Tag Archives: Faith

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.

Come.

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!

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:

IMG_0994

 

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.

IMG_1341

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.

IMG_3075

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.

Waiting…

Traffic.

The DMV.

Lines at Disneyland.

The spinning rainbow wheel of death.

Red lights.

Security at LAX.

The doctor’s office.

Question: What do all these things have in common?

Answer: They all are painful.  And they all require you to wait. 

Waiting is the worst.  And I’m pretty bad it.  I’ve been known to scream at my computer (in front of my students) and read my book during red lights.  You’d think I’d be more patient by now since God has taught me some hard lessons about waiting, but it seems He’s still got a lot of work to do on me.

I waited a long time for Paul.  Longer than most people wait for a spouse.  So I’ve learned a thing or two about waiting.  Here’s what I wrote about the waiting process back in 2012:

In church this week, the pastor talked about the importance of waiting and the change that happens as we wait.  You better believe I teared up.  Especially as he read this quote from Lewis Smedes:

“Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write. We wait for a ‘not yet’ that feels like a ‘not ever.'”

I think God is using this “not yet” that feels like a “not ever” for a reason.  And I get to live in a place of hopeful expectation, a place where my faith is strengthened as I hope for what I cannot see and I wait for God’s crazy plans to unfold.

The waiting sometimes feels confusing and chaotic; at times it’s lonely and long.  But I firmly believe in a God who acts at just the right time.  I believe in a God who has purposes and plans that are much grander than my own.  So I’ll wait.

And wait I did.  Then on February 1, at  just the right time, I walked across an In-N-Out parking lot, gave an awkward side hug to a blind date, and the wait was over.

I can see now why I had to wait for Paul.  They say hindsight is 20/20 and I’ve certainly found that to be true because hindsight doesn’t require any faith.  It’s when you’re in the thick of it- waiting for a spouse or a job or a baby or whatever it may be- that faith is required and faith is refined. 

Who needs faith when you have everything you hope for?  It’s in the midst of the hoping and the longing and the often painful process of waiting that faith is strengthened.  The author of Hebrews explains, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

Paul writes this about Abraham having to wait decades for God to deliver what He had promised:

“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21).

I wish I could say that I never wavered in unbelief and that I was always fully persuaded that God would deliver, but that’s just not true.

The thing is, God never promised me a husband.  God never promised to give us everything we want.  But here’s what He has promised:

He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

He has given us His peace (John 14:27).

He will supply for our every need (Philippians 4:19).

And He will work out everything for our good (Romans 8:28).  Not for our comfort and pleasure, but for our good.

In the middle of the waiting, we can cling to these promises.  God may not answer our prayers how we want and and He sure doesn’t operate on our timetables very often.  But we can trust that when He says “no” there is a reason and when He says “wait” there is a purpose.

Stay tuned for the next post in which I list the 20 reasons I should have known Paul was the one for me.

How The Little Mermaid is Like the Christmas Story

A few nights ago I watched The Little Mermaid with my nephews.  The boys were a little confused about the plot, so I explained how Ariel agreed to give up her voice and had to kiss Eric before the sun went down on the third day or else Ursula would control her.  Hudson, the 5-year old, waited for the movie to end before he said, “Katie, when are YOU going to kiss a boy?”

When I told him that was a good question, he replied sincerely, “Maybe when you’re 85?”

Yeah, Huddy.  I feel that way too.

While Hudson was busy thinking about the single status of his aunt, I watched the end of the movie in tears as I realized the parallels between The Little Mermaid and the gospel story. I know I sound a little crazy, but you guys, Disney totally ripped off the Bible.

I don’t know if Walt intended this to be the case or not, but as I explained to the boys that Ariel’s dad was signing the contract with Ursula because he was sacrificing himself for his daughter, I choked up as I realized that this was very much like the Christmas story.

A mighty king:

Comes to save his child bound by evil:

The father takes the place of his child:

And gives up His throne.

The king no longer seems mighty and it appears that evil had won.

But we all know the story doesn’t end with an obese octopus ruling the sea.

The analogy begins to fall apart when instead of Jesus defeating evil by dying on the cross, Eric defeats evil by stabbing her with a sunken ship…

But after the final battle, the king comes back to life:

and those who were once slaves to evil:

are given new life:

Sound familiar?

