If you grew up in the church (and especially church within the Bible Belt), then you know the hype that surrounds the annual Vacation Bible School. Oh, VBS. VBS was hot summer mornings in which you woke up excited to go to church, ready to sing and dance along with the music and learn Bible stories and watch mission videos and bring extra change you find in between the couch cushions so you could put it in the girl or boy money jars (because declaring victory in the battle of the genders was important even at the age of 9).
But VBS is more than the fun times and the innocent joys of youth. It is an opportunity to teach God’s children about having a relationship with Him. And in the summer of 2008, I made the decision to give my heart to Jesus and follow Him. I quickly got baptized to declare that I had made this decision and became a new creation in Christ.
But even at 9 years old, I was far from different. I really can’t remember what exactly I was thinking when I got saved. I only knew that I had been saved–a phrase that, in that context and at that young of an age, was only a phrase. It brought excitement and joy, for sure. But my young mind did not understand the difference between the religion I had grew up with and the relationship I had thought I had just obtained.
Three years later, on January 3, 2011, I understood this difference a little better when the local churches of my community hosted a revival. The speaker really spoke to my heart that night, and even though I stood up among those who had decided to follow Jesus just then, I was already saved. This night was a rededication to my walk with God that I hadn’t really committed to since getting saved at VBS three years prior.
I was on fire for God. My middle school years saw a love for God and His Word that I had never seen before and would not see, sadly, for the next few years. But before I talk about these lost years, let me paint you a picture of middle school.
Middle school in terms of my spiritual walk meant church camps in the summer. It meant school days starting in the quiet, enveloping darkness of 5 a.m., huddled by the light of a closet as I opened God’s Word and read. I delighted in His Word. Delighted in the early, quiet stillness of the morning. I was in love with God.
Also at this time, I hated seeing these people in my church whom I judgmentally called hypocrites. I saw them sit down in the pew and act like faithful, loving Christians when I knew they didn’t open their Bibles at all during the rest of the week. I wanted to tell them, to scream at them (middle school Kaylee may have had quite the temper) the error of their ways and to scream the truth of the Gospel at them. I couldn’t stand their hypocrisy, but I wanted to help them, too. I wanted them to abandon the religion for the relationship, just as I had.
In an ironic twist of fate, I became the person I despised.
But thankfully, God turns ashes into beauty.
To this day, I cannot tell you what changed freshman year of high school. Looking back, I could see the start of the depression that clawed at me and dragged me down junior year. So, high school was basically a complete opposite of middle school. I went through the motions. I pushed myself into my studies at school. I continued to go to church (as one does in a church-going family), and I also continued to serve in the church by participating in the praise band.
But I wasn’t anything more than a smile plastered on a depressed soul.
I hated myself for daring to go up on stage and sing these songs about God and His goodness, for daring to sit in front of His people and lead them in worship when my heart was empty and apathetic.
Freshmen year of college wasn’t that much different. By the time the spring semester ended, I had realized how deep my depression had become. This was the point in which I looked back on my high school years and realized that I was plagued by depression even then. At the time, I even had written a poem entitled “Invisible” that went like this: “And when these days–heck, even weeks–overwhelm me, I just want to crawl in a hole and talk to no one and think of nothing. I want to sleep for a thousand years.”
I mean, honestly–the depression was right in front of my face. I could smell it, taste it, feel it. But I couldn’t recognize it.
But thank God for His goodness! The summer after freshman year saw me dogsitting for one of my professors. I spent five weeks alone in her apartment–no other living beings except me and the dog. God knew I needed this alone time. And He, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, turned my life around.
At this point, I had been driving home every Sunday (my college was not even an hour’s drive from my hometown) to play keyboard for the praise band. It was a habit of mine to just hang out on the stage and read before the worship service, so I never did go to Sunday school. I didn’t want to. I was so spiritually calloused at this point that the thought of sitting in Sunday school and listening was boring and painful enough.
But luckily, the leader for the college/career class approached me and invited me. At that point, I couldn’t really say no, could I?
So I went.
And within the first few minutes, he said something that caught my attention. And then a book that our former pastor had written randomly popped into my mind. Intrigued, and knowing my dad had a copy, I returned home and asked to borrow it. Later that night, as I lay in bed and read through the first pages, one verse caught my attention. I turned to the passage it was in, and God convicted me and changed my heart:
“Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:4-6).
I remember being so terrified of being the withering branch that is thrown away. That night, I repented. I repented of the apathy that I had been drowning in for years and that had led to the depression. I asked for guidance as I started to walk with Him again. I thanked Him for saving me and for bringing me back to Him.
Y’all, the spiritual high I felt after this moment . . . it was absolutely amazing. It felt like those spiritual highs after church camp. It felt like those spiritual highs I would get when waking up in the early morning.
I dove into His Word. I fell in love with Him and His Word all over again. I wanted to dive in His Word and never leave. I wanted every detail.
But Satan was waiting for me to stumble–and stumble I did when he threw an old distraction my way (I won’t go into any details just because . . . well, honestly I’m just not ready to share that distraction yet. But maybe I will . . . one day).
By the time school started in August, I was stuck in apathy again. And a cycle began. Apathy in fall, depression and apathy in spring, spritiual revival in summer. Apathy in the fall when school started.
At this point, it’s December 2019. I honestly can’t remember what God used to bring me back to Him, but I remember just being ready to stop with the apathy and depression. At the start of the year, I committed to walking with God and reading His Word each morning. And I can happily say that by His great grace, I still am today. I didn’t fall into depression again this past spring. I’ve fallen in love with God more than I have in the past (even more than my middle school spiritual high), and God has been teaching me so many things that have, honestly, made my life so much more peaceful, content, and joyous.
He is teaching me to be contently planted in Him. Just as the vine and the branches passage is central to my salvation and my walk with Him, so is learning to let Him plant me in this present moment, in whatever season He has me in. He is planting me in who He is, and I am producing so much more fruit than ever. He is convicting me of things I should have been convicted of long ago. He is teaching me to be still, to be quiet, to know that He is God. He is teaching me to be content in each and every moment, even when contentment is not the first emotion I feel, because He. Is. God.
Why wouldn’t I be content when I’m spending time with Him?
So, this is my testimony. This is my journey so far. I have traveled from being on fire for God to being an apathetic and depressed hypocrite to being on fire for God again. And although there have been rocky spots, I am only here because of God’s love and grace. I am only contently planted because of His unfailing love and faithfulness.
It is my prayer that through this testimony of mine and through this blog that God will contently plant you as well. That He will revive your hunger and thirst for Him and His Word, knowing that you are loved and that He always cares for you.
May we live a life that is always contently planted in Him.