When #MeToo gets personal: a guest post from the lovely Kathryn Bronn

Kathryn and my friendship began a few years before the chapter of her story that she shares in the guest post(s) below.

I remember the December day in 2013 when I hugged her goodbye outside of Purple Door Coffee; she was preparing to pursue the dream the Lord had given her of documenting stories and teaching art in Rwanda, Africa, and even though we didn’t know when our paths would cross again, I was pumped to see her step into her joy.

Three weeks after we parted ways, my phone buzzed at work as a Facebook Messenger alert crossed my screen:

“Kace. I have no cell phone… I was raped, and it was essential for me to get out of there. There’s the possibility of HIV and/or pregnancy, and everything else… I’m just focused on getting home now, everything else will be sorted out in time.”

The chills I felt that day as I read my dear friend’s words pale in comparison to the chills I had last week as I read her blog series on the Lord’s redemption of the worst day of her life.

This is your warning– the following post may be difficult to read, but if you can, I beg you to do so. Kathryn’s story is important for so many reasons.

It is real and raw, and I applaud her for boldly sharing the story the Lord has given her because I know first hand that her level of transparency is healing.

It was Kathryn’s Facebook Message that the Lord used to bring me to my knees in my classroom that afternoon, and that same message that He used to propel me into counseling later that spring (kicking and screaming [mostly screaming]) where I was first able to acknowledge, then begin to come to terms with my own past sexual abuse.

Shortly after her return to the States, but years before the semi-colon tattoo/ depression awareness movement and last fall’s social media #MeToo hashtag, Kathryn and I had a “me too” movement of our own. We decided that where our minds wanted to put a period– where we wanted to stop, to break down, to cease moving forward– we were going to allow Jesus to place a semi-colon– the lingual sign of moving forward with a similar and related story. IMG_1880

What man had meant for evil in our pasts, we were going to fight with every. fiber. of our beings. to bring to the light and give over to God. In a tattoo parlor in 2014, we vowed that our past abuse would no longer define or confine us.

However, as I watched #MeToo sweep social media last fall, I stared at my phone– a silent participant, acutely aware of the multitude of ways my own fear and shame has continued to confine me over the years, in spite of the tattoo I proudly display on my forefinger.

So while I’m “late to the party”, my heart’s desire is to tell you, sweet friends, that if you have ever been the victim of sexual harassment or abuse, you are not alone.

There is Hope.

There is healing in the tender arms of Christ. 

Christ sees you. He loves you.

He is the bearer of every burden, if you allow Him to be.

I repeat: You. are. not. alone.

Thank you, Kathryn for paving the way to healing for me and hundreds of women all over the world.

Thank you for giving me the courage to say #MeToo four years ago and again today.

; Kace


4 Years Later :: How God Keeps Redeeming the Worst Day of My Life By: Kathryn Bronn

Bronn_00223This week marked the 4 year anniversary of being raped while doing volunteer work in Rwanda.  That statement is loaded, I know.  The crazy thing is, I was most of the way through the day earlier in the week before I realized what day it was.  As in, I forgot about it.  As in, the day doesn’t lord it’s bad memory over me anymore.  In year one, it surely did.  Year two, was bittersweet.  Year three, I still remembered, but now, year four… praise to the God who “restores the years the locusts have eaten”.

As I marveled at the work of my good Father, I felt like the time had finally come to share the whole story.  The whole season…because surely, that’s what it was.  A moment triggered a season, a hurt became a catalyst for the most profound healing.  A wounded heart and broken girl called out all that is good and beautiful and awe-inspiring in God’s people and my community, and brought about some of the closest relationships I have ever been privileged to be in. I want to share, not just to expose the story once again, but to offer hope.  The story has been shared, and shared, and shared!  I have never kept it a secret. The sharing has been incredibly helpful, and sparked many other women to share their stories as well.  But it’s even more than that… I want to tell of the wonderful works my God has done.  I want to declare that I was surrounded by people who did and said the RIGHT things, and I want to share those things as a resource for whenever YOU have a girl who has been abused come across your path.  And finally, I want to offer hope to those who have been victims.  I want to say that this year, year 4, I didn’t even remember the day until my Facebook memories reminded me of it.  There is HOPE for HEALING.  A day, a moment, and a season does not have to steal your future.  

