Communication

My Miracle: God Did What WebMD Couldn't

My Miracle: God Did What WebMD Couldn't

Nothing felt abnormal or different when I woke up. I did what I do every Tuesday morning. I grabbed my phone off the stand and checked the time. I begrudgingly sat up, perched on the edge of the bed with my feet dangled for a few minutes.

Moments later I made my way to the bathroom in a morning state that only my husband has the pleasure of witnessing, messy bun high and stray hairs wild. What I saw looking back at me was anything but normal though, not because of a hard night’s rest or a backwards sleep shirt.

No, what I saw in the reflection could only be viewed from a one-sided perspective. That’s because my left eye was swollen shut, and it wasn’t like that when I went to sleep.

Taking my dramatic introduction to this story aside, I did feel quite a bit of panic. My assumption is most people would experience a normal amount of concern at such an unexpected sight. Mine escalated for selfish but human reasons though.

It was Tuesday. My firstborn’s baby shower was scheduled for Saturday, an occasion sure to be well documented visually for years to come. All I could repeatedly think was “Dear God, I cannot look like this by Saturday.” (Take me as vain or relate to me as normal. I’m just being honest!)

My unofficial experience and training from WebMD and Google took over. I assumed a doctor’s visit was pointless because I’m limited in what can be given to me in almost my third trimester (this was later confirmed in a last ditch effort of an ER visit. They couldn’t offer me anything to help).

The next few hours were easily filled with anything therapeutic in my pantry or fridge ending up on my face (ice, honey, cucumber, etc.) while I practiced the art of sleuthing, mentally revisiting ever action I had taken over the last few days that led to this point.

What I had once thought were infected mosquito bites days prior was soon deduced to instead be a severe case of exposure to poison sumac – poison ivy and poison oak’s lesser known ugly brother-cousin.

What could have been contained to a normal bought of exposure grew continuously for four days simply because 1) I didn’t realize I had touched it and 2) I proceeded to do laundry… on my bed… right after gardening instead of showering. In short, I was using towels and sleeping in sheets for four nights that had the plant’s oil all over it.

Fun fact I learned through this process: Clearly I’m allergic to the poisonous trifecta. Clearly my husband is not. #imnotbitter

The Moment Our Marriage Became Better

The Moment Our Marriage Became Better

Five years married. I’m still processing that my husband and I have been married for 60 months, 1,825 days… however you want to break it down. Granted, we’ve been together almost a total 10 years.

Still – knowing my husband is about to be 28-years-old and that I met him when I was 18 makes me feel like time should take a breather on the sidelines for a minute. Chill, Time – this isn’t a race.

Yes, I hear it only gets worse.

Matt and I have always had much in common. We shared the same major and minor in college. We are both natural communicators and leaders who are passionate, expressive and competitive.

Our relationship blossomed from an intertwined love for LSU, history, our families, and Italian food. Over time that grew to jointly include dogs (him not a fan at first), Disney, Patriots football (not for me in the beginning) and Marvel movies.

Like any long-standing relationship, there’s also been a healthy presence of differences. Matt is an introvert with extrovert tendencies. I’m an extrovert… with very extrovert tendencies.

Matt is a strategist and builder with strengths in administration and structure. On the other end of the leadership spectrum, I’m an altruist and shepherd who guides from strengths of inspiration and insight. (Fancy ways of saying he likes working with ideas, and I enjoy working with people.)

After five years married, I can speak of our differences with thankfulness and appreciation.

Unfortunately, hindsight reminds me that this wasn’t always the case. I can certainly recall when our personalities and internal make-up worked against each other and not for one another.

More than just learning how to share toothpaste and schedules in the newlywed years, ministry brought on the additional adventure of learning how to serve together, lead together – basically, how to even work together outside of our family unit.

While some of the tiffs of the early years were from normal newlywed difficulties, I can also see how it was stacked with unhealthy responses birthed out of jealousy and rivalry. The attributes we admired most about each other were also the characteristics that drove us apart the farthest.

I won’t generalize and say that this is an issue for all couples in ministry. It really isn’t something everyone encounters. I would argue though that it happens more than talked about, especially in the marriages of strong leaders with shared, similar gifts. (i.e. Imagine in any business capacity working with the same person you live with, both having the same roles that oversee similar departments…)

At one time I thought, “This is just what marriage looks like. Everyone argues. Everyone struggles.” There’s some truth in in that – but that’s also a copout.

With some intentional effort and tools, I remember when the competitiveness wasn’t so evident. I remember when I was proud and not envious of my husband. I remember the season when our marriage became better.

Still growing in these areas every day that passes, here’s how it all started to change in our relationship, our friendship, and our ministry:

I No Longer Need an Amen

I No Longer Need an Amen

I preached my first Sunday message to adults when I was 16 years old. My sermon was about learning to hear God’s voice using the story of Mary Magdalene and Jesus after his resurrection as my main text.

