Written by Katie Kemp
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – Catherine of Sienna
Figuring out my calling hasn’t come easy and has been met with much of my own resistance to accepting who God created. I’ve crippled myself thinking maybe I’m not good enough to actually step into what I feel called me to do. It has seemed safer to hide out on the sidelines of my own journey and just encourage others on theirs. I’ve listened to too many lies of, “Why would this even matter,” that have kept me playing small.
But a few years ago I proclaimed this quote over my life to my friends at my birthday party as an announcement that I would begin taking steps toward what I felt God nudging me to do: live into who I am.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
I was beginning to believe a new truth:
Maybe my calling had little to do with my capabilities, and a lot to do with God making manifest his glory in me.
This calling had been written on my heart, hints of it from when I was young. Growing up with my four sisters, it seemed like when our brothers weren’t around there was always a girl party happening. Something about these moments in sharing our hearts and encouraging each others’ unique beauty was so sacred to me (that’s when we weren’t fighting over each other’s clothes of course). It set the table for my love of gathering women and sharing stories, creating a space to feel safe and to be known.
In high school I went through a lot of invisible mental illness and an eating disorder. I was performing on the outside but was a world of insecurity and self-hatred on the in. Although I grew up in the church and knew “God loved me” I couldn’t shake a feeling of being ugly and unworthy. As my story unfolded, God led me to a new belief that my worth was not dependent of anything I did and certainly couldn’t be earned. It was intrinsic. For the first time, I experienced radical freedom which turned into a passion to help other women encounter this kind of love and grace.
Our calling begins in these ordinary places where we experience redemption and then want to share it with the world.
Shortly after college, just when I was ready to start a career of counseling other young women, the ministry I had interned with split ways and I was left reassessing what God was leading me to do. I had odd jobs, but nothing felt exactly right. I was wandering without direction.
Almost overnight my story changed. I fell in love quickly and within a year Adam and I were married and expecting our first child. My calling took quite a turn when we found out our little girl was born with small optic nerves and was legally blind. I had no clue then that God would use my daughter to teach me to see. Hallie has taught me to understand others’ worth and who they are beyond a diagnosis or anything that could be measured. It is my joy to be her mom and draw out the unique God-given ways she shines. It is my honor to get to be her eyes and bring color to her world. And don’t think for one second that either of us are angels because we all have our issues and we’re dealin. But who knew that God would give me a training ground to “fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
Throughout the last ten years of being a mom and giving to my kids (we also have two sons), I began to slowly put my dreams on the backseat. I began to play small, disqualifying myself with a number of reasons. Through spiritual direction and in my own quiet moments with God, the whispers and nudges could not be ignored. It became annoying how much I thought about my dream of ministering to young women. It was clear that I had a story to share and a passion that I needed to trust God with. I started with baby steps by saying, “Yes, God use me.”
The first step in calling is listening. What has been tugging on your heart that just keeps bubbling to the surface?
Shortly after I said, “Yes” to God my babysitters who were sisters asked me to be a small group leader. It was not affiliated with any church but a group that organically formed- their friends and teammates who had busy schedules and needed to meet on an off night. In no time a group of high school girls started meeting weekly on my couch discussing all things that have to do with worth, identity, beauty, value, and faith. In this small, ordinary place my heart came more alive. Each week I pressed into where God would lead us. And a foundation was established for these young women to meet with Jesus in a way that applied to their life – something I had longed to create, a sisterhood that reminded me of my own.
From this group I felt a new “calling” rise up in me. It was a need to start writing and sharing more of my story to an audience outside my couches. And so began a blog formally called, theyouareworthitcollective.com, and now under my name; Katie Elizabeth Kemp. It’s a place where I hope to invite women into more freedom from the inside out by knowing God in a deeper way. If women began to operate out of an internal freedom rather than being slaves to production or external appearances, I think our world could be radically different. I feel called to be part of the catalyst to make waves for that change. It’s my favorite topic and brings me to life!
Let’s also not forget that my job as ‘mom’ is still my first priority. The thing that’s changed though is that I will no longer disregard my dreams or play small. I will continue to take baby steps while pressing into who God created me to be.
I think a lot of calling is built in a daily abiding. It’s finding gratitude in the exact place we are planted so that we can bloom there. It’s allowing our pain to be transformed by God’s healing for the healing of the world. It’s being faithful in the small, ordinary ways. It’s not running ahead of God’s best but abiding with where He leads on a wild adventure full of unexpected twists.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of life I want to live. I want to press into the scary big dreams God puts on my heart while living fully alive in the ordinary moments. I want to experience a big Love that fills all the places in me so that I can be part of the God story that brings life out of death.
So, who are you? What parts of your story have been hard to embrace? Where might God be inviting you to experience more freedom as it may hold the compass toward your calling?
Your calling is bigger than just what you do, it’s who you are and how you uniquely make manifest the Glory of God. “Your playing small won’t serve the world.” Be radiant, my friend.