Loving the Way God Loves

Last month at the Venue, Pastor Juan asked us what our goals were for 2015. Well, I’m not sure if I mentioned it here but one of my goals for 2015 is to be more hospitable. In January, I read a book that changed my life. It was one of those books that makes you want to buy it for everyone and their mother for Christmas. This particular book was “Bread & Wine” by Shauna Niequist (Amazon & GoodReads). From the first page, I fell in love with the book and the author. It was about hospitality but not in a preachy-preach way. It’s just a collection of essays and recipes. There’s not Bible verses scattered throughout the pages or devotionals at the end of each chapter. But you know how they say actions speak louder than words? This book is that phrase. I was touched just by the way this woman lives to be more hospitable. I didn’t need a verse or a preacher to tell me that’s how God wants us all to be.

Now I wouldn’t say I’m a cold-hearted person. Chris and I love to entertain and have people over. That wasn’t the area God wanted me to work on. He wanted me to work on be more loving and kind to those people in my life that I see every day, and just pass by. He wanted me to get know people on a deeper level and see the nitty gritty. He wanted me to see that there are people in my life that are less fortunate than me that are thirsty for His love.

I’ve been on missions trips and I’ve worked with people in communities that live in “the hood.” I’ve seen poverty in my home state and in foreign countries. But over the past few months (since December, to be be accurate), God has revealed to me a neighbor that He wants me to love. Since December I’ve been trying to set aside time to make cookies for her and her daughter. But every time I go to do it, I get busy and it gets pushed to the side. By continuously pushing off the simple act of baking cookies, I was neglecting my calling to love her.

But God finds a way. My neighbor actually reached out to me through my husband. She gave Chris a book to give to me in hopes that I would read it with her as a type of Bible study. So I did. I read a little bit and took notes. One day Chris texted me saying that our neighbor was having a really bad day and was wondering if I could give the book back. So I skipped the Venue that night and went over to her house with book in hand. I found out that night that she had just found out that she had cancer in her mouth and that her doctor told her she needed to get a will written out so that her daughter would go to a familiar family instead of being placed into foster care, if she died.

My neighbor who I kept putting off meeting and caring for was hurting badly. At one point, I was even sitting on the floor with her, holding her while she cried. I looked around her house and became very aware that she was not as fortunate as I. That night for dinner all she and her daughter had was a hamburger patty. I even saw something in her house that I had put out to the dumpster a few weeks prior because it was broken and I considered it ugly. She told me how she doesn’t work and her home and basic necessities are taken care of by the government but even sometimes that’s not enough. She told me how she constantly worries about having enough for her daughter and when she runs out of milk or bread, she just sits down and prays so that God will provide it for her. She even mentioned once she had to use shampoo to wash her clothes because she ran out of detergent and couldn’t afford more.

This is my neighbor. I am not on a missions trip or passing out outreach fliers in the inner city. This is my neighbor who has lived across the street from me for the past 2 years. Even though I am most likely moving in a few months, it’s become my personal mission to love this woman for as long as I’m living here.

The reality of loving someone the way God wants you to love them, is sometimes hard. To love someone how God loves, is to love beyond what you see, smell, and hear. It’s to love all of them, the pretty presentable parts and the dirty parts they try to hide. It’s to love when it’s inconvenient or when you don’t feel like it. It’s to love constantly and steadily, despite what’s going on in your life. It is dying to yourself and placing someone else’s needs and life above your own. This is God’s love.

Today is Valentine’s day and with the help of the Venue, we gave my neighbor and her daughter a huge care package of basic necessities, homemade cookies, and a card signed by everyone. It’s the day of love. We usually spend this day loving our spouses, boyfriend/girlfriend, and even ourselves. But it’s my challenge to you to love someone else. My challenge for you is to pray and ask God to show you someone He wants you to love. After that, my challenge is that you step out and show God’s love to someone who really needs it. Love your neighbor. Love your coworkers. Love the waitress that is working his/her butt off on one of the busiest nights of the year. Love a homeless person. Love a family member you haven’t said a word to in years.

