Betrayal by Gun

I remember hearing about the shooting at Columbine when I was young. At seven years old, I couldn’t fathom why such a disastrous event had taken place; and moreover… at a school?! It shook me to my core. I felt scared. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook.  A then near-grad. of the college of education at ISU, I couldn’t even imagine the role educators in the building were forced to play amongst the terror and imminent threat of that day. I could not, in my wildest dreams (nightmares, rather), imagine watching my students be shot at.

While I do remember these two instances pretty concretely, at some point over the years, somehow, I gradually became accustomed to hearing about school shootings. Of course, they still rattled me, but news of such terror no longer shook me to my core. I wish that weren’t the case. I wish I remembered each one as I do Columbine and Sandy Hook. Truly, what I wish is that school shootings would stop happening altogether. My reality though, was to become as numb to these headlines as possible. When I thought too hard about the young lives lost without reason, the grieving families whose lives would never be the same, or the teachers who held their students as they slipped from this life…my heart couldn’t take it. My teacher heart couldn’t take it.

We all know gun violence and school shootings have been a hot topic in the U.S. this year. Young people are demanding their voices be heard (all throughout social justice issues, really), and folks are finally listening (to some of our young people, anyway). Thank God. Let me just say, this is why young people are not only our future, but our present. We need them. We need them TODAY. While thousands and thousands of young people took a stand for gun control this past year, while they fought against the notion of arming and training teachers to police students, I fell silent. I’m not proud of this. Not one bit- but I am willing to be real about it. My heart sunk and I avoided the news. How could anyone believe arming teachers would be a solution to this larger problem?! I could go on and on about all the problems I have with this idea. Apparently, I seem to have found my voice on this issue now, so that’s GREAT, but lemme find some focus here.

A few days ago, my fourth grade students and I attended a poetry slam for socially aware students in our community. Dynamic young people filled the stage with a presence that demanded attention, and voices that had no question of whether or not they would be heard. They spoke on issues of injustice, racism, identity and gun violence. Poetry laced with shocking truth, spoken through these beautiful instruments of change somehow woke me up. I found myself lost in their narratives, lost in their questions, lost in their lack of understanding at how a teacher with a gun solves anything (it doesn’t). Beautifully lost, yet awakened. While in my little awakened trance, I saw a couple sets of big brown ten year old eyes look up at me masking the fear and disbelief behind them. “Ms. Bryant, do you have a gun? Do you keep a gun in our classroom?” I quickly assured them I did not, refusing to allow myself to feel the pain of these words as they ripped through my heart.

It took me a minute to realize what I felt inside. I soon realized I felt betrayal. I felt betrayed by my students’ questions. They wanted to know if I kept a gun in our room *just in case*?! Did they know me at all?! Did they really think I was capable of taking one of their lives?! Don’t they know how much I love them?! I let the feeling simmer.

Later that day, we arrived back to school and had a time of reflection. I had my students, my phenomenal students, journal about the poetry slam. What had they heard? What stood out to them? Eventually, this discussion brought us back to the same question: “Ms. Bryant, do you keep a gun in our room?” As I allowed the feelings of betrayal to partner with feelings of heartbreak, I looked at my students and said, “Fourth grade, I want you to hear me when I say no, I do not keep a gun in our classroom and I never will. Ever. I promise.” The room vibrated with questions. “But what if you have to? What if someone makes you? Would you keep it on you or in your desk? Isn’t that dangerous?” etc., etc., etc,.

I stood dumbfounded as I realized the betrayal they must feel in order to even begin to ask me these questions. Of course they know I love them. Of course they know I would do just about anything for them. But could I possibly be keeping a secret of this magnitude from them? Could I possibly betray them and their safety by bringing a weapon into our classroom? Could authorities or adultism cloud my judgement? My feelings of betrayal, it occurred to me, were nothing in comparison to those of my students. I can only hope they knew the answer to their questions would likely be no; but they also knew the answer could be yes. If adults are talking about arming teachers and training them to use a gun in their classroom if needed…well then, wouldn’t it be a reasonable question to ask if your teacher had a gun? How would that make you feel as a student? How would that make you feel as a human being? What if our bosses kept guns in their offices just in case one of their employees went haywire? It feels dirty and sneaky, and overflowing with fear rather than resolution.

Here’s what I know. We have a plethora of issues in our world, but I believe we also have access to a plethora of solutions. Our world is filled with prayer warriors, peace seekers, justice bringers, and freedom fighters. We are equipped with problem solvers, creatives, organizers, dreamers, and deep thinkers. I can tell you this much right now, though: arming teachers is not one of those solutions.

