Author Spotlight on Blogger Katie Rouse: A Comeback From COVID
Would you believe I met Katie during COVID online? Yes, I most certainly did. There were a bunch of us. We were probably overdosing on caffeine, hiding in the bathroom from our kids, shut in, shutdown, and feeling like we’d been told to shut-up for too long. But I'll get back to that in a moment. Katie is a an avid blogger. Her readers love her because she is transparent and bleeds real on the pages of her blog. She works a daytime job in marketing, is a cat mommy, a wife, and loves Jesus.
Now more on how we met. George Floyd had just been murdered and I believe that incident just about broke us. Several women found each other, clung on tight and began screaming into the black abyss of social media. When our emotions died down we wanted to do something. Katie was one of those women and she suggested we use her blog to tell our stories. She organized and an incredible discussion of various topics and ideas formulated. We had a plan. Then Katie got COVID. She’s still pressing on and will get the rest of those stories out but in the meantime, here’s Katie’s story:
Tell us a little about your blogging life before COVID.
Before COVID, I was writing & planning extensively: I had multiple series going, including one very dear to my heart in response to the cries for justice in the streets earlier this summer. I was mapping out sharing my story of living overseas in India for two years, and my heart was filled with excitement to continue growing this little space on the internet as a place of compassion and vulnerability. However, I also had a still, small voice in those weeks that was drawing me away from all this productivity, because sometimes we build up our value & identity in our productivity, right? I was certainly in a sweet spot with my writing, and for all intents & purposes, it looked great. But I could tell my heart was disconnecting a little bit: finding more value and self-worth in this productivity than in the act of writing and finding God in these stories he was leading me to write. I was wrestling with that voice as I was being exposed to COVID.
Describe how COVID affected you, your family, health, blogging?
COVID was akin to the brakes being put in in every area of my life: life slowed down. Of course I fought some of the rest I needed by continuing to work from home, but for 4-6 weeks, I was not myself. In fact, I’m still having to grieve the loss of who I was before COVID. That may sound dramatic, but picture this: I went from working out up to 5 times a week, working at my office 8+ hours a day, writing and planning and editing posts on the weekends, playing games with my husband, etc, to not working out at all, working from the couch and taking long nap breaks, weekends spent wholly resting, and being unable to connect well with my husband due to brain fog. I was so tired from coughing and feeling like I couldn’t get a deep breath. The fatigue was the worst. I have had chronic illness and other lung infections that hospitalized me in the past, so part of me knew what to expect and knew how my body might respond, but the fatigue was surprisingly worse. I hadn’t dealt with it in years, and it was difficult. It is still difficult some days. Of course, I am very thankful that I didn’t have to go to a hospital or need oxygen, but we should not downplay this virus for anyone, because it has literally taken months to recover, and I was recently exposed for a second time and there’s not a guarantee I won’t get it again.
What did COVID teach you about your relationship with God?
The number one thing COVID taught me about my relationship with God is that he, for reasons unknown, loves to use sickness to slow me down. I’ve known that since 2012, when I was first diagnosed with Graves Disease, had a hepatitis scare, and was hospitalized for weeks. Sabbath & slowing down is not something we should ignore, especially when God uses extreme measures like a pandemic to grace us with gifts of time with family and away from many distractions our lives hold. Slowing down—even when sick—is a grace where we really get to abide with Jesus, who knows our pain and our tears. We often think of abiding as something we have to do, as another part of our to-do lists as believers. But I believe that abiding is maybe the most passive thing God calls us to: because branches don’t muster up fruit; the vine does. Branches don’t run the show; the vine does. We can trust that even when we are slowed down to a crawl in every area of our lives, and when our productivity tanks, that God is still working, still growing roots beneath us, still sending what is necessary for fruit-bearing up to the branches.
What advice can you give to other writers dealing with COVID and or loved ones battling the virus?
