Letting Go of Expectation

Hi everybody!

I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything, but I promise, its with good reason! My church has been gearing up for our annual Easter production called “The Victor.” It tells the story of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We’re only in the middle of our performances, but through them, people are truly seeing what it is our God has done for us. Not only that, but it is changing people’s lives!

But today, I want to share a special blog post from my amazing cousin, Maddie. She and her best friend, Peyton, have started their own blog called “Honesty Hour.” This is their first blog post, so be sure to go to the link below and check them out! These ladies are near and dear to my heart, and I couldn’t be more proud of them for letting God move in their lives in this way. Now, without further delay, here’s Maddie!

Letting Go of Expectation

Where are my fellow struggle bussers at? I mean seriously.. I basically drive the thing every day. But lately I’ve been pondering a question.. is it possible to be driving the struggle bus and run over by said bus simultaneously? Somehow I’ve managed to find a way to master this. Let me back up and give you some context.

1.5 years ago I moved away from my small city vibes life in East Tennessee and moved to honkey tonk central in Nashville, Tennessee. I came here pursuing my graduate degree in occupational therapy (Yay OT!), completely full of excitement in embracing my independence and moving alone to a popular southern city that doubled as a hub for people my age.

“OMGoodness I’m gonna meet so many cool people, be best friends with all my classmates, find an amazing church to get plugged into and a small group to go with it, maybe I’ll get a dog, I’m definitely going to meet my future husband……” Literally from the second I got my acceptance letter to Belmont’s OT program, these thoughts danced in my mind and graced the ears of anyone who was willing to listen to me ramble on about it.

EXPECTATION.

Before I even got to Nashville, I had created a world of expectation of what my life would look like. I also have a nasty habit of playing things up in my imagination.. thinking up this ideal version of life, relationships, etc. This only set me up for the brutal jab to the gut when reality came crashing through.

For 1.5 years now I have dreaded going to school every day because I’m not close to my classmates, have tried and failed to get plugged into various churches and small groups, have struggled to connect with people, and have not met my soulmate (not that I know of anyways). Every single expectation I placed on myself slowly slipped further and further away with every day that passed (with the exception of getting a dog.. cause I totally adopted a puppy. In the middle of midterms if that tells you anything about how well I handle stress haha). I spent two years shaking my fist at God.. “Why would you bring me here, God? I was SO sure about feeling called to Nashville. I have been putting myself out there, stepping out of my comfort zone and pursuing godly things, but here I am with nothing to show for it. How can this be part of your plan for my life that you promised would be good?”

For 1.5 years I was missing what was right in front of me the whole time. One day, very recently, I had my eyes opened to the fact that I am a RADICALLY different human than I was 1.5 years ago. I have embraced my brokenness in a way I never have before… I have been unafraid to show vulnerability and intentionality with people I barely know because I desire a new depth in relationships that I was never forced to seek out in my past… I have embraced my independence and gone places by myself, tried churches by myself, joined small groups by myself… I have had to learn to be responsible for myself, my bills, my dog, my decisions. The list goes on and on. I suddenly realized that I had been looking for these tangible blessings to be given to me. Although things like a Christian community and a husband are strong desires of my heart and desires that are good and come from God, He never promised me these things. I just expected Him to hand them over to me because I wanted them. Reality check. That’s not how it works. I opened my eyes to the fact that just because I can’t see something unfolding in front of me, doesn’t mean that something is not unfolding within me. Not all blessings are tangible. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds us not to spend our time focusing on the tangible things of this world because in the end, they are transient. God, and his intangible, unseen blessings are eternal.

I have been striving to reach these expectations that.. get this… I PLACED ON MYSELF. Have you actually ever stopped to think about why you have the expectations you have for yourself? More often than not they stem from your own social comparison and fear. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, envy, etc. All of those feelings are REAL. I’m not here to tell you that you’re not allowed to feel those things. But be careful how you respond to those feelings. If we keep running over ourselves with the struggle bus, we stay hyper-focused on our own failure at living up to the unrealistic expectations we placed on ourselves and become blind to God’s goodness in the midst of it. We get stuck in a never ending downward spiral of unhealthy defense mechanisms and withdrawal from God. It’s time for a change in perspective. We are going to screw up.. that’s what it means to be human. But that’s the beauty of grace and redemption. God isn’t surprised when we screw up, nor is He disappointed. He just wants us to let Him love us through the struggle. My friends, He sees us in the midst of our deepest struggles and He is constantly at work.. if we would just have the eyes to see it.