I’m in a new season of life now, in a new country with new people.  For a long time, this “thing” about me, this brokenness, was worn in such a way that it was just right up front.  People knew, it was a prominent part of my story.  I was in the midst of it, and in the midst of coping, dealing, healing. Now, it is still part of my story, still very defining.  However, it is not “the” defining thing, and God has brought me out into new territory after it.  Many people are new in my life and know nothing of it, because it doesn’t come up like it used to. It is important, though,  to remember Him and His works, and it is important to share the stories He gives us.  There are times when I feel like I shouldn’t share anymore, like He has healed me and I should just move on and be done with this testimony.  Not too long ago, I was reading “Through Gates of Splendor” by Elisabeth Elliot, the story that is famous around the world about her husband and his friends, killed on the mission field in the 50’s.  She shared these words as an afterward, written as a much older woman–

“I have not been allowed to forget the story. I would not have wanted to forget it, but there have been times when I have wondered if others might. Perhaps they have tired of it. Should I continue the retelling as I am so often asked to do? I spoke of my misgivings to Miss Corrie ten Boom who, as an old lady, indefatigably traveled the world to tell her own story over and over again, of her family’s providing refuge to Jews in Holland during World War II, of their being betrayed and imprisoned in a concentration camp, and of the deaths of her sister and aged father as a result. “Sometimes,” she told me, “I have said, ‘Lord, I must have something fresh. I cannot go on telling the old story.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘This is the story I gave you. You tell that one.’ ” So Corrie encouraged me to go on telling mine.”

And so I shall also go on sharing mine, because it is so full of the love of Jesus I can hardly stand it.  It is the worst thing that ever happened to me, and the way that God stopped me in my tracks and did a marvelous work as well. 

I’m going to share this in 3 parts, because it’s kind of a long story.  Part 3 will be all of the practical resources I can offer (or that were helpful to me), as well as an essay I wrote about 10 months after the rape which I have never shared until now.

Bronn_002679

Kigali, Rwanda :: January 25, 2014

Oh, that day was such a fun day.  The whole day had a brightness about it, a sunshine and warmth.  The kids at the art program were delighted to come out to the studio on a Saturday, and on this day we were doing a special photography class. I had been in Rwanda for 3 weeks, and intended to stay another month or so before heading to Uganda.  I was fresh, oh so fresh, out of art school, ready to take on the world and serve in any way I could, particularly using my camera.  I was eager, I was green, I was naive by choice to many things and ridiculously optimistic.  I had spent the last 9 months of art school saving up for a big trip, part tourist and part serving work in a Christian mission, to explore my options for the future.  My own wedding and portraits business was really taking off, and I had quit all my part-time restaurant jobs months before to just do photography.  I also felt the continual call to the mission field, a nudging that had been a familiar companion since my early teens.  I had barely gotten out of art school still alive with my Christian faith, it being tested pretty persistently with the incredibly liberal and strange culture of art students,  drugs and drinking.  I had some big questions for God. To be completely honest, I had some pretty big pride and that awful Western “Savior complex”.  I had a desire for answers and the spare time to explore.

A friend connected me with an American woman who had been living in Rwanda for several years, running an after-school art program for kids in a rough neighborhood of Kigali.  She was headed to the States for a few months and wanted an intern to take over for her for a bit, which seemed like a perfect fit for me!  She provided me a place to live, and I came up with art and photography classes to teach, while learning the culture and the kids.  In the beginning of January 2014, just after arriving and getting situated for a few days, she left me and her program in the hands of an older Rwandan woman (who incidentally was out of town for nearly my entire stay there), and a young Rwandan man, the same age as me. I’m going to call him Charles and not use his real name.

That Saturday, we had a full house.  The kids were crowded into the studio, as well as using the cameras provided by the program to go outside and photograph the neighbors. The older kids had a line of people wanting to get passport photos.  The mamas were even around, with their pedal sewing machines set up in the shade outside, doing mending for the children and whoever stopped by to bring them pants. I felt like I was in my full glory, laughing and singing and dancing with the kids.  The girls decided I needed to learn how to balance things on my head like a Rwandan woman, so they tied a little girl to my back, and wrapped my head up in a scarf and balanced a bucket on top of it all.  We took turns photographing each other, I taught them some of the lighting techniques I had just learned in school.  In the afternoon, a downpour began and all the passersby crowded in to our tiny space for some shelter.

