Repost: Happy Wish We Were Mother’s Day

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Today I went to the gym (aka going on the elliptical and watching netflix on my phone for 45 minutes, then going in the hot tub and amazing massaging waterfalls and water slide for an hour and a half.)

The lady at the front desk said “are you a mother?” “No,” I said. “Why do you ask?” Mother’s get in free today! “Oh,” I said. I felt a pang of sadness.

She looked at me again. “Do you have pets?” I was didn’t understand why she was asking me this. “No.”

“Hmmm, ” she said. “Oh, wait a second!” I replied. ” I forgot that I live on a farm! I literally have hundreds of pets!” “Well, it looks like you’re a mother, then.” She stamped my hand and let me into the ghetto spa for free.

This little gesture meant a lot. Because in a small way she was honoring me on a day in which non-mothers do not often get honored.

First and foremost, every mother’s day, I try to not feel sorry for myself and remember my own mom. My amazing, kind, quirky mom.

Who used to feed us liver powder and v8 juice and yeast in kool aid when we were growing up because her love language is to keep us healthy.

Who has had 200 books from the library out at a time, for a six months at a time, until they made a rule up that you can’t do that, probably solely because of her.

Who looks 55 even though she is almost 70.

Who has worn spandex every day since 1982.(Because spandex are not a right. They are a privilege. My mother has had that privilege and has looked really good using it.)

That is my epic mother. And she more than deserves to be honored today. As does every mother in the world.

Every getting -three-hours-of-sleep-to-take-care-of-a newborn,changing-620 -diapers-per year, listening-to-a-million-questions, figure-out-three-freaking-meals-a-day-to-make, trying-not-to-yell-at-your-teenager, figuring-out-how-to-teach-a-human-soul-how-to-live-on-the-place-we-call-earth, incredible, selfless mother deserves to be honored today.

But once the honoring of my own mother and all the other beautiful mothers is over, my eyes inevitably look back on myself and I start getting sad.

I have always loved kids. I worked at day cares all through high school, college and after college. I work at an after school program now and live with 3 young children, all of whom I adore.

I worked at a camp for something like 5 summers, and have spoken at that camp for another 12 or so. At that camp they called me the legend. Because I was really, honestly, an awesome counselor. Every Friday we would have princess night where we would put on trash bags and talk in English accents during dinner, then we would let loose during dessert and give each other chocolate pudding facials followed by the best food fight ever. I would come up with really fun hands on devotions. I would spend one on one time with the girls, talking about their lives and praying with them. I would sing to them every night before they fell asleep. I had some of the girls for all five years, watching them grow up. We would write to each other all year, and I would sometimes visit them outside of camp.

I don’t know if I ever felt more in my element at any job. Ever. Not singing. Not writing. Not speaking. It felt like loving those campers was what I was made to do. Even now, I have dreams about camp on a regular basis. My counselor says it was because my psyche considers it home.

I would make a good mom. A really, really good mom.

But for some reason, motherhood has not been in the cards for me.

The older I get, the more I have to accept the fact that I might never become a mother. I might have to look for other ways to love children, like working with inner city kids or at an orphanage. That might be the path I have to take, one that I have seriously considered taking lately.

I have so much in my life. I have a wonderful career. I have good friends. I live with people that are very dear to me. I have lots of time to do things like get a $4.00 spa. If there were no such thing as a husband and children, I would probably be really content. But there are such things, and I have always wanted both of them. Not having them is perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever been through.

Sometimes I think about how much I would give to have someone call me “mom.” To call someone “my baby.” I would give up almost anything for this.

And so I grieve today, and maybe that is all right. Maybe it is not selfish. Maybe it is human. Maybe it is my right.

Years ago on mothers day at my church, a friend of mine stood up who has struggled with infertility her whole life. She said “mothers, you are amazing and wonderful and needed. Today, I want to honor you, but I also want to honor other women. I want to honor all the women that have had miscarriages. All the women who have been infertile. All the single women who haven’t even had a chance to get pregnant. All the women who have had stillborns.”

She had everyone in the room who fit that description stand up. I was amazed how many women stood up.

(She didn’t say this and I know this will be a controversial thing to say, but I want to include women who have had abortions. I am not saying what they did is right, by any means. But there are probably more women than you think there are in your circles and in your workplace and in your church who have had abortions and hide it because there is so much shame. They are possibly grieving today more than anyone else. We must remember them too.)

So all of you that fit into that category- this is what I say to you today. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are not forgotten. You may never bear children, but that doesn’t mean you are any less of a woman. And you are mothers in your own way-to the children in your life, to your friends, to the people you mentor.

I honor you. And so does God.

I’d love to hear from you….is mother’s day hard for you? Why are why not? What has infertility/ the death of a child/ unmarried with no children / abortion been like for you? How can the church love you better in this?

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It’s Okay To Grieve

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In my post called Singles and the Church: Why it Sucks To Be Unintentionally Overlooked, I talked about the idea of disenfranchised grief: a grief in which nothing concrete happened to you, but the desires of your heart didn’t come to pass. It’s what didn’t happen that you are grieving over, and that doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. But it is a true, deep loss.

I wanted to explore this idea more because so many readers commented on how much they suffer from disenfranchised loss.

I understand this kind of grief because I have been struggling a lot this month. The crazy thing is, the situation that I just went through was a simple “I’m-going-to-say-no-to-romance- even- though -you’re- wonderful” scenario that I have lived through one too many times to stay sane.

