proving myself

Well, this one has been sitting in my drafts folder, just titled and all alone, for a week. I’ve tried to stay away from it but alas, here we are.

A week ago I got the keyboard out to start writing this one based on a cycle I was stuck in with a friend. You see, I have this really fun tendency to over-explain myself in every sense of the word. It’s almost like I feel like I’m going to get caught even though I know I’ve done nothing wrong. So, when I’m not in a healthy place emotionally, I jump on my wordy hamster wheel and just talk and talk and talk myself around whatever I’m doing.

Luckily, I have really great people in my life and the one I was spiraling with stopped me and said, “Stop trying to prove yourself to me. You’re fine. I trust you.”

And man, what a relief that was. To have people who know the path you’re headed down and can keep you from it is such a gift.

The bummer is that this isn’t the first time my friend(s) have had to say something like that. But again, the gift is that they do. And so it seemed the cycle had halted.

Enter: Saturday.

I visited my family to celebrate my Grandma’s 92nd birthday and while I was there my sister, nephew, boyfriend, and I went for a lil’ afternoon hangout sesh at the local watering hole. One of the beautifully awful things about growing up in a small town is that everyone knows everyone and you can’t go anywhere without running into someone you grew up with. I say it’s beautifully awful because 1) what a gift to be in such a tight knit community, but 2) what a terror to know that everyone knows everything about who you were from ages 0-18/19/20.

So naturally, in walks someone I went to high school and played sports with. I introduced her to my boyfriend and immediately said, “We played basketball together and she was better than me.”

Cue my insides exploding.

Here I was again, trying to – in a backwards way – prove myself. I had to get it out there that I knew my place and I knew that she was better than me but it didn’t bother me (except oh yes it did). I could feel the 17 year old in me writhing with insecurity as this person got the recognition I longed for. All those years of trying to prove myself on the court, in the classroom, with the friend groups came flying back into the present and they were not.fun.

I laughed it off with my sister, rolled my eyes at myself, and went back to staring at my nephew because little boys are the cure for everything.

When I returned home and back to my normal life, recounting the weekend with a friend, she mentioned a similar instance from her weekend. She said, “It was like I was on the outside and I couldn’t figure out how to get in.”

And with that I exclaimed a loud, “YES! SAME!”

But here’s the kicker with it all: I am absolutely in love with where I am “in” in my life. God has been so kind to place me on the inside of so many beautiful relationships, and honestly, He has also been so kind in keeping me on the outside of others. Yet, the insecurity of knowing I’m on the outside of some places can be so deafening at times. Having physical voices loud enough to drown out the lies of the enemy has truly proven to be God’s grace poured out on my life.

I have no idea how to end this blog. No real bow to tie around it. It’s just a lot of strewn together thoughts about how destructive the urge to prove myself can be.

And for now, that’s totally fine.

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the windy city

Yes. This is about Chicago. But also, it’s not.

Five years ago I took my first summer trip to Chicago as an adult. I have to caveat that because I went as a teen for a softball tournament and fell in love with the city, but my parents were with me, so I was limited on the shenanigans I could get into.

I went with two dear friends and we had a fantastic time – 2 nights, 3 days right on Lake Shore Drive, eating pizza, seeing comedy shows, and delighting in the company of one another. It’s truly one of the dearest memories I have in traveling with friends.

This week, I went back for my first summer trip since then. I love Chi-town and have been many times, but for whatever reason I’ve chosen the cold months to visit throughout these five years. As I got off the train and started walking around, my mind began to wade through the last five years (which also happens to be the name of the saddest/best musical movie starring Anna Kendrick that my friend watched and told me I was horrible for recommending. Seriously. It’s sad.)

I digress.

The last five years.

I began to think about the friends I was with in 2014 and how we have since had a pretty major friend breakup.

I only have my side of the story, and I’m not going to share that with everyone. But the truth of the matter is, there was a tremendous ripping apart between us. We all played a role in the ripping. I will own my part in that hurt. But it was a breakup that I never saw coming because it was with friends. The ripping apart was hard. But that doesn’t take away what those friends meant to me in that season.

This past February, author and podcaster Annie F. Downs spoke at IF:Gathering on this exact topic. Her talk, What Happens When People Let You Down? (can be found on RightNow Media), spoke about the heartbreak of breakups – how when a breakup happens, you lose the future you thought you were going to have. But we don’t talk about losing the future with friends. So, in the way that only Annie can, she did.

And she gutted me with this line: “Losing a friendship feels like a ripping when that friend becomes and idol.”

