(Because I can’t speak in public without having a million and one regrets afterwards when I think of things I should have said, hence why I write them down instead.)
Tonight I shared a list of my personal do’s and don’t’s for fellow college students in the campus ministry I’m involved in at Pitt, and someday I’ll share that list here. But right now I want to focus on something that’s more pressing on my heart: what Cornerstone has meant to me in the two years that I’ve been a part of this family. To do that, you need to understand where and who I was before I walked through the doors of Bellefield.
Reason why I feel let down so often:
I put value in things and people and feelings instead of God.
I go to bed feeling empty and broken because without God,
I get upset over such stupid, silly things and instead of breathing free and handing them over to God, I cling and obsess and ponder and analyze and regret and worry and think and think and think and think and think until my mind becomes like a broken record playing the same haunting, taunting tune over and over:
You’re not good enough You’re not good enough You’re not good enough.
And I become like a robot on the outside, spewing out just enough that people don’t dig too deeply, because if they did then they would realize that I’m wearing a mask and that I’m slowly chipping away on the inside
and I just don’t want to
do this anymore.
This is an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote three years ago to this today and a tiny glimpse of the mindset I was living in at the time. I had throbbed with unspoken insecurities and anxieties and self-loathing since my freshman year of high school, and I was slowly but surely beginning to crack under the weight of my monsters. I was an utter mess inside with a smile pasted on outside. And for the most part, nobody knew.
The breaking point came on a mid-January day less than a year after writing that entry and with many like it in between. I was staying with my best friend at her family’s beach house for a spontaneous, week-long winter vacation, which sounds like the dream. And it was.
But for whatever reason, on this particular day I found myself overwhelmed with the thoughts and feelings I had battled with for so long. In spite of the fact that the girl I considered one of my very best friends was only a flight of stairs away, I felt excruciating loneliness. So I did what any rational human being who has grown up watching Disney princess movies would do: I threw myself onto the nearest bed and began to cry.
It sounds comical and maybe it was, but these were deep, real, heart-wrenching sobs. I had finally reached the point of complete helplessness. I knew there needed to be some kind of change in my heart/mind/life, but I didn’t know how to go about making that happen and I was tired of waiting on God to do it for me.
Eventually I migrated to the porch swing outside my room and laid down on it, still sobbing, and began to write down my emotions in the most honest way I could. The sun was shining with uncharacteristic brightness for the middle of January, ocean waves were rolling in the distance, and pop music was blaring from my friend’s phone on the porch above me. At some point I put on Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” because it felt right and listened to it several times, trying my hardest to make myself believe these lyrics that felt so very far from the truth.
you make beautiful things / you make beautiful things out of the dust
you make beautiful things / you make beautiful things out of us
After drying my eyes and catching my breath, I went upstairs and joined my friend to tan. I think I mentioned to her that I had been crying, but I did so in a light-hearted and joking sort of way so she wouldn’t be prompted to ask what was wrong. I wasn’t ready to answer that question. I wasn’t ready for my monsters to be exposed.
Fast forward to a year and a half later: I make the decision to transfer from the community college I had been attending to the University of Pittsburgh. I move into an apartment in Oakland the week before Pitt’s classes begin. I avoid anxiety-inducing, potentially awkward orientation events and general social interaction for as long as possible. My friend from home who has attended Pitt and been involved in Cornerstone since freshman year persists in inviting me to its daily O-week activities until finally I cave and leave the safety of my apartment to go to something called “jazz night.” I meet a few people, enjoy a few mocktails, and gush to my friend that night over Skype about how I feel like I may have found something really special here.
Fast forward to 3:33 a.m. on April twenty-first, two thousand sixteen. I’m winding down from Senior Share night, the last hurrah for Cornerstone’s graduating students where they’re given the floor to talk about their experiences and offer words of wisdom to underclassmen. I am a senior. This was my last hurrah. I am still in denial of this fact, but we won’t go into that now.
What I do want to talk about is this: how very full my lonely heart became when it found a home here. How God put some some wonderfully weird humans in my life, people who listened to me as I pieced together my brokenness and loved me in the process. How He spoke His truth to me through your words and wrapped His arms around me with your hugs. How He gave me the courage to open my mouth and let my monsters out of the dark, cramped spaces inside of me, then let me watch as they shriveled in the light.
“Beautiful Things” has become a sort of mantra for me in the past couple of years, a song that keeps popping up at just the right times when I need to be reminded that our Creator doesn’t leave us in our mess.* He picks us up, brushes off the dust, and begins to mend our mangled hearts. Sometimes (most of the time) He uses people to do this. For me, many (most) of those people are in Cornerstone.
Some of the advice I shared with you tonight included things like “Don’t fool yourself into thinking your words aren’t important,” “Don’t say no when people invite you to things because you think they’re just being nice,” “Don’t give up on relationships that seem like they’re going nowhere,” etc. At one point (I can’t remember exactly what I was saying because it’s honestly all a blur), I was struggling to find a word to express how I feel about everyone in Cornerstone. I ended up panicking and settling on the word “great,” which is one of the things I regretted afterwards because “great” doesn’t even begin to cover what you are.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made, perfectly and unconditionally loved.
You are an irreplaceable piece of a glorious mosaic (s/o Spencey ♥).
You are a beautiful flower blooming from the dust.
You are important, valuable, and cherished.
You are good enough.
You are His.
Don’t ever forget these things, friends. If you do, give me a call so I can remind you all over again. I love you all a whole lot more than my clumsy attempts can express and I’m so excited to see how Jesus continues working through this incredibly special, unforgettable, indescribable community.
Also, you’re pretty great too. ♥
– Kati Lynn
*Side note: of course we sang “Beautiful Things” for worship tonight. Because, like, God.