The situation itself shouldn’t be as heartbreaking as it is. And yet, I have struggled with deep disappointment. I have not even had any clue how to get the sadness out of my system. And my friends Ben and Jerry are stalking me. (Just had to throw something light in there!)

I realize now that some of this is due to the particular situation, but a lot of it is due to disenfranchised loss. I am not just grieving this friendship, I am grieving the fact that there are few good men in their thirties and it might be hard to have that chance again. I am grieving the thought of not being touched and held by someone. I am grieving the fact that I need to go back to thinking about adopting alone.

I am grieving having to go back to eharmony first dates. I would seriously rather have a root canal.

But most of all, I am grieving not having a family. Not having anyone call me “my wife” or “mommy.” It has been too much for me to handle. At the risk of sounding horribly sorry for myself, I am barren. Women who are married who are infertile, they know how I feel, and that means a lot to me. But in all honesty, people regard married women’s infertility as a much deeper loss than my barrenness as a single woman. And yet, it is very very similar. I not only have no children, I don’t have a husband either. So the grief should be looked on as something very deep and very painful. But it just isn’t.

I think part of the problem is that people think it’s kind of your choice that you have no family. That if you did things a certain way you would have a family. “You just need to be online dating.” “You just need to be less picky.” “You’re too strong of a woman and you scare off men.” And one that I heard on a thread about this topic the other day “You just need to lose more weight.”

As if we chose this lifestyle for ourselves. That’s just not true. We have worked to change this situation, and yet it hasn’t happened. It’s nothing that we did wrong, and we need to believe that.

According to Melony Notkin’s article on this subject, 18% of American women between the ages of 40 and 44 are childless. About half of this group don’t want children. The other half suffer from either biological or circumstantial barrenness.

This, my friends, is tragic.

Single people out there, people longing to get married and have children, I want to look you in the eyes and say this to you. You have every right to grieve. Even though nothing concrete has happened to you, yours is a deep, deep loss.

Married people out there, church at large, it would mean the world to us if you would acknowledge this as a loss. If you would talk about it from the pulpit. If you would invite us over for lunch. If you would tell us it’s ok to grieve and hold us.

There is a flip side to this predicament, something that we need to address as well. I learned the hard way in this situation that if I project all of that fear, all of that sadness, all of that disenfranchised grief, onto someone that I could potentially have a romantic relationship with, all I will do is try to control them so that I can get what I so deeply long for. I will not be patient and let them decide on their own. I will try to control things so that person will bring me my dreams. It is not healthy.

That much pressure is absolutely not fair on them. It can ruin potential relationships and all others as well. Expectations are premeditated resentments.

My friends said to me the other day “your mind is like a bank account. Every time you think of someone, especially of that person giving you everything you’ve dreamed of,  you put another dollar in the bank account. So if you end up losing that account, you have a lot to lose.”

My bank account is empty, and it hurts so much.

I think what we need to learn is that we should  let ourselves mourn deeply, we should acknowledge our disenfranchised loss, but we need to direct that mourning at God, not on anyone else, including ourselves. God can take it. Another human being can’t. We can’t.

So go ahead. Grieve. I give you permission right now.

If you want to, walk away from this blog post, call a friend, tell them you need their support because you are mourning, and then cry your guts out. You have every right to do it. If you want to, you can even get mad at God.  He won’t be angry back. Then, let him hold you.

Because in the end, what else can we do but bring our frustrations to the Lord and then remember his love? To cry and cry and then to release things that we can’t control?

I will try hard to do that now. And I hope you do too.

If You Can’t Marry ‘Em, Write A Blog About ‘Em

I thought I would repost my very first post on this blog as I know a lot of you haven’t read it yet.

By the way, if you haven’t bought my book Getting Naked Later: A Guide for the Fully Clothed you can buy it here. Also, you should check out the reviews! I’ve gotten six 5 star reviews since it came out a month ago!

I have been in thirty three weddings.

I am not talking about how many I’ve been to, but  how many I’ve been in. I was a bridesmaid in some. I am a full time singer songwriter so I have sang and played in many more. Unfortunately, my job in these weddings has never been to walk down the aisle in a white dress. But I tell you what, if I ever get married, I will have lots of ideas to choose from.

Let’s just look at one wedding that I went to a few years ago that is a snapshot of my single life

Two of my dearest friends were getting married. It was a beautiful backyard wedding. Before the wedding started  I was talking to my friend Shannon, a very feisty, happily married 40 year old. This is what Shannon said to me that day, as she gestured towards my curled hair and perfect makeup  and my eggplant colored sleeveless dress that showed off my shoulders

“Kate, you look smoking hot. Too bad it’s just wasted. “

Most of you that are single are shaking the heads, putting this comment in the mental file called “insensitive things that married people say to single people.” Believe me, that mental file is chock full of comments people have made to me over the years , but this was not one of them. I  was not offended by this remark, because I knew that Shannon meant it as a compliment. What she was saying is “What the heck, Kate? You are wonderful person. I don’t understand why you’re still single. ” People say this to me often.

It is kind of a mystery to all of us.

During the wedding, I sang a love song that I wrote. My married friend Seth came up to me and said “Kate, in that dress, singing that song, any single guy here would want to dance with you. ” I felt very flattered. At the reception, thinking about those two comments as I was eating my chicken a la king, I started to feel very confident, brazen even. I was beautiful. Someone would want to dance with me.

