How to Squeeze Hope Into a Life Ridden by Fear

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This blog is part of Andrea Lucado’s series, “Notes To Your Younger Self,” celebrating the release of her new book English Lessons! When Andrea asked me to write a note to my younger self on a faith struggle, I knew exactly, exactly, exactly where this would go. Thankful for the privilege to share it! View the post on her site here.

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Dear 16-Year-Old Kaitlin,

We’re going to Sea World! Younger self, if we could cross paths at the same time, that’s exactly where I’d take you. We’d sit on the hot bleachers, watching seals wave hello as we welcomed memories of your first time there. You were four and it was the dreamiest preschool school field trip idea imaginable. Wearing your favorite denim jumper, it was finally your turn to experience the whale-shaped ice cream sandwich you’d been waiting for. But that’s not the part that stands out, is it?

Somehow, in the bustle of chaperone herding and sunscreen applying, you found yourself locked in the bathroom alone. All of your friends were outside watching walruses clap their hands and dolphins jump through hoops, but you were sitting on the stained cement floor, hearing the fun but feeling trapped and forgotten.

When you were finally discovered, your teacher was horrified but you were fine, brushing off your knees like you’d purposefully chosen to study tile grout instead of sea animals.

And while I’m happy to report that you haven’t been left in a bathroom since, at sixteen, you will find yourself in your own closet, trapped not by a lock, but by fear. Anxiety is your grown-up Sea World bathroom, keeping you in a dark space while your friends play without you. They will look at you strangely, wondering why you can’t just enjoy the penguins.

You may be disappointed to know that at 25 you still won’t have it all figured out, but I do want to give you a little pep talk about what to expect.

First of all, people are going to tell you a lot of things. They may tell you that the things you worry about rarely happen, that being afraid is a waste of time, or even ask you to stop your anxiety, as if it’s a piece of gum to spit out. This advice, while well-meaning, is about as valid as dating tips from your dental hygienist. Their entirely wrong words at precisely the wrong time will make you feel alone.

Before I go any further, sweet girl, I need you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. This is not a flaw, a malfunction, or a mistake you made. Fear is not a sign of weakness; rather, it’s a sign you’ve been strong enough to love. You’ve been bold enough to lend vulnerability and compassion, to give yourself to things you know you could lose. This is your biggest strength, and man, I can’t wait for you to see the places this takes you. Anxiety will huddle up to the things you adore most, but I hope you’ll remember that love always showed up first.

Although you grew up in church, you’re just learning what it means to open your Bible and believe it for yourself. When you do this, you may be tempted to think that anxiety is due to a lack of faith. You may find it hard to take your fears to a God who allows such bad things to happen. Because you’re desperately afraid of suffering, you’re reluctant to follow a faith that guarantees it. Before today, you’ve always had the Truth to discuss in Sunday School or write in a notebook, but from now on, it is your lifeline. Yes, suffering is unavoidable, but hope isn’t. Please don’t miss it.

As you grow closer to God, you will give Him ultimatums, saying you’ll leave if He lets bad things happen to you. But at the root of all your fears, you’re afraid He will be the One to leave first. The bad things are still going to happen, but He won’t leave you, not for a second. Your worst fears may come true, but the Gospel will ring truer.

And finally, you may not be able to control the darkness, but you can control whether or not you face it alone. Don’t be afraid to go to the scary places that make you feel like the only one, because that’s the only way to find out you aren’t. Because love showed up first on The Cross, loneliness is never the end.

You have a lot to look forward to, and most of it has to do with hope. Keep looking for it. There’s a room for you there, too.
XoXo,
25-Year-Old Kaitlin

P.S. You don’t have to enjoy the penguins, but please eat the ice cream sandwich.

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I’m so thankful to help celebrate the release of my friend Andrea Lucado’s memoir, English Lessons, with this note to my younger self. You may recognize her last name, as she is daughter to pastor and author Max Lucado. His books were foundational to my faith growing up, and I can say exactly the same about her book now! I’ve enjoyed writing alongside her at She Reads Truth and am honored to introduce you to her work, knowing you’ll absolutely love it! Her book, which is now available at your favorite retailer, is about a year she spent in England when she was 22. It’s the perfect combination of rich travel descriptions and genuine, searching vulnerability.

