Tag Archives: friendship

Grace House

She has taught me so much in the past few months and I hope I have helped her some too.

She is trustworthy, kind, humble, and gentle in spirit.  The first day I met her, she felt the need to tell me all about herself and did not keep any secrets.  At times she talked quite fast due to her nerves and the pain attached to exposing her past, but she forced herself to trust me.  She divulged past regrets, but rested in the fact that her past had allowed her to land in a safe place.  She inquired about my life, always looking me in the eye when I spoke to show she was engaged.  She sought out my advice on handling conflict with peers because it felt uncomfortable yet unavoidable at times.  She still smiles often even though parts of her future are uncertain.  And she has asked me if I will still want to be her friend in the upcoming months.  I have assured her that I do.

About 7 months ago, I met her.  I had been feeling a tug at my heart to get involved in something outside of my “bubble” so I sent an email to an organization I had heard of through our church.  Our bubbles are funny, aren’t they?  Most of us work towards creating an environment with our families that provide safety and security.  We yearn for stability.  A place where memories are made and children have freedom without parents fearing their every move.  I wonder if, as humans, we are wired to seek these things?  I’m not sure I’ve ever run into someone who has said “hey, I’m looking for a home where I could put my family at risk.  You seen one?”

My friend that I described above?  Well, about 9 months ago, she was sitting in prison.  And she was thinking prison was going to be her home for quite some time for personal choices made which did not agree with the law.  In addition to legal violations, she was also struggling to overcome addiction.  On paper, she was not the type of person I would have ever put myself around, nor my children, because she was living a life that was so different from mine.

But God had another plan for her life.  She was told she would be given the opportunity to go to a rehab type facility, but there was no guarantee she was done serving time.  Soon after she learned this, the founders of an organization called Grace House happened to be visiting the prison and handed her an application.  

The mission of Grace House “is to give women at risk the opportunity to overcome destructive life-styles of addiction, incarceration and poverty.  We provide a protected environment, both physically and spiritually, so that women may grow and mature in their faith and be transformed by the power of God.”  The women adhere to strict routines and participate in daily bible studies.  In addition, they enhance their learning through classes and listening to speakers.  The nine month program covers a variety of topics such as addiction recovery, money management, parenting skills, healthy relationships, nutrition instruction, productive lifestyle skills, music and art, and physical fitness.  In addition, the women also volunteer and serve others in the community.  And, they are assigned a personal mentor.

This is where God intersected my story with my new friend.  I would love to tell you that going into this experience, I was confident in my ability to serve at Grace House.  When I first met with the director, I was really hoping she would recommend that I either tutor some of the women with their school work or that I would teach a class.  I preferred this because it would allow me to “help” but would also keep me somewhat distant and in my comfort zone.  She didn’t.  She asked me to be a mentor and had my specific friend in mind.  She then asked me if I had any questions or concerns.  I did.  Some I voiced and some I kept to myself.  One of my thoughts went like this, “Well, I haven’t quite been in prison before, nor struggled with addiction.  Wait that’s not true….I am a 39-year-old nail biter who probably loves Diet Coke a little too much, but I haven’t struggled with addictions that could land me in jail!  Is she even going to like me?  Will she relate to me?  Will she honestly want advice from someone who has not walked the type of path she has?”  But I decided to trust the director, and with that, I ended up busting right out of my safe little bubble.

Shortly after meeting, we discovered that she and I connect easily.  We both enjoy going to the movies together.  We also like to explore the city and visit historical sites.  We speak the language of motherhood and have found that a mother’s love transcends all divides.  I know her kids’ names and can describe their personalities and she can do the same with mine.  We are both drawn to exercise, because without this healthy outlet we both find ourselves struggling.  Also, she has learned to tolerate my weekly driving debacles due to my nonexistent sense of direction mixed with my inability to accurately follow all the GPS instructions.  Not only has it been easier than expected to spend time with her, I have thoroughly ENJOYED it.  I look forward to our weekly adventures and conversations.  I love that before we eat, she reaches out for my hand, grasps it, and prays with a genuine heart.