I began to anticipate the dancing that was about to begin. One of those handsome single groomsmen would see me across the room and think “that was the girl who sang her song during the wedding. She fascinates me. I want to dance with her. ” He would walk up shyly and  ask me.  We would step out onto the dance floor and he would gently take my hand. Even that would give me butterflies, since no one has touched my hand in a long time. And then we would move together. Two peopled with different personalities, different weakness’, different strengths, moving as if they were one.

Maybe I would even fall in love.

The time came for the single men to ask the single women to dance.  I stood at the edge of the floor in anticipation like Cinderella at the ball.

No one asked me to dance.

Instead of feeling like the intriguing girl everyone wanted to dance with, I felt more like the Old Maid in that children’s card game- standing alone while everyone else paired up. I could have pulled out my knitting needles and my rocking chair right then and there. I wanted to say “Hey! Single guys! Over here! According to my married friends, this dress makes me look smoking hot! Doesn’t anyone want to dance with me?” I waited, hoping for a falling-in-love-worthy  song. Surely all those groomsmen were just being shy.

Sadly, the next song was anything but romantic. Can you guess what it was? I’ll give you one hint: it has nothing to do with wedded bliss and everything to do with an athletic club.

That’s right folks, the YMCA.

The YMCA seems to be a dance designed for people who can’t dance. A dance that you could do even if you were in a wheelchair.  If you are unable to learn the incredibly complicated 80’s dance that involves hopping up and down alone, you can at least fling your arms out to spell things. “Look at us!” we say. ” Who says we can’t dance? We are so coordinated! We can all spell out the letters for the Young Men’s Christian Association in perfect unison! “

I was annoyed, but I still I went out there and “danced” with all the other bad dancers.  More accurately I “spelled.” But I wasn’t in perfect unison with them. Instead of YMCA, I was spelling WPCD. A little secret joke between me and myself. White People Can’t Dance.  This has been a tradition for me at weddings ever since then. *

Finally, towards the end of the wedding came the dance I really wanted to participate in, even if it was reminiscent of awkward middle school moments;  slow dancing whities. **

But there would be no slow dancing for me. Not even in my smoking hot dress.

I wanted love, and instead, I got the white man’s overbite.

Seriously God? Seriously?

That night was kind of a snapshot of my life.  The reception started out with me eating at a table with dear friends and loving life.  I laughed. I felt accepted.  I was thankful. But then the dancing came and everyone took their partner . Another pair and another pair and another pair. I sat at the table and slowly ate my wedding cake, an important stance when you don’t want to look like you have nothing to do while everyone is dancing.  I tried really hard not to cry.

I don’t want this to be difficult for me. I want to be satisfied in who I am as a single woman. But when I look at those pairs dancing, no matter how hard I try to fight it,  I don’t feel smoking hot. I feel alone.

How do we find hope that is still hope even if it doesn’t end in a wedding dress? How can we prepare ourselves if we do get married? How can we be thankful for where we are today?  What can singles and married people learn from each other to help us cope with this journey? Is a life that has no intimate witness still valuable? If a traditional family never comes to us, are we doomed to loneliness, or can we build our own family?   Does God see me alone at my table, eating my wedding cake? Does He care? Does He feel the same way at times?

These are some of the questions that I want to explore in this blog. I love the thought of you going on this journey with me. Let’s walk fully clothed along this road together.

*I looked up YMCA and wedding on the internet as “research” and found this in Yahoo Answers:

Question: “Do fundamentalist Christians do the YMCA dance at weddings? It just seems like it would be the dance of the devil. Which village people singer do they like the most?”

Best Answer- chosen by asker “The Village People are a creation of Fundamentalist Christians, so yes. They like the construction worker best because the Lord likes hard work. “

Another not so popular answer was “Fundamental Christians prefer the Hokey Pokey, while pentacostals are hot for the electric slide.”  This is what happens when you do research on the internet.

**All of these moves and more can be seen on the youtube video “How To Dance Like A White Guy.”  Very scientific, incredibly accurate internet research.

In Response to the Death of Rick Warren’s Son: My Battle With Depression

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I have thought about writing a post like this for a while. But I kept shying away from it. It seemed so risky.

Risky because I didn’t know how you would respond.

Risky because some of you might believe I don’t trust God.

Risky because people I know and love read my blog and might look at me differently.

Risky because I am a Christian minister of the Gospel. I am not supposed to feel this way.

But after the son of Rick Warren took his life this week, I feel like it is needed.

Henri Nouwen said “what is most personal is most universal.”I love that quote because it gives me courage to say what I have to say, knowing that many of you out there are in the same place. You need to know you are not alone.

So here it is: I have struggled on and off with clinical depression since I was fourteen years old. It is a disease I inherited from my father, who self medicated for many years. I feel so much compassion for my dad, because he never even knew that he needed help. He just thought that he was incredibly sad and that there was nothing he could do about it except self medicate. I am at least blessed enough to recognize that there is something physically wrong with my body, that I don’t have to live like this if I don’t want to, and that I can escape a life of addiction by getting the help I need.

If you knew me, you would be really surprised that I struggle with this. Most people have no idea. As my roommate said to me, it’s not that I hide it, it’s that I fight hard to see that it doesn’t take over my life or ruin my relationships. That’s why people don’t often know.

