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And she admits insanity.

Hi, my name is Katie and I am in step two of my program: I believe there is a higher power that can help return me to sanity.

And this is where you either run away nervously, rightfully so at that, or say, “Hi Katie.”

When I began the work this month, it kept feeling empty. Ya know? Like, I know I am not actually clinically insane. But as I began to process what I was asking of myself, I started to question if that was verifiably true or not. Then I noticed how timely that this self-examination fell in December/January. So let’s look back shall we?

  • In the USA, it was an election year. And to say it was a very strenuous, anxiety filled race to fill the Senate, House, and White House with your personal preference… would be putting it on the extremely mild side.
  • Globally, we are in the midst of a pandemic that has directly infected almost 90 million people. 90,000,000 people. 1,800,000 of those never recovered and that number continues to climb. We will be dealing with the trauma of this for a very long time to say the least. Also, humanity aside, things aren’t, uh, looking great for the earth right now— environmentally speaking. So…. Oofta.
  • Personally, I am a mother of two active, young children in the middle of a dangerous pandemic, crazy politicians seeking re-election or election wanting my vote, dissecting my belief system and it feels like the world is ending. Yeah, not… uh, not doing too great over here if I am being honest.

It has been rough out here in reality, but this is where my personal insanity lies frustrated, battered, and still determined to prove itself. From the meager work I have done, I think my insanity is based on control i.e. responsibility. Not a need for control, but voices of the past telling me, through so many misrepresentations of healthy living as well as distortions of healthy spirituality, that a real person and/or Christian has it all together and that I too must try to do the ducking impossible. (My autocorrect changes uncouth language to ducking, enjoy the humor as I have simply embraced the joy of it.)

Now, part of this is based on family history. Having a mother that wrestled with anemia while at the same time having a father who struggled with a sliding degree of mental illness, my way of bringing wholeness was to bring less to the table. Be less so the family as a whole didn’t have to deal with more. That isn’t to say I was mute, unloved, or didn’t have space to solve what was important to me— I was and did. But I also spent too much time internally yelling, “I am here!!!” It taught me to put on the brave face and get the work done. Except the dishes, I still despise washing dishes. Was this my parents fault? I certainly don’t blame them. They did the best they could in the situation they were in. Could they have done better? With my brothers, yes, but since I am practically perfect…

Add to that the message church life taught me and it was like we were signaling directly to Control Central that I could be a promising candidate for key-note speaker at the next convention. I don’t think I could count the times I went to church and heard messages about coming to God as you are. Which is great and true, in fact there is a wonderful, old hymn that sings, “Just as I am without one plea.” It is so beautiful! That is until the seats and pews begin to be filled with people that all look the same… say the same thing… do the same thing— and I am not speaking liturgically. A Christian says this, votes only this way, governs the morality of the nation a certain way… and it goes on and ducking on. Nothing is questioned or when it is, you get called to the proverbial principle’s office. I look back and can see how I embraced this and warred with it at the same time, and I am exhausted with it.

To this day, I fight the pressure to control myself. Don’t yell, remain calm, if you don’t have the answers find them, hide your real thoughts, pick which questions are safe to ask of which person, people are watching, your needs are not necessarily needs, you can get by without, and hold the cards close to the breast. Sure, there is wisdom in some of those things, but feeling the need to conceal every thought, blemish, and emotion leaves a person feeling rather hollow and perpetually tense.

But if I believe there is a high power that can return me to sanity… And if sanity is opposite of insanity…

Then does that mean God wants to bring me to a place where I can be free to be imperfectly me? I am not talking about the cliche phrase of ‘God bringing us to a place of brokenness.’ But rather a space of wholeness by way of acceptance and love of my limited-ness?

The place where the weight of the nation is not actually on my shoulders or where the burden of the Church is not resting on my lungs— I cannot fix what is broken, I can only change me. Even as I typed those words, my mind is squawking on a giant megaphone, “But what about…?” The peacemaker in me is writhing, but this truth stands. I will still use my voice, ask questions—probably even more now, and attempt to bring diverse unity; but the souls of 7 billion people do not rest on me. I cannot be responsible for an entire nation, only myself. And my kids, until they move out. And my husband, sheesh.

If you have ever watched the Disney film “Toy Story,” you might remember the scene where Woody flips out on Buzz and screams, “YOU ARE A TOY!” It takes a bit more time before Buzz accepts this truth, but I am to the point where I do. I AM A HUMAN! And it is in this space of acceptance of what that means, that I feel the warmth of love surrounding me.