So excuse me while my fourth grade students and I continue to dream up ways we can make our world a more just a love-filled place for all.

Advertisements

Forever Changed: On Witnessing Systemic Oppression From Swaziland To Chicago

22385011_10210310310130964_1933658641_n

Becoming a teacher was hard. Becoming a teacher, while white, at a social justice school in Chicago was even harder. Even after traveling the world over and seeing a surplus of its injustice, the past three years have brought witness to whole worlds of injustice right within my city limits. My eyes have been opened wide. My awareness of white supremacy and privilege have grown ten-fold. Waves of shame and guilt have come and gone, filtered only by a hope of the redemption in store.

About a year ago, I finally “went public” with the dose of reality Chicago had prescribed me. I allowed people into my world; a world filled with questions, uncertainty, and searching. Sorting and sifting through that world proved to be just as difficult as I had imagined, yet it brought with it so much freedom. Slowly, I began to find my voice in the social justice world.

I’m far from using that voice to its fullest or loudest, and it often still feels awkward. But I’m doing it. I’m using my voice in effort to help bring light and understanding to topics of injustice in my city and our world.

About a year ago, I wrote an article for an online Christian magazine. A friend of mine wrote for the article regularly, and asked me to write a piece for them on social justice. It was incredibly challenging and took me months to write. I wanted it to be perfect. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. But it was a start. I never shared the article on Facebook or Instagram, or told many people about it at all. While I was ready to share my voice and stories with strangers, the thought of sharing with people who knew me terrified me. However, I’m finding that feeling terrified isn’t always such a bad thing. It’s often an opportunity to take a risk and do the thing that scares you. I know that in order to use my voice more fully and loudly, I need to utilize and exercise it in practice. I need to take more risks with my words.

With that being said, below you will find the far-from-perfect article I wrote last year. It provides a peek into my world and the questions I’m consistently asking God. All I ask of you? Don’t be afraid to ask yourself these questions, too (especially if you’re white). Feeling awkward is natural, but then again, so is feeling terrified. Don’t let feelings stop you from going further; don’t let them deter you from opportunities of growth.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

As the sun beat down on our little African mountaintop, the sound of children laughing filled the brisk June air. I felt the smile cross my face as the sweet sound seeped in through the little windows of the hut I sat in. Filled by peace, I watched as the paint roller in my hand transformed the cold cement floor into a beautiful, colorful palate. I wanted to soak that moment up to it’s fullest. I didn’t know then that it would be a moment I would remember for the rest of my life: because in a moment, everything changed.

The laughter never stopped, but it became mirrored by screams; screams that couldn’t be mistaken as those of play or joy. These were screams of terror. I jumped to my feet and ran from one window to the next. My heart was pounding out of my chest, feeling as if the little hut might suffocate me. I needed out. I needed to find the source of those screams. What must’ve been less than twenty seconds felt like twenty minutes. I felt the time ticking and began to shout into the air. “Who is screaming?! What’s going on?!” The only response was another scream.

When my eyes found her I was horrified. There she was, the small source of the big screams. There she stood, in the middle of a circle of twenty or so children, all watching as a young boy tried to work his hands into places they should not be. She tried to pull his hands out from her underwear, tried to pull her dress down, tried to hide her face in shame.

In a second, I felt a fire ignite in my spirit, and the words build up in my throat. With all my might, I yelled through the window for the little boy to hear me. “Get away from her! Get your hands off of her!” All eyes were on me. In a flash, the little boy took off down the dirt road, attracting a few friends to follow the clouds of dust into the distance. The circle dissipated, and the field filled with wandering children.

Before I even knew what to do or how to react, I found myself sitting in the middle of the field of tall, prickly dry season grass. My arms, tightly wrapped around the young girl, brought with them prayers for peace and comfort. I whispered to her, “It’s okay, it’s over now. You’re safe now,” all the while wondering if those words were actually true.

I wish I could say they had been true. I wish I could say that I left Kuhlile with peace; but if I said that, I’d be lying.

IMG_0490

The reality of that day was reporting the situation to local adults involved at the school, only to get blank stares in return. “Ohh-kay, seestah.”  After having a family friend of the young girl call her grandma to come pick her up, she agreed to meet her halfway home; but she never even left the house. After finding and confronting the little boy, my concern only grew. Where did he learn this? Why did he think this was acceptable? I ended up walking Kuhlile through the winding dirt path back to her house that day. The little boy followed us the whole way.