That evening, to celebrate the successful day, Charles suggested we go out to eat, and his cousin would meet us at the restaurant.  We did just that, and ate, drank, laughed.  I learned several new phrases in Kinyarwanda, I asked many questions about their lives and growing up in their country as it healed from its deep wounds.  About an hour in, I got super sick, and started throwing up at the restaurant. Never have I figured out if it was food poisoning or there was something in my drink, but I was violently ill all the same.  The restroom attendant thought I was drunk and said I had to leave the premises at once.  The two men I was with carried me to a taxi, as I couldn’t walk and was bent double with nausea, and agreed to take me home.  I was so sick in the taxi though, and the driver was not pleased, that Charles said he could take me to his house to rest for a bit, since it was right around the corner.

A lot is foggy, really.  I remember being laid out on a bed in a tiny two room “house” that was little more than a shack and being given a bucket.  I remember continually vomiting.  And I remember that he raped me. It was not violent, as I was pretty incapacitated and couldn’t fight him off.  It was all so confusing.  I hadn’t seen it coming at all, not even a little bit.  I just held still and searched my mind for what I could have done wrong, where I misunderstood the culture, what foolish mistakes I had made that day.

Kigali, Rwanda :: January 26, 2014

I went to the hospital to get some fluids because I was so dehydrated and afraid that the water would only make me worse.  I told them I had been raped, and the doctor told me that if I turned the man in, he’d get 25 years to life in prison.  The doctor gave me a pregnancy test, which terrified me, and I was also confused…didn’t this just happen? Surely you couldn’t know yet… I was in a state of shock though, and couldn’t think rationally.  I later Skyped one of my best friends back in Colorado and told her what had happened.  She immediately went next door and grabbed our pastor (who just happened to be her neighbor and home at the time), and we all got on Skype together.  She cried, my pastor cried, I just sat there stoney faced and confused.  They asked what I wanted to do, and I actually had to think through it a bit.  In the end, we decided to get me home and go from there…I didn’t want to leave Africa, or the kids program or my long trip I had planned out.  Yet, I also didn’t want to stay in a place where I was alone and so terribly oblivious to culture and legal systems.

Charles wanted me to be his girlfriend afterwards.  He came over later that day, and I confronted him.  I told him that what he had done was wrong.  He had fear in his eyes.  He never took responsibility for the act, but he was afraid which showed me he knew he was wrong.  I told him I was leaving and to never contact me again.  Maybe I should have turned him in to the police.  Maybe I enabled him to hurt someone else.  That responsibility has always felt heavy on my shoulders, but I also knew I was a single white girl in a foreign country and a fish out of water.  I learned some pretty serious cultural differences right there.  I was slapped in the face with the truth that I had a false sense of security and, dare I say, a sense of  invincibility as an American girl. I realized in that moment that women are looked at differently in different parts of the world, that I as a foreigner was viewed as loose and willing.  In that instance, from his point of view and cultural upbringing, I probably DID do everything that indicated I wanted intimacy with him.

This singular part of the story has been one of the hardest parts to overcome.  In hindsight, I should have taken some classes on culture before going.  I should have done more research and asked more people what were the appropriate ways to act around the men in that country.  But I didn’t.  So maybe I did communicate in many ways that I was completely unaware of that I wanted him.  Maybe had I gone with a more structured organization, maybe if I had been accountable to some others there, instead of just being left with this one guy… maybe maybe maybe.  Some of my questions have been worked out, but others not.

A few hours later, I was on the longest plane ride of my life, headed back toward the United States.

