Surrender

Sometimes I write…and then get the courage to publish later…

A few Saturdays back, a small group of friends and I met for brunch. Our group gets together yes, for girl time, but also to intentionally discuss certain questions and topics. One question brought up holiday schedules and another led to a discussion about Santa, but then came the last question.

“What does your prayer of surrender look like?”

I was jokingly asked to answer this one. In normal Katelyn fashion, I was unable to give an answer on the spot. Wait, let’s go back to Santa?

It’s funny, I think I first started composing this blog in October, long before our brunch discussion came to be. The thoughts were there and the words were forming, but I couldn’t finish. But maybe now, 12 months into this hell of a year, I’m brave enough to say that even while writing these thoughts, I really wasn’t so sure I believed them. Maybe now, I’m brave enough to reveal our many imperfections and to quietly whisper that, by faith and choice, I finally believe this to be true.

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I originally began writing these words to the gentle noise of Walker strumming his guitar upstairs. I was writing. He was strumming. Because we were both grieving in our own personal ways.

On that Friday night in October, we unexpectedly found ourselves sitting on the edge of our bathtub, my arm around his, throwing wadded and wet tissues into the toilet. Well that, and consequently scolding Opal for attempting to eat the missed shots.

For some reason, we thought ourselves strong enough to watch The Fault in Our Stars, the movie version of the novel about childhood cancer. The one that so accurately and emotionally let us into a world that though we tried, we could never fully understand. We miss you, friend, and that night our irrepressible sobs reminded us just how much.

There is a line in The Fault in our Stars that’s become too familiar to us this year.

Pain must be felt.

2014 has proved this so. For us. And for so many others.

We’ve seen death and disease sweep down in the cruelest of ways, at times to us personally and in other times to those we care about. We’ve watched families and friendships be forcefully ripped apart, leaving jagged seams and irreparable holes. We’ve experienced our church scandalized by tragedy, and watched the media proudly make life hell for all involved. We were bystanders as adults and youth alike fled from our pews without even a quick goodbye. We stood shocked as strangers and friends showed up in the midst of crisis, while those we just knew would show up, well, they never did. And then there were the weeks the entire world went haywire. Iraq. Ukraine. Ebola. The border children crisis. Missing planes. Ferguson.

The bitterness crept in just as plainly as it did in my words above. We smiled in front of the curtain while behind the scenes soon became strangers to ourselves. Complaining too much, criticizing too often, loving too little. Looking back, I see two people unwilling to even look for glimpses of good, because with all the pain in us and around us, survivor’s guilt told us not to. Even with all the good things happening, too, our weary hearts wondered ‘When will the next bad thing happen?’

But, we’re learning.Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Yes, pain must be felt. Circumstances arise and they leave you helpless, but I think today, on the last day of the year, we can confidently declare that while they can leave us helpless, they do not have the power to leave us hopeless. This year has changed us, but we have the power to choose how it changed us. Pain can demand to be felt. But pain cannot demand to be lived. Grief is long lasting. It can and does last a lifetime. But joy.

Joy is eternal.

I write these words not because our skies are now abundantly blue.

We began this year with death. And now, again, we are leaving this year with death.

I write these words because through all the unexpected back roads we’ve taken on our journey these past 12 months, I can shakily say that joy, in fact, does not come in the morning. Joy is present even through our darkest of nights.

Joy, much like love, is not something we are meant to feel. Joy is something we are called to do, to recognize and accept, to seek out, to give to others. We must boldly notice it in the midst of a new baby or in the gathering of family at a graveside. In the monotony of a job or in the old couple laughing in the car next to us.

It doesn’t always look the way we want or expect. Sometimes it’s almost unrecognizable. But it’s there. Prompting us to remember that

Great loss means there was once an even greater presence.

Grief reminds us we had the opportunity to love someone with every fiber of our being.

Pain reveals we had the privilege to believe in someone or something so deeply that now we must relearn to live without.

Loss. Grief. Pain. We feel them deeply. Our tears are real and our anguish is tangible.

But.

Joy says look for me. I am here through it all.