My first bout with the depression was in middle school. My family was in shambles. My friends at school had all abandoned me. In my mind, I had no reason left to live. I had suicidal thoughts and cried all the time.

Thankfully, about a year later some wonderful believing friends came in and became like family to me, introducing me to Jesus.

I thought that was the end of my depression. I was wrong.

In college, I went through the worst bout of depression I have ever suffered through after a bad break up. I would cry for hours at a time. I would even hit my head on the wall sometimes without wanting to. I didn’t know how to control these emotions. They seemed to overtake me.

Then, I had a life changing experience in Mexico, where God told me that as many times as the ocean waves kept crashing to the shore, that’s how many times he would heal me. I believed him. It changed my life.

That story became my testimony for ten years. I have told that story a hundred times. It always ended it with “I threw away my medication, and I have never been depressed again.”

But I was wrong. That wasn’t the end of my depression.

I felt small bouts of depression throughout those ten years, but I would push them away. These are just attacks of the enemy, I thought. If I just say the right words, (in the name of Jesus! Do not be anxious for anything!) everything will be ok. The leaders in my life supported this kind of thinking. Any time I ever mentioned medication, people looked at me like I was crazy. Of course you don’t need to do that, Kate! Jesus is your everything! Just step into the joy he has already given you! So I tried and tried to do that. It just didn’t always work.

Some time in the middle of those ten years I contracted Lyme disease. I was very sick for seven years, as a lot of you know. The worst symptom was extreme insomnia.  I would go four nights without sleeping day or night, sleep for three hours the next night, then go another four nights. It was like this for six years. It was horrible.

I thought this insomnia was just a symptom of the Lyme disease and that it would go away now that the Lyme disease is cured. But I found out from a psychiatrist recently that the insomnia that was initially from the Lyme disease  actually jacked up the chemicals in my brain until I was suffering from a more permanent disease called cyclothymia. This disease can make me depressed during the day and then revs my brain up so much that I can’t sleep.  Cyclothymia was not a disease that was in conjunction with my inherited depression. It was ON TOP of the other depression, two totally different diseases.

I finally realized that the problems were so bad that I needed to get medication. When I got on the right medication, I started sleeping through night for the first time in years.

Did I stop loving God when I started taking medication? No. Did I stop trusting that God could be my everything and my joy? No. I still love God, just like someone with cancer still loves God when they choose to use radiation.

I have read before that if David were alive today, he would probably have been diagnosed with bipolar. He was an extreme, brilliant man who went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. All symptoms of mental illness. Yet he was a man after God’s own heart. In the midst of David’s bouts of highs and lows he prayed this prayer:  “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5)

David talks to his soul as if it is another person, and I understand that, somehow. My soul feels separate from my true self. My soul is the part of me that gets so sad that I can barely handle it. My soul is the part that feels like I have no hope. But my soul is not all of me. I may never be able to make the sadness go away, but the sadness is not who I  am.

Maybe I can say, like David “Soul, I love you, but you are not the boss. My spirit is the boss. And my spirit says that we are going to get through this. My spirit says that it is not time to give up. My spirit says that we can keep praising God in the midst of our sorrow.”

Are those words a secret formula that will make a physical illness go away? No. They do however depict this truth: even in the midst of emotions that feel out of control and horrible we can still choose hope. We can try to find our spirit in the midst of our soul and ask that spirit to be strong. The sad part of us needs to be loved, but it does not need to be fed. We can visit the same places, but we don’t have to stay there as long.

(If you haven’t read my poem “You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are”  which is actually a response to my battle with depression, you should now, especially if you have similar struggles.)

I want you to look at me, now. I am a worship leader on staff at a church. I have a blog you read. I am an author. I make music and tour. I look totally strong and pretty dang successful. But I have all of this going on inside of me.

How many other people do you think are struggling with hidden depression and other mood disorders in your very own church? My psychiatrist has told me that half the population will have suffered through some kind of depression or other mood disorder in their life. That’s a lot of people hiding a lot of pain. We as the church need to make a safe place so that people feel like they can come forward and heal.

The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book says “When we are crushed by a crisis we could
not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that
either God is everything or else He is nothing. Choose.”

Tragedies make us choose. There is a door of opportunity that has opened before us because of the horrible death Rick Warren’s son.  We as a church can choose  to keep ignoring the problem of mental illness, or we can collectively turn around, our arms open wide, and welcome those that have felt ostracized for years.

Side note: If you didn’t read the last post, my book is here! I think you will love it! You can buy it by clicking the “My Book” tab at the top of this page.

The Longing and the Mystery

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Sehnsucht– A huge and painfully unrequited yearning to find and touch the mystery. An extreme desire for a far off country you have never been to. A deep and insatiable desire for a home that you haven’t yet had. 

This German word is very hard to define in any language. But when you read the definition you know exactly what it means, don’t you? You can conjure up the feeling associated with the word because you feel it every day. It is a hidden desire  running under your skin even as you go to the bank and sweep the floor and buy your groceries. It’s the aching and mystery that arises as you mourn over your singleness or are reminded that your marriage is not all you hoped it would be. It is the faint pain like bruising on your skin that grows more beautiful and more painful as you get older because of the wisdom and the regrets that are birthed from the days you have walked.

