The Perfect Girl is Gone

Okay, time for a Disney-linked blog post, are you ready? Here we go. 🙂

I don’t know about you, but as a single twenty-something with a full time job and other social commitments, I seem to spend a lot of time in my car alone going from place to place. Home to work, work to home, home to church…the list goes on. Recently I realized that the copious amounts of time I spend driving has become my “me time”. I’m constantly surrounded by other people while driving, sure, but let’s be honest, we don’t particularly care what the person in the car next to us is doing as long as they’re not doing it too loudly or staring at us like a creep. So when I’m driving, I let my brain decompress by blasting my music and singing along like nobody can hear me. Oddly enough, I find it relaxing. Occasionally though, these moments alone become a place of inspiration in addition to the relaxation.

Lately, the car speakers have been flooding my ears with the soundtrack to Disney’s Frozen, which a friend was brilliant enough to gift me with this Christmas. And when I say flooding my ears…I mean I’ve probably listened to the entire thing about fifty times or more and know the words to nearly every song verbatim. But of course, my favorite is the movie’s main song, “Let It Go”. For those of you who’ve seen the movie, Ana is probably most of your guys’ favorite. And why not, she’s the gorgeous but dorky heroine who saves her sister and an entire kingdom from an eternal winter at great personal cost, plus she gets the guy. At the end of the day though, Elsa is the one I can really relate to, the one who grabbed my attention. And she did it with this song. [No plot spoilers in the clip folks, I promise.]

This afternoon on the way home from work, I was once again indulging myself with “Let It Go”, and one particular lyric stuck in my mind this time: the perfect girl is gone. Much of Elsa’s young life was spent trying to hide what she considered to be an imperfection, and it was freeing to her to finally lay her past aside and simply be herself, whether perfect or not.  Some of you who read this will know that “perfect” was a word that was woven through much of my sense of self as a younger person. Let’s just say that there were many times I felt I needed to be “perfect” in order to feel satisfied with my life, and was ashamed when I didn’t live up to my own ridiculously high standards. It made others see me in a goody-two-shoes sort of way that I hated, and at the same time I felt compelled to try and live up the standard anyway, even though I constantly fell short. Like Elsa, striving to be “perfect” was a burden on me. In fact, it was exhausting. Then at some point in time now lost to memory, I had a lightbulb moment.

I’m not perfect, and I don’t have to be.

Now let me back up a little bit. Jesus forced Himself into my life at a young age. When I was eleven years old, the majestic and infinite God of the universe whispered to my soul, “I AM.” In an instant my entire life changed as my little mind realized for the first time that all the Bible stories, the sermons, the Sunday school services, the songs….were REAL. It was all real, not just some nice story that people tell themselves so they can try to live better lives. At the time I called it my rededication to faith, but in hindsight I’ve come to see it as the moment where my faith in God truly became mine–not just something nice I did with my family on Sunday mornings. However, it wasn’t until much later that I came to fully realize the meaning of the gospel, what was actually going on that dark day on the hill of Golgotha. I didn’t understand how depraved, how sinful, how imperfect I was. Basically, compared to God’s standard, I’m a filthy, disgusting little nothing of a human being that doesn’t even deserve to know what grace is, let alone obtain it. And guess what? We’re all in that boat. No matter how “perfectly” you attempt to live your life, you will still fall short. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is simply a very persuasive liar.

The realization of my own depravity caused my inner perfectionist to despair…until I also realized that it’s because of Christ’s sacrifice that I don’t have to be perfect. I simply don’t have to try and fail and try and fail to live up to my own or any other deluded standard of what “perfect” means, because Somebody else is already being perfect for me. Somebody already sacrificed His own perfect life in order to save my imperfect one. I don’t have to live up to Perfect because He already is, and He loves me.

That my friends, is true freedom. To live in a reality where you can know day in and day out that you’re considered good enough…even though you’re really not. I can feel free to live my life with abandon, knowing that even if I mess up (which I inevitably will), there will always be One who still accepts me, still loves me.

Today, I’m still tempted to take up my old ways and be the perfect girl, to get by on my own strength and make myself look good doing it. Most of the time though, I catch myself in time to realize that the “perfect” girl is gone, and she doesn’t need to come back. It’s okay that I’m imperfect, and I never will be.