Love the way that God loves.

Kaitlyn's Signature

The Dreaded Mommy Guilt

I don’t even have a baby yet and I’m already overwhelmed with the dreaded mommy guilt. I’ve already spent a few nights curled up in a ball, crying my eyes out. I knew that a lot of moms experience guilt about a variety of reasons. But I honestly never thought that I would be a victim. Now you maybe wondering what I could possibly be having guilt about, especially since I don’t technically have a baby yet.

Going back to work.

Yes. That’s why my eyes are puffy and my nose is red and why I look like I’m sick. When I was younger, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be a working mom. I always assumed that I would be a stay at home mom. To be completely honest, that was my dream life. But a few weeks ago Chris and I did a budget and reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I did my best to see how I could work the numbers so that I wouldn’t have to work. But it’s impossible. The bills are there and are not changing any time soon. They’re not going down and there’s nothing we can eliminate. That’s the cold, hard truth. Even taking maternity leave will be impossible. I wanted to do 8 weeks but if we can’t even make it through the recommended 6 weeks, there’s no way I can go even a day longer. I’m stuck and I hate it.

I feel like such a terrible mom. I feel like I’m giving up my baby. I feel as if I’m divorced and sharing my kid. I only will get it on weekends and nights (when it will be asleep, so it’s not like that counts). Odds are I’ll miss the milestones. Walking, laughing, smiling. What’s the point of even having a baby if you’re not there for it? Newborns need their mothers. And I will be dropping my baby off almost every day with someone who isn’t the mom.

But that person will get to see everything. They’ll be there for it because I never will be. What if the baby gets so familiar with the sitter that it doesn’t recognize me? What if it prefers her over me?

I tried to explain myself to Chris but he just rolled his eyes at me. “You just don’t want to work.” That’s not true at all. If that were the reason, I would have been crying my eyes out every night since I’ve been on my own. That’s not it at all. I honestly feel like I’m abandoning my child.

Now, let me be clear, I don’t by any means believe women who work and put their kids into daycare are abandoning their children. I know that they’re doing the best for their families. They can do it all. They can have a career, be successful, and be a mom. They provide for their families. I also know tons of kids who’s parents have both worked and they’ve always gone to daycare, and they turned out fine! They love their moms and dads! They don’t resent them or feel abandoned.

And I know all that, in my head. But when I think about myself and how it will be to drop mini Soroka off at daycare for the first time, it literally brings me to tears. How will I be able to do it? How do I make these thoughts and feeling go away?

Kaitlyn's Signature

Dreaming of Memories Not Yet Made

A few weeks ago, Chris and I went to look at house we saw online. Both of us chitchatted excitedly about the house and everything that we were going to do and the millions of memories we were going to make there. But nervously every sentence ended with, “well, I mean, if we get the house.” Or Chris’ favorite response was, “let’s not get too excited.”

But I couldn’t help it. My mind always has wandered. The sun would set and rise and I was in a permanent daydream. I dreamed about peering through the herb garden in the window above the kitchen sink and picking tomatoes fresh off the vine from the garden in the corner of the backyard. I dreamed of dogs chasing sticky kids from room to room or the family taking picnics by the lake while the dogs splash in the cold muddy water. I imagined people sitting outside enjoying a fire on a nippy night or family & friends wandering in and out of the house with hamburgers hot off the grill and glasses filled to the brim with punch or soda.

The moment I saw the pictures on the Internet, I just knew hoped that the house would be called my home. Chris and I talked about why no one in the world would want that house but us. “Well, it’s on a completely dirt road,” Chris would state matter-of-factly. “And the bedrooms are so tiny! No one would go for that!” I would add. And every day I prayed that something magical would happen and that God would pull all the right strings for Chris and I. Then we would be sitting on the living room floor eating homemade cinnamon rolls with two greedy dogs drooling all over and a tiny baby sleeping in my lap.

