that in a month or so my family will be gathered around the backyard I grew up in, eating vegetable medley and turkey, watching the little cousins run around the yard and remarking how much bigger they are than the year before. I was once one of the kids running around, but now I’m amazed at how quickly they’re growing.
This air is a signal that soon I will bake my grandmother’s pumpkin pie with my mom. A grandmother I never met, this is a small way I feel connected to her. I don’t know if autumn was her favorite season, but her most beloved dessert was pumpkin pie so in autumn I think of her. In this air I almost smell it. My mother and I don’t need to look at the recipe anymore, it’s memorized by our hands and heart.
These mornings always stir my restless legs. “How can we live so far away from mountains and colors? I need this air in my lungs every October morning!” Every autumn I threaten to run away from the flat lands of Florida and retreat to Tennessee or North Carolina. And with Timothy next to me, I bet one of these years we will.
A full day of work is ahead of me: phone calls and calendars and meeting with volunteers till 8pm. But right now, as the air is coming through my living room window and the sun has just started to peek over the buildings, life is still and rich.
The fabric on the chairs is different but my salted caramel latte, which I got the first time we came – and still get today – tastes the same. I suppose that over four years enough spills and blunders and stains collect that the chairs need to be reupholstered. They used to be a mustard yellow, now they’re blue like the sea. The chairs are the kind that go up past your head and almost form a cocoon around your conversation. Though you’re in the middle of a crowded coffee shop, you feel like all your words are safe.
We sat every Thursday morning in those chairs. It was so routine we didn’t have to confirm it with one another, we just both showed up. Thursday morning, 9am. You did forget a few times, arriving an hour late with sleepy eyes. I always waited. I made you buy me breakfast to make up for it, but I always waited. We sat and talked about God, but like the fabric of the chairs, that conversation has changed too. The ebb and flow of relationship; the letting go of dead things. Sarah Bessey wrote “If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention.”
We don’t meet anymore, but whenever I find myself drinking a salted caramel latte on a Thursday I think of how much I needed those conversations in that strange season.
The mugs are the same, though, still white and warm. In four years they’ve been held by so many hands and like the chairs, heard so many conversations. A dear friend told me she was moving while sipping from those mugs. I fixated my eyes on the mug in my lap because I needed to concentrate on not crying and if I looked at her, sincere face tears would have been inevitable, even though I had known what she was going to tell me from the moment she asked me to meet. She had never really been home here. I can still recall the sweet smell of her mango tea as she sighed and said, “I knew you’d be the hardest person to tell”. I don’t think she said this because I was her dearest friend in Tampa, but rather I think she knew how much I had always needed her.
I’m seeing her get married this December which is unfathomable, beautiful proof that four years is a long time, and four years can change things.
Our book club met there once. We were reading “Persuasion” by Jane Austen and it felt an appropriate setting for our discussion on feminism and love and the words of Captain Wentworth.
You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.
Last month I was there too and I sat and watched my favorite little girl, Jo, walk her determined, new steps across the room. The same room that her mother and I sat in years prior, when her marriage was new and this little girl wasn’t yet a thought. Jo’s curls bounced along as she walked and I thought about how her presence – her very existence – has changed so many lives for the better. The girl I was four years ago sitting in that same coffee shop had no idea what it meant to a love a little person.
Jo walked up and down the staircase which is lined with portraits. Faces frozen in time by photographers and artists, still stationed in the same spot on the wall since opening day. They look out over a marble kingdom and I wonder if they would have come here if they were still alive. Would they have liked the local Tampa coffee culture, or would they have thought that the people here were snobs? It doesn’t much matter because here they are, in the background of a thousand staircase selfies.
I’ve written here, wrestled with God’s word here, cried here and laughed here. This room is a time capsule with memories scribbled on every wall. Today doesn’t look like four years ago, but the latte tastes the same.
I have decided that I will never ever again ask someone, “so how’s married life?!”
It isn’t a good question. It’s surface level and always asked in passing. It’s a feeler’s and introvert’s nightmare. Because what I want to say… is that it’s really good and so hard sometimes because you have to apologize a lot and often for things you have never had to apologize for in the past because you’ve never been married before and you were always able to make your own decisions and do things the moment you thought of them (that’s me to a T – I have to do everything the moment I think of it. My new husband, it turns out, does not share this crippling desire) and you always were able to watch whatever you wanted in the evenings and you never had to share your popcorn. But it’s all still really okay because now you have someone to help you wash the dishes and you get to lay down next to each other at the end of the day when the phones are put away and the blankets are pulled up to your chin and you talk about the silly bits of the day that had passed and those moments easily make up for every blunder.
Instead, though, I just respond with “Great!”
But it’s so much more layered than “Great”! It’s so much greater than that word does justice and it’s so much trickier than you expect! It’s allowing a colorful Star Wars pillow case to be on your all cream colored bed because your husband loved it, and it’s being the person who bought it for him in the first place – knowing that it would clash in every way- because life is more than keeping your home white on white on white (no matter what instagram says). It’s watching movies you don’t really care to watch (two weeks ago we watched both Braveheart and You Drive Me Crazy) (how good is Drive Me Crazy?) but who cares because you’re hanging out with your very best friend.
One of the best parts, to me, has been praying together. Sometimes we both pray, sometimes one of us prays the entire time if the other is feeling heavy. Sometimes it’s entirely about others and sometimes it’s entirely about our relationship. Every time, though, it’s good.
