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A Closet Full of Stories (Part 2)

This is Part 2 in a series about my closet.  (You can find Part 1 HERE)  And because I am so long-winded, there will be a Part 3 in a few days.  Who knew I could talk about old clothes for so long?

God often speaks through His word, through sermons and nature and music and people.  But lately, He’s been speaking through my clothes.  He’s been reminding me of His truths and His faithfulness through shorts and dresses and tank tops.  Here are items # 6-8 in my closet that God has used to point to Himself.

6) My lacy summer shorts

On this, the first official day of my summer, it is only fitting that I tell you about my “summer shorts.”


Over the past few years, a plain-colored t-shirt paired with these shorts has become my official “summer uniform.”  Does anyone else wear the same outfit 3 or 4 times a week during the summer?

Heidi originally bought them for me from Wet Seal.  Yes, that Wet Seal- the store for 13-16 year old girls.  Stop judging.  You can do karate kicks in these shorts without fear of ripping them.  You can eat a pint of ice cream and never have to unbutton your pants because they have an elastic band- perfect for a girl who gets monster food-babies.  They are basically maternity shorts for the non-pregnant girls who love to eat.

All my shorts get packed away during the winter, so whenever I pull these shorts out of the closet, it means one thing: summer is coming!

This past teaching year was my easiest and most enjoyable year, but there have been other years when I start a summer countdown in January.  Some years are hard.  Some seasons of life can be frustrating or disappointing or sad and might feel like they’ll never end.

But they will.

They always do.

In the middle of those seemingly endless winter seasons, these shorts remind me we must cling to the hope that no season lasts forever.  Psalm 30:5 says, “…the weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Or in my translation: “….the crappy times may last for a while, but grab your lacy shorts because summer is coming!”

7) My Iron Well tank top

Paul finds it a little bit ridiculous/ hilarious that my college friend group not only has a name for ourselves, Iron Well, but has made merchandise with our name on it:matchy awkward

That picture was taken 5 years ago.  Since then, there have been moves, marriages, and babies.  Lots of babies.  But while our families have grown and life-stages have changed, one thing has remained the same: the seven of us are still committed to each other.

Our most recent Iron Well attire is a tank top Anne’s husband designed for us to wear on our cruise:IMG_7445

Yes, we are that group of girls.  The group that proudly wears matching shirts, laughs obnoxiously loud in public places, and has a thousand inside jokes.

These girls are one of God’s greatest gifts to me.  Lesley recently was cleaning out her garage and discovered a tub full of our old love letters to each other.  We were creepily infatuated with each other in college and were determined ours would be a friendship that would last.

Our determination has paid off.

Because we’ve been so intentional about our friendship, we’ve remained close.  Almost every year since graduation we’ve had an annual Iron Well get-together.  This can be expensive and difficult (especially since there are now 15 Iron Well kiddos!), but we decided long ago the expense was worth it.

Lately we been using the “Glide” app, where we leave videos for each other every week.  Even though we’re spread across 3 different states and 7 different cities, we know what’s going on in each other’s lives.

We know when someone has a sick kid, a bad day, a theological question, or a good book recommendation.  We’re currently in a discussion about the upcoming Supreme Court decision concerning gay marriage.  But we’re equally invested in the conversation about whether or not jean capris are still in style. (Are they?  Aren’t they?  Feel free to weigh in.)

If you don’t check your phone for a few hours, you might miss 37 new videos from these girls.  So while we fold laundry, dry dishes, curl our hair, cook dinner and lay in bed, we watch our friends.  And we laugh.  And cry. And ponder.  And it’s almost like we’re back in the dorm rooms.

Paul has only met these girls once or twice but recognizes their voices and their laughs.  He knows their personalities and the names of their husbands and kids.  Because he overhears our endless videos to each other, he feels like he actually knows these girls.  I love that.

Every time I slip on my Iron Well tank, I am reminded that God has LAVISHED His love on me through these girls.  We may not live down the hall from each other any more, but we continue to invest in each other’s lives from a distance, and have learned that friendships like these are far too valuable for a price tag.

8)  My bridesmaid dress from Lindsay’s weddingIMG_2159

This dress is one of my favorites.  Not only is it super cute, it also has one of my favorite God stories behind it.  At Chris and Lindsay’s rehearsal dinner, I gave a toast and cried as I shared the story.

Lindsay and I met in an unlikely place:  Mozambique.  We taught in the classrooms next to each other and were instant “Africa BFF’s.”IMG_2146

Then Lindsay moved home to Texas and I moved home to California.  We called each other on occasion, but the calls became fewer and farther in between, and it seemed we would lose touch over time.  It appeared ours would be a friendship for just one chapter in our lives.

But God had other plans.

Because while we were in Mozambique running together, laughing with orphans together and eating raw cookie dough together, He was doing something wonderful behind the scenes.  He was setting up the foundation of a friendship which would become crucial for both of us in the next stage of life.