Approaching Kuhlile’s homestead, I noticed the neighboring huts, signifying her father’s multiple wives. I gave Kuhlile one last hug and told her to pray to God. “He hears you. He loves you.” As I introduced myself to her grandma, I watched in shock as the little boy walked past us and entered into the hut across from Kuhlile’s. He was her half-brother.

At the end of the day, when I finally had a moment to sit and process all that had unfolded, I found myself extremely angry. Why did no one take this more seriously? Why hadn’t Kuhlile’s grandma picked her up? Why did the women at the school give me blank stares? Did no one care? A few hours later that question was answered. The director of the children’s home I was volunteering with called me into her home. Upon hearing my story, I saw the look on her face change from that of concern, to what seemed to be defeat. She explained to me that this is a normal part of life in Swaziland. “Most women in this country experience this multiple times in their lives.” I began to realize that in this situation being normal, in the exploitation of women and children being normal; there was something larger at play.

It’s been nearly two years now since I moved back to the States from overseas. I came back a changed woman. My eyes had seen too much to continue life as normal. Little did I know, this was just the beginning of the transformation that began in me that sunny day in Swaziland. My eyes were about to be opened to a whole new world of social injustice; this time, much closer to home.

“Ms. Bryant! Ms. Bryant!” I hear their little voices call. I feel a smile spread cross my face as I take in their laughter. It’s recess time in my little yellow classroom, full of my favorite little humans. As I sit at my desk attempting to get work done, I can’t help but get caught up in their play. They proudly show me their drawings or lego creations; their homemade meals from our play kitchen, or their spelling words spread across a small dry erase board. These five year olds have completely stolen my heart, and I am so honored to be their teacher.

22414475_10210310323011286_1496386621_n.jpg

After changing into their gym clothes, we moved to the carpet to prepare for transition. I looked down at my little Amariel’s t-shirt. Black girls rock! I commented that I liked her shirt and read it to the class. With this came a conversation about race; a regularly discussed topic in our classroom and in our unique little social justice school. Yet, even with the topic of race being discussed so openly,  it never ceases to amaze me how much the world has already imprinted itself on their little minds. The conversation quickly turned to my students explaining to me that I am American, but they are not because they’re black. “Americans are white,” they tell me.  Where did they learn this? Why do they feel their skin disqualifies them from being American? The more I began to think about it, the more I wondered myself why every ethnicity in the U.S., aside from caucasian, is hyphenated. Why? 

Last year I had a student tell me that it didn’t matter what she wanted to be when she grew up because she was just going to end up in prison like everyone else in her family. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my five year olds tell me they don’t like their hair or their skin; that they wish theirs looked more like mine. Why don’t these children feel beautiful? I’ve heard the shock in fourth grade students’ voices as they begin to comprehend that I am white, and yet love them and show them kindness. Why does kindness from a white person shock these students?

Growing up, I thought racism in America was dead. I thought we had moved on as a nation. When we elected our first black president, well, I thought that really sealed the deal. What I didn’t realize though, was the privilege I grew up in. I lived in a town full of primarily white residents. I went to a well-funded school with a reputation of rigor and opportunity. I watched TV shows and movies that starred people that looked like me. I saw women on magazine covers that looked like me. I didn’t realize that I comfortably fit into the society we have created as a nation. When I looked at people of color in my life, like my best friend Marchay, I didn’t see them facing racism. Marchay was well-liked by everyone. I guess my view of racism was much more narrow then than it is now, though. I viewed racism as not liking someone because of the color of their skin. While I do still believe that is a part of racism, I believe that is only the tip of the iceberg.

22385079_10210310301290743_1641889291_n

Over time, I’ve realized that I haven’t met a large population of individuals that don’t like people solely because of the color of their skin. Yet, racism surely exists. Why is that? I think this is the question we should be asking ourselves as the body of Christ. Why? Why are there so many black men incarcerated in our country? Why is government housing so often filled with people of color? Why are our cities so segregated? Why are so many unarmed black men killed in the name of self-defense?  “Why?” is a powerful question. When we begin to ask why, we open ourselves up to answers, and I truly believe God has heavenly answers and solutions in store for us.

We as the church have done a good job at recognizing injustices around the world. We see the Kuhlile’s of the world and feel their pain. We sponsor children, go on mission trips, advocate for women trapped in sex trafficking. While that is all beautiful and necessary, I believe that we as the Church should be just as passionate and active about seeking justice from systemic oppression in our own country. There are so many people in our towns, our cities, our neighborhoods that are hurting because of a larger system at play. We may not always understand the issues at hand, but we need to be asking why. We need to be asking why, so that we can then ask how. “How can I bring love to this situation?” We serve a God with a heart for justice, and we have been crafted in his image. It is in us to want to heal and to help; but in order to do that in our own homes, we have to be willing to listen and engage with those around us who are hurting.

