Fully Alive


If you can, listen to this song first.

Growing up, I always thought that God would audibly speak or in some way give you an undeniable sign of what your life was supposed to be at every step. He would dictate, day by day, how each piece on the cosmic chess board would move.

I thought that was comforting, until I realized I couldn’t hear Him telling me what I was supposed to do. I spent so much time worrying that it was my lack of faith that left me deaf to hearing His voice directing me into the great unknown.

In high school, it was the source of a lot of anxiety for me. I tried so hard to earn the voice of God in my ear. I tried so hard to be “good”. And naturally, I screwed up my attempts of being good by not being consistently perfect. I came up with written devotional and prayer plans and tried to stick to calendars. Looking back, I can see I really didn’t enjoy my faith most of the time.

This further awoke my type-A-INFJ-Enneagram 9-abandonment-fearing, ardent love for all rules and structure and an absolute loathing for any type of conflict. Even into adulthood, I struggle making my own decisions because I thought what was right was to submit and defer and never question anything. I never thought any of the choices were up to me.

Maybe, just maybe, God would see how good I was doing and tell me where I was supposed to go next. Each piece of my life would be perfectly portioned and handed to me two steps ahead of when I needed it so I could wrestle with it a little and then decide God knew what He was doing. Then I would sacrifice everything, move to Africa, save an entire village, and write a book about the process.

Just going to come right out and say this… It’s really hard to be an adult this way.

I think that my need for control was partially born out of this mentality.

What I didn’t take into account is that maybe God doesn’t actually work like that.

Mind you, I’m not saying that I don’t think God speaks to people. He does. I’ve experienced it firsthand. And I’m not saying that there aren’t people on which God has placed a very specific calling. I’ve seen that happen too. But maybe He approaches it differently with each of His children.

I’m just wondering if maybe God knows exactly what it is that I need in order to grow and become the person He created me to be. I’m a person who is not naturally resistant or independent. I like to be told what to do and I like to know exactly what my role is. I like to make no waves. But when I’m in that space, I’m kind of a robot. I lose myself in the direction of others because I’m so worried about pleasing them and avoiding any possible slight sign of a whiff of a conflict.

I retreat.

Like a turtle, I sink back into my own brain–into the pinball machine of all the things I’d love to say, but don’t.

Maybe God knows me well enough to know that I don’t argue with orders. I accept them, move on, and don’t grow any closer to the person giving the orders. I let the boss admire me from afar for my tenacity and my never ending dogged quest to do whatever is asked of me, all the while, I hold my cards close to my chest.

I forget so often that God wants more from me than figuring how to assuage Him so that’ll He’ll like me or tell me where to go next. Just look at the prophets! He wants me to weigh things out, to mull them over in my heart and mind, to use my good sense, and even to argue the finer points with Him.

This is how we grow in intimacy with other humans, why would it not be the same with Him?

He made me “in His image”. He built me from the ground up and mixed in personality and talent and quirks. He gave me the capacity to love and a brain with which to choose and discern.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter to Him whether or not I’m enough. How would my life change if I didn’t have to prove my worth to earn a gift He’s already given me? What if He just wants me to show up–to see the beauty He’s creating around me and in me and through me? How would my life change if I let that be enough?

Advertisements

Father’s Day


 

Family related holidays have always been weird days for me because I didn’t have the traditional parental situation growing up. When I was about 8 or 9, my biological mother gave me up to the custody of another family. At that time, my biological father did not live with us and I remember, spotty as my memories are, that there was a lot of animosity between them and a lot of chaos in our home. Five of my siblings had already left or been moved to new homes and my brother and I were the last to go.

