Hey Sweet Friends! I know, I know. I said once every two weeks! But I also said I would lean into what God was giving me for this space and when you go away by yourself for a week on a milestone birthday and adventure with the Lord, there is A LOT to lean into. So I hope it is a good surprise that there are two posts this week.
Somehow my brother found out that part of my birthday road trip included a little glamping trip in the mountains. Think everything about a normal campsite. Fire pit, chairs, picnic table, but instead of a tent, there is a tiny house, complete with a floor to ceiling window, a comfy bed, and a private bathroom. It was marvelous!
I don’t know if it was me or my sister-in-law who told him I planned to make a fire and cook over it while I was there. Don’t ask me why, I just really wanted to prove to myself that I could. I can’t remember if it was me or my sister-in-law, all I know is that about four days before I left for my trip I got five unsolicited videos from him on how to start a fire, from start to finish. In one of the videos he said, “I’m not trying to insult your intelligence, I don’t know how much you know about starting fires…” I smiled, giggled a little even, at how special it made me feel that my younger brother wanted to make sure that I had what I needed. If you know why this miracle is so special to me then you get it. If you don’t, his is a story I’m sure I’ll share one day, but for now, you’ll just have to trust me. Those five videos were a gift!
I kept hearing his voice in my head as I started a fire that first night. “The fire needs air, Kathryn. Don’t smother it!” Even with all his expert advice I just wasn’t getting it. I kept having to feed it, and maybe that is what you have to do, but I’ll be honest, I’ve always let the fire be the man’s job. Whether it be my dad, a guy on staff at our camp outs for our students, or my brother. It’s always been someone else’s job to tend the fire, but this time it was on me and as a point of pride, I was NOT going to use the tiny house’s even tinier kitchen to cook my dinner.
I know enough to know that you need coals in order to cook on and those I had but I didn’t have the flames I wanted for the ambiance.
Did I mention I bought flowers and brought them with me to my little campsite? Oh, AND knowing it was ridiculous WHILE I was doing it, I painted my nails before I left! For those who really know me, they are not surprised. Of course I painted my nails and brought flowers with me while I “glamped”, I’m not a barbarian!
Ok, back to the fire. Sitting there, all alone, watching my fire die before it was time, because there was still plenty of wood to burn, I went to stir it. As I stirred I wondered why the log wasn’t on fire and what I’d done wrong. In my stirring, the log broke apart and inside were coals and embers I didn’t know were there because you couldn’t see them from the outside. Then the other pieces of wood caught fire and I had the crackling ambiance I was looking for.
I sat there staring at the flames that came out of nowhere…but did they really come out of nowhere? That log had been on fire a long time, but it took a stirring to show the world around it that it was ALREADY burning.
That is what that trip was for me. A stirring up of my burning heart.
How many of my Sweet Friends have lived enough life to know that sometimes there are wounds or failures that cut you so deep that you hide pieces of yourself away because, simply put, they are safer hidden than they are exposed? But how many of you know that those pieces of you are not meant to stay hidden…that is how they atrophy and die and there is little worse than the stench of death. Nothing will have you holding your breath faster than the smell of roadkill.
I sat there and watched that log, marveling at how from the outside it looked like it wasn’t burning but SO much was happening under the surface. It had me remembering the lyrics to a song that Maddie Wenndt (Elevate Intern extraordinaire) added to my 40th Birthday Road Trip Playlist on Spotify. I’d never heard this song before but when Francesca Battistelli sang, “Freedom. No more living in the dark. No more hiding from my heart afraid. ‘Cause I am meant to run just like a child. Like a river rushing wild, always.”
That part about “hiding from my heart, afraid.” Oh man, I felt that to my core! Maddie, thank you for adding that song to my playlist! I pray you never ever hide from your heart, afraid!
But for those of us who have, we have to break that log up while those coals are still burning. We have to give the log of our hearts some air before the embers die and our dreams and purpose atrophy. The world needs what we have, what God put on the inside of us! And for those of you who are older, maybe even retired, as long as you have breath in your lungs you have something to give. Don’t let the enemy lie to you and tell you that what you have to offer is out of date and irrelevant! How on earth am I, at 40, supposed to know what to expect at 60 unless you tell me?
I’m reminded of Malachi 4:6
“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers”.
And Kathryn’s paraphrase would include mothers in there as well.
What’s been burning inside of you for a good long time? Are you brave enough to take a fire stirrer, which are really heavy, by the way, and poke at it?
Will it be scary? Sure! Do you know how many times I was grateful no one but the Holy Spirit was with me while I tended that fire? I jumped back more than once and caught about 17 facefulls of smoke that made me cough and made my eyes burn. One look at me and you would have known, “That girl doesn’t do this often.” But here’s what I know to be true…I didn’t know what I was doing but both of the fires I started on my trip burned until there was nothing left, because I never quit feeding it until it was done. I guarantee you my Air Force Veteran, outdoor enthusiast, woodworking brother could have built a better fire, but building a perfect fire was not my aim and regardless of how much better it could have been, I accomplished my aim.
Poke that log, Sweet Friends, stir that fire up and see what breaks loose in your heart.
