Author Archives: Kate

To Winter

This might not be the general consensus, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway:

I like Winter.

In general…

1) I’d rather be cold than hot.

2) I love love winter holidays. I mean, Christmas. Come on.

3) I enjoy any reason to hole up in my house, curled up on the couch under a blanket, sipping a warm drink with plenty of snacks nearby as I either read a novel or watch yummy movies.

4) I don’t like to be hot (did I already say that?).

I love Spring and Summer for all the obvious reasons – cook outs and cold drinks, beaches and pools, festivals and walks downtown, birthdays and sandals.

And yet, it surprised me this year that I wasn’t quite ready for the seasons to change from cold to warm. The thought first came to me a month or so ago when the first hints of Spring arrived and found myself wanting Winter to stay a little longer. I thought, Huh, that’s interesting. Haven’t felt that before. I might love Winter.

As I sat on my front steps in the sunshine and cool air, I felt an ache for the end of one season and some apprehension for the beginning of the next.

You see, a lot of change is on the horizon. In fact, Phase 1 started today: my dear friend Melanie moved to Colorado.

Phase 2: My roommate and close friend Linda gets married in June.

Phase 3: I leave Winston, my home for the past 5 years, and move to Greensboro while I finish up grad school.

It’s a lot of transition and it has left me feeling tender and longing for the familiar, for sameness. So as I sat outside that day and felt the seasons changing, I wanted to shout, No! Not yet, I’m not ready! I wanted Winter to stay a little longer, to force me back inside and to the comfort of my warm home. I wanted to slow time and even make it stand still.

But it didn’t and here I am, sitting in shorts and a t-shirt, excited about what’s to come. I knew my heart would catch up eventually.

The end of the season of Winston-Salem and changes in some friendships is bittersweet. It’s natural and good, but it’s hard. Even though different times of my life here have been lonely and painful, and Winter this year was harsh and cold, it was also sweet and lovely and healthy, like crisp air on a January morning. The bitter and the sweet mingled together to form a beautiful song.

So Winter, thanks for coming and reminding me that cold can be beautiful, refreshing and necessary. I know you can’t stay, and I’m glad for that, but you did something in me this year that moved me. You let me grieve and cry and wait and be still. You prepared my heart for laughter and newness. And I will always be grateful.

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Categories: musings, seasons | 1 Comment

do what you love

The cool thing about being a counselor-in-training is that meetings with my supervisor can sometimes turn into counseling sessions. Working alongside other mental health professionals who let you process life is quite a nice job perk.

Yesterday Molly and I had our last meeting of the semester and near the end she threw this gem at me – “What did you learn about yourself this year?”

I laughed. Such a simple question with such a complex answer.

I sat back for a minute and reflected on the first half of my internship, and what ended up coming out surprised me. I told her how on the way to the university, I pass an elementary school and often see cars lined up, people directing traffic and kids filing into the building. This week as I drove by, I remembered driving up to the middle school where I was a teacher a few years ago…and I immediately felt dread drop like a stone in the pit of my stomach. The memories of an overwhelming desire not to be at school were just as real in that moment as they ever were.

You know, sometimes I enjoyed being a teacher. I enjoyed the subjects I taught and I genuinely liked my students. Yes, even the punks and the ones that cussed at me and the ones that asked me if I was pregnant when I wore a baggy shirt. I loved their quirkiness, their desire to be cool and just complete awkwardness. I appreciated the things they said and did and the gifts they gave me for no reason. I adored who they were and who they were becoming.

But being a school teacher just isn’t for me. I don’t love it enough. Although I am glad it challenged and changed me, I don’t feel the passion for it that I want to feel in order to keep going.

So one thing I learned this year as a counselor is that I like this job. I would even go so far as to say I love it.

I think I spent most of my twenties associating going to work with feelings of dread. I assumed that being an adult meant doing a job you didn’t like because you were supposed to and it was the right thing to do. To me, work and unhappiness seemed to always go together. I wasn’t happy being a teacher, I wasn’t happy on Young Life staff. Basically in all the full time jobs I’ve had, I was unhappy.