It was hard as a 9 year old to accept that I suddenly had a new set of parents and a whole new family. Needless to say, the concept of family is something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve always related, in some small way, to children who are born to parents of two different cultures–never quite feeling like they fit in one specific place.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to come to terms with and accept the fact that I didn’t get the typical family experience. I didn’t get the experience of living with one stable family from birth to graduation surrounded by grandparents and cousins and all my sisters and brothers like so many people do. I lived in a weird in-between place.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My adoptive parents did a lot for two of my siblings and me. They provided and cared the best way that they knew how for 3 kids who had been taken out of a really terrible situation. They made calls about our education that were really good for me. They offered all they could offer.

I also know that so many kids out there have it much harder than I did. So many kids don’t get that second chance, don’t get to be removed from the toxic environments, and don’t get the opportunities I ultimately got.

At the end of the day, though, I still struggle. I still have the feeling that I missed out on a piece of childhood taken from me by a life that demanded I grow up much faster than most to recognize a world where parents aren’t always there and where siblings get scattered across the state. At 9 years old, I had to learn quickly that hearts can be broken.

For years, I’ve carried around thoughts and questions and doubts and insecurities about what families are really supposed to be. And they come out a little more on days like Father’s Day.

I got to thinking about it a little more and decided that Father’s Day this year would not be a day for me to ruminate on the biological father that stopped coming around for some reason that may remain a mystery to me forever. It didn’t have to be a day where I dwelt on feelings of being unwanted or being someone’s child support budget item every month

Instead, this Father’s Day was a day of gratitude.

I may have missed out on certain family experiences, but I can rest in knowing that I did experience good in what I had.

My Daddy taught me how to throw a football and a Frisbee. On Saturday morning, we listened to Car Talk in his Toyota Tercel. When he shaved off his fiery red beard he asked me to help, stopping as we shaved, giving him a goatee and a Fu Manchu, taking pictures of every style in the progression. He pushed me on the swing, made up silly songs while helping me brush my teeth, and taught me how to make hospital corners while making my bed. I remember his guitar, his penny whistle, and I remember learning how to make a flute sing.

My Mama sang in the kitchen and played the Autoharp while sitting on the couch with green and tan story fabric. Mama also brushed my long hair every day and sewed me clothes from fabric she let me pick.

I remember playing legos and matchbox cars with my brothers on the blanket that looked like a town. One brother ran the convenience store, another brother ran a car lot. I ran the grocery store, I think.

I sat with my Pop watching movies on the couch, my head resting on his shoulder. I sang with him and my sister, caught up in the swell of the music. I laughed at his jokes and felt secure in his solid embrace. One year, he had us skip a day of school and chores so we could watch an all day marathon of The 3 Stooges. He took me to my first StarWars movie in the middle of a school day in 4th grade.

On birthdays or Christmases, I opened my gifts knowing that Mom had put so much time and effort into coming up with the perfect gifts and wrapping them with the perfect little creases. I remember working in the kitchen with her before Thanksgiving and Christmas, blasting U2, making stuffing, and the world’s most perfect holiday meals. I remember the triangular peak of her handwriting on cards. When I moved in with her, my dresser drawers were filled to the brim with clothes that she’d picked out just for me. I don’t see how she doesn’t have carpal tunnel from all the curls that she put into our hair before leaving the house.

Now, I have a mother and father in law who are some of the kindest and most accepting people I’ve ever met and I can’t believe I get to be a part of their family. I have brothers and sisters who are growing up that I get to call friends now. One of the greatest joys of my adult life has been getting to know my biological siblings. I have loved watching them, despite the odds, despite what we had to work with, grow into kind, wise, strong individuals. Some of them have families of their own and it’s been so fun to watch them step up and take on the challenges of life.

For all the things I missed out on, what I have experienced is full of opportunities to be thankful–for two sets of parents who gave me what they were able to give me and for siblings who support and walk alongside each other. I’m grateful for the potential of the future building a family of my own and learning to love the family I have around me.

Birth


People always tell me to learn to love all of myself which I think is great advice, but I can never figure out just how to start. It feels like a battle where you’re constantly on the verge of being overpowered.

