Monthly Archives: July 2015

Beautiful things can grow here.

sunflowers in frisco

It’s so funny to me how the smallest things can have the biggest meanings and memories in our lives. Hurricane Katrina, for example, was an awful time for us in southern Louisiana. It was a time of devastation and loss and hopefully lessons learned… but that’s not what stands out in my memory about it. We were living in Baton Rouge at the time, so we did not experience the destruction that New Orleans did (although we still got a beating from the storm). Our family in New Orleans was able to get out in time and head to Atlanta (which was a hardship in its own right but that’s not my story to tell). Once the storm passed, both of my aunts came back to Baton Rouge and stayed with us for a little while until it was certain they could get back into New Orleans.

My mom and I went with one of my aunts back to her home not too long after the storm was over. When I say that it was unreal… that’s only because I cannot find words to describe to you just how unsettling and disturbing it was. I have not traveled to a third world country (yet) but from what I’ve seen in videos and pictures, New Orleans after Katrina was not very far from one. Army tanks lined streets and FEMA trailers filled parking lots and empty fields. Pieces of the city that I’d grown up with were shut off and the parts that were open were covered in fallen branches and the debris of someone’s lifetime of memories. Refrigerators and freezers were thrown at the end of driveways. Boats were caught up in trees in the middle of streets. It was eerie to see the water lines stained along the sides of houses as the water settled and then receded and settled and then receded again and again, my old childhood home included. Sometimes the water lines would be all the way up to the roof and I would have to ask myself how anyone could survive that. Can you imagine your home completely submerged in water? It still gives me chills to think about.

But the most unsettling image was that “x” the army left on the windows of every home after they explored it. I can’t remember what every space stood for now but the bone-chilling one I do remember is how many dead they found when searching the home. I couldn’t believe that this was where I grew up. It didn’t look anything like my childhood recollections any more.

Despite all of the devastation and desolation, there’s still something else that stands out in my mind even more: the entire city was covered in sunflowers. I didn’t understand why at first and then it hit me – it was from all of the bird feeders left out during the storm. Bird feed usually has sunflower seeds in it and the storm had blown them everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere! As we walked around a family friend’s broken and destroyed home, I could see the sunflowers growing tall in their backyard and it was such an important reminder to me that in the midst of tragedy, beautiful things can grow. It didn’t matter where those seeds had been thrown; it didn’t matter who was going to water them. They took root in the middle of that storm, in the depths of the ground, and as the rain poured down, it provided them with enough water to grow strong. They didn’t worry about the sun finding them now that they were buried in a different place… regardless of the circumstances of that storm, they bloomed right where they were planted. And it was truly a striking, life-changing memory for me.

Although we did not have a hurricane like Katrina here in Frisco, in the beginning of the summer we had unexplainable rain storm after unexplainable rain storm. No one understood it. They seemed to come out of nowhere. The storms have been over for a few months here now but there are lakes that are still closed off because the water is not going down. And to my most wonderful surprise, the city is now covered in sunflowers. What an amazing reminder to my blooming heart: beautiful things can grow here. Beautiful things can grow in me. Beautiful things can grow in you – even if you feel like these storms might overtake you. Take root in God and let Him shower the seeds He’s planted in you. Beautiful things will grow.

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” Matthew 6:28-30

In a young girl’s heart.

I can remember the first time I felt music… not just heard it, but actually felt it. I was around 7 or 8 and I was living in New Orleans, Louisiana (my roots) at the time. Every year, New Orleans puts on the Jazz and Heritage Festival (more commonly known as the Jazz Fest now) and like good little Louisianans, my mom would take us every year. They set up several stages that span the entire festival grounds and it is amazing musical act after amazing musical act with miles of all kinds of artistic tents between each stage… and of course, some of the best food you’ll ever taste! I mean – it is Louisiana, after all. This particular year, back around 1991, there were a few art display walls set up around one of the main stages and I can remember weaving in and out of them like a maze while I followed behind my mom and ate my bubblegum blue snowball. We were so close to the speakers, I could hardly make out what they were singing, but I felt cool anyway. All of a sudden, something overtook me in my chest… I felt my heart thrashing in my ears and my first thought was that I was dying – obviously I was allergic to bubblegum snowballs and didn’t know it and this would be my last day alive! I didn’t realize it was the intensity of the bass from the speakers at the time. To this day, I will not eat a bubblegum snowball.