I’m going to say this right here, as an interjection into the story:  THE FACT THAT I TOLD SOMEONE RIGHT AWAY about being raped has probably been the greatest catalyst of healing from it.  I’m a terrible secret keeper, and usually my face reveals all anyway.  This time, it was to my advantage. Had I kept it a secret, I would have remained in Africa for another month or two.  The guilt and shame and lies would have ample time to take root, and then what?  I said something Day 1, and it has been to my advantage ever since then.  It made it easier to say something Day 2, and Day 3 and forward from there.  In the past 4 years, I have ended up hearing countless stories of women who either a) kept their rape a secret for months/years/decades and lived with the burden of its shame always in their souls or b) told someone and were accused that it was their fault or told to just forget about it.  I have MUCH more to say about this later on.  WHY on earth was the response to me sharing  gentle and compassionate, filled with tears and words of truth?  I don’t know.  God did it. He provided that, and the only reason I keep sharing my story is to offer it to other women as well.

The story doesn’t end there, of course.  There is SO MUCH REDEMPTION in this story I can still sometimes not even believe it. You’ll have to read Part 2 and Part 3 of the story, which are really the best parts and a testament to the grace and healing work of God.


Follow Kathryn’s blog here or follow her work with Reach Global and stunning photography on Instagram here.

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Growing in doubt

In my 10 months in the Alaskan bush, I only saw fresh flowers once. I never knew how much I cherished having green plants and flowers in my home until I moved to the scenic middle of nowhere, where the closest vegetables, fruits, and flora to me were 165 miles and a flight away in Anchorage.

At times, I became so desperate to have foliage in my Willows
home that I took to cutting pine branches and willow buds off of trees and “potting” them in old growlers around my kitchen.

Last March, the winter ice thawed off of the trees and village trails, giving way to blossoms and ankle-deep mud– a sure fire sign that spring had sprung in Alaska. As I walked the trails to and from the local school every day and felt the thick mud tug on my goulashes, I also began to feel a familiar tug in my little Coloradoan heart– the desire to plant. The desire to see fresh, green growth.

I’d made the conscious decision when I was 17 that I would become a woman who gardened. And thus, every year since, I’ve cleared a semi-sacred afternoon in March to plant seedlings for what I hoped would one day become an autumn harvest. In years past, I’ve proceeded to take over the dining room table, window sills, and any other sunny surfaces of the houses I’ve lived in, filling them with trays of dirt and seedlings (which I’ve learned my lesson about trying to plant in the ground until after Memorial Day in Colorado…).

gardenPremature planting isn’t the only lesson I’ve learned from gardening though; over the years, the Lord has taught me so many sweet lessons about being more patient with my DSS students and allowing death to occur in my life so I can taste the sweetness of the resurrection. He has spoken to my soul through mud pies within that little picket fence and I swear there’s a clarity to His voice that comes when my little hippie soul is barefoot in a garden and my hands are covered in fresh earth…

That clarity is what my soul longed for last spring. As I walked those muddy trails home from work, my heart physically ached for the familiarity of my annual tradition. But due to the fact that I was surrounded by hundreds of miles of tundra and moss, I continued to cut willow buds on my “commute” and struggled to be content in the season the Lord had placed me in– one where my only interaction with dirt came from the slurping noises of mud as it threatened to suck my rain boots right off my feet.

My inability to physically plant a garden in the face of said longing made sense for that season, as Jesus was teaching me to desire other things. As such, my longing for familiarity and tiny garden seedlings went unfulfilled for my entire season of life in Port Alsworth.

In fact, my only opportunity to physically plant anything in 2016 came at beginning of summer, the beginning of a season of death that seemed to muddy most everything about my heart for the remainder ArlenesMarigoldof the year. This opportunity to plant a garden caught me entirely off guard because in the blink of an eye, I’d been called away from Alaska and was on my hands and knees in my “adopted mom’s” flowerbed in Iowa. As she worshipped through tears and planned her son’s funeral, I knelt outside the kitchen and planted her marigolds and petunias.

While tenderly planting Arlene’s flowers was an answer to the longing in my heart to be reunited with soil, those flowers were bitterly watered with tears. Those tears, ones that stemmed from pain and doubt, mixed with the soil, and created the metaphorical mud weighed heavy on my heart.

Last week, I sat on our back porch one afternoon as I struggled to process that mud and doubt that still lingers in my heart, even 10 months into this strange season of loss and readjustment. Between sentences in my journal, I stared at the empty garden in the corner of our yard.