In her own words, “English Lessons is about one of the most formative years in my faith. I was going through a dark season of doubt and I wrestled a lot with the beliefs of my childhood, wondering if the Christian faith was simply something my parents had passed down to me or something I really believed in. If I could go back to Oxford and sit down with my 22-year-old self, I would tell her a thing or two about what she was going through and what purpose it would serve.”

Order your copy and visit the rest of the “Notes to Your Younger Self Series” at AndreaLucado.com. Congrats on this beautiful work, Andrea!

THE BEST PART: Andrea is graciously giving FIVE of my sweet readers a free copy of English Lessons! Enter and subscribe below, then I’ll choose the winners on Friday, May 26! Update: Contest is now closed and winners have been notified. Subscribe to be notified of future fun giveaways! 

she reads truth—the book!

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It’s no secret that the She Reads Truth community is my favorite place to hang out on the internet. Yes, it is my job, but, wow, is it my joy.

Two Septembers ago, after a few months working virtually for the SRT team, I accepted a full-time position (the first one they ever offered!) and moved to Nashville. Although I hadn’t yet met SRT’s co-leaders Raechel and Amanda face-to-face before I moved, I didn’t need to. I knew them, in the same way I still love but have yet to meet millions of “Shes” who Read Truth with us every day. We were kindred bystanders of watching God at work in His people. And it was beautiful.

Just before I made the move to Nashville, She Reads Truth secured their first-ever office—a 10’ by 10’ space for packing and shipping and emailing. My first few days working in that office are still some of my all-time favorites, spent answering messages and packing orders while listening to Broadway tunes with my new friend Rebecca. Things were finally falling into place following a summer filled with uncertainties and shame about not having an immediate full-time job like many of my friends. My Nashville apartment was perfect, tucked just between the city bustle and open farmland. Everything about my life was suddenly different, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. His truth was so true!

One morning, just four weeks after I made the big move, I was passing my new favorite piece of farmland on my route to work when I got the news. There had been an accident. My kind-hearted, brilliant-minded, best-friend-of-a-brother was gone.

I did the only thing I knew to do, which was keep driving. I ended up at my original destination—that sweet 10’ x 10’ office—simply because I was unable to do anything else. Raechel drove me back to my apartment to pack my things, while the rest of the team made arrangements for me to go home. (I can never, ever thank the Lord enough for the grace He showed me through this team that day. But that’s another story for another day.)

Raechel patiently stood in my doorway as I rummaged through my closet, looking for my black dress. I’d never hated a piece of clothing more.

I was sickeningly shocked, forgetting to breathe and taking large gulps of air when I could. My brain spun around the hope I was supposed to find in my faith, but it seemed beyond reach.

I turned to Raechel. “I know you’ve experienced pain like this. What will happen to me? Will I ever feel joy again?”

She thought quietly before breathing the only words of hope I could grasp:

“Redemption is His specialty.”

In the hours that followed, I returned to my childhood home, where everything was suddenly different, and I couldn’t have been more sick. Yet, His truth was true.

Two years later, I live in a new apartment, but still in Nashville. She Reads Truth has a new office, but the same encouraging community. My parents no longer live in that house, but we still miss my brother as much as we did that terrible day. Praise the Lord, His truth is still true.

It is my true joy to introduce you to She Reads Truth—the book!—by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams. Officially titled She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away, this book is thoughtfully designed and beautifully written. A double memoir of sorts, Raechel and Amanda share their vastly different stories to highlight the truth that remains the same in both of them—God’s Word. 

“She wants faith, hope, and love.
She wants help and healing.
She wants to hear and be heard, to see and be seen.
She wants things set right.

She wants to know what is true—not partly true, or sometimes true, or almost true. She wants to see Truth itself, face-to-face. But here, now, these things are all cloudy. Hope is tinged with hurt. Faith is shaded by doubt. Lesser, broken things masquerade as love.”

