100 Hopes for our Daughter

Since I’m around teenage girls all day, I see the struggles they face and am already worried about our daughter’s teen years.  Will she have loyal friends?  Will she have confidence?  Will she have acne?  Will she love God?  Will she trust me?

She’s 6 months in the womb and already I’m concerned that she’ll never get asked to a dance and girls will be mean to her.  Instead of focusing on the multitude of fears that can be quite daunting at times, I’m choosing to focus on my hopes for our daughter.  I started with 10 and it grew to 100.  Sorry.  Turns out I’m overflowing with hope for her.

100 Hopes

1) I hope she loves Jesus and tacos and Anne of Green Gables.

2) I hope she goes on wild adventures.

3) I hope she gets her dad’s blue eyes but not his broad shoulders.

4) I hope she laughs so hard she sometimes pees her pants… like her mom.

5) I hope she grows into a confident, joyful girl who never doubts that she is loved.

6) I hope she finds friends to laugh with about boogers and poop and make-up and boys.

7) I hope these friends love Jesus too- that they are there on her wedding day and praying for her on her hard days.  And when she is pregnant for the first time, I hope these friends tell her all the gory details of childbirth as my own friends have done.  (I’m assuming I’ll have blocked all that nastiness from my memory.  Mucus plug?!? Are you kidding me?!?)

8) I hope she is kind and offers comfort to those hurting around her.

9) I hope she is brave and stands up to the bullies of this world.

10) I hope she loves to read.

11) I hope she can laugh at herself and make others laugh, but never at the expense of someone else.

12) I hope she gets her dad’s creativity and singing abilities.

13) I hope she dances and sings in the car…even if she gets my singing abilities.

14) I hope she makes strangers smile.

15) I hope she learns to cast her cares at Jesus’ feet, to go to him when she is weary and burdened and there find rest for her soul.

16) I hope she can cross her eyes and make a mean double-chin.

17) I hope she loves waking up Sunday mornings to Rich Mullins…and I hope that like me and her aunt Heidi, she thinks she’s “rapping” when she sings Awesome God. 

18) I hope she is humble but takes pride in her work.

19) I hope she has siblings and is a compassionate, only SEMI-bossy big sister.

20) I hope she keeps a diary… so I can secretly read it.

21) I hope she learns to care more about God’s opinion of her than the opinions of other teens. Because teenagers can be mean… and sometimes stupid.  And God is neither.

22) I hope that like her dad, she loves to learn for the sake of learning, not just for A’s.

23) I hope that like me, she loves airports and Narnia and reality tv.

24) I  hope she takes my “peer pressure” song to heart and doesn’t give in.  (Because really, “peer pressure, peer pressure- what does it do?  It squeezes the Jesus right out of you!”)

25) I hope she never feels entitled to an easy life.

26) I hope she realizes every good thing in her life is a gift from her God.

27) I hope she daily catches glimpses of His glory and marvels at the nearness of His Spirit.

28) I hope she’s not allergic to dogs.

29) I hope she finds true contentment in who God has made her to be….zits and all.  (Because let’s face it, with my skin issues she is destined to have acne or warts or eczema or maybe all three.  Sorry, sweetie!)

30) I hope she has thick skin and doesn’t let the mean words said to her or about her touch her heart.

31) I hope she is careful with her words and her wit, spreading words of encouragement not slander.

32) I hope she finds her identity in being a daughter of the king, not in her looks or grades or abilities or popularity.

33) I hope her friends are quirky and appreciate all the junk food in our pantry.

34) I hope she is continually awed by the ocean and sunsets and mountain peaks.

35) I hope she doesn’t like tuna in her mac n’ cheese…because that’s how Paul wants to make it for our children and I am firmly against it.

36) I hope she is full of questions… and isn’t afraid to ask us the hard ones.

37) I hope she isn’t obsessed with her looks and doesn’t take a gazillion selfies.

38) I hope she is quick to apologize and quick to forgive.

39) I hope she is salt and light in this cruel, dark world.

40) I hope she loves to camp and isn’t a wuss about peeing in the woods.

41) I hope she is proud to be an American.

42) I hope she travels the world and discovers a planet much grander than just the good ol’ US of A.

43) I hope she thinks beer is as gross as I do.

44) I hope she appreciates Disney movies from the 90’s.

45) I hope she notices the wallflowers of the this world and makes them feel seen.

46) I hope boys don’t notice her until she’s 31.  Worked out well for me.

47) I hope her future husband loves Jesus and is kind and humble and brilliant and goofy- just like her dad.

48) I hope the B-I-B-L-E really is the book for her.

49) I hope she gets the Hardeman toes as well as our love of basketball and missions.  When she sees her great-grandparents trotting around the globe, sharing Christ’s love, I hope she is inspired to join in.

50) I hope she gets the Van Dyk work ethic and when she sees her great-grandparents painting and hiking and even pushing a massive rototiller around the yard, I hope she’s inspired to work a little harder on her math homework.

51) I hope she realizes her large and sometimes, okay OFTEN,  embarrassing family is a gift.

52) I hope this glorious family rubs off on her in all the right ways.

53) I hope she is laid-back like her Bumpa and learns from him how to never take life too seriously and always make God her first priority.

54) I hope she is generous like her Grandma Hardeman and disciplined like her in reading her Bible every morning….preferably not with coffee until she’s at least in college.

55) I hope she has an unshakable faith like her Aunt Heidi, that she prays as hard and gets a tiny bit of her fashion sense.  (But not too much or else we’ll go broke.)

56) I hope she is thoughtful and has a servant’s heart like her Uncle Dan.

57) I hope she is sensitive to the needs of others like her cousin Vander.

58) I hope she is studly but unselfish on the basketball court, just like her cousin Hudson.

59) I hope she lights up a room with her joy like her cousin Logan.

60) I hope she is curious and cuddly like her cousin Lincoln.

61) I hope she loves dogs as much as her Uncle Trav and laughs as easily and often as he.

62) I hope she has a heart for Africa like her Aunt Emma and shares her compassion for the broken and hurting people in our world.

63) I hope her cousin Cami teaches her how to be the best big sister.

64) I hope her cousin Corbin shows her the joy of shooting hoops and copying her dad.

65) I hope she’s as adorable as her cousin Denver- one of the few babies who didn’t look like an alien.

66) I hope she’s competitive and bold like her Uncle Trent…but never punches a teammate.

67) I hope she’s hardcore yet girly like her Aunt Teri and can open coke cans with her toes.

68) I hope she wears a constant smile like her Grandma Van Dyk and inherits her love of art and snorkeling and finding adventures on mundane days.

69) I hope she gets her tech skills from her Grandpa Van Dyk and learns to pay attention to detail like he does.

70) I hope she learns to speak Spanish like her Aunt Alyssa and studies as hard as she did in school.  Who knows, her brother may end up marrying her high school teacher one day…

71) I hope she loves board games as much as her Uncle Ryan and is a faithful sibling like him, always there to help her family.

72) I hope family is important to her and even when she’d rather hang out with friends, she chooses us.

73) I hope she joins me in the anti-pickle club….Paul is already plotting how to win her over to his pickle-loving ways.

74) I hope she trusts God, even when life is hard and doesn’t make sense at all.

75) I hope she trusts her parents, even when we say “No” and she wants to strangle us.

76) I hope she is honest…. but when she lies, I hope she is confesses quickly.

77) I hope she experiences great success… but when she fails, I hope she learns and grows from her failure.

78) I hope she is patient with the annoying people in her life.

79) I hope she doesn’t think I’m annoying.

80) I hope she is a loyal friend and refuses to gossip.

81) I hope she’ll sunbathe with me but always wear sunblock.

82) I hope she is filled with the peace that surpasses human understanding.

83) I hope she’s a better driver than I was at 16.

84) I hope she’s faster at doing chores than her dad.

85) I hope she gets stronger teeth than both her parents. (Can that even happen?)

86) I hope she is wise.

87) I hope she’s not quick to judge those who are different from her.

88) Instead, I hope she appreciates different perspectives and is willing to learn from people who don’t look or live or think like her.

89) I hope she loves ice cream as much as her parents do.

