Monthly Archives: March 2010

Messy room, messy heart

I’ve realized that the state of my room directly correlates to the state of my heart. It’s become more and more apparent to me lately that when my room is in a state of disarray it is usually because my soul is as well.

I would like to look at my messy room and say to myself, “Eh, that’s just the way I am – I’m messy.” But that’s just not true. It doesn’t really hold up under argument. Because yes, I can be messy and I’m definitely not a germ-a-phob, so I can stand for things to be less than spotless. But I don’t like clutter and disorganization. I don’t like it when things are out of place or just…messy. For example, I was a substitute teacher last week in an 8th grade classroom and the teacher was not very organized. There were just piles of stuff everywhere! Gah, it bothered me. But I was only there for a day, so I got over it. I just like it when things are neat and I do a pretty good job of keeping my desk and work space tidy. Basically I’ve concluded that I’m not a messy person at heart. I like order.

So that’s why when my room looks like it just survived Hurricane Katrina, I know something is up. Isn’t it funny how our hearts can get cluttered and weighed down without us realizing it? Just like my room. The mess starts small: I leave the bed unmade, put some clothes on a chair that eventually end up on the floor, try on 5 different shirts in the morning and throw them on the floor…then before I know it, I can’t even see the floor. And the mess bothers me, but I don’t have the desire to do anything about it. It’s the same with how I feel on the inside – sometimes something will happen that’s mildly upsetting and, instead of dealing with it right away, I throw it on the floor of my mind. Feelings and emotions that need to be addressed accumulate, but I don’t have the energy or will to do anything about them. Then before I know it, I break down or blow up over something small and realize that it really is just about my messy heart.

This is helpful for me to realize because when my room starts to get cluttered, it’s a sign to me that something is amiss. It makes me see that I need to stop and deal with whatever is building up inside. I’m not very good at this yet, but I hope that I can learn to keep my heart tidy on a regular basis. Because it’s really just a much better environment to live in. When my room is clean, I breathe a sigh of relief and feel like something has been put right again. And when I’ve taken all of the piles of junk that littered the floor of my heart and mind to the Lord, I feel like something bigger has been put right again and my soul can rest.

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Go on, dive in

Every Thursday at school we have Faculty Lunch; each faculty/staff member has their own table and students are assigned a table on a two-week rotation. I was unaware that house counselors were included in this tradition, until one day a girl came up to me and said, “Kate, I was at your table, but you weren’t there!” I responded with a professional, “Say what?!” I don’t know if I somehow missed this piece of information during my orientation at the beginning of the year or if the powers-at-be forgot to mention it, but either way, I have never been. My first reaction is to blame someone else for not telling me, but it is far more likely that I simply forgot. Oh, it’s not that huge of a deal that I’ve never gone because apparently none of the other house counselors do, save one (who works at the school during the day).

But as a lover of high school girls and Jesus, I am excited about this! I’ve been thinking for months now that I would like to get to know more day students and reach out to them. I know that lunch is a perfect time to do that, but it’s a pain to leave work for 30 minutes or so and go back afterwards. I would just rather bring my lunch to the office and do my thing. I’m selfish, basically. And I have justified this selfishness by the fact that I live at the school so I’m always around kids. My contact work (the time YL leaders spend with kids outside of club/campaigners) is built in, so I don’t make myself branch out as much. I love to attend events at school and I’m going to start watching practices every now and then, but being here is just different than being at a public high school. Contact work looks different – but I’m starting to think it really doesn’t have to. Just like leaders at other schools, I can attend lunches, games and practices. And have the same fear of rejection as they do.

It just strikes me how easily I let that fear overtake me and give into the temptation to stay in my comfort zone. This has become more apparent to me the older I get – I’m alone a lot of the time and so my first instinct is to choose solitude over interactions with people. Maybe I’m more introverted than I realize (well…not really). I create a nice, warm bubble for myself and stay there. And I pull away with a grimace when I sense the Lord trying to pull me out. Especially with high school kids – it will always intimidate me to talk to new girls and be bold with them. But when I do step out of my safe cocoon, I find I am blessed by the new thing I tried or the new people I met. My soul feels lighter.

Kind of like when I get ready to go for a swim. I’d much rather stay in the warmth of my room and take a nap – and when I first get in the pool, it’s cold! But as soon as I start to take those first strokes, I’m glad I went. I warm up quickly. When I step out of my comfort zone, it can be cold and a little shocking at first…but God meets me there and I quickly become warm and refreshed. It’s like the joy-power Tim Keller talked about. I will have the courage to go out and meet new kids if my eyes are fixed on Jesus, because sharing the gospel with them will be my ultimate desire. Just like going for a swim changes my body and makes me healthier, so I go even when I feel tired and lazy. If I set my heart on the higher thing and the ultimate goal – if I make Him my joy – I will have no problem diving in.