But from that moment on, all I wanted to experience was that feeling over and over. It was (and is) euphoric for me. To say I love to feel the beat would be an understatement… the beat of a song can send fire through my veins. My entire childhood and into early adulthood was spent building an outstandingly eclectic musical collection. I learned the piano, I wrote lyrics… I’ve always lived with this impossible dream of becoming a rockstar! In 2001, when I made the personal choice to serve God, I was taught early on that all secular music is evil because it sings of things other than God. So what did I do? I wanted to please God so I threw away thousands of dollars’ worth of secular music, tossed out all of the lyrics I wrote over the years of growing up and set aside my dreams of making music myself. (Let me just say: I’m not here to tell you if that belief about secular music is right or wrong. I believe everything you stand for should come from personal revelations and not just because someone tells you, “this is how you make it into Heaven.” Although leadership direction is extremely important and even necessary in our lives, so is seeking God for yourself and hearing what He says about things.)

Music was a constant struggle for me once I became “saved” (as they say). I love strong beats, heavy guitars and wild drums! I still drive with my music on maximum volume and my leg pressed against the pounding speaker so that I can constantly feel the music. Music has always been a way of escaping for me. Growing up, I never really enjoyed where I was in life. I didn’t have but one or two (amazing) friends. For whatever reason, people just did not like me and so I turned inward, put my headphones on and slipped off into a world where I was happy. I could literally see the beats coming to life and dancing before my very eyes… I could let my heart go and suddenly found a place where I was accepted and felt I belonged. The music didn’t care that I wasn’t a size 2. The music didn’t care that I wanted to wear blue eye shadow. The music didn’t care that I wasn’t funny and that I didn’t have the latest and greatest clothes or shoes or that I wore braces. The music didn’t judge and it was there that I could find myself free from every laugh and taunt and tease and I just let myself dance and dance and dance for hours on end. There. In the beat. In the music.

And so, while I now understand what my church at the time was trying to teach me, they were not taking the time to understand just what music meant to me… nor did they take the time to teach me to find that freedom in God instead of music. What I was left with was a hot mess! Because I didn’t know to find myself in God, I found myself in a cycle of constant condemnation because I believed I was going to hell every time I listened to secular music but as much as I did (and do) love Christian music (especially worship), I just wasn’t finding something I felt so connected to as some of the secular songs. For years, I carried around such a guilty weight because of something as silly as secular music.

Sometimes we make this thing harder than it is… actually, I dare to say – a lot of times we make this thing harder than it is. God knows me. God knows my heart. God created me. He created you. Before we were even born, He knew exactly what would make us happy, sad, angry, the things we would lust for, the things we would trip over. He knew that cockroaches would make me cry and that the sound of scratching on an acoustic guitar would soothe me to sleep. He knew that notebooks and journals would make me happy. He knew that I would love animals and the color blue and the sound a typewriter makes when you hit the keys. And He knew that I would love music.

He created me for music. He created me for worship. In a way, I appreciate that hard, long road of condemnation and crying over secular music struggles… it has led me to a deep, meaningful revelation of music for myself. Instead of slipping to a world of escape, I now let myself “come away” into a place of personal relationship between me and the God Who created me. He created me for worship. I used to sing on the worship team at my last church (which I sadly had to part from since I relocated to Texas). An accident back in 2011 with my back took me off of the team and I have been learning and discovering more and more about worship ever since then. During that time, a large growth on my thyroid was discovered. This growth kept me from singing because it was so large, it pressed against my vocal chords. It was utterly heartbreaking. I let this growth choke my worshipping heart out of me. I recently had a surgery to remove that half of my thyroid and as much as I was looking forward to singing again, I was terrified something would go wrong and I’d really never be able to sing again – ever. Today was the first day I’ve been able to try since my surgery and I was overjoyed when I was able to! It still aches a bit from surgery but I know in time, that’ll go away as it heals.