If you can believe it, I paired my message with a short monologue (talk about awkward) because it was the mid 2000s, and the human video/drama age was still alive and thriving in small and big churches alike.

I’ll forever honor the great man – my pastor for 20+ years – who instilled courage in me, saw God’s calling on my life to teach and preach, and gave me an opportunity to do so at such a young age.

Many communication lessons came with that first night in front of an attentive church – yes, with one of them being don’t do a monologue in the middle of your message. What I remember surprised me the most though is how vocal listeners were to express themselves.

From a teenager’s perspective, a common theme appeared. The church seemed more vocal at certain points in the message. Well thought out points and thoughts were received with claps, outspoken “mmhmm’s” and clear “Amen’s.” So in conjunction, one newly experienced speaker could also assume not doing such a good job would result in quietness… right?

So then and there, the measurement scale was drawn:

Loud, vocal church = good, effective preaching

Quiet church = better luck next time preaching

Watching my favorite pastors online, this measurement scale still seems to be effective.

Even today, my top speaker to listen and learn from is Steven Furtick, and from the observation of his congregation, he does an incredible job! The atmosphere is electrifying. People are hungry to hear God’s Word. They hang on his every thought and explanation. No one seems bored. The feedback is great. Church is lively and vibrant.

So if that’s the standard, my only conclusion has always been “Preach like that.”

Why People Don't Want to Be My Friend

Why People Don't Want to Be My Friend

I can always hear my dad’s distant voice in my head when I think about friendship.

“Kayla, if you get to the end of your life with as many friends as you have fingers, then you’ve had a truly great life.”

It wasn’t a totally understandable thought for a fourth grader, but I still let those words sink in deep. As my days through high school, college and career life trickled by, the sound advice became even more true.

Pure friendships with value and purpose are hard to come by – and those in play five to ten years ago may not necessarily be the same circle of comrades still present today.

Spending my teenage years as part of a lively youth group and involved in several school activities, I never seemed to lack in the friend department. I never had available time to even find myself alone or without being in the midst of others.

Yet, this dynamic changed in college. Study time, internships, work schedules and the general daily grind took my attention elsewhere, and an unhealthy balance of leaning on my boyfriend (now husband) for all my relationship/friendship needs was put into play.

Somewhere along the lines I convinced myself that this was normal. I convinced myself that it shouldn’t take work to be friends with someone – and that if it did, it wasn’t meant to be.

 It’s taken years of developed self-awareness and intentional habits to swing back into balance.

I’m grateful to finally be at a point in life where I can say that I have healthy friendships. In fact, I see most of them consistently during small groups throughout the week, which is the perfect outlet for us to catch up, vent, laugh and cry together and share the week’s funniest moments about work or home.

The Desert Island: Where Conversations Go to Die

The Desert Island: Where Conversations Go to Die

I’ll just come out and say it – I love small groups. If it was up to me, I would binge watch Hulu for 7+ hours when I got home from work, but choosing to be in small groups places myself and others in an environment to engage with one another. It’s healthy and life-giving. It’s a good reason to get together. It’s an avenue to create relationships.

Each semester starts off the same way though.

Everyone who may begrudgingly come and even the willing just stare at each other awkwardly in a room. As the small group leader, I more so act as a facilitator to get people to open up. As those who have attended my groups can attest, this usually requires me asking goofy questions until a conversation sparks. Depending on the topic though, that spark may easily spread into wildfire shortly after.

One particular small group I led adventured through a book dealing with life priorities. Essentially, the book helped each person analyze the necessities of their personal life in an effort to clear out the crud we allow to crowd our sight every day.

We already trekked through some difficult conversations about money, faith, and service – but that day we floated into uncharted waters. It was time to open up about our home lives and our families.

Shortly after bringing up family, recollected pieces of the group conversation remains blurry. I’m not sure how we got from point A to point B. All I remember hearing is the sentence that started the spark – “If my child did that, I would just spank them until they learned their lesson.”

Here’s some key background information for you: our small group at the time was equivalent to that of Gilligan’s Island.

While there wasn’t a Skipper or a Mary Ann, we did have two moms (one who spanked and one who didn’t), one empty-nester, one divorced father and one confused leader who didn’t have any children. The conversation was headed out on a three-hour tour, and I was afraid we would eventually end up on a deserted island.

Only one word can describe what came next -- tension. Some became defensive. Some offered empathy. Each shared their experience with their own children or how they were raised. It was difficult.

The conversation had to be navigated carefully. I don’t believe we ever got through the curriculum. I firmly know we never came to a conclusion of what was right or wrong. Yet strangely enough, we all left satisfied.

Each had an opportunity to have their voice heard at the table. Each had an opportunity to listen to an experience that was not their own. We all talked. We all listened. It was a strange feeling to all disagree yet all remain part of the same group.

I believe it’s what’s we call out for today yet struggle to find – unity without uniformity. Communion with one another without compromise.