90) I hope she can whistle like her dad and do cartoon voices like her mom.

91) I hope she has a resting nice face.

92) I hope she never sees war but is ready to fight the daily spiritual battle.

93) When she’s lonely or sad, when her grief is heavy and hard, I hope she always runs to  Jesus… and then to me.

94) I hope she can see through the liars and schemers who may try to take advantage of her.

95) I hope she appreciates hummingbirds and mangoes and a good hammock.

96) I hope she wrestles with God about Hell and suffering and why He seems silent at times.

97) I hope she learns to trust that God is loving and just…even when His ways are mysterious.

98) I hope she gets a scholarship to college…because it is DANG expensive.

99) I hope she loves dancing in the kitchen to “oldies” tunes.

And finally,

100) I hope she too is overflowing with hope… and that this hope in Christ anchors her and enables her to smile and sing even in the darkest of storms.


When Football Makes You Cry

Football season is officially over and I am not one bit sad about it.  Monday nights just got a heck of a lot more entertaining now that Monday Night Football has been replaced by Monday Night Bachelor.  (Go, Lauren B!)

Despite my apathy towards football, there was one game this season that I’ll probably never forget.  Actually, just one play from one game.

You’ll probably never guess the game or the play so I’ll just show it to you.  It starts at 1:35.

Did you watch it?  If you didn’t, go back and watch it.  It’s only a minute and you need to see this “Holy mackerel, what a play!” moment.

Just to be clear, I don’t care about UCLA or ASU football.  Couldn’t care less who won the game.  But this play happened four months ago, and I can still see myself sitting on the couch next to Paul watching it for the first time.  Crying big fat tears.

Paul heard me sniffle, looked over at the tears streaming down my cheeks and and laughed.  Because really- who cries during a football game that you care nothing about?

But I tend to think in metaphors.

So while everyone else saw Kalen Ballage scoring a remarkable touchdown, I saw myself.  I know it seems ridiculous.  I mean, at first glance, Kalen and I don’t seem to share much in common other than our pierced ears and wrinkly foreheads:

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 8.31.18 AM

But God was teaching me a very important lesson through Kalen’s touchdown.

The announcer said, “You get the sense that all the frustration from a disappointing opening four weeks of the season, was taken out on that one run…”

When I watched this game, I was sitting on our couch in the middle of my own very disappointing season.  I was sad and frustrated with life and angry with God. So very angry with Him.

But I wasn’t alone in my sadness.  And God used this touchdown to remind me that I wasn’t alone.

Kalen Ballage could not have scored this touchdown on his own.  Left to his own devices, UCLA would have pummeled him easily.  He was surrounded by gold helmets.  Three of the enemy were trying to pull him down and he was stuck running backwards.  Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 8.42.19 AM

He should have been tackled.

At that point in the year, I too felt surrounded by the enemy- His lies were so loud and my sadness was so painful.

I should have been tackled.

But Kalen wasn’t just surrounded by his enemies.  His friends were there too.  His friends came from every side and PUSHED him towards his goal:

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 8.27.57 AM

I saw those giants surrounding Kalen, shoving him towards the end zone, and instantly thought of these girls:

They are not quite as beefy, but during my sadness, they refused to let the enemy have the last word. They surrounded me with words of comfort and encouragement and prayer.   They talked me through the pain and pushed me towards God right when I was feeling betrayed by Him.

Plus, they can be pretty tough when they need to be:


And when Kalen was struggling to stay on his feet, when he was about to stumble just short of his goal, one friend grabbed him in a bear hug of an embrace, kept him upright, and literally pulled him into the end zone.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 8.29.41 AM

I watched this play and didn’t see Kody Kohl helping his friend score a touchdown.

No, I saw my sister grabbing me around the waist and refusing to let me fall into sadness and loneliness.  She forced me to stay on my feet, to keep going and to fall into the arms of God.

And look at Kalen’s friends celebrating afterwards:

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 8.42.39 AM

This victory was not Kalen’s alone.

It belonged to all those guys who refused to give up on him.  When they ran to embrace Kalen and celebrate with him afterwards, I was in full blown sobs because I hadn’t reached that victory yet.

I wasn’t celebrating God’s goodness.

But as I watched those giant men dance and hug and rejoice, I realized that one day that would be me and my friends.  One day, I too would be celebrating.

At that point in my life, I was still running precariously backwards, being pulled by the enemy and close to stumbling.  But I was supported by my friends and the end zone was in sight.

Today, I am celebrating.

Today I have experienced the thrill of victory- of clinging to God even when His ways seem wrong and confusing.  But back in October, when I didn’t have victory yet, God was reminding me that celebration was coming.  I wasn’t alone and the team He had handpicked for me wasn’t going to let me fall.

My team is not a bunch of burly men with bulging biceps, but they are still pretty dang hardcore:photo-3

I am who I am today because these girls force me to keep after my goal and keep pursuing my God, even during disappointing seasons.

I hope that you too are supported by a team of people who will not let you fall.  I hope that you have friends and family around you who will keep you on your feet and push and pull you towards Jesus in those moments when you feel like walking away.  And I hope that you realize these teammates are a sweet gift from God.

One of His sweetest gifts, if you ask me.

How Our Puppy is Preparing us for Parenthood

Paul is a planner.  He’s a little bit of a freak about it.  Like before we even got pregnant, in his mind he had already constructed our future child’s lemonade stand.  And before he had proposed, we had already picked out dog names and planned to get our first dog when our youngest child turned three.

Me?  I’m not so much a planner.  I often drive to school in the morning and think, “What should I teach today?”

And sometimes I can even be a plan-destroyer.  I decided I couldn’t wait all those years for a dog and searched the internet until I found the perfect chocolate lab puppy that would be ready for us to take home the day after Christmas.  We paid our deposit and then I got pregnant.  Now we’ll have a giant puppy right when our first born arrives.  So much for our original plans.Snapseed-3

(Can you handle this cuteness?!?  Paul would probably want you to know that he is burning his Seahawk gear and has already purchased Rams swag. We finally have a home team!)

Teddy came home with us on December 26, and I quickly discovered that having a puppy when you are a kid is very different from having a puppy when you are an adult.  The puppy experience is drastically different when you are the one in charge- the one responsible for all the poop and discipline.

Even though I wanted to strangle him this morning after he destroyed Paul’s headphones and then pooped on the carpet, Teddy is so stinking cute that I can never stay mad at him for long.  When I talk to my friends who are moms about our adorable little terror, they laugh and tell me about their adorable little terrors and how this is perfect practice for parenthood.  I’ve never had kids (duh), so I don’t know how accurate this list is, but based on my conversations with my mom friends here are

10 ways Teddy is preparing us for parenthoodSnapseed-2

1. We have to deal with someone else’s poop.

Poop is just plain nasty.  Even when it comes out of your own butt.  But touching another’s poop?  There is something fundamentally wrong with this situation.

Early one morning when it was still dark out, Teddy whined to get out of his crate.  I let him outside and pet him, only to discover his fur felt strangely sticky because he had gone diarrhea during the night and rolled around in it.  You guys, the sun wasn’t even up yet and I had puppy poop all over my hands.

So. Very. Wrong.

I rolled up my sleeves and ran the bath, because sometimes you just do what you gotta do.  And bathing a poop-covered creature at 5 AM felt like something only a mother would do.

I know I’ll have to deal with baby poop in the middle of the night, but there is no way baby poop can smell as horrific as dog poop, right?  Please say right.

2. Paul and I have to compromise.

We were raised on different ends of the spectrum when it comes to dogs.  His dog stayed outside most of the time.  My dogs slept in my bed with me.  So we knew there were going to be issues.  We’ve compromised and let Teddy in the house when we’re home, but not on the furniture.

We are realizing that the way you were raised seems like the norm, like the best and only way things should be done, so I’m sure there will be thousands of times we have to compromise when it comes to raising children.  For instance, Paul likes tuna in his mac n cheese because that’s how his mom made it.



Double Ew.

I informed him our children will only have that meal if he makes it and I am not home.

See?  Compromise.