Last night, after devouring a sleeve of Saltine Crackers for dinner, we pulled two of our wobbly dining room chairs together. One of us was about to make a phone call to a family member and we weren’t excited about it because truth needed to be spoken and love needed to be given and Christ needed to be reflected. And that’s really intimidating sometimes. We knew that it had to be God speaking – that He had words to share with his beloved and our mouths were just going to be the vehicle that he would use. We asked God to get ourselves out of the way. We asked him to prepare the heart and the ears that were going to receive our phone call and to be oh so present.
Sometimes when I pray, particularly out loud, I start to realize things only as I am saying them. It’s the same as when I write – I don’t have the words ahead of time, God tosses them to me as we go and they usually are ones that I needed myself. Last night as we were praying, I heard myself say “God, let us remember that loving other people is the most important thing that we do. We get distracted with our hobbies and friends and the people we wish were our friends and our list of tasks, but all of that pales in comparison to the importance of loving other people.”
And now, an overheard conversation between Katie and her incredibly patient Heavenly Father:
“Hey, Katie. God here. Loving others is the most important thing you do. I noticed you were spending a lot of time doing the opposite of that.. so I just thought I would remind you. ”
“So true. Could you come back in like a second? I have to post on @choosetampa and like all the tagged pictures, it’s a whole big thing..”
“That’s not even importan- no. Listen, your time could be wiser spent. Loving others is the most important thing you do.”
“That makes so much sense, God, but I’ve only watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls seven times and I know I can make it eight*. Hey, while I have you, go ahead and bless Amy Sherman- Palladino because this show is just..”
“What? Just- Katie, for once in your life be cool. I’m telling you to do one thing. One thing. Love others. Write letters and cook a meal and help people move even though it’s hot (I hear you complain – I KNOW it’s hot) and make difficult phone calls and use your money for wiser things and, seriously, pay attention to the things that people are carrying because as my daughter and my love, I expect you help carry that weight right off their shoulders.”
*I have watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls WAY more than eight times. Way more. Embarrassingly more. Team Jess till the day I die.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Loving others it the most important thing that we do. It’s the best use of our time and money and hearts. Friends, I’m going to try to love you so much better. Timothy, I will spend my whole life learning how to love you like Christ.
Some time ago I sat down in Oxford Exchange and began writing a book. A book about the things that I have learned from the beautiful men and women I have rubbed shoulders with and embraced over the years. This task will take ages but I am not letting myself be flustered by that. The truth is, I do work full time at a non profit that takes an emotional toll sometimes, and I am planning a wedding and trying to cling to God as my life is about to change. The writing is slow. It’s slow, but it’s good. To my soul, I mean. I was revisiting some of the first essays I wrote out – still very rough, just like me – and I decided to share one. This last week brought along a rockslide. Fear and the slamming of doors. Now more than ever, I need to remember the importance of celebration.
This particular lesson was taught to me by a beautiful blonde, who, states away, is still celebrating with me.
I guess the real first thing she ever taught me was to cook dinner for people you love. Get yourself a round table* and sit at it with new faces and old faces and beloved faces. The first time she invited me over for dinner at her round table she made a light and fresh and healthy homemade meal. It was delicious and made more so by being followed with giant bowls of ice cream. We sat crisscross, knee to knee, with our mountain sized bowls of delicious frozen calories in our laps. We chatted and laughed on a day bed she had in her living room, which was being used as a couch until a cheap one could be acquired. Some time later I would sleep on that very bed while temporarily living with her after returning to Tampa from a year in Memphis, TN with no home. But I’m jumping ahead.
That evening was the first of many times I was impressed with her. Her eyes sparkled when she spoke about the friends she had moved away from and the city that was engraved in her heart. She told me about the life celebrations her community would have back home. They celebrated everything together. “Why should only people who are getting married and having babies get presents and parties in their honor?!” they questioned, and so new jobs and new homes and new attitudes and all exciting moments received acknowledgement. How beautiful.
I think that’s the way it should be: everything should be celebrated. Everyone should receive photo books and love letters. Everyone should have his or her name on a banner every now and then – especially if it’s homemade bunting. While the old saying ‘too much of a good thing is a bad thing’ can be true in certain circumstances (I’m looking at you, Target), I do not believe it applies to celebrations. Or dessert. Yes, I am quite certain that the authenticity of lifting one another up will never grow out-of-date.
And the why of it is very simple: there are plenty of things in every one of our lives that are heavy. There is no shortage of worry and stress and heartache and fear in my life or in yours. If the weights on our shoulders were literal and not metaphorical, chiropractors would be the busiest people in the world. We’ve all got really heavy things. We’ve all cried ourselves to sleep, snapped at our loved ones because of stress, wandered away from God through the misconception that we have to handle things ourselves. With heaviness often comes loneliness and the feeling that we’re the only ones who have experienced such garbage.
I’ve felt this way a million times: right now as work has thrown for a scary loop, when I was feeling the weight of the seventy thousand emotions that came with moving to a new state alone, I believed that no one on earth could have possibly felt the turmoil that I was feeling. I was wrong, of course. As we always tend to be when we think we’re the only ones.
This is a really basic example, but some months ago I met up with an acquaintance from high school for drinks. She was the one who asked me about meeting up because I wouldn’t have asked her if my life depended on it. Suffice it to say, we weren’t in the same social group back in high school. And by that I mean she was IN a social group and I spent my Friday nights eating Chinese food with my parents and watching “My Best Friends Wedding” every single week (no regrets – Rupert Everett is a peach, plus I can probably lip sync “I Say a Little Prayer for You” better than most as a result of so many rewatchings of that film).