I told God that if He restored my ability to sing once more, I would never sing in fear and insecurity again. That’s a heavy promise to keep. But today I could feel freedom in my vocal chords. Not only are they free from the pressure of that growth, they are free from the pressure of condemnation and criticism and self-hatred… because I am free. And I will spend my life loving the One Who set me free with song and worship.

If you find yourself wrapped up in some struggle you just don’t know how to break out of, stop wrestling. He knows you. He created you. He knew you would be entangled with that thing. But more importantly, He knew that you would love Him. Let go and trust in the One Who sets you free. The road may seem long and it may twist and turn as you try so hard to do things right. But God says, “My beloved, beautiful one – why are you wrestling with Me? Come. Come here. Find your refuge here. You are the one My heart is for. Nothing you can do can separate Me from you. My love is too strong, it’s too wide and it’s too deep. Just rest here with Me and you’ll see. You’ll see.” Because He knows you. And He loves you. Rest in that tonight.

He calls me Katherine.

No first grader wants to be called Katherine. It wasn’t even about disliking the name. It’s not an ugly name – I just didn’t have the patience to spell it out at the top of every school page. I guess you could say I’ve always been that way… impatient. Stubborn. Independent. My mom likes to tell others about how I beat her from within while she carried me – and I feel like I’ve been punching my way through life ever since.

“Katie” seemed like such a better fit growing up… short, to the point, and it didn’t take as long to write. But I guess I’ve always felt some kind of disconnect with that as well. During my middle school years, I tried every which way to spell it. Each year was a new name; Kat, a very short-lived Kathy, and finally I settled on Katy for a while, eventually circling back to the good old-fashioned, classic Katie – ‘Kate’ to a few loved ones. I’m still okay with Kate. It’s more of an endearing call. I know I’m safe when I hear it. There’s no chance I’m in trouble… “Katherine” was always saved for the times of discipline and punishment.

I suppose my former on-going battle with my name very closely represented my struggle with myself. I’ve always been the heavy one, the fat one, the ugly one, the she-doesn’t-fit-in one, the so-not-funny one, the shy one, the teacher’s-pet one, the one other’s laughed at and made fun of… but none of those ever felt like who I truly was inside. And that has been my battle for as long as I can remember. Everyone else always had their own opinions of who I should be and tried to force them upon me – because I didn’t know any better; I had no idea who I was. I was just a kid, a young girl, trying to grow up in a world full of opinions and standards.

I’ve always wanted to be beautiful. Beautiful people are successful. Beautiful people are interesting and funny and popular. I would have done anything to be beautiful. Now that I’m older, I understand that beauty is something entirely different than the shape of body parts. I wish I had known that growing up – I would have done life a lot differently. But that’s one thing I have to let go of… easier said than done, of course.

This is my journey of my new beautiful; mind, body, soul and spirit.

Who am I? I’m finding that out more and more every day. I’m a Christian, first and foremost. I don’t believe in condemnation and judgments – I believe in love… loving people, loving myself and loving God. I believe that is the highest calling asked of us and that message has gotten lost in between the war of religion and the battle over right and wrong. I’m a dreamer. I crave adventure and exploration. I love learning. I love my mom. I love my brother. My friends are like family and my family is very close to my heart. I am such a lover of photography; this runs in my family and it makes me feel unexplainably connected to them. I love hiking and I love the outdoors… I just don’t love when the outdoors touch me. I’m obsessed with the sky and the sun and the stars. I’m so much more than words, as we all commonly are, but they’re my favorite form of expression. I love to write… and I am learning to love Katherine.

He calls me Katherine. And He calls me beautiful.