What would it look like if we could 1) extend grace to ourselves when we mess up rather than beating ourselves up and feeding our fear and 2) surrender our fear and expectations and fully embrace the journey that God has us on RIGHT NOW.

I’d be lying if I told you I knew the answer to these questions cause I’m still figuring it out.. and it’s a DAILY struggle. But I’m trying to do a few things. 1) STOP running over myself with the dang bus cause that’s not helping anything… and tire marks don’t do anything for your outfit. 2) Give myself grace that I am driving the struggle bus every day and stop expecting myself to have it all together, because God doesn’t expect that of me. 3) Surrender the fears, expectation, and negativity to God when they creep their way into my mind. 4) Stop stiff arming God and actually let His love break down my walls and wreck my life.

My advice to you is this.. Let God love you. Let God pursue you. However that looks for you. Wouldn’t it be a joyous life we could live if we could stop controlling ourselves by expectation and instead simply live loved exactly where we are.

Sending you a warm, tight hug. See ya on the struggle bus!

Mads

Check out Maddie and Peyton’s blog in the link below!

https://honestyhour.blog/

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Hello, friends!

Today, I wanted to talk about God and His faithfulness. Whenever we talk about being faithful, we tend to think about ourselves or other people. But, what about the God we serve? How is He faithful? That, my dear readers, is the very question that woke me up last Thursday morning at 4:00 in the morning. And, boy, do I have answers!

Before we dive in, I want you to pause for a moment and think about what faithfulness means to you. Some of you may say faithfulness is being a loyal friend, or staying true to your spouse in your marriage, or something of that sort. I can assure you, my friends, that God’s faithfulness goes above and beyond that!

God’s faithfulness is evident all throughout the Bible. Perhaps the greatest story of God’s faithfulness is the story of how He redeemed humanity. He created Adam and Eve in His own image, and He said they were very good. He gave them the freedom to make decisions and to be over all other creatures. Then they turned their backs on Him. They sined against Him, thus separating humanity from God. 

But thank goodness that that was not the end of our story! God promised that He would make a way for His people to be with Him once again. He sent His only son into the world, to take our sins, and die on a cross. Jesus took the judgement and wrath that we rightly deserve, just so we could spend eternity with Him. Not because He needs us, no. Bcause He LOVES us. 

Here’s the crazy, beautiful, wonderful thing about it: We still mess up and sin everyday, but He STILL loves us. He gives us mercy each day, and forgives us for the things we do! 

Now, is that an excuse to continue sining? Absolutely not. The meer fact that He loves each one of us to forgive us for every single one of our sins should be enough to bring us to our knees. We could continue down this path of darkness, and listen to the enemy’s lies. This world is filled with all sorts of promises, but in the end, they will amount to nothing.

My dear readers, I am here to tell you that our God is a God who keeps His promises. People are going to fail you at some point, even your closest friends and loved ones. But with God, there is forgiveness, and with that comes His promises that you will never truly be alone in this world. He promises in Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes with you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” 

That is the faithfulness of God. What a mighty and merciful God we serve. 

Great is Thy faithfulness — Jimmy Needham (link below)

*disclaimer* I know Jimmy Needham didn’t write “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I just posted his version in the link below, and used his name so that you’d know who is singing 🙂 

https://g.co/kgs/Pti1AW

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, 

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! 

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided–

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Until next time!

–Katee 

P.S. If you have a story about how God has been faithful to you and you would like to share it, please message me! I would absolutely love to hear it.

Courage, Dear Heart

Hi everyone, and Happy New Year!!

So, let me tell you guys a quick story before we dive in with this blog post:

For about a month now, I’ve been trying to write a blog post about having courage. I thought with the new year being just around the corner, that would be a pretty good thing to talk about: facing the new year with courage. So I picked my title, I even got a few quotes together, and I sat down, ready to write! And then, nothing came to me. Nothing.

Finally, one day, my sweet, wonderful sister (who you’ll hear from in a few moments!) texted me and said, “This may seem like a random request, but do you think I could guest write on your blog?”

My immediate response was, “Are you kidding me? That would be fantastic! Just write about whatever you want to, and send it to me!”

About a week later she sends me the rough draft for her post, and the first thing I saw was the title, “Take Courage, Dear Heart.”

