please don’t

if someone asked
what I remembered about my childhood,
I would tell them
a Big Ol’ Easy Chair
patch-worked blue
big enough to fit two
large ice cream sundaes
please
with a cherry on top,
don’t let this be real,
please with a cherry
on top.

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twenty-seventh of september, two thousand sixteen

It’s 2016 and scientists still have not discovered a way to prepare college students for life after graduation. Two months in, and I still sometimes wonder if I will wake up out of this weird dream, but nevertheless, here I am. And I must confess that morning after morning, my heart sighs a little as God pulls me out of bed because another day has arrived where I feel directionless, purposeless, and mediocre.

A few weeks before graduation, a kindred heart shared with me the truth about graduation. She said, “There will never again be a time in your life where you aren’t expected anywhere, where you are not committed to anyone or anything. It’s complete unadulterated freedom—a great time for the Lord to work.” At the time, this statement seemed to me exciting and promising. It was a drink of water after wandering weary and exhausted in the desert. But now? Now that I am living that sentiment two months later, it is exhilarating terror. It is untamed, infinite, and possible. It is powerful and holy.

It has been months since I have taken the time to let my spirit pour out on paper, and even now, as I’m typing this, my hands quiver above the keys because I’m hoping for some kind of greatness to shine from this blank slate. And I think that is what we all expect after graduation—for greatness to shine. We expect life to take off in a full sprint, first to the finish line, but instead life takes a stroll. Life takes a stroll, and we wrestle with it, attempting to pull it along in any direction that is willing to take us somewhere else from the path we are on. I have been guilty of this, throwing myself into opportunities or ideas that could lead me anywhere but here, whether they lead to me fulfilling my dreams or not. It’s easy to justify the detours.

For example, I recently found myself on one of my midnight expeditions on LinkedIn looking for a job. I mentioned working for a school district to my roommate, to which she replied, “I have never heard you express interest in working at a school. Why now?” I popped off a few reasons as to why it would be a good idea, and needless to say, all of them reflected a lack of trust in God.

One thing I have learned in life after graduation is that it takes more courage to say ‘no’ than to say ‘yes.’ It is easy to jump into opportunities because (ironically) they are safe or good or convenient because anything feels better than doing the “same old, same old.” But I think sometimes the world needs to hear my “no” because Jesus wants me to wait with him. On life’s stroll, He has decided to sit down on a bench and He wants me to sit down beside Him. This is my time to delight, to dwell, to rest. And these things—delighting, dwelling, resting—look differently to me now than ever before because I’m in a different place than I have ever been before. But I need to trust that this place is good because He is good. He loves to work in these still moments.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23

Waking up, I fight the feelings of mediocrity, and purposelessness. I pray for the grace to see Him, sitting next to me on this bench, and I pray for the desire to ask what we are going to do today, trusting that whatever we do will be a part of a bigger picture that I can’t fully see yet. I pray for the humility to savor the moments of sunshine and laughter and quiet stillness on this bench, and I pray for the courage to journey on when we arise and continue walking because I know it will be messier, more challenging, and further than I have ever walked before.

Chad: A Journal Ready for the Shelf

I’ve been putting off sharing this news for about three weeks. While I wanted to wait to think through my words, I think the waiting has turned into shrinking. I’ve been shrinking back into the dark because I am perpetually wrestling with a fear of man. All of that is to say,

my trip to Chad in the fall has been suspended until further notice.

The suspension of the trip is nothing more than a physical manifestation of God’s faithfulness. His faithfulness is far beyond my human comprehension and definition of the word ‘faithfulness,’ but I know and believe in my spirit that he is- the I AM- he is faithful (Philippians 1:6 & 1 Thessalonians 5:24).  Ironically enough, acknowledging this brings peace beyond understanding and a sense of freedom that I can’t explain. It rests deeply within me, and when my circumstances tell me that I should be feeling otherwise, it holds fast.