This word has been on my mind since my last session with my counselor. I was talking to her about my recent visit to my college town and the longing I now had  for that season, the longing  I had for men that I dated in that season that I gave up on. The wishing I had done things differently. The wanting to go back to that mysterious place and make different choices. The deep desire to revisit the essence of the nostalgia I was feeling in order to live it out in the present moment.

She said to me “did you like being there while you were there? Were you happy?” I couldn’t remember. I found it ironic that I longed for a place that I missed now, but I didn’t even notice it while I was there.

“Kate,” my counselor said “you have always had this deep sense of longing, of dissatisfaction, even of suffering. You had it then, you have it now. Even if you one day finally have children and a husband, you will still have it. You can’t escape the longing. ”

I knew she was right. I can’t escape this longing, this desire for a place I have never been to. Because I am human. Because I was born with that longing. It has been said that no other creature is as inherently dissatisfied as the human being. But I don’t think it’s our fault. I think it’s part of our nature.

In fact, I would argue that this sensucht, this deep longing for somewhere we’ve never been, is evidence for the existence of heaven, evidence for the existence of God. Can an atheist argue against his insatiable desire for home? Can an agnostic ignore the fire down in his bones saying that he was made for more than the life he is living?

Psalm 84:5 says “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Another translations says “in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” Our hearts are set on pilgrimage, a long, beautiful, painful journey that will end in a glorious homecoming. Our hearts have highways to Zion in them, and after many years of walking those highways with perseverance, we will reach that mountain in which the glory of the Lord dwells, where all of our desires behind our sehnsucht will be realized.

CS Lewis’ was all but obsessed with the idea of sehsucht, the idea of looking for True North. In his book The Problem of Pain he says

All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest—if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself—you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for.”

One day, at the end of your journey, you will say these words. “Here at last is the thing I was made for.”

Side note- I wanted to share my music with you for free since I know many of you didn’t even realize that I am a musician for a living. To download ten free songs- just click on the tab on top of the page, click on the link, and download! Hope you enjoy my gift to you!

Tales of a Blubbering Nun

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I am writing this from my little hermit room in a monastery in Sedalia, Colorado. I have learned to love monasteries over the years, and I visit them on a semi-regular basis. They have become a part of the rhythm of my life. I come to these restful places when I need solace and regeneration, when I need to set the compass of my soul towards North again.

And so, you might imagine me, bible in my lap, pen in my hand, face towards the sky, an ethereal glow of the Master’s serenity on my face, like the pictures of Mary on those Catholic candles they sell at the dollar store.

But if that is the picture you see of me, you’re dead wrong.

Instead, I am a weeping, blubbering mess of a woman who has mascara trails on her face and has had a hard time eating for the last five days. The other seekers in this building have had their silent retreats interrupted by this blubbering, but I just can’t help it.

I don’t really know what the heck is going on.

Maybe it’s that my lease is running out and I am moving. I counted the other day- I have moved something like 20 times since I was 18, and that doesn’t even count things like working at camps and coming home for the summer. I have had at least 60 roommates over the years. That is just not the way it is supposed to be.

Maybe it’s that I’m contemplating starting a new wonderful but taxing full time career working with inner city kids, and the weight of such a big decision is scaring me to death.

Maybe it is that my dad died only three months ago, after which I promptly put together his entire memorial service, wrote a nice post about him, and put the tragedy on the back burner for a better time and place. The time and place seems to be now and here. In contemplating his death, I am also thinking about the fact that part of the reason I long for a husband so much is because I long to have a male figure that loves me, that is a good father figure to my children. It aches so deeply to think that I might never have that.

Maybe it’s that I have been fixated on mistakes I made missing out on good men- wondering if there has been some horrible trajectory of hopelessness that has come from those small decisions that have put me in this place, a life that does not include a family.

Maybe it’s that I am done with my book and have realized that I just spilled my guts out to a bunch of strangers, and that the process of spilling those guts was much more painful than I’ve admitted to myself.

Maybe it’s that I found a box of journals the other day, and some of them were written when Ice Ice Baby was considered to be a really cool song. Those journals were written such a very long time ago, and many of my memories feel too far away to touch any more. I don’t want them to be so far away.

And lastly, it is quite possible that I am blubbering because I have been thinking about the wonderful nuns and priests that live in this place, celibate and saintly, and have said to myself “dear Lord, I never asked to be a freaking modern NUN!”

Thankfully, I have been reading the words of Thomas Keating on my retreat, a very famous and wise monk. He points out that when Jesus said “I have come to seek and save the lost,”  lost actually means totally gone, hopeless, not worth giving another thought to, wiped out. I have always been taught that the lost were a group of people, which he might be referring to as well. But it brought new meaning to me today to imagine Jesus coming to seek, to intentionally look for, to save, the deepest, darkest, most hopeless, most wiped out parts of me. To bring redemption to those parts. That the more broken and frustrated and hopeless I am, that’s how much more grace and mercy and love he pours out into those places.

I also read today about Jesus eating with and defending and loving prostitutes and poor people and tax collectors and lepers and children. As I read, the scenes backed away, and I suddenly realized that the room that they were communing together in was my heart. That prostitute that has lost her identity and doesn’t believe she’s beautiful any more. That poor person who begs for scraps of mercy. That tax collector that tries to control his way into getting people to love him. That leper who longs so much to be touched. Those children who just want a daddy to hold them. All of those characters are living inside of me. And they are all so, so scared.