She was beautiful when everyone else was an awkward teenager, and she was confident in a way I could have only ever dreamed of being. She was always very kind, but her friends tended to be… well, not so nice. They weren’t outrageously impressed with the tall gangly girl who wore a lot of band t-shirts and skinny jeans and stammered every time she talked. And they were not subtle about it (y’all, be nice to every single person you have the chance to be nice to. Even if it kills you… which it won’t, because being nice isn’t that difficult. Don’t be the mean person that quiet people like me grow up to write about).
Essentially, she was out of my friend league. Imagine my surprise when six years later we both found ourselves living in Tampa and she asks me for drinks. I tried on three different outfits and ventured downtown to see her. My, was it a lovely evening. We talked about traveling and flirtatious elderly Italian men, had cocktails I couldn’t really afford, and laughed about high school. In talking with her I learned something very important, something everyone in high school needs to understand: the people who seem to have it all together and also crushed when someone doesn’t like them back, also feel weird in their skin, and are figuring it all out as they go, just like you.
I’m finding the same concept to be true in adulthood as well. Every time I shake my fist at the air and yell “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING AND EVERYONE ELSE IS GOING TO MEDICAL SCHOOL AND MOVING TO LONDON AND RUNNING THEIR OWN BUSINESSES AND I’M MAD ABOUT IT”, I very quickly come across a friend who shares the same sentiment. Turns out most adults don’t know what they’re doing. Who knew? I am stumbling through life as I go, reaching for God spastically like a cat that just fell in water, half listening to His instruction but also kind of panicking. And so is everyone else, at least for a season. That, my dear reader, is the most concise definition of adulthood I can muster.
Therefore, because everyone feels weird and life is hard and sometimes we feel so terrifyingly alone, and because we’re all submerged cats panicking (is this the best metaphor I could use? Probably not), those moments of getting on dry land, temporary as it will certainly be, need to be acknowledged. More than that, they need to be celebrated. In celebrating together, we will be lifting one another up in beautiful community that will refresh our own souls as well as whoever’s name is on the banner.
So what I would like you and I to do next time someone finds himself on dry land is to not just send a text about it or leave an encouraging emoji filled comment on their instagram. Make them a banner, invite just a few lovely souls over, pour some wine, and celebrate. No matter how busy you are, no matter how underwater you yourself are feeling at the moment, praise Jesus when someone else has come out of the waves.
If life is going to be hard and heavy anyway (and it will be), we might as well walk through it hand in hand and really celebrate the heck out of anything and everything we’re able.
* A note about tables: I’m no craftsman or designer, but I am here to say that there is a reason King Arthur’s knights sat at a round table. When you get your own home or apartment, get a nice set of white dishes (they’ll match every cool and colorful and eclectic thing you bring home from a thrift store) and a sturdy round table. Here’s why: it is much more conducive to seeing the candlelight dance in everyone’s eyes when you’re in a circle, the support is in the middle so there isn’t any awkward banging of knees as you sit hip to hip (I’m 5’10 and nearly all leg so I feel I have the authority to say that wrestling with a leg on every table corner is unacceptable), and it’s easier to cram a whole gaggle of loved ones in a circle than a square. Seriously, get yourself a round table. Go to thrift stores, go to garage sales, go wherever you need to go that fits into your budget, but get one.
That’s an order. **
** A note about my note: my handsome fiancé read this while I was writing and he said, “Well, you know there really WAS a significant reason that the knights sat in a circle. And it had nothing to do with dancing candlelight”. So, okay, sure: if you’re going to be a history snob about it, the candlelight probably had nothing to do with King Arthur’s design intentions. But it should have.
I was sitting in a kitchen I had been in a thousand times before. A kitchen in which I’ve laughed so hard I cried, a kitchen in which I’ve yelled and endured yelling, a kitchen in which I shared meals and blueberry crumble with people I loved. The blue curtains were letting in perfect sunlight as I watched her freckled hands slice a green pepper as she spoke. The glide of the knife moving in rhythm with her words. Her movements were graceful and methodic, but the story she was telling was beautiful. It was a story of redemption and resurrection and grace, a combination that can give you goosebumps. She moved her long hair away from her face as she told me about the very real ways that God has led her out of a wilderness. She had been like a small sparrow unable to break through the canopy, seeing rays of light but not the fullness. Now she was basking in the light of her Father and she was radiant. People seem lighter when they’re so entangled in their Heavenly Father. There’s no mistaking it. She shone in a way that only those who know how deeply they are loved by Christ can shine.
She had read through some of her old journals earlier that day and she said that all she could do was cry. Old journals are the most raw of biographies; they sit stately on the shelf, with worn pages pressed together carrying secrets and heart break and memories that had to be remembered. Journals hold all the questions that couldn’t be answered and authenticity we are afraid to show people we love. Sometimes journal pages are love letters to God, sometimes they demand His response. For those who put pen to paper, a journal is a piece of their heart. Journals can be time machines filled with old wounds. Journals are proof that God does what He says He will do. My precious friend recalled the very deep things she had felt and cried the tears of a loved daughter when she realized how God had led her away from the deep and dark wilderness.
He said, “These are the things that I do, I will not forsake them.”
Isn’t God so big when you’re hearing things like that? He doesn’t even fit in the room with you – He’s positively overwhelming. No matter how often it’s easy to not notice His presence, I feel it is impossible to not see his calloused hands working alongside yours when someone is speaking of redemption. It’s an honor to hear these stories, to be trusted with truth and vulnerability. Oh God of second chances and new beginnings, I pray for a million more afternoons like this one. A million more stories of praise, a million more faces to look upon with love, a million more interactions with a God who doesn’t leave us in the wilderness.