You guys, I told her NOTHING about my post. The post that I had been trying to write for a month now, and here she is with almost the exact same title!

Isn’t it amazing to see how God works? Alright, without any further delay, here is Rylee’s first blog post!

Take courage, dear heart!

Hello all!

It is a pleasure to be guest writing for my favorite (and only) sister! If you would like to contact me and get to know more about me, my name is Rylee Portela. I will gladly answer questions, take prayer requests, or simply chat.

But let’s get back to the important stuff. What a leap of faith Katee has done in starting this blog! God has done such a work in my sweet sister, and I’m so proud that she’s doing what she feels called to do. She is truly living out her faith (see what I did there??) and expresses it truthfully and with grace.

What a blessing to be able to express how we feel through words. Matthew 15 tells us,

“But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart”, and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing today, friends. My heart has been so overwhelmed. Complicated. Torn. Conflicted. Experiencing so many things in the past year that I feel like I could explode. But I haven’t.

Call it grace or peace or strength, but what it is, is courage.

Yes, you read that correctly.

We don’t really think about necessarily “needing” courage on a day-to-day basis, but friends, we seriously underestimate it.

My favorite definition of courage is described as, “strength in the face of pain or grief”.

I LOVE that.

As some may know, one of my (many) flaws is that I’m a sassy person, and occasionally very spiteful. So saying that having courage is having strength IN THE FACE of pain and grief? I’m all about it. Sign me up.

But what I didn’t realize was that obtaining real, God-given courage, takes practice. Serious practice. Something we’re not to keen on keeping up with all the time.

Do you realize how courage is used?

When someone hurts your feelings and you don’t lash out at them. That takes courage.

When life doesn’t go the way you planned, but it doesn’t destroy you. That takes courage.

When you pray and don’t feel like your getting answers, but trust God anyway. THAT is true courage.

What a mighty God we serve, friends.

He knows the future before we know it’s even possible. That is what I put my trust in. That is where I find my courage for this season of life. He has been so faithful to you and me.

I have found that, most of the time, where you see courage you will also see faith. And sometimes an enormous amount! Having faith in times of needing courage is something that should be valued highly. Pause for a moment. Think about the times you needed courage the most. Didn’t you need faith as well? That’s why they go hand-in-hand! God knew that in this life we would have trouble (John 16) but He also knew what to give us to be able to handle this world.

That’s faith and courage.

Sure, there are so many things that help us along in this life, but for now, faith and courage are the (worn out, beaten, but constant) cornerstones of my walk with Jesus. I’m praying that they can be for you, too!

What I want you to take from all of this is that you are not alone. God has been, and will be, faithful to you. Do NOT give up when this life knocks you down. Be faithful with a little, and He knows you will still be faithful with more (Luke 16). And take courage, dear heart!

All my sincerest love, faith, and courage,

Rylee Portela

Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Heart

Hi everyone, and happy Thanksgiving!

My family and I are currently stuffed and all sitting in the livingroom, as I am certain many of us are! I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to share with you a few thoughts on this momentous occasion.

As I am sitting here surrounded by my sweet family, I realize that I have so much to be thankful for. And not just today, but every day! That is more than I can say for other people. Some are out there spending this holiday alone. Some are getting their Thanksgiving “meal” out of dumpsters. Some are having to go through this holiday after losing loved ones. 

When I see situations like these, it makes me feel terrible whenever I complain about anything. I have absolutely no reason to complain at all! It makes me realize that there are blessings all over our lives. All we have to do is notice them.

It also makes me wonder, what would my life look like if I started noticing and being thankful for the blessings in my life? What if you started to live your life that way?  

Instead of complaining about your family, start noticing and being thankful for the ways God made them unique. Instead of laying on your horn when you’re stuck in traffic, be glad that you have a car that can get you where you need to go. Rather than  dreading getting up early in the morning, thank God for giving you another day that you can use to serve Him!

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: There is always something to be thankful for. Always. And when you finally start to notice all the wonderful things you already have, you won’t complain about the things you don’t have.

So, go. Spend some time with your family. Be present. Be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.

— Psalms 100:4

Not Today, Satan

 Hey everyone!

I’m so sorry I haven’t been posting as much as I promised, but as you can imagine, a LOT has been happening lately. Literally, figuratively, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, all lined up one after the other. So many things have changed, are changing, and are going to change.