As I did so, images of me walking the muddy paths of Port Alsworth, kneeling in Arlene’s garden, and of my own hands tending the Yarrow garden in years past flashed through my mind. In that moment, my throat constricted. Grief threatened to overwhelm me.

For better or for worse, I shook off that feeling, set my journal down, and took a walk down the street to Home Depot. I spent the rest of that day doing what my heart so desired this time last year. Acutely aware of how thankful I was for the familiarity of my own tradition, I thumbed seeds into trays of dirt in the sunshine and ceremoniously prayed over my little seedlings.

Grow, little seeds. Thrive. Struggle up through the dirt. Come toward the sun.

As I planted and half-mumbled my prayers, words from Hannah Anderson’s new book Humble Roots came to mind:

“We must create space for questions and doubt that lead to growth. But to do this, we must be comfortable with questions and uncertainty ourselves.” “This process can only happen in relationship; it can only happen as [we] depend on Him” (p. 130-131).

It’s exactly that space– space where I’ve learned to question, wrestle, and doubt– that the Lord has dug out and created in my life this year; even though I admittedly wanted nothing to do with it.

Since those late May days on my knees in the Miller’s flowerbed, I’ve wrestled with doubts I’m not proud to admit that I’ve had. I’ve cried and screamed, asking God if He’s real. If He’s Good. If He even cares. If I can trust Him. Where He was in the midst of tragedy, cancer, transition, loss, and death after death.

But it has been through this process and my hokey tradition of planting yet another year’s garden, that I have found Him in the dirt and myself in the seeds.

In the winter months, I felt half-dead, silent, dormant, awaiting new life to spring forth. Yet I fought the Lord every time He tried to root me to Him in the darkness. Little did I know, the dark hole in the soil, that place of questioning and doubt, was exactly the environment that would allow my seeds and questions to find nourishment and Truth in Him, and thrive.

Every morning as I water my little trays of seedlings and turn them toward the Colorado sunshine, I’m reminded that I’m not the one responsible for making them root down into the soil or stretch up toward the sun any more than I’m capable of controlling my own journey out of the mud and muck of grief.

Jesus is faithful to allow growth in its time, even when the precursor to growth feels a lot like being buried in the dirt and covered with manure. 

“For neither the one who plants nor waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:7)

 

Obsidian

We always tease my roommate Mallory that she has the “red phone” to God.

That girl… Oh that girl has the most beautiful relationship with God that I’ve ever had the privileged of witnessing. She wakes up early every morning to be with Him. She hears His voice clearly. Her prayers seem to always be answered in hilarious ways. She has dreams filled with meaning and spiritual depth. I mean the girl might as well have those little cartoon birds and mice from Cinderella dancing and singing around her as she walks through life with Jesus by her side.

Then there’s me.

The one who constantly is tripping and bumping her way through life, trying to discern whether I’m hearing God or my own rambling internal monologue. And as far as hyper-spiritual dreams go, well… I’m the girl who once had a dream involving a car accident, a meth addict, and a cop riding an ostrich in downtown Denver… Not quite the same.

But there’s a new fixture on my hand that reminds me that while my life may not be full of dancing cartoon animals, that God is crazy-big, and beautiful, and more faithful than I could ever begin to imagine.

Before y’all go jumping to conclusions about the ring on my finger, no, I am by no means engaged to be married. (Although that has been a really fun trick to play on some of you as I’ve asked for your addresses to send out support letters…)


Instead, as I prepare to go to Alaska, I’ve decided to intentionally be engaged in a season of prayer. I’m a ridiculously kinesthetic person, and thus the ring is there to remind me to pray for God to prepare me for whatever He has gotten me into with this wild adventure. I am trying to be in prayer for faith in provision. Prayer for the church-less villages of Alaska. Prayer for those whom I am about to leave. Prayer for those whom I am going to.

Right about now I just envision you, my sweet reader, gagging at how cliche the concept of wearing a ring of prayer/non-marital engagement sounds, but just as with everything in my life, the ring has a back story and it’s tied to Alaska.

Last year when I hopped on the tiny two-seater plane to Port Alsworth, I was seeking healing. In the months leading up to the trip, God seemed insistent to make me confront the darkest parts of myself and my past… and well, I was less than pumped about it.