The extraordinarily beautiful thing about all of this is that Jesus already knew this would happen. He went before me, and he hemmed me in from behind (Psalm 139:5). When I spent hours in grief and frustration at the change of plans, he didn’t shy away. He entered in my mess, and patiently sat with me while I processed. He encouraged me to pray and worship, and I did because regardless of what he takes away, he deserves nothing less. Regardless of what he takes away, he still withholds no good thing from me (Psalm 84:11), and I believe that wholeheartedly. Through my time preparing for Chad, he gave me eternal gifts that I would have never received otherwise if I had not been stepping out to go. He revealed to me that he has created a special place in my heart to serve Muslim women. He showed me that regardless of my fears and the lies that I hear, he will give me the faith to believe that he wants to fulfill my dreams, and he will provide the courage to work with him to make them come true, even if they don’t look like what I had initially imagined. With utmost humility and grace, he showed me that the church wants to support their church—I need to only ask, and people will fight for me, pray for me, and believe for me when I struggle to believe in myself.

Still, I’m praying for the ‘what now?’ I feel like every question at this point in time can be answered with a ‘maybe.’ And while I still fight to believe it wholeheartedly, I know that ‘maybe’ will suffice because Jesus is enough. He is the only certain thing, and I pray for the strength to cling to him (Psalm 61:2 & Hebrews 13:8). I pray for the grace to run into this limbo season of life, waving open hands while simultaneously excited and terrified for the immeasurably more that has been promised to come (Ephesians 3:20).

From my spirit flows a deep gratitude for everyone who was willing to support me & who encouraged me along the way. Thank you for being a part of an extraordinary lesson that I learned. There was not a day that passed by that ‘wow’ didn’t escape my lips.

Ma salaamah, In peace,

Kati Rae

“ You can’t test courage cautiously, so I ran hard and waved my arms hard, happy. ”

—    Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

Padre to Chad: Journal Two

God, I think about the way my hands fumble to sew words together. I think about the way I find myself praying poetry and yet, when I try to write anything permanent, it doesn’t take root- it doesn’t seem to stick and sculpt like Your words do. It leaves me with a furrowed brow and a soft smile on my face in the best way because I know it’s simply because You are holy.

My words dance, but only because You hold them by string. Because that’s all they are- words. An ensemble of eloquence, assembled together rhythmically. But Your Word? God, Your Word has a heart-beat– Your Word breathes. It was there in the beginning and it ages with grace, unchanged. Your Word marries flesh and tendons to bones, forming nothing into known. And I hold it.

But I confess that often times I see it less than what my poetry is because I don’t see the beauty of Your breath dancing in it. But God, while my words are being held by Your strings, Your Word stands on its own.

And I want to stand and dance with it.

***

Throughout spring break, while serving other university students in South Padre, I was trying to write a poem for my church’s Easter service in my free time. I kept finding myself frustrated at the fact that my poetry will never compare to David’s psalms or the imagery found in Hosea. It sounds blasphemous, but it’s honest.

My love of the Word of God has grown exponentially within the past year, and I can’t even begin to place what started it. But then again, have you read it? It’s rich.  You don’t need inspiration to read it because it is already inspired. I don’t write that statement looking down at you with a pointed finger. I write it to myself, hoping that I will believe it and that my belief will beget dependence. This is just a degree of glory I have transformed into, and I pray it takes root (2Corin 3:18). I’ve never read the whole bible, but lately the sun finds me sitting before my bible on the floor soaking everything in when it wakes up. The Bible reveals to me who God is and it reveals to me who I am in Him.

I was sobered last week at seeing the power of the Word of God. It’s living and active and it is truly water to those who are thirsty, it’s food for those who have no money, it is life for those who have nothing to offer. I was presented the opportunity to share one of my favorite stories from the Bible this week (thanks to my friend Hailey’s beautiful henna!) about a woman in the book of Luke (8:40-48). After bleeding for twelve years, at the touch of Jesus’ robe, her faith makes her well and gives her the name Daughter. I shared the story with a junior named Michael, visiting Padre for spring break. It was his first time to hear the story, and he agreed with me that it was one of the most beautiful stories he had ever heard. He proceeded to open up and relate with me on levels of depression and hardship, just as I relate to the woman in the story. I shared that after searching for years, like the woman, I found Jesus to be the only one who could heal me of my sadness and hopelessness. He shared that his has been the community he has found within his fraternity. We discussed healthy community and how that relates to what Jesus wants for us until we dropped him and his buddies off. Before Michael went, I had the opportunity to pray over him, and after we said amen, he looks up and says, “thank you.” With tears in his eyes, and pointing at my arm, he choked, “I never want to forget that story.”