Four years ago it felt like the city was ours. Running around with wide eyes and backpacks slung over our shoulders, doing our best to assimilate but still gawking over the cafes that the Fitzgeralds wrote in and the streets where our favorite films were filmed. Remember when we were sitting in a park and suddenly realized it was the same park from 24e Arrondissmenet, the short film from Paris, je T’aime? Or when we very-much-on-purpose found ourselves in the same Café that Amelie had been filmed in? I had my first Crème Brulee there and cracked the top the very same way. We were all young, students immersed in our studies of art and culture and humanity, devouring museums and baguettes. We walked on the edges of fountains, wrote our names on locks that would remain forever (sighed four years later when “forever” found an expiration date), drank wine by the Eiffel Tower, and pretended to be French students for discounted Louvre tickets.
Four years ago it felt like the city was ours. As if the streets had been paved for our footprints, the lamps installed to light our late night walks, the art curated to feed our souls. Didn’t it somehow feel that we were the only ones there? Amongst all the crowded metros, didn’t it still feel like ours? Paris has a way of doing that; of making every traveler feel like she belongs to them. What a saucy little minx, that Paris. Even knowing that four tourist filled summers have passed, I still feel as if those streets were mine. Those croissants were mine, the glorified Rembrandt paintings were mine, and the city was mine.
There’s something about being an art student in Paris. You already know that the Mona Lisa is much smaller than most people realize. You also know that the reason it was such an important piece of work at the time it was created was because of the painting technique DaVinci used – not because the subject was some mysterious woman. You don’t crowd around to see her. Incredible as she is, you know there’s much else to see. After all, there are Titian works to be found and a particular Oath of the Horatii to look in on. Paintings looked at in text books for years – paintings you wrote essays on and copied for practice – suddenly in front of your face. You can see the brush strokes. The brush strokes! Indeed, being an art student in Paris must feel similarly to how normal people feel when they see celebrities
Time really paused four years ago. Our normal lives didn’t exist much in Paris and perhaps that’s why she is so easy a city to fall in love with. Paris tosses your heaviness aside and grabs you by the hand, whirling you around and around in a dance as dizzy as the Moulin Rouge.
Our fearless leader and program director quoted A Moveable Feast to us before we left for Paris. He said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”. Friends, we feasted indeed.
I believe Time Hop is one of the most incredible iPhone apps of all time because it is a marriage between three of my very favorite things: sentimentalism, nostalgia, and memories of myself. If you aren’t familiar, each day time hop will show you pictures you saved on your phone and posts you made on facebook and Instagram years passed on that same day. So today is January 17th, 2015: on time hop I see what I posted on January 17th, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010. Every day is a new walk down memory lane. I have remembered beautiful things that I have slipped my mind, I have seen Instagram posts long forgotten that now sting a little with painful memories, and I have looked upon my words and photos and the people in the photos with some serious hindsight. I’ve become fully aware of how little I knew in the years passed.
This morning was a glorious Saturday because no alarm was set. No errands or obligations awaited me this morning as I watched the shadows dance on my wall while the sun delicately covered my room. I picked up my phone from the nightstand, scrolled through instagram quickly, and clicked on Time Hop.
One year ago today I shared a precious painting the little I had been a nanny for created. Two years ago I kindly shared a buzz feed article ranking Mary Kate and Ashely movies – you’re welcome, all. I was reminded that four years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon with sweet friends making homemade burritos. In the photo are three friends: two of those faces are married today (and one is pregnant!) and the third friend is engaged to marry someone he had no idea he loved four years ago.
Five years ago flooded me with memories:
Five years ago today I was standing in a brand new dorm room. I had just transferred to USF and it felt like the first real thing I had ever done. The first step towards something. The first bloom of a magnolia tree. That day was so full of promise and mystery and excitement and loneliness. I didn’t know that my love for photography would wane – that this degree I was working on so diligently would one day just be a line on my resume and not the passion of my heart. You can never know such things ahead of time. Instead, I stood there in that dorm room dreaming of all that I would be. I put up my polaroids, bought myself some flowers, and went to a dorm meeting that proved to be a waste of time.
Five years ago today I was standing in a brand new dorm room, smitten with a boy from home with whom I had spent many late nights at IHOP. Nights filled with pancakes and life stories and butterflies fluttering around my heart. Our friendship was true and deep – void of any shallowness. His authenticity got me in a moment. I moved to USF before finding out if those pesky butterflies were mutual: if there was any hidden agenda behind our long and easy conversations. I worried the two hours between our new respective schools would feel more like the atlantic ocean than a manageable drive. About a month into my time at USF he and I were not messaging and laughing nearly as much as we had prior, but still he and a mutual friend of ours visited Tampa for a show at my favorite used book store. There was a lot of weight on this visit as we shuffled through the rows and rows of books. We pulled out books from the shelves, remarking how great of a read this book was and how too self-aware that one was, flipping through pages and allowing that that unequivocal smell of old paper to fill the air. All the while I knew we were ebbing away from one another. I changed clothes four times before meeting them and ultimately I regretted the outfit I chose. It included a waist belt with a bow that I was fiddling with the moment he mentioned this cool girl he was working on a paper with. A few weeks later he started dating her and I ate a lot of ben and jerry’s in my dorm room while I watched Modern Family.