So, having said all that, I went to lunch today! It was great. I sat with my girls and we talked and laughed. I’m glad I went. I met some new kids, made some new connections. And what do you know, my soul feels lighter, healthier. I love that God gently nudges me (and ok, sometimes pushes me) into new experiences. And I know that He’s always there on the sidelines, loving me and cheering me on.

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With every season’s change…

As the days get longer and hopefully a little warmer, I feel refreshed and renewed with the hope of Spring. I think of how the earthly seasons reflect emotional and spiritual seasons in our lives and how good and necessary they are. And I remember this song and it really just says it all:

Every Season – Nichole Nordeman

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You
In children's games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what's to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that's new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season's change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter...spring
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Be who you are.

I walk in and the smell of chlorine hits me like a wall. I see the water that looks like glass, beckoning me to dive in. I grab my supplies and sit down at the waters edge. As I dip my feet in the water, the glassy surface is disturbed with small ripples. I wet my cap and the rubber stretches as I pull it over my head. It snaps in place and I wince as it pulls at my skin while I tuck my hair beneath it. I put on my goggles and slip into the water that always feels a little too cold at first. Then I take a deep breath, submerge and kick off from the wall. I keep my arms out in front of me like an arrow, kick my feet, before breaking the surface and taking my first breath. With each stroke, I sense a fullness in my mind and body with the realization that I was made for this.

I love swimming. Well, in truth, I’ve always had a sort of love-hate relationship with it. I was on a swim team as a kid in California, but had to quit because practices started running into dinner time and Mom wanted me home (at the time it was annoying, but now I love that family dinners were so important to her). My sophomore year of high school I decided to return to the pool and join the swim team. It wasn’t until then that I truly realized that I was made for this sport. My coach’s jaw dropped after I swam a timed 50 free and he looked at me and said, “Where have you been?!” I was surprised and delighted because I honestly didn’t know that would happen.

Throughout that season, people kept asking me if I would start swimming year-round. I kept telling them no, that I didn’t want to get tired of it. I felt that if I swam two hours every day, 5 days a week, I might begin to loathe it. And I wanted to love it. So, I held the deeper commitment at arms length and enjoyed the light-hearted high school team. But after the season my junior year, I broke down and decided to swim year-round. I wanted to make it to states my senior year and I knew that I would improve tremendously by immersing myself in the sport. And man, was it tough. Every muscle in my body was sore, especially my shoulders, and I came home every night completely famished and ready to eat anything I could get my hands on. But after a couple of weeks, my body started to transform. I could push myself harder and I felt myself getting stronger. Even though I still dreaded going to the pool most days (out of laziness), I knew that it would all be worth it.

I swam all year, until that fall when I could only go to morning practice because of volleyball. And I had a phenomenal last high school season. But once it was over, I knew my swimming career was too. I wanted to do other things, like the spring musical in town. I was tired of the pool and always smelling like chlorine. I needed a break. I’ve gone swimming several times since then, but all in all, I left the sport behind. We broke up and I moved on.

But that all changed last year. When I moved home, I got up early several times with my dad to go swimming (it’s easier to be motivated when you go with someone). The first workout was tough…my arms felt like lead and I gasped for air with every other stroke. But I quickly remembered why I loved swimming. It started to woo me again, like only first loves can, and I found myself falling. Have you ever done something you just knew you were made for? I thought to myself, why don’t I do this more often?! It’s an awesome workout and it comes naturally to me. I love jogging because I enjoy being outside, but I’m slow and not a natural at it. But put me in a pool and I am in my element. I wish I had been more consistent with it last year, but I got busy and tired and just never made it a routine.

So now I’m deciding to make it a routine. Since we share a campus and facilities with the college next door, I can use the pool for free. Last fall, I started swimming a bit more, but again, got distracted and lazy (do you see how inconsistency is one of my biggest vices?). But last week I made a commitment to swim 6 days a week for a month. I’ve heard that if you do something for that long, it becomes a habit, and I want to make this a habit. I don’t want to become legalistic about it, but I like having goals. I just want to see how I feel at the end of March after swimming almost every day. This week was great – I went almost every afternoon and it’s already getting easier. I still sense my laziness creeping in; everyday I have the feeling that I’d rather take a nap than drag myself to the pool. But I expect that feeling and know that it will pass. And it does.