And ultimately, that’s what I had let happen in my past friendships. They become my idol. The relationship itself became an idol. They were the thing that kept me safe and secure.

This time around, I went by myself.

I sent this picture to my mom so she knew I was safe, but as I looked at it – at me – I saw someone who is just way more settled into the fact that nothing outside of Jesus can satisfy, save, or secure her. 2014 Kayla was grasping for straws when it came to security, love, being known.

2019 Kayla knows she is secure, loved, and known in Christ.
I don’t have it all worked out, but I’m comfortable with knowing that God is working it out.

And now, as Annie also said, my friendships work because I don’t ask them to be my God. I just ask them to be my friend. With God as my closest friend, all other friends are a delightful gift.

And that they are. As I took inventory of my friends on Ohio Street Beach, I (surprise) got emotional. Overwhelmingly thankful that God has seen fit to give me Himself with flesh on in the form of my friends. And has given me the gift of Himself, so that I don’t have to grasp for and impress people that will let me down.

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“with Thee and with one another”

It has effectively been almost 5 months since I’ve last put pen (keyboard) to paper (screen).

It’s a weird thing to be able to put a timeline on. Mainly because, for 4 years I would write on a regular basis, not going more than a couple weeks without getting some thoughts down. It feels like a weird muscle I’ve forgotten how to flex. And if there’s anything I know about not using muscles for a long time, it’s that once you start again it can be awkward and hard. Which is why you don’t start doing it again. And then the longer you go, the more awkward and harder it gets. So you keep putting it off.

You aren’t as strong as you were before.
You aren’t able to go for as long as you once could.
You run out of breath faster.
And you’re going to be sore in a couple hours, if not immediately.

And it feels like all of those things will apply here. Especially shortness of breath.

But the thing that has kicked me back into workout mode (okay, I’m done with that analogy) is something my grandmother prayed at my sister’s birthday dinner.

As we do at family gatherings, the food was out, people were standing ready to get in line (yes, we have a line because it’s not abnormal for more than 12 people to be at these things and that amount of food doesn’t fit in the middle of a table…), and my dad asked his mom to pray for our meal and our time together.

As she prays, she says this phrase, “And Lord, we thank you for the fellowship we have with Thee and with one another…”

I’ve heard my grandma pray many times in my life, but that phrase really got me this time around. It struck me how she was so comfortable likening the relationship she has with the Lord to the one she has with the people around her. She is in fellowship with all parties.

Fellowship, to me, is companionship, mutual support, togetherness…..friendship.

And when I think about my friends, I think about joy, care, love, camaraderie, encouragement, rebuke, laughter, time together, Netflix binges, and movie quotes.
(Okay, so some of my thoughts aren’t as spiritual as others, but also have you ever seen Pride & Prejudice because that was a SPIRITUAL experience…)

But when I think about my relationship with the Lord – especially lately – I see it more authoritarian. I see Him as sovereign, holy, and just. All of those are good things, but those aren’t the only things He is. He is also caring, loving, encouraging, and a friend.

Sometimes our pendulum can swing too far toward that last one and we start wearing “Jesus is my Homeboy” t-shirts, effectively forgetting that He is also the just, righteous God over all created things. But I think my pendulum has swung a smidge too far the other way. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have fellowship with the Lord. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to see Him as a friend to my soul that cares about the mundane details of my every day.

I’m so glad that the friends I have in this life are Kingdom people that make me better on a daily basis. But I need to remember that the King is also my friend whose Spirit was literally sent to this earth to make me better moment by moment.

I don’t know if this is a real thing, but I want to start practicing the discipline of friendship with the Lord. And, in the words of my grandmother, grow in fellowship with Thee and with one another.

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just be kind

A few years ago, one of my dearest introduced me to the mythical creature that is Dan Allender. “Because of the way you love story, I just really think you’d be in to this guy.”

And boy, was she right.

A conference, a couple books, and many podcast episodes later, we arrive at today.

Listening to podcasts is one of the best ways for me to keep my mind engaged throughout the day when I’m doing no-brain-space-needed tasks. Yesterday in the midst of one of those tasks, I was listening to an Allender Center episode called Stumbling Toward Wholeness. 
I MORE than recommend you go listen to the two-episode series.

The thing that has been stirring in my mind for the past day & a half is something the guest said early on: Kindness toward ourselves is not pride. Hatred toward ourselves is not humility.

I’m sorry. What? You mean that if I think something is good or delightful about the way I am or the things I do, it’s okay for me to call those things out? To give glory to the good parts of me? To say, “Wow, God! Good job on making me the way that you did!”

Boy, do we do a real crappy job of that as Christians.