And so, I am rewiring my thinking about my bubble.  Yes, I want safety and security and stability.  But as a Christian, it is not my job to try to create that environment for myself nor my family.  In fact, it is impossible to have that type of control in this life because suffering and human uncertainty will always exist.  But we can be assured, that as believers, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Paul tells us, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35; 37-39, New International Version).

So if you have possibly wanted to bust out of your bubble but struggle with the “I’m not sure I will relate” or “it freaks me out” or “will I have enough time” or “what if I hate it”, I would like to encourage you.  I GET IT.  Oh, and also….DO IT.  Take your feelings of doubt and insecurity and slap them down.  Step out.  Be bold.  Be uncomfortable and courageous.  Spread the Good News of the security given to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  He provides us with the best bubble in which to live.

In one short month, she will graduate from Grace House.  And she will not be returning to prison.  Her parole officer informed her that he was impressed by the changes within her.  He recommended to the court that she not be incarcerated and the courts agreed!  I am so incredibly proud of her and I’m also in awe of the strength she has.  She recently told me that she never knew that there was a light in this world because she had always felt a darkness covering her.  But now that she’s tasted and seen the sweetness that Jesus is, she cannot wait to go home and raise her kids. She wants them to grow up knowing what it is to have hope.  Her goals are to be with her children as much as she can, go to work, read her bible, exercise and attend weekly Celebrate Recovery meetings.  Her plan is simple and focused.  Personally, I cannot wait to meet up with my new friend in the community we both belong to because she is a blessing and inspiration to me.

If you would like to learn more about or donate to Grace House, please visit http://gracehousesa.org  

My Bible

Several years ago I attended a weekend Pine Cove camp with good friends. While there, it came out that I did not own a personal Bible. Days after we left the camp they presented me with an engraved study Bible. Inside, each friend had written a personal note and highlighted their favorite verse.

 

 

 

 

Now when I stumble upon the highlighted verses, I am reminded how important community is and how often I fight against it. My pride tells me that shouldering it alone means I am strong. And that is when things tend to go very poorly for me, because it is not about strong versus weak. God created us to be in community with one another.

 

 

 

 

A spiritual community, when authentic, provides a place to share joy, hold space, and carry each other’s burdens. It is where we can quietly learn or stand up and teach. It is a safe spot for imperfect people to mess up, regroup, and try again. It should be full of messy, unconditional love.

 

 

 

 

This Bible and every other Bible serves as a powerful reminder that we can experience God’s grace and message through others and that through community we have the opportunity to experience a bit of Kingdom living right here on earth.

 

 

Brakes? You Mean the Coward Petal

Recently the Regas family took up the gauntlet and forged their way down I-35 to the Texas Hill Country where we live.  And to kick off the weekend, we adults went out to dinner to relax and catch up.  Once seated and settled in, our conversations started drifting into memories and stories.  And Amanda and my’s trip to Colorado last summer came up.  Have you ever told a funny story about someone and then it backfired?  And not backfire like “oh you didn’t hear the punchline” but backfire like “hey I was telling this story and now why are all of you acting like I’m the weird one?”  If so, I feel your pain.

Before we arrived in the mountains last summer, we informally created a mental to-do list of activities that varied from our daily routine.  And one of the items on my list was MOUNTAIN BIKING!  Who doesn’t love a bike, right?  And who wouldn’t want to put a bike on a slanted slab of earth?  This just made sense to me and had adventure written all over it.  I feel like all our faithful readers are currently on my side while reading along right now too.  Amanda was game too until we started hiking the first day.

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Amanda:  Hey Katie, remember how you said you want to go mountain biking?

Me:  YES!!!!!!  It is going to be so FUN!!!

Amanda:  Well, I’m just not sure I can do that.  In fact, I’m quite sure I’m not going to be able to do that.

Me:  WHAT?  Why?

Amanda:  Katie. You see the path we are on right now?  These bike paths are not meant for bikes. A human cannot keep two tires on this path. I have been myself my entire life. I can tell you with complete certainty what is going to happen. I am going to go off the path, tip over and roll.