In the book of  Micah, we read about God’s heart for his people and justice. In a time where people are being oppressed, taken advantage of, and even scalped at the hand of the Israelites, God steps in. He sends his Prophet, Micah to speak to his people. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” In some versions, mercy is replaced with kindness or steadfast love. God has shown us what is good. He has shown us his love, his mercy, and kindness. In turn, we should be showing that same love, mercy, and kindness to this world. Israel was always meant to move mountains, to be a people of world changers; but how could that be accomplished with an unjust societal norm in place?

Systemic oppression is a heavy, loaded topic. Attacking this issue, even comprehending this issue, is not something that is going to happen overnight; but it begins with allowing ourselves to ask questions and have hard conversations. Let us be a people who want to bring Kingdom to every corner of the earth; from the mountaintops of Swaziland to the inner city of Chicago.

Whitney’s Dance

Whitty. I’ve been sitting here for awhile trying to figure out how to write all that I want to say about you; all that I want to say to you. How do I communicate all of the ways you have loved me, believed in me, inspired me? What words will do you justice? On this page, I’ve copied and pasted, and then later deleted so many quotes by wise men and women, yet none of them have quite captured what it is I want to say. And then I think about the woman you are, and what you would say to me if you saw me searching for someone else’s words right now. I think it would be something along the lines of “Kara Jo, you have a voice and words and so much to say! Speak your heart, speak your heart, speak your sweet, sweet heart!”

whitty

From the moment I first met Whitney Gorbett, I knew she was someone I wanted to be around; someone I wanted to learn from. When I heard her speak on life and freedom, dancing and writing, grace and redemption I saw something in her I wanted to see in myself. In hearing Whitney’s stories alone, it was clear that she had been etched by the pen of grace, filled with the spirit of freedom, and given a heart of redemption. This woman is incredible. However, knowing her, learning from her, and living life with her proved to be everything her stories carried and more.

My friendship with Whitney began on a well-weathered leather couch in Mijas Pueblo, Spain. We started talking about life and dreams, lessons learned. Before I knew it, my heart was spilling out on the floor in front of me. When it felt like we had only begun to talk, another staff member came out of the G42 office and reminded us that he was supposed to be having a meeting with me. But that’s just how life with Whitney is. It’s so easy to get carried away, to laugh until you’re crying, or cry until you’re laughing.  It’s so easy to feel safe and understood; to feel at home.

Whitney has a plethora of stories up her sleeve. This woman has seen and experienced more of the heart of our God than most people even believe to be true. She is a fighter for and a lover of people all over the globe. One of my favorite Whitney stories though,   is one that still echoes through my spirit today. Whitney told me about the African tribal music filling her American church; the band on stage, the congregation sitting and listening. While Whitney is great at sitting and listening to people speak, sitting and listening when there is music playing is not her cup of tea. Girl is a dancer. In telling the story, Whitney told me how she looked around and saw the blank faces and solemn bodies. Her pastor, clearly knowing her well, approached her and told her to get the church dancing. So, up she stood with a smile on her face, joy in her demeanor, and she danced. It didn’t take long for the whole church to follow this bold woman’s lead.

Whitney is a dancer. Whether it be salsa, African tribal, two step, or hip hop- she dances. I’ve seen her dance in Latin night clubs,  at Texas-themed tapas parties, and I’ve seen her dance while she worships her Creator. This woman does not care who sees her dance. She feels and so she moves. When I see Whitney dance, it makes me want to dance; because when she dances her heart seems so alive, so free.

Messages Image(2106953432)

But really, if I think about it, Whitney’s whole life is a dance, and a beautiful one at that. Dancing is real and vulnerable, carries depth and expression. Dancing tells a story. Whitney’s dance tells the story of seamless grace, real redemption, true freedom, and bringing more Heaven to Earth. Whitney’s dance tells the story of never giving up on people or on dreams. Her dance makes me want to dance, too.

I love you, Whitty. Thank you for who you are, and thank you for your beautiful, carefree dance.

Need to be inspired? Need some encouragement? This woman is so good at both of those things. She can be contacted at whitgorbett@gmail.com

Mijas Pueblo to The Windy City

The frog in my throat had become a permanent resident, and the knots in my stomach pulled a little bit tighter with each step I took away from my people; my family. Tiff caught my tear filled eyes and did her best to make me smile- by dancing through the airport of course- and naturally, it worked. I waved the goodbye my mouth couldn’t speak, and blew the kisses my lips couldn’t give. I took a deep breath and handed over my boarding pass.