3. We no longer can sleep in. 

Somehow my mom ears have already developed and I hear Teddy wake up when he’s across the house with the door closed.  He’s never slept past 7 AM, which means I, in turn, will never sleep past 7 AM.  Ever again.  It’s a little depressing so I try not to think about it.

Paul, on the other hand, can sleep through a tornado.  Probably even a sharknado.  I’m glad I discovered this cute little quirk of his now, so I won’t be expecting any help from him until the sun is up.  Thankfully, I am turning into a morning person and don’t mind cuddling my puppy in the backyard while the sun rises.

However, when I’m trying to cuddle Teddy AND a baby at 6 AM, things could get dicey.

4. We are in charge of someone else’s sleep schedule.

Since I get up with Teddy in the morning, Paul puts him to bed.  We never read PuppyWise, but we’ve got this sleep thing pretty much figured out.  The first night, Paul whistled a lullaby to calm down our poor pup since he was in an unfamiliar place.  Now Paul can whistle that tune from anywhere in the house and Teddy will walk to his crate and put himself to sleep.

Kids should be able to do this at 3 months as well, yeah?

5. All hell breaks loose the hour before dinner. 

Paul gets home at 6 and from 5-6, Teddy is a complete nightmare.  He attacks me and everything in the house and needs attention every single moment.  Almost every day I find myself yelling, “STOP DRIVING ME CRAZY!” I call it the “hour of rascal” and in telling my mom friends about it, I discovered this is not just a puppy thing.

I was talking to Jenny during the hour of rascal and while she heard me wrestling with Teddy and telling him to stop biting my head, I heard tears on her side of the line and, “Mom. Mom. Mom.  Mooooooom!”  She informed me that she calls 5-6 PM the “witching hour”- the hour before dinner when everyone and everything falls apart.

At what age can you start locking your kids in the backyard during this hour?  Teddy doesn’t seem to mind.

6. We are learning how to discipline.  

Paul is in the alpha dog in our house.  We all know it.  Teddy seems to think that he and I, on the other hand, are on the same level. This is why he’s an angel for Paul but jumps all over me and only eats my shoes. Paul coaches me on how to be firm but he still catches me saying in a quiet voice, “Ouch Teddy, please don’t bite me.  That really hurts.”

Hopefully Paul doesn’t plan on pinning our children to the ground and yanking them by their neck skin.  And hopefully I learn to be more consistent in setting boundaries and saying “no.”

Kids won’t bite me though, will they?  Or chew my shoes?

7. We experienced the joys of potty training. 

And by “joys” I mean horrors.

My friend Amy was potty training her son the same time we were potty training Teddy.  She would sit in the bathroom with Jeremiah for 30 minutes and endure the stank of kid farts, while we would shiver in the backyard, waiting for Teddy to finally do his business.  While Amy was cleaning poopy undies, we were cleaning poopy carpets.  Amy would cheer every time Jeremiah went on the potty, and we would give Teddy treats and praise every time he went pee outside.

Though he still has an occasional accident, Teddy was basically trained after a few weeks.  I’m hoping it’s this easy with toddlers.

8. Our house is a disaster.

Our cute little house was always so tidy when it was just the two of us.  Now there are chunks of wood and rocks and bits of leaves scattered over every carpet and floor. There are rawhides and sticks strewn about every room and bits of chewed up toilet paper littering every hallway in the house.  Corners on our cabinets are gnawed off and our carpets are stained from pee puddles.  We thought we had “Teddy-proofed” the house before we brought him home.  How were we to know he would climb in the bathtub and chew on the drain? Nobody told us dogs can pull baseboards off the wall!

Teddy has taught us to hold loosely to our physical possessions.  But hopefully this baby won’t be so destructive.

9. We have become no machines.

And by that, I mean we say “no” all the time.  I would guess about 500 times a day.

Teddy pulls the entire roll of toilet paper off the roll. NO!

Teddy dashes outside when we open the front door.  NO!

Teddy tries to jump on the couch.  NO!

Teddy sneaks laundry from the hamper.  NO!

Teddy chews on the carpet, the couch, the cabinets. NO! NO! NO!

You get the idea. I remember when I was younger I used to think my dad was a “no” machine too.

Can Megan spend the night on Tuesday?


Can I spend the night at her house on Tuesday?


Can I have three scoops of ice cream?


My mom, on the other hand, was the “yes”  machine.  If you really needed a “yes,” you always went to Mom.  And if she responded with, “Ask your dad,” you knew she was actually saying “no.”

Now that I’m older, I see that my parents may have said “no” a lot, but they said “yes” to all the right things.

Yes, we will provide you with a childhood where you will feel safe and loved.

Yes, we will let you ditch school and go to Disneyland for your birthday.

Yes, we will send you to the Philippines so you can visit your grandparents and experience the world.

Yes, we will let you invite 20 screaming girls over for a slumber party.

Yes, we will let you sleep in some Sundays and have family church at home.

Yes, we will drive you to thousands of basketball practices and rebound for you in the backyard.

Yes, we will get you ANOTHER cat because your last one ran away.

Yes, we will buy you those cool new overalls so you feel like you fit in.

Yes, we will take you and your friends to the mall, to the movies, and to late-night tp adventures.

Yes, we will get you a car when you turn 16.

Yes, we will watch a movie with you on Friday night because all your friends are busy and you’re feeling forgotten.

Yes, we will help you pay for college so you can go to your dream school.

Yes, you can move back in with us after college because housing in California is crazy expensive.

Yes. Yes. Yes. To all the right things.

For some reason the “no’s” sounded a lot louder than the “yes’s” when I was little, but now I realize all those “no’s” were for a reason.  They were for my good.

My parents were drawing boundary lines with every “no” they said.  And once I knew my boundaries, I found a life full of freedom and full of “yes’s”.  So even though I am getting pretty stinking tired of saying, “NO!” every time Teddy opens the closet and finds my shoes or steals my dirty underwear from the hamper, my own parents taught me that we all need to hear a LOT of “no’s” so we know where the boundary lines are.

They taught me that good, loving parents must be willing to say “no” a thousand times so that they can say “yes” to the things that really matter. I’m learning to do that now with Teddy so I can set boundaries for my kids too.  And if I just can’t say “no” one more time, I can always tell them to ask their dad.

10. Our little guy is growing up so fast.

When people say this about their kids, I often think, “Actually, they look very similar to the last time I saw them.” But now I know what they mean.  Teddy seems to double in size nearly overnight.  He’s so cute and cuddly and I’m sure I’m super annoying with how much I gush over him.  I mean, the first night we brought him home, I sent my family this picture:IMG_4204

(Yep, that’s Teddy’s first poop in our house)

Isn’t that a parent’s job, though? Not to document when their children defecate in the house, but to be proud of them and see past their faults and get overly excited about every milestone in their lives.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have gone overboard with the Teddy pics.  Based on the number of pictures I’ve posted of our dog in the last month (19), I fear I may become that mom who posts WAY too many pictures of her kids.  You may want to consider unfollowing me come August 15…

And just so the last picture you think of isn’t Teddy’s poop, here’s the difference a month makes:IMG_4848

There is No Peace on Earth (Part 2)

Last week Tuesday I read a devotion to my homeroom that I had written 3 years ago.  Entitled, “There is No Peace on Earth,” the post was written is response to the Sandy Hook shooting.  I read it to the class on Tuesday because my heart was once again heavy with the burdens of this world.  How was I to know that come Wednesday afternoon, it would get even heavier? How was I to know the words I had written 3 years prior would take on new meaning just a few hours later?

On Tuesday I read to my class about the lack of peace on this planet because it seems like lately we’ve been talking about tragedy on a daily basis.  Lately we’ve been praying for victims recovering and for loved ones grieving almost every week.

Today’s world has been crippled by sin and is crumbling from all the violence.

It is a world full of car bombs and suicide bombers, ISIS and Boko Haram, stabbings and shootings, evil and hatred.

It is a world so broken and so hurt, many live in fear and will turn away people in desperate need of refuge because of a fear of terrorism in their own neighborhoods.

It’s a world where Paris and Mali and Beruit and Colorado Springs are suddenly violent and terrifying places.

On Wednesday we added San Bernardino to that list.  And today we add Chad.