Me:  NOOOO YOU WON’T.  You’ll be fine!  You’ll see!!!

Amanda:  Um, no.  Really.  And also, if I fall, I’m quite sure I’m not going to stop rolling until I get to the bottom of the mountain.

Me:  NOOOO YOU WON’T.

Amanda:  I’m just telling you, NOT HAPPENING.

Me:  That’s CRAZY.  You’ll be fine!!

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We never did ride those bikes.  I still laugh at the thought of her honestly thinking that if she fell she would roll all the way down to the base of a mountain.  And so I told this story at dinner, fully expecting both husbands to laugh along with me at silly Amanda.  Except they did not.  And one person in particular abandoned the Team Katie ship.…..my husband.  

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Trey:  OH MY GOSH.  Katie is unbelievable, right?  I swear she does this every trip. Did she ever tell you about when she made ME go mountain biking?

Amanda:  NOOOOOOO!!!  WHAT??  KATIE YOU DID NOT TELL ME THIS.

Katie: *eyes start darting around, feel shift in convo coming*  Huh?

Trey:  OH YEAH!  On our 10th anniversary when we were in Colorado, she made me mountain bike.  And she had gotten way far ahead of me as we were riding down the mountain.  She finally decided to stop and wait on me.  And when I got there, she’s all, “What took you so long?  Why do you have grass stuck in your helmet?  Are your shorts ripped?  IS YOUR SHIRT RIPPED?  LET’S GO!”  And I told her, “Woman, I TRIED TO TELL YOU THAT MY BACK BRAKES FELT LIKE THEY WERE OFF.  WELL THEY ARE.  THEY DO NOT WORK, I JUST FLIPPED OVER THE HANDLEBARS!  I AM DONE RIDING BIKES!”

Katie:  *honestly, how necessary are back brakes while riding down a mountain?  Internal eye roll for Mr. Drama.*

Trey:  AND THEN, we got to the bottom of the mountain.  I tried to find a bus to take us back to the bike rental place to return that dang bike.  And Katie says, “NO WAY!  LET’S RIDE OUR BIKES BACK TO THE RENTAL PLACE!  IT ISN’T THAT FAR!”

Amanda:  Wait, were you at the part of the mountain BELOW the flags?  BECAUSE THAT IS A STRAIGHT UPHILL RIDE!

Trey:  OH YES WE WERE.

Katie:  *I feel like they might not be supporting me currently and I am not liking their party pooper attitudes.  Begin sipping water and make no eye contact.*

Trey:  IT WAS TERRIBLE. And I PAID to have the experience of flipping over my handlebars, shredding my clothes and then getting to bike straight up a mountain.

Amanda:  OH MY GOSH THAT IS AWWWFUL!!!  Have you ever noticed that she totally forces you into doing things under the premise of “it’s an adventure!!!”

Katie:  Hi G.R.  Aren’t the rolls good here?

Trey:  OH YES SHE DOES.  Last trip we were on…..our entire family was EXHAUSTED by the end of the day.  What does Katie do?  Says, “Hey guys, so if you want to just stay here, that’s fine.  BUT I AM GOING BACK OUT TO WALK AROUND DISNEYLANNNND!!!!!  WHO WANTS TO COME WITH ME????”  The kids looked at her like she was on crack.

Katie:  I did NOT force anyone to come!!!

Trey:  You are correct.  You did not.  But WHO spends an entire day out and about and then decides at 9PM that they want to squeeze in two more hours?  Even if they’re alone?

Amanda: Okay, so let me tell you another story. We went to Austin and she insisted on riding the city bikes. Which would have been fine, there are beautiful parks in Austin…but we rode them in a bike lane on South Congress, during peak bar time. In the dark. And I was in a skirt. And honestly, being in the skirt was the least of my problems. I kept screaming at her and she just kept yelling over her shoulder, “You are fine! Totally safe.”