Isaiah 55 says that the Word of God does not return void. All we have to do is put it forth in faith, and it will move mountains.

***

One week after getting approved for Chad, I found myself standing on a beach looking out at the one earthly thing that gives us a glimpse of eternity. I was lost in a crowd of eight-hundred university students singing in between waves of sea-salt wind, “you call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail, and there I find you in the mystery, in oceans deep, my faith will stand.” I felt the Spirit of God inhabiting the space next to me, and he took my hand, squeezing it. “And I will call upon your name, and keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise.” The ubiquitous depth of the ocean began to sober me up as I became acutely aware of how little control I have over my life. Until this moment, I think I had unconsciously looked at the opportunity to go to Chad as something I could do for God. The opportunity was about fulfilling my dreams and ensuring that my desire to be of some seemingly significant piece in the Kingdom of Heaven came to fruition. And standing there, looking out into the watery abyss, I saw the promise of God.

I was reminded of Abraham and Sarah, depraved of the ability to bring God’s promise to life by their human capacity. Sarah was barren without child, and Abraham was old in his age. Together they appeared unfit and unqualified to bring forth many nations. But God promised. And the promise came after the knowledge that Sarah was barren.

God knew that I was working in my own human ingenuity, trying to impress him with my weak abilities to plan, organize, and fundraise. He knew this, and still he promised. However, he is keeping me humbled on bruised knees in prayer because there is so much about Chad I still don’t know. But what a beautiful place to be. He is making me so utterly dependent on him that I can’t afford to place my focus anywhere else because if I do, I’ll sink.

The presence of the Spirit of the Living God inhabited that island for me that week in a completely different way than it has in the past four years. The ocean called to me as eternity calls to all of us in the deepest parts of ourselves. At night, I couldn’t help but see the Spirit brooding like a bird above the watery abyss. A hum of hallelujah followed me around like a sweet fragrance. His presence is a reminder that he brings things into existence that do not exist, just as it was for the earth & just as it is for me.

Ma salaamah,

Kati Rae

at the table

Come, everyone who thirsts! Come to the waters! He who has no money, come buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price! Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me and eat what is good. Delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and, come to me! Hear that your soul may live. // Isaiah 55

“‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’   And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you,[d] none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” // Luke 14

I see you dizzy and swaying. Your eyes are searching, starved of hope, aching,
your spirit moans
God, I’m hungry,”
instead you feast on the little Debbie’s
we used to sneak out of the pantry as kids,
during the days of cowboys and Indians.

you bury them in the midst of Texas Lone Star aluminum coffins
third drawer down, in your bedside table.
I hear the dead walk at night
whenever you think I’m sleeping,
but I know you’re drinking
and eating
just trying to feel something
but dead things don’t have the power
to make anyone feel anything.

I ache with the pain of knowing that you’re empty,
knowing that you keep taking and filling
like Death who never has enough because it’s not enough.
Brother, you’re hungry.
All the good you keep holding on to
falls through the holes in your hands,
caused by the nails of your own sin
when you hung yourself up next to Him.

I know what you’re thinking-
you’re just too busy.
because really?
who has time to
taste and see that the Lord is good
when you’re a family man, living the American Dream, doing good things.
Brother, can I tell you that good things
aren’t holy enough to carry their weight in eternity?
This walk you continue taking
back and forth to the pantry,
holding the door open,
waiting for some revelation to happen,
as if in the few moments you left and came back,
there could be something new.
Brother, can’t you see?
the food has already been prepared,
so please come sit next to me.

I want you to hear me
I want to tell you my story.
I want to tell you about the afternoons I would fill my pillowcase with those little Debbies because I thought they would make me feel something.
I want to tell you about the months I spent wandering, starving,
wasting away because I was done trying.
I want to tell you that that it is by grace
someone found me crawling around on the floor
pulled me up to the bench,
handed me a two-thousand year old piece of bread,
and said, “here, eat this.”

I want to tell you that I did—and from the moment
those bread bones married mine,
I haven’t been hungry since.

Brother,
I want you to know fullness such as this.

I met a man named Matthew four years ago
standing on the beach
looking out at the one earthly thing that gives us a glimpse of eternity,
And he turned to me,
choking on his words
and the slurs of his heartache’s whiskey,
He said, “I come here every spring break, because I’m tired of waiting,
So I take what the good Lord gives me, and baby girl,
he gave me Spring Break in Padre.”