The fact of the matter is that those memories can be made anywhere and God knows the desires of our hearts. He has a plan bigger than our emotions and our tiny line of vision. I believe that as long as you trust God and seek after Him, that He will lead you to exactly where you need to be.

Well, fast foward to a week after we put in the offer. Nothing. Not even a call back. I was crushed. I really wanted that house. But like I said before, God knows best and He will guide you to the house for you. So we looked at a few more houses and decided to put an offer in on another house we saw. It had a large completely fenced yard, a large living area, a garage, and a window in the kitchen, which is our top four things we had to have in a house. They accepted the offer.

I’m so excited and yet so scared. I feel like I’m always holding my breath about the house. What if it’s not from God that we feel like this house is for us? What if I’m making everything up in my mind? My fear and doubt haunt me at every thought. I’m trying not to be afraid and I’m trying to have faith to trust that this is from God. But like I said before, it’s extremely difficult. Just because a seller accepts an other, it doesn’t mean you’ll end up with the house.

It’s weird becoming an adult. It’s thrilling and scary. I’m so thankful that I’m on this journey with Chris. Chris takes care of everything and is like my guide. He seems to know everything and if he’s confident, I’m confident.

If all goes well, Chris and I will be moving in a few months. Into a house. That we bought. It will be ours. Just, wow.

PalmHouse

Trimester 1: the Trimester of Secrets

BabyAnnouncement

Since I have officially finished off my first trimester (I am 14 weeks today), I thought this would be a good time to look back on it. I have renamed trimester one to the trimester of secrets and for good reason. We kept our pregnancy a secret from everyone except for our parents and four best friends. The world was finally made aware around 11.5 weeks. Let me tell you, that is a VERY difficult secret to keep. For me it was the dreaded all day sickness that plagued me all of November. Try explaining to your coworkers again why you’re not feeling 100% (as far as they knew, Chris was sick all of November and I had what he had…. or so I said). Chris though… well let me explain. Chris blew it at a good bye party and then almost blew it in front of his brother, and then AGAIN in front of my sister and her friends.

But who can blame him? We’re stoked! Plus, baby is a normal topic of conversation between Chris and I. “What do you think about this for the baby’s room?” he’ll ask. Or “I love this onesie!” I’ll scream across Target. Baby conversation is our normal now. We talk about the what ifs, our fears, and how we’ll teach our children. It’s hard not to be excited.

This trimester has been memorable for me. There are so many moments I wish I could just have on recording to replay over and over. Hearing Chris’ “KAITLYN, WHAT ARE THESE?! WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?” reaction to seeing the positive tests on his night stand. Or the high pitched scream from my aunt on Christmas day followed up by “EVERYONE HURRY UP AND READ CHRIS’ SHIRT!!” Or my favorite of all, walking into the hospital in Alabama and giving Chris’ grandpa a hug, him grinning from ear to ear, and then, in front of the whole family says, “So I heard you were pregnant, is that true?” (Side note, we hadn’t told Chris’ family yet and were waiting until the next day. Chris’ mom told him last time she visited). And even Emma Cowart’s “Wait, so you’re pregnant right now?!” as she took our Christmas card & baby announcement photos, has a special little place in my mind.

I feel like the pregnancy is dragging on but now, sitting on the couch typing this up, I’ve realized it’s flown by. Was it really almost a month and a half ago that I saw my baby on the ultrasound and heard it’s heart beat for the first time? When was the last time I wore something other than pajama pants or workout legging out and about? The first trimester has come and gone.

Even though it’s gone, I’m definitely not upset. This coming trimester will be even more exciting. I’ve honestly never been so excited to go to the doctor. I could just stare at the ultrasounds for hours. I wish I had a recording of the baby’s heart beat just so I could know that all is ok in there. One of my fears, as depressing as it sounds, is that I will lose my baby. Maybe that’s everyone’s fear, I don’t know. Trimester one has been scary in some ways because, your body hasn’t really grown yet and you don’t feel any movement. It’s just quiet and everything is normal, like nothing is actually happening. But trimester two, I know it will be grand. We will find out if we’re having a boy or a girl (please be a boy, please be a boy, please be a boy!). We will get to start buying and looking for things specific to our baby. I’ll actually look pregnant instead of looking like I ate too much apple pie over the holidays.