Until now.

I have never once felt dread when driving to my internship site, even in the midst of my hardest semester to date, when I was bleary-eyed and exhausted. I honestly look forward to it. I love working with college students, having my own office, just being a counselor. And love that it makes me come alive. Maybe it was what I was meant to do all along. Some days are better than others and I’m not always sad when students cancel on me so I can take a breather. But I’m always glad when they plop down on my couch and start talking, trusting me with their stories.

And yet I still carry some guilt for not liking teaching and walking away. Like I somehow took the easy way out and cheated the system. It was hard and so I left. I know it’s more complicated than that and it’s okay that it wasn’t a good fit. It led me here, where I’m doing something that I love and that uses my gifts well.

But the insecure voice inside me says, Is it really work if I love it so much? Should I be doing something…harder?

It’s the same with service in the church. I love singing, playing the guitar and leading others in worship, but it doesn’t always feel like work. It’s not always a sacrifice or burden; it’s a pleasure.

Is it true service if I’m doing the thing that just comes naturally?

Even as I write these words, the counselor in my head says, Kate, that’s ridiculous. Be who you are. Do what you love.

I’m trying to listen.

And I want to chew on this some more. I want to think about the balance between doing what we love and doing the thing that gets us out of our comfort zones and makes us sweat and cry.

But for now, I’m going to rest in the peace that comes from knowing that I get to do what I love.

And that’s pretty cool.

Categories: calling, career, service | Leave a comment

Consistency

Constant. Reliable. Even. Steady. Stable. Consistent.

I want to be these things.

My personality naturally lends itself to spontaneity, often bucking routine or structure in favor of being free to do things spur-of-the-moment. I tend to want to do things when I feel like doing them, rather than just doing them because I know I need to get them done. I want to do things as I feel inspired because then they somehow seem more authentic and…free.

Part of my growing up has been balancing this desire for inspiration and freedom with consistency, structure and routine. The funny thing is that even though I don’t naturally lean towards structure, I actually love it. I like it when people tell me what to do or when I have a commitment I can’t get out of. In a weird way, consistency and discipline actually leads to freedom.

In high school I had to be at swim practice for two hours a day and couldn’t get out of it. It forced me to work out, be healthy and *gasp* get better. I became a better swimmer because I was in a routine of practicing it daily.

But as I quickly learned when I entered adult life, if something is important to me, I may just have to make it happen. No one will be handing me a structured life. If I want to be physically fit and not wheeze at the top of a flight of stairs, I should probably work out. If I want to feel more comfortable playing the piano, I should probably play it a few times a week. I might want to practice. I might want to be consistent.

Oh, what a lesson! I feel this is something God and I will be talking about for many years. I hear myself say, “I want…” and “Wouldn’t it be neat if I…” and I hear Him whisper back, “So do it.” He calls me to discipline, to consistency and structure. And who would have thought, in that structure there is freedom.

Last year, I had this book on my shelf that I wanted to read and it is quite long. I would look at it and think, “I’m going to read that, I really am.” But I kept putting it off because I’m in grad school and, come on, reading long non-fiction books for fun just doesn’t happen.

Then it was May, I was free, and I again saw the book on the shelf, eagerly looking back at me, longing to be taken down and opened. I heard a voice say, “So do it.” I took a deep breath, took the book off the shelf and made small daily goals to get the book read before flying off on my summer adventure.

It seemed odd to regiment this activity that I love precisely because it is unstructured, but I actually enjoyed it. I finished the book and loved it. I learned a lot. At the end, I smiled and said, “There. I did it.” I couldn’t believe I actually made a goal and stuck to it. The process wasn’t perfect and it took me a little longer than I planned, but I was able to finish something I started.

I saw the enjoyment in consistency and realized that discipline is real and good.

It also reminded me that self-control and discipline comes when we want something enough to lay aside other things for it. When we set our hope on a prize, such as finishing a 600 page non-fiction book, we will make it a priority.