I can’t remember if I’ve said this before, but change kinda scares me. And when I say kinda, I mean it really scares me. It’s always seemed to have a big foothold in my life. But in order to truly serve God, we have to be able to adapt to whatever changes in our lives. That’s something that God has really been teaching me over the past few months.

Among the big changes in my life has to do with my grandma. Well, this change began back in 2011 when she had a couple of mini strokes. After that, she quickly developed dementia, and expressive aphasia (it makes you have trouble speaking fluently). Ever since then, she hasn’t been the same. 

About a month ago, she fell and fractured her left pelvis, a rib, and dislocated a finger. She had to stay at the hospital for a week before the doctor finally discharged her. Granted, she has fallen and been taken to the hospital before, and she’s bounced right back. But this time, something is different. 

She doesn’t really feed herself like she used to. Her speech development seems to be a little worse, and she can scarcely walk, let alone by herself. 

What I do every morning of the week is feed her, giver her her medicine (disguised in ice-cream, of course) and make sure that everything is ready for when she has her bath. 

So, this is what I’ve been doing for the most part, lately. And, honestly, I have somewhat allowed myself to hide behind this situation. I’ve let my circumstance control my reactions. I’ve even found myself at times asking God, “Why is this happening to my family right now?” But this is what He’s been trying to teach me all along:

You don’t get to choose what happens in your life; what you can do is choose how you respond to those things.

Do you ever get tired of the phrase “All things happen for a reason”? I know it seems really cliche, but it’s the truth. 

When something bad happens in your life, it can shake you from what’s comfortable.

What I’ve learned is that I can’t hide behind my current situation. I can’t live my life in the shadow of my circumstances. If I don’t exercise my faith, I’ll never get to where God wants me to be. I have to step out of what I have made my “comfort zone” and live life in the light of the Gospel. 

Psalms 112:6-7 says this:

6 For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. 7 He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. 

                                                         Righteous = Set right by God

Something our connections pastor said a few weeks ago has really stuck with me: “The way you handle bad news says a lot about who or what you serve.” I realize now that I’ve been serving my emotions and my fears, and I let them get the better of me. 

If you’re anything like me, you tend to focus a little more on negative things that are happening in your life. But if you are truly righteous, set right by God, then you won’t be shaken by them.

Yes, our circumstances may not be ideal, and they may not go the way we want them to, but remember that God will use these situations to teach you things that will stay with you throughout your whole life.

The time to embrace changes is now. Don’t be afraid of your situation and trust in the Lord. Don’t allow the enemy to take advantage of your life. Let the devil know “Not today!” (See what I did there Hillsong United fans?? 😉 )

Psalms 16:8 “I have set the Lord before always before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

If I can ask you all a favor, please keep my family in your prayers through this time of change. They are appreciated more than you know.

Until next time,

Katee

P.S. All of the quotes (other than the Bible verses, of course) are from our Connections Pastor, Mitchell Sugg. You rock, Mitch! 

I Dare You to Move

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of the death of a dear friend of mine, Taylor Frink. It’s still hard to believe he’s gone, much less that it’s been two years. 

Taylor was a towering 6’3″ and was in all rights one of the biggest guys I knew. He knew how to be intimidating, and could make one of the meanest faces I’ve ever seen…. He was also the biggest teddy-bear and gave the best hugs known to man. 

He was one of those people you could always call and he would answer. He was reliable, and you could always depend on him when you needed him. He was loved by all who knew him, he loved in return, and most importantly, he loved Jesus. Then two years ago today, his life suddenly came to an end.

I still remember waking up that morning. It started out like any other, but this time, I could tell that something was different. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew something big had changed. Little did I know this change was one that would impact my life and so many others the way it did. 

When my mom came down the stairs in tears, that that confirmed what I had been feeling all morning. She told me that Taylor was in a wreck and had died. I sat there in complete shock in my living room, unable to truly believe this was happening. Someone so close to me and my friends had suddenly been taken away from us.

Today, I am reminded of how truly precious life is. Taylor managed to touch so many lives, and his life was cut short. If he was able to impact so many, how many could we impact with our full lives? 
It’s true, we don’t know when our last day is going to be. We aren’t even promised our next breath! That is why we must live with the mindset of changing lives for the better, even if that may be a few people. 

I don’t know why Taylor had to leave, and the affect of his loss is still felt by us all. But I know that he is in a much better place, now. That is the most important thing to remember in times like this. He is no longer with us, but he is now living a life that we can only dream of. He is walking with Jesus. and he is most likely keeping an eye out on all of us down here who knew him, because that’s who he was. 