[Side note: I’m often blown away by how little people tend to think of the phrase “Jesus loves you” or “God loves you”. It’s become this trite little saying that people brush off without a second thought. But think about it like it’s actually real for a second. Think about the fact that there’s a being in existence who created an entire universe filled with wonderful and spectacular things beyond our wildest imagination, simply for his own pleasure, because he’s good and creative and awesome. Imagine him making not just your body, but your very soul, the very essence of who you are, out of nothing, and how intimately he knows you because of the fact that he made you. Imagine how desperately heartbroken he was when you did something bad for the very first time, and he knew that your soul could never be truly united with his because of the sin in your heart. Then, imagine him being so much in love with you that he considered his very life second to yours, and willfully sacrificed himself in one of the most torturous methods known to man…so that you could live. That’s what I mean when I say, “Jesus loves you.”]

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Thoughts from a Seventeen Year-Old

A few days before I graduated high school, my English teacher had us write a letter to our future selves in five years. After we wrote them, he said he would hang on to them, and send them to us in 2013, if he could. At the time I probably didn’t think the letter would ever reach me, but true to his word, Mr. Reyes managed to get my current address over Facebook, and the letter arrived a couple days ago. Reading it was nearly equal parts funny, nostalgic, and thought provoking, and I figured maybe you guys would get a kick out of it. Here it is, with my fill-in-the-gaps commentary.

Dear Kaitlin,  

Right now I am sitting in your AP Literature class. Erica is sitting next to me, and I can hear Mr. Reyes bantering with Joey and Danny. Some student brought a peanut butter and chocolate candy thing , and now Joey is begging for water. I’ll let him waterfall mine.

Anyhow, it’s the end of May, 2008, and in five days I will be graduating from high school. It’s such a weird feeling knowing that I’m not going to be coming back to Bradshaw in the fall! But I am going to Biola in the fall! I wonder if I’ll still be going there by the time I read this again. Most likely I’ll be graduated from somewhere, but who knows where.

I did go to Biola, for two wonderful years. But circumstances brought me back home to Sacramento, and I graduated from CSU Sacramento (Sac State to the locals) in 2012 with a BA in Humanities & Religious Studies. I’ve always found it a bit ironic that I was an English major at Biola (a private Christian university), which I could have been at any college in the country, and it was only after transferring home to a public university that I chose to go the Humanities route, which was taught almost exclusively by liberal professors whose personal beliefs and biases were on the opposite side of the world from my own. But I was glad of the change all the same, because 1) I just plain enjoyed the material, regardless of who taught it, and 2) being taught in that manner forced me to become a more independent thinker. I learned that any form of information, no matter how hard we try, can only be conveyed through a filter of personal bias, and so it is up to the student to form their own opinion on the subject matter (often through personal research) instead of passively accepting the information as fact. Anyhow, I digress.

There’s such a unique culture going on in our country right now. American Idol just finished its seventh season, and David Cook won. Other shows like Dancing with the Stars, The Office, and Lost are popular right now.

Funny to think that my idea of “culture” at 17 was what TV shows were popular at the time. Oh Kaity, how little you knew.

Gas prices are up to nearly $4.00 a gallon. I even saw a news  piece this morning about how more people than ever are riding their bikes to work. My favorite books right now are classics — anything written by Jane Austen or Francine Rivers, the Chronicles of Narnia, things like that. My music collection is pretty eclectic. Most recently I bought Sharp Dressed Man from iTunes by ZZ Top.

Reading this made me realize that in spite of all the growing up I’ve done in the last five years, I really haven’t changed much. My preferences have changed and expanded some, but C.S. Lewis, Francine Rivers, and Jane Austen are still at the top of my favorite authors list, and good ‘ol classic rock still blasts over my radio on a regular basis.

(Oh my goodness, Danny just said he was going to marry me… again.)

This was a running joke between me and Danny B. through most of high school. I’m not even sure how it started, now that I think about it… but it was always a joke between buddies, like when two friends make a pact to marry each other if they don’t find anybody better by the time they’re 30. 

