Hey Sweet Friends! Well, it’s officially summer. I mean, I don’t know exactly when the first day of summer will be, but here in the deep south of the United States, let me tell you, summer has arrived. As a fall loving woman, I begrudge and anticipate this time of year. Summer is LOOOOONG in this part of the world, but also, I can see fall months on the calendar when looking a couple of months ahead.
Here’s the real, real on why I don’t love summer. I don’t like to sweat. Let me rephrase that. Sweating is perfectly fine if I am exercising or exerting myself in some way, but just walking from a store to my car, or from my front door to the car? Yea, no! That stuff is for the birds. Reason one why I don’t love summer.
Also, I like to be outside, but snakes and bugs are real and they come out when it’s hot outside. Add to that, Willa doesn’t like to be outside in the heat either and it’s just a perfect storm. We are fall loving girls in our family!
If you love summer, I am so excited for you that your favorite season is here but what does the weather have to do with today’s post, anyway? Truthfully, I’m currently asking the Lord the same thing and maybe He’ll tie it all together and maybe He won’t and if He doesn’t we can just chalk it up to sweet friends getting to know each other better.
In case this is your first time here, words are really important to me. I think words matter a lot. The Bible tells us they do too, with verses like Proverbs 12:18 “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”, and Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
I’ve not always been as intentional with my words as I am now and since I don’t always get my words right now, that is really saying something. I’m not perfect at this but I really do try to watch what words I use to describe myself and my personality. For example…I have a lot of feelings and as an Enneagram 4, I am not at all afraid to explore those feelings and share them. As a child, all those feelings, paired with wanting to be the center of attention made me dramatic. If I heard, “Kathryn, you are so dramatic!” one time, I heard it at least 6,570 times. Around about the age of 25 years-old, I was done hearing it. Dramatic may have been an accurate word to describe me at 17 years old oohing and ahhing over Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic but when talking about God’s transformative power in the lives of the people I was meeting in ministry, dramatic was no longer a word I was comfortable with.
This is when the Lord showed me that drama and passion are two sides of the same coin. The passionate heart He gave me on purpose, unredeemed, not submitted to His will, was all kinds of dramatic, but when I let Him in to restore, repair, and heal, the dramatic heart fell away and what was left was a passionate heart.
I remember being at a family get together with some extended family who didn’t see one another often when I got excited about something and started getting loud and my aunt said, “Kathryn, you are so dramatic.” As respectfully as I could I said, “No, I am passionate about things. God made me this way on purpose. Unredeemed, I was dramatic, but I’ve been allowing the Lord to redeem that part of my personality. Please don’t call me dramatic again.” Even as a grown up, it felt wrong to correct my aunt in that way, but words matter and being called dramatic for most of my life, I believed I was, and it made me feel like the things that got me excited and fired up weren’t as serious and important as others were. When I started viewing myself as passionate instead of dramatic, a conviction about what was important to me set in and that conviction has served me well over the last 15 years.
Other than passionate, if I had to pick a handful of words to describe my personality I might choose words like, creative, authentic, caring, hopeful, trustworthy. Hopefully, the people who know me and love me best don’t balk when they hear these words. I hope I do a good enough job of dying to myself on a daily basis so that these traits make their way through.
There are other words that have been used to describe my personality other than dramatic and while some of these words aren’t negative in and of themselves, you’ll have to trust me when I tell you they have not been said in positive tones, when used towards me. Strong, particular, independent, opinionated, unapproachable, bulldozer. And I’ll add a phrase to that, “the center of attention”.
In full disclosure, some of these words and phrases fully capture who Kathryn was in her teenage years, and even young adulthood. I wasn’t a great big sister because of them but after coming into that knowledge and then hearing from a coworker who I had unintentionally hurt, Jesus and I…and my first counselor, started having really hard conversations about what all those words meant in me and how my heart could be seen in and through legitimate strengths God had given me on purpose.
It’s been a long decade and then some, of work and I wish I could say that I’ve mastered this. This balancing act of letting the Lord use my strengths in the way He always meant to use them, without me falling back into the easier way of my flesh.
For example, it’s easier to just “tell the truth” than to tell the truth in love and while I am strong and opinionated and telling the truth isn’t hard for me, I’m also caring and hopeful and trustworthy. Walking in all of those things while I tell the truth is hard, but always worth it for the benefit of others.
I think the description I’ve had the most trouble with in my adulthood is that of a bulldozer. Sometimes, in my excitement and my verbal processing self, I say all the words and thoughts I have and I have a tendency to bulldoze others who are more internal in their thinking. I know this about myself. In some instances, I’ll even make sure the person I’m talking to knows I know this about myself and I don’t mean to and that I am open to their thoughts and ideas. Which is my way of saying, “Hey, when you are finished thinking, I really want to hear what you have to say.”
To me, sharing is caring and clarity is kindness.
I don’t mean to bulldoze and it breaks my heart every time someone misunderstands my excitement and/or verbal processing as such. Especially when I’ve given them ample time to know my heart.
In recent weeks the term bulldozer has reared its ugly head again. This misunderstanding has been more painful than most, mainly because my verbal processing was in response to something I obeyed God on that was very scary and costly. If I hadn’t felt a deeply rooted insecurity, would I have responded differently? Probably. Did the person who used that term know my heart? Yes. Was there grace given in that moment for everything that I was experiencing? Not as much as I would have liked.
I did some leadership development and emotional intelligence work a few years back and I remember talking to the coach about the word unapproachable that has been used to describe me in the past and maybe even currently, depending on who you talk to.