When will it stop, God?!? When?

Here are the words I read to my students on Tuesday:

When the sorrow reaches the marrow and the heart is twisted with grief, this is the hope I cling to: it won’t always be like this.  His kingdom WILL come one day.  One day He WILL wipe the tears and restore this broken world to what it was intended to be.  Oh how I long for that kingdom.

In the midst of sorrow and tragedy, Longfellow wrote about peace.  He wrote about Jesus bringing peace to the earth even when it seems like there is none.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Tonight it does seem as if “there is no peace on earth.”  It does seem like “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth.”

But Longsfellow saw past the sorrow to the place where God still reigns.

And we can too.

Hallelujah that “God is not dead.  Nor doth He sleep.”

Hallelujah that one day “the wrong shall fail and the right will prevail.”

Hallelujah that one day there truly will be peace on earth.

Because one day His kingdom WILL come.

And days like today make me long for it all the more.

Three years later, and I’m still talking with my classes about how it seems like there is no peace on earth.

Three years later, and I’m still singing hallelujah that God has brought peace into our hearts, that He is not dead nor doth he sleep.

Three year later, and I’m still longing for Jesus to come back and fix this messed up world once and for all.

This morning I read Psalm 145 and was reminded that God sees the brokenness of our world.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

God hears our cries and has compassion on us.  He watches over us and promises to one day destroy the wicked.  And He offers us a kingdom very different from the world in which we now live.  A kingdom free from terrorism.

Free from fear.

Free from violence.

Free from sin.

Oh what a kingdom that will be!!

Come, Lord Jesus.


When Disneyland is free

IMG_3817Paul and I recently took our two oldest nephews to Disneyland for their birthdays and had the best time.  No really.  This was thee best time I have ever had at the park as an adult.

I loved Disney as a kid, but the magic had worn off by the time I was out of college.  The long lines, huge crowds, and overpriced food didn’t make up for three minutes of thrills on Space Mountain.

I never understood why grown adults without kids would fork over piles of money to stand in lines and fight crowds all day.  But when my mom offered Paul and I two free day-passes, we gladly accepted them.  I may hate lines but I am a sucker for anything that’s free.

What Paul and I discovered on this particular trip to the magic kingdom is that going to Disneyland for free is an entirely different experience than going to Disneyland for a hundred bucks.  When Disneyland is free, every single moment of joy is a bonus.  We didn’t pay for the moment because we paid for nothing.  We didn’t deserve it so it became even sweeter.

When Disneyland is free, the long lines aren’t so bothersome.  Ninety-minute wait for Space Mountain? We’ll pass.  We don’t need to ride it this time.  Sixty-minute wait for Star Tours?  We’ll get a fast-pass and speed to the front of that line because Paul is a total Star Wars dork.  Half-hour line for a corn dog?  No worries.  Sometimes a $9 corn dog is worth the wait.  And we’ll eat our giant fried treats while we wait in line for the Matterhorn.

The crowds were in full Disney force that day but instead of being annoyed, we had a competition to see who could find the most groups wearing matching clothes.  This was only problematic when Hudson pointed, WITH BOTH HANDS, at an Asian family as they walked by us, all the while loudly announcing, “Matching. Matching. Matching. Matching.”

All the things about Disneyland that would normally irritate me lost their power simply because the day was free.  Without feeling obligated to get our money’s worth of fun, we could focus on the simple pleasures of the park.  We strolled down Main Street, marveling at the Christmas decorations.  We stopped and listened to the band playing “Let it go” and paused to watch little kids battling Darth Vader during their Jedi training.

Disneyland didn’t owe us anything since we paid for nothing.  (except the corn dogs)  There was no rush to go, go, go- to be everywhere and do everything and this brought freedom to simply be present.  Sure, this meant we only had time for Tomorrowland, but that was perfectly okay.

On the ride home, we decided we need to live every day like we lived that day in the park.

Because really, every day on this planet is like a free day at Disneyland.  

Every good thing in our lives is a bonus.  We didn’t pay for any of it.  Everything we have is a gift from God.  Everything.  We are owed nothing.

Too often I forget this.  I feel like I have paid for a good life because I have worked hard and earned the things I have.  I’ve been a “good” person so I DESERVE a good, pain-free life.  So when the lines are long, the crowds are large, and things don’t go my way, I get irritated.  “This isn’t what I paid for! I deserve better!”

But actually I don’t.

Because everything that I have is truly a gift.  I didn’t earn anything.  I haven’t paid for squat.  Sure, I’m a hard worker but who gave me this brain and this body to work hard?  Who provided my family, my friends, my job, my house, my car, and every morsel of food on my plate?

Not I.

I don’t deserve any of it.

James reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

It’s all a gift.  Every single day is a free day at Disneyland.  This means we are free to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.  We aren’t owed the perfect day because we didn’t pay for it.  Some days just suck.  Some seasons of life are just plain crappy.  But even on those days, even in the midst of such seasons, there are always things we can be thankful for if we would pause and look around.

We don’t have to go, go, go because Jesus paid for our ticket.  We can stroll through the day, stop and listen to the music around us and wonder at the beauty before us.  He bought us the freedom to be present.  He didn’t remove all the frustrations and disappointments; irritating people and situations are still all around us, but who cares when everything is free?!?

I recently read a devotion from John Piper that reminded me of our Disney day lesson.  Piper writes this about gratitude:

When gratitude springs up in the human heart toward God, he is magnified as the wealthy source of our blessing.  He is acknowledged as giver and benefactor and therefore as glorious.

But when gratitude does not spring up in our hearts at God’s great goodness to us, it probably means that we don’t want to pay him a compliment; we don’t want to magnify him as our benefactor.

And there is a very good reason that human beings by nature do not want to magnify God with thanksgiving or glorify him as their benefactor.  The reason is that it detracts from their own glory, and all people by nature love their own glory more than the glory of God.

At the root of all ingratitude is the love one’s own greatness.  For genuine gratitude admits that we are beneficiaries of an unearned bequest.  We are cripples leaning on the cross-shaped crutch of Jesus Christ…

I had never before thought about how gratitude is so closely tied to humility.  To acknowledge that every good thing in my life is a gift, neither earned or deserved, forces me to let go of my pride and my own sense of greatness.   If I am to truly live each day as if it’s a free day at Disneyland, to be full of gratitude and no longer feel entitled to an easy day, well then I must daily remember that Jesus paid for my ticket.

He paid for yesterday.

He paid for today.

He paid for tomorrow.

Every single day is a free day in His magic kingdom.  Now if I can just remember that and live like it!

High School Dances and Crop Tops

Me: “The night before Spirit Week I always get self-conscious.”

Paul: “Why? About what?”

Me: “Dressing up.  I worry other teachers will think I’m a fool and my students will think I’m lame.”

Paul looked me straight in the eye and replied, “Katie, go all out.  Haters gonna hate.”

I exploded into laughter and then resolved to do just that.  Go. All. Out.

Because Paul was right.  Haters gonna hate.  So I should be myself and look a fool and not care what others are thinking about me or whispering to their friends about their teacher who has a little too much school spirit.  I shouldn’t just wear a cute blue shirt on class color day.  No, I should wear a blue sequin top with blue pants and a blue cardigan and a blue necklace with blue shoes.  Heck, I might as well top it off with Paul’s blue hard hat.  So I went to school looking like this.IMG_3272

I didn’t care about the haters who might think I am a desperate adult longing to be young again and I didn’t care that it was my turn to lead staff devotions though I looked like Smurfette heading to the club.  Hello my name is Katie Van Dyk and I like to wear weird costumes.  I’m owning it now.

But I didn’t in high school.

It wasn’t cool to wear costumes to school when I was in high school so I never did.  Didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself.  I did, however, wear tube tops with overalls because somehow that outfit was “cool” and I would wear just about anything to fit in.

When flipping through scrapbooks from the late 90’s, I don’t see Katie Hardeman, proud individual who knows who she is and doesn’t give a rip about what others say about her.  No, I see Katie Hardeman, still figuring out what’s important to her, best friends with Stefanie Schilling who is popular and cool and therefore Katie’s model for what to wear….no matter how ridiculous:IMG_3336

Tube tops?