Did you know that the shores of the Outer Banks is nicknamed the Graveyard of the Atlantic? It may just be me but that is not a cute nickname I’d want to cozy up to.
It got this nickname from the treacherous waters and the numerous shipwrecks which have taken place in the area due to the coast’s shifting sands and inlets. In fact, I beachcombed for shells in an area called Irene’s Inlet. You won’t find this on a map but the local’s dubbed it this because it was formed by Hurricane Irene in 2011.
For those who don’t know, North Carolina’s Outer Banks are barrier islands that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean. Essentially, these islands are migrating sandbars and they act as buffers between the mainland and the sea. According to The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, they are a product of rising sea levels and storms. While barely protruding above the waters, they exist in one of the most changeable and dynamic environments on the planet.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic. What did it take for the Outer Banks to be dubbed the Graveyard of the Atlantic? Over 2,000 shipwrecks! After that much loss, you think they’d do something about it? Well, you’d be right.
The five Outer Banks lighthouses begin in the north with Currituck Beach Lighthouse and end 118 miles later to the southwest. Each one, having a specific paint job with a specific light sequence to help those navigating the seas differentiate between lighthouses to tell them where they are.
I didn’t go to the Outer Banks to visit lighthouses. They weren’t even open for me to climb, with it being the off season, but I kept being drawn to them. I even made the 30 minute drive down to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse which wasn’t even on my carefully planned agenda, but I felt like I was supposed to go see it.
One thing I didn’t expect to find fascinating were the houses on the grounds of the lighthouses. I visited three of the five and they all had houses and those buildings were called the Principal Keeper’s House. The home of the lighthouse’s Principal Keeper, who tended the fire through the night, who made sure there was enough fuel to keep that fire going, and who, when the night watch was over, spent hours making sure the lenses were clean for the next night. His job was literally to keep a fire going to provide safe passage for the lives and livelihoods of the sailors traveling in those waters each night. And if he did his job well, he would never see who he helped save.
On several markers they shared about the Principal Keeper and his family. Because of the vast remoteness of the Outer Banks it was lonely work. It was at the Bodie Island Lighthouse that I read, because of its remote location before there were bridges, the Principal Keeper’s family was only able to live with him during the summer, and yet, day in and day out, he continued in his life-saving service.
The lighthouses were massive and beautiful and important but I kept looking at the Principal Keeper’s houses and I wondered at who used to live in them. I say used to live in them, because with the advent of electricity and automatic synchronization, most of those homes stand empty now. Those powerful beams of light keep silent watch over the darkening waters without human aid.
BUT before all of the modern day conveniences, the amount of work that went into keeping people alive out on those waters is nothing short of heroic. I sat on the porch of the Cape Hatteras Principal Keepers house, in a rocking chair and snuck glimpses of the lighthouse as I read a little Charles Martin. In one of my glimpses my heart asked,
“God, why do I feel this pull when I can’t even climb them and see the view?”
“Because you are the Principal Keeper, Kathryn.”
And then, in a sweet conversation detailing all of the ways He compared my life and story to a lighthouse, that pull started to make sense.
In Going It Alone I talked about how so many times we get to choose what it means to be alone and how I had settled on choosing to remember that God has given me a story that was exclusively mine. As He began to compare my story to a lighthouse He confirmed, again, that He hadn’t given it to me just for me and as the Principal Keeper of my story I had let the light go out. In fact I had hidden it on purpose.
I’m going to rest in His forgiveness for doing so and NOT think about all the proverbial shipwrecks I caused because I turned my light out. There is grace for that…but grace does not exist so that sin may abound and so if there was even a question, in my heart, of whether or not it was necessary for this website to exist, there isn’t one now.
The log has been broken up and the fire is raging and this Principal Keeper is awake on the job, tending it, making sure it doesn’t go out again.
What about you, Principal Keeper? What does your lighthouse look like? It won’t look exactly like mine and that isn’t just okay, it’s necessary! If our lighthouses look the same and have the same light strobe, the sailors in our lives are going to be confused as to where they are in the waters of their life. What is the thing you’ve not been able to stop thinking about since I told you to stir up your fire to see what breaks loose? I can’t begin to guess what it is, but I bet you know and there is a really good chance that God means to use that thing in your life to serve as a lighthouse in the life of another.
It can be lonely work to be the Principal Keeper of a lighthouse but it’s also necessary work. And I’ll remind you of something else I said in Going It Alone. Loneliness has the unique opportunity to propel us to the feet of Jesus who is THE ultimate source of everything we need, and companionship is one of those things.
Remember, when the Principal Keeper’s did their jobs well, they never even saw who they saved. Who needs what you have that you don’t even know about? Would you do the hard work of tending your fire and letting God break loose in you what He put there for the sake of someone you may never meet?
I sat in that rocking chair, on that front porch, with a Charles Martin book in my lap as silent tears streamed down my face.
Would I? Would I trust the Lord with my story enough to turn the light back on and let the world see it?
Will you? I hope so.
Until next time, Sweet Friends…
Thank you for being here.
Remember to take deep breaths.
And God has got us!