In classic Kacy style, I ran. I avoided Him. Or I spent all of my free time with Him asking questions that had nothing to do with my own heart. I was torn between wanting His healing and not wanting to walk through the messy process of confessing my own sin and receiving that.

The second night I was in Alaska, I shot straight up in bed. Disoriented, I sat staring at my empty hands trying to figure out whether what I had just experienced was real or not.

I twisted my body, looking around the room. The ever-present summer sun was peaking out from behind the blackout curtains and my friend Megan was still asleep in her bed to my right.

Whose voice was that? It seemed eerily real and close, and yet I’m still in Kathryn’s bed and no one else is awake yet… 

I yanked back the comforter and slid my hands around on the mattress, searching the under pillows and near my feet. Nothing. It had to have been a dream…

Just moments before, I had been standing in a room with someone I knew and yet couldn’t see. I was holding a giant chunk of glassy, black rock.

“Do you know what this is?” The familiar voice asked.

I remember holding it up in the air and twisting it to see a bit of light shine through it. From some deep, dark cavern of 6th grade science knowledge I pulled out a term and definition I didn’t know I remembered.

“It’s obsidian… A type of glassy lava rock that’s translucent rather than opaque, which just means that it lets some of the light through, but not all of it.”

“Exactly. You’re like this rock right now. You let some of My Light through, but it’s cloudy and obscured by your own darkness– the darkness that you are afraid to let Me enter. But as you learn to pray and allow Me to enter into your darkness, I will make you into even more of a vessel for my Light. I will turn this obsidian into diamond.”

For what seemed like hours, I stood holding that rock in my hands, praying through past abuse I had suffered, sobbing all the while. (Yes, apparently I’m a giant sap, even in my dreams.) The mysterious person I had given my mini science lesson to stood with His hand on my shoulder and we spoke in harmony. Over time, yet right before my eyes, the rock shifted from black to grey, then to a cloudy, shiny silver color. Just as the silver began to clear and glisten like a diamond, I sat up straight in bed, staring at my hands…

So, it had been a dream.

I crept out of the darkened bedroom, past Kathryn sleeping on the sofa, grabbed my journal and retreated to the hammock I had hung overlooking Lake Clark.

It was on that hammock that I realized that my refusal to walk fully into His Light was an act of sin.

Was it a form of sin that was obvious to the people around me? Probably not– unless they knew the depths of my heart and knew how much it was keeping me from trusting God. Did it seem to consume me? No, but only because I’m too stubborn to appear as anything except cool, calm, and collected.

But in the depths of my heart, I knew that I had grown content with my darkness, thinking that because a little bit of His Light was shining through me, that that was good enough.

As I processed and journaled that morning, I realized I wasn’t trusting God to heal my heart from the verbal and physical abuse of my past. I had simply accepted darkness and deep pain as a part of life instead of seeing it as something that needed to be brought before the King time, and time again in prayer. And that is exactly the process that began that morning.

Nearly a year later, I’m here in Denver staring at the obsidian ring on my hand as I type this, laughing to myself because not only has God done many miraculous healing works in my heart, but because a stack of support letters written about moving to Alaska are sitting in a pile next to my computer.

I have no idea what I’m getting myself into with this whole move– I will readily admit that– but God does. And I honestly have no idea why I’m being called to a village 2,500 miles away from home for the next season of my life– but I know with every fiber of my being that I am.

I have no doubt that I will see His light shine a million times brighter than a diamond in Alaska, but just like in my dream, I know that I won’t be able to make an impact on the murky darkness alone.

In my dream, I was praying with someone. I like to think that maybe it was Jesus… but who really knows. All I know is that the change in my heart didn’t begin with me, but with a prompting from the Lord and I hope and pray that He will use me and my story to begin to do the same healing and sanctifying works in my students’ hearts next year at TLC. I look forward to sharing the transformation I get to witness with all of y’all.

“I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
(Isaiah 49:6b)

(If you’re interested in receiving a support letter or my e-newsletters as I prepare for my journey to Alaska, shoot me an e-mail at KacyLouLeyba@gmail.com. Especially if you’ve got the “red phone” like Mallory. Just sayin’…)

Destroying mud pies

Give up your small ambitions

There has always been something about the American Dream that never quite sat right with my heart.