The movie even ends with a wedding:

much like in Revelation when the bride of Christ (the Church) will finally be joined with the bridegroom (Christ).

I realize that I am reading way too much into a Disney story, but the gospel truths are undeniably present.  Surely Walt knew that a father sacrificing himself for his child and a king giving up his throne to one day defeat evil was not a new storyline.  And it’s not just A storyline.  It’s THEE storyline.  The greatest storyline of all time.  No wonder my nephews and I sat in front of the TV completely mesmerized.

The boys’ faces when King Triton shriveled up and Ursula took over were priceless.  My face probably wasn’t much different.

Shock.

Horror.

Sadness.

These aren’t the typical expressions we wear on Christmas morning because now we know that Jesus was victorious in the end.  Once the king was brought back to life, Vander said, “So it’s a good thing he took Ariel’s place because he still won in the end.”

Yes, Vander.  He still wins in the end.

Today as we celebrate the birth of Christ, instead of picturing this:

I’ll be picturing this:

Because although sweet baby Jesus is much cuter than an animated, shriveled mermaid, when I think of baby Jesus, too often I forget what He gave up to become one of us.

Too often I forget that without Him, I would have still been enslaved like this:

And too often I get so excited about presents and honey baked ham that I forget how much He must have loved me to come to earth and free me from the power of sin.

This Christmas, thanks in part to The Little Mermaid, I will not forget how absolutely INCREDIBLE it was that Jesus became human (aka shriveled mermaid) in order to take my place and save me.  Emmanuel.  God with us.

Merry Christmas indeed!

My Booger-spitting Brother

Somehow this Thanksgiving I ended up at the kid’s table.  It wasn’t intentional but it was pretty fitting.  While other adults around the county talked about football and Obamacare, I had a riveting discussion about how good ham is.  We all agreed.  It’s delicious.

After the meal everyone gathered inside for the candy corn tradition our aunt Deb started years ago.  Everyone pretends to hate this but I think we all kind of love it.  I know I do.  I’m sure tons of families have a similar or maybe even identical tradition where you pass a bowl of candy corn and can’t eat one until you share one thing you were thankful for that year.  You can’t just say “family” because we’re all family.  You have to say why.  And the “saying why” part is my favorite part of Thanksgiving.

This year we passed MnM’s because my cousin conveniently “forgot” to bring the candy corn.  As the bowl passed, gratitude came spilling forth from relatives at all different stages of life.

The young ones, thankful for school;

the engaged cousin thankful she said yes;

the sister-in-law thankful for her job;

the cousin thankful for his life-long friends;

the uncle thankful for his sons;

the grandma thankful for her grandkids, etc.

I probably won’t remember what most people said this Thanksgiving, but I don’t think I’ll soon forget what my brother said.  After several relatives talked about how blessed they have been by their kids, Trent began his turn by saying, “I’m thankful that I don’t have kids.”

We laughed because he sounded like such a kid-hater, but then he explained that he and his wife do want kids one day.  But for now, for today, he is thankful for this time with just her; thankful for this stage of life where they aren’t sleep deprived, they don’t need a babysitter to go to the movies, and a quick trip to Target can actually be quick.  He is thankful for the season God has him in right now.

This wisdom from the guy who still spits his boogers at me and tells people to pull his finger…

My brother’s candy corn thanks seemed to echo the words of Paul.  “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil 4:11-12).

No matter the circumstance, no matter the stage of life, true contentment can always be found in Christ.

Whether you’re a single gal frequenting the movie theaters by yourself…

whether you’re newly engaged and planning a wedding…

whether you’re married without kids or with babies and young kids or with acne-ridden teenagers or with grown kids who have their own kids…

no matter the stage, there is thanks to be found in that season.  We simply need to look.

The danger comes when we start comparing seasons.  When I look at my soon-to-be cousin with a shiny new ring on her finger, it would be easy to think, “Gosh, I wish that was me saying I’m thankful for expensive jewelry.”  But instead, I’ll choose to rejoice with her and be grateful that I have so much time to pour into my niece and nephews and can eat pizza 5 nights in a row if I want to and watch Nashville and Scandal without ever having to watch SportsCenter.