My number one piece of advice would be: listen to Jesus in the midst of this. I know that sounds over-spiritual, but as I was first experiencing symptoms of the virus, I was listening a lot to myself, downplaying how I felt, resisting rest, and trying to keep going. I also was comparing myself: “I shouldn’t feel bad about this because there are people dying alone in hospitals.” Jesus voice was markedly different, “I care how YOU feel.” He shot down areas of shame in me that were lying dormant for years, waiting for this moment to be loud in my heart. His voice contains no trace of shame! His is the voice we need to be listening to. Also, listen to your body. Rest when you need to. Work and play when you have some energy. Seek doctor’s advice for lingering symptoms. Our bodies, made by God, are smart and know what we need; we often just need to listen and respond.
How do you plan to commit to writing from here on in?
Just as I was beginning to feel some recovery in my body, I received an email about an upcoming writing class. Though I haven’t been as able to keep up with the weekly video calls and assignments as I would’ve liked, it has sparked some renewed writing, mostly at work, which has felt special as I used to write prolifically, simply as a way to process my emotions and the season I was in—writing that might not ever become a blog post somewhere, but is still important for both developing my voice and my story. This interview is a first step back into online writing, and my plan is to start small: share this post with my followers in an email that includes a letter from me, information about a writers’ group that a friend is starting in the new year, and maybe another post TBD. I hope to repeat that layout in December, with some Advent reflections as well, which is a normal series for my blog each year.
Are there precautions you'd recommend to those concerned about contracting the virus?
Please, wear masks & practice social distancing guidelines! Consider not gathering for the holidays with all your family. This year is my husband & I’s first holiday season as a married couple, and it is hard not going to see family, but we are using this time to develop some new traditions of our own.
Were you able to do any writing, reading, and or researching of any kind that contributed to your growth as a writer during your illness?
The Lord really provided in this season of illness & recovery different ways I could continue to write and use my gifts to grow as a writer (and marketer, which is my full-time job).
My church launched a new website and asked me to rewrite their copy, help with design, and begin writing sermon recaps each week. My good friend & yoga instructor also asked me to help her launch her new website, Google My Business page, and Google Analytics as she grows her business.
A friend and I bought a journal called Between Places, which has given me space to write out prayers and reflections each night in a hard season. Finally, like I mentioned earlier, the writing course with Leslie Leyland Fields has also helped me grow as a writer, even if I’m not publishing a thing! This all has taught me that growth is not wasted, even if it never shows up in a newsletter or post.
What is the main focus of your blog and how can people reach you to learn more?
The main focus of my blog is telling stories that matter, stories that lead others into learning about God, about themselves, about their emotions, and about their lives as a whole. You can find my blog here: https://bit.ly/3pwfKM7 And follow me on Instagram for more frequent stories & updates (and fun memes, too): https://www.instagram.com/katie.rose.rouse/
Do you have a day job and if so, what is it?
I am a full-time Marketing Manager for several car dealerships in the Nashville/Middle TN area! It is a stressful, hard job, but it was provided 100% by God because I did not go to school for this. Everything I’ve learned has been through experience and practice. I love what I do for our large company, but I also love helping other smaller businesses and churches grow their marketing, SEO, and advertising as well. God has shown that as a big piece of my purpose in the last several months.
Tell us a little about your family.
I am originally from outside of Knoxville, TN, with my parents & 3 older siblings. My sister and parents live very close to each other, but once I graduated high school, I’ve always been the one further away, whether in Mississippi for school, somewhere in the States or abroad doing mission work, and now living in Nashville, TN. In 2019, I met my now-husband, Chris, on a dating app, and we were married in February 2020, weeks before the world shut down in the beginning of the pandemic. We are thankful for all the extra time together, but miss traveling and seeing our family & friends. My husband works in the freelance entertainment industry, which has taken a major hit this year due to COVID, but God has provided a temporary job and a few freelance gigs along the way. We enjoy working out, taking walks, playing games, and just adopted a cat named Simmer!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Thank you so much for this opportunity to share some of my story as a writer going through COVID! I hope it has encouraged you in your journey. You can find Katie at www.katierousewrites.com she would love to hear from you! Here are a few additional places to find her writing: Leslie Leyland Fields - http://www.leslieleylandfields.com/blog Between Places Journal - https://www.smaywilsonshop.com/thebetweenplaces