But his point – and it is so true – is that when someone does call out the good in themselves, we dismiss them as prideful, arrogant jerks.

When someone calls out the good in us, we dismiss them as not really knowing what they are talking about. “Are you kidding? You really don’t believe those good things about me, do you?”

This happened to me just a couple weeks ago. My sweet friend called out a thing that she admires in me and I buried my chin into my chest and completely dismissed the blessing she was giving to my spirit. Words I so desperately needed to hear in the moment, but was so unwilling to receive out of fear of being perceived as full-of-myself.

I was so unkind to myself. And in turn, a little unkind to my friend.

Diminishing who I am is not being a humble servant of the Lord.
It’s actually dimming the Light within me, unwilling to acknowledge or celebrate the exact imprint & image of God that I uniquely reflect.

It’s okay to be kind to yourself.
As Romans 2:4 says, “Do you not know that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance?”

And when someone in your circle is struggling to be kind to her own self, celebrate her. Tell her who she is in Christ. Call out the good. Be kind to her.

Know that you are blessed to be a blessing, and it’s more than okay to hold that truth with tender kindness for yourself.

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leaving behind a ‘bold’ faith

I recently saw an Instagram story of one of my favorite authors/podcasters/”influencers” in which they said they were going to be speaking at a conference for young girls, teaching them how to live boldly as young Christian women. That phrase – live boldly – made me cringe. Then roll my eyes. Then have painful flashbacks of my time in youth group where I, too, was encouraged to live a bold faith.

What I’m about to say…well…write…I write with the utmost respect and love for where I came from: the Church did not make me a disciple of Jesus when I was younger.

I grew up in the height of things like Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames, Sharing Jesus Without Fear, and True Love Waits. And that’s just scratching the surface of the myriad of programs, discipleship tools, etc that we went through in order to live out a bold faith.

I mean, can you imagine? Who wouldn’t become a Christian after sitting through a “theatrical performance” about dying and seeing who’s picked to live in heaven/hell for eternity. THAT STUFF IS CRAZY AND WHY DO WE MAKE KIDS SIT THROUGH IT?!

Also, I have a whole thing about TLW, but I’ll save that for another blog or else this one might turn into a novel.

Moving on.

I grew up believing – and being taught – that as long as I was following the rules laid out before me, sharing Jesus with my friends on a daily basis (per the Roman’s Road layout), and not missing an opportunity to present the Gospel to every stranger I came into contact with, then my faith would be bold and I would be deemed a good Christian.

It was all about the show. All about the numbers.

“Kayla, have you invited _______ to church yet? You said you were going to do that this week.”
“Umm, yes, I have, but they can’t make it…”
“Well, try again, because their eternity is in your hands.”

Ya know, just your average guilt trip for a 14 year old.

So, when I hear someone say they are teaching young girls to live a bold faith, you can see why I would cringe.

My heart begins to ache for a new generation of young women – and men – that might be led to believe that their “boldness” only comes from how well they have Scripture memorized and how many of their friends actually show up to church with them.

But I’m also afraid we’re attributing the wrong actions to the word we’re using.

The definition of bold is: courageous & daring.

Courageous faith is something I can get behind.

Courageous faith doesn’t just spit out a string of memorized verses to her friends in hopes that one or two words will stick.
Courageous faith doesn’t see people as metrics.

Courageous faith bears the burdens of the people around her, regardless of whether or not they convert.
Courageous faith loves people because that’s what Jesus did. He knelt down and started writing in the sand while the religious elite wanted to stone a woman.
Courageous faith cares more about the person across the table’s heart than she cares about reporting back to her youth group on how many times she’s left a tract for the waitress to pick up.

I want us, Church, to stop shaming young kids into conversion – or into trying to get their friends to convert. I want us to teach them how to know Jesus for themselves, growing deep roots of faith in their own hearts. The “do-ing” of faith can come later. Let’s teach them how to know Jesus and be a beloved child of God before anything else.

I’ve seen too many friends that were “on fire” for Christ when we were younger that are now apathetic about Jesus. It’ll take a different post to give my theory on that, but the nutshell is: we weren’t made to be disciples of Christ, we were made to be disciples of a program.

The older I get the more I’m finding that I don’t want to live the bold faith I was told to live when I was younger. I want to live a faith that is settled, secure, and relies fully on the power of the Holy Spirit to transform hearts. I want my courage to come from something other than a certificate I sign at the end of a program. I want my boldness to come from Jesus because He loves me, not because I’m trying to impress Him with my actions.

I’m okay with trading in my old, bold faith for a new heart that is settled in Jesus.

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