Swimming and I finally got back together. It’s been a long time coming, but like most things in my life, I just had to figure it out for myself. I had to do other things before I realized that this is really what I want. Oh, I’ll still go on jogs in town and around the lake, but I’m finally giving into what I was made for. I want to be who I am. I’m choosing to see this as a metaphor for my life – I’m ready to embrace the parts of myself I’ve let slip away and do the things that God created me to do. The best thing in life is living out of who we truly are and letting God fill us so completely that we become the best version of ourselves.

Even if it makes us sore and smell like chlorine.

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my cup overflows…

I’m sitting on my bed, watching the snow fall outside my window. Are there many things more beautiful? The beginnings of a new snow are fun to watch…after a while, everything turns muddy and brown and you just want it to go ahead and melt already, but at the beginning, we all sit back and sigh as we watch the world around us turn white. And of course, when you’re in school, there’s the exciting anticipation of will-there-or-won’t-there-be-school-tomorrow. I’ll never forget the wonderful days in high school when I woke up to my mom peeping her head in my room saying, “No school today,” or “Two-hour delay.” I remember one particular day my sophomore year when it started snowing pretty hard in second period (Algebra II). None of us paid attention to the teacher and we all shouted for joy when the principal came on the intercom and told us we could go home. My best friend Virginia and I promptly made a plan to spend the day/night together (as was our custom most non-school days) and we hopped in my brother’s car and made our way to my house. Funny the things you remember, huh? I’m sure that happened more than once, but it really doesn’t snow that much here in NC (the current winter excluded). I just remember the elation that came with an unexpected day of freedom. Ah, memories.

I also remember how slowly days in our childhood seem to pass. It always felt like an eternity from birthday to birthday and Christmas to Christmas and the holidays themselves seemed to last forever. But now time flies by. I had a great weekend here at school, but I’m still rubbing my eyes and looking around going, “It’s already Tuesday? Wait, it’s already MARCH?!” As we get older, each day becomes a smaller percentage of our overall lives and so they just seem to speed by (along with the fact that we are much busier than five-year-olds).

But even though the weekend flew by, it was a great one. I thought I’d have more time to myself than I did – I really did want to catch up on my book – but it just didn’t work out that way. And that’s fine because my time was spent well. On Friday night, I ate pizza and watched the Olympics with some girls. It started out just me and one other girl, but since we were in the rec room, it quickly turned into me and five or more girls. That’s what I love about this place…if you’re in a common area, you can pretty much count on people passing through and stopping to talk. Now, I probably would have been more annoyed if I was watching a movie (I can’t mulit-task in any way, especially talking while watching a movie or show I love), but since it was the Olympics, I was perfectly content. Then, on Saturday morning, I decided to invite my Mary’s of Course girls to head over to that restaurant for brunch. It was fabulous, as usual. Great food, great girls, great conversation. At 4:30, I headed over to my church to set up for….the FIRST WYLDLIFE CLUB EVER in our area…wahoo! It was spectacular. There were 100 kids there, no joke (for those of you unfamiliar with it, WyldLife is middle school Young Life). I met so many kids and ran around like a crazy person – hey, it’s what I do best. Afterwards, some leaders and I got pizza at Mellow Mushroom (yes, pizza for the 2nd night in a row), then I went home and actually crashed into my bed. Divine exhaustion.

Sunday morning was church and Sunday school was awesome. We started a new series on the Old Testament feasts and it’s exactly where I am right now in my read-through of the Bible! I was completely engaged and excited. I’ve been wanting to avoid missing church the past few months, but now I really can’t miss these lessons. What a great feeling, the desire to be at church. And then, there was the worship service where we got the amazing opportunity to hear ChiRho, the Christian men’s a cappella group from Wake Forest, sing several songs. It left me speechless. I was so moved by the music. I mean, these guys have phenomenal voices and they’re singing praises to God. WOW. Afterwards, I immediately called my Dad and told him he had to see these guys live. It’s totally up his alley. My dad loves to sing and the whole time, I was imagining him up there, bopping along with the beat and harmonizing with the other guys. There are few things that show me Jesus more than that.

After church, my YL team and I hung out, ate lunch, and played with our friends kids. The girl YL leaders in our area were getting together after that, but I just knew I needed to be alone that afternoon. I was pretty over-stimulated. I may lean more towards being an extrovert, but there is an introvert in me that needs down time without people. So, I spent that afternoon with Jesus. It was perfect.

I know that I just told you all the details of my weekend, but it was worth telling. My heart was just so full at the end and everything that happened made me fall more in love with God. It also just shows how settled I am becoming here, and that’s a feeling I don’t think I’ve ever had. I like it. Here’s to more weekends that fill my soul as much as this one did.

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