Crop tops?

Really, Katie?  Really?

And you roll your eyes at girls today who wear short shirts.  You were there once too.  You weren’t trying to be scandalous.  You were just trying to be stylish and fit in, so you borrowed your older sister’s tiny top. (Sorry, Heid.  How’s it feel under that bus?)

Don’t worry, Katie, you’ll learn.  You’ll learn that showing your belly button in public is only okay when wearing a bathing suit.  And you’ll learn that some fashion trends just need to be ignored.  You’ll also learn to lather on the sunblock.  Was it really necessary to get so tan?

Throughout Spirit Week last week, I was reminded how much high schoolers want to fit in and how much they worry about the haters.  They all WANT to be unique individuals but the fact that they have the same clothes and haircuts as all their friends suggests they have a long way to go before they stop caring about the crowd.

I get it.  I was there not too long ago.  If you stand out too much, people will laugh at you and the fear of mockery and rejection is multiplied by a thousand when you’re in high school.  Kids will do and say and wear ridiculous things just to be cool (see above pictures).  Paul and I witnessed this tendency as we chaperoned the Homecoming dance on Friday.

High school dancing is dramatically different from adult dancing.  The main difference, other than the volume of music being at a reasonable decimal, is that when adults get on a dance floor, they actually dance.  High schoolers jump and push and scream and wave their arms around, but they don’t do much actual dancing.  I took a video of the dance/jump-fest and showed it to my 8-year old nephew who said, “Why is everyone just jumping?  Don’t they dance?”

No, Vander, they don’t. IMG_3320

I’m convinced this jumping phenomenon is because less than 5 % of the population actually knows how to dance well.  The rest of us, and I am definitely in the 95% category,  have no clue what we’re doing with our limbs when we’re “dancing.”  This is why dance circles are created and the 5 % jump in the middle to show off their skills, while the rest of us pray to baby Jesus that none of our idiot friends shove us to the center of the circle.  My.  Worst.  Nightmare.

In high school, you compensate for your lack of dancing skills by copying everyone else.  This way so no one realizes your lack of rhythm or how little control you actually have of your hips.  So when everyone else jumps and bobs their heads and lifts their arms, you follow suit.

But then you grow up and you stop trying to look cool.

Eventually I stopped dressing like Stefanie.  In fact, after college it was comical how different we had become.  We’d go to the movies, Stefanie in high heels and me in sweatpants.  Seriously.  We had both realized who we were by that point and we dressed the part.

One of the great things about getting older is that you can finally stop trying to impress people.  You know who you are so it doesn’t matter what Joe Schmoe over there thinks of you.  This is why parents of teenagers embarrass their children so easily.  This is also why adults who enjoy dancing but are terrible at it (people like me) can jiggle like an idiot on the dance floor, having a grand ol’ time.  At Chris and Lindsay’s wedding, a stranger told Paul and I that we win for “most entertaining couple on the dance floor.”  We knew this was not exactly a compliment.  But we danced hard that night and didn’t care that small town Texas-folks had a good laugh at our expense.

There is great freedom that comes with adulthood (along with laugh lines and poor vision)- Freedom to truly be yourself and stop caring about the haters. Don’t get me wrong, I still care to some degree.  I needed a pep talk from my husband before I dressed up like a fool at work.  But I definitely care less about others’ opinions than I did 10 years ago.

While I miss my teenage metabolism and smooth skin, I most certainly do NOT miss the days when I was still figuring out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to be about.   In high school, it’s easy to let others tell you who you are and who you should be.  It’s much harder to be original and confident and different from the crowd.

The older I get, the more my identity becomes cemented.  I know who I am. I am Katie Van Dyk, lover of Jesus, wearer of costumes.  So I will hold my head up high on hippie day:IMG_3330

and I will ride a tricycle through the halls while wearing a kimono simply because it’s fun.


However, I still often forget who I am and need reminders.

I need to continually be reading the Bible and talking to God to ensure that He is the one defining me, not the people around me.  He tells me who I am and what I’m about.  Not my colleagues or my students.  Not my even my family or my friends.  Only God knows the insides of my soul and only He gets to tell me how to live.

It also helps that when I feel self-conscious, I have a husband who reminds me, “Haters gonna hate.”

What Aunties Are For- On Persecution and the Armor of God

While playing soccer yesterday, I hip-checked my 6-year old nephew and sent him flying.

I’m sure it must have looked rather odd to see a grown woman throw a kid to the ground, but he was totally fine.   He did, however, look at me with his, “What the heck?” expression, so I shrugged and said, “That was totally legal.  Use your butt to protect the ball.”

He promptly got up and stole the ball from me because he is freakishly good at soccer and I was barefoot and limping from earlier when I had kicked his older brother in the shins.  This is what aunties are for.

I took the boys for slurpees after our game, and during the 10 minute drive, they learned about more than simply using your butt to knock people over.

First, they learned about flashlight tag.  Did y’all ever play this terrifying game?  I loved it despite the constant feeling that I was going to wet myself.  Now Vander wants to play it for his 9th birthday party.

Hudson informed Vander that “wrestler” starts with a W not an R, because it has a “secret letter.”  Earlier, I had told him about silent letters and he was thoroughly weirded out.  “Why does it start with a W?  That doesn’t make sense.  You don’t say Wah-resler.”

Oh Huddy, we know.  I didn’t even tell you about the T.  And just wait till you learn about bologna and colonel.  Stupid English language.

Then the boys asked about the fish carabiner on my key chain:IMG_3269

I’m not planning on climbing any rocks any time soon so I couldn’t explain the carabiner part, but I could explain the fish.  I told them how right after Jesus went back to heaven, Christians were persecuted so they used the fish symbol like a secret password so they could find other Christians.

Can of worms officially opened.

“What is persecuted?”

Uhhhhh.  Uh-oh.  “Well, bad people didn’t like Christians and wanted to kill them.”


What did I get myself into? “They felt threatened by them.  The king was worried if everyone started worshipping God, nobody would worship him any more.  He was afraid he would lose power.”

“Why didn’t the Christians just invite those people to church? Did they have Awana?”

Great question, Huddy.  Oh how I love their child-like faith.  We arrived at 7 11 at that point, so the boys forgot all about persecution and focused on slurpee flavors instead, but in light of the Oregon shooting, I’m still thinking about our conversation.

Why do people want to kill Christians?

I gave the boys a simple answer, but I wish I had said more.

It’s true that some governments have felt threatened and continue to feel threatened by our allegiance to God (I’m looking at you, China), but it’s more than that.  We have an enemy.  A very real enemy who is trying, tooth and nail, to tear people from God’s kingdom.  On Thursday, we were forced yet again to think about this enemy.

On Friday  morning, some of my students hadn’t yet heard the news and I watched their faces twist in shock and anguish as I explained what had happened.   We prayed for those who are grieving and for God’s kingdom to grow.  We talked about how strange it is that during times of persecution God’s kingdom seems to grow the most.

Why is that?

I wonder if it’s because persecution reminds us why we’re here on earth.  Persecution reminds us of the enemy we are facing and the war we are waging.  Reminds us that in the grand scheme of things many of our problems aren’t as big as we make them out to be.

We go about our days thinking about our to-do lists, our relationships, our schedules and we get irritated when people or circumstances mess up our plans.  At least I know I do.

We completely forget we are battling an unseen enemy who desires to distract us from our purpose.  We forget that Peter said, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

We often see our “enemies” as politicians, illegal immigrants, republicans, democrats, Muslims, terrorists, criminals, bosses, bullies, bad drivers, slow baggers, loud talkers, the obnoxious, the annoying, the rude- you get the idea.  The “enemy” has human flesh and has become anyone who disagrees with us or inconveniences us or hurts us.

We often forget that the real enemy is one we can’t see and is daily looking for ways to pull us away from God.  If we forget about this enemy and this ongoing battle, chances are we’re probably losing it.

How do you “fight” against an invisible enemy who sometimes uses bullets and other times uses television and sports and shopping as his weapons of destruction and distraction?  You fight back not with guns and tanks and grenades.

But with Scripture

and prayer

and love.

