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.

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

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

A collection

of a few happy moments around our new house lately.

Opening Gobble’s teapot to be surprised by a familiar handwriting. 20140614-110648-40008605.jpgBreakfast by a bearded man. 20140614-110649-40009167.jpgThanks to a generous couple, we now live in a log cabin in the woods. The kind where we watch the deer sashay through our yard. 20140614-110649-40009697.jpgThese two explorers. Particularly his ridiculous getup and her little sassy booty. I miss them. One’s away at camp and the other at her grandparents. 20140614-110650-40010333.jpgWe are headed to Europe on Monday! Although I’m not sure we yet believe it, the trip we’ve waited months for is finally in reach. I’m more than ready to roam the streets of Paris hand in hand with my husband. And finally introduce him to my friends in Madrid. Europe or Lufkin, we cherish every memory in our little collection and are grateful for each chance to gain another.

 

Steps

The following is something I started writing in the days surrounding Lizzie’s death and that I was only able to finish recently. I wanted to share it on Friday—her 20th birthday—but was traveling and without Internet access, so today works, too.

We think about you every day, Lizzie, and miss you in every thought. Happy Birthday!

Lizzie Birthday

I thought about the first thing Lizzie might have said to Jesus as she met him face to face. My immediate thought was, “Please tell me Ryan Gosling will be here one day.”

But after she gets out all of her jokes, I imagine her looking Him straight in the eye and saying “Oh Jesus, I adored you. I laid my life before you. Oh Jesus, how I loved you.”

Once, while visiting Lizzie in hospice, I witnessed her mother, Dianne, help her take a few steps from a chair to her hospital bed. I couldn’t help but think about the first few steps Dianne probably helped Lizzie take as a small child. My inner reflection on the overwhelming dissonance between those first few steps of joy and those last few steps of sorrow soon became tangible tears.  Tears that pleaded “Nineteen years. Nineteen years is just not enough steps.”

I felt this way for a while. Still do. Probably always will.

But on some days, on some rare days, I am able to remember that every single step of those 19 years was filled with joy. Not perfect circumstances, but joy. Because Lizzie was joy.

And in these occasional moments on those rare days I am able to recognize that Lizzie did in fact beat cancer. With every step she took. Yes, Lizzie beat cancer in the way she continued to not just walk but dance through life even when a disease tried to strip her of all she had.

She beat cancer when she found simple delight in the silliness of holding a baby goat.
She beat cancer every time she made one of us laugh even when it was at her own expense.
She beat cancer when she showed up to the skating rink in the shiniest gold wind suit known to man.
She surely beat it when she shimmied for her male hospice nurse she had fallen for.
She beat it when she sat in her wheelchair outside the hospital, conversing with a man who just needed to talk, because his wife’s health was declining.
She beat cancer when she showed up to youth group and volunteered to be bald Brittney Spears circa 2007 for an announcement video.
She beat it when she danced at prom and walked across the stage at graduation.
She beat cancer when she taught an entire community to be a positive change in the world.
She beat it when she gave us all the courage to take more steps, one foot in front of the other, no matter how weary we might be.

Lizzie beat cancer because her faith always told her there was hope beyond her existing experiences, and now that very faith has found her resting in the arms of Jesus.

Today is a rare day. And I remember these things.

So I kneel here, and every day to follow, in my humanness desperately holding onto that one game changing truth—that while we have lost profoundly, Lizzie has gained, not in part but in full. Her body is redeemed, her faith is now sight and her life is everlasting.

I imagine now that Lizzie is walking side by side with Jesus in that sweet by and by that we can only sing about. And somewhere on that beautiful shore, they both wear matching flower crowns braided across their foreheads—hand crafted by Lizzie of course.

And as the waves tenderly glide across their feet, Jesus is ever so gently putting his hand around her shoulder, looking deep into her eyes, saying: Job well done. Life well lived. My good. And my faithful servant. 

I’m reminded of a song we sing in our youth group on Wednesday nights.

When shadows fall on us/We will not fear/We will remember
When darkness falls on us/ We will not fear/ We will remember
When all seems lost/When we’re thrown and we’re tossed/We remember the cost
We are resting in the shadow of the cross

However painful our grief might be, we are resting in the shadow of the cross. And Lizzie is living.

LIVING! Her lungs are filled with air and her legs can dance again!