When I look at my cousins so thankful for their adorable kids and my siblings who have such gratitude for their hilarious children, it would be easy to envy their season of life.  But instead, I’ll choose to play with those adorable children and then hand them back when they are less-than-adorable and need a butt spanked or a butt wiped.  I’ll choose to be grateful that right now my stage of life doesn’t require me to discipline toddlers or deal with human poop.

Each season brings its highs and its lows, its joys and its trials.  The key is to focus on the joys rather than the trials and to revel is the highs of the current season rather than long for the highs of a different season.

As one who all-too often forgets and longs for the highs of a different season, I am so thankful that my booger-spitting little brother reminded me to be thankful for today’s joys.

Skinny Weirdos and Surprise Grief

When I was in high school I used to mock the cross country team.

Not to their faces and usually not even out loud, but in my head, I would always laugh when I saw those skinny weirdos jog by.

With their itty bitty shorts and their itty bitty thighs, cross country runners were pretty easy targets.  Plus, all the quirky kids who sucked at “real” sports were usually on the cross country team.  It was fairly easy to feel superior to these “joggers” because though I was admittedly quite weird myself, at least I played an actual sport.

I come from a long line of basketball players, (you know, “real” athletes who play a real sport with a ball) and many people who know me in real life know me as a basketball player or as a basketball coach.  This is why it was surprising to many, including myself, that after “retiring” from coaching basketball last year, I became an assistant for Valley’s cross country team.

Oh how the tables have turned.

And those skinny weirdos I used to laugh at in high school?  Yeah, they’re the same type of kids who run cross country today.  Still skinny.  Still weird.  And oh how I love them.

Seriously.  I wish someone would have told me how wonderful the weirdos are.  I mean, look at some of these kids:

They. Are. Awesome.

They embrace their quirkiness and have long since given up trying to “be cool.”  I mean when you wear shorts that are this short:

all attempts at coolness are pretty much out the window.

When I hung up my coaching hat in order to go to seminary at night, I thought I was done coaching for at least a few years.  I never would have guessed that I would be coaching the distance runners for track and the cross country team.  Really.  NEVER did that cross my mind.  You guys, I was always a “real” athlete, remember?  I never ran competitively and didn’t even view this as a real sport.

But God knew all along how coaching cross country would bring me crazy amounts of laughter and joy.  He knew that running with the team after school every day would be a remarkable gift to me- a gift I had no idea was on its way.

This is no ordinary team.  When you think of a team of “joggers” you probably don’t picture this:

Yes, our team is as big as the football team (in numbers not in girth).  And yes, we do make up 12 % of the entire school.  Truth be told, half of these kids don’t even like running.  Some even hate it.  I know- I was surprised too.

But this team is like a family.  A 78-person family of weirdos where everyone is accepted in all their weirdness.  It is truly wonderful.  Plus, if I had known about all the post-meet snacks, I would have considered joining in high school too.

Last year I had no idea the blessing that was in store for me this season.  No idea how much fun I would have with these kids and no idea that I would make 3 new friends on the coaching staff.  I was so bummed when several of my good friends left Valley last year, and though they can’t be replaced, Christina became the running partner and dear friend I never saw coming:

The crazy part is I never even knew Christina before we started coaching together but her office is literally connected to my classroom.  I have a hidden door in the back that I tell kids leads to Narnia, but it actually leads to Christina.  For five years I had no idea that my future friend was sitting behind those doors- literally five feet away from me.

One of the things I love about God is that He’s always doing things like that- always  blessing us in unexpected ways with gifts that are five feet away from us though we never realize it.  I love how God is so full of surprises.  My pastor recently said, “Always be prepared to be surprised by our wild, untamed God.” I love that.  I love that God has endless curve balls up His sleeve and boatloads of blessings waiting to be revealed.

In my case it was a team of skinny weirdos and a new friend from Narnia.

However, I’ve been continually reminded this week that these curveballs are not always so wonderful.

Being a God of surprises sometimes means He is waiting to shower us with crazy amounts of unexpected joy.  But it also means that sometimes He allows for tragedy to strike, bringing crazy amounts of unexpected sorrow.

I think of the multitudes in the Philippines who are dealing with surprise loss and grief today.

