I haven’t posted in a long time. And a lot has happened in my life since I did. I feel like I need to write an update post that hits the highlights–seizures, God, hilarious disasters that have happened along the way, etc. And I will. But not tonight. Tonight I’m going to pretend there hasn’t been radio silence and just jump back into sharing what’s on my mind at the moment. Indulge me, please. Continue reading
Contrary to what you might think from my excessive use of the words awesome, like, and yeah, I believe that the words we use matter. Not so much how fancy they are, but how they make another person feel when we string them together a certain way.
Lets dive right into the example that inspired this post. I have a friend who is a very intellectual person. She approaches life with a very orderly mind. This can get in her way when she tries to connect with others. Being prone to the same thing, I set out to discover why. (Don’t I sound like a TV reporter? In my head the TV reporter version of me has a British accent for some reason.) Continue reading
You’ll have to excuse me. I’m fully aware that my current level of exuberance is really not appropriate for a Monday morning. But I had a good weekend and I’m excited about the possibilities for the week… and I just can’t seem to help myself. Feel free to substitute some kind of low, sad voice for mine in your head to counteract all the upbeat words I’m about to use.
I have a story for you all. Just a snapshot, really, of the cool things God has been doing in my life. Pull up a carpet square and settle in for a few minutes. Here we go: Continue reading
This is one of the ‘sticky notes’ on my desktop. I’m not sure at this point if it’s a quote of someone else or my own thought. Because I love quotes I usually lean towards attribution so I’m guessing it’s my own. Either way, it’s my daily companion.
It’s been an interesting six weeks for me. Six weeks during which I’ve had ZERO–yes, I said ZERO–seizures. (Hence the picture of fireworks…) Don’t get me started on the medical end of this complicated and hopefully permanent phenomenon… I’m busy being exceedingly thankful for it. God is beyond good in ways that, as usual, I could never have anticipated.
Now that I’m not all hopped up on anti-epileptic meds (or hopped down?) and am not randomly seizing every week or so… It’s time to get back to normal life. I’m working on that. But it takes a while to reverse all the things you have to put in place when you have such severe seizures. And in the interim I’m going a little stir crazy. And by a little, I of course me a lot. Because of my personality–outgoing, neurotic, high energy, relational–I’m particularly prone to stir crazy. And so the Lord and I have been wrestling. Really in my mind we’ve been circling one another. Like fighters before a sparring match. Continue reading
She was referring to the fact that I’m highly tactile. I run my fingers along clothing to see how they feel. The other day I touched someone’s shaved head and literally jumped six inches in the air because it didn’t feel how I expected. (Sooooo weird. Do not touch shaved heads. They feel super weird.)
I have a visceral reaction to the minute details of the texture of things. If I was on the fence about dating someone and they started wearing a lot of flannel and really soft t-shirts, I’d probably date them. Continue reading
This is what one of my friends asked me this week via text. The list she’s referring to is the one I threw together for my “How You Can Help While I’m In The Hospital” post. It’s a list of things that make me feel loved, seen, cared for, or amused. Coffee. Mixed CDs. Sunflowers. Hilarious 2 a.m. emails. That kind of thing.
I laughed when I read her text. Because she was serious. And because sometimes it really is just that easy to make someone feel loved. Continue reading
After my journey through sleep deprivation last week, you’d think I’d be catching up on sleep this week.
But no. I woke up at 2 a.m. this morning with my brain suddenly on. Not pleasantly groggy. More like someone suddenly flipped the lights on. Instant alertness and a little adrenaline.
Normally, I can wait it out and fall back to sleep. But in this case my brain was writing. And my right hand can only flex so many times from wanting to write down a specific paragraph or idea before I break and head to a computer. So here I am at 3 a.m.
And I’m thinking about best friends and blind spots. Mine, in particular. Continue reading
I’m always impressed when I see someone who is really skilled at either. Men (or women!) for whom angles and cuts and stains are second nature. And writers who can jack open whole new corridors of my mind with just the right words. Who use words as crowbars.
My stomach still rolls at the thought of that room. I may never be able to wear my favorite perfume again because it now reminds me of the hospital. My body is still coming out of some kind of shock that happens when you’re not eating, not sleeping, not moving, and being really stressed out for 8 days. I love words and I know with absolute certainty that I’ll never have the right ones to communicate to someone else how traumatic this particular kind of isolation was for me. Easily the worst experience of my life. Horrific.