With that being said, lets not live our lives in vain. Let’s make every last moment count. Change someone’s life for good. 
I dare you to move.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” — John 15:13

Drawing My Circles: Part 3

Hi everyone!

I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post. There’s been a whole lot going on around here, lately! Our church has finished VBS (vacation bible schcool), some of our family came to visit the week before that, and I finished my environmental biology class that same week (which I can prouudly announce that I made a B in, and believe me, that’s a mirale all by itself!). Also, our church’s youth group hosted a conference (pretty cool story about that, coming up!), so there’s been a lot of things happening, and a lot is changing, but hopefully that won’t keep me from posting as often!

As you probably can imagine, I’ve finished the 40 Day Prayer Challenge by now, and can I just say, it was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not only that, but it was so worth it! So today, I just wanted to share a few more things I learned over the last days of the challenge.

  • Pray specifically

It’s too often that we find ourselves rambling in our prayers and wondering why God won’t answer them. We need to be reminded of this simple truth: God won’t answer vague prayers. When our prayers aren’t specific, God doesn’t get glory from it. Sadly, a lot of times our vague prayers can be the result of our lack of faith. Mark Batterson writes: 

“Your lack of faith will keep you from going out on a limb to lay your true request on the line. The more faith you have, the more specific your prayers are. And the more specific your prayers are, the more glory God recieves.”

The goal for our prayer lives is this: to discern what God wants, and to boldly yet humbly ask Him for it. Whatever promises God has placed in your heart, you need to spell them out. And if you don’t know what they are, get into God’s presence and ask Him! You’ll never know until you do. 

  • When God answers your prayer, share it!

If and when God gives you an answer to your specific, audacious prayer, you need to let it be known. No matter how big or small, you need to turn that answer into a praise! The sad thing is, if we don’t we may end up turning His answers into our pride. If we don’t share what God is doing in our lives, people may very well think that He’s not in our lives at all. Testimonies are such a powerful way to express to others what a powerful, wonderful God we serve. 

They also need to be shared because you never know who needs to hear it. There are people out there who may be experiencing the same things you’ve already been through. Not sharing your testimony robs God of His glory and you of the opportunity to witness to others who are struggling with the exact things that have held you back. 

Testimonies are pretty much like our secret weapons. They’re powerful, and the enemy wants them to remain secret. Sharing them with others will not only seal the victory that we have in Christ’s death and ressurection, it will remind us, and more importantly the enemy, that the war has already been won.

  • When you pray for others, make sure there’s someone praying for you

The devotion for this day was a powerful reminder that your prayers don’t need to always be about yourself. I’ve personally found that I pray for myself and my needs a lot of the time. Not that praying for yourself is a bad thing, but if I’ve learned anything from this challenge, it’s that your prayers don’t always need to focus on you. What you need to do is find specific people to pray for, to help hold you accountable, and just to do life with in general.

We often forget that the act of true intercesory prayer is spiritual warfare. Prayer is HARD. There’s going to be times where we won’t have the faith, ability, strength, or will to pray for ourselves. That’s where we need friends who will step up and contine praying for you when you can’t. 

Now, I know that it can be hard to open up to people sometimes and tell them what you’re dealing with. In fact, I’m still working on that myself. But friends, it is so important to have people who will come beside you to pray and help you when you can’t help yourself. Never do life alone.

  • Don’t worry about numbers when it comes to church

I mentioned earlier that our church hosted a youth conference. The first night before the service started, we were a little discouraged at the number of people that were there, or weren’t there, rather. There was a significant number that attended last year that didn’t show up this year. So we had our service, and by the end of the night, 40 kids raised their hands to recive Jesus as their savior. 

We sat there in amazement, thinking, “Why in the world were we so worried about the numbers again?” It doesn’t matter how many show up and fill the seats, it matters that God shows up. And He most certainly did! 

It truly is amazing, because when you think about it, God almost always used a small remnant of people to work His wonders. All it takes is a faithful few to rise up and pray for revival and start a reformation.

Well you guys, that’s the end of Drawing My Circles! I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned from these blogs as I’ve posted them, and I pray that you will continue to circle God’s promises and that you will be encouraged to grow your faith in Him. 

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” — Galatians 6:9

Until next time,

Katee