Monthly Archives: October 2015

High School Dances and Crop Tops

Me: “The night before Spirit Week I always get self-conscious.”

Paul: “Why? About what?”

Me: “Dressing up.  I worry other teachers will think I’m a fool and my students will think I’m lame.”

Paul looked me straight in the eye and replied, “Katie, go all out.  Haters gonna hate.”

I exploded into laughter and then resolved to do just that.  Go. All. Out.

Because Paul was right.  Haters gonna hate.  So I should be myself and look a fool and not care what others are thinking about me or whispering to their friends about their teacher who has a little too much school spirit.  I shouldn’t just wear a cute blue shirt on class color day.  No, I should wear a blue sequin top with blue pants and a blue cardigan and a blue necklace with blue shoes.  Heck, I might as well top it off with Paul’s blue hard hat.  So I went to school looking like this.IMG_3272

I didn’t care about the haters who might think I am a desperate adult longing to be young again and I didn’t care that it was my turn to lead staff devotions though I looked like Smurfette heading to the club.  Hello my name is Katie Van Dyk and I like to wear weird costumes.  I’m owning it now.

But I didn’t in high school.

It wasn’t cool to wear costumes to school when I was in high school so I never did.  Didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself.  I did, however, wear tube tops with overalls because somehow that outfit was “cool” and I would wear just about anything to fit in.

When flipping through scrapbooks from the late 90’s, I don’t see Katie Hardeman, proud individual who knows who she is and doesn’t give a rip about what others say about her.  No, I see Katie Hardeman, still figuring out what’s important to her, best friends with Stefanie Schilling who is popular and cool and therefore Katie’s model for what to wear….no matter how ridiculous:IMG_3336

Tube tops?

Crop tops?

Really, Katie?  Really?

And you roll your eyes at girls today who wear short shirts.  You were there once too.  You weren’t trying to be scandalous.  You were just trying to be stylish and fit in, so you borrowed your older sister’s tiny top. (Sorry, Heid.  How’s it feel under that bus?)

Don’t worry, Katie, you’ll learn.  You’ll learn that showing your belly button in public is only okay when wearing a bathing suit.  And you’ll learn that some fashion trends just need to be ignored.  You’ll also learn to lather on the sunblock.  Was it really necessary to get so tan?

Throughout Spirit Week last week, I was reminded how much high schoolers want to fit in and how much they worry about the haters.  They all WANT to be unique individuals but the fact that they have the same clothes and haircuts as all their friends suggests they have a long way to go before they stop caring about the crowd.

I get it.  I was there not too long ago.  If you stand out too much, people will laugh at you and the fear of mockery and rejection is multiplied by a thousand when you’re in high school.  Kids will do and say and wear ridiculous things just to be cool (see above pictures).  Paul and I witnessed this tendency as we chaperoned the Homecoming dance on Friday.

High school dancing is dramatically different from adult dancing.  The main difference, other than the volume of music being at a reasonable decimal, is that when adults get on a dance floor, they actually dance.  High schoolers jump and push and scream and wave their arms around, but they don’t do much actual dancing.  I took a video of the dance/jump-fest and showed it to my 8-year old nephew who said, “Why is everyone just jumping?  Don’t they dance?”

No, Vander, they don’t. IMG_3320

I’m convinced this jumping phenomenon is because less than 5 % of the population actually knows how to dance well.  The rest of us, and I am definitely in the 95% category,  have no clue what we’re doing with our limbs when we’re “dancing.”  This is why dance circles are created and the 5 % jump in the middle to show off their skills, while the rest of us pray to baby Jesus that none of our idiot friends shove us to the center of the circle.  My.  Worst.  Nightmare.

In high school, you compensate for your lack of dancing skills by copying everyone else.  This way so no one realizes your lack of rhythm or how little control you actually have of your hips.  So when everyone else jumps and bobs their heads and lifts their arms, you follow suit.

But then you grow up and you stop trying to look cool.

Eventually I stopped dressing like Stefanie.  In fact, after college it was comical how different we had become.  We’d go to the movies, Stefanie in high heels and me in sweatpants.  Seriously.  We had both realized who we were by that point and we dressed the part.