But my heart overflows when I think of all the ways that my friends, family, and the Lord were there for me. Something about being so deprived of other distractions and so buried in a single, unchangeable miserable moment makes joyful things starkly, glaringly bright. As it is, I could make a list that went on for pages of all the moments that made joy rip through my heart. How very well loved I felt. By everyone. And especially by the Lord. Brilliant.
I drafted about 30 posts while I was there, but didn’t put any of them up because opinions formed under such extremes tend to be skewed. I’m letting them sit so I can revisit them with a less extreme eye. But many posts to come either way.
I can’t recall ever going through such an acute emotional, spiritual, and psychological recalibration so–as you can imagine–my brain is on overdrive processing through all the changes in perspective.
I’ve been out walking around all day, just enjoying being free and alive and in love with the Lord’s creation, and I keep stopping every five minutes to jot down something on my “have to blog about this” list. Excited to share some of those things with you guys in the upcoming days and weeks.
But for now… I’m home. I’m fine. And I’m thankful.
That’s the message I woke up to yesterday morning. And it immediately made me smile. Despite the laundry that I needed to do. And the dream I’d just had in which I woke up at 5 p.m. and missed the Cowboys game (weird, I know… apparently in the dream I wasn’t worried about the fact that I had also missed my accountability group meeting).
The message was from someone I haven’t seen–let alone danced with–in 7 or 8 years. He lives 18 hours from me. We’ve probably only “spoken” 3 times in the intervening years. But his message was a nice one to wake up to and brought back some of my favorite memories of swing dancing in barns in Colorado.
Where am I going with this? It occurred to me that his message was brave. Continue reading
This past Sunday night (yesterday) was the first night of fall small group at my church, The Rock. I’m writing this post before that event occurs (Sunday afternoon) so getting all the tenses correct is going to be difficult. But I hate posting on the weekend because weekends are for resting. There should be a nice lull that settles over the internet and allows us to focus on the real, physical world. I try not to disrupt the lull by posting anything.
Anyway, I’ve been excited about the start of small group this year because our small group was awesome last year. But as I prepared for the first small group to arrive, I realized that there were some seriously dysfunctional attitudes growing in my heart about my new small group. Before we’d even kicked things off for the year. So I took a few hours to try to drag these little gremlins into the light and slay them. Continue reading
You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear. – Helen Keller, The Story of My Life
I think Helen Keller was onto something with this quote. But I’d modify it to say that when you’re with the right person, your lives together create a song that’s so beautiful that you’re happy to sing it together for life… through verses of joy, pain, triumphs, sorrows, etc. A song that changes over time, rebalancing and shifting as your individual “voices” change, layering in new ideas and skills. But hopefully with joy threading throughout. Maybe it’s a little discordant at times or you hit the wrong note, but you adjust to get back into a harmony that allows your individual voices to create a more beautiful whole. Continue reading
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” ― Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets
I’ve been thinking a lot about love this week as part of week one of the FSSP. And I’ve found myself primarily focusing on how I want to be loved. Which, strangely, didn’t occur to me as the worst possible approach until I tried to sit down tonight and put together some thoughts about what I’ve “learned” in the process. Which as of an hour ago had amounted to, umm, nothing.
But, like any good Type A personality, I don’t like to fail at things. And it’s the first week. So instead of watching back to back episodes of Season 2 of Game of Thrones (so inappropriate but so addictive), I sat down with a stack of books (devotionals, bible, etc.) and tried to gut out something profound. This lasted about two minutes, at which point I Googled “how to love people.” Which is when I realized that I really, really, really didn’t learn anything this week. And that I suck at loving people.
Don’t worry… this was a turning point. (Otherwise this would be a very short, very depressing post.)
Most of my self-focused thoughts on love this week boil down to the idea of emotional reciprocity. Basically I feel the most loved when I’m in relationships where there is equality of investment. Ones where I want to hang out with the other person as much as they want to hang out with me, where we pretty much equally initiate communication, etc. Those blissfully mutual relationships that feel (at least for some magical period of time) like they’re both deeper and somehow less effort than other relationships. Your investment of time, trust, and emotion is immediately repaid in full. They just feel good.
The people with whom you have emotional reciprocity are the ones in your inner circle who want to be there. Trying to force someone to reciprocate your feelings is a quick road to hurt and anger. It’s a road I’ve found myself on recently so this is what I spent the week thinking about. [For those of you who are now completely distracted by the idea that the last sentence is my way of saying that I’ve been harboring unrequited romantic feels for someone and they’re just crushing my soul by not loving me back… sorry to disappoint you. I’m talking about friends here. Better luck next time. Now stop trying to guess who I hypothetically liked and focus.]