How do I teach myself to do something I’ve fought against for over 2 decades? How do I learn to give love and grace to the pieces of myself I’ve been convinced to hate or hide? How do I compete with the ideas I’ve been given about myself?

The social awkwardness and the not fitting in with “normal people”. Always feeling clunky and foreign when I’m around anyone. Revisiting in my mind over and over and over the choice of words I just used or the tone of voice that may have conveyed an idea differently than I wanted. Am I standing right? Does my hair look friendly? Is there anything about the position of my fingers and toes that could come across to this other person in any negative way?

The feeling of never being useful, funny, insightful, or beautiful enough. Taking any sort of time for myself makes me feel guilty. Even when I have a fever, I feel guilty if I’m not contributing. I worry that if enough of my jokes don’t land, people won’t want to be around me or if I don’t sound smart enough, people won’t think I’m worth it to have around.

On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I come on too strong. Sharing way too much of myself so people know right off the bat exactly what it is they’re getting into. I worry that people will be turned off by the intensity.

I put so much pressure on myself to be enough for everyone and if I’m not, I’m a failure. I feel like I’m in charge of how everyone else feels.

How do I rewire the parts of me influenced by a religious background that say being confident in your skin or loving yourself is selfish? That I should always strive to be less of myself because I’m ultimately evil deep down and God could never love me as I am…so I have to empty as much of myself out of my body so He can make me something worth being alive.

The brain in my head is definitely a bit dysfunctional. I’m always worrying about how everything will turn out. I tell myself I should be better by now. I’m 24. I’ve had time to sit with these things and recognize them for what they are. The words of people from my past that convinced me to feel this way shouldn’t hold any power over me anymore and I should be perfectly healthy now. I wish so badly I could make that happen. That I could just take the scissors and cut the emotional umbilical cord and stop taking in toxic blood from the placenta I’ve been tethered to for so long.

How do you learn to love someone you’ve never been able to love before? How do you learn to let yourself give birth to all the things you’ve shoved down for so long? And how do you look at those things like a new mother– with unconditional love and support?

Dear Katie


DSC_0607

Dear Katie,

This letter is a reminder to you on the days when you feel like you aren’t enough and you worry about everything except taking care of yourself.

You are growing. Maybe not always at the speed you’d like, but over the past 5 years, you’ve done so much and learned so much. You ventured out on your own with little evidence that it would work. After flying home from a foreign country on your own, you began studying at a school where you didn’t know anyone. You rode on someone else’s coat tails to try to get where you were going, but then decided you wanted to be treated differently. You decided to walk on your own feet instead. You made decisions that terrified you–that made you feel like Indiana Jones stepping out onto thin air.

And you made it. One step at a time, you took hold of the opportunities in front of you. You learned how to be thankful for small things like an air mattress and a bike to ride to your job as a hotel housekeeper. You worked hard (and might I add, built some wicked upper body strength cleaning those mirrors). You married a man who treats you with so much more patience and kindness and steadiness than you ever thought you deserved. Now, You’re learning to believe him when he says he loves who you are.

You accepted a job you never thought you had a chance of getting and stayed for 2.5 years even though it was one of the hardest things you’d ever done. You tried your best to be uplifting to the people around you, and even though you weren’t always perfect at that, you formed relationships with people who are so excited to see you whenever you come around. After 2.5 years, you listened to what your gut was telling you and decided to take care of yourself.

You decided to go back to school to pursue something you always wondered if you’d enjoy. Something that makes you feel graceful, skilled, strong, and confident for the first time in your life. And you’ve made friends that help you feel your own belonging in the world. Now you’re studying for a massive test that will certify you to do what you seem built for. You get to care for people one at a time, and fold lots of fitted sheets, and you’re gonna get paid for it.

As you continue to learn and grow, remember this: you are a human, just like everyone else. You exist. You are not the product of anything anyone says or thinks of you. You are not comprised of the things that have happened to you, not constructed of the people you didn’t feel wanted by. You are built, brick by brick, of the decisions you’ve made. You are comprised of the decisions you’ve made to bring you to where you are, even though the path followed an unexpected trajectory.