I approached the last security stop before reaching my terminal, and joined the line of people quietly waiting. As I inched closer to the counter my heart sank. I handed my passport over to the officer and felt the sharp glide of a knife through my heart as the ‘THUD’ of the stamp hit the pages of my passport. My exit stamp. It felt like a disconnect. It felt like I was really leaving. I guess that’s when I knew I really was.

I took my time walking towards my terminal. I knew what seeing the combination B16 meant; it meant adios to Espana and all that I was leaving behind. But, the inevitable happened as I arrived at terminal B16. I stood in line to board the plane with tears welling in my eyes and a ribbetting frog in my throat. This was it. It was time to go back to my other home.

 rainbow

_____________________________________________________________________________

Even as I read those words today, four months after I wrote them, reliving the memory of leaving still makes my heart ache. Spain was good to me. I had found home in Mijas; in the people I lived my everyday life with. I found revelation and freedom with and from those people. Growth was constant and raw, life was full and fun. I had no idea what six months in the south of Spain would do to me, and sometimes I still struggle to find the words to explain my time there. But it was so good. My God showed me so much more of His character, His love, and His heart than I ever expected Him to.

I left my little white-washed village without a lot of things I had brought with me; things like legalism and a victim mentality, hurt from old wounds, and judgement towards other people. But I also left Spain with a mind and soul full of new things. I left with some of the sweetest memories, the most incredible friendships, a new place to forever call home. I left with a new-found freedom to do the things I love, to not feel like I had to fit my character and my life into a nicely structured box or pretty little mold. Even through the tears and painful goodbyes, I left Spain full of hope and vision for the life ahead of me.

And now, four months later, I write this as I sit in my beautiful Chicago apartment; yet another new home. I’ve called Chicago home for nearly two months now, and that won’t be changing anytime soon. Life here is good. I’ve got one of my best friends and fellow G42 alum here with me- my Megan (oh, what would I do without you, Megan?). We are slowly building a community here, much like the community we experienced in Spain: a community full of love and acceptance, growth and revelation, joy, laughter, and friends who have become family. Our doors are open, our guest room is cozy, and our huge kitchen table is on its way. Fifteen people have also called our home their own in the past two months, even if only for one night. We are beginning to see the dreams formed in Spain become a reality in our Chicago home.

But creating a welcoming home and community is not the only dream I’m seeing come to fruition in my life. Most people who know me, know that injustice deeply hurts my heart; especially when directed towards children. In Spain I vowed to always serve and worship my God through seeking justice for His children, regardless of my career or home base. And my God is faithful, because injustice hurts his heart, too. I will be teaching kindergarten this fall at a school in which I am required to explore justice with my students. Together, we will study the different injustices of our city, our country, and our world. Together, we will dream up ways to see injustice diminish and freedom win. I have no doubt that I will be teaching the future leaders of our country; leaders who will be world changers.

Megan and I brought a lot with us when we moved to Chicago. We brought a strong friendship, similar dreams, an abundance of hope and faith, and expectant hearts. All that we learned in Mijas, we have carried with us into this next chapter, The freedom we found in Spain is the same freedom that resides in our hearts in Chicago. The God we loved and served in Spain is the God we love and serve in Chicago.

11778029_10204969886343707_838479614_n

Spain was good to me. In many ways, it felt like a dream. But the reality is, Spain was real. The things learned, the truths discovered, and the relationships formed- they are all real; time doesn’t change that. And while it would be easier on my heart to stay in Mijas and soak up that Andalucian sunshine alongside so many people I love, I know that Chicago is where I am supposed to be right now- where I want to be. I want to see Kingdom come to Chicago, and I want to be a part of it. I want our home to be a part of it. I want my job to be a part of it.

I want every day of my life in this city (and beyond) to be lived to the full, to be poured out for love, and to shine the light of my God, my Christ who brings a hope for glory through me. And I know I’m not alone in this. I see the fire and the excitement, the love and the passion for this city in the eyes of so many. God has begun a great work in Chicago and he will indeed bring it to completion.

So Chicago, just know…you are loved…you are loved, you are loved loved loved.