Katie:  *but it was bikes!  Bikes are fun!  Day or night!  Fold napkin in lap.*

Trey:  OH, she ALWAYS DOES THIS!  I am JUST realizing it!

Trey and Amanda:  *slow head turns towards me*

Katie:  You guys, you’re telling me that you don’t love to do all these things all day on vacation?

Trey:  I believe the key word missing here is “moderation.”

Katie:  I USE MODERATION!!!!

Amanda:  No.  No you don’t.  I mean….it isn’t a BAD thing!  But you are now outed!!

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The conversation was all in good fun and we all were laughing the entire time.  But it also got me thinking and asking questions.  Maybe we are all built with a different natural type of internal decompression mode.  Maybe some people look for new places, new experiences and a go-go-go attitude when away from their daily lives.  Maybe others crave familiarity and traditions as a way to recharge.  Maybe some like to be in control and make lots of plans while others prefer to show up and figure it out.  Maybe some are a mix.  

Do you tend to lean towards one end?  The truth is, I DO love to explore new places and be outdoors and be moving all the time.  Also, come to think of it, maybe the reason I got put in an immobilization boot for 6 weeks last spring wasn’t just my foot’s fault for giving out on me?

In my mind, a day of doing what you can normally do at home on vacation is a day that STINKS!  Vacation is for trying new things and being in new environments!  I love to end a day feeling like I DID something and have a tired body.  And this doesn’t just have to mean riding a bike…although I think it’s becoming obvious that I may have a repressed obsession with bikes.  But I love to be out and about whether on a mountain or in the ocean or at a park or visiting a museum or checking out different cities and cultures.  It feeds my soul.

My husband tends to be a person of familiarity.  But until recently, I never believed that’s what he actually WANTED to be doing.  He has repeatedly told me how he wants to go see the same places over and over again, yet I’ve interpreted it as, “Ok honey, I get it (add in a wink, wink).  You want to be boring, but secretly….I just know you want to do all the things!  And I’m just the person to help you!”  It must be so fun to be married to me.

And could it be that one set of tendencies is not better than another?  In so many areas of life, balance is key.  Exploration is important because it busts us out of our ordinary environments of home.  We get to see what small fish we are in a big world.  But familiarity provides predictability and allows our senses to relax.  The high-alert part of us gets to take a break.  All of these ways of being are critical to living a full life.   And doing a little give-and-take to honor everyone’s tendencies when we are with friends and spouses is a way of showing respect to each other.  And so, I’m going to try be more self-aware of not only my wishes, but others’ also.  And, I’m also going to work on my poker face.  Because after 16 years of marriage, my manipulative biker ways were finally exposed, which means I must figure out new plans to entice him into barreling down a mountain at breakneck speed on a bike with bad brakes. Some people just need a little encouragement. (I’m looking at you Trey and Amanda.)

Ready, Set, BREAK!

Approximately one week ago, Amanda and I were lounging outside together near the laid-back Austin, Texas.  The high was 85.  It was February and we former midwestern girls had multiple conversations about our shock over how warm and lovely winter weather can be in Texas.  We spent one afternoon hiking at a nature preserve and enjoyed fresh air while investing in activities outside the routine of our normal day to day life.  The majority of time was directed towards writing for the blog.  And we may have used up a weeeeee (meaning an entire afternoon) bit of time at a spa trying to relax “for work purposes.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my day to day life.  My house has transitioned through many phases including infant land, toddler zone, and little kid haven.  Currently, we are in the tween and elementary arena.  It’s glorious.  Everyone can converse and listen to each other and laugh and play games together.  We have replaced repetitive knock-knock jokes with riddles THAT ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE.  Everyone can clean their rooms, put away their laundry, and help do their share in the household.  All the kids still enjoy being with the family over friends most of the time and I am so thankful for that.

However, I needed a break.

And I knew I needed out.  Inside of myself, I felt trapped in the routine of day to day life.  The winter illnesses have taken a swing at each member of our family.  The hubby has been on an epic run of work travel.  The puppy is precious.  But if you’ve ever raised a puppy, you know they look precious because they take a lot of work to train them to become fabulous 2 year old dogs.  It seems like my body has been “on duty” constantly.  I could go on and on about why I needed out, but honestly, I feel guilty about getting that feeling of wanting to escape.