Lots of love.

Paul was one of God’s most effective soldiers in this battle.  He left us with lots of advice on how to fight against the enemy- most famously in his description of the armor of God in Ephesians chapter 6.  I have posted the following prayer on this blog before, but in light of Thursday, I’m printing it out again and praying it while I drive to school.

Perhaps you too need a daily reminder of the battle we are fighting.

Armor of God Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, I commit this day to you.  You are the creator of the universe and of my heart and I need your Spirit today as I, (list what you will face today).  I ask for your protection around my heart and my mind as I struggle not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil trying to draw my attention away from you.

I put on the belt of truth and cling to the truths about who you’ve made me to be.  Help me today to see myself as you see me. Remind me that I belong to you, that I am your beloved child, your servant, and a stranger here on Earth. Thank you for choosing me, for giving me purpose and a citizenship in heaven. When I make this life all about me, please draw me back to this truth: I am yours and I live for you.

I put on the breastplate of righteousness and confess my unrighteousness. I confess that (list your recent sins).  Thank you, merciful God, for your forgiveness and for washing me clean.   Open my eyes to the sin lurking in my heart that I am unaware of and strip me clean of it as well.  Make me more like you today.

My feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Fill me with your peace that surpasses understanding and may that peace guard my heart and my mind today.

I take up the shield of faith and use it to deflect the enemy’s attacks. With each lie I am told, I counter it with a truth you have given me. I refuse to believe that (a lie you often fall prey to) and instead, believe that (a truth in God’s word that refutes that lie).

I put on the helmet of salvation to protect my thought-life. I will take all my thoughts captive today and make them obedient to you. Convict me when my thoughts stray, when they are negative, judgmental, slanderous, selfish, or unpleasing in any way. Help me to fixate instead on what is right and true, pure and noble, lovely and praiseworthy. Remind me of the hope I have today because of your salvation; remind me why I am here and how I should think and speak and act so that my life may be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

I take hold of the sword of the Spirit, which is your Word, and use it in battle today. May your Word dwell in me richly as I use it to defeat the unseen enemy and live in a way that glorifies you. Please speak to me through the scriptures; reveal more of yourself to me today. Lift my eyes to you and open the eyes of my heart that I might know and love and serve you more.

In your name I pray,


Lessons From a Newlywed

On Sunday Paul and I celebrated our first anniversary.  We ate Greek food for lunch and reminisced about our honeymoon, then had donuts for dinner because we are sugar addicts and our “wedding cake” was a tower of donuts.vandyk09202014-984

We drank our “wedding wine” which we had gotten as a gift from the Thomas’ and had meant to drink on our wedding night, but had forgotten about until now.  We also watched our wedding video and reflected on our first year as husband and wife.  I told Paul I had been keeping a list of lessons I’ve learned in our first year of marriage and asked him what he’s learned.  His response?

“I’ve learned a lot about the menstrual cycle.”

Geeze Louise.  I guess I can’t fault him for his honesty.

Here’s my list of 20 things I’ve learned during our first year of marriage:

1- I did not marry myself.

I used to think I would marry someone very similar to me.  Perhaps it was the narcissist in me, but I always assumed I would marry the male version of myself.  The longer we’re married, the clearer it becomes that Paul and I are different.  So very different.  And boy is that a good thing.

If we both had my sense of direction, we’d be perpetually lost.  If we both spent money like I do, we’d be utterly broke.  (But oh the jeans we would have…) Vice versa, if we both ate ice-cream as often as Paul wants to and worked out as rarely as he prefers, we’d both gain 100 pounds.  If we both cleaned as meticulously and slowly as he does, the house would never get cleaned.

So it’s a wonderful thing that we are so different and our differences compliment each other.  Still, I’ve been shocked by how many times I’ve had to tell myself this year, “He’s not you, Katie.  Let Paul be Paul.  You LOVE Paul.”

And I do.  I really really do.  But sometimes I love Katie even more.  Gulp.  Marriage has definitely shone a spotlight on my selfish heart.  I’m finally seeing why married people are always talking about how marriage refines you and teaches you how to be holy and more like Jesus.

Case in point: I buy cinnamon raisin bagels now.  This is a big deal because you guys, I HATE raisins. Perhaps your recall this not-so-friendly letter  I wrote to them.  But Paul loves these bagels and I love him, so I buy the cinnamon raisin bagels.  And I eat them.  And I don’t even mind that much.  See, I’m totally like Jesus now.

Seriously though, Paul is not me and learning to love him more than I love myself requires the help of the Holy Spirit.  I’m sure this is a lesson I’ll have to learn and relearn over and over again over the course of our marriage.

2- Football season lasts WAY longer than I ever imagined.

I knew there was Monday Night Football and I had heard of Sunday Night Football, but Thursday Night Football?  And Friday Night Football?  You have GOT to be kidding me!  It never ends.  Four nights a week?  Isn’t that a bit RIDICULOUS? Are women nation-wide rolling their eyes at this as much as I am?

I have also learned that the drone of football commentators puts me right to sleep.  The other night we were watching the Giants and the Cowboys and I told myself, “Katie, be a good wife.  Pay attention to this whole last quarter”  And I did.  I was alert and asking questions… that is until the very last few plays of the game.  I saw Eli throw the ball away and refuse to take the sack.  (Silly Eli) Paul taught me this was a horrible decision, so I shook my head at Eli but then I promptly fell asleep on Paul’s shoulder, while apparently the Cowboys scored again in the last few seconds.

So much for being a good, supportive wife interested in the things that interest her husband….

* I let Paul proof-read this post to ensure I wasn’t embarrassing him.  He said I needed to add that we don’t just watch football.  In fact, just yesterday I introduced him to Gilmore Girls and he was very interested in the Lorelai, Luke, and Christopher fiasco and actually asked questions about Jess and Dean.  See, he loves me too.

3-There is a steep learning curve when it comes to cooking.

When I was just feeding myself, I ate out a lot and fed myself lots of grilled cheese sandwiches and cereal.  Don’t get me wrong, Paul and I often have Sunday night cereal, but I’ve also been trying my hand at cooking and let’s just say our smoke detectors have been quite active during this first year of marriage.

Despite my many mishaps on the stove, I’ve found it is so much more enjoyable to cook for someone else- especially someone else who loves EVERYTHING you put on the table even though you know some of those Pinterest recipes were hardcore fails.  The first time I tried to cook brussel sprouts, I turned them black and my first attempt at corn on the cob made me literally gag.  You don’t even want to know what happened with the huevos rancheros and oh man, my first chicken pot pie was a lumpy disaster:



4- I have to tell my husband when he hurts my feelings.

Ugh.  I HATE this.  I am an introvert and tend to internalize my feelings rather than share them, but I’m learning that this just doesn’t work in marriage.  If I’m upset with Paul, I can’t expect him to decode my less-than-normal-eye-contact and shorter-than-typical-responses to mean, “I am really upset right now and need you to ask me about it.”

It’s just not fair to him.

When I lived with girls, they could pick up on these silent cues.  Jenny used to know just by how I entered the room if something was a little off.  I think this must be a secret girl language in which guys can never be fully fluent.  So I have to translate for Paul.

Jen Hatmaker mentions this in her new book For the Love, which I HIGHLY recommend to all women.  Seriously, go on Amazon and buy this book right now.  In her chapter about marriage she writes this, “A few years ago, I nursed some hidden resentments in silence, but they came out sideways as these things always do…My resentment built a stone wall, but voicing it began crumbling the divide.  Unattended hurt, anger, and bitterness can destroy even the best marriage.  Lean honestly into every hard place, each tender spot, because truthfulness hurts for a minute but silence is the kill shot.”

I underlined this part because I see how prone I am to keeping silent about hurts, assuming I’ll get over it eventually.  But sometimes I don’t get over it and that hurt lingers and festers and pretty soon we’ve got a nasty infected wound on our hands.  So I’m learning to not keep silent, to tell Paul when he unintentionally hurts my feelings.   I’m learning to initiate those hard conversations rather than sneak off to Target and “deal with it later” because talking about it now may be painful, but this kind of honesty is strengthening our marriage.