Remember… You, yes you, have something important and needed to contribute to the world.  But remind yourself that in contributing your talents and skills and humor to the world, you don’t have to save it. You are not responsible for the people in your life. They are free agents. You are, however, responsible to them and yourself. You have a responsibility to deal a different hand of cards than the ones you were given.

Take care of your own basic needs. Eat. Sleep. Valerian root is fairy dust. And when you can’t sleep because you have a knot in your stomach that won’t go away, remember that  sometimes you just need a little extra food.

Don’t let anxiety take your days from you. It’s okay to feel the anxiety, but don’t let it take you hostage. Keep studying your own thought patterns. Journal, talk to yourself. Address your thoughts with respect and then move them to a new house. They do not own you.

Do the things you love–take photos even though they aren’t the best in the world, sing loud even though your voice cracks or you’re a little off key, tell all the dad jokes you want. Entertain yourself. You’ll enjoy life so much more. Do the things you always think about doing, but don’t because people might think you’re silly. Who knows? They may just tell you they’ve always wanted to do that too and you’ve given them courage to do so. Or they may just tell you that you look pretty in that purple polo you never wore because you didn’t know if it would be stylish enough.

Most of all, remember you aren’t alone. You live in a world full of love. Your friends love you–there’s got to be something about you that’s drawn you together. There’s something about you that’s helped you create lovely memories all over the world with them. Your husband loves you. He laughs with you, sings with you, plans with you. He sees what you sometimes do not, that you are playful and energetic and kind. He also loves your quesadillas.

And you are not alone because God is providing. Every step of the way, even when you’re not sure who He is or how He fits into the puzzle of your life or the world at large, He is there. And when you can’t see Him or feel Him, just stop and take the time to remember all things things you’ve experienced–all those things that seemed too good to be true that you never could have dreamed up on your own.

The path will be hard, but you knew that already. Just remember to enjoy it.

 

Solar Plexus


DSC_0668

Sometimes I feel trapped in my brain. I’ve spent years bottling up emotions and pushing things aside for fear of seeming too crazy to people. Well, that’s all fine and good until you have to start letting them out.

Usually, I’m asleep within 5 minutes of hitting the pillow and stay fast asleep all night. In college, someone had to come shake me awake for fire drills. The fire alarm was above my door. Last night, I fell asleep for about 3 hours before being rudely awoken by a pounding heart, an extremely fluttery feeling in my solar plexus, and an insatiable desire to just sob. It was at about that point when the thoughts started coming and pinballing themselves around in my head.

“You’re being too emotional.”

“You figured out what’s wrong with you, you should be better a lot faster than you are.”

“You should just get over yourself”

“Your emotions are a burden to the people you love and they’ll eventually leave you because of it. They’ll get tired of you because you’re taking too long to work through this.”

“You’ve read the articles, so you should be able to trust people by now.”

So I tried breathing. I tried logically breaking down the thoughts with my husband. I tried everything I could do to relax. Still. I tossed and turned.

Now I’m awake and tired and don’t know what to do with the shell of a person I am today. Do I confide in my friends or do I keep it to myself? Do I just try to ignore the feeling in my gut that says my way of life is in danger?

I don’t have some magical moral-of-the-story ending about how I discovered some trick that’s gonna help me be awesome at life from now on. I guess I just didn’t realize how hard this was going to be and I feel so discouraged.

And weepy. I feel really weepy.

Probability


I dread doubtful probability

Imagine hostility

Distrust the stability

Of the firmly established

 

I lack simple humility

Scoff at adaptability

Then put on fragility

At the mention of what’s past

 

Anxiety with irrepressibility

Convincing me of the futility

And lack of viability

Of my propensity for change

 

I search for tranquility

Make a break from puerility

And claim responsibility

For the ways I walk the earth

Recovery


DSC_0705

Hi. My name is Katie and I’m addicted to control and hooked on hating myself. It’s a little paradoxical, I know. I love to micromanage, but I won’t ever give myself the satisfaction of being enough. The best version of me is the smallest and most invisible. I bide my time until people leave… because they always do. And if they don’t do it in the expected time frame, I give them a little nudge.