Yes, Lizzie is living in the light of the resurrection. To God be the glory. And peace be with us.

Amen.

January

Lufkin snow dayI’d like to think the reason behind my month long hiatus from this space was due to my confession of having toe fungus in my last post, but the truth revealed probably lies more in the month of January itself. The first month of 2014 has been an inexplicable blend of emotions. The kind where laughter or tears strike in any moment. In the same moment.

But as I sit here and write very late thank-you cards to some freaking awesome people, I’ve realized it’s February 1. We made it. And so now I’ll blog about that month I didn’t want to blog about, if not only because it’s a part of our story.

Before Walker and I left Tucson the four of us felt our hearts break as we put our 13-year old dog, Yoda, to sleep. Minutes later I took one last look at the the house I grew up in before my parents move across town. We found ourselves back in Lufkin only being forced to buy a new washer and dryer but how trivial the stress of appliance shopping would soon seem.

On January 14, Walker kissed Lizzie on her forehead and I stroked her cheek as we left her hospice room that night. In the early morning hours of January 15, Lizzie passed away. And as thankful as we are that her suffering is no more, we miss her. Through the many times as I’ve written and erased my thoughts about her, I’ve come to accept that although I know they will return, right now my words have been stolen by grief.

But this is where it feels confusing. Because we look back on January and remember such wonderful times, too. The Fiesta Bowl followed by a day with friends in Ft. Worth was a pretty decent way to start the year. Opal turned 2 and my dad made it to SIXTY! I was able to attend Danielle’s shower for soon to be baby Evie all while getting to see a bunch of friends. Baby Landon made his 6 lb. appearance in this world and we spent most of our days with Jared. I caught bronchitis and not the flu, so that’s a Super Bowl win in my opinion.

So many emotions unexpectedly given life in 31 days left us feeling exhausted and constantly trying to catch up. But as we move into February, our heartbeats grow steadier and our breaths more relaxed. We can look back at January knowing that if we have lost, it means we have loved. And for us, that’s enough.

Plus we had snow. Twice!Play in snow 2Lufkin snowOpal in snowLufkin snow ball

A happy place

20131130-180905.jpgConfession. Pretty much everything I said in my last post never happened, except well, Opal is away. We didn’t make it to Arizona, and the eye twitch has worsened. Like, maybe-I- shouldn’t-drive worsened. It definitely wasn’t the Thanksgiving break we anticipated or planned. It’s been an emotional seven days. An uncertain seven days.

But still, there is much to be thankful for.

And one of those many things is how we spent our Saturday. My two bearded men and I headed over to a local tree farm to pick out our first Christmas tree. It’s my first time to have a real tree, whereas Walker looked in the mirror and proclaimed, “The blood of a 1,000 lumberjacks is running through my veins.” Obviously, he let us newbies know he’s a professional.

I loved wandering through the trees like a kid and spotting Walker’s head pop in and out of the rows. And hearing Jared choose his favorite trees, which all happened to be abnormally uniquely shaped. We walked away with one of the many perfect pines, and on the way home I asked if we could go back and pick another. I got denied. Lots of fist pumps for this family owned farm that provided us not only with a cherished tree but also some tangible cheer and merriment!

Yes, there is still much to be thankful for. 20131130-180954.jpg20131130-182400.jpgProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset20131130-180856.jpg20131130-180932.jpg20131130-180940.jpg20131130-182354.jpgProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetBesties at Kendricks20131130-180848.jpgKendricks20131130-180913.jpg20131130-180921.jpg

Thanksween

Well, Mo and I are no longer on speaking terms after she said Opal isn’t very cute, but…20131027-223542.jpgThree cheers jumps for Mo and Kari’s annual trip to Lufkin!! I’ve said before that friends taking the time to come east means the world to us. We are constantly driving near and far to see people, so when people come to us, we feel so special. Unfortunately Walker wasn’t here on Saturday, but Jared filled his manly presence, and I’m also noticing he got the most camera time.