5- Boys take WAY longer on the toilet than girls do.

I thought it was just Paul, but after I lamented to my girlfriends about sharing a toilet with the world’s slowest pooper, I learned that most men just suck at pooping.  Women?  We get in and get out.  Quick.  Efficient.  Ain’t nobody got time to relax on the pot.

But men?  They bring reading material.  Seriously.  I always thought that was just a joke until I caught Paul scrolling through ESPN on his phone while I did the pee dance outside the door.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned this year is to call dibs on the crapper.  I am still dreading the day when I just can’t wait for Mr. Turtle-Turder to finish his business and then I’ll have to pop and squat in our own backyard…

6- The Star Wars movies are just as boring as I always thought they would be.

Football commentators and Star Wars films: two sure-fire ways to knock me right out. Oh and sports radio.  Don’t get me started on sports radio.

7- Marriage has no room for “I told you so’s” but ample space for, “You were rights.”

I love being right.  I used to think I was right most of the time.  And then I got married.

Turns out I’ve been mispronouncing “albeit” and “realtor” all these years.  Apple maps really is more reliable than Google maps.  And you actually aren’t supposed to use Draino in toilets.  I thought it would be harder to admit when I am wrong, but Paul is so gracious (usually) that he makes it easy to admit, “You were right.”

Plus, when he’s right, he has never once said, “Told ya so.”  Those words are so full of pride and serve no purpose other than to stroke one’s own ego.   And Paul never uses them.  So when I actually am right about something (because this does happen on occasion), I’m not tempted to lord it over Paul or fling those hurtful words at him because he’s never flung them at me.  I hope we keep it this way.

8- Your first conversation with your new neighbor should not be asking him to settle a disagreement.

The poor guy was just trying to take out the trash and he was accosted by Paul and I asking him if he thought CHOCOLATE rhymes with OMELET.  Clearly, the two do not rhyme.  Clearly.  So when he agreed with Paul that these two obviously un-rhyming words rhyme, I let him know that he too was wrong.

Apparently I’m still working on the whole, “need to be right” thing.

We’ve noticed that said neighbor now waits to put out the trash cans until we’re in bed.

9- Snuggling with a human is awesome.

Turns out spooning your dog is not nearly as fun as spooning your husband.

10- One of the best things you can do to strengthen a marriage is read the Bible together and pray together.

Our pastor, mentors, and even a parent of one of my students encouraged us to do this and they were right. Gosh were they right! Growing together spiritually has been so neat and so necessary.

I used to think of my relationship with God as something so private and personal that before Paul proposed, I confessed to a friend I was worried marriage would change my relationship with God.  Erica assured me it wouldn’t.  God would still be God and I would still be Katie.  He would still know my heart better than Paul does and better than even I do.  But now each day I get to talk to Him and wonder about Him with my very best friend.  And it is making all the difference.

11- Though you technically do have 1 year to send out your wedding thank-you’s, you shouldn’t wait until the last month.

Confession: I sent my mom and grandma their thank-you’s in December and then didn’t write another one until summer.  I knew this strategy would buy me some time, but then my cousin Jenise got married and she sent me a thank-you BEFORE her wedding even happened.  (Freaking Jenise!)

Newly motivated, I set out to write all the thank-you’s to family I would see at Jenise’s wedding.  And then I kept going and was making good progress, but summer was so fun and my hand started cramping and we got hooked on House of Cards.  You know… typical obstacles of a life-long procrastinator.

But listen, nobody wants to spend their anniversary weekend writing thank-you notes, so take a lesson from me and send them out sooner rather than later.

12- Some people are truly grossed out when you drink milk straight from the carton. 

13- The Seahawks are a really big deal.

Considering Paul had a nightmare last night that he was on the team and Marshawn Lynch was traded and the whole team, Paul included, was in literal tears, I think it’s safe to say that my husband is a little obsessed.

My friend Lesley is also married to a Seahawks fanatic and she recently gave me some wonderful marriage advice: “Put the Seahawk’s schedule into your calendar.”

I may not care when they’re playing, but my husband sure does.  And what is important to him has become important to me.  Two becoming one and all that.

14- The best time to scare someone is when they don’t know you’re at home.

15- Being married means you now have a lifelong filter in place.

I tell Paul when he’s talking about boring topics (seriously, nobody cares about the differences between alligators and crocodiles!), and he tells me when I’m over-sharing.  For instance, in order to get our house, we wrote a letter to the realtor explaining why we wanted this house so much and why she should choose us instead of the 14 others who put in offers.  I let Paul proof-read the letter and I honestly don’t remember why I wrote this, but I remember him saying, “Maybe you shouldn’t mention “diarrhea” in the letter.

I’m pretty sure I pushed back with something like, “She should know the real me, Paul.  I’m not ashamed.” But in the end, I listened to him and deleted the diarrhea and we got the house.

See.  Lifelong filters can be very helpful.

16- Our pastor was right about marrying a stranger.

During our wedding ceremony, Pastor Joel warned us that there would be some mornings we would wake up, look at our spouse and think, “Who are you?”

I only met Paul in 2014, but we talked so much while we were dating, I kind of thought I knew most everything there was to know about him.  But just this past weekend I learned that the first “I like you” note he received was from a girl named Katie.  And in college he was on student government for his dorm because he created a new position called the “Minister of Truth” and ran unopposed. And he doesn’t like french rolls?!?

How can you not like french rolls?  They’re so delicious and so perfect for a hot ham n cheese.  Our future children will eat french rolls and they will love them. But I digress.  My point is that in one weekend I learned three new things about this man I spend every day and night with.  What else don’t I know? I suppose we’ll spend the rest of our lives figuring that out.

17- It’s tough to find privacy to pick your nose when you’re married.

He catches me all the time.  I’m always a little embarrassed and then I’m like, “Wait, you’re my husband.  You can see the rolled up boogers on the nightstand without me blushing.”

18- People spend money in very different ways.

We knew this was going to be a problem.  We looked at the different ways we were raised to view money and the different ways we use it and before we even got engaged, we knew there were going to be issues.

Bottom line: I’m a spender and he’s a saver.

This typically works out quite well.  Yin and yang and all that.  But sometimes the yin gets a little pissed at the yang because he insists on camping rather than splurging on a hotel room and thinks Christmas decorations aren’t that important.

What a Scrooge! Amiright?  Don’t worry, no hidden resentments here.  We’ve had it out and will probably continue to have it out, but we’re determined to not let our different views of money chip away at our marriage.  When we start having kids though, they will certainly know you go to Mom if you need twenty bucks.

19- When sorrow spills into your lives, you must cling to Jesus and to each other.

Unfortunately it seems like few things make a relationship stronger than storms.  I think when you weather a storm with another person, you either come out ragged and broken apart or devastated but wrapped in each other’s arms and stronger than before.  How you come out of a storm is determined by whom you cling to when the waves get rough and life’s winds blow strong.

Thankfully, Paul and I have clung to one another and to Jesus.  Paul knows when I’m hurting and will hug me and bake me a cake shaped like a cat with a cigarette. IMG_1941

But other times, the wounds are too deep for cake.

It is in those moments that he points me to Jesus and reminds me to cling to Him.  When I’m too broken to pray, Paul reminds me of God’s faithfulness.  When I’m too sad to smile, Paul reminds me of the joy we have regardless of life’s circumstances.   He will sit in the center of the sadness with me and cry, but always acts as a compass pointing us back to our Savior.

I would never choose to have sorrow in my life, but I am grateful for the ways it has cemented Paul and I together.

 20- Some nights call for wigs, giant chocolate chip cookies, and mariachi music.


Robert Fulghum said it best when he wrote: “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”

I have certainly found my true love.


Those of you married for 10 years, or 20 or 30 or anything more than just 1 are probably shaking your heads at me.  “Oh, Katie, sweet naive Katie, you think you’ve learned so much but you have SO MUCH MORE to learn.”  I get it.  I’m certainly no relationship expert.  But I needed to take note of the things I learned during this first year so I don’t forget about the newlywed stage of life.  Plus, if blogs are still around in 20 years, I imagine this post will give me a good laugh.