This book dug deep into my grief and held my heart up to truth. Many books send me running to find more from the author, stalking their instagram page or website for more. This one sent me chasing down the Author of Life, seeking His goodness in ways I’d never considered. Their words make much of His, and for that, I am so grateful.

Redemption is His specialty. Hallelujah.

She Reads Truth releases on 10/4, and is now available for preorder wherever books are sold. Order from your favorite retailer, screenshot your receipt, then upload it at SheReadsTruthBook.com for super fun freebies!
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Hanging Out Naked

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My newsfeed is always swarming with rings, engagement announcements, and couple pictures during the holidays, but this year was a little different.

This time, the lonely, relationship-seeking, un-engaged 20-somethings interrupted the love fest with a rebuttal. Those who sing “I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T” (and probably don’t know what that means) reposted this article like no other. At first I liked it, I really did. I respect the writer and the spirit of the article and, while I wouldn’t advise many things on this list, I enjoyed a sarcastic break from Facebook’s mating season. But then I saw it shared over 14,000 times on Twitter and Facebook and had to take a step back. The article, titled “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23,” tries to justify those who are feeling less than cozy this holiday season. It lists things one should do before getting married, giving hope to those without love in sight and remorse to those who are getting hitched. Here’s the list:

1. Get a passport.

2. Find your “thing.”

3. Make out with a stranger.

4. Adopt a pet.

5. Start a band.

6. Make a cake. Make a second cake. Have your cake and eat it too.

7. Get a tattoo. It’s more permanent than a marriage.

8. Explore a new religion.

9. Start a small business.

10.Cut your hair.

11. Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face.

12. Build something with your hands.

13. Accomplish a Pinterest project.

14. Join the Peace Corps.

15. Disappoint your parents.

16. Watch GIRLS, over and over again.

17. Eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting.

18. Make strangers feel uncomfortable in public places.

19. Sign up for CrossFit.

20. Hangout naked in front of a window.

21. Write your feelings down in a blog.

22. Be selfish.

23. Come with me to the Philippines for Chinese New Year.

THANK GOODNESS I get to eat, cut my hair, and hang out naked in front of a window before getting married. Like seriously, I really would have missed those things.

You’ve got to be kidding me. The statements this article make about marriage and divorce break my heart. “Divorce is no longer a staple in a midlife crisis, but rather, something that SEVENTEEN Magazine should probably be printing on,” is an unnerving statement about our generation. But aside from all that, y’all, social media comparison is killing us. An article that probably had intentions of setting singles free is binding them to comparison and regulation.

It reminds me of another story I know.

In the creation story found in Genesis, Adam and Eve are first naked in the garden WITHOUT SHAME. God tells them they can have free reign in the Garden of Eden, as long as they stay away from the forbidden fruit. The serpent slithers up to Eve, saying, “Did God really say that? Don’t you know that if you do eat the fruit you will have the knowledge of God?” This is the way to happiness and control, Eve. The only way. You’ll love it. 

And what happens next? Eve eats the fruit. Adam follows suit. They are naked and ashamed. 

This is the perfect opportunity for an, “I told you so,” from the Heavenly Father, but instead, God responds to the situation with one of the most poignant questions in the Bible:

Who told you that you were naked?

He is hurting for them, like a father whose children are buying into every lie he worked so hard to prove false.

Who told you that you were inadequate?

Who told you that you are behind if you don’t have a ring on your finger before 23?

Who told you that if you’re not engaged, you will never be happy?

Who told you that you have to accomplish a list of things like “make out with a stranger” to cover up your loneliness?

Who told you that your relationship status defines your worth as a person?

Who told you that your story is the same as everyone else’s?

How did you get to this point?

Friends, we need to think about these things because they are not true and they are hurting us. I do agree with some points the article alludes to, like learning to love yourself before you can love someone else and experiencing all life has to offer. I love the initiative taken to make the single 20-somethings feel a little more empowered. But, it’s the same thing.