My friend’s dad [Senator] McClintock is running for Congress right now. I wonder how [she] feels about that. It’s also an election year. Senator McCain is the Republican candidate, and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are fighting over the Democratic nomination. I can’t wait to vote in the fall. 🙂 

I wonder what it will be like in 2013? We’ve had so many disasters in the last decade already with 9/11 and Katrina and the tsunamis and earthquakes in Asia. It’ll be interesting to see how many more happen in the next five years. Is gas like $6.00  gallon now? Or has someone finally started drilling in Alaska?

We surely have had more disasters since then. From the earthquakes in Japan to the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma, it seems like the natural disasters just keep coming. But I suppose that’s the way of things. But thankfully, gas hasn’t quite reached $6.00 a gallon yet. 😉

Will we have had a woman President yet? I wouldn’t be surprised if Hillary Clinton somehow snaked her way into office.

A pretentious statement for a 17 year-old, I know, and it’s probably not something I would say outright today. I’m definitely not opposed to having a woman in office, and I have nothing against Mrs. Clinton personally… but at the same time I can’t say my conservative political leanings have changed either. We’ll just leave it at that.

Oh, are you still living in Elk Grove? It’ll be sad to see how many of the open fields will be gone. Everything is growing so fast around here. We’re supposed to be getting a new mall soon.

Yes, I am still living in Elk Grove. And although there’s been a lot of development over the last few years, there’s still plenty of open fields with the occasional cow or horse to drive past, so I’m thankful. As for the mall….well, it’s still only partly finished, gathering dust and growing grass after construction halted due to the recession.

I guess the one thing I’m looking forward to in getting to where you are right now is meeting someone. ❤ And if you still haven’t met anyone yet, don’t worry about it. Really. You’re a beautiful woman. But if you have…I can’t wait to meet him. ❤ ❤

Ohhhh, the thoughts that came to mind when I read this bit. The seventeen year-old that wrote this had not yet been in a relationship, and she was blissfully unaware of both the joys and heartbreaks to come. Over the last five years, I have to say that my relationships have been the one dynamic that instigated the most change in me. I always wanted to be the girl who only had to date one guy, and shuddered at the idea of multiple relationships, multiple heartbreaks. The one-relationship dream was not to be, but the ways God has chosen to mold my spirit through those experiences have been life-altering in ways I could not have begun to imagine. Most of those changes have been good, but alas, I am still a human with faults. God knows this, of course, and I’m sure He will continue to hammer out kinks and fill in voids as time goes by. But as of now, I’m still waiting for the right man to capture my heart. And I’m okay with that.

I suppose as I close I just want to remind you of a few things. Don’t forget how important God is to you. I know you tend to lose track of him sometimes, but understand — He is everything. Nothing else in life matters. He’s done so many wonderful things in our life and brought us through so many hardships already. I can’t wait to see where five years bring us. 🙂

I was surprised at the wisdom that came out at the end of this letter. Turns out I knew myself better than I thought I did. I still struggle with “losing track of God” in my inadequate attempts at self-sufficiency. I try to run my own life, pursue the things I think will fulfill me, only to find everything meaningless and empty without my Jesus. If my life were a book, it would be one of the major themes. But praise God, He is good to me. In His mercy He has never allowed my wanderings to be so long or distant to cause too much trouble, and He is always eager to embrace me when the blinders come off and I choose to seek Him once more. As I continue to walk through life, I hope to not only become more loyal to Him, but to truly know Him for who He is.

Oh, and one more thing…if you haven’t written a book yet, do it. It’s been such a dream to you, you can’t afford to give it up.

No, I still haven’t written that book…but it’s on my bucket list. Remind me again once NaNoWriMo is closer. 😉

And don’t be afraid to follow the dream God puts in your life — it’s there for a reason.

Point taken.

Yours Sincerely,

Kaity Harding ❤

Smell the Roses

Image

Hey there interwebs.

It’s been a while since you last heard from me via blog. I figure it’s about time I pick up the proverbial pen again to say hello.

I could go into ridiculous detail about what has gone on in the last five months, but to be honest, I rarely have that kind of patience with my own writing. So I’ll catch you up with where I am now. 