One of the great things about getting older is that you can finally stop trying to impress people.  You know who you are so it doesn’t matter what Joe Schmoe over there thinks of you.  This is why parents of teenagers embarrass their children so easily.  This is also why adults who enjoy dancing but are terrible at it (people like me) can jiggle like an idiot on the dance floor, having a grand ol’ time.  At Chris and Lindsay’s wedding, a stranger told Paul and I that we win for “most entertaining couple on the dance floor.”  We knew this was not exactly a compliment.  But we danced hard that night and didn’t care that small town Texas-folks had a good laugh at our expense.

There is great freedom that comes with adulthood (along with laugh lines and poor vision)- Freedom to truly be yourself and stop caring about the haters. Don’t get me wrong, I still care to some degree.  I needed a pep talk from my husband before I dressed up like a fool at work.  But I definitely care less about others’ opinions than I did 10 years ago.

While I miss my teenage metabolism and smooth skin, I most certainly do NOT miss the days when I was still figuring out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to be about.   In high school, it’s easy to let others tell you who you are and who you should be.  It’s much harder to be original and confident and different from the crowd.

The older I get, the more my identity becomes cemented.  I know who I am. I am Katie Van Dyk, lover of Jesus, wearer of costumes.  So I will hold my head up high on hippie day:IMG_3330

and I will ride a tricycle through the halls while wearing a kimono simply because it’s fun.


However, I still often forget who I am and need reminders.

I need to continually be reading the Bible and talking to God to ensure that He is the one defining me, not the people around me.  He tells me who I am and what I’m about.  Not my colleagues or my students.  Not my even my family or my friends.  Only God knows the insides of my soul and only He gets to tell me how to live.

It also helps that when I feel self-conscious, I have a husband who reminds me, “Haters gonna hate.”

What Aunties Are For- On Persecution and the Armor of God

While playing soccer yesterday, I hip-checked my 6-year old nephew and sent him flying.

I’m sure it must have looked rather odd to see a grown woman throw a kid to the ground, but he was totally fine.   He did, however, look at me with his, “What the heck?” expression, so I shrugged and said, “That was totally legal.  Use your butt to protect the ball.”

He promptly got up and stole the ball from me because he is freakishly good at soccer and I was barefoot and limping from earlier when I had kicked his older brother in the shins.  This is what aunties are for.

I took the boys for slurpees after our game, and during the 10 minute drive, they learned about more than simply using your butt to knock people over.

First, they learned about flashlight tag.  Did y’all ever play this terrifying game?  I loved it despite the constant feeling that I was going to wet myself.  Now Vander wants to play it for his 9th birthday party.

Hudson informed Vander that “wrestler” starts with a W not an R, because it has a “secret letter.”  Earlier, I had told him about silent letters and he was thoroughly weirded out.  “Why does it start with a W?  That doesn’t make sense.  You don’t say Wah-resler.”

Oh Huddy, we know.  I didn’t even tell you about the T.  And just wait till you learn about bologna and colonel.  Stupid English language.

Then the boys asked about the fish carabiner on my key chain:IMG_3269

I’m not planning on climbing any rocks any time soon so I couldn’t explain the carabiner part, but I could explain the fish.  I told them how right after Jesus went back to heaven, Christians were persecuted so they used the fish symbol like a secret password so they could find other Christians.

Can of worms officially opened.

“What is persecuted?”

Uhhhhh.  Uh-oh.  “Well, bad people didn’t like Christians and wanted to kill them.”


What did I get myself into? “They felt threatened by them.  The king was worried if everyone started worshipping God, nobody would worship him any more.  He was afraid he would lose power.”

“Why didn’t the Christians just invite those people to church? Did they have Awana?”

Great question, Huddy.  Oh how I love their child-like faith.  We arrived at 7 11 at that point, so the boys forgot all about persecution and focused on slurpee flavors instead, but in light of the Oregon shooting, I’m still thinking about our conversation.

Why do people want to kill Christians?