If an engagement picture holds the power to spike my anxiety, then why wouldn’t a list of things I should do? Both leave me feeling pretty inadequate. I am so happy for those that have found confidence in themselves in singleness and true companionship in marriage. But what works for them, probably won’t for me.

Realize how easily we are falling into the traps of the unspoken social media contest. Each time you open your browser or click on the Facebook app, you are simultaneously opening your heart up, too. It is constantly searching for more, more, more, and when you see picture after picture of edited lives putting their best face forward, it will allow them to win. I truly believe depression and anxiety rates are heightened due largely to social media. Yes, the same events are happening, and these couples would still be engaged or singles living out their independence. But never before the age of Facebook have we had the ability to mindlessly browse something with the potential to destroy our self esteem.

Think about the times you are usually checking your phone. I know I usually do when I’m not engaged with what’s in front of me, I’m waiting for the next thing, or I’m looking for a distraction. I’m not actively guarding my time much less my heart, creating a perfect soil for seeds of dissatisfaction to grow. My thoughts spiral directly past “Who told you that you were not enough?” and straight into “You’re definitely not enough because this picture and this status say so.” Just like being naked and ashamed. 

My advice? Live your beautifully written, hand crafted, one-of-a-kind story and love every minute of it. You weren’t given this life to live it by the standards of others, so let’s shake them off at the beginning of this year. Don’t give others’ highlight reels air time in your mind, and mindfully prepare and protect yourself each time you begin to scroll through Apps. Remember that living and being present in your story will always triumph.

So, you want to eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting? Fabulous. You want to share it with your husband or wife? Awesome.

No matter what, may we never be ashamed.

Promises Kept

If there’s one thing I love, it’s the holiday season. I was born for it. Honestly, y’all, I was born on December 18-just in time to be crowned the most enthusiastic welcomer of baby Jesus. Each year on Thanksgiving, my family writes down things we are thankful for on decorative leaves to hang on our mantle for the remainder of the year. And while my journalist mind makes me craft creative ways of expressing it, I am thankful for the same things each year. It’s become more like writing a Grammy speech-don’t forget your mom, your neighbor, your cat, your “people.” It’s not a bad thing, because I really am incredibly thankful for each and every one of those blessings. I just think I’m missing an opportunity.

In the middle of uncertainty or a rough season, have you ever thought,”Even though God promises I will be okay, I wish I could have some kind of confirmation from the future to tell me I will make it this time?” I have. When the season is over, I am so quick to run out as fast as I can, never wanting to look back. But on my way out, I slam the door on so much crucial affirmation and reassurance. God is saying, See, I brought you here for a reason: because I love you, but I am already too far away to hear it.

What if we kept a running list of promises kept? On those days when I am quick to forget God’s track record, I would have it in print and be able to say, “You were faithful here, here, and here, so you will be now, too!” Because sometimes my heart needs a little pep talk.

As the year closes, I am starting a promises kept list instead of a thankfulness list. Ultimately, it will become one in the same, but will point me to Who has kept the promise along the way. I need to remind myself of the reasons I have the things I’m thankful for, and they live in the same vein of the One I am forever grateful. Looking for promises challenges me to turn even the most unpleasant memories into those I am grateful for, ones that would never make the list otherwise.

For example, I am not easily able to say I am thankful for the sleepless, anxious nights I’ve had this semester.

But I can without a doubt say, God kept His promises in my anxiety that He would comfort and quiet me. He did not leave me nor forsake me. He strengthened me and rejoiced over me with singing. Now, I can genuinely say, I am thankful.

Do this with me! This year, let’s really count ALL of our blessings and set the tone for a faith-fueled new year. And how awesome will it be years from now to look back at lines of handwritten confidence in the Lord’s promises? I can’t wait to start filling pages! Happy list-making!

In Which I Lose My Money and My Identity

I didn’t write about this while I was abroad so I wouldn’t freak you out. While even the dullest day in Italy seemed glitzy at the time, some days proved to be more challenging than others. Like the day I was pick-pocketed.