So maybe, just maybe this nutso year called 2014, has gradually and unsteadily revealed not only the agony of this world and our own imperfections, but perhaps it has also taught us about the relief that comes with embracing a surrender prayer.

A prayer that says I will stop resisting and surrender to the reality that joy is always there. That these are my circumstances, good or bad. I promise to feel the pain profoundly, but I will obediently seek out the beauty in it all. That there is community even in the loneliness, contentment in the longing, laughter in the tears, hope in the despair, and life even in death. That this is life, and amidst the suffering, heartache and disappointment, I will stay open, stay vulnerable, and be present through it all. I will continue to love and believe and risk. I surrender. I surrender to life. Because come what may, life is abundantly good.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

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My life outside the internet: Christmas edition

A new series called My Life Outside the Internet. Because I refuse to be a part of the dishonest Internet game any longer.20131221-073552.jpgEveryone is posting photos of their adorable home Christmas décor, and I’m like there is literally not one space in my house clean enough to sit, much less take a picture.

Everyone is busting out statuses and Instagrams of Christmas cheer, and I’m thinking ‘Teenager, you need to slowly back away from me, run, and pretend we never saw each other.”

Everyone is posting pictures of immaculately wrapped Christmas presents, and last night I found a baby shower gift I have yet to wrap…over a month after the shower.

Everyone is snapping pictures of their festive fingernail polishes, and I’m just wishing this toenail fungus would go away.

Everyone (well maybe just my favorite blogger) dyed her hair from dark brown to bleach blonde last week and it looks incredible, and I’m remembering when I went to the hair salon last month and wasn’t charged because I left with my hair such a disaster.

Everyone (well maybe just two of my good friends) were texting about the gourmet-ish meals they made last week while I was sitting on my dog hair-covered couch eating Ramen and Cheetos as a 27-year old.

Everyone is debuting stylin’ winter garb of boots and scarves and hats, and I’m just wishing I would unpack that suitcase I took to Arizona over a month ago.

Everyone’s lives are looking so perfect on the internet these days, and I’m wondering if I’m the only one who is so far behind on cleaning, gifting, cooking, sleeping and pretty much life in general?

And then there’s the real stuff.

The real emotions I feel as I walk beside my 19-year old friend living in the end stages of cancer.

The real feelings of helplessness as I watch friends battle anxiety and depression.

The real feelings of failure as I physically can’t be in as many places as people are asking me to be.

The real tears streaming from stories about Syria.

The real inability to be ourselves and fully express who we are and what we believe.

The real unfulfillment of feeling creatively claustrophobic in a job and the powerless feeling of being overwhelmed as the to-do list piles up.

The real feelings of betrayal toward a Christian institution that wronged a friend to an unforgiving degree.

The real angst-ridden confrontation in my thoughts of how to best befriend those that I know are lonely.

The real lack of words I can express when talking to friends experiencing fertility problems and miscarriages.

For this to be the most wonderful time of the year, it’s sure an easy season to feel less than. To compare myself in ways I didn’t even know I cared about. Insecurities, self-loathing, stress, chaos, worry and self-doubt seem to be enhanced in the glow of these merry and bright days.

But a sob story this is not. It’s simply a look into a real life that does not stop as the Christmas carols start.

I’ve been trying to take myself back to the manger. I say ‘trying’ because this socially connected world we live in can make it almost impossible to remember that while I am less than, He is more than. But. I’m trying.

I’ve been imagining the scene in my head almost daily. Imagining how different it must have been from what those familiar songs lead us to believe.

For a silent night it was not. A holy night, yes, but a silent night, no.

It was anything but perfectly planned, perfectly executed or perfectly put together. There were messes. There was stress. There was pain.

I’ve tried to envision Mary and Joseph scrounging to find a place to deliver a baby. The anxiety and uncertainty of their unborn child’s safety only adding to the strain of a birth. I see Mary hunched in shock as the contractions set in while Joseph’s wide yet tired eyes burst forth from his helpless reaction. The solidarity they might feel as she clenches his dusty hand with all of her might and they both taste the salty sweat drip from their brow.  The unsteady cries of a young girl wondering if she will even make it through the night. Mary and Joseph labored through real fear and real pain to bring forth a perfect being into their frightfully imperfect reality.