A year after we returned to the States and life was back to normal, I got a call from Lindsay.  A relationship had ended abruptly and her heart was broken into a thousand little pieces.  Coincidentally, the week prior, I too had lost a relationship I had thought was going to be long-term.

We cried together and then I had a stroke of genius. “Why don’t you come out here?  Get on a plane and come stay with me this summer.”

So she did.

And God did something special that summer.  He began the healing process in each of our hearts and used each other to do it.

Lindsay came out every summer for the next few years:


Together we hiked and shopped and explored just about every single strip of coastline in southern California.  Our hearts were mended and we began the waiting game.  “Okay, God.  We’re ready to meet our husbands.  Now where are they?”

We both finally tried online dating and both failed miserably.  We called each other after terrible dates and talked about potential set-ups.  We were two girls in their 30’s, still living at home while most of our friends were married and turning into baby-making factories.

And then one day I got another call from Lindsay.  She had met someone.

She was behind him in line at Subway but didn’t say anything.  However, since he had on a name tag and they live in a small town, some quick online-stalking revealed they had a mutual friend.  The friend called Chris.  Chris called Lindsay.  They went out the next night.  Crazy talk.

Even crazier?

Three weeks later, I met Paul.

Even crazier than that?  Both boys were 26.  Lindsay and I laughed at our cougar status and marveled at the fact that the previous summer we were both single and now we both had 26-year old boyfriends.

A few weeks later, I called Lindsay to tell her things were getting serious.  Paul had dropped the “L” word.  Five days after my call, she called me giggling, to tell me Chris too had said, “I love you.”

On May 12, Paul popped the question.

On May 14, Chris did too.

Paul and I were married on September 20.

Chris and Lindsay said, “I do” on November 15.

As I told this story of bizarre timing at Lindsay’s rehearsal dinner, I talked about how cool it is that we serve a God who cares about us so intimately.  Only He knew Lindsay and I would need to wait for years to find our husbands (perhaps because they needed time to grow up!)  So during those years of living in the scary unknown, God provided for us in a way so like Him- He gave us each other.

His word and His presence provide amazing comfort, but sometimes you need flesh and bone.  Sometimes you need a shoulder to cry on, ears to hear you, and arms to embrace.  So God comforted us during our single years with each other.  He used our shoulders, our ears, and our arms to be His.

God entangled our stories and made it very clear He was behind it all.  I mean, come on, both of these guys are 26 and we meet them just days apart?!?  Then we fall in love, get engaged, and tie the knot on nearly the exact same timetable?

Maybe it was just coincidence.

Or maybe it was the work of a sovereign God who has perfect timing.  Maybe it was the work of a Father who loves to provide for His children and bless them in ways they could never imagine.

I’m inclined to believe the latter.

(Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series.)

A Closet Full of Stories (Part 1)

My closet is full of stories.

I’ve got all these shirts and shorts and dresses that bring me back to times and places I loved so much I can’t bring myself to throw them out, even when they’re torn or faded or terribly out of style.  Maybe this is why our guest bedroom is really “Katie’s second closet.”

Just as certain smells can bring back certain memories from long ago, when I slip on certain pants or old hoodies, I am transported back in time and can’t help but smile.  These clothes are lined with memories; the pockets are stuffed with laughter and adventure.  They hang in my closet and remind me of God’s goodness.

Does anybody else get this weirdly attached to their clothes?

I was thinking about this last week after I split my favorite pair of jeans.  Put them on, did my usual lunge/stretch, and riiiiiiiip! Giant hole in a very unfortunate spot.

I fell to the ground and yelled, “Dang it!!!!”

Because I’m not very dramatic.

I was so bummed because those jeans have been places with me.  They’ve been bundled up in suitcases and worn all over this planet.  They’ve traveled with me through my twenties and into my thirties and were even there when I licked a glacier:IMG_8936

They’ve been like an old faithful friend, and have, pardon my french, but covered my ass on many occasions.  Literally covered my ass-  these pants never showed my butt crack when I bent over.  They were practically magic.

There are a bunch of other items in my closet about which I am overly-sentimental.  Items that, if ever lost or destroyed, would really make me sad.  Here are some of their stories:

1) My Alaska flannel.


Three years ago, I bought this flannel in a consignment store in Alaska.  All my shirts felt way too California, and I wanted a more “rustic” look so I could blend in with the locals.   In a few days Paul and I will be packing our bags to visit Jenny and Chris and their (now much bigger) kiddos.  You’d better believe I’ll be reaching for my flannel; it’s itchin’ to go on more adventures.

However, I will not be packing those shoes from the picture.  If you recall from THIS POST, we had a minor sewage spill and human poo splashed on them.  No memory is fond enough to make me keep poo-splattered shoes.