And then I imagined Jesus coming to all those parts of me, saying “I accept all of you. Even though the world has forgotten you, I have not forgotten. Do you have any idea how much I love you? If you were to believe that, to truly believe it, you wouldn’t be so scared. But even now, in all of your fear and all of your faithlessness, there is more than enough love to cover you. Come, sit down. Come eat with me. Feel the warmth of my complete acceptance. I will seek and save that which is lost in you.”

I also read these words from Theresa of Avilla today, “. . .we can never have too much confidence in God, who is so powerful, and so merciful. If I had on my conscience every conceivable crime, I would lose nothing of my confidence, but my heart breaking with love, I would throw myself into the arms of God, and I am certain that I would be well received.”

Oh God, my prayer for today is simply to be certain that I am well received into your strong, strong arms. That you will never let go. That there is nothing so dire that it can’t be redeemed by you. If you could help me believe that now, Lord, that would be enough for today.

Christmas Was Hard This Year…

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There is one Christmas gift that stands out to me more than any of the others I received as a child. It was a beautiful German wedding doll. I remember so clearly looking through the Sears Christmas catalogue and circling that doll with a red marker. Soon after, there was a rectangular shaped Christmas box wrapped under the tree.Through the next few weeks, I would look at the box, trying to decide if it was the right shape and size for my doll. I would hold it in my arms like a baby anticipating what might be inside.

Christmas Eve came, and as was our tradition, we went to the Christmas Eve service and opened presents afterwards. My anticipation had grown and grown over the weeks. For some reason, I felt so much joy when I opened that gift and saw that it was the little doll. It is my most vivid Christmas memory.

Expectation is one of the things that makes Christmas so special. Christmas is not some measly holiday like the fourth of July where you a buy a bunch of sparklers the day before. You take weeks to plan the menu, buy the presents, sing the Christmas carols, put the tree up. You can understand why children get excited. There is an expectation of something magical happening at the end of these weeks. Their wrapped presents bring even more expectation. There are gifts that are right under their noses, but they don’t know what they are. They have to wait in order to find out.

My desire for family, for children, can be seen in that little wedding doll, with her sweet little velvet dress and crowned veil. There has been a present, my most treasured present, under the Christmas tree for a very long time. A present called family.

The expectation over this present grew and grew, especially in my 20s.  But somewhere, after many years, the expectation hit a crescendo and I all but stopped hoping. That present could be empty for all I knew. That present could have the little wedding doll in it, but she might be a disappointment. Or maybe she would bring me great joy. I didn’t know, because all of these years, I was never allowed to open that present.

For some reason, thinking about that doll struck something very deep on me on Christmas this year. I cried when I held my friend’s little boy for a little bit during the Chriistmas Eve service, when he put his little head in the crevice of my neck, in that exact spot where you feel so in love with the child in your arms that your heart is about to explode.

I cried when I drove past my dad’s old house, past the lake where he used to take us iceskating, past the forest where he used to take me to cut down Christmas trees. He died only six weeks ago, and it wass so strange and heartbreaking for me to realize that he really is gone.

I cried when I took a walk through the beautiful snow covered streets of Evergreen where I grew up, missing the puppet shows with my nephews and niece that I used to have who have since moved to North Carolina. Missing the years that I spent with ex-boyfriends with big family gatherings and games and laughter. Missing the husband and children that have not yet been, that may never be. Longing for that like a little girl waking up Christmas morning and seeing that the little rectangular box is gone for some reason that she doesn’t understand.

I couldn’t cry in the house, because my sweet mother sacrificed a lot in this hard financial season to make me and my little brother a wonderful gluten and sugar free Christmas dinner. She tried so hard to make it special for us, and I didn’t want her to have any idea that I was sad. At least I had her to hold on to. Many people don’t even have one person to try to bring joy to their loved ones like the points of hope that look like Christmas lights speckled across the night sky. At least I had that.

I walked back to my house, wiped the tears from my eyes, went upstairs to the very place that I opened that little doll all those Christmases ago, and pulled out my journal. I did what I do every year; made a list of all the gifts that God had given me that year.

There were so many. New friends that had brought me so much joy. Being able to be with family when my father died. Celebrating the life of a dear friend who nearly died but was miraculously spared. This blog, my book, and all the people who have sacrificed to make my dreams happen. Many many gifts. I tried to remember all the gifts that I have been able to open this year, and stop focusing on the one that has been sitting there for so long, the one that I still haven’t been able to open.

Christmas is difficult because it is such a mirror. A mirror of your family, of your life, of all the wishes that you have that are not fulfilled.

All I can say when I write about a Christmas this difficult is that it helped me a lot to be grateful for the gifts in front of me.There will be more Christmases with more gifts to open, and we will all anticipate that coming. There is no anticipation if there is no waiting. There is no fulfillment of joy if there is no waiting. The waiting, the anticipation, is what brings the fulfillment of hope. In the meantime, all we can do is be grateful for the gifts that are in front of us now.

Anyone else have a hard Christmas? It’s okay. Tell us about it. We all need a little family this time of year.

Christmas: The Great Reminder

I thought I’d repost my Christmas blog from last year. It is bittersweet reading this now because my dad has passed away this year. Even if Christmas was difficult at times like I mention, I really wish I could still spend time with him this year. Remember this when you are with family…even when it is hard, at least they are with you breathing and alive. That is a gift.