I think of one of my best friends who is now recovering from a rare infection in her spine that sent her rushing to the hospital.  That kind of surprise is terrifying and sent us rushing to the throne room, BEGGING God to heal her.  He did.  But He doesn’t always.

I think of how yesterday my sister and her husband Dan attended the unexpected funeral of Dan’s good friend’s wife.  Darcie battled breast cancer and won and then quickly spiraled and suddenly died last week, leaving behind a shocked husband, community and 2 year old daughter.  While Darcie is in the actual throne room with God, those she loved are left behind to deal with sudden and catastrophic waves of grief.

So when I say “God is a God of surprises,” this has a double meaning.  Sometimes He surprises us with joy, but other times He surprises us with grief.

My pastor also recently talked about how God is reliable but not predictable.  We can never guess what lies around the bend, blessing or tragedy.  But we can know WHO lies around the bend.  And we can trust that while He may allow for unthinkable grief, He won’t leave us alone in our grief and will supply us with unimaginable strength.  We need not fear the unknown, the bends in the road and the surprise curveballs, because we trust in a good God who will walk with us through whatever surprise comes our way.

Plus, as a God of surprises and a God who knows the unknown, we can trust that He always has more up His sleeve.  Though today He may allow for surprise grief, we can know that soon He will send showers of surprise joy.

I never knew Jason and Darcie and I don’t know anyone suffering in the Philippines today.  I don’t know what it feels like to lose the person closest to you or lose everything you own.  But I know what it feels like to be surprised by our wild, unpredictable God.  And I am confident that though there is intense grief today, God will one day surprise Jason and the Filipino people again- this time with waves of unimaginable joy.

When I began writing this post, I thought it would be a light-hearted laugh about cross country and the pleasant ways God surprises us with joy.  I didn’t plan on writing about sorrow and grief.  But somewhere along the way, this post took a turn as I realized not everyone will be feeling surprised by joy today.  In fact, it may be quite the opposite.

And I’m not so naive as to think that I will always be in a joyful season, free from sorrow.  So I think it’s important to remember to soak up the joy we’re feeling today- to revel and rejoice in it.  And if in a season of sorrow tonight, cling to His promise that His joy, His often surprising and overwhelming joy, will come in the morning.

 

Miss Kitty’s Class

A few weeks ago I was rummaging through old albums looking for a picture for “Throw Back Thursday,” when I stumbled upon a typical scene from my teen years.  There was a turtle neck involved, feathered bangs, a sports watch, and my favorite oversized t-shirt that said, “Messiah.”

What I love about this picture, other than the fact that the little Mexican girl is mad-dogging the camera and copping a feel, is that I can remember feeling truly happy and fulfilled at this moment.  Sure, my eyes are tired but that is probably because I was up in the middle of the night with one of my crazy friends who convinced me to leave the tent to go pee in the woods with her.  (You know who you are.  And you know it wasn’t pee.)

As a 14 year old, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to “do when I grow up.”  I’m pretty sure I thought I’d be dead by now because 31?  That would have sounded ancient to the teen version of Katie.  I was too busy thinking about Leo DiCaprio and how to hide my acne than to wonder about what life would be like in my 30’s.  However, now I can see that it was during those trips to Mexico that God was planting seeds and growing in me a love for working with other cultures.  I had no idea what the future had in store, but He knew exactly what He had in store for me. Continue reading

Unseen things

One of my favorite things in life is when the unseen things are finally seen- when surprises are revealed and things that were once hidden are discovered.  Costa Rica was full of such wondrous surprises.  They were lurking behind leaves and concealed around corners- surprises just waiting to be noticed and marveled at.

For instance, one might look at a tree and see only a tree.  But if you really looked at it, really studied its branches, you would find this guy: Continue reading

Looking Awesome #jumpingfails

Have you ever thought about the pictures that never make it onto Facebook or Instagram?  You know, the pictures that never get taken or are so horribly ugly that they would NEVER be posted.  It seems we use the Internet only to broadcast our cool or funny or beautiful moments.  But the awkward, the disappointing and the embarrassing- those moments are rarely captured on film and if they are, they are usually quickly deleted.

But what if they weren’t?

What if we took pictures of our failures and let the whole world see how pathetic we can be at times? Continue reading