Kari and Mo sewed these awesome Thanksween t-shirts. Notice they match! And there I am wearing a plain black v-neck they brought me because they got tired : ) I’m still laughing about that. downtownbookstoreLast year the weather forced us to stay inside and knit all day, but this year Kari only knit in our down time. We spent the afternoon walking around downtown and popping in the coffee shop, used bookstore and antique shops.20131027-223655.jpg20131027-223753.jpgThe clear skies had a chill in the air, and since we are pretty much obsessed with our new lights, it was the perfect night for an outdoor dinner and movie. Jared whipped up a Wild Rice and Kale Chowder while Kari and I worked on the caramel apples. Mo took her role as photog. 20131027-223824.jpgThat cat is lucky to be alive after he tried messing with Kari, but I guess he won her over considering he cuddled in her lap for the entire movie. 20131104-174634.jpg20131027-223851.jpgapple laughsjared appleAs we sat around the table warming ourselves with hot chowder, we kept repeating “this is perfect!” The atmosphere took on somewhat of a whimsical feel, but it had much more to do with the companionship than the twinkle lights. Kari and Mo are two of the wisest and most genuine people I know. To be in their presence is to feel comfortable, hopeful and safe. Their conversations are meaningful and uplifting, their words are encouraging and intentional, and their laughter is deep. It was such a refreshing weekend, not because of what we did or where we went, but rest was found in the simplicity of reuniting with good friends. Jared and I were so happy to spend the day with you. We miss y’all already! Come back, and maybe Walker will grace us with his presence. movie copy

“I’m like Noah!”

picnicHappy 1st day of school!

I. Am. Exhausted.

It’s been an emotional road getting to today. From wondering if I would ever find employment to being hired and feeling overwhelmed with the intricacies of the public school system, I’ve felt unsteady for almost 2 years. But today felt good. Really good. For the first time in a long time, I have something to call mine. A classroom that belongs to me and me alone. I guess I do have to share it with 140 teenagers. And for that I am thankful. I have a space where I get to share my knowledge, my mind, my heart and my passions with high schoolers. I look back to the educational fortunes I’ve had. The traveling I’ve done. The people I’ve met and sat under. What I’ve had the blessed opportunity to learn can never really only belong to me. It must be shared, or I’ve missed the whole point. So for the next 175 days of school, I will do my best, through eagerness or weariness, to remember all those who have shared with me, so that I may share with mine.

I’m excited. Let’s do this.

I’ve felt so loved these past few weeks. From friends and family sending me school supplies and gift cards to the phone calls of support and the multiple texts wishing me a great first day, I’ve been so encouraged. And blown away by the thoughtfulness of the people in my life. So thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

These are some pictures from our ‘last big adventure’ on Saturday. I was told to get dressed and gather supplies for a picnic. Little did I know the picnic was only the beginning of one of our best dates ever. I found myself at a drive-through wildlife reserve where the animals come and eat from your hand. Yeah Yuh! cherokee tracebisonhornscome onzebrazebra zebrazebra teethdeercamel and llamas camel in the carcamel scaredeer in the headlightsemuemu catchGood catch, emu! Good date, Walker!

And  yes, you were exactly like Noah.

Camp Cowtown

gift basketEst. 2013

When we first moved to Lufkin, it was easy to find myself complaining, and to be honest, I still do. Just the other day in Tucson I said to my mom, ‘Man, I just wish Lufkin had a Whole Foods.’ She didn’t even acknowledge my statement, which over the years I’ve come to understand means my grievance is nothing more than an ungrateful grumble. Her silence says count your blessings, not your lack of organic, gluten free mac and cheese.

A few weekends ago we made our way to Camp Cowtown, which to twelve current and former Lufkinites is now a real place that will be talked about on the regular. We’ll talk about how much we miss it. How we can’t wait until next time. And how we should do it multiple times a year.

We pitched our tents at the home of the Henrys, now residents of Ft. Worth (which I learned once arriving is called Cowtown). After we finished gawking at their beautiful home, unwrapping our goodie bags and adorning their new golden retriever with every affection we had in us, we stood in disbelief that the long-awaited weekend had finally come. And then we hugged some more.

As more campers gradually arrived we spent most of our time doing what we do best—eating. If we weren’t shoveling pounds of puppy chow and chocolate sheet cake down our throats, we were playing games while watching You Tube videos. And then we took breaks to make our way back to the table o’ sweets. We ventured out of the house a few times, you know, to play a competitive round of flag football in matching shirts. It’s possible we were winded after the first few downs, but our pride told us we could play to winner scores 5. Or was it 4? Ft. Worth offered us a quick lunch at a food truck venue, an afternoon of golf for the boys and shopping for the girls, and a lively dinner at Joe T. Garcia’s. I was in consumer heaven.