I told her how frustrating it was for me to still be working on this word, in particular, because of everything I had done to combat this perception of me. I even go so far as to say to my team, “Hey, there have been people in the past who have told me I am unapproachable and this makes me so sad. Please know that I want you to feel free to approach me whenever you need something. Even if it isn’t a great time, I promise to do my best to do what I can for you in that moment.”
She gave me some things to think about and some postures and practices to put in place that would communicate nonverbally my approachability and then she said something that set me free. She said, “Kathryn, you are strong and you are confident and you are sure of what you believe and you can communicate it well. There will always be people who find you unapproachable and intimidating but that has less to do with you and more to do with them. You keep communicating with clarity and making yourself available. What those people choose to do with that is up to them, not you.”
For the better part of a decade I had been making myself smaller, less clear, a shade away from passive aggressive, so that others would find me approachable and they were still finding me unapproachable. I had been fighting against my God given personality for the better part of a decade and her words set me free.
However, the hard part of dying to the desire for everyone to understand me and my motives was certainly not over. Not by a long shot. Do you know what I am learning to do more and more though? I’m learning to trust God to be my Justifier and Vindicator.
Psalm 57:2 says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who vindicates me.” Vindicate is a big word but basically it means “to clear, as from an accusation, suspicion, or the like.” I am learning to trust that the Lord will clear my name of any misunderstanding and He has proven Himself trustworthy in this area of my life.
Two weeks ago I sat around a table with my sweet little team for our last get together ever. Not only is our school year over, but two of our team members are off to their next life adventure. I hadn’t planned on having an agenda for our conversation but I sensed the Holy Spirit lead us to a time of affirming one another. We didn’t have time to prepare anything but after working together for the school year, Jesus gave us some really sweet and encouraging things to share with one another. And then, 20 year-old Rafael Torres, whom I have known since he was a Freshman in high school gave me a whole, life changing, word.
“Bulldozer” was fresh on my heart and I think I might have said something about being one, off hand, uncomfortable as I get with compliments. In his intentional and deliberative way, he asked, “Kathryn, what do bulldozers do? They take down buildings that are falling down. They clear land that needs tending. But they don’t just take things down and clear things away. They do those things so that new things can be built and planted. You may come in to clear out and tear things down but you stay and bring new life and new things. You never just knock things down for the fun of it. We have had hard conversations before but you never say a hard thing to me without seeing and calling out the potential you see in me as well and I know you say the hard things BECAUSE you love me.”
Then, the other two members of our team said similar things to me, confirming this fantastical word that he just gave me. Could being a bulldozer actually have a life giving connotation?!? Like “dramatic”, redeemed, becoming passionate, could this terrible picture that is so far from what is in my heart to be for people, actually have a redemption story?
I’ve landed on a big fat YES! It’s not in my heart to tear an idea, person, or thing down without rebuilding, without calling out greatness and the potential I see, without leaving things better than I found them. And who better to believe than the three people I have led this past year, in one of the hardest years to be a leader? Even when I haven’t gotten it right, they know my heart and for that and so many other things about them, I am thankful.
To be clear, bulldozers operated by someone with ill intent or even a lack of training are dangerous tools. The same tool that can clear out old and dying to make room for a rebuild or a new sowing of seeds can be used to take down a brand new house, or a freshly planted garden. This is why staying tethered to the Holy Spirit and walking and talking in His leading is so important. But I’ll remind you…Jesus threw over tables in the Temple. He called one of His best friends Satan. He rebuked the religious leaders. Jesus was a bulldozer. The Kingdom of God was at hand and there was no time to waste.
I still have much room to grow in this area and I guarantee you that I will be called a bulldozer again, but here’s what I know to be true…the next time it happens I will own that label. “You know what, you’re right, I am! But I’m also not leaving until we rebuild what needed to come down in the first place.”
So Sweet Friends, what is that word or phrase or picture that has been spoken over you again and again that Jesus wants to redeem? What does He want to redeem about your personality? What has He already redeemed that you need to own? The words we say to others matter but I would argue the words we say to ourselves matter even more. How can we pour positive, life-giving words into others at a rate that changes lives if we aren’t using those same types of words over our own lives?
Do you know how many parents I have pulled aside to share about what the word dramatic meant to my heart as a child? As I have encouraged them to change that word to “passionate” when they speak to their little drama kings and queens, their faces changed. Even in a word, they realized they had the power to change how their child thinks of themselves and the how and why of God’s perfect design in their personality. And I simply cannot wait for the next person who refers to themselves as a bulldozer in my presence! Some words are simply too good to keep to yourself!
So, what did any of this have to do with summer and fall?
Here it is.
On the other side of the “Excited for summer” coin that some of y’all are holding onto right now is, “Fall is just one season away.” Both are true. It’s the perspective that changes how we view this season.
It’s God’s redemptive perspective that changes the words in our lives to those that bring life, that leave us feeling more loved after correction because there is a belief we are better than our behavior.
Honestly, I didn’t know how He was going to make a comment about the weather work, but won’t He do it!
Sweet Friends, I hope you’ll invite the Holy Spirit into this space with you and ask Him the questions I asked you. Journal through what He reveals to you. Talk it through with your counselor or a trusted friend. My guess is He has all sorts of things He wants to help you uncover about yourself and why He made you the way He did.
Until next time Sweet Friends,
Thank you for being here.
Remember to take deep breaths,
And God has got us!