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After I applied to study abroad, everyone I knew instantly became an expert on being safe in a foreign country. While they all had the best intentions, I received every crazy bit of advice, from avoiding babies at all costs to staying away from blue-eyed cats. And as the girl that’s even too afraid to use cruise control, you better believe I stayed true to every single one of them.

Except no one warned me about teenage girls in H&M. But little miss Polly PickPocket, I’ve got to give you credit for the idea. If there’s anywhere in the world my guard is down, it’s in a 4 story palace of cheap Italian clothes. I wish I was kidding.

I bent down to try on a pair of shoes, my crossbody purse almost touching the floor. The girl next to me, who I assumed was equally obsessed with H&M’s new line of shoes, seemed to get abnormally close, but being in a new culture, I thought nothing of it. I stood up straight, immediately feeling the lightness of my bag and looked down to see it unzipped, wallet gone. 

I wasn’t even scared, just mad. How could someone, someone my age or younger, take that away from me? How could I let them?

But really, don’t I do that all the time? Maybe not in the form of money or passports, but in joy and confidence? It only takes one judgmental remark or one condescending look to send my self-esteem whirring recklessly. One second and my entire concept of self is full of untruths.

In the middle of my stress abroad, I took a moment, looked around me, and remembered what was true. While contemplating my next move, I remembered a scenario a friend had encountered only nights before: her wallet had been taken, but the thief searched it for cash, then tossed it, feet away from where it had been lost.

When someone steals my happy, I should search for what is true in the same way. Instead of replaying the situation, ridding me of joy even more so, I can repeat what I know to be true about myself. I am loved, cherished, redeemed, being fought for, safe and chosen.

The remembrance of my friend’s story allowed me to think clearly and search for my wallet in the store. And what do you know, there it was, hanging on a jewelry rack, everything in tact. About 20 feet away from where it was taken from me.

Joy is always just as close. Don’t allow it to be in a position to be taken. Renew your mind of what is consistently true, and live like it is. If it is taken, confront it with the Truth. And go buy those shoes once you get it back;)

A Heart at Rest

Each time September 11th rolls around, the same question is asked- Where were you? I know you’ve probably read a lot of somber stories of remembrance today, but this is a little different. This year, as it landed in the middle of my Yes journey with P31 Online Bible Studies, I saw it through a different lens.

My story is pretty much the same as every one else’s my age; I was only in the 4th grade, after all. I remember another teacher interrupting class to speak with ours in private. She returned, on the verge of tears, and summarized the events, nervously twirling the spirals that framed her face. “A plane hit a building in New York City. You’ll have to ask your parents about the rest.” Our school was immediately put on a code red lockdown, and while I was unnerved, I was more focused on being jealous of the 5th graders, who got to watch the events unfold on the news.

My 9 year old brain, only able to process the details it had been given, didn’t understand what the big deal was. I remember thinking, accidents happen all the time. What makes this different? 

It wasn’t until I saw the scarring images on the news that I began to understand. Families without parents, children without futures, a country without answers, a people without trust.

Before that day, I had been safe. Safe in my routine, my circumstances, and the arms of my loved ones. I began to realize for the first time that not everything and everyone in the world would keep me that way, not even if they wanted to. It was terrifying.

I have strived for safety my whole life. I have always stopped at yellow lights, called to check on loved ones, and followed the rules. While I thought this would add to my peace, it always takes away because I cannot be in control.

We cannot wait until we feel safe to say Yes to God. And, reversely, we cannot say Yes to God in hopes that it will make us feel safe. If God were in the business of keeping us safe, we wouldn’t feel the need to seek Him. Nowhere in the Bible does He promise our families will be safe. At least, not by the world’s standards. It seems a little harsh, doesn’t it?

I’ve always had a little bitterness about this, but recently, I’ve been challenged. In my experience, if God loves me, He should protect me and those I love. And while many times He works this way, sometimes it’s not His plan. The default response to these situations is always, “God has something better planned,” but I’m guilty of not believing it.