Five years ago today I was standing in a brand new dorm room of a school at which I had one friend. A friend who I felt understood my soul. A friend I thought would be mine for ever and ever. Nights without studying were spent in one another’s rooms watching Will and Grace and When Harry Met Sally and speaking in dramatics. We talked about love with an authority we did not possess – so sure we understood this vast, impossible idea. We would decide, “We should play tennis. We would probably be really good at tennis if we tried” only to play once and spend most of the match standing at the net talking about the crazy stories people wrote in her creative writing class. Then we would decide, “We should start running. We would probably be really good at it” and then we would run a few times, sign up for some 5k’s, and then eat pancakes at home instead of going to the race. We were very much in our own bubble, a characteristic of our friendship I now know was not beneficial. I relied too heavily on her for all of my community needs. Plus, when you’re in your own bubble you tend to be far too harsh on those not part of it. We spoke very bitterly of others and it was poison to our hearts – the exact opposite of how God calls us to handle other people. Our friendship began five years ago and only lasted for three despite how strong I believed it to be. There is a wedding coming up in a few months for some mutual friends of ours and she may be there. I imagine us seeing each other through a crowd of well dressed wedding goers, and if that truly happens it will be the first time seeing each other in over two years. I shared homes with this friend and all of my heart, and now we tend to only text each other when a new David Beckham commercial comes on during the Super Bowl. I believe there are 83 reasons why our friendship didn’t endure, but each one of them makes me heavy hearted.
Five years ago today, as I stood in that brand new dorm room, I had no idea of what would await me. I didn’t know the next five years would include finding a church that would help me fall more and more and more in love with Christ. The Kathryn in that picture didn’t know the fullness of her God. I didn’t know my value was from Him and not from my weight or degree or how artistic I could be. I didn’t know my heart would be crushed so many times in the years to come, by friends and by guys. I didn’t know the sins I would fall into, the sicknesses that would disrupt my family, or the way God would resurrect all of that. I didn’t know the books that would come to change my life, the art that I would create, the way writing would speak to my soul. I didn’t know I would move to Memphis for a year and I didn’t know that there I would fall in love with a man who is shorter than me (the Kathryn in that picture was far too insecure about being 5’10”) and my very very best friend.
Maybe on January 17th, 2020 I’ll click on time hop and remember the words that I’ve written today. I’ll smile and lovingly shake my head as I remember everything that I am feeling this Saturday morning. Everything that today feels big and important will feel as small as the crush I had back in 2010. I will have endured more pains and hardships and love and light and I will think how 2015 Kathryn had no idea what was coming for her.
I am sitting in a Starbucks as I write this (so stereotypical I could die), drinking a beverage I in no way enjoy. But we have an arrangement, Starbucks and I. I buy one of their fancy drinks, they let me plop on their wifi for two hours while I make weird faces at my computer screen as I try to write a post. Across the table from me is my editor: a sweet boy who eats really quickly who I also call my boyfriend. His warby parker glasses are sliding down his nose as he works and occasionally we make eye contact and smile at one another.
We are in a hard season together, my boy and I. God is teaching us to seek Him, and even though He is the most beautiful thing to ever bask in, for some reason this is a terribly hard lesson. In this moment, nothing is secure except God and each other. And that is kind of wonderful. This relationship, this man, and this season is entirely different from anything I have ever experienced. In hard ways and in beautiful ways.
I have no idea what I’m doing here. I’ve never been here before. In relationships, yes, but never in anything that resembled this pairing of Kathryn + Timothy. Everything prior was heavy and difficult and sad. Long threads of bad decisions with too much emphasis on people who didn’t and couldn’t love me like Christ. People that I didn’t and wouldn’t love like Christ, either. My track record is not pretty. I have had relationships that only existed because he and I both wanted someone to complete our individual dreams without being willing to sacrifice… anything. Without even really wanting our individual dreams to intertwine. Those relationships ended in yelling and hurt feelings and with me stomping down the front porch steps in the most dramatic exit I have ever made to this day.
To have this man sitting in front of me: this man who has endured my yelling and craziness and tears and who has decided to still sit across form me at Starbucks, is something that I have never experienced. This is all new territory. I know, now, how selfish my past relationships truly were only because of the way God has revealed Himself through Timothy. Because of the way he cares for me and for the ways that I long to care for him.
That’s the difference I’ve found: I know that I am selfish in our togetherness, and I detest it. I am no longer content with serving only myself. It’s my nature and always my gut reaction, but it has become the thing I hate about myself. Now, I long to love Timothy like God loves Timothy. I long to respect him and build him up and talk to him like I would talk to someone of infinite value – because he is of infinite value. It has become of the utmost importance for me to show him that I love him. I want to buy him treats at the grocery store and listen to the music that he writes and not complain when “The Walking Dead” is on. These things aren’t always easy to do – I really don’t like “The Walking Dead” – but my heart wants to be better and better at doing them because even though it’s hard, there is such joy.
This Christmas we traveled up to Memphis to see his family, the first time going back since our move to Tampa. My heart was a little heavy because I have never spent a holiday away from my precious family before. Every single Christmas morning I have ever had started with waking up in the home I grew up in. It began with eating warm cinnamon rolls, and ended with visits to friends who were as close as family – friends I’ve loved a very long time. Every Christmas I have ever had has been filled with comfort and longevity and familiarity.
This year all of that was being traded in for something completely different. A trade I had never been willing to make: no holiday, Christmas or otherwise, had been given to another person before. I am far too sentimental to surrender such things easily; to put down my traditions for someone else’s. I never had even the slightest desire to do so.