I gave the boys a simple answer, but I wish I had said more.

It’s true that some governments have felt threatened and continue to feel threatened by our allegiance to God (I’m looking at you, China), but it’s more than that.  We have an enemy.  A very real enemy who is trying, tooth and nail, to tear people from God’s kingdom.  On Thursday, we were forced yet again to think about this enemy.

On Friday  morning, some of my students hadn’t yet heard the news and I watched their faces twist in shock and anguish as I explained what had happened.   We prayed for those who are grieving and for God’s kingdom to grow.  We talked about how strange it is that during times of persecution God’s kingdom seems to grow the most.

Why is that?

I wonder if it’s because persecution reminds us why we’re here on earth.  Persecution reminds us of the enemy we are facing and the war we are waging.  Reminds us that in the grand scheme of things many of our problems aren’t as big as we make them out to be.

We go about our days thinking about our to-do lists, our relationships, our schedules and we get irritated when people or circumstances mess up our plans.  At least I know I do.

We completely forget we are battling an unseen enemy who desires to distract us from our purpose.  We forget that Peter said, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

We often see our “enemies” as politicians, illegal immigrants, republicans, democrats, Muslims, terrorists, criminals, bosses, bullies, bad drivers, slow baggers, loud talkers, the obnoxious, the annoying, the rude- you get the idea.  The “enemy” has human flesh and has become anyone who disagrees with us or inconveniences us or hurts us.

We often forget that the real enemy is one we can’t see and is daily looking for ways to pull us away from God.  If we forget about this enemy and this ongoing battle, chances are we’re probably losing it.

How do you “fight” against an invisible enemy who sometimes uses bullets and other times uses television and sports and shopping as his weapons of destruction and distraction?  You fight back not with guns and tanks and grenades.

But with Scripture

and prayer

and love.

Lots of love.

Paul was one of God’s most effective soldiers in this battle.  He left us with lots of advice on how to fight against the enemy- most famously in his description of the armor of God in Ephesians chapter 6.  I have posted the following prayer on this blog before, but in light of Thursday, I’m printing it out again and praying it while I drive to school.

Perhaps you too need a daily reminder of the battle we are fighting.

Armor of God Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, I commit this day to you.  You are the creator of the universe and of my heart and I need your Spirit today as I, (list what you will face today).  I ask for your protection around my heart and my mind as I struggle not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil trying to draw my attention away from you.

I put on the belt of truth and cling to the truths about who you’ve made me to be.  Help me today to see myself as you see me. Remind me that I belong to you, that I am your beloved child, your servant, and a stranger here on Earth. Thank you for choosing me, for giving me purpose and a citizenship in heaven. When I make this life all about me, please draw me back to this truth: I am yours and I live for you.

I put on the breastplate of righteousness and confess my unrighteousness. I confess that (list your recent sins).  Thank you, merciful God, for your forgiveness and for washing me clean.   Open my eyes to the sin lurking in my heart that I am unaware of and strip me clean of it as well.  Make me more like you today.

My feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Fill me with your peace that surpasses understanding and may that peace guard my heart and my mind today.

I take up the shield of faith and use it to deflect the enemy’s attacks. With each lie I am told, I counter it with a truth you have given me. I refuse to believe that (a lie you often fall prey to) and instead, believe that (a truth in God’s word that refutes that lie).

I put on the helmet of salvation to protect my thought-life. I will take all my thoughts captive today and make them obedient to you. Convict me when my thoughts stray, when they are negative, judgmental, slanderous, selfish, or unpleasing in any way. Help me to fixate instead on what is right and true, pure and noble, lovely and praiseworthy. Remind me of the hope I have today because of your salvation; remind me why I am here and how I should think and speak and act so that my life may be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

I take hold of the sword of the Spirit, which is your Word, and use it in battle today. May your Word dwell in me richly as I use it to defeat the unseen enemy and live in a way that glorifies you. Please speak to me through the scriptures; reveal more of yourself to me today. Lift my eyes to you and open the eyes of my heart that I might know and love and serve you more.

In your name I pray,