And born from that exhausting, terrifying night came hope for creation evermore.

Immanuel. God with us.

Most of my days are not Internet worthy. All is not usually calm and all is not always bright. For a silent life I do not live. A holy one I strive for, yes, but a silent one it is not. It’s tiring and messy and emotional. But hopefully it is this way because I am laboring to share a perfect hope and peace and joy with others found in their own frightfully imperfect reality.

Immanuel. God with us. God revealed in us.

So as we expectantly wait a few more days to celebrate Love come down, we remember that just like Mary we will make it through the night. That in the midst of those exhausting, terrifying hours shines the One who will banish night itself. And somewhere in the midst of our laughter and tears, our joy and sorrow, our satisfaction and hunger, we proclaim that Jesus in fact is not the reason for the season. He is quite simply the reason. And we messily, shakily, chaotically banish the night for others.

Last week I unbelievably found 6, yes 6, empty toilet paper rolls scattered around our bathroom floor. Maybe if I had done any sort of laundry in the last 4 weeks I would have seen them sooner, but no, I left those dirty clothes piling in the bathroom, and I didn’t get to those toilet paper rolls when I should have. And you know what?

It’s ok.20131221-073603.jpg

Lottie Moon’s Fine China

Blogtember: Share a photo of something old. Maybe something that has personal history for you, that was passed down to you, and that has special meaning to you. Tell us about it and why it’s special.lottie moon chinaThis delicate little saucer sits in front of our embarrassingly filmy kitchen window reminding me each day of its significance. Gobble had three of these dainty plates, and when she died, she passed one to each of her three granddaughters. The china belonged to Lottie Moon who spent over half her life testifying to the love of Christ among the Chinese. I pass by it every day, always remembering the two people from whom it came– the Christian faithful. Although fragile to the touch, the paper-thin porcelain has survived over 100 years in the hands of people who have chosen to protect it. I hope I follow in their example, in more ways than only taking care of  my windowsill antique. Miss you, Gobble. lottie moon china 2And with that brings the end of Blogtember. I answered 12 of the 20 prompts, so I’ll call it a success!

Yo, this is who I am.

Day one of Blogtember, answering the prompt, “Describe where or what you come from. The people, the places, and/or the factors that make up who you are.”

I’m 3 days behind! So, it’s taking everything in me not to answer this prompt the way I’d like– my mother’s womb– and move on. But I will try because my name is Katelyn and that’s what I do. To keep my priorities straight, I’ve made a plan. I’m giving myself 20 minutes to write, 3  to edit and 2 for a quick pic. My attempt at a stream of consciousness, I suppose. Here I go…Let’s see what happens.

I come from a small town where I claim my roots run deep. The kind where everyone knows everyone, and who still treat you as family even after you’ve been gone for 17 years. I come from a big city that celebrates the desert sunset and where Saguaros reach into clear blue skies. The place whose beauty I never appreciated until I was breathing the dry air only on bi-annual visits. A place that watched me grow and leave and often wish I was back.

OH, and baby quail. I come from a place where baby quail run across the road.

I come from parents who always encourage me to be myself while also expecting the very best from me. Who have given me every opportunity I could ask for. Who have taught me to joke and show compassion to all.  Who put others before themselves and have learned it well from their parents. I come from a Grandmother who has afforded me academics and travel and who instills in me an appreciation of the past, of where I come from. And a Gobble who cooked the best rice in the world, taught me chicken foot, and let me call her ‘gangsta.’ Both would do anything. For anyone. And grandfathers I never really knew, but whose legacies of kindness and giving live on through their children. From aunts and uncles who treat me as their own.

I come from friends who are more like the brothers and sisters I never had. Friends who call my parents when I’m too upset to do so. And still other friends who fly in from out of state to be with me during my upset-ness. Friends who know how to laugh like it’s their job and who stop what they’re doing to lend a listening ear.

I come from opportunities. From flying on planes since before I could walk and experiencing different cultures so many times. From sitting under teachers and next to the best and brightest. From lending a helping hand and being lent two.