I packed my bag, bought presents for people I didn’t know well enough yet to buy good presents for, and walked hand in hand to Gate A30 with the most handsome and excited man in the Tampa airport. My soul so very much aware of all that I was about to miss.
As it turned out, seeing Timothy so wildly and obviously happy amounted to a lot more than missing my traditions. Suddenly I understood why people are able to make sacrifices for the ones they love: sometimes, they aren’t reallysacrifices. Or, they are but they don’t possess the negative connotation we so often give to the word. They’re only good. My heart was content knowing that I wasn’t missing out on a single thing. Seeing Timothy play with his nephew, hearing the way his Tennessee accent twanged through when he talked with his dad: these moments sparkled more than all the christmas lights in the world.
I don’t know anything about relationships. My past will support this and the number of times I find I must apologize to Timothy also show it to be true. That two people with different interests and opinions and backgrounds decide to come together doesn’t make an ounce of sense. And yet in this weird world that I don’t understand, I am finding my heart more full than it’s ever been because I have the opportunity to love someone above myself. I don’t do this well, but the rare moments I sit back and let him be full are glimpses of God’s Kingdom around us. And they are the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen. May we allow Christ to teach us how to love. May we be willing to put our ‘wants’ on a shelf and find that the giving really is sweeter than the getting.
There is something so incredibly human and so wondrously raw about lying awake at night. About being heavy, about worrying. I can’t decide if it makes my heart light to know I’m not alone, or heavy because the thought of others so burdened is heartbreaking. We think and we analyze and we panic so thoroughly that even sleep can’t always give pause to our rampant minds. This is exhausting. This is weariness. This has been my week.
And all I can say is, when you’re awake at two in the morning, with tears in your tired eyes and heaviness in your heart, remember to whom you belong.
You belong to the One who was and is and will be. You belong to the creator and master. To Love itself. You belong to peace and grace and joy incarnate. You have been seen. In a world of chaos, in a world of mass communication and sounds and messes of people, you have been seen. You have been picked out and adored. You have been known fully, for better or for worse. And yet you have still been loved. Your darkness hasn’t scared away your Father. Your shortcomings haven’t elicited God to throw up His holy hands and be done with you. As you are lying there, staring at the ceiling fan and wondering if you have made the right choices, remember. I have drowned myself in second guessing and what ifs. I have imagined the paths I did not take, with outcomes far more lovely than my current lot. I am the queen of wondering and worrying, but I am surrendering my crown and remembering.
Remembering that God’s timing isn’t ours: it’s deliberate and wise and right. And sometimes it seems slow, but He says to wait for it: It hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. His movements, His stirrings, are intentional. Every gift He’s given me, every freckle on my face is intentional. Because our God isn’t distant. Even at two in the morning. Especially at two in the morning. Like Joel and Clementine lying side by side on the frozen Charles, staring at the night sky, our God lies next to us and after every time we mutter, “Lord I can’t handle any of this”, He softly answers, “I can“.
Remember that no matter the number of things that are unclear, no matter how many doors you are waiting on, no matter how many things feel “paused” or in limbo, there is never down time for Christians. We are never useless. We are never sitting on the sidelines. I wasn’t picked for a single sports team in high school (for wildly good reasons), but God hasn’t benched me once. There are still people to love. There are still songs to write to God. You have things to do. You have many things to do. I do too. We need to be love to our roommates, you need to encourage your spouse, you need to tell your children about Jesus. These are the things that count. These are the things that are gold. You, my friend, are astonishing and wondrous, but you are not big enough to ruin God’s plans. Be still. Put those heavy things down and remember. Remember you aren’t of this earthy kingdom. It’s regulations and measuring sticks and ways of distributing worth do not apply to you. It’s apples and oranges: our jobs and salaries and instagram feeds mean nothing in the kingdom to which we belong.
Praise God that my Heavenly Father is awake every night with me. As my heart is tempted to collapse under the weight of worry and wonder, He holds it with a strength unattainable by man and a love that no romantic could imagine.
When I see photos like this on instagram & pinterest, I imagine people fighting. I imagine oven doors getting slammed. I imagine hurt feelings and shouts filling the space. I imagine clutter and misunderstandings and vases without flowers. I imagine crying children sitting in those chairs and angry teenagers stomping out of the room. I’m not a cynic, I also imagine reconciliation. I can hear the apologies being spoken across the table, and the sweet laughter that escapes lips as tears are sheepishly wiped away. These spaces are lovely (and boy are they meticulously styled to look that way) but they will never be as lovely as the life that fills them. All the wildflowers arranged “just so” in thrift store and antique vases will never be more beautiful or more important than the intangible events happening around them. Truly, the flowers and anthropologie knick-knacks are not the most exquisite part of a home. Not by a long shot.
A few weeks ago I was with a friend who I adore for her creativity and honesty. I mentioned a woman I followed on instagram who always shared photos of her white-on-white living room and images precisely styled bookshelves and well behaving children (who I am certain are not always so well behaving) playing with vintage and folky toys. My friend crossed her legs, looked at me, and delicately remarked, “Everybody is full of crap.”
And they are. And I am. And we are.
I have found myself trading eternal things for material things. I have found my soul degraded by materialistic idolatry. I have placed Jesus and love and others on the shelf and have surrounded myself with instagram accounts and pictures on pinterest that make me dream of my “one day home”: the home that I will share with one husband and not 18 roommates. The home that I will turn into an instagram worthy gem. I think of the way our bookshelves will be styled and the tile in our bathroom and the dinner parties we will have and the garden I will grow and the Bon Iver album that will waft through the living room. I blatantly ignore things happening around me at times because they just don’t seem as important as taking photos worthy of the #livefolk hashtag. I want people to be impressed with my style. I want people to be envious of my life. I want to weep at the selfish person I have become.