I have two days left of my campaign for my book. I don’t think I’m going to make my goal of $5,000, but I am only $300 away from $3,000. That would cover a lot of my costs and at least get the book into your hands. Preorder the book now! It will really help me out!

http://www.indiegogo.com/gettingnakedlater/x/1824239

Here is the post:

I really really want to like Christmas.

I try. I close my eyes and say “I have a good life, I have a good life, I have a good life. I like Christmas.”

But it is really really hard to be single at Christmas time. (I am so temped to make some kind of comment about being a “round young virgin.” but that is totally tasteless. And yet, I still had to sneak it in there.)

Did you know that Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children? Of course he is. Children make Christmas come alive. And so Christmas is often a reminder that I don’t have any. Christmas, for many of us, is the Great Reminder.

For the most part, I like the season of Christmas. I know, I know, Christmas trees came from some pagan tradition and Santa Clause was an invention of controlling money hungry co-ops, but whatever. God is the father of lights. He made those trees and he inspired those lights, and they are lovely.  Santa Clause was inspired originally by Saint Nicholas, a man who took very good care of the poor. In a way,  he inspired the whole world to give gifts to each other.  And so I like the beautiful trees lining Pearl Street where I live. I like that big jolly man that makes children full of anticipation and laughter and reminds us to give to each other.

I love people walking around and singing songs outside of your door. I mean, when does that happen? I would be shocked if a group of strangers came to my door in June and started singing Barry Manilow songs. But no one is shocked this time of year. Because this is the time of year where even strangers are supposed to be kind to each other. And I love that.

And yet, I often don’t like the day of Christmas. That day is the Great Reminder more than any other day of the year.  Sometimes I don’t know where to go. I don’t have my own tree or my own presents under them, because I don’t have my own children and husband to give those presents to. I could put up a Christmas tree just for myself, but that would be pretty depressing.

I used to go to my Dad’s house for Christmas. I love my dad, I really do. But he has never really liked Christmas. At all.  I am the kind of person that always wants to make holidays special. I really, really want to feel like a family. Because they’re all I’ve got.

Now, I usually go to my brother and sister in law’s house. I am very close to them, and I love their children to pieces. So I do have that. That is more than a lot of people have.

A few years ago. my sister in law’s fire dancing troupe needed to practice on Christmas Eve. We went in the backyard with a bunch of hand drums and played the most hippie dancing Christmas carols you can imagine. (We’re all wanna be hippies.) Our very own Christmas fire dancers swung their fire balls and fire batons against the crisp night sky with snow all around us.

That was a high point.

I mean, who gets fire dancers as a Christmas tradition? I do.  In fact, if I ever do have my own family, I’m going to keep that tradition up. “Come on kids, it’s time to wave flaming sticks at each other!”

I am reminded this season that I have a lot and I have a little. If I don’t focus on the a lot, I will be overwhelmed by the little.

I don’t want to end this post with a pat formula saying “if you just remember how wonderful Jesus is, you will forget your loneliness.” That’s not true. Those feelings of loneliness are real and they are difficult. God understands how hard it is. He knows that as of now he is not with us in the flesh. He understands that in this season of remembering the ones you love, sometimes you just want someone to hold you. To actually physically hold you. You want children to open the presents you gave them.  But there is no one to hold you. There is not the laughter of children that makes Christmas come alive.

And it hurts.

But I do want to end with this thought, something I have been thinking about a lot this season.

The chorus of a song I wrote a long time ago goes like this:

“Tell me the story again for the first time

A babe in a manger, who’s really the Savior of all mankind

Tell me the story again for the first time

The passionate God who would live and would die

All because of your love for me.”

Tell me the story again for the first time: The God who could not be contained by the universe came down to be confined to a little baby so that we could hold him close to our heart.

That is more than a story. It is the deepest story. The God who spoke the stars into place lived in that baby.  And he grew up in that confined space to be near to us. He died to be near to us.

That is the most beautiful love story there is. How could it get more beautiful?

It is the story that every other story comes from.

And on Christmas day, just for a while, I want to remember that story instead of how lonely I am. I want Christmas to be the Great Reminder that despite how hard this season is for me, I live in a story that is deeper than any other story.

And I am covered by love that is greater than any other love.

Big Bangs and Marching Bands

Big Bangs

Note before my post: Well folks, I have one week left to raise another three thousand dollars if I want to publish! Don’t be scared by that number, though. $15 and you get a copy of one of my CDs before Christmas, $20 gets you that PLUS the book when it comes out! Even those little gifts help. I also have a shorter version of the song “Thirty Something and Single” that you can put up on your walls to promote the campaign or just because it is funny. Go to the campaign website and click on “Updates” to see the song. Click here to preorder the book! Don’t forget that 20% of the profits of the book after it’s published will go help two of my most loved charities, iempathize and AIDchild. By helping me you will be helping them.On to my post!

I thought it would be fun to post a bit about my history. And what what better place to start than the minimum security prison that we all know as Middle School.

It was the early 90s. We were still in shock from the late 80’s, otherwise known as “The Era of All Things Big.” Big shoulder pads, guys with steroid enhanced big muscles, big rock ballads like Pour Some Sugar On Me, and big earrings. (One of my favorite pairs literally had a scene of a castle with a prince riding up to it.  I am not making that up. Said enormous castle scene earrings actually weighed my earlobes down so much that one of them tore. I still have the tear in my right ear to prove it.)