I come from a faith that says life will never be perfect but there is always joy. That I will never be perfect but I will always be loved. That says great is thy faithfulness when my faith is not so great.

I come from a life full of grace. In every way imaginable.

Holy whoa. That was a lot of writing really fast. Sorry for any typos and grammar whoopsies in there. I surely mixed up a few ‘who’ and ‘whom’ s!

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Isn’t this just the coolest picture? It’s of my Big Daddy, no idea where or when, but I’m sure my grandmother would like to tell me! Pretty please.

Our friend, Lizzie

Sunday’s Blog Every Day in May prompt was to publicly profess my love and devotion for a blogger friend. I decided to go with someone who does write a blog– an authentic, humorous and expressive one at that- but I don’t call her a blogger friend. I simply call her friend.

And today is her BIRTHDAY!

So let’s throw a little online birthday party for her! She has been struggling lately and is currently in the hospital. Let’s use today to encourage the heck out of her!

See previous Lizzie posts here, herehere and here.

lizzie collageThe first time I remember meeting Lizzie was at a youth lock-in, which I’ve tried to block out of my mind forever—the lock-in, not the conversation. I was standing behind a check-in counter in the church gym and a small brunette started up a conversation about my friends. I don’t remember exactly what she said about them (probably that they’re awesome because they are), but I’ll never forget her last line.

“I just hope I have friends when I get old.”

I looked past the fact she had just referred to my then 25 years as old and responded as anybody would.

“Of course you’ll have friends! I don’t think you need to worry about that.”

It never crossed my mind that in the next year cancer would become Lizzie’s new normal and might prevent her ever from growing old. With all the surgeries, chemo, conversations and emotions she’s been through in the last 18 months, I think it’s safe to say she’s officially an adult. How does it feel to be old like me?

The first three pictures posted above are images of how we could think of Lizzie—before, during and ‘after’ cancer. It’s easy to think of her as how she was before her body started attacking itself, how she coped during treatment and then remission, and how she is responding now that her cancer is back and taking its toll.

BUT I’m choosing to see what this second set of images reflects. lizzie collage 2How Lizzie is and always has been. Lizzie is and always has been joyful with a zest for life and adventure. She makes people laugh and laughs at herself. She’s transparent and authentic putting those of us around her at ease. We know we are welcome in her presence. She makes time for people- even to watch Dance Moms with two old twenty-somethings. She smiles. She includes everyone and excludes no one. She’s a servant leader who actively lives to be the change she wants to see in the world. She boldly and honestly displays her faith in all situations, whether it be in fervent trust or understandable doubt. She is Lizzie- then, now, always.

I think back to the lock-in as I began watching the all-nighter enthusiasts arrive. There were youth I was trying to get to know, parents I hardly knew at all and a husband who would be running around making sure no one was making out. I felt like like an outsider. Alone. And then that little brunette initiated our conversation. She made me feel welcome, encouraged and loved. With the few steps it took her to seek me out, I all of the sudden wasn’t so alone.

You see, that’s who Lizzie is and always has been. To all of us. In a word of encouragement, a goofy joke, a simple conversation and deep heart to heart, a friendly smile or an honest blog- she has sought us out and she has found us. And she’s made us feel we are never alone.

So today on her birthday, let’s do what she always has and always will do for us. Let’s seek her out! Let’s find her! Let’s let her know she is never alone!

Find a way to tell her what you think of her. Facebook, Twitter, this blog, her blog, text, call, whatever! I encourage you not to throw random Bible verses at her or tell her that God has a plan (she already knows that). Don’t focus on her situation; focus on who she is as a person. Tell her what she means to you and what you’ve learned from her. Tell her how proud you are of her. Say what you’ve always wanted to say but never took the time, got a little scared or didn’t think of in the moment. Write thoughtfully. Write authentically. Write boldly.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LIZZIE! The McWilliams love you!lizzie wallace

Sunday night thoughts: Living for the Weekdays

photoI don’t want to be a weekend girl.

Do I want to relish in all the perks that Saturday and Sunday bring? Ummm, yeah, duh.