My pastor always says that idolatry is taking Jesus off of the throne and putting something else on it. I have plopped materialism in His spot and am pleading with it to give me all the things that I am supposed to receive from Jesus.
I am willing to accept that not everyone who pins and posts these type of images are drowning in the sludge of materialism and the slime of conceitedness, but I am confessing that I am. My motive is never innocent. My eyes have not been focused on the things above, only on the things around me that will look trendy in a vsco filter.
I have bought into the delusion that having sleek kitchen tile matters. That having a home (or wardrobe or vacation or meals) that others are envious of is a feather in my cap. That gold silverware will contribute to my wholeness.
When the day comes that I marry that boy of mine and we have a space that is ours, we might very well have dinner parties, and we might have pretty bookshelves, but we will also most definitely have fights. Probably fights so loud Bon Iver is completely washed out. We will hurt one another’s feelings, we will cry over sickness and missing loved ones and feeling far away from God. We will laugh and love and forgive one another. We will leave dirty dishes in the sink. If we have children, they will shriek and cry and break things. They will also run and giggle and wrestle and create… and break things. Yes, our home will be filled with pretty things, but those pretty things will mean a pittance compared to the wholeness that we will experience through sadness and frustration and love and partnership.
I don’t want to ever be afraid of coming across as anything other than perfect. I don’t want to be an instagram account someone follows and remarks to her friend, “this kathryn girl looks like she has it all together”. I want to be known so intimately and so fully by the people around me that they wouldn’t think for a second that I belong inside a Kinfolk magazine because they know I am a mess and have no idea what I’m doing. They have seen my dirty home and endured my grumpy moods and tolerated my screaming children. I don’t want to stuff all those real things in the closet like clutter I am trying to hide. In fact, I want to spend so much time loving others that I simply don’t have time to worry about rearranging my living room. And I don’t want to apologize for it.
This is not how I feel right now. Right now, I still don’t want you to know how dirty my kitchen is and just how much the two hand-me-down couches in our living room do not match. But my God is a miracle worker – He turns dirty hearts into loving ones. He turns selfishness into active love. And praise Jesus, He also forgives me for every time I have made the number of ‘likes’ I receive on instagram mean more than the simple and freeing fact that I am His.
So here’s to the nights when our kitchens are filled with anger; may we celebrate the fact that part of a full life is yelling and forgiving and loving. When our home is a mess and a dear friend comes over in tears, may we be so fully aware that that moment is more precious than any pinterest inspired dinner party.
Homes hold many things. The most valuable, however, will never be able to be posted to instagram.
Steam rises from our tea cups placed on the table and the lit candle casts shadows on the wall but there is something in that room far more consuming. It is the only thing that has captured my attention. It is her voice as she tells me the story of what happened while I was in Memphis. The terrible, heavy, heartbreaking thing that happened while I was away.
“I know the only reason you’re able to tell me all this so matter-of-factly is because God has already begun healing and carrying you . You’ve already had several months to deal with it,” I managed to say before my eyes began welling with tears and my voice started to crack, “but I haven’t. My heart is broken. I am so, so sorry.”
Love can look like so many things, but it’s perhaps never as beautiful and raw and fragile and important as when it shows itself through two friends hugging each other with sorrowful eyes. Songs and poems and stories have been written about love, but I wonder if all the words in all the books could compare with the passion that is found in the three simple words, “I’m so sorry” being whispered again and again into the ear of a broken sister.
I held her hand and I cried. I told her how beautiful she is, how wildly thankful to God I am that He has pulled her back to Himself so quickly, how I couldn’t believe I was so far away when this had happened, how “I’m sorry if it’s weird but I just want to keep holding your hand for a while longer”.
There are many things to be felt when someone trusts you enough to allow you to carry their heavy things. As I was sitting on that couch, ignoring the steam and dancing shadows, I first felt sadness. And fear. And anger. My heart danced between feelings like a nervous ballerina.
But as I experienced a hundred different emotions, there was one that sat constant in the background.
Have you ever played apples to apples, or some kind of card game where you have cards rotating through your hand? There’s always one card that you can’t get rid of. In apples to apples, the other six cards are always rotating – they get drawn, discarded, and are then replaced with a new card. But there’s that one tricky card that never leaves your hand. That’s how this one feeling was for me. Only, the reason it never left was because it was good and beautiful – not because it was a stupid noun that didn’t fit any of the green cards.
All the while I felt overwhelmed with a sense of honor and privilege. Not just because she felt safe enough with me to share a gigantic burden, but because in that moment I was given an opportunity to participate actively in the gospel. I was being the love that Christ insisted was to exist in our communities. By the grace of God I was given a chance to tell someone that because they are in Christ they are a new creation.
“You are not what has happened to you. You are God’s and you are still whole.”
It is humbling and an honor like I have never experienced to get to look into someone’s eyes and speak to them on God’s behalf. And it is humbling and an honor to have others who have done the same for me.
Time doesn’t heal wounds. God heals our wounds. Sometimes by using others, sometimes by just showing up on His own. The times we get to be used as part of His healing is wondrous. And it isn’t because we are word-smiths or fantastically empathetic or incredible christians that God provides us these almost magical opportunities to love, but because this is how we get to be part of the gospel. Even with our filth, we get to love other people because we have been loved by God. He has poured us tea and held our hands a million lonely nights, saying “I will turn the darkness into light before you and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them”. Like a child copying his parents, every act of love we ever make is only mimicking the love that we have seen from Him.