Somehow, though, I still suck at goodbyes. I take hours to get in the car after road trips and family visits because I fear I’ll never see the people I love most again. When my husband hasn’t told me that he’s on his way home, I imagine all the possible ways he’s died. I have a hard time imagining myself growing old with him because in my mind, people just don’t stick around that long.

I cling tightly to every possible thing I can get my hands on and don’t let go for fear I’ll fail to make people happy… yet I don’t trust the work of my own hands. Nothing I give myself is ever good enough. Everything I am is so short of perfect and I constantly remind myself to be aware of it.

I put up walls so people don’t see who I really am– I shut them out so they will hurt me less and so they will never discover what a fraud I feel I am. I allow people to treat me like I’m nothing, because that’s how I feel about myself. If they treat me poorly, they must have seen correctly.

Yet I’m paranoid of how people view me. I cannot stand the idea that someone would dislike me. Am I as much of a burden to them as I feel when I tell my story of how I was broken and bruised and abandoned by countless people–especially the ones who are always supposed to stay? Do I suck the energy out of a room? Do you pity me?

I don’t want to be pitied. I want to be strong. I want to live with open hands for both giving and receiving, not controlled or consumed by the fears and anxieties that plague my mind almost every second of the day. I want to be kind and healthy and whole. I want to be free to fall down and free to pick myself up again.

Most of all, I want to be myself… Not tied down by the fear of mistakes or failure or judgement. I want to be honest–with myself and with others. No matter how hard I try to convince you, please know I’m not perfect. I can’t do it all. My hands are sore from all the white-knuckling. I want to remind myself that I don’t have to be the best at anything. My home does not always have to be spotless for me to be a worthwhile human. I do not have to fulfill the wild expectations that I’ve fabricated for myself then projected onto others to warrant love. I can just be the things I am and do what I can do.

I’ve spent the better part of a decade distracting myself from the thoughts and fears and anxieties that have resided in the corners of my mind — an unwelcome, constant companion. In high school, I woke early and ran miles and miles just to pound my doubt and dread into the dirt. Any time things get a little to quiet, I pop in some headphones and listen to the saddest music I can find, or tune into a funny podcast to learn some useless facts, or scroll endlessly through the passing of other people’s lives on social media to avoid facing what seems too heavy to even glance at. I’ve even avoided reading certain nonfiction books because they’ve reminded me too much of what I am not.

I recently left a job that was consuming me. I was becoming a person I did not like because I was so busy and worried and anxious about the situations at work. My heart would race, I’d become dizzy, sometimes my hands would start to go numb. I’d been there 2 and a half years and it was time to move on and focus on the next stage of my life as I prepare to begin a new career in massage therapy.

Needless to say, as I have had more time at home to myself… more quiet, more alone… I have had fewer places to hide from my own thoughts. I’ve had less room in which to evade the ways my childhood has affected how I respond to what happens around me. I am reactionary. I do not trust myself and therefore cannot adequately trust others no matter how I try.

It is time for me to grow up. Time for me to not be afraid of the dark, the silence, the nagging of my own thoughts. It is time to be grateful to the purpose those thoughts have served in my life… protecting me until I was strong enough, warning me when something was not right… and it is time to send them on their way. Time to put them in their place. Their time has come and so has mine.

Today, I choose to build my own house and not my neighbor’s.

Home.


Dear Charlottesville,

My beautiful home.

I’m so sorry, lovely.

I’m sorry it’s all so broken

I mourn your streets

Ransacked and ravaged by darkness,

Hatred,

Violence,

Division.