First off, I’m happy. I feel like so many people in life spend the majority of their time working so they can be happy someday, but never actually take the time to BE happy when the opportunity presents itself. So I think it’s significant to say that right now, I’m happy. I’m fed, I’m clothed, I have a roof over my head and enough money to buy the things I really need, plus some. I have a job that challenges me in a good way on a daily basis, people I enjoy working with, and managers that are genuinely interested in how I can improve myself in my work environment. I’m currently working as a contracted employee, but that may be turning into a permanent position soon (second interview on the 5th, I’ll try to keep you updated!).

I’m in a relationship. Yes, like a going-on-three-months-and-still-doing-well relationship. We watch movies and eat out and go on walks by the water and feed ducks in the park and visit museums and act disgustingly adorable in public and we don’t care. Valentine’s Day should be decidedly more exciting than last year. 😉

God has been shaping me in new ways. I’m learning so much and it’s just…exciting! Earlier in the winter I had quite on ordeal learning to overcome fear, particularly when it came to my new job. I was so far outside of my comfort zone that all I wanted to do was run away and quit, and every day was a struggle to drag myself in the door at work and try to be better at what I was doing. But with patience and work and a lot of prayer, things got better, and I am a more well-balanced person because of it. The lesson learned was that no matter what the circumstances, God takes care of His children, and therefore we have nothing to fear. Things may not always happen the way you expect them too, but as long as it’s His plan, that’s all that matters.

 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11)

I’m developing a deeper desire to know God and know His Word, which of course has been an ongoing thing since the day He claimed me, but it’s made itself more apparent in recent weeks, and I’m very much encouraged by it.

Drama in my life is at an all-time low, which is always welcome. Some burdens I had been carrying for a while as a result of strained relationships have been lifted recently, for which I am very thankful. God is great as chasing away bitterness when you ask Him to.

And overall I’ve just been trying to live my life a little bit better. Get more sleep, drink more water, eat well, put a bit more effort into my appearance, manage my money, watch less TV, listen to more music, read more books, etc. If I only have one life to live, I may as well make it a good one, right?

Well, now I feel like I’ve been rambling and just wound up back where I started. I guess all I wanted to do was take a moment to step back and smell the roses, to comprehend the fact that right now, my life is a place full of possibility and opportunity, where nearly anything is possible and the future looks bright. I’m still young, but I know enough of life to realize that the way I feel now will not always be the norm, so I should appreciate it now for what it is. I am blessed.

That’s all really. But with any luck, you’ll be hearing from me again soon. 🙂

A Letter to Myself

To Kaity on Sept. 18, 2011, one year ago.

Hello beautiful one. It’s your future calling. I just wanted to take the time to tell you a few things that you might need telling right now. I know today feels like the worst day of your life, and you’re experiencing more pain and heartbreak than you ever wanted to endure. That’s okay. No, seriously, it’s okay. Your whole world is spinning right now and it’s not fun, I know. But don’t be afraid to let yourself grieve, okay? A significant period of your life has ended, and it’s worth grieving over. So it’s okay to be sad, even after your friends have stopped thinking to ask how you’re doing. Believe it or not, a time will come when you’ll be okay with forgetting as well.

But I’m sure you’re also wondering where you start picking up the pieces of your life now. My best advice? Take it one day at a time, and don’t forget to pray. Whenever that cloud of sadness threatens you: pray. When something seemingly insignificant triggers a painful memory from the past: pray. When you’re crying yourself to sleep at night: pray. When you’re wondering if you’ll ever feel comfortable in your own skin again: pray. You’re not alone dearest. Let the Lord quiet you with His love, and know that He is enough. A day is coming soon when those depressing moments will become less and less, and they won’t rule your day-to-day. I promise.

I know you need comfort more than anything else right now, but I also have a warning for you. As time passes, you will be tempted to let anger and bitterness fester in your heart. It’s easy, even natural, but don’t do it. And don’t be quick to assume the worst of others. You will only hurt yourself in the end, and it’s not God’s plan for you. Just remember that forgiveness is a daily decision, not a one-time catch-all feeling. When those old hurts rear their ugly heads and consume your thoughts, remember how many times you’ve been forgiven, and be gracious.