I gave Matthew an invitation to come and eat,
but he was too blind to see,
turning in circles, stung by what he believes to be
an angry God’s desire to see him hungry and hurting.

I saw him again just last week,
spring break in padre,
walking on streets paved with plastic beads,
and I gave him another invitation
like I do every year
and he used it to wipe the beer from his chin.

This year, I met a boy named Willis
on the same beaded streets of the devil’s sanctuary,
and he shared with me his beliefs of reincarnation
and a Russian orthodox upbringing.
but I could hear his stomach growling, so
I asked, “Willis, do you want to come eat?
There’s a table here, that’s been prepared with this feast—
I promise, you’ll never go hungry.”
after a few days spent on bleeding knees
in prayer for the Spirit to intercede,
Willis said yes,
and he came to eat.

I pray that next year, Matthew will see that
in the midst of the least of these,
like Willis and me,
there’s still room at the table.
There’s still food to eat.

Chad: Journal One

I ache knowing that, aside from making cards, I haven’t freely created in quite some time. Even more so, it’s been longer since I have taken the time to sit down, kiss pen to paper, and write. But as my spirit sighs for my thoughts to freely dance on paper, I am thankful to know that truly, writing & creating make me come alive. I’m starting to feel the little tickle in my nose that comes before crying simply just thinking about what a good gift I’ve been given by a good Father- and I claim it as a gift. Redemption sings in that sentence because I wouldn’t have claimed it a year ago.

Another thing that I would never have guessed I would be doing a year ago? Living in a dorm room, on a hall with more than twenty girls, loving them so much it hurts. In my mind, I was not a person cut out for girl’s ministry. I honestly resented the thought of being stuck down to a group of girls. Faithfully, the Lord cleaned (and continues to clean) my heart of its selfishness and pride. There are a small handful of lovely ladies, who live on the hall and off the hall, that I have had the opportunity to lead, counsel, and love furiously by the side of my wonderful roommate, who serves as the Resident’s Assistant on our hall. Clichés are clichés because they’re true: my life wouldn’t be the same without them. As much as I believe that followers of Jesus are to become all things for all people (1 Corinthians 9:22), I believe that I was created with a tenderness and gentleness designed to minister especially to women. Another good gift I’ve been given by a good Father.

Recently I have taken the two gifts, laid them back at my Father’s feet, and told Him, He can do whatever He wants to with them. They’re His & I’m only along for the ride.

So He has.

Through TEAM Missions, I have applied for the position of the Creative Arts Facilitator at a vulnerable women’s ministry in Chad, Africa. I would be using creative arts such as drama, art, writing, and music to minister and serve women who are vulnerable in their surrounding environments, such as the war in Syria or at the hands of traffickers. My time spent serving there could range from 3-9 months, depending on the amount of funds raised, after I graduate in August. Majority of the population in Chad practice Islam, which presents a magnificent opportunity to have beautiful conversations about Allah and His Son, Jesus. (Fun fact: I signed up last minute for a course on ‘Understanding Islam’ at the beginning of the semester because one of my psych classes didn’t make. I applied for the position a week later, ignorant in knowing that I would predominately be working with Muslim women!).

The stunned, awe-filled, glory laughing, wonder story has already been filled with God working in ways immeasurably more than I could have ever asked for. It’s like whenever you finally confess that you have a crush on someone- you instantly see or hear about them everywhere you go. The same has happened with Chad, a country that I probably haven’t thought about since my 9th grade world geography class. I have fallen in love with the country of Chad and Muslims. There isn’t a day when I don’t holy laugh or weep at the excitement I feel in seeing my dreams coming true.  With so many uncertainties about my future, I know deep in my spirit, that I was created to serve in this role, if only for a season.

I hope that this story inspires you to believe in the gifts God has given you. I hope you start dreaming of immeasurably more (Ephesians 3:20). I pray that He will grow you in the knowledge of Himself, so you may know the hope to which He has called you, how rich He feels when He looks at you, and better understand the astronomic power that dwells within you (Ephesians 1:17-19).

Please pray for the people in Chad, that they would come to know Jesus personally through the missionaries working there and through the power of His Spirit.

Ma salaamah (Arabic for ‘in peace’),

Kati Rae