Hey there,

I'm Kasey

My faith does not fix me, but it does reveal what has always been true of me.

 

In 2002, I married R. Justin Van Norman-a cowboy from Texas who could wear the heck out of a pair of Wranglers. A few years later, we birthed a couple of babies, Justin grew a handlebar mustache, and I grew a cheek-mole. Now, we are a band of misfit pirates living happily in Central Texas.

Exhibit A. Halloween 2015. "Shiver Van Timbers."

Exhibit A. Halloween 2015. “Shiver Van Timbers.”

Okay, fine. We are just really good at Halloween. (See Exhibit A and B).

Exhibit B. Halloween 2016. "Bottom of the Hill."

Exhibit B. Halloween 2016. “Bottom of the Hill.”

Sooo, my name is Kasey. Annnd…is this awkward? Meeting online and all? You should know upfront, ‘online Kasey’ is a lot less awkward than ‘real life Kasey.’ (I understand if you want to end this now and pretend it never happened).

OH HEY! You’re still here. That’s awesome. Well then, I shall continue…

I am a 37-year old wife and mama, born and raised in the great state of Texas. I also never once in my wildest dreams believed I would write this next part in any bio of mine, but, here it goes. I’m a farmer. Yesssir-ee, I grow food. And if you knew me up close, you would know how absurd this is.  It’s just, I’m so much better at faster things. Like, Instagram, Amazon, and Chick-fil-a. I’m more of a ‘thrill of the moment,’ ‘let’s do stuff,’ ‘get ‘er done’ kinda gal. A marriage therapist once asked Justin, “What is the hardest part of your day?” He answered, “Kasey bored.”

Justin is my man. He is a for.real.cowboy. Meaning, he actually rides a horse and wears a belt buckle to hold up his pants, not for the extra bling. We have been crazy about each other for 17 years (15 of those sleeping in the same bed). We have 2 amazing, heathen-babies: Emma Grace (12) and Lake (9). We live in Texas. We are Texans. Did I mention we love Texas? We love our state so much that we bought an old house with blue carpet smack dab in the center of it > Bryan/College Station. I know, 2 cities in 1, it’s confusing. But also, my favorite. 150,000 rowdy Aggies (Texas A&M University) mash up with 150,000 of us blue collar, country folk = perfection (And lots of football. Like, my house shakes with a touchdown kind of football). We are also the 2nd fastest growing city in the nation. So that’s fun. Until, you need groceries…want to go to the movies…need gas in your car. Just your normal ‘repenting every 5 minutes’ kinda stuff. No big.

Justin and I are a crazy mash-up too. That’s how this whole thing got started.

Justin is a good ‘ol country boy with deep Southern Baptist roots. He dodged the “family drama” bullet, respected the ladies, drank his sweet tea, and married one time-for keeps. He is as honest as the day is long, dependable as the sunrise, and has a man crush on George Strait. He loves on his family in lavish, ridiculous amounts, and is exactly who you think he is. He has plaid Polos from his 8th grade year still hanging in the closet, and will quote a line from Lonesome Dove at some in the day-every day.

Justin’s story would give him the guts to handle mine. And my story is, well, not so shiny.

Like farming, life does not come natural to me. I have to teach myself to cultivate both. I have to force myself to slow down and think intentionally about anything requiring care and nurture to survive.

I grew up in a more typical American family-a dysfunctional one. Alcoholism, absence, and abuse were all words in my childhood vocabulary. My people had no emotional language, no tolerance for ‘all the feels,’ but, we could create enough chaos to self-preserve in some pretty creative ways . In my home, we hustled for love. Underneath the pine trees of deep East Texas (the Bible belt of the world) “hustle” mostly looks like; showing up for church, parking your ghetto car 2 blocks away, hiding the runner in your pantyhose and the Rum on your breath until you get through the deacon-door barricade with a smile on your face and a believable, “Bless your heart!”

Until my 15th year of life I did everything by the church-pageant playbook: church choir, youth group, handbells, and Bible study. I think I even did some time as “Doubting Debra” in the church puppet ministry. (Hm, that’s unfortunate). I will pause here to say, I meant it. I really did. All of the church things mattered to me. I lived on the hunt for a hero.

I never wanted to be the hero. I really wanted Jesus to save me. I believed that I loved him, I just wasn’t so sure that he loved me back.

At 15, purity came to a city near me. I bought in with all my heart. I placed a ‘promise ring’ on my finger, (that was ironically given to me by a terribly gorgeous gathering of young News Kids on the Block wanna-bes). As the abstinence fog lifted from over their perfectly proportioned cheekbones, they told me that I would receive the favor of God in exchange for my virginity. They promised, I promised, God promised-we all promised.

