A Swan Song with Whitney's Help

Since I started fundraising for my internship with RUF, I've told people something along the lines of "RUF matters because college students needs a safe place to fall apart." I experienced as a student, and now I have experienced it as an intern. 

Last Thursday was my last RUF Large Group. And I fell apart. Our Campus Minister, Derek, gave me ten minutes to talk about how God has worked in me for the last two years, and I came undone in front of sixty friends and strangers. I'm a lifetime crier, so this isn't a total surprise, but it was a total Gospel Comfort to be surrounded by a caring community.

It was honestly one of the sweetest times in Pittsburgh. My friends came and stayed the whole time despite it being super late on a weeknight. Student who don't normally attend Large Group showed up. We sang my favorite song.

I went off script for some parts, but for the first time in my public speaking career, I stayed mostly on course, my off-scriptedness is included below with help from my memory. After saying that if we didn't get to sing "For All the Saints" I was going to flip a table, I started this thing off saying I was going to try to not cry and then wiped tears from my face the whole time. 

I've been writing this thing since the Senior Banquet last year, and actually typing it out since October. But I'm standing here at a loss for words. Which is really a theme of my internship, if you're a girl in this room, you've heard me say, "I don't know what to say," because I don't. 

Brad, you once made an offhand comment about how I must be good at goodbyes… get ready to eat your words.

According to Wikipedia, the central theme of the book of Habakkuk is, "moving from perplexity and doubt to absolute trust in God." And that seems like theme of my last two years. Habakkuk 1:5 has become like my theme verse, "Look among the nations and see, wonder and be astounded for the Lord is doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told." [then I talked about how I would never have believed I would be standing in Pittsburgh with a whole row of friends in the back.]

There’s not a lot that I love exclusively about Pittsburgh. I have no favorite restaurant. Ever since I found out that my barista crush is married, it’s like what’s the point. But y’all call me KC, and that’s my favorite. I just love it. Everyone else calls me Katherine, but you call me KC. I feel so loved. You are what I love exclusively about Pittsburgh.

In preparing for this I read through some old journals and it’s been really sweet to see how the Lord has been with me the past two years. Even when I have felt utterly alone, I have not been abandoned. The Lord has answered a lot of prayers. And now an excerpt from my journal from March 30th, 2015:

Aahhhhh!!!! I visit Pitt this week! I’m super nervous that I’m going to hate it… At the end of my internship I want to look back and say:

  • I was sanctified by the process
  • I built lasting and meaningful friendships
  • I had fun
  • My students saw growth in grace
  • The ministry reached a new type of student
  • Ground work was laid for future ministry growth.

*****It it not my goal to be a super intern**** 

And another from August 6th, 2015, so two days before I moved here,

“Lord, give me a chance to be happy exhausted. Worn out from pouring into others, laughing with friends, seeing you at work. May I say, ‘what an unexpected blessing.”

But I am standing here at the finish line. After six years with RUF, I have a lot of feelings. As I’ve been writing this, I’m aware of the ways I’ve failed you as an intern. Or maybe RUF has failed you as a ministry. Or Pitt has failed you as a University. Or you have failed you. Or you're just really aware of disappointment in life. But Jesus Christ has not failed you. Jesus has not failed you. And he has not failed me.

I have many memories from my time here that I will treasure. Trying to build a table with Leah. Our secrecy vault in St. Louis. Two semesters of leading freshmen with Josh. Singing All Too Well with Julie at the Lip Sync Battle at #GirlParty2016. Making HGTV Instagram stories with Paul in Washington, that may actually be the highlight of my internship. Coffee Mondays with Bethany. Pizza Fridays with Molly. Reading through Life Together with Morgan. Making a dance audition video for Abby Lee Dance Company with Morgan. Watching Caroline make friends. Visiting Punxsutawney with Cassie. Yelling at y’all to line up for Flannel Panel. [off script: which, by the way, y'all always grumbled at me when I made you take a picture, but then you would be like, "hey can you text me that picture we just took?"] Cutting the Bates kids hair. Just anytime I got to order my salad at Hello Bistro, which they just changed the mozzarella cheese there, so I'm not sure anymore. Carrying around a megaphone at summer conference. Thank you all for being willing actors in my snapchat stories. 

There are things I would like to forget. The time I literally stomped my foot at Derek because he made me stay in Pittsburgh over the summer. The unkind and harsh things that should have been left unsaid. The times I showed up to Greek Life Bible study, but no one else did, which was fine, but I had to walk back through a Trump rally. The times I spoke too soon, or didn’t speak up soon enough. 

I really wish I was paid commission on how many times I’ve recommended the Starbucks and SheReadsTruth apps. 

