“Why Nots” and Second Thoughts

“Why Nots” and Second Thoughts

September 10, 2019
By: 
Katelyn Kenney

I like to think God calls to us in second thoughts.

You know, that moment of consideration you give to an idea you have previously put on the back burner. Maybe it didn’t seem like the right fit at the time, but then you figure, “Why not?” I think God whispers “why not” to our hearts, and the past two years as the Julia Chester Emery Intern are what taught me to believe that to be true. Let me explain.

When I was a senior at the University of Houston, I was in a near-constant state of anxiety. I was graduating in three years instead of four, due to my accumulation of Advanced Placement credits in high school, with a BA in print journalism and a minor in leadership studies from the Honors College. It was an amazing feat on paper, but I felt like a full-on mess. On the one hand, I was interested in the possibility of doing a service year with the Episcopal Service Corps as a means to buy some time in the “real world” to figure out what career suited my skill set. On the other hand – the “society” hand – I thought that if I didn’t have a full-time job arranged out the gate, all of my hard work from the past seven years would be a waste and I would look like a total burnout. Clearly, I was not enjoying my last semester. I say all this because it was around this time that I received an email from our campus missioner that included an application for the United Thank Offering internship with Missional Voices. I’ll admit, I had no idea what either of those entities was, but the work description seemed to be something I could manage. But the “society” hand won out, and I pressed on worrying about finding what I considered a “job” job.

Graduation rolled around, and nothing had panned out for me in terms of jobs. Granted, I think I spent more time languishing over finding a job than I did actually applying and taking interviews. I wasn’t inspired, and I felt completely lost. Two weeks of waiting tables at a local restaurant went by, and that’s when my first “why not” moment of the summer happened: Camp Allen, the summer camp where I had served on the college staff the two summers prior and in other positions a couple of times, was in need of a videographer due to a last-minute change with the person hired. Here I was – after constantly reminding my dad I can’t just “go back to camp” and do what I’ve done before – eating my words and realizing that I had a fair amount of video experience. I called in and said yes, and it changed my life.

Now, this is a lot of history to contextualize my point, but you have to understand the place I was in to understand the place I’m in now. Going back to Camp Allen for the summer was so significant because, in that time, I applied and interviewed for a communications job in my hometown (didn’t get it), and I learned that 1) the Episcopal Service Corps in Houston was still accepting applications, and 2) the UTO position hadn’t been filled yet and housing the intern in Houston was a possibility. This was the second “why not” moment, and if you’ve been paying attention, you know it’s paid off tremendously.

I could spend this reflection describing all the incredible experiences and opportunities from these past two years. (Now that I think about it, I do have a tendency to write more thematically rather than anecdotally. I hope y’all haven’t minded; not only do I naturally find myself gravitating to more “big picture” stories, but I also unfortunately have a poor memory.) If you’re a die-hard UTO fan, you already know I helped organize the 2018 Missional Voices gathering and attended multiple other conferences and events; you already know I got to visit Navajoland and see the beauty of the sacred desert for the first time; you already know I got to march with the Poor People’s Campaign and eventually move to D.C. to continue my advocacy work with the Office of Government Relations; you already know I got to attend the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women twice; and you already know I traveled to Spain and Palestine to meet other Christians and UTO partners and expand my horizons to include the stories of people in circumstances I could never imagine. We all know this now, but I never could’ve imagined that any of this could ever be my real life. I never thought I’d travel to different states for work, let alone different countries. I never saw myself at the UN, or now on Capitol Hill, or moving to South Carolina. I had no conception of the possibilities ahead of me.

But God knew. God knows each of our stories.

No, He doesn’t conveniently send us a detailed itinerary for our life choices or send angels down to tell us what’s happening next. But He urges us in whispers to think again about those things we once discarded. He gently guides us on our path by asking us to reconsider what we thought was possible, to trust His inspiration, to say, “why not” and just be grateful for the ride.

To the UTO family: Thank you for carrying on the kingdom work of teaching your congregations about the importance of gratitude. Your actions will change the world.

To the UTO Board, past and present: You have become dear friends and mentors, and I respect each of you immensely. When I grow up, I want to be just like you. UTO is reaching amazing heights, and the possibilities truly are endless. I hope each of you understands the power of your work.

To Heather: A simple thank you would never feel like enough, but you taught me that it really means so much. So, thank you for believing in me, for encouraging me and seeing my potential, for understanding the complications of adulthood and walking alongside me, and for entrusting me to be a spokesperson for UTO. I hope I’ve done you proud. I love you, and your family holds a special place in my heart. I look forward to staying in touch and sharing my journey with you.

Thank you all for being part of my story. I’m forever grateful, and now I know what that really means.

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