Katie’s Tears

I remember wondering what she would be like; wondering what friendship with Katie would look like. I remember thinking she seemed cool. Of course, I only knew this from creeping on her Instagram. I saw all of the beautiful jewelry she created, and then I saw her jewelry featured on a magazine cover (casual). Most of her pictures displayed her spunky red hair in a top knot, lips pursed, eyes squinted, and a peace sign framing her eye. I could tell before ever meeting Katie that she was her own person.

katie

No Instagram creeping could ever prepare me for the way that I would eventually come to know Katie, though. When she arrived to our home in Mijas, Spain, I helped her drag her bags up to our room, but before she could even attempt to get settled we started talking. We talked about our experiences traveling the world, and how those experiences had shaped us. We talked about our dreams and what we wanted out of our time in Spain, having no idea how those dreams would be fed and transformed by many more conversations just like one we were having. Our bedroom floor would soon become a permanent home to those conversations. It was our safe place to spill out our struggles, our fears, our revelations, our dreams. It became a safe place to word vomit and try to make sense of the thoughts in our brains. But more than that, our friendship became a safe place. The more I got to know Katie, the more I trusted her, admired her, and looked up to her. When I opened up and told her things I didn’t really want to admit to, she loved me through it. She helped me to see past struggles or lies, and to instead find the truth and life within. When I forgot who I was, Katie was always there to remind me. When I doubted my dreams, she boldly told me no. The thing about Katie, is that she has always believed in my dreams; believed in me.

I’ve literally seen this woman weep for me, contend for me. I’ve seen tears stream down her face as she prayed for me, my future, and the impact my life will have. These weren’t tears of sorrow or fear, but tears of excitement and pure belief in my life and its purpose. These tears are some of the most beautiful tears I have ever seen. Katie sees something in me that I often don’t  see in myself; something worth excitedly crying about. This woman believes in people and feels for people more than most will ever allow themselves to.

One of the many reasons I love Katie is because of what her own dreams entail. Her big, beautiful, ever growing dreams are wrapped around empowerment. She yearns to empower women who have been trafficked, women who have suffered, women who don’t see a future for themselves. Because the truth is, Katie does see a future for these women. Where others see brokenness, she sees beauty. Where others see impossible, she sees an arguable opinion. Where others see defeat, she sees a garden ready to be tilled. And while these dreams may seem as if they are all in the works, that isn’t the reality. The reality of Katie’s dreams and desires, is that they are already being lived out daily. No, I wasn’t trafficked or suffering under some type of exploitation or physical bondage. But there was freedom to be had in my life, and she helped me find it. She didn’t deliver it to my door in a nicely wrapped package, no, that’s not Katie. She took me by the hand and walked the journey with me. She helped me to see myself the way she sees me. This empowering woman helped me to believe in myself in a whole new way.

10838086_803972463026556_1467282945569387044_o

Katie, you are a dreamer and a doer. You are a truth seeker and a truth seer. The impact you carry, the authority within you is deep, deep, deep waters. Trust in that and never let doubt seep in. Because Katie Stu, you are a world changer. Never stop believing that truth. You are one of the most inspirational individuals I have ever encountered. I am beyond amazed that I get to call you my person. All my love.

If you need to be encouraged, empowered, smacked in the face with truth…talk to this woman. She is mighty and she is peace. She loves well, and anyone would be wise to get to know Katie Stuart. She can be contacted at katelizart@gmail.com

The Inspired Series

Every once in awhile they walk into my life. Yet, even when they leave, it’s as if they’re still with me; they’ve left something behind. These are the people who soar through the waters in their lofty dream boats, causing waves of inspiration to come over everyone in their path. Every once in awhile, those people walk into my life; those people who carry inspiration worth celebrating. This is for those people. The people who have left footprints on my heart, the people who have challenged me, encouraged me, believed in me. This is for the people who dream without fear of failure, the people who live above any status quo.This is for the people who cannot, will not be stopped.

But this is also for the people who are afraid. The people who feel alone or exhausted. This is also for the people searching for something, someone, some way. This is for you, too. Inspiration can often be difficult to find in the hustle and bustle of our world, or even in the slow still moments- but it doesn’t have to be. I assure you, it is out there, it is within you. It’s time for us to be a world inspired.

This is the Inspired Series.

My Mijas

I can’t believe I’ve been in this sweet little white-washed pueblo for nearly six months already. Where has the time gone? It feels like it was only days ago that my plane landed in Malaga and this adventure became a reality. So much has changed since that day, though. So much has happened since that day. Mijas is home now. My heart overflows with the memories I have made here, the friendships that have formed here, the revelations I have had here. Everything that Mijas is and has been, I am grateful for.


mijas medmijas        rainbow

This is a place where you learn to believe that your dreams can come true; this is a place where dreams really do come true. My roommate Katie always says that if unicorns existed this is where they would live, and I think she’s right.