But I’ve been thinking. I’m pretty sure all 12 of us would have been perfectly content if we never left the house. Full, fat and in need of serious exercise from our pizza night and lemon cookies, but perfectly content in our 12 bodies being under one roof. No city life required.

I’ve come to realize that Camp Cowtown isn’t an annual event, Camp Cowtown is a community. It’s a place of laughter, a place of comfort and a place of companionship. It’s a different way of looking at life, a better way. It’s recognizing that relationships are God-given and sacred, and that Anthropologie, Trader Joe’s and fine dining are not. It’s a place where we need nothing besides each other. It’s a place where we love each other well because we don’t take each other for granted.

During and after the weekend a couple of us reflected on our quick 48 hours. There were no complaints, no talks of stress and no bad attitudes. We had our people, and our people were all we needed. We just did everything so well. What if we constantly lived in a state of only needing each other? I think we might do life really, really well.

I think back to my statement in the parking lot of Whole Foods and my countless statements elsewhere. I think of my moans that long for Lufkin to provide just a few more opportunities for healthy eating and recreational activities. But then I think of my mom’s silence that screams throw all your thankfulness into Camp Cowtown, for it gives more joy and life than a local Dillards could even begin to offer.

So, thank you, Lufkin. For gifting me with sacred relationships, even beyond these twelve. For reminding me that life done really, really well is found in human connection rather than music venues and shopping malls. I don’t think I recognized the significance of Camp Cowtown when we all lived in the same city, but one thing I know is that distance can’t destroy the sacred. Camp Cowtown is going strong. Stronger than ever.

dutchespound of meatWalker ate a pound of beef for lunch. I cringed, I cried and I started looking for roommates while he ate himself to an early death. girls footballdino walkerthrowpasskatieI never thought a group of twenty-somethings would dish out such little verbal assault but rather more of, ‘How’s your back?’ ‘Is your knee doing OK?’ ‘Are your hips holding up?’ and ‘Do you need to stretch it out?’group footballfood trucksDespite my hands on arched back stance in this pic, no, I am not pregnant. Although there are quite a few Lufkin teenagers who would jump for joy should it be true. 20130722-190444.jpg20130722-190853.jpgAn afternoon of shopping. If shopping means letting Kelsey try on clothes while the rest of us contently relaxed on leather couches. Try more stuff, Kels, try more stuff. girlsThe Ladies. girls 2boysThe Gentlemen. boys 2

I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was just too busy enjoying my friends.

A Sunday Really Funday

Kenny and Amanda came to visit us last weekend, and we are big time missing them. They brought their boat down so we could all spend a day on Lake Rayburn catching and releasing fish. Some of us got caught, too. Ok, it was me. I stepped on a hook, and Kenny had to perform a ‘trick’ to get it out. But all is well and they didn’t throw me back in the water.

The guys were longing to see an alligator, and sadly we came up empty handed. And by sadly, I mean Amanda and I were madly cheering from the inside out. BUT we did see two bald eagles! And one of them may or may not have been flying an American flag from his talons. Let freedom ring.

The three of them formed the ‘cool club’ as they sported their fishing shirts. I’d like to say they were gracious about my role as an outsider, but one of them…oh husband of mine…kept rubbing it in my sunscreened face.  So, I will proudly announce that I caught a bigger fish than him, and since this is my blog, he has no say in the matter. We wore my iphone battery down to the ground with the 90-something pictures we snapped.

Kenny was right. It was awesome. We laughed constantly at things that now remain as inside jokes among the four of us. We marveled at nature and gained insight on new subjects. We relaxed for hours and allowed our worries to drift away. And we floated to shore as the setting sun outlined our tired silhouettes. The sun was down and the day was over but the joy, energy and life taken away will sustain us for some time, until we meet again.
20130704-205927.jpg
20130704-205940.jpg20130704-210324.jpgphoto520130704-211825.jpgphoto420130704-210145.jpg
20130704-210347.jpg20130704-210235.jpg20130704-210223.jpg20130704-211853.jpg20130704-210359.jpg20130704-210025.jpg
20130704-210045.jpg20130704-211932.jpg20130704-211838.jpg
20130704-210104.jpg20130704-210256.jpg20130704-210122.jpg

“Don’t worry, guys. It wasn’t a fish.”