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…

In 2002, I married R. Justin Van Norman—a cowboy from Texas who can 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. (Okay, fine. We’re just really good at Halloween).

I am a 39-year old wife and mama, born and raised in the backwoods of deep East Texas. Justin is my cowboy. Like, a real one. Meaning, he actually rides a horse and wears a belt buckle to hold up his pants, not for the extra street-cred. We’ve been crazy about each other for almost 20 years (18 of those sleeping in the same bed). We have 2 additional humans living in our home, Emma Grace (14) and Lake (11). They remind us daily we need Jesus.

We are all Texans. We live in Texas. Did I mention we love Texas? We love our state so much, we planted ourselves smack dab in the middle of it—Bryan/College Station. Yes, 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 = it’s the biggest, little city you’ll never want to leave.

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And football.

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 a good seat at the movie…are in a hurry…

Like our town, Justin and I are also an unlikely pair. 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 point in the day, every day.

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

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 cursed 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.

In the spring of 2009, my knees buckled under the weight of striving and sin. 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. The Bible was the only place in my dark world that felt light, whole, and accepting.

Over the years, death came to many things. New life broke through from the most unlikely and awful places.

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.” 

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.

Throughout these years, Justin and I have experienced miraculous restoration in our marriage. We still have bad days of struggle and doubt, yet, Jesus continues to faithfully mend our broken hearts and grow us in the confidence to openly and honestly share our story; encouraging and bearing alongside others who struggle to believe God’s love for them. 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, The Office, and Grey’s Anatomy whenever I just need a minute. 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!

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 freedom 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 has purpose . I hope to squeeze you tight in the finished work of Jesus real soon.

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


And just for fun, a quick game of “If you REALLY knew me!”

IF YOU REALLY KNEW ME, you would know...