As of two hours ago I’d come to the logical conclusion that I needed to reevaluate my inner circle. The people who I was relying on were proving to be unreliable so they were getting cut and replaced. I made a joke that some people were being “cut from the team” and that I was “taking applications,” but this wasn’t too far from the actual plan.
So you can see why I found myself at loose ends when I sat down to write about how to love others well. I’d just spent the entire week thinking about how to make others love me well. Spiritual growth fail.
This is the point at which I decided that my own logic was probably flawed and that I should maybe stop thinking so hard about love and start listening to what God went through a lot of trouble to tell us (over and over and over again) about love in the Bible. Which is when I ran into this little hammer of a verse:
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:9-12 (ESV)
This verse outlines something that runs completely contrary to emotional reciprocity. God loved us before we ever loved Him. His love is not contingent upon ours. God’s love paints a picture for us of emotional generosity. And as I read through verse after verse, this was the theme that kept coming back to me. That we are called to live lives that are emotionally generous. To love first, reach out first, listen first. Because doing these things doesn’t just tell others about who we are, but also about who God is.
We have the opportunity to be weak, broken mirrors that imperfectly reflect the blinding brilliance of God’s love, but that imperfect reflection can be the glimpse someone needs to comprehend that God could love them. That brief glimpse might be the thing that makes it just a little easier for them to step towards Christ.
So here’s my hypothesis: I think (hope) that the joy and purpose that we receive in the process of being emotionally generous will make up for what we give up by not seeking emotional reciprocity. Because, really, having relationships with people who don’t initiate text conversations or hanging out as much as I do (no joke, these are the kinds of things I’m judging you all on) should be a pretty easy thing to accept when the tradeoff is the opportunity to better reflect God. And frankly I’m hoping that I learn to better understand, accept, appreciate, and enjoy God’s love for me in the process.
(And yes, I do realize that this entire thing just wrapped back around to me feeling more loved, which was my selfish goal in the first place. It’s funny how often God convinces me to take a different path and it ends up going somewhere that I wanted to go anyway but was failing to find….)
Okay, enough with the words. Let’s get to the action part of the FSSP. How do I execute on my hypothesis and actually love others better? I’ll tell you how. I’m going to pick three people and be intentionally emotionally generous with them this weekend. I just wrote their names down. Don’t worry, you’re probably not one of them. Unless you are. Try not to be paranoid if I’m being nice to you. Sometimes I’m just nice.
Anyway, in these three relationships I’m going to listen first, serve first, etc. without regard to how well the other person returns any of those things. And I’m going to do it with joy and a peaceful heart, knowing that this outpouring of my own emotional capacity is simply expanding the room in my own heart for God to fill with himself.
Win, win. I love a plan where everyone wins. Maybe these little love seeds will grow into something after all…
I’ve been really, really angry lately. Hateful even. Not my normal style (or so I hope).
Which means that I have a lot of work to do to successfully pull off week one of FSSP. It’s a long journey from hate to love. A journey that the Lord started preparing my heart for last night in some very obvious ways. Against my will and without my permission. I was considering staying in HateVille indefinitely, which is a strangely cathartic place to be. But the Lord had other plans and apparently decided to play the whole “I am all powerful” card and force my hand.
Anyway, here’s the story of how the Lord started doing the heavy lifting for me last night:
I go to The Rock Church in Minneapolis, MN. We have services on Friday nights at 7:30. I was there last night. Kind of against my will. It was a rough week and I’d been
indulging in struggling with some pretty serious anger about the varying degrees to which I felt like some of my closest friends from The Rock had suddenly disappeared over the six weeks since I started having seizures (Can you feel the drama here? It was not pretty).
My friend Natasha (who I’m never angry with because she is both hilarious and awesome… see footnote at the end of this post regarding her awesomeness) came over to
listen to me vent hang out before church. When Natasha arrived I tried to talk her into going to see a movie instead of going to church. But she refused to play along. Thanks to my seizures Natasha was also my chauffer for the evening so she pretty much had final say on where we were going. And she said we were going to church. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 1
So we went to church. And one of my friends, who’d been the unsuspecting recipient of about 80% of my pent-up wrath during the week, acted totally normal when they saw me (despite having pretty much been verbally back-handed the day before). Receiving grace from others when you don’t deserve it makes it really hard to be angry. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 2
One of my favorite things about The Rock is our worship music. We—literally—Rock. I love singing. I sing loud and repeatedly bump into whoever is next to me because I’m kind-of-sort-of dancing. Except last night. I was fine for the first three songs. I don’t remember what they were but they were about God and who He is. I’m down with that.
