Category Archives: family

A pearl of great price.

pearl of great price

 

As I grow older, I appreciate my mother more and more – even down to the smallest details. Something as simple as understanding the sacrifice my mother made every time I begged her to take me anywhere when I was growing up. Now that I’m a “grown up” myself, I understand what it’s like to work hard for a tank of gas and how every dollar adds up – and quickly. There were plenty of times she said yes when I’m sure she should have said no. Knowing now what it takes to earn and keep a living, I can only imagine how difficult it was to be a single mother of two very knuckle-headed children. To this day, she still tells me yes when she should tell me no. The only difference is now that I’m older, I try my best not to ask. I try to work as hard as I can to take care of things myself; to be a big girl. Am I perfect? No. But as I grow older, as my respect for her grows stronger, so does my understanding of my own life and what I aspire to be like.

 

When my brother and I were younger, my mom had the wisdom to know that in order for her children to have a better future, she was going to have to make some changes. As a child, I didn’t understand that. The only thing I understood was that my family, and my heart, was utterly broken. One day a few years ago, we were discussing what happened and my mom shared with me that after she and my dad told us they were splitting up, I stormed off to my room and at just five years old, vowed at the top of my lungs, “I just don’t love anybody anymore!” Without realizing it, because I hadn’t remembered saying that, I kept that promise to myself for over twenty-five years. Those words took strong root inside of my heart and it hasn’t been until recently that God has been able to start digging up that deeply planted seed. My mom was brave enough to stand up to someone that although she loved, she knew could not be around her children. She knew that if they were, they were going to cause more harm than good. As a result, she nearly lost her life. My mother was willing to lay down her life for the future of mine and my brother’s. The more I think about that statement, the more I’m in awe of the strength and the love my mother had for us.

 

This instance in my life used to torture me. It instilled a fear so deep in me that to leave my mom for even five minutes shook me to my core. I was so terrified that if I left her, she was going to die – and even worse, I would be tormented with images of all the ways it could happen. I couldn’t let myself leave her – I let myself leave her when I was five years old to go outside and play… and she nearly died trying to protect me and my brother. I couldn’t let that happen to my mom again. If I was invited to sleep over at a friend’s house, I would tell them I had a stomach ache and had to go home. I had to get back to my mom; she might die without me there. I attempted a sleep-away camp once when I was younger. I cried every single day and every single night. My counselors didn’t understand it and I know I did nothing but annoy them because I didn’t even understand it! I cried my heart out because I was terrified that my mom might die without me there. And that dream I always had growing up to move to New York and pursue my love of tap dancing and dance rehabilitation? I choked. The idea of leaving my mom paralyzed me. She might die without me there. If we’re being absolutely honest and transparent here, there are some days I still get scared – all because of one (major) incident that happened when I was just five years old. She never asked me to stay home, she never asked me to stay close for college or live with her until I’m 73. She never wanted that for me. That’s not the future she envisioned when she fought for it. She never knew I had that fear. I didn’t even understand that I had that fear.

 

I just knew I couldn’t leave my mom. It wasn’t until the past year or two that I began to realize the link between the fear of leaving my mom growing up and what happened when I left her to go outside when I was five. I used to think if I could just go back in time, maybe there would be a chance for me to change what happened. Maybe I could protect her in some way from what happened and the months of recovery and pain that followed could just somehow slip away, could just simply never have existed in the first place. What could I have done at five years old? Nothing. But when we don’t understand our heart break, we will always keep questioning what we could have done in situations that are so completely out of our control. It isn’t until we understand the truth of the situation that we can be set free. We have to lean into the sting (as one of my dearest friends once said) of our heartache to understand the root of it. Once that seed is exposed by the truth, God can then uproot it and we can be healed. I am living, breathing proof of that.

 

My mother survived. My mother pushed through everything because she knew that she had to raise me and my brother. She knew that if she wasn’t around, there would be no one to look after her children. Every single move my mother made was for the future of my brother and me. Every breath she took was so my brother and I could have a good life, a good future. I see that now. I understand that now and every day, I grow to understand it even more. And my mother didn’t fight so hard for me to sit around, paralyzed with this fear and this idea that I can add even one second on to her life. I can’t. But I can fight for my future, just like she did. I can fight to make it better. I have to fight for my health. I have to fight for my career. I have to fight for a good, successful future, because my mom fought for me. God saved her life so that I could see what it means to fight, to push past every obstacle that seems to be in the way, and come out stronger.

 

My mom is everything that I aspire to be. She is strong. She is brave. Although there may be times where she’s afraid, as I could only imagine that she was when she stepped into our childhood family home that day, she could only think about one thing; the future and what’s to come. She’s taught me, perhaps without her even realizing it, that although something may hurt right now, the most important thing to remember is why you’re fighting and let that keep pushing you. And when things seem hard, when things aren’t turning out the way you thought they would, trust. Trust God. Trust that there is a plan at hand; that all things happen for a reason. And don’t let it stop you. You can’t let your fears paralyze your future. Because if you do, you’ve stopped living. She is my biggest inspiration. She’s my best friend. She’s my mother.

 

All day long, I’ve heard the phrase, “pearl of great price,” repeated over and over in my spirit. Thinking about everything she’s been through and what she did for my brother and me reminds me that we are ALL pearls of great price. We have purpose here, no matter what walk of life we come from. The enemy will try to stop it but we have to fight, we have to push forward, no matter what the cost. In Matthew 13, there’s a scripture that says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” I believe on this Mother’s Day, God wants to remind us that we are that pearl of great price. Why? Because WE are His Kingdom. And He gave everything to purchase us. He laid down His life so that we might find ours… because we are His pearls of great price. We cannot let ourselves be trapped into thinking that we are anything less.

 

Thinking about how my mom nearly gave her life so that my brother and I could have life and life more abundantly takes my breath away… It brings me to tears every time. I no longer cry over the heartbreak of it all; I cry because of the love expressed that day. You see, we are her pearls of great price. My mother loves me and my brother more than words could ever say and for the first time in over twenty five years, I let that love touch my heart. Why? Because for as much as my mom loves me, it doesn’t hold a flicker to the love that burns inside of God for me. But not just for me – for you. You are His pearl of great price. And He would do it all again if it meant that He could have you. That’s amazing. That’s love. Selah; “now pause and calmly think of that.”

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.