I’m sure it’s hard to imagine a bright future for yourself right now. But don’t let that keep you from putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward in life, because I’ve gotta say, things are looking pretty sunny from where I’m standing in September 2012. 🙂 There’s so much you’re going to experience and learn in the next year, and I’m excited for you! You’ll remember what it’s like to really laugh again. You’re gonna take the time to slow down a bit and find out who you really are. You’ll realize that the world is so much bigger than you thought it was, and learn to dream big dreams for your future. You’ll be encouraged and built up by people you least expect. You’re FINALLY going to graduate from college and be SO glad you worked hard and stuck it out. You’re going to be more strong, more confident, and more comfortable with who you are. You’re going to land an amazing job that you don’t mind waking up at 6am for, and even find a few more fellow nerds to hang out with. And most importantly, you’ll be thirsting to know God more than you ever did before. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t worry. Things may look bad right now, but you will be happy again. Not just “okay”, but real honest-to-goodness happy, whole, and content. Just give it time.

There’s so much more that I couldn’t even begin to tell you. I may be your future, but from where I’m sitting in the present, life is still uncertain, just like it always has been. It’s not always perfect, and it’s certainly not always pretty. Some things will change, and some things won’t. A year from now you’ll still have that “special” old car, student loans to pay off, and occasional drama to deal with, for instance. But at the end of the day, life is meant to be experienced to its fullest, so go out and live it! And if you let Jesus take you by the hand and lead you along the way…oh man. You’ll get nothing short of a life more beautiful and adventurous than you ever thought possible.

So chin up gorgeous, it only gets better from here. You can trust me on that. 😉

Kaity

Another Beginning

God has been doing some pretty fantastic stuff in my life as of late. You ever have one of those times in life where everything is just good? Not that life is all gumdrops and roses, but that your disposition about it is unwaveringly  positive in spite of the not-so-good stuff? That’s been me the last couple weeks. Prayers are getting answered, scriptures are being read, things are getting accomplished that I never thought would get done. And over everything else I’ve just been aware of God’s presence in my life.

The biggest piece of news from the last couple of weeks is that I have a new job! Or at least, I will starting Sept. 4th. Who will I be working for? Well, since you asked nicely…it’s these guys:

Exciting or what?!?? Seriously though, God’s really been just blowing my mind with this whole job thing. I graduated from college three months ago in May. And I’ve been looking for jobs with very little success…actually, make that no success…and I was getting discouraged, to say the least. I kept on having to remind myself that it had *only* been 3 months since I graduated and that I would find another job soon enough. But that’s hard to hang on to when you’re working a part-time job for part-time wages and you’re still living at home and eating your parents’ food with that enormous cloud of “student loans” hanging over your head.  So at the insistence of my family I joined a temp agency (that you can find here), and started talking to a recruiter over the phone.

From there, it was like God stepped in and was all “Okey dokey, awesome job coming up!”.

Within two weeks I had a job. Did you hear me? TWO WEEKS! From the moment I picked up the phone to talk to a recruiter for the very first time, to going in to the agency for aptitude testing, to getting the interview, doing the interview, and getting told I had the job…less than two weeks. I was talking to a friend about the amazingness of it all just last night, and in my excitement I practically yelled, “When does that happen?!?” His answer was simple enough. “When God orchestrates it.” Such a profound truth in a simple statement. I don’t care who you are or what you believe, God orchestrates your life in more ways than you know. It’s something I’m just beginning to really understand, and I’ve gotta tell ya, it’s totally exciting. ❤

So now I have four days left of work at my current job, good ‘ol Mail & More. It’s been such a good experience working there, and I’ll always be grateful for having that job. I’m sure they won’t get rid of me that easy, cuz the store is on my way home from where my new job will be (it’s just down the street, if you can believe it). So I’ll be stopping in now and again. Then starting September 4th, a whole new stage of my life begins: my first “big girl” job.

Wish me luck!

The Great(est) Adventure

I love music. I always have. It is one of those deep seated loves that has always defined part of who I am and helps me connect with the world and with God. If you’re also a music lover, no matter what kind of music you listen to, you know what I mean. My own music preferences are rather wide and varied, but once in a while, I find a song that is truly exceptional. It anchors me to the truth, sends my heart racing, gets me excited about life! The song may be a bit corny or out of date, but to me it’s like discovering a precious, life-giving secret. Do you know what I’m talking about? I hope you do.