Three months later, I was sexually assaulted and raped by an older man.

Of course, (and as summation to 10 years of therapy), my world was wrecked. My opinion of people, tainted. My perspective of God, distorted. I screamed and shook my fists at God all 10 of those years (both figuratively and literally). “God! I made a promise to you, and this is how you keep your end of the deal?! Fine. You want a rebel? Watch this…”

Shame would spend those years wreaking havoc inside me. Fear crippled my heart. Doubt tormented my mind. And all of my behaviors worked overtime to numb the pain of the truth. Although I spent most of these years toying with every ‘Christian-skin-crawling-vice’ I could think of, I still preferred ‘pew-hopping’ to ‘bar-hopping.’ Church was my drug of choice. I could hide out in church-mask my dark and twisty with a program, 5-point sermon, FAITH acrostic, or salty Bible study.

I did this dance for years. I dreamt and hoped for a life where God’s love was real to me. I wept and pleaded with Jesus to connect my actions to my reality-to make me believe my Bible and the nice church people who brushed past my shame-filled shadow each week.

I got married, tended to babies, earned degrees, grew my career, built a big house in the country with a white picket fence. I hosted parties, mentored students, served on committees, and sang Breath of Heaven as Mary in the Easter pageant 7 years in a row. I had everyone fooled, including myself. The lie playing on repeat in my mind comforted me with familiarity. I figured, if people reject me and God needs something from me, then I am exactly who I have worked so hard to become. The power I found in crafting and tending my own identity rushed adrenaline to my brain. Control was just the hit of chaos I needed to hold my buzz of self.

But, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28-29). 

In the spring of 2009, my knees buckled under the weight of striving and released into the glorious groanings I still have no human words for. At 29-years old, I no longer recognized my reflection in the mirror. On March 3rd at 12:31pm, the 3-year secret of my adulterous relationship hit the light of day. Friends scattered, our church asked us to quietly remove ourselves from its congregation, and my prescription addiction no longer numbed my depression. My mind and body felt broken beyond repair. Isolation took the place of passion, and the vulnerability required for healing seemed terrifyingly impossible.

Thousands of Spirit-groaning moments go {here} – reserved and held by the sacred place in my heart. Not because I am scared to share or hiding anything. Simply because, I don’t have the words. Not all of them anyways. Memories still come to me in pieces, like watching an old VHS tape – color with sound, then a bit of static. Especially surrounding the night of my rape. Working so hard for so long to make the lie my truth, well, let’s just say I’ve reached master level in suppression and disassociation.

Through those lonely days of static, confusion, and sorrow, I clung to God’s Word. I didn’t have answers, confidence in who I was, or friends to tell me it would be okay. But the Bible was the only place I felt safe and seen – the only thing in my dark world that made me feel light and whole.

Over the years, death came to many things. New life broke through from the most unlikely and awful places. A single hope pleaded with my faith and contended with my well-worn lie…instead of ash.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:1-3

As Justin fought to rebuild our marriage from the ash and ruble of my betrayal, I would experience a life-changing reckoning with the love of God. In Justin’s forgiveness and grace, I encountered the finished work of Jesus as my reality. The unconditional love I spent most my life earning, searching for, and hustling in, desired me as a dead woman walking. I had nothing to offer Him but my brokenness and filth. With open hands, and my pain fully available, Jesus took His rightful place as not merely my Savior, but as the Lord of my life. His love synced itself to my heart as Justin wept by my bedside, “Kasey, I don’t know how to not love you.” 

Suddenly, Christianity had no determination to fix, control, or subdue me. In grace, I was released to live fully in what had always been true of me. For the first time in my life, healing was possible, hope desirable, and love believable.

Jesus could never not love me. And I would never be the same.

I am but 7 years on this healing path from the darkest night of my soul. Throughout these years, Justin and I have experienced a radical restoration in our marriage. We still have bad days of struggle and doubt, and yet, Jesus continues to faithfully mend our broken hearts and grow us in the confidence to openly and honestly share our story through writing and speaking, with the hope of encouraging and bearing alongside others. Together, we have become students of the childlike faith of our babies, Emma Grace and Lake. Together, we have weathered deep church hurt, broken friendships, financial crisis, unqualified callings, impossible adventures, the death of parents, and my cancer diagnosis that would challenge us to once again fight for life amidst the ash.