Tomorrow is my last full day on this little Mediterranean mountain top. Leaving my Mijas will be so much more difficult than I ever imagined. I will miss the sound of bells jingling on the backs of donkeys, the afternoons spent in Pampa over sangria blanco. I will miss the lively laughter-filled nights at Bodega and early morning coffee dates at Maria Quero’s. I will miss the breath-taking sunrises with Morocco in the distance, and Spirit-led rooftop worship sessions. I will miss lazy creative days and always entertaining house dinners. I will miss nights in Malaga listening to incredible music with incredible people by my side. I will look back at my time here and remember the fond memories made on these cobblestone streets, within these whitewashed walls. It hurts to think about how much I will miss these people, though. Those are the thoughts that bring the tears. These are my people, my family, my tribe.

So, Mijas, thank you for the memories. But thank you, Jesus, that these people are still mine, no matter where in this world we are.

my people

Love and the Loved

Sometimes I forget what God’s love really is. My perception of him and his love get tossed around with the clutter in my brain; the clutter of business and doubt, anxiety and fear; the clutter of the world and of my own flesh. It can become easy to lose sight of reality in moments like that; easy to lose sight of who God actually is and just how real his love for me is.

candle

But then there are cool, windy rooftop nights. The sky the deepest shade of midnight blue, the breeze blowing hair all across my face, and making goose bumps appear all over my bare arms. Breathing deeply in the fresh mountain air, overlooking the coastal city below, I know God is here. I feel him here. And it’s only now that I really recognize the clutter in my brain; the clutter that has been clouding my vision for what seems like weeks. I’m finally still, finally quiet. Quiet, except for Damien Rice’s voice softly singing, playing in the background of my moment with God. That is, until his voice, his words, become part of my moment with God.

“Wherever you are, know that I adore you.

No matter how far, well, I can go before you.”

His words echo in my ears. Wherever you are, I adore you. No longer are these simply words or song lyrics, they are becoming God’s serenade to me, if I listen closely. No matter how far, I can go before you, he says. My ears tune deeper and deeper into the music.

“And I don’t want to change you, I don’t want to change you.”

I feel my back stiffen. Chills.Wait, God, you don’t want to change me? I wasn’t expecting these words. And in that moment I feel the waters of his love racing, plunging over waterfalls. It all makes sense now. He loves me. The clouds begin to leave my mind, the clutter subsides. Love doesn’t desire the loved to change. Love is unconditional, it’s an all or nothing kind of thing. Love wants the best for the loved one, but love doesn’t want the loved one to become anything other than the very person she was created to be. I remember my mom’s words all throughout my childhood, “Never be with someone who you want to change.” Because love simply loves. Wherever you are, no matter how far.

“I’ve never been with anyone in the way I’ve been with you.”

He uniquely knows me, loves me, understands me. That’s love, and it is refreshing. A smile slowly appears on my moonlit face. Love. Why do we try to complicate it? Why do we doubt it? Sometimes moments like these cold, windy rooftop nights are just what I need to be reminded of reality. And my reality is that I am loved by a God who doesn’t want to change me. Those words feel good, escaping my lips, becoming tangible on the screen in front of me. Thank you for putting my head back in the clouds, Mr. Rice.

Rings of Growth

It’s the Wednesday nights around the kitchen table, breaking bread with roommates turned friends. It’s opening up about your past and finding freedom from it. It’s coffee dates and deep discussions. It’s the comfort of an environment where no question is stupid and no opinion is criticized. It’s the homework that makes you dig your nose into the word and come out with answers. It’s the afternoons sprawled across living room floors with friends who love you enough to help you map out your biggest dreams.

tiff

rmates
Empowerment.
One month in Mijas and my whole world has been rocked. I am empowered beyond description. My confidence in who I am and what I am made to do is so deeply rooted in truth. My mind has been freed in so many ways; ways that allow me to dream big dreams and to actually believe they are a potential reality.

Bold.
I am learning that it is ok to have questions…and it’s even better if you actually ask them. It’s ok to not know all of the right answers. But it’s also ok to know the answer…and it’s even better if you actually share it.

Lover.
Love isn’t just a smile to a stranger or a short term mission trip. Love is an every day kind of thing. It takes work and commitment, patience and humility. The fruit of real, tangible, love is life changing. I’m learning that you can’t put love in a box…you can’t give it limits. It should change everything.

I wish I  could spell out all that I’ve learned here so far. Between intense classes ranging from topics on creativity to discerning the will of God, one on one coffee dates with staff members, and living in intentional community… I know I am becoming more of myself. My dreams are beginning to appear more attainable. My identity is over and over again solidified. My heart beats faster here. My mind moves a little bit more slowly here. I am at peace- true peace.