Can you resonate with any of these lessons?  Care to share any marriage lessons of your own?  I’d love to hear them.

Sunday Morning Confessions # 16-18

Summer officially ended last week and so too did my hiatus from writing.  It’s always tough for me to get back into the groove of writing, but confessions basically write themselves.  So here are 3 confessions from my first week of school:

16.  I fell asleep in my classroom.

This was entirely intentional and I feel no shame because that first week back is straight up exhausting.  During my prep period, I turned off the lights, curled up in my papasan chair, set my alarm for 5 minutes before the bell rang, and knocked out.   Hopefully no one came looking for me.  I was well-rested for 6th period and the kids were none the wiser. (Unless they noticed my bed-head).

I know I am not alone in my first week exhaustion.  After months of sleeping in and peeing whenever our bladders’ desire, getting back “on-stage” all day is always a rough transition.  During break on the first day, the Bible teacher was sprawled out on the couch in the teacher’s lounge.  And the kids think THEY have a hard time coming back to school…

17.  I was late on the second day of school.

We have a new principal and my goal has been to make him think I am one of those “punctual” kinds of people who is responsible and professional and never falls asleep in staff meetings.  I’ve shown up on time to all our meetings and he hasn’t noticed my coworkers winking at me and congratulating me for being a real-life adult.  But alas, day two and I made it to campus 20 minutes late, just as the bell was about to ring.

In my defense, I would have been on time if my car had started, but a dead battery left me scrambling.  Ironically, this dead battery was an answer to prayer.  I was bone tired and had prayed that God would give me energy for the day.  Nothing wakes you up quite like the thought that you won’t be able to get to work.  So, thanks for that, God.  I may have been 20 minutes late but I was WIDE awake.

18. I spent more time making this poster than I did lesson-planning.IMG_3123

We were granted huge chunks of time to work in our classrooms before the first day of school, and I should have spent that time preparing lessons.  Instead, I killed spiders, arranged a gazillion nic nacs on my desk:IMG_3146

and made my annual “ugly faces from last year” poster.  I now have an entire wall covered in ugly faces.  It. Is. Awesome.  And super distracting for the ADD kids, but whatevs.

I tell my students that I keep all these old posters so they can laugh at their older siblings, so I can remember my past students, and just in case someone becomes wildly famous, I will have an incriminating photo to share with US Weekly.  Cha ching!

Now it’s your turn: Have you taken naps in unconventional places? Have you been late to places you really shouldn’t be late to?  If you’re a teacher, did you struggle like me during your first week back? I’d love to hear any and all of your me-too confessions!

How the Ocean is Like God

On Monday Paul and I went for a night swim in the ocean and I was sort of rescued by a lifeguard.  Stop laughing.  It happens.

He didn’t have to get in the water or anything, but he could tell I was struggling so he parked his truck right in front of me and turned on his brights as if to say, “Hey girl flailing in the waves, I see you.  I’ll come get you if you start to drown.”

Meanwhile, my husband was out past the crashing waves and had no idea I was getting repeatedly pummeled and pulled by a current that refused to let me swim to shore.  It was a little scary and a little more embarrassing.  I’m a grown woman.  I thought these rescue operations were a thing of my youth.

See, I was rescued several times as a teenager.  Rip currents can be such a drag.  I was rescued once in my mid-20’s, but that was only because Christy (9 months pregnant) and I didn’t watch the news to know a hurricane was coming or notice that no one else was in the water. (There were no lifeguards so a random, concerned man swam out to get us.)

As a California kid, I am well-acquainted with the water and have known for a long time that while it is beautiful and peaceful, the ocean can be freaking terrifying as well.  My family has spent the last week at the beach so I’ve had lots of time to watch the waves and think about the many ways the ocean is like God.

5 Ways the Ocean is Like God

1. They both bring peace and are enjoyed by people of all ages and walks of life.

Whether it’s the cutest nephews you’ve ever seen running from the waves and catching them on their boogie boards,1

or a yogi holding her pose while gazing at the sea,

or an elderly couple strolling beside the crashing waves,

or a seasoned surfer “shredding the gnar,”…

everyone seems to be mesmerized by the ocean.  We flock to coastlines like moths to the flame.  And while some of us are content to sit and stare at the water, others of us dive in.

Isn’t that true of God as well?  Many are content to sit in pews and learn all about Him without actually engaging Him.  Others are hungry for more and dive in, not satisfied with merely hearing about him, but desiring to truly experience Him and know Him and feel His love crash over them.

2. You don’t have to see them to believe they exist.

Many people have never been to the beach, but they don’t doubt the ocean exists.  So it is with God.  You need not see His face to know He is there.  Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about this truth:

I never saw a moor;
I never saw the sea,
Yet know I how the heather looks
And what a billow be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven.
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the checks were given.

3. They are both filled with beauty and wonder and mystery.

There’s a reason we all fell in love with The Little Mermaid.  We go sailing and snorkeling and scuba-diving to experience this truly fascinating and hidden world under the sea.


(This was the scuba adventure in Mozambique when my friend Lisa threw up UNDER THE WATER and fish surrounded us to eat her puke.  One of my favorite life moments thus far.)

We scream and point and are filled with delight when we see dolphins playing in the surf.  We marvel at the creatures found on the end of fishing lines.  We put conversations on hold when the sun illuminates the clouds and sinks behind the sea.

Both the ocean and God fill us with awe and reminded us just how small we really are.

Just as we can spend our whole lives exploring the ocean depths and still never discover all there is to know, so too God is a God of mystery and unknown depths.  We experience Him in new ways every year and even 95 year-olds continue to learn and understand new things about our truly awesome and mysterious God.

4.  They are both wild and powerful and unpredictable. 

If you’ve ever been tossed around by a crashing wave, you know the sea is not just beauty and peace and tranquility.  It is strong and will not hesitate to flip you around till your nose is full of water and you don’t know which way is up.

God won’t beat you up and leave you gasping for air like the ocean sometimes does, but He is still wild and unpredictable.  One of my favorite parts of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is when the Beavers tell the 4 children about Aslan, the lion, the Christ-figure.

“Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” But their brother Edmond, who has gone down a path of sin and betrayal, has quite a different reaction. He felt a “sensation of mysterious horror.”

Then when the children find out that Aslan is a lion, they are all struck with fear. They are talking with Mr. Beaver and they ask him “Who is Aslan?”

Then Lucy asks, “Is—is he a man?”

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King. I tell you.”

Like the ocean, our God is good.  But He is not tame.  He cannot be controlled or manipulated.  But He is oh so very good.

5. They both deserve fear and respect.

If you’ve been on Facebook recently, you’ve most likely seen the video of Mick Fanning, the pro surfer who was attacked by a shark during a competition in South Africa.  You guys, he punched the shark and swam away unharmed!  I just read his interview on BBC where he talks about the attack and how his friend swam towards him to help.  Buckets of tears over here.

Sharks are no joke.  I know they say more people die every year due to deer than to sharks, but that statistic means nothing when you’re in the water.  Especially since this summer we all had to evacuate the water after an 8-foot Great White bumped a surfer not too far from where we were swimming.  Yowzers!

Naturally my 8-year old nephew twisted the story and when telling his cousins about the shark, HE became the one bumped by it.  Makes for a better story, doesn’t it?  In his defense, my dad confessed to bumping him under the water to make him think it was a shark.  What are grandpas for if not to scare the bejeezus out of us?

Not only should a shark fin instill a bit of healthy fear in us, so too should rip currents.  Obviously I am a bit foolhardy when it comes to currents, but the ocean demands respect.  The power of the waves and the currents cannot be ignored.  They must be respected.  Or else.

So must God.

We needn’t fear Him as we fear sharks, but we must respect Him.  We must acknowledge that He is more powerful than we are and that He holds our lives in His hands.  My pastor recently said, “Your morality is shaped by your fear or lack of fear of God.”  If there is no fear of God, no reverence or respect or acknowledgement that He is holy and will one day judge us all, well then you will not live in a way that pleases Him.

And just as one will suffer the consequences for not respecting the sea, one will face much more serious consequences for refusing to respect God.

On that note, I’m off to the beach.  Hopefully I won’t need any rescuing.