Your streets weren’t meant for the forever sleep

Brought much too early to young travelers

Your streets were meant for color and beauty

I’m sorry they only shrouded you in shades of black

I hate that this is where the world sees you

It sees the worst,

The darkest corners of humanity itself–

One man convinced of his superiority

Forfeits compassion

That which makes us whole

To bludgeon the man beside him

For being made a different color

For them, for us

We pray: Father heal us.

 

Dependence Day.


[Caution: Sap Alert!]

DSC_0319

Dear Jared,

Happy Dependence Day!

13592658_10210231327320189_1830991313545005784_n

I can’t believe it’s already been a whole year since we got married. I still feel giddy when I roll over in the middle of the night and realize you are sleeping beside me, or when I realize that I could have married anyone, but somehow, I was lucky enough to end up with you. I’m so glad you’re my husband. You rock, Homie.

DSC_0173

I’m thankful for all the ways that you work so hard to provide for us. Thank you for the long days you put in at the factory — even when it’s the absolute last thing you’d like to be doing. (Especially the months you had to be at work by 5 in the morning, and the thing you would’ve liked to do instead was sleep.) I see your hard work, and I cherish it.

Photo Jul 01, 1 44 41 PM

I love what a beautiful friend you are… to me, and to the people that are around you. You’re sincere, supportive, and kind. You’re excellent at listening to what people have to say, and at encouraging them, and being honest with them. You know how to have fun, but you can also have deep, intelligent conversations that make us all think at things in an entirely new light.

12036477_10209355415184436_8370514938667065638_n

Your sense of humor is my favorite of all the senses of humor. You make fantastic Bible-themed jokes and puns, and you know how to tease me better than anyone I know. And you sometimes laugh at my jokes, too. 😉 I’m also really glad that your humor extends to CarTalk. (That’s actually more special to me than I can really express) I love that you love to laugh with me, and I’m so glad that we’ve spent most of our first year laughing and enjoying being around each other.

Photo May 18, 9 30 15 PM

You’re one of the most gentle, patient humans I’ve ever met. You never yell at me if you’re mad at me. You never make me feel stupid if I think about something differently than you. You bear with me when I am hurt or scared or anxious about something. You listen to all the things I have to say, no matter how nonsensical or irrational I happen to be at that moment. Thank you for always being willing to offer me a hug, even if we are in the middle of an argument. You make me feel loved and valuable.

13494961_10210161347134235_5708884913575594964_n

With you, going to the grocery store is just as much of an adventure as going on a hike or taking a road trip. The smallest moments are ones for laughing at each other being strange, discussing big things, singing along to acapella worship music in the car, (and skipping all the lame songs they decided to put on the CD) or having dinner and Grumps. (Seriously, I’m thrilled you eat my cooking. It does a number for my ego.)

13501690_10210153103244636_5034761902040385944_n

Year one has been amazing beyond words. Thank you for loving me so much and for being the best friend and partner I could ask for. I pray that in year two, we will grow even closer as we follow the call of Jesus, that we will continue to learn ways we can love each other more deeply, and that we will reflect his face as we walk on together.

Photo Jun 04, 6 45 12 PM

In lieu of all the things I’d love to say, but don’t know how to express with words: Thank you for you.

11813334_10207623019274118_7920654393774136441_n

You make my nose crinkle.

Here’s to the next 365.25 days as Mr. and Mrs. Mills.

13124882_10209702363976436_2141234014059934973_n

Words, words, words.


Qualified words.

Recruited

Enlisted

To describe

The One who created them

~

Qualified words?

Inadequate.

Winded.

From chasing

The One who cannot be caught

~

Qualified words?

Father…

…Yet Mother hen…

…Also Lover, but…

The One who formed the cosmos

~

Dangerous words.

Buckets

Filled with oceans

To name

The One who simply is

~

Nonsensical words

Explanations

Wild grasping

For the essence

Of One who is Spirit and Truth

~

Faithful Word

Holy

Indescribable

In love–

The One who’s never left.