Do I want to wake up next to my boo with no alarm? Wear my pajamas as if they are a space suit ready to kill me if I take them off? Eat donuts and processed food because somehow the harmful effects can’t touch me ‘til Monday? Delight in the freedom of small adventures and time with friends?

Yes to the heck ya  X 100.

But I don’t want to be a weekend girl.

I don’t want to count the days as if the weekend is my source of life. Wednesday—3 more days. Thursday—2 more days. Friday—the party boat of life sets sail.

But what do I want?

I want to look forward to the weekend without overlooking the weekdays.

So what will I do?

I will wake up Monday morning shouting IT’S MONDAY! IT’S MONDAY! I will make choices on TUESDAY. Choices to say hello in the hallways, to encourage anyone and everyone, to demonstrate compassion, to hand out grace. I will appreciate another WEDNESDAY. Appreciate the day not because of the circumstances, but because it’s another day I can give love because I am loved. On THURSDAY I will learn from others, embrace everyone, exclude no one, celebrate creativity and recognize beauty in my surroundings. And on FRIDAY, I will look back at the week seeing not wants and hopes but moves and actions. I will see days peppered with both success and failure, but mostly with extraordinary effort.

I also know this week I will grow weary. I will become annoyed at a student and watch the second hand tick slowly by. Dirty dishes will loiter the coffee table for days, and the toilet paper will pile up without ever making it on the roller. I will hurt and see others hurt. I will stress. I will fail. I will long for the weekend.

But I don’t want to be a weekend girl.

So somehow, through life-giving grace, I won’t just make it through the day, I will experience the day for all it holds. I will take each step knowing the next is nothing short of a gift. And I will remember that all of my ‘will do’s’ are only possible because of His ‘has done.’

Tomorrow is Monday. I hope Walker is ready for a 6 a.m. operatic ballad proclaiming the joy of a new week. Or maybe I’ll just dry my hair and fasten my shoes as normal and give him a kiss goodbye. Declaring the greatness of a new and merciful day in the ordinary opportunities. In the everyday.

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Let’s build a Casa in 10 days!

I’ve just returned home from the TX/Mexico border. Walker is still there and has the cam cam, but I thought I’d post the few pics I collected on my phone–although, maybe I shouldn’t if I’m tired enough to use words like cam cam.

Through Buckner, a group from our church is building a house for the sweetest family, la familia Torres, in 10 days. Foundation. Sheetrock. Shingles. 10 days. Whoa! The crew has been working until exhaustion, but I think watching two little girls, Ruby and Valeria, walk through the construction zone designating their rooms gives them the boost they need.

I’m sure I’ll post more, you know, when that cam cam makes it back. sunsetnailscollagephoto copy 2

my twenties and learning to live

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Yesterday was a day for thoughts. These weren’t the daydreams that carry me to the coast of Greece; these were doubts of the future. Indian-style on the couch, I tried mindlessly surfing the Internet only bringing more frustration. Why am I wasting my time if one of my worries is that I too often waste my life? Am I behind? Am I doing enough?

Next thing I knew, me, myself and my peter-pan collar were pirouetting from kitchen tile to kitchen tile with Spanish worship music on maximum volume. How I got there I have no clue, but I was there whole-heartedly. With the gardening neighbor causing me inhibitions, I moved my party to the bathroom where my own winter formal continued until one spin landed me face to face in the mirror.

A cocked head with a slight grin, I glanced at my tangled curls stuck to my sweat-kissed cheeks and thought, ‘So this is what my twenties are for. Learning to love myself. Running after the things that matter and shamelessly releasing the things that don’t.’

I say learning because with all the social media, blogs and fantasylands that bombard us, surely this has got to be a process.

As much as I want to be, Walker and I will never be the couple who make the bed each morning, but we will keep our commitments to people and events. We won’t always leave the house in styled outfits and clean hair, but we will write sincere thank you notes. We can’t frolic under foggy streetlights in a city that doesn’t sleep, but we will drive long distances, often, to be present in the lives of our loved ones. And we might never have it all together, even in pictures, but we do practice the art of saying ‘I’m sorry.’