This shirt travels with me whenever I’m heading for a mountain adventure.  Not only are we going to see Jenny and Chris this summer, Paul and I will also be road-tripping it out to Fort Collins to see Katie and Cameron:IMG_2124

Jenny and Katie are two of my weirdest friends.  In the best way possible.  I met them both my freshman year at Westmont, Jenny a roommate and Katie a teammate.  I instantly knew our quirks were compatible.  At a time when I was quite vulnerable, with no idea how the next four years would pan out, God provided in one of the greatest ways:  He gave me these girls.

I’ve been adventuring with them for fifteen years now.  Fifteen years of sweet friendship, fifteen years of laughter and weirdness.  It’s been a remarkable fifteen years.

Both Jenny and Katie live in picturesque places a bit off the grid, and they both are on the lookout for adventure.  When I’m with them, I laugh so hard it hurts and I typically bust out this flannel.  So when the school year feels long and the days seem to drag, I pull out the flannel and remember that I have “quirky, mountain friends” just a phone call away.

2) My sequin dress

I found this treasure on the clearance rack at TJ Maxx.  I bought it with no event in mind, but now laugh at the places it has been.

First, chaperoning a Winter Formal.IMG_2096

Here I am with several of my girls who were in my Wednesday lunch Bible Study for four years.  Now they’re off in college becoming real-life adults and I am reminded how blessed I am to get to point girls to Jesus during such formative years.

Next, my cousin’s wedding.IMG_2087

I love this picture with my sisters, but there’s a picture from this day I love even more.

This was the day I introduced Paul to my extended family.  My aunt Laura ran over and embraced him before I could make introductions.  My aunties had been praying for Paul for years.  They just didn’t know his name.

When we were practicing our swing dance moves, my sister took this picture:IMG_2088

Later that night, I asked Paul if I could post it on Instagram.

This would be our first Instagram post.  Our first announcement on social media that we were “together.”  For a girl who had never had a boyfriend and let tons of students “follow” her, this was  HUGE deal.

But Paul still had a dumb phone and didn’t realize the magnanimity of posting a picture together, so he shrugged and said, “Sure, go for it.”  I was giddy with excitement as I hit “Share” because I knew what this meant for me.  I was telling the world, “Look, world, look what I found! Isn’t he wonderful?  I plan on keeping him forever.”

Don’t worry, I didn’t say that to Paul.  Might have freaked him out.  On second thought, he proposed 30 days later, so it probably wouldn’t have scared him.

Most recently the dress made an appearance at my friend Cindy’s book release party:IMG_2078

Yeah, I have a friend who wrote a book.  And it is awesome!  Single ladies, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Who’s Picking Me Up From the Airport? 

When Cindy first started writing the book, I was in the same boat as she.  Single with no prospects in sight.  Throughout the book there are letters written by Cindy’s single friends talking about their experiences.  In case you can’t find my letter, it’s the one with the mention of my date with the 47-year old janitor from Compton.

When I was writing that letter, I had no idea I would one day bring my husband to Cindy’s book release party.  And Cindy, confession time: Paul and I stuffed my purse with those sugar cookies at your party.  They were delicious.

3) My pink shirt

The ironic thing is that my mom originally bought this shirt for me to wear on a first date.  Yes, I was over 30 and my mom was still buying me clothes.  And no, the date was not with Paul.

I remember the day my sister took me to Nordstrom to pick out the perfect first-date outfit for what would hopefully be the perfect first date.  I hadn’t been on a date in a long time and we were all hoping maybe this guy was “the one.”

But he wasn’t.

We both knew it right away and there was never a second date.  Story of my life.  However, what Heidi and I didn’t realize is that when we were searching for the perfect “first date” outfit,  we were actually buying the shirt I would wear when I got engaged.  God must have been giggling in heaven.IMG_2077

Often I have these plans in my head of how everything will work out in my future.  And I really do wonder if God laughs.  He has such better plans in mind.  Such grander things in store.  If I would but wait and trust Him.

So this pink shirt reminds me sometimes I need to simply wait.  Sometimes I need to stop and trust His plans are better than I can even imagine.

4) My collection of international hoodies

Paul owns two sweatshirts.


So he was more than just a little shocked when I moved in and brought over a tub overflowing with only sweatshirts and hoodies.  I assured him I had already gone through it and had given away everything I didn’t absolutely love.  Again, I get way too attached to my clothes.

My problem is I get cold easily and assume the weather everywhere on the globe will be like Southern California.  So I arrive places and end up buying a sweatshirt out of sheer necessity since I didn’t pack warm enough clothes.

Case in point:IMG_2095

If you were wondering, yes, Trent is holding a stuffed ferret.

I love my collection of warm-weather attire from around the globe because it reminds me life is full of adventure.  And like my pink shirt, these sweatshirts remind me God’s plans are better than my own.

