by Kelly Johnston
Katie Gentile is a young mother with bright golden hair and a calm demeanor that instantly makes you feel at ease. On the day we meet with her, she’d just come from the Lee’s Summit St. Patrick’s Day parade. Her daughter, Izzy, is decked out in green, including a fluffy skirt, jewelry and a giant bow in her hair. Katie’s son, Joey, is sporting a St. Patrick’s Day shirt. Katie herself got into the spirit, each of her fingers painted a different shade of green.
She sits down in the Lakeland lobby, a place she’s been coming to for close to 20 years. Her children sit down to play with assorted toys and books, although Katie’s eyes never stray far, her love for her children is evident in her words and actions.
When asked about some of her most difficult challenges, Katie reflects back to her first years after graduating from high school.
“I got married, moved away, did internships in college and came back. I was pretty much coming by myself and kind of went off and on. Having two young kids made it challenging, but it’s become easier the older they get and they love coming here.” She smiles, her gaze drifting to Izzy sitting on the couch opposite reading. “It’s awesome having them want to talk to me about God.”
She pauses and glances away, thinking about everything that’s happened in the past few years. “A friend who was like a little brother to me passed away while I was in college. He was the perfect Christian and I didn’t understand that, why God would take him and not anyone else. I would come back to Lakeland for Christmas Eve, which was always special, but it was a detour. I didn’t stop being a Christian during that time but I definitely didn’t practice my faith. But I think it also helped me to be a better Christian as an adult because all of that stuff happened in my youth. The main reason I didn’t come back when I was younger was it felt like reopening old wounds and I had a hard time picturing that not ever getting better.”
Katie breathes deeply. “I had no choice but to lean on God. I was out of options, I just remember sitting in church and crying when my divorce happened and knowing something was terribly wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it.” Her hands drift up, emphasizing her words and the pain she experienced. “But my small groups, worship and prayer were essential to me holding on to something during that time. Having something to grasp, it felt like I was grasping at straws and I was angry and upset but it helped wrap up old wounds from my youth.”
“Instead of being upset about the past I was focused on the people who had been there and the people who were there now and were supporting me, even when I didn’t ask. It was helpful and it was essential.” She shrugs her shoulders and smiles. “Sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back.”
“Cast all your anxieties on him for he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7
ABOUT MY STORIES
Every month Pastor Marta Gillilan and members of the Lakeland Social Media Team interview an individual, couple or family. From struggles in faith to joyful events, Lakelanders are sharing their stories through the “Humans of Lakeland” blog series. Get to know the people who call Lakeland home.