But then they played a song called He Loves Us, which is one of my favorites. Check it out later (or now… I’ll wait). So the band starts playing this song. And I’m silent. Not “I’m so overwhelmed by your love that I can’t get the words out” silent. This was… “I’m can’t sing this right now because I’m not sure I believe it” silent.
I just stood there with my arms wrapped around myself in one of those defensive self-hugs that I almost never do (and distinctly remember doing the first time I ever came to The Rock and felt probably about as broken as I felt last night). I was not disengaged or angry. Just still. And empty. In those three minutes or so I realized that at that moment I didn’t believe those lyrics. Which was a big deal. And probably the clearest way that God could have shown me that I was having a serious heart problem. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 3
Then the message started. It was a good one. I just checked and the link to the recording isn’t up yet, but once it is I’ll post it. It was about guarding your heart and mind so that the things that go into them produce good fruit. About staying encouraged and joyful. As soon as Karl (the pastor) started speaking, I knew it was going to be a painfully on-point sermon.
One of the verses Karl used was Mathew 12:34-35, which says:
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (ESV).
My initial thought was “How can joy brim over from the black and empty pit where my heart is?” (I know, my thought life is more dramatic than you were expecting from an accountant, right?).
Karl went on to show a slide with two lists. On one side were characteristics that result from a good heart: joyful, friendly, kind, helpful, cheerful, positive. On the other side were characteristics that result from a bad heart: frustrated, angry, gossipy, selfish, worried, complaining, depressed. Yeah, guess which side of that list described me this past week? Not the good side. Again, signs of a serious heart problem. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 4
Then this morning I had some time to kill before my favorite coffee shop would be open so that I could go do my first quiet time of the week on love (after all, coffee equals love). While I waited to leave, I flipped open one of my C.S. Lewis books in a half-hearted attempt to let the Lord show me something that would help me to get in the right frame of mind to consider the topic of love.
My attitude was half sarcasm, half unspoken plea that He’d help shake me out of this week-long funk. The equivalent of a mental eye roll, a sigh, and an “Okay, Lord. Here’s your big chance…” all in one. An attitude that I find myself having more often than I should and He has yet to smite me. If I was God and someone was giving me that crap, I would definitely want to smite them. Luckily for all of us, I am not God.
Anyway, this is what I flipped open to:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
Let me translate that for you:
“Stop being such a self-centered jerk and look around you. God loves all these people and you’re missing the big picture when you reduce them to mere satellites in your overly dramatic, self-centered life. Maybe you should connect with someone and do something that could have an eternal impact instead of feeling sorry for yourself. Man up.”
Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 5
Side note: Most of my translations of C.S. Lewis quotes end with the phrase “man up,” which I find strangely motivating considering that I am not, in fact, a man.
Okay, let’s wrap this up because my point is really this:
When I think about this FSSP, I tend to go straight for the cliché gardening images. We’re talking about growing spiritual fruit after all. Why reach for the unnecessarily complicated analogy when God already set up an analogy for you? So I won’t. Let’s stick with gardening. So the theoretical goal before me is to grow some love within a week. I don’t grow things in real life so this is all conjecture, but my understanding is that you till the soil, drop the right seeds, cover the seeds up, feed/water the seeds, and wait for plants to grow.
So let’s pretend I’ve got a little plot of dirt where I’m supposed to be growing these things. Well, as of yesterday, the spot where I’m supposed to plant and grow love was covered up by a cement block. One of those little trowel things was not going to be sufficient to break this cement up so that I could get to the soil underneath. And frankly just looking at that cement block and thinking about how to break it up and move it out of the way would have been exhausting. I would probably have given up before I even got startred. But the Lord knew what I was going to need to do and prepared the ground for me. So when I showed up this morning with my wimpy trowel and seeds (coffee and Bible?), the concrete was already broken up and I just had to muscle the chunks out of the way and get to work on the ground underneath.
Now I just need to figure out how to adjust the acidity (ahem, hatefulness) of this soil so that it doesn’t kill these cute little love seeds…
**Side note re: Natasha’s awesomeness: Natasha is a good friend. She is, for example, the kind of friend with whom you can have the following text conversation (actual conversation modified slightly for clarity):
[Two hours before we’re supposed to get together]
Kate: Hey, can you pick me up tonight for our coffee date?
Natasha: Where am I picking you up at?
Kate: Thanks. By the way…you are hilarious for saying yes before asking where I’m at. What if I said Wisconsin?
Natasha: I’d leave now (to come pick you up).
Kate: Best answer ever. But I’m at my house. You can pick me up there.