I’m slowly transitioning from a rule-following Christian to a grace-chasing one. In the recent encounters I’ve had with God, He’s been such a warm, whimsical figure who excitedly says, “Just.watch.this.” Now that I know Him, I’m starting to realize the whole idea of being safe is just a cheap illusion of control. My thought processes that revolve around His seeming obligation to protect me are just as harmful as the things I’m hiding from. I’ve got to rise above the world’s expectations to experience a God without limitations, abounding in love and get a glimpse from His perspective.

I must rest in what is true. If I am covered in Christ, I no longer have to devise my own shelter, escape routes, or back-up plans. If I am really looking for something to save my life, I need to stop asking for God to keep me safe and begin asking that He bring me closer to Him.

 

 

The Truth About Post-Abroad Life

“If you could live anywhere in the world, money was not a problem and it didn’t matter where your family was, where would you go?”

It was a simple question a friend asked me over dinner tonight. But as my mind began reeling, my answer surprised even myself.

I don’t want a place, I just want the adventure. 

After moving 8 times and planting my feet in 8 different countries over the past several months, you’d think I’d have a better answer to that question. But through all of the madness and transition, I felt so alive and present. I was obsessed not only with my new experiences and unique circumstances, but also with the adrenaline that accompanied them. I thought I had permanently quenched the dryness of life, promising that I would never ever, not once, allow myself to be overtaken by the hum-drum again.

Now that I am back in my routine gelato-less life I like to call school, I find myself asking, “Now What?” Where’s my next adventure? I’m ready, let’s go, God! 

I have been treating the last few weeks like an unimportant stand still. The waiting room for my next big extravagant calling. But the truth is, I’m right where God wants me to be. Life is not intended to be a random stringing of mundane activities with pops of delight. It’s the attitude of my heart that’s making it that way.

Yes, my life in Italy was full of beauty, intrigue and zest, but who’s to say my everyday life can’t be just as joyous? That’s the way our Creator made it to be! Paul’s words in Ephesians 1 make my adrenaline-junkie heart sing.

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in his holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

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Enlightened. Riches. Glorious. Incomparably Great.

Does anything about that sound ordinary? Jesus did not die so we could continue to live trapped within the bounds of our own minds. After I came across these verses, I was challenged to live in a way that actively seeks and expects joy. Because everything was so new in Italy, I automatically expected each day to be incredible. The same should apply to any day the Lord has made.

In my life, seeking that joy looks like putting down burdens I once thought as obligations, and allowing myself to just let bliss sink in. I don’t have to create it, because it has already been created for me; but sometimes I do have to work harder to park my mind in it. Just because I am in a familiar place doesn’t mean I have been in and seen all of the goodness that can happen here. Just today, I delighted in reading a good book on the front porch, lingering over dinner and dessert with a friend, and laughing with my roommates. Oh, and I think I found a new answer to the question- If I could live anywhere, it would be here. 

 

Things I Learned in August

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The past few weeks have been, well, draining. Moving back to school has been accompanied by lots of transition and adjustment, but I so desperately wanted to be writing here instead of writing in the already jam-packed margins of my Lilly planner. I thought a great way to catch up would be to link up with Chatting At The Sky again to share Things I Learned in August!

1. In with the good, out with the bad. I signed myself up for a 30-day Green Smoothie Challenge. No, this is not a diet; rather, it’s just a few meal replacements to help kickstart new healthy eating habits and to cleanse my body from processed foods. It can be so overwhelming to limit the bad while hoping to crave the good. During this challenge, I haven’t made any foods off limits, I’ve just added in more smoothie nutrients. However, I soon realized how much better I feel and my cravings are slowly shifting on their own. Doesn’t this speak to so many other areas of our lives, too?

2. Sometimes hours of indecisive rolling on every mattress in the store is 100% worth it when that little pile of heaven ends up between your bed posts. Enough said. 

3. It is possible to turn stress into a positive adrenaline rush. I thought, “I’m already feeling charged and high strung from all this newness, why not make it fun?!” So I ended up in a hair salon chair and walked out with, a-hem, ombre. And I love it. 