I’m trying to soak up as much as possible. I don’t want to forget a thing. So here’s to trimester two and all it has to offer. I pray that it will be just as amazing as I hope it will be.

P.S. Here’s a picture of me 14 weeks along. Completely finished with the first trimester! I can’t believe how… um… round…. I’m getting. Still quite the shocker.

trimester1

Thriving & Revelations

This post is going to be a doozy and probably will get you up close and personal with me. So just warning you, skip it if you’re not in it for the very long run.

When the New Year arrives, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Everyone is busy making resolutions, goals, and thinking of how they’re going to be the new-and-improved version of themselves. I use to make resolutions, but I usually fail and don’t follow through. So this year, rather than make resolutions, I wanted to choose a word for the year, particularly one that I could reflect on and strive for.

I didn’t think much of which word I wanted, but as I reflected on 2014 and dreamed of 2015, the word that kept creeping into my vocabulary was thrive. I want so badly to thrive in every area of my life in 2015. When the new year started, I believed that I had all the tools I needed to thrive. I didn’t feel as if anything was holding me back from doing so. But on January 4th, I learned how very wrong I was.

Since high school, Chris’ and I’s lives have revolved around kid’s church. We were completely obsessed and it occupied every thought and most of our conversations. I was especially wrapped up into it. Every waking thought was about kids church. It distracted me from work, my dogs, my husband, and even God. I’ve heard many times that if the devil can’t pull you away, he will make you so busy that God will eventually be pushed into the back of the cupboard. That phrase always went through one ear and out the other. I dismissed it completely the second it entered my mind.

In August 2014, I had started a back to school series on Nehemiah/football. I was so stoked that I was going to teach the message. I had put countless hours into the planning, wording, and double checked every Bible phrase and reference making sure that I wasn’t twisting God’s word but was properly represented. I don’t remember if it was the same Sunday I taught or the week after, but we got a text from the children’s pastor saying he wanted us to come to his office and speak with us. We knew immediately that whatever he wanted to see us about was not going to be a good.

And we were right. We didn’t have a “oh, great job on your lesson” or “thanks for all you do” talk. It was a conversation I never dreamed I would have and one that was incredibly painful to sit through. We were told that multiple parents had approached him and were unhappy with us and our social media posts. People didn’t like that we drank (even though we never drank to get drunk). People didn’t like that we had tattoos and piercings (even though we respected our parents and waited until we moved out). Because of all this, he asked us to take a break until November 2014.

I was crushed. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to run away. I felt like my entire world was collapsing. Every moment that I sat in that office, I felt like my body was on fire.

I understand why parents don’t agree. Not everyone agrees with drinking. Not everyone agrees with tattoos and piercing. These are always going to be subjects of debate in the church. And really, what I believe is that the Bible isn’t 100% clear on those topics. It does say that we shouldn’t get drunk, which we don’t do or promote. We just like the taste. And as for tattoos and piercings, there’s only one place in the Old Testament that really refers to it, however, he telling the people to abstain because the people surrounding them were associated with witchcraft and God didn’t want his people being mixed into that category. But that’s not what it’s like today. Today tattoos and piercings are common and every time you turn around, some one has been to the tattoo parlor for one reason or another.

Regardless, people weren’t pleased and they had made it known. When I walked out of that office, I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going back. A break “until November” meant a break forever. If no one wanted me there, I wasn’t going burden or annoy them with my presence. I cried all the way home and cried every night for about a week straight.

The days after, my mind wandered aimlessly from one topic to the next. I felt like my purpose was gone and that I was now worthless. We went to the regular service a few times but each time I grew more and more distant. We’d walk by the kids church each week to say hi to the children’s pastor but each time I felt like it was a forbidden room. I felt like I was disrespecting parents just by standing by the door.