In short, I mama. I work. I preach, teach, cry, study, write, and laugh loudly at inappropriate stuff. I binge watch Downton Abbey, Gilmore Girls, and Grey’s Anatomy whenever I just need a minute.

Most importantly, I still cling to my Bible like my life depends on it. Because it does…depend on it.

Also, I love you. I truly do. At the end of it, I think we get each other, me and you. Although our paths may tread out differently, the ashes still hurt like hell, and the hope of new life agitates us just enough to take one more step, one more breath, one more day.

My greatest joy is to belong to you somewhere on this well-worn path toward home. My deepest peace is felt when you and I stand arm in arm, weeping our mascara off together, and boldly declaring God’s love for us. I believe healing and truth is for us, friend. I believe the grace of God desires to satisfy and restore us in ways we never thought possible. I believe our heart is fully known–and in that space, forgiveness cancels all debt and pain receives its purpose . I really hope to squeeze you tight and right into the finished work of Jesus.

He is a God who loves us without needing anything from us. He is a God who keeps his promises because they lack no thing and need no resource to be fulfilled. He is a God who has written the story of us with great care and intentionality-a God who authored us in, not because He had to, but because He wanted to. He is a God who desires to love us with such deep belonging and intimacy that He became us. He is a God who wants us to live with Him forever at home through the offering of His Son, Jesus Christ.

May we use all of our life’s ash and ruble to tell his story of new and eternal life.

Each day, may we grab hold of the grace that will never not love us.

Yours to the bone,
Kasey

Of all the people on planet Earth, I love these most.

Left to right: “Apple-Pie-Hunk-O-Cowboy” (aka: Justin, hubs of 13 years), “Emma-Lou-Who” (aka: Emma Grace, daughter of 9 years), “Puncher” (aka: Lake, son of 7 years), “Kasey Ray” (aka: at least that’s what my High School letterman jacket read. Yikes).

and just for fun...a quick game of:

If you REALLY knew me, you would know...

My parents allowed my 3rd grade obsession with ‘troll dolls’ to take a very tragic turn (see picture). I may or may not still have over 75 mini trolls hidden in an undisclosed location.

Teenage-Kasey thinks the fact that adult-Kasey now teaches the Bible & hangs out with Christians is proof there is a God. (her boyfriend from senior year also finds it quite hilarious. see picture).

I am obsessed with Downton Abbey & absolutely inconsolable its saga reached the end. If I can be Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham when I grow up, I feel I have completely succeeded in life.

I have 9 tattoos. You can go ahead and take that number, multiply it by 5, and get close to the amount of times a “concerned stranger” (those are the best) has quoted me Leviticus 19:28 via comment, email or letter.see picture).

I consider my self-deprecating humor a gift. By definition this form of snarkiness is used to release tension. Also, I just like making fun of myself. I think I’m endearing. Most think me obnoxious. It’s why I suggest most of my friends become drinkers.

This one time, I had cancer. It sucked. Still does when I start missing my mom (who did not survive it), and my Papa (her father)  (who also did not survive it). And even though I want to crater in to a fetal position & drink chocolate milk every 6 months (the dreaded PET scan), I know I have been loved deep by Jesus. I would not undo it-I really wouldn’t. Cancer is the absolute worst, but, I made it look pretty sexy-if I do say so myself (GI Jane / circa 2012-2015).

I think the finest man alive is my Cowboy. Justin is my man of 15 years. He is a for real cowboy, looks darn good in a pair of Wranglers, and comes from solid southern-baptist stock. So I thought…’Shoot, I can’t let a sweet tea like this get away! I know…I will seduce him with my self-deprecating humor!’ He married me anyway.

Emma Grace, 11, is my cherubim of a daughter. I am also pretty sure she is a prophetess walking around in milky-white skin, consumed with the Holy Spirit and simply tolerating me until she becomes the youngest human ever to be elected president of the United States.

I am obsessed with my “Puncher.” Or, Lake-Man. Lake-a-nator. Lakeornado. Lakesterville. (This could really go on forever). Mostly, he’s my uber-witty, baseball-slammin’ son, Lake, age 8 . All I can say is…I want to be Lake when I grow up. Here’s hoping.

Jesus Christ saved me. His love is the only reason that Jack & Debbie didn’t kill me. (That’s Jack Daniels & Little Debbie, if you’re wondering). He is the reason for all of the above. He is my freedom to love all of these things because He loves me first, fully, and finally. Which then leads me to love…you. Yes, please! You can’t even handle this Texan loving you as much as I do!!! Mmmm-wha!

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