4. Moving never gets easier. Physically, maybe. (Says the girl staring at 5 unpacked boxes. Maybe not.) Emotionally, it doesn’t. I have moved eight times in the past year, and each time, it has been so hard to leave the people I am with. It’s crazy to see how God wires us to love and become attached to others, making a permanent space for them in our hearts. Just when I think my heart can’t become fuller, it expands by a whole new group of incredible people!

Photo Credit Jen
Photo Credit Jen

5. You can never have enough Mason Jars. At least, in the South, that is. Combined, my roommates and I have about probably 60 in our house at the moment. The jars my Papa used to can deliciousness from his garden give me a comforting tinge of Southern charm as I’m drinking those Green Smoothies mentioned above:)

6. Blogging allows you to make friends around the world. I have LOVED reading all of your responses and being a little part of your day. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your lasting kindness and meaningful words.

7. Don’t go to the gym with intentions of watching college football. On the one hand, it’s extremely motivating and can provide a heart-pumping workout. On the other, you may end up unable to see because of the Crocs-wearing lady on the treadmill blocking your view. Unless she has invested in those oh-so-festive “team spirit charms” for her shoes of choice, she will not understand your need for College Gameday.

8. Thinking of things I learned during the month keeps me focused and energized! You should try it, too! What did you learn during the month of August?

Anna DeBoy: Kindness Culprit #2

Friend, you are so loved. Immensely cherished. Heavily blanketed in prayer.

How do I know?

Because you have someone like my friend Anna out there intervening for you.

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Anna became one of my best friends this summer, and as P31’s graphic design intern, she loves all things creative and artsy. Naturally, she wields a computer mouse like a renowned painter, bringing clarity to passing visions. But her creativity shines best through her relationships. The biggest lesson Anna taught me is creativity doesn’t have to be visual.  She knows how to use her strengths in a way that makes people feel specifically loved and reminds her to celebrate the people in her life. When I first found out about a little project she’d been working on, I was so excited about it and know you will be too.

This summer, Anna started a prayer wall in her room above her bed. Rows and rows of black and white 4 by 4 photos line her walls, serving as a reminder of specific faces revealing struggles and triumphs in each loved one’s life.

“The wall reminds me of all of my blessings and the people in my life I love and adore,” she said. “Creation is something I see God in most, so I wanted to make an art piece that has a deeply significant meaning and purpose to me.”

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It’s easy for prayer to become mundane. Anna decided to mix things up in a way that spoke to her personally, and her love for photography was the perfect solution. There is no constant formula for prayer. How can you make your prayer experience more personalized? Let her inspire you!

Here are her tips for making your own prayer wall:

  1. Make a list of people on your heart to pray for. It doesn’t have to be just close family and friends, really spend some time on this and see who you are lead to.
  2. Have fun with it! Choose fun pictures that convey each person’s personality and enjoy the process of picking them out!
  3. Be creative. Anna chose a common theme and style for the pictures she chose to match her room. The possibilities are endless!
  4. …And this is my favorite step, let it grow. Don’t limit yourself to your initial list. Imagine what would happen if you told someone you would be praying for them and later sent them an image of their picture on your prayer wall. Allow your prayer life to be transformed as your eyes are opened to the needs of others around you.

The faces will bring to mind conversations, struggles, joys, goals, dreams and relationships to pray for that wouldn’t be clear otherwise.

In his book A Praying Life, Paul Miller says,

“Everything you do is connected to who you are as a person and, in turn, creates the person you are becoming. Everything you do affects those you love. All of life is covenant. Imbedded in the idea of prayer is a richly textured view of the world where all of life is organized around invisible bonds or covenants that knit us together. Instead of a fixed world, we live in our Father’s world, a world built for divine relationships between people where, because of the Good News, tragedies become comedies and hope is born.”

What would happen if we laid down mindless busyness in favor of mindful interruption? Dare to tuck away the impersonal, practical prayers you’ve been taught and allow your thirst for the creative, the relational, the radical and the intimate to be quenched with a single phrase,

“Come to Me.”