A place that I had been going to and called home since I was 14 now felt foreign and made me feel completely uncomfortable. We eventually stopped going all together. I became very cynical about the church. I told Chris a million times that this was exactly the reason why people don’t come to church. My hurt morphed into hatred and I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to return to a normal service. Now, I by no means, had any intention to turn my back on my faith. I wasn’t angry at Him and was specifically angry at the church. I have been harboring this anger for about 5 and a half months.

There was only one part of the church that Chris & I continued to go to and it was the young adult group which was held in a little house near the church. It was the only place were I felt like I hadn’t been rejected and where I knew that even if people didn’t like my facial piercing or Chris’ tattoos, it was a place we were still loved and accepted.

Every year the young adult group kicks off the year with a new years’ service (last year, as the young adult pastor always reminds us, no one showed). We said we were going but I dreaded it the entire day. I knew that the service was going to be held inside the church and I wasn’t sure how I was going to bring myself to go inside. We pulled up to the church and I became very tense. As I approached the room that the service was being held in, the same room that I felt like I had been shut out of 6 months ago, I became more and more of a nervous wreck.

However, I experienced something I wasn’t expecting. As I walked into the room, I was overwhelmed with smiles and a sense of complete peace. But what completely overtook my body was God’s presence. Worship started and I was completely washed over by God’s love. It was like a warm fog. I could feel all around me and all at once. He melted away my hatred of the church. He restored my love for a place I had grown to loathe. If you could have seen the inside of my soul, you would have seen me sitting in a puddle of my emotions.

When I was worshiping, God brought to mind my word for the year: thrive. He showed me an image of a dog tied to the ground. It whined helplessly and then soon became hostile. It died a slow and painful death. It was starved and parched and then completely beaten down by nature’s harsh elements. This wasn’t a picture of an animal thriving and sadly, it was a picture of me. I realized that I was being tied down by my hatred, anger, and hurt. God revealed to me that if I was going to continue to harbor the feelings that were tying me to the ground, 2015 wouldn’t be my year to thrive. It would be the year of my demise.

After the service we ran into families we hadn’t seen in months. After we spoke with family after family, I realized that while I was shouting out all the things about the church that were wrong, I had failed to see that I was in the wrong too. These families were families we loved and had bonded with, ones that had always extended love and grace our way. By pushing the church completely out of my life, I had pushed them out too. I had done them wrong.

I recently started a new book called Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. It’s basically a collection of essays and I only read one or two each night before I go to bed. That same night, I found a comfortable spot in my bed squeezed and snuggled between my two dogs and my husband and I pulled up my iPad to where I had left off. The essay I read was called “Spark.” This essay was about the author and how she grew up in church, left, and then found her way back home. I felt as if the essay had been written about me.

She spoke of how she wondered if there was room in the Christian world for a person like herself. She drank and had tattoos; essentially, she was a rebel by the church’s terms. She saw all the things about Christianity that offended her and how she couldn’t connect. But there was one part at the very end that brought me to tears. It put into words all of my emotions that I had experienced only hours before.

“I’m immeasurably thankful to have been born into a community of faith. And I’m even more thankful that my community of faith allowed me the space and freedom to travel my own distances around and through the questions I needed to answer. I’m thankful for the patience and grace I was given, for the forgiveness that I was extended and the guidance I needed.”

So I’m sorry. I’m sorry to the people I pushed away because of a struggle that was happening in my heart. I’m sorry to the families I cut off and the ones I ignored. And I am so so incredibly sorry, God. I’m sorry for shunning the church, Your bride. I’m sorry I didn’t bring it to You 6 months ago when it all began to unravel. I’m sorry I acted in my own power and took matters into my own hands.

I’m immeasurably thankful to the God who restores and loves us without skipping a beat. I’m thankful for a God who lets you go your own way but will always continue to call you back to Him.

So for those I’ve offended or those who are walking down the same path, this post is for you.

Kaitlyn's Signature