When I fix my eyes on Jesus, my prize and joy, and set my mind on things above, I will make Him a priority. By knowing Him,sharing Him with others and not letting anything get in the way of that will make me a disciplined person. I will want to be in the Word daily and mediate on the Truth. I may say no to things – or even yes – because of Him.

Constant. Reliable. Even. Steady. Stable. Consistent.

That’s who Jesus is. And when I look at Him – by His grace – I can become those things too.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

Categories: celebrating discipline, reading | Leave a comment

Clean it out

There has been a janky smell coming from our fridge recently.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened and when I noticed it a *cough cough* few weeks ago, I groaned and thought, I don’t even want to deal with that. I knew there were things in there that had been made and sealed in tupperware, waiting to be eaten with the best of intentions. There were vegetables from our CSA box that we didn’t know what to do with and left them there to rot (literally). I hate how wasteful this makes me, but what can I say, life happened and I got lazy and ate out more and left the country for a bit.

Then before I knew it, I was avoiding my kitchen or even opening the fridge because of that. smell. I didn’t want to know exactly where it was coming from, I just wanted it to go away.

But it never does, does it? Things don’t go away on their own. Bad smells and messy rooms and dirty laundry don’t clean themselves. They’re 1) made by me and 2) waiting patiently to be dealt with. I almost wish things would actually grow legs and walk out on their own, as mothers are known for claiming. Goodbye soup-from-two-months-ago! Have a nice life, don’t forget to write.

Last week I was kind of in avoidance mode, just trying to survive 12 hour days at my internship, getting caught up at work and taking a midterm. I bought food meal-by-meal almost everyday and reveled in the immediate gratification it brought me. Who has time to cook anyway.

But enough is enough. I knew this was the weekend – this was the weekend I was going to get my head right and clean some things out. I knew I needed to be wise and go grocery shopping so that I wasn’t spending all of my money on coffee and muffins and pre-made salads from Whole Foods (seriously, can’t get enough). But I didn’t want to go shopping and put the new stuff in the fridge until I dealt with whatever was going on behind that closed door.

So Sunday night, I made my (fairly) routine trip to Trader Joe’s for my weekly groceries, came home and opened the fridge. I braced myself, squatted down and reached in the back and in the drawers and started pulling things out. Oh, there were definitely groans and gags and maybe some choice words. But all the bad stuff came out and the fresh stuff went in. Afterward I stepped back, sighed and relaxed. All is well in the kitchen.

After, as I was cleaning up, I started thinking again about how metaphorical it all was. This isn’t the first time I’ve mused over the fact that my messes and hidden smells relate to the messes and hidden things in my heart. There are most likely things inside me that have been ignored and not opened in a while, not even with the Lord. Things like feelings about relationships, my romantic desires, annoying habits and real fears. Sometimes I just say, nope, let’s leave that one closed for a little bit longer. It’s sealed nice and tight and I don’t want to know what it will smell like when it’s opened.

But cleaning things out is a healthy process, and the Lord is gracious and abounding in steadfast love. He listens and counts my tears when I finally open a messy drawer in my heart and admit to what’s inside.

I also thought about my desire for consistency and how I struggle with it. I want to be a consistent, committed person. I want to have a clean fridge, a clean room, a clean heart, but life happens. I get distracted and tired. I love to cook and definitely do it more than I used to, but sometimes I go weeks without turning on the stove. I love spending time in the Word and reflecting on Him who made me, but sometimes I choose to do other things and push Him aside. This year I decided to wake up each morning and spend time with the Lord, to continue and further a discipline I started last year. But sometimes I’m groggy and can’t make out the words on the page. Sometimes I just don’t do it and choose to sleep later instead.

Even though it drives me crazy that I’m not perfect and don’t always do or finish the things I set out to do, what matters is starting again. Thankfully the Lord looks at my heart, and in it I hope He sees my desires to know Him and love Him more. My actions might not always reflect those desires, but they are there. I just can’t be consistent on my own. I need help and I’m learning a lot about this. What is the line between discipline and grace? Where do I end and where does God begin?