 

Say What?! The P31 Intern Experience

Becoming a Proverbs 31 Intern has been my biggest “Say What?!” moment to date. In honor of my last days in the office, I’m linking up with Online Bible Studies to celebrate what this summer has meant to me. 

intern

Proverbs 31: Bringing Peace, Perspective and Purpose to Today’s Busy Woman 

I’m pretty positive I saw the phrase “today’s busy woman,” and took it as a personal challenge. As the self-proclaimed Involvement Queen on my college campus and Overeager Young Professional, I made it my mission to be the most unique email in a potential employer’s inbox. “I’m currently living in another country, but I’d REALLY like to intern for you,” I wrote. But when I sent a perky message to P31, they stayed true to their word and exceeded my slightly ridiculous expectations by intersecting my life in the Mediterranean Sea. That’s right, God confirmed my internship plans for the summer when I was somewhere in between Santorini, Greece, and Dubrovnik, Croatia. I was living a life of riding donkeys and eating gelato, but my mind was focused on a ministry several thousand miles away.  Little did I know this “Yes” would just be the beginning of my “Say What?” adventure.

Minutes after I walked into the P31 office, Satan began attacking me with fears and doubt. The stable foundation my testimony was built on was flipped upside down and inside out. He whispered, “What did God do for you? I don’t see any proof of that here.” My peace was gone, my perspective was fogged, and my purpose uncertain. I wish I could have coffee with each of you to describe how much this has changed this summer, but here are a few snapshot moments that will give you a small glimpse:

Peace: I started praying circles. Leah, my supervisor, and I began to go through The Circle Maker together each week, planning to pray for big things and more than we could ask for or imagine. In the beginning, peace was way, way, way, more than I could ask for or imagine. Battling terrifying nightmares and restless days, I truly did not believe it would happen. But God. Each night, I circled and circled and circled prayers with a specific verse, until one night in particular, I had a different dream. In it, the worst possible scenario was happening and my family and friends were gathered around to tell me how awful my imminent death would be. Confidently, I stood up and told them they were all liars, that no matter if I lived or died, Christ loves me and He will wrap His arms around me no matter what. The next morning at work, I skeptically mentioned the details to someone who responded, “Kait, that means you finally fully believe with all your heart, even in your subconscious mind.” What verse had I been circling? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Perspective: Each week, we had a teaching from a woman in the Proverbs office on their topic of choice. This was the best part of the week, and we were fortunate to hear from so many different walks of life. Although each story was different, they each shared a common thread. The story of a young woman, raped two days after her college graduation. Someone raised in a cult who was shunned for leaving the church. The granddaughter of a drug dealer and prostitute, who was known as the popular cheerleader in high school but never as the homeless, broken girl she really was. A speaker whose dreams were shattered when asked to step away and reevaluate her gifts. A woman who was engaged to a man who later took back the proposal twice. As time went by and I heard one story of redemption after another, my faith perspective shifted from one of rules and predictability to grace and expectation. I entered a girl holding onto a pocketful of short glimpses of grace, and am leaving with open hands, confident in what has happened and joyfully expectant in what will happen.

 

Purpose: I came into this internship hoping for experience that would either deter me or spur me on toward a particular field. I didn’t get what I asked for, but I learned I didn’t need what I asked for, either. Through these amazing women, God taught me that I don’t have to have it all together. I learned that radical obedience is better than the most detailed plan. The question is not, “Should I go into ministry?”, it’s “Where is God leading me today?”

Thank you, Proverbs 31 Ministries for providing peace, perspective, and purpose into this busy-turned-quiet-heart and taking part in my most exciting “Say What?” adventure yet. Your encouragement, commitment, and example of trust refreshed my hope and challenged my faith in the best way possible.

I began as an intern wanting to spread encouragement and Good News to women around the world, but it turns out I was the one that needed to hear it the most.

To read about the other fabulous interns this summer, hop on over to their blogs and show them some love: CamrynAnnaLexie