And why is that?  Why is it that I have trained myself to think that I should never need time off from everyone?  I know some women who have told me they never take personal time away from their kids and husbands.  I have heard some say things like, “my kids are growing up so fast that I cannot miss anything.”  I’ve talked to women whose kids are now adults, and they say they never even thought about leaving their kids when they were little.

So when my insides are screaming, TIME OUT!  NEED…TIME…OUT…TO…BREATHE,  I often become overwhelmed with guilt.  I tell my gut to pipe down because good moms do not ever need to escape.  Good moms look at the laundry as a blessing because there are bodies to clothe in the house.  Good moms are always engaged with their kids and know their every thought and need.  Good moms look at school projects as a time to bond rather than wanting to stab their eyeballs out.  Good moms look forward to the bedtime routine rather than thinking “oh my good gravy I love you so much, but you have got to go to bed so my brain can listen to silence otherwise I’m certain it is going to explode.” Good moms this.  Good moms that.

As I get older, I have learned that my gut and the truth are not necessarily connected all the time.  For some reason, I hold myself to different standards than others, especially within my family.  And to quote Leo Buscaglia, “Never idealize others.  They will never live up to your expectations.”  I wasn’t idealizing others, I was idealizing motherhood and what I thought every other mother was doing.  Insert waving white flag once I made this realization.  I suspect many moms suffer from this.  We often stifle our personal needs while we play backup to all of the loves in our families, and all because we have this incorrect notion of what constitutes being the perfect mom. And by doing this, we gyp ourselves and even our families from getting the best version of us.  And so, I’ve been trying to take on a different perspective in recent times.

I am starting to ask questions with this thought in mind: how do I want my children to care for themselves as adults?  For example, when I think, “do I REALLY need a break?”  That answer is almost always going to be “no,” along with a “suck it up, Katie.”  But, when I ask myself, “if Reese was a mother completely run down and in need of a weekend away to refuel through writing, hiking, sleeping, hanging with her friend and getting a massage, would I want that for her?” the answer to that would be an emphatic “HECK YES, and furthermore, give me your children.”  It’s absurd to think that my children should be everything to all people.  It’s unrealistic.  It’s ridiculous.  Rest is healthy and so is getting outside of our routine.

There is one more piece to the puzzle.  And that involves one incredibly supportive husband.  When I told him that this goose was cooked and I wanted a bit of time off, he not only immediately approved, but he encouraged me to go.  And every time that I hemmed and hawed, he told me he was glad I was getting away and that he had the home front covered.  No guilt trips, no IOU’s, no complaints whatsoever…..just a desire to help and support me.  Without his backing, I am not certain that I would ever get away.

And there we have it.  That is how I ultimately I ended up lounging together with Amanda in the beautiful Texas hill country where I accidentally slept 13 hours the first night and then 10 the next. I still fight the guilt every single time I leave the family.  However, last weekend allowed me to have a conversation with my kids about how I needed out to enjoy nature and to spend time doing things that refill my personal cup too.  I want them to grow up and know that this is healthy.  We work hard in our family, and it was time to rest hard too.  And let’s be honest, it was also time for dessert….with every meal.

And so, I give you a few glimpses into the weekend that allowed me to think straight again and filled up my patience cup when I returned to my crew…

What this sign meant to Katie was “nahhhh, you don’t mean for us.” What it meant for Amanda was instant hand flapping.

 

 

Amanda took about 400 pictures of this giant dead tree. Because nothing says “refill my cup” quite as beautifully as a big dead tree.
We found where the Braverman’s hold their dinners. #whereiscrosby
Here we looked on in horror as a man was forced to vacate this spot on a beautiful 85 degree day by his girlfriend who said, “We have to go visit the Longhorns now, I already Instagrammed it.” In a show of silent solidarity for the man we stayed and did nothing for hours.