For two years in college, I was a TA for an American Civilization course and taught along side one of the wackiest communist professors I’ve ever met in my life. (Not that I know a lot of communist professors… but you get the point.) After seeing his view of American politics, I began to attribute my anti-American-Dream / idealistic-socialist viewpoints to the fact that I had worked along side him for so long.

But the deeper I fall in love with Jesus, the more I realize that the American Dream doesn’t sit right with me, not because of Charles Angeletti and his shenaniganry, but because it is essentially in direct contradiction with the life that we, as Christians, are called to live and love.

Here in America, we are taught to value success, as dictated by your bank account or the size of the home that you could one day buy with your spouse and then fill with your 2.5 children and dog. Once we attain this status of “success” we are to spend the rest of our lives buying things from stores to fill our homes. Pretty stuff. Practical stuff. Stuff to put your other stuff in. Stuff to organize the stuff that you have put your other stuff in… I think that we can all agree that we are over-stufffed.

And in this cycle of stuffing our lives with stuff, we lose sight of what is important. The Gospel. The sick. The dying. Those who desperately need clean water or just the love of someone, anyone…

In our relentless cycle of buying and selling, moving up, and out doing each other, we are neglecting our one true calling– to love God’s people, even if that means sacrificing everything we have.

These things– our stuff, our account balances, our job titles and degrees– become not only the way the way that we measure our success, but they also become our affections and ambitions.

As this school year has drawn to a close, God has pointed this out in my own mixed up soul.

For the last six years, everything that I have done has been devoted to either becoming or being a teacher, and now that season of my life is over… and I’m mildly freaking out.

As I pulled my students’ posters and my infamous glitter-glue Jesus painting off of my classroom walls this morning, panic set into my heart.

This is happening.

I am not a teacher anymore.

One of the largest comforts that I have been clinging to within my life here in Denver has officially been shaken up.

I am homeless.

I am taking a job for the remainder of my time here in Denver that has nothing to do with my degree.

Aside from the fact that I have a plane ticket to Alaska for a week in July, I have little to no plans for the next seven months. And even though I’m not a huge planner, my mind is whirling with the chaos that God has placed me within.

But as I stood staring at my blank purple classroom walls, the last part of that sentence rang in my brain: the chaos that God has placed me within.

I am not alone here. He has a plan– a plan that I’m sure is far superior to anything that I could ever think up. I simply need to follow Him and make Him my focal point and the one that I find all of my comfort in.

In 2 Corinthians 6:12, Paul addressed the Corinthian church saying, “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.

As I read this over and over again, I couldn’t help but realize that while God and His will is my affection and one true desire, that I have some secondary affections and desires lingering in the depths of my heart because of the culture that I have been raised within.

I am affectionate toward comfort– a mailing address, a bed to sleep in, you know… the things that I never thought much about until recently.

I am affectionate toward the idea of being perceived as successful and not just as some crazy hippie girl who has gone rogue against society.

I am affectionate toward my job and the idea of being able to use the degrees and teaching license that I slaved away to earn.

I am affectionate toward the idea of settling down in a cute house in Denver with my someday husband and our cute outdoorsy, Coloradoan children.

I want things. Stuff. Comfort. A 9-5 life including volleyball tournaments with friends on the weekends and lots of camping trips in the summer.

I have been sold a dream– the American Dream– and it has seeped into my heart. But God is in the process of rooting that out. I am being called to give up my small ambitions and affections for a life much greater.

Yesterday, as I gardened in the wet mud of the house that I’m currently staying at, I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ mud pie analogy from The Weight of Glory:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with worldly ambitions when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I refuse to remain comfortable here with my mud pie dreams; even if it kills me (which it won’t, because you know… Jesus and stuff) I am going to follow my King. For He is my comfort and my rock in hard times and life tornadoes.

I am going for my holiday by the sea where my teaching license is nothing but a piece of paper and Jesus is my everything.

What are your affections and ambitions? Are you willing to lay them down to follow Christ where ever He is leading you?