I wrote this about a week ago and sent it out to a bunch of the singles at my church. Then I realized that some of you might want to participate so I’m reproducing it here. I believe it’s the shortest post on this site so far, which is reason enough to read it.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to fall away from things in the summer. We’re all busy traveling and those of us in Minnesota are busy soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible in preparation for another seven (ahem, nine?) months of winter. As a result, I end up missing things–church events, quiet times, service opportunities, etc. This inconsistency often leads to missed opportunities—for both growth and outreach.
In an effort to disrupt this pattern, I’m planning to do a little summer project. The key here is little. As in teeny, tiny.
Mark (our pastor at the Rock) has mentioned the fruit of the Spirit several times in the past few weeks and it keeps popping into my head. I thought I’d combine some weekly reading in Galatians (a short, summer-length book if ever there was one) with a weekly focus on a specific one of the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Here’s the schedule I’m planning on using:
|Week of:||Reading||Fruit of the Spirit to Focus On|
|June 8, 2013||Galatians 1||Love|
|June 15, 2013||Galatians 2||Joy|
|June 22, 2013||Galatians 3||Peace|
|June 29, 2013||Galatians 4||Patience|
|July 6, 2013||Galatians 5||Kindness|
|July 13, 2013||Galatians 6||Goodness|
|July 20, 2013||Galatians 1||Faithfulness|
|July 27, 2013||Galatians 2||Gentleness|
|August 3, 2013||Galatians 3||Self-Control|
|August 10, 2013||Galatians 4||Love|
For example, for week one I’ll read Galatians 1 during one of my quiet times and reflect on it (probably during my first quiet time of the week). Then I’ll brainstorm ways that I can be more loving (that week’s fruit of the spirit). I’ll probably try to find some other verses that talk about love. I’ll be intentional about praying in each of my quiet times that week that God will show me opportunities to grow in this particular area. And I’ll come up with some specific action(s) that I can do during the week that exercise exceptional love. Pretty easy, right? The goal is just to stay engaged and intentional during the summer in a way that is simple enough to fit in with my summer chaos.
Anyway, I thought it could be cool to do with some other people if any of you are interested. I don’t want to add anything to anyone’s schedule so we wouldn’t get together at all, but we could talk / email about ideas we have or things that come out of our reflection and actions each week. Or (for the overachievers among us) we could coordinate our big act of love/whatever for the week. We’ll see what happens (or doesn’t).
End of email. So I’ll be posting a few times a week as I work through this project. Which leads me into the next post… about my extremely rough start to Week 1: Love. Rough as in walking across hot coals. Slowly. With bare feet. While carrying a 150 lbs sand bag. For miles.
This is more of a side note than an actual post, but I think it’s a worthy one. I took the Five Love Languages assessment the other day. (Click here if you want to take it for yourself!). If you were around in the 90s, then you’ve heard of this book. It was huge for quite a while. It basically hypothesizes that there are five primary ways that people feel loved and that we’re each different in which ways are most important to us. It uses a simple 30 questions quiz to determine which of the five are most important to you. Theoretically if you know the ways your friends / family / spouse feel loved, you can express your love for them more effectively. And you know us accountants… we’re all about being more effective.
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
Pretty straight-forward, right? Regardless of whether or not it’s the ultimate tool for this kind of assessment, I think it’s a good one. It makes you realize that people really do process love differently… and the things that make me feel loved may not be the things that make you feel loved.
So I took the test and here were my (very accurate) results:
- Physical touch (10): This totally makes sense. I’m from a family of huggers. We have sibling snuggles. We link arms when we walk. We give shoulder massages while we’re in line at the mall. We push one another around (well, these days my brothers just push me around… they’re too big now to push back).
- Quality time (9): I love quality time. In my opinion real friends are the ones who will sit at the counter and talk to you while you’re cooking, follow you around while you’re grocery shopping, or go with you to get your oil changed. You don’t have to entertain them to be worth their time… they’re there because they want to be with you.
- Acts of service (6): At first this one surprised me, but then I realized that this isn’t about doing someones laundry for them. This is about how I feel when my mom brings me coffee because she knows I love it. When my brother drives because he knows I’d rather DJ. When my family doesn’t put a paper napkin at my spot at family meals because they know I hate them (because they’re gross). Those little things that somehow say, “I know you and I love you,” more effectively than words can.
- Words of affirmation (4): Okay, everyone likes to hear how awesome they are.
- Receiving gifts (1): Yeah… I pretty much don’t care about gifts. Unless they’re Apple products. Or coffee.
Now I just need to get everyone I know to take the quiz too… hmm…