The most important  thing on this “big things list” was BIG HAIR. It was that special decade in which we were unknowingly hairspraying a hole in the ozone layer the size of Russia.  But what thirteen year old girl in their right mind is  environmentally conscious when she is trying as hard as possible to fit in?

All the popular girls would come to school with their bangs styled in perfect 90s form: half curled back, half curled forward, like waves breaking in the Barren Sea. These girls had apparently found an elective class called “Bang Curling 101,” where they could spend hours a day perfecting the art.

I myself had taken Band Class instead of Bang Class, opting to play the keyboard in the marching band. That keyboard was stinking heavy, but it was the price I had to pay to be a part of the dysfunctional family know as middle school band class.  I didn’t have a lot of time to master styling my hair when there were other things on my mind, like making fun of the baritone sax player who I had a secret crush on, or carrying a thirty nine pound instrument down the football field while simultaneously playing it. I am now seriously considering writing to my band  teacher to ask him if he has ever heard of any other marching band with a keyboard player (because i certainly haven’t,) and then kindly suggesting that he pay all of my chiropractor bills.

I had such a hard time with the art of bang maintenance that I opted to grow them out. I proceeded to bleach my hair with Sun In and crimp it  every day until it eventually looked like Mount St. Helen’s on a hot day. It was the 90s, folks. Hairspray, vests, tube tops, hats with sunflowers on them, hair that falls out in clumps. These were our very own fashion rites of passage, and you better not make fun of them.

My best friend in elementary school had become popular overnight when we reached the seventh grade. I had the privilege of riding on her popular coattails for a while.

But my brief liaison with popularity ended one day, when she came up with this simple formula:

Walking around with best friend Kate from elementary school+scorched hair instead of bountiful 90s hair+band geekiness+ Screech- from -Saved- By- The- Bell -like -tendencies= popularity quotient going down drastically .

She wrote me a note using lots of cuss words, had all the other popular girls glare at me when I tried to sit with them in the lunch room, and threw my stuff out of our shared locker.

There are three things that are a sure in life. Death, taxes, and girls being ridiculously mean to each other in middle school. World without end, amen.

Thankfully, after a long lonely season, I bonded with a group I affectionately refer to as the “Banned Locker Refugees.” All of us had our stuff thrown out of mean girl lockers. We had an incredible assortment of haircuts, including the “mushroomed,” the “feathered like a hawk,” the “skater gone bad,” and the “I stuck a bowl on my head and my mom cut around it.” None of us had the right bangs. But we laughed a lot and a we enjoyed each other. I still talk to one of those girls almost every week.

I had survived Middle School. Just barely. But I survived.

Anyone have funny 90’s moments? Horrible middle school moments? Wonderful middle school moments?

On The Passing Of My Father

Whenever anyone asks me about my favorite gift that I have ever been given, I always say that it was a piano that my dad gave me when I was about thirteen, just a few years after the difficult divorce of my parents. Dad told me that his roommate had bought a new piano and that I should try it out. I was playing for about ten minutes, when dad said “actually Kate, the piano is for you.” I was very surprised. That gift meant so much to me.

Two weeks ago my dad passed away.

That sentence is loaded with so much emotion that I can barely even write it down. Winsome emotions attached to memories I have as a little girl, sitting in his lap and feeling the rough stubble on his chin against my face. Aching attached to the fact that he was so sad the last few years of his life that it was very difficult to connect with him. Anger that I was not able to say goodbye.

I have often wished that I could have a father that hugged me often and used his words to express that he loved me on a more regular basis. Physical affection and words of encouragement are the ways that I best understand love. Those were not often his ways of expressing love. But I am learning now that his lack of outward affection didn’t mean he didn’t love me. He loved me very deeply. He just expressed it in ways that I didn’t always see or understand.

My dad sold the house he lived in and moved into an apartment just weeks before he died. He didn’t want my brothers and I to have to deal with the mortgage. It seems that he sensed he didn’t have much longer to live.

At first I was angry that dad didn’t invite us into those last few months of his life. I always thought that I would have the deathbed talk that you see in the movies where everything is made right. Where you knew your dad loved you. Where you knew you were a good daughter.

But something I realized after he died was that my dad was loving us even in his last days the way that he knew how to love. He didn’t want to burden us. He didn’t want us to be in pain by seeing him in pain. He wasn’t leaving us out because he didn’t love us. He was leaving us out because he did love us.

I know now why that piano always meant so much to me. It was a picture of the way that my dad loved. He knew that I loved to play and that I didn’t have a piano. So he found one for me. He saw the need and he filled it. That was his way of loving. Now, I can sit down at that piano and accept that gift with deep gratitude. I can accept that this was my dad’s way of loving me.

One of the greatest skills we can learn in life is to try to understand the love languages of the people in our lives. To learn to accept their love as love, even when it doesn’t feel like love to us. To truly believe that it is love despite our missed signals and misconceptions. Really, all of us are trying so hard to love one another but just aren’t always sure how to do it. Wouldn’t it be wise for us to simply realize that the people that are closest to us are trying really really hard to love? Just like we are trying so hard?

There are many ways to wrap a gift. My dad may have wrapped his messily with a brown paper bag and masking tape. I may put flowers and bows on mine. The truth is, one is not better than the other because of the wrapping.

When you open them up they both contain the same thing:

Love.

Do any of you have instances where you realized that someone was loving you even though you didn’t perceive it as love? Any favorite memories of loved ones that you have lost?