These are our twenties—discovering who we are and what we aren’t, learning to accept and appreciate ourselves, and stop longing for an idealistic reality. Our lives will never look like so many of the blogs we read, but I’m beginning to think theirs don’t really either. This is our time to learn that someone else’s highlights do not have to be our lowlights.

These are our twenties—there is no reason to worry. Only the wrong perspective can waste a life. Life is only fruitless when it goes unappreciated, when the small moments have no meaning and when our reality-the reality that we are alive- is no longer magical. Life is not passing me by. It’s all around me. I must notice the three ladies walking to church in beautiful hats, breathe in the faint smell of the cow pasture across the street and passionately participate in late night study for tomorrow’s culinary class. This, this is life.

These are our twenties—and I will make a choice to learn. To relish in the exhaustion and to rest hard when the time comes. To laugh at the dumb joke, to celebrate the crying baby and to cry just as deeply some days, to remember how I feel having written for no money or fame but for self. To dance offbeat, to sing off key, to walk to the rhythm of love. I want wrinkles formed from memories, victories fashioned by fears and triumphs created by failures. I want life.

At one point in time I’m pretty sure I sincerely believed I would be Katie Couric one day—travelling and telling the news of the world. But as life goes for now, I will happily write for this tiny blog instead of for NBC News, because these are my charmed days, not Katie’s.

I can’t wait to read this in 30 years. I’m sure my 50-something self—still clad in polka dots I hope—will let out a laugh and say ‘oh child, I’m still learning.’ Then she’ll find herself dancing in the kitchen just like the good ol’ days of her twenties.

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My encounter with a woman I never met

The following post is not my attempt to jump on the bandwagon. It is only my written words flowing from the thoughts swirling through my head yesterday. It is simply remembering a lady who touched my life without us ever meeting.

Yesterday, Lufkin suddenly lost a precious lady- a mother, friend, church member, co-worker, community advocate. I say ‘precious’ not because I knew her to be, but because so many others did.

I’m really not sure I ever met Emily Watts, but Walker would be the first to say that I referred to her as ‘the lady I wanted to be my best friend.’ I thought my life would be more fun with her in it, and I know those that actually knew her would say theirs was.

She was a vibrant woman known for her voice, but the moment I remember most about Emily was when the singing stopped. We were at our church women’s retreat almost a year ago, and she was on the worship team. One particular song wasn’t quite living up to the quality of the previous songs. People were off beat, eyes were looking around the room, and I was wondering if we would actually make it to the end.

In that moment, Emily stopped singing and started laughing into the mic.  A deep, hearty chuckle straight into the microphone. I think my instant infatuation with her actions has caused me to embellish it in my head, as I recall her bending over and slapping her knee before standing up to continue with the song. A knee slap or not, this is what I know for sure—she stopped what she was supposed to be doing to take a moment and laugh.

To many people, Emily was a whole person—somebody they knew intimately for years. To me, she was bits and pieces I witnessed here and there—but how important were those bits and pieces.

In that particular moment I saw her as someone who didn’t take life too seriously. A woman able to laugh at herself even with all eyes on her. Some women at the retreat might not have even noticed Emily’s few seconds of cackling, but for me it was a moment of growth, of inspiration, of gratefulness.

In most moments of our lives, eyes are watching, and how we choose to live in those few seconds will affect people we might never even meet. In a moment that could have brought on frustration or embarrassment, Emily chose laughter and joy. I pray in future moments I will go forth mimicking a lady I never met face to face. I pray we all do.

Soon enough there will come a moment, probably today, when I will have that choice. When someone will witness bits and pieces of me. In that moment I’ll remember Emily. In that moment—that fleeting moment called life—I will choose to look full in His wonderful face and let things of earth grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Oh Chris

This is beautiful and so is the author. Just read it. And be grateful that she has found the words to say what we’ve all felt at different points in our lives. Some of us more recently than others. Every word leaves you screaming in your head ‘yes, yes, that’s me, yes!’ And then read the rest of her blog, because it’s just as good.

Why We Want to be Busy by Christina Gibson

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I would also recommend taking and international trip with her. Israel will never be the same. Grateful to call you friend. And roomie.