I feel like the last two years have taught me a lot. And frankly, it’s been really hard. It's been really hard. I’ve seen tragic things happen to people I love. And it’s been hard. It’s been hard to walk with you in your sin, your own tragedies. Life is hard, and yucky. And I feel like I’ve seen why y’all need a place like this. You need a place that reminds you of the Gospel. You need community. You need people to pour into you, to pick you up when you fall down. You need Jesus. 

You can’t know what all you will face and go through before you leave this Earth. But there is a loving God who is making all things new. If you are in Him, he is necessarily working in you. When you wake up tomorrow and fail again, you can know that your place before the throne of God above has not changed. 

Girls. Jesus Christ did not die on a cross and defeat sin and death to rise three days later so you could date losers. Stop it. Look, I know there are only a few men of God, but date them. You can change haircuts, you can’t change hearts. So stop. I'm not going to be here next year, so you need to hear me say it again, stop. 

Freshmen. Keep coming to RUF. You need these people. You’ll only realize it more and more. But I promise it’s worth it. 

I have been sanctified, by fire. I have built lasting and meaningful relationships. I’ve had fun. I’ve had the privilege of see you all grow in grace. We’ve reached a new type of student through Greek Life Bible study. And Serena is taking over t-shirts for next year, so I guess you can say that ground work has been laid for future ministry. I am happy exhausted. What an unexpected blessing to be your intern. I only wish there was a Sonic closer. 

Callie, thank you for sprinting with me. For being a role model, someone who is not afraid to speak the hard truth. It’s been an honor to do ministry alongside you.

Charles, it’s not the same without you here. Thank you for redeeming the role of co-intern in my heart. [Charles showing up was supposed to be a surprise that I got tipped off to, so I included this, but then he wasn't there when I talked so I skipped this part.]

I would really like to thank my friends. In many ways I’ve not loved you all in the way you deserve, and you’ve let me be a literal potato an unfair amount of times. You guys are the best.

Brad, Seth, Jake. None of you really take compliments well, so I’m not going to say anything nice.  But Jake, you are a man of your word.  Seth, you are a man of your word. Brad, you are a man of your word. Thank you for being my friends.

[I then fully planned to make this joke about how they had all once told me that "being a man of your word" was the highest compliment they could ever receive, so if it wasn't, they weren't really men of their word. But I didn't because I was choking on my words.]

And Derek Bates. Derek, you did not give up on me when I really should have been given up on. I have been a real poophead intern, and you loved me with the unchanging, relentless love of Christ. Thanks for not letting me quit when I wanted to. 

Last year I started crying at the senior banquet out of nowhere, and so did most of the freshmen girls. I have no idea why they were crying, but I started crying because I had been thinking how one year before I was sitting at Baylor graduation feeling like a total failure because I didn't have a fiance, but I wouldn't trade a ring on my finger for having spent the year with those girls. God is good in that way. You’re my girls. And I love you. I am so proud of you, and the women you are becoming.

[I then read all of the below lyrics to Whitney Houston's "I will Always Love You," which was one of those things that seemed like a super fun idea until I actually started doing it, and then I was sort of sad. But #WhitneyForever]

If I should stay

I would only be in your way

So I'll go but I know

I'll think of you every step of the way

And I will always love you

I will always love you

You

My darling, you [mmmmhmmmm]

Bittersweet memories

That is all I'm taking with me

So good-bye

Please don't cry

We both know I'm not what you, you need

And I will always love you

I will always love you

You

I hope life treats you kind

And I hope you have all you've dreamed of

And I wish you joy and happiness

But above all this I wish you love

And I will always love you

I will always love you

I will always love you

I will always love you

It’s been an honor to be your intern. I have called you my friends. Thank you. 

Afterward I made all my non-student friends pose for a photo, that's who I am. 

 

I would also really like to thank my parents. They trusted me to apply for a ministry job, raise money, and move across the country. And really they've trusted the Father with my life in a lot of ways since day one. Working in student ministry, I am well aware that this is not everyones' situation. They're just really good parents. 

The campus ministers I had at Baylor are the best of the best. I would not love Jesus were it not for Shaynor Newsome. I would not be an intern were it not for Way Rutherford. Absolute solid gold.

There were many times that I did not feel welcome or known in Pittsburgh, but several families really pushed back on that lie. Thank you to the Poes, the Girards, the Barkers, the Biancos, the Bauldaufs, my whole community group, for having me into your homes. And obviously the Howard family for being the actual best. 

I would not have eaten, slept, or blasted Whitney Houston from my car since June of 2015 were it not for the extreme generosity of God's people in my life. Thank you so much to my financial supporters. As I'm now fundraising again for my next steps in Waco, I'm well aware of your generosity and grace towards me. It's actually crazy how blessed I have been. 

College students need Jesus. They need a savior that defeated sin and death and rose again three days later. They need the promise of Glory. And so do I.