This is a season of peaceful growth.

So imagine this tree, maybe a redwood. This tree didn’t realize how big she was, how much shade she could provide to hikers and campers, how many homes she could accommodate for the birds of the sky, the creatures of the woods. She felt overpowered by all of the other trees of the forest. She didn’t realize how beautiful she was. But the more she began to realize it, the bigger she grew. Taller. Wider. Thicker branches. Deeper shades of green. It’s a rapid growth, but it’s a peaceful one.

And someday her life will serve a different purpose in a different place, as a different form. When the time comes  to cut her ties to the earth, something beautiful will be revealed. Within the rings of her trunk will stand one ring that is exponentially further away from the nearest prior ring.. the season of her life where she realized who she really was, who she was really meant to be, and how she decided to believe it.  A season of impact.

That’s where I’m at.

mijas blog

A Peek into the ‘Why’

I realize that my life is rather strange. I realize that even some of my closest friends and family members don’t understand what I’m doing here in Spain. I’ve received many questions on what I’m doing here, why I’m here, and what I hope to gain from my time here. So, beautiful people, if you have any of those questions for me you’ve come to the right place! Let me invite you in to my life here at G42 in Mijas, Spain!

I’ll begin with explaining how I even began to entertain the thought of moving to Spain for six months. Below is an excerpt from my previous blog while I was on The World Race. You can check it out in its entirety HERE.

“During our month eight debrief I called out to God. I told him that I wanted some things from him. I wanted a deeper understanding of his Spirit, a deeper knowledge of his Word, and spiritual mentorship. I also expressed to God my desire for direction. This year has been a process of further understanding my passions, gifts, strengths and how God wants me to use those things for his kingdom. But how do they all fit together? This question left me clueless. The next day I went to a Q&A meeting for two programs called Center for Global Action (CGA) and G42. I knew next to nothing about either program so I decided to go just to check it out. As the G42 representative spoke, my mouth may have hit the floor. His explanation of G42 was all too similar to my cry to God the night before to be mere coincidence. I struggled with this for a few days. Was God calling me to go to G42?

Now you’re probably wondering “What in the world is G42?” Let me try to explain. G42 is all about raising up the 42nd generation. But that’s too complicated to thoroughly explain on a blog post, so click here for more on that http://www.g42leadershipacademy.org/about/what-is-g42. This leadership academy focuses on four things: discipleship-growing in God, koinonea- authentic community, freedom- God’s creativity unleashed, and dominion- God with shoes on. For six months the interns are immersed in a community of sold-out-for-Jesus professors and mentors, roommates and friends. Together they study God’s word and allow space for God’s creativity to flow. Passions are ignited, freedom is unleashed, and God’s people are sent out to the nations to bring Heaven to Earth. G42’s vision statement is this,

“The 42nd generation is a network of Christ-followers with the mission to plant churches, businesses, & ministries to spread the Kingdom of God around the world—to inspire and develop leaders who are passionate about giving their lives to the Message of Christ.”

I am thrilled to announce that I will soon become a part of that community. I will be joining the 42nd generation this coming October. After spending some time with the Lord discussing it, God confirmed to me over and over again that this program was always what he had intended for me to do after the race. I am so grateful for a God that knows my heart and provides for me. He is just so. dang. good.

From karabryant.theworldrace.org

An unexpected bonus of this academy is the location. Sitting tucked away in the peace of the mountains and surrounded by over 100 different nationalities, Mijas, Spain is home to G42. I’ve never really had a desire to visit Spain, so to be honest this didn’t play a part in my decision making process whatsoever. In fact, staying stateside was more on my radar for at least the year or so following re-entry. But as always, God’s plans are bigger than mine. Now I will only be home for two months before packing up and leaving again.”

So, as you can see, coming here was just as much of a surprise to me as it was to my friends and family (although some of them weren’t surprised at all). But man- I just need to say that God speaks: sometimes you may not know exactly what he is asking of you or revealing to you, and other times it is crystal clear. Well, God was calling me to go to G42 and it was crystal clear. No matter how hard I fought it, I knew I needed to surrender.

After a crazy event took place in Swaziland, followed by some crazy dreams in South Africa, I understood a little bit more of why God had called me to G42. I understood a little bit more of how God’s heart and my heart overlap when it comes to children and injustice, and I knew G42 was a place that would only help me to grow my dreams and passions; to make them a reality.

And after three weeks of living here I can confidently say that this is exactly where I am supposed to be.