For most of my life, I heard over and over again these phrases: “Mary Cate, you’re so nice,” “You’re so motherly and nurturing,” “You’re so sweet.” And while I totally agree these are facets of my character, and very sweet gifts that God has given me in personality, it got to the point where I started wanting to punch the next person in the face who told me that. Because it’s not all that I am.

I wanted people to tell me I was funny, and smart, and creative, and even hot. Just anything but sweet and motherly. I am not a big fluffy marshmallow. I am a woman—creative, fiery, kind, gracious, intelligent, etc.

And I think this happens often. We mean well, but we push one another into one specific role, and declare “this is who you are” without even considering who we’re talking to. We are trying to play God, and that is not our job. The fact is that we need people to love and serve in their own ways, in the ways God created them to serve and love. We need to let people be themselves and stop pegging them into certain categories. And that looks different for everyone.

I’m marrying a man who wants to work in full-time ministry, and yes that means I’m signing up for a life of full-time ministry too. But Colton is also marrying a writer and a teacher, and that means he gets to partner with my callings too. There will be seasons where one of our dreams is at the forefront, and the other one will have to wait and cheer us on. And vise versa. But that’s the beauty of marriage. We’re always laying down ourselves bring life to the dreams of the other. When we are both doing that, God comes in and blesses us more than we ever thought He would. It really doesn’t make sense, but it’s good. It’s the beauty of the Gospel. Death bringing forth life. Again and again and again.

And I could go on for a while, but here’s the truth: this is ministry. My life is a ministry. I am not confined to a church building or a children’s ministry or a certain character trait that someone speaks over me. It’s me again and again saying yes to God in the ways He is speaking to me. It’s fanning into flame the gifts that He’s given (2 Timothy 1:6)

Here are some things I now know about myself and a few things  I need to keep remembering:

I am an artist. I have to create. I need to be around beauty, to see it, to hear it, to feel it, to create it and write it and express it and manifest it myself. And this is not an airbrushed magazine beauty; this is not a commercialized beauty or a flawless body beauty. It’s messy, and it’s emotional, and colorful, and full of bits that I don’t really understand. It’s offensive to some and scary to others, but for a few, it does something that breaks through the mundane and offers a chance to breathe and see again.

I am a feeler. Which probably comes with the art thing. I need to feel things deeply, both the good things and the bad things, in order to create. In order to meet with Jesus. In order to become whole and more of myself. It’s like a plant that sits in a closet—I will die shut up in there. I need to be planted deep in the soil, need to soak up the rain and savor the sunshine. I need the clear air. I need the breath of God.

I am so many things, so many things that I don’t even know yet. There are facets of my character that have not developed that I’ve yet to explore. It’s like a diamond. Or a cave full of tunnels. We are complex beings. There’s much that we have yet to see. We can stay up near the mouth of the cave where we can see, or we can grab our headlamp and crawl around in the dark and discover new things. We can grow.

And I don’t know about you, but I want to keep growing. I want to become more of myself. My friend Kayla said to me, “You must be more of who you are.” Because who I am is good. Who I am is necessary. When I am fully myself, it blesses Colton; it blesses my friends. It heals me. It’s a fragrant offering to God. And being myself brings a little more life into the world. Being fully myself pushes back against the darkness in the world.

And the same is true for you. Are you holding back parts of yourself that you know you need to share? Has someone spoken over you that you’re not something when the truth is that you are? Are you waiting to become something or do something beautiful? Why are you waiting? Why are you holding back?

We need you to be who you fully are. The world is waiting. That song in your heart, that piece that’s bursting into being as your paintbrush hits the canvas, that meal you prepared for a hurting friend, the way you love to listen, we need those parts of you. You cannot keep them in. It’s my joy to let them out, to watch God take your fishes and loaves and breathe on them and feed the hungry.

You must be more of who you are, for who you are is good.

It’s your reflection of God piercing the flesh of a dark and hurting world.