In “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” Thich Naht Hanh wrote my favorite quote of all time, “Where there is understanding, compassion is born.” I understand myself a bit better and the compassion that is trickling forth for myself is a healing balm. This is what I am meant to be: human. Not responsible for all of creation: simply human.

“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, “The Insecurity of Freedom”

I admit I am powerless.

Step 1. Deep breath in. Slowly let it out. I admit I am powerless over and against evangelical religion (Really, all religion. ) and that my life has become unmanageable. That seems messy and unclear. I am powerless over the system that programmed me to believe certain things were possible or that certain things weren’t real.

As one who likes to have a plan and some semblance of control, this step was…is really tough. But after comprising what felt like a very long list of 21 areas where I am in fact powerless, it is also incredibly freeing. The list of that which I actually have power over is incredibly short. And here in lay the two things with which I wrestle: myself and the self I was programmed to become. And they are so intertwined, it is like looking into my stash of leftover yarn. Who the hell knows where one leaves off and another begins?

What I have since come to understand is that the only person I have power over is me. And actually I will rephrase that: What I have come to understand is that I only have power to myself. There is a vast difference between ‘power over’ and ‘power to;’ and, according to Brené Brown, the most simplified difference is this: one places more importance on being right than getting it right while the other is the reverse.

And there is the power struggle: what religion tells me is x, y, and z. But I am q, p, and a. As much as I like being right, I want to get me right. My faith. My person. My mind. My relationships. And this system was/is more interested in being right… and I no longer am.

In doing the work of the these beginning pages, I have come to realize that I don’t want power over, to, or with evangelical Christianity. I appreciate what it was to and for me in my youth, but now having stepped back and walked circumspectly around it, it isn’t what I believed it to be.

So how do I continue with this first step, what does that even mean? And the answer? I am not entirely sure. I do know I am laying to rest an old identity that served me for a time. I know I have a long road a head of me as I wrestle with shame, fear, and decades worth of yarn stash style mental wiring.

As I spent time reflecting over what I have learned this past month, this is what I began to visualize: There are two metal folding chairs with one seat filled and the other offered to me. I can walk away, sit or stand.

A great companion read to Step 1 has been the book “The Gift of Being Yourself,” by David G. Benner.


Hi, uh. My name is Katie and I am a recovering Evangelical Christian.

And this is the part where you say, “Hi Katie.”

For several years, gosh easily 11-12 years, I have grown more and more exhausted spiritually. And the more tired I became, the more I began to see that what looked like simple cracks in my theology were actually chasms to the faith I was trying desperately to nurture. I was becoming critical to every word I heard a Christian speak especially when in church. I was trying to come up with answers to the world problems and it was like grasping sand as it sifted through my fingers. It came to the point where I quit going to church for close to two years.

Then I started attending a more traditional church. Not even because it was a certain denomination, but simply because it was a block away from my house. One block. Uno. Walking distance was the only qualification. Now, the little village I live in only has one church, so I didn’t have a lot to chose from. But at that point, it honestly would not have mattered.

Now, fast forward three years later and I have realized something very irritating: Even though I have left the evangelical church, my mentality still went/goes back to the theology I had been taught… trained in. And I really don’t like it. That isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate certain aspects of my spiritual history, because I do! But there is a lot that was/is unhealthy. I have begun comparing it to an addicts need for one more drink, hit, etc, as I can not get away from it. The mental pathways are firmly established even though I see many of the fault lines in their reaction to reality.

So I am attempting to be very deliberate and strategic with the next twelve months as steps toward recovering my faith. I am taking the 12 step program, used by so many, and applying it to my life. And I do not do so lightly! If there is no other benefit, it has already begun to birth so much more compassion for those with addictions of every variety! But even in this first step, I have begun to see things a little differently; this in turn gives me hope that this one year will continue on in a life long transformation.

So, hi. My name is Katie and I am a recovering Evangelical addict.

I Have Fallen from the Tree

I create seasonal checklists to retain my sanity and some semblance of my identity. As a stay at home parent of a five year old and a four year old, I have found this to be the simplest way to not forget myself. This checklist isn’t things that I need to do, but rather anything I would like to do if I have a spare moment or simply need to feel like I am human. It hangs on my refrigerator and is there for me— not the other way around. The list might look like:

  • Enjoy a glass of wine
  • Have a phone date with _______
  • Clean out the cupboards
  • Learn something new
  • Memorize a poem
  • Visit Montana
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail
  • Try a new recipe
  • Support a small business
  • Walk a hundred miles

It is so fulfilling to check off a box— because it is what I want. It is crazy, realistic, hopeful, everything and nothing. And every season as I sit down to create my list, I always include “Witness Something Beautiful.” I have marked it off every single time and I think it is because I am looking. Today, I checked that box again.