Maybe the point is to keep trying, keep being aware, keep coming back. When I stumble, I just want to recognize it and ask for help back up. I want to reach out and feel that Strong Hand grab mine and pull me up to my feet and into a warm embrace.

My fridge will probably stink again. I will get overwhelmed and start eating out more than cooking again. I won’t always wake up and carve out intentional time for Jesus. My heart will get stinky and messy again too. But maybe I won’t take as long to clean it out next time.

Categories: celebrating discipline, musings | 2 Comments

training ground

“I tell you, families are definitely the training ground for forgiveness. At some point you pardon the people in your family for being stuck together in all their weirdness, and when you can do that, you can learn to pardon anyone. Even yourself, eventually. It’s like learning to drive on an old car with a tricky transmission: if you can master shifting gears on that, you can learn to drive anything.” (Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies)

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness and grace and family recently.

My sister Jill and I just returned from a week in England where we visited some of our extended family. Our maternal side is English, and our grandmother and aunt reside in a quaint village in the county of Suffolk. It’s one of my favorite places in the world and I love that the land over there feels like home. There’s something incredibly comforting about being in my grandmother’s home, letting her feed me crumpets soaked in butter and eggs and sipping tea in her cozy living room.

We were there because my aunt is sick. She was recently diagnosed with cancer and so we went to spend time with her while we still have time. The best way to describe the visit was bittersweet. I loved being there, but of course I wondered if it was Goodbye or just See you later. I hope it was the latter.

Not only was I trying to make space (mostly unsuccessfully) to process feelings about my aunt and her illness, but the trip was also hard at times because of family dynamics and tensions that have been present for years. Most of us were tense, stressed and sad – at times it felt as if each of us was hanging on by a thread. There were some shouts and tears and hurt feelings. I had to wrestle with my own anger and confusion regarding my relationships with certain relatives. I wanted to point the finger and say It’s all your fault, you made things this way, you don’t deserve a relationship with me.

Yep, that’s gross and real.

When my anger and hurt subsided and some of the dust settled, it occurred to me that maybe I was blaming and judging people for doing some of the very things I was doing. I was holding on to bitterness and waiting for someone to deserve my forgiveness, while mentally chastising others for doing the very same thing. I could look at someone and say, Why can’t you just move on, get over it? Why are you running away? And here I was, holding on and wanting someone to pay.

Now, let me say I am a huge proponent of letting myself feel what I feel. I can’t help when I experience hurt, sadness, pain, anger, confusion, joy and happiness. No one can tell me, or anyone, what I am feeling is wrong, and I try to encourage others to just feel what they feel. So I know these things that came up in me last week were real and okay. I tried to let them be there and accept them for a minute, while keeping the thoughts of what I should feel at bay.

But then…forgiveness.

In the end, there is always forgiveness. We’re family. Maybe families really are the best place to practice forgiving and letting go. At the end of the day, my family will always love me, will always accept me. I want to do the same for them and truly see them. No matter how I’ve been disappointed or hurt, they are my flesh and blood. Maybe if I learn the art of forgiving with these loved ones, where I am safe to make mistakes and ask for forgiveness myself, I will be more quick to do this with others.

I love my family, I really do. They’re quirky, nerdy, hilarious. They can make me laugh and cry and scream, sometimes all in one conversation. They bring out the real Kate. It’s incredibly refreshing and I am reminded all the time of how blessed I am.

Family relationships – relationships in general – are hard. We can hurt each other because, if left to our our devices, we will always default to selfishness, to our flesh, to sin. It’s only through grace from our Creator that we become something different. It is through Him that we learn how to forgive and say I’m sorry, because He forgives us over and over. He makes us new.

When I step back and remember the grace I’ve been given, when I forgive and let go, there is freedom. There is real life. When I get back in the car and try shifting gears on that tricky transmission again, I realize that this is the training ground and I will probably mess up. And it’s okay if I stall, because my family will let me groan, hit the steering wheel, say a little prayer and start the car again.

Categories: family | Leave a comment

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