Sometimes being part of the gospel means sharing the name of Jesus to souls who have never heard of their savior. It can mean moving across the world for some, it should mean tending to the sick and the homeless for us all. There are also times, I have discovered, where it looks like not having anything to say except “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”. It looks like showing up and holding hands because nothing else seems right. It looks like allowing your heart to break simply because other hearts are broken.
The first time I heard of Jon Acuff I was on a mission trip in Haiti and someone had a copy of “Stuff Christians Like”. A marvelous introduction to Jon’s literary work. He’s become one of the authors and speakers and people that I list when I say “I want to do things like what this person does.” So it was really cool when I was perusing instagram yesterday and saw that he was in Tampa! Doing a meet up! To talk about creativity and bravery! Solid.
I knew that part of the meet up was for people to come together and share their work. To bravely share (with strangers) those dreams that we’re working towards. And it’s interesting that this idea appealed to me because speaking to strangers about myself is literally my nightmare. I threw up before every public speaking assignment I’ve ever had, and once while studying fine art in college I had to present and defend my body of work (the meanest of all assignments) to my peers and professor. I decided to just skip it instead because dropping down a letter grade was easier on my soul than talking to my peers about myself and (THE MOST VULNERABLE THING OF ALL TIME) my art.
But hey, meet up with an author I admire and a room full of creative people who are probably all wiser than me and will most likely not stutter when they talk, as I most certainly will? Oh, sign me up!
We all know that when you’re getting ready to go somewhere – anywhere – the process includes picking out your clothes, brushing your teeth, and envisioning every conversation you’re going to have while you are at wherever you are going. I am always wildly hilarious and charming in these visions. Crackin’ jokes, not sweating, introducing myself to lots and lots of new people, and enjoying having non-frizzy hair. But none of these things ever come true, ever. Especially not the hair.
First of all, I was late. Not late late, but late enough that he had began speaking and I 100% missed the beforehand chit-chat. I live for beforehand chit chat. There aren’t a lot of people around so you’re able to introduce yourself in peace, plus you just proved that you have good time management skills and can arrive promptly so kudos to you. I was counting on this chit chat. Naturally, I woke up with a cold & I didn’t get myself ready at the speed I usually do, I missed a turn driving there and had to sit at one of Florida’s famous two hour red lights before I could turn around, etc.
The moment I walked in the room and saw I missed that chit chat, all of the anecdotes and witty remarks I had so thoroughly planned evaporated out of my brain and I remembered, “Oh yeah! I’m Kathryn and things like this are terrifying.”
Since this was a meet up and not a “hey come listen to me talk”, he didn’t speak for very long but I truly loved every moment that he did. He talked about bravery and jumps and hustling and working. He spoke right into my fears. Sharing this blog with people scares me. Writing a book scares me. Saying, “I write and I’m good at it” is the hardest sentence in the universe for me to utter (actually it’s the second – saying something nice about Kroger is most definitely the hardest) because I’m afraid it isn’t true. In fact, at first I added a “kind of” before the ‘good’ in that sentence just as a disclaimer in case anyone read this and thought “eh, you’re really not”.
A few posts ago I wrote about the lie: ‘its everybody else but us’. It’s still very much my biggest battle with myself. Jon said today that bravery has two parts: being brave enough to do the thing (whatever your thing is) and then being brave enough to tell others about the thing. I’m plenty brave to sit here in the corner and write quietly without anyone knowing, but the bravery tends to stop there. If it even began.
Sometimes I build up the idea that people who are doing what I wish I was doing are able to do them effortlessly. Sometimes I think that it must take Shauna Niequist all of ten minutes to pound out a book that makes me laugh, cry, and swoon. And admittedly I tend to bring it back to the idea that they’re doing it so well because they’re capable and I’m not. Everyone else but me. Pity party much? It was really fantastic to hear someone who I assume works effortlessly because he works so well say, “You want to do what I’m doing? Well this is what I’m doing: I’m working and I’m figuring and I’m learning and I’m hustling when it’s hard.” He may not have actually been aware that that is even what he was saying, but it was.
So the speaking part of this morning: perfection. Right to my soul.
The time-for-everyone-else-to-share part? Sweaty. That is, my hands were because I was so nervous (and also probably because I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, a jacket, a scarf, and boots because I’m a Floridan and it was 50 degrees this morning but it was definitely not 50 degrees in that church). I had to listen to seven other people share before I was able to convince myself that no one would throw a tomato at me and it was safe to raise my hand to go. Naturally that was the same exact moment that we ran out of time.
I was lingering around (just like everybody else) afterwards to get a second chance at sharing my plight with Jon, but my tactic of not saying anything and letting everyone else do their thing before me wasn’t working. Which is weird, because prior to this morning “not doing anything” has had a 100% success rate. I had the chance to meet some other locals who are doing cool things – it wasn’t wasted time, but I didn’t do what I had hoped to do.
Because I didn’t make it happen.
And I realized that this is what I always do. This is how I live my life – passively and unassuming and waiting for everything to be perfect and clear and easy. It’s not a big deal that I didn’t assert myself to go up and meet Jon Acuff, but it will be a big deal if I never write the book that I want to write or say the things that I want to say. I need to hustle. Graciously, gently, and lovingly, but diligently.
It will be a big deal if you don’t chase the dreams that are spilling from your heart and hands. It will be a terrible shame if the things in your brain stay there. We need to hustle.