I was walking over to my neighbors, to help her put on her socks, when I happened to walk under a tree and was lavishly rained upon with leaves. I paused and thought, “I didn’t witness something, I was apart if it.” Clear blue skies, golden leaves raining down, and I was in the middle. Cool. I continued on my path with a heart-full smile, finished the mission, and began the short walk back. I come to the same tree and as soon as I walk up to it, it begins to rain leaves again. A holy, irreverent moment ensued.

“OKAY! I get it! You are here and present! But you know what?!?!?” I began talking to God about how I know he is there and she is good, but I have all these unanswered questions, doubts, frustrations, anger, and heartache. And in the stillness between moments, I heard a reply and was given a gift.

Thomas Merton wrote, “There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.” My faith has evolved so much since I made it my own 28 some years ago. I was sitting in a Wednesday night class when someone announced their decision to follow Jesus. I remember so clearly bowing my head and silently praying, “Uh Jesus? If that girls needs you, then you better get in here and change me cause I need you way more.”

My vision of who God was, was a simple cleaner upper of humanity. And sure, to a certain degree that is true. But as I have aged and ever so slowly matured, I have come to see that he is also okay with us being dirty. Wrestling in the mud with the hard stuff. He is okay with our doubts, our fears. God can handle our honest anger. Because we learn more about ourselves and therefore more about God when we do. When we ask the hard questions. When we wrestle with our humanity. When our hurt, pain, and anger overtake us. When our joy is complete, the cup is overflowing, and peace surrounds us. If we are willing to take the deep breath and explore the moment and all that moment involves, we can learn about who we are and who God is. If we are looking and listening.

And today, I was.


My Environment

Right now my environment is in chaos!  We are getting ready to have our living room and bedroom re-carpeted.  We have odd furniture in the kitchen and other rooms, and the room that was set up as quiet space is filled with years of clutter from sentimental accumulation.  I miss this room.  I feel it’s absence because I had gotten used to the aroma of the scented candle and the routine of entry into that quiet space with it’s slanted ceiling.  There are things that I can’t find right now because the usual place has been misplaced.  But, Lord willing, this chaos is not forever.  I will bring order, a new order with fewer possessions, by the end of the month, after the new carpet is laid.

Outside the leaves are changing color.  It is cooler and the wind has begun to pull the leaves from the branches of our hackberry tree.  It is here, in this environment that I sit in silence, listening to the wind and the migrating birds.  Giving peanuts to my neighborhood squirrels, who have gotten used to me.  I seldom see my neighbors, even though the fences are low.  It seems we have become an indoor society, venturing out only to deposit our garbage in bins or to mow.  So if I walk the neighboring blocks, where the houses have numbers, but the people inside have names, I will seldom if ever encounter any of them.  But, my backyard, with it’s blooming mums and nasturtiums, is a place, an environment that holds a peace in this changing season.  It welcomes me when I accept the invitation with its aroma of autumn.

In some ways, my interior environment seems to be a reflection of the environment I live in.  A mirror of sorts, or maybe the source?  My interior is both a place of chaos and a place of changing color.  I find myself sorting through an accumulation of interior sentiments.  Anger as I walk through the election process and read about racial injustice.  I feel the frustration of being held in isolation.  I am sad, angry, frustrated… right along side my feelings of delight and enchantment… at seeing pictures of grandchildren, or feeling satisfied in the deep discussions with family and friends.  But I’ve also lost inner places or things that have grounded me in the past, things like scripture, or journaling, and centering. For those seemed to require a place that is lost in the chaos of carpet.  I find that it is in my outdoor environment, my natural environment where I find a place that my mind isn’t circling and cycling from one thing to the next.  But, where it rests and wonders.  Where thoughts of what’s next can take root and maybe grow.

So maybe this quote by Parker Palmer applies.  With its background idea of letting go of ego, and instead of being the spotlight, fading into my environment.  The acknowledgement of patience…extreme patience, as I give myself to attentiveness and openness to what it next.  It seems as though it is not an invitation to fade into and sleep as Rip Van Winkle did, but rather to go quiet, let go of my fears and become awake, fully alert and attuned to the environment.

“The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance.” -Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

To continue in the dense underbrush, the frenzy and chaos that is part of my interior and exterior life, will not sustain me.  It is a place of safety, not sustenance. So I will go to the place that has opened for me and if I can let go and go quiet with patience, I might hear, see, or experience something wild that becomes the voice of the Sacred for me.