Anyway, for me, “The Great Adventure” by Steven Curtis Chapman has always been one of those songs. I first discovered the music video in 2008 on a free promotional DVD my family received in the mail, and it made such a first impression that I immediately downloaded it to my computer, and it has stayed there ever since. I can’t remember how many times I’ve watched or listened to it in the four years since. At the time, I was just about to graduate from high school and head off to college, and my head was full of dreams and adventure. But the message of this song has continued to speak into my life even now as I graduate with my degree and head into my twenties. I think that as “adults”, many of us find it easy to settle for things in life. We resign ourselves to so much, from our living situation to our significant others to our paycheck. But something that I’m learning more and more is that as a human being, and even more specifically as a follower of Jesus, God has created specific dreams, desires, and talents within you–and He wants you to reach for them! Why settle for something small when you can dream for the seemingly impossible? Unfortunately, this is difficult to remember when you’re working a just above minimum wage part time job in a cozy suburban corner of Sacramento, California, USA. Life can be a little numbing that way.

But if you are a follower of Christ, you are for better or for worse bound on the greatest adventure any human will ever know. It is difficult but fulfilling, heartbreaking and thrilling, and no matter what strife this current existence may bring, we have the promise of an eternity with the One we love most. Beginning a relationship with someone like Jesus is by no means safe…but it’s so worth it. When you choose to take hold of it, make it your own, and strive after it with all your being, you will find yourself in a moment much like many of my favorite adventure books–you know the kind. When a seemingly normal, average somebody with a perfectly normal humdrum life finds him/herself thrown into the midst of a story so much bigger, wonderful, and beautiful than they ever could have imagined, that there comes a moment where they know that no matter how dull things may become in the future, life will never be the same after having taken part in this Great Adventure.

Are you ready for a life like that? I know I am–my pulse quickens at the mere thought of it. You know what the best part is though? A life like that doesn’t have to be left in story books. Such a life exists.

“The Great Adventure” was first released in 1992, and was recently re-recorded and released in 2011. Both versions are fantastic in their own way. Enjoy.

Stray Cat Soul

Sometimes I treat my soul like a stray cat. You know, you pretend it’s not there and forget to feed it until it gets desperate and ends up ripping up your leg demanding you pay attention to it.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to be, is it?

Now, at the phrase “feeding your soul” I imagine a lot of you will come up with different ideas for what that actually means. Here’s what I mean when I say it: 1) actually communicating with the One who made your soul (what a concept!), 2) reading the stuff He gave you to read, aka your Bible (talk about the ultimate IT guide, right?), and 3) taking that information and doing something with it (don’t be a sponge that just soaks stuff up and doesn’t spread the love). Now, things doesn’t necessarily have to go in that particular order, and many times they don’t, but what I find myself doing many times is trying to complete the third thing on that list without consistently doing the other two. Which if you think about it, doesn’t make any sense at all.

Okay, I sense my snarky side trying to make an appearance, so let me calm down and say what I really wanted to say. It saddens me that so many of us forget to give ourselves the one thing we really need in order to survive and really live: a relationship with Jesus! So many of us who call ourselves Christians say that we have a relationship with God, but in the monotony of day-to-day life forget the big picture and just do our own thing. And when our lives start to sputter and spin out of control we wonder what on earth happened? I think a big part of why this is so common is that the physical world constantly demands our attention, and as physical beings we are overcome with our senses. We see it, hear it, taste it, smell it, feel it…but that’s not all there is. But we can’t forget that, in the words of C. S. Lewis,

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

So don’t deny yourself what you need in order to live your life to the fullest. Don’t ignore your relationship with Christ until all communication with Him has been severed and you need to start from the ground up…again. I find that when I take the time to sit down with God for a while, in spite of all the other things shouting at me for my attention, the rest of the day goes SO much better, even if the circumstances are truly suck-ish. I’m not saying that accomplishing this is easy, because it’s not. But it’s the only thing that’s really worth it.

“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?”

Psalms 42:1-2