So so so much better!

If I had met Paul when I was in college, I never would have been able to travel like I did throughout my twenties.  (Plus, he was still in Middle School.  Ew!)  But since God’s plans required me to wait, I have gotten to see places I had never imagined.  I’ve collected memories and hoodies I will keep forever.

Now that I’m married, I don’t anticipate the adventuring to end.  I might not cross the Atlantic Ocean as often, but now I’ve got a partner in crime to search for adventure all around us.

5) My Boston Marathon jacket

This jacket hasn’t been many places.


But that’s simply because it’s fairly new.  Here is it’s story:

When my friend Christina qualified for the 2015 Boston Marathon, I gave her two pieces of advice:

1) Bring your own toilet paper.  The hardest part about running the Boston Marathon was using the porta-potty before the race.  Thousands of people stand in long lines to “unload” in these germ-ridden, private poo-holes, aka: the bowels of hell or Satan’s stench-room.  I estimate roughly 300 people had already stankified the stall I entered with their morning dumps, so the toilet paper was long gone.  I looked around frantically and discovered my only wiping option:

The cardboard roll.

Desperate times, people.  Desperate times.

2) Buy the jacket.  Each year there is a new jacket for sale for those who run the Boston Marathon. The Dutch in me couldn’t fork over the dollars, so I settled for a cheap t-shirt instead.  Though I do wear that shirt all the time, I deeply regretted not buying the jacket and insisted Christina buy one for herself.

You can imagine my shock and delight when, a few weeks later, after Christina had run the marathon, she presented me with an early birthday present from e-Bay:

This jacket will always remind me of Boston, but more importantly, of Christina._MG_0972

She’s the kind of friend everyone needs.  The kind that not only buys incredibly thoughtful gifts, but tells you what’s up.  Christina is the reason I have the wedding ring I wanted.  After I told her I wanted to marry Paul, she pulled up the Tiffany’s website and made me pick out styles I liked.

Then when Paul got ahold of that info and bought me my dream ring, it was Christina who noticed I had never washed it.  She is the kind of friend who will point out when your diamond ring looks grimy.

Not only that, she offered her tip of cleaning rings with denture cleaner and a toothbrush.  And when I procrastinated, she brought me the denture cleaner.  See what I mean?  This woman is an answer to a prayer I had never thought to pray for myself- a friend to help me navigate “adulthood.”  A friend to tell me what’s up.

And this incredibly loud jacket will always remind me of her friendship and the way God puts people in our lives we don’t even realize we need.

I’m not done yet.  I have five more items of clothing with stories of God’s goodness I want to share, but this post is getting out-of-control long so I’m stopping here.  Tune back in later this week when I’ll tell the stories behind my wedding dress, yoga pants, and more.  And if you have a story behind your clothes, I’d love to hear it!

Letter to my 16-year-old self

Happy sweet sixteen!  I realize your birthday was last week, but as you know, we are never on time for anything, so belated birthday wishes are pretty typical.  I say “we” because, yes, I am your 33-year-old self writing to you from the future.

I know 33 sounds ancient to you right now, but believe it or not, you actually won’t feel that old at this age (despite your aching back and 9 o’clock bedtime on Fridays).  There is so much you probably hope I will tell you- so many unknowns that you are dying to know.

I hate to disappoint, but I just can’t tell you about those things right now.  See, there are lessons you need to learn about trusting God with the unknown future.  If you knew how everything panned out, your faith wouldn’t get refined, and that would be one of the greatest tragedies.

However, I will give you a few spoilers.

First, two of the girls at your sweet-sixteen party will be your life- long friends.  You will stand beside them on their wedding days, throw them baby showers, visit them when they move to far away places, and grow old together even though you won’t see each other very often.

There are also girls in other parts of California, girls in Colorado, Texas, and even Alaska who will become your “grow old and grey together” kind of friends.  One of your future friends is in pre-school right now.  Another is 30 and a mother of two.  You will find that age becomes less and less important as you get older.

There are other girls at your party with whom you will lose touch.  In fact, most of the people you hang out with in the next few years will become “people you used to know.”  But don’t worry, many of them will become Facebook friends, so you’ll be able to stalk them at will.  I realize that makes zero sense to you right now, but just know that one day your sister’s pager will not seem so high-tech and you won’t always be able to listen in on her phone conversations from the upstairs phone.

Speaking of your sister, even though right now you and Heidi have separate rooms and separate lives, in the next few years she will become your very best friend in the world.  Friends come and go, but sisters stay forever.  So stop fighting with her about borrowing her clothes and her car.  Oh and tell her the truth when you crash the Nissan.  If you don’t, she’ll tease you about it for years.

And your annoying little brothers?  Well, they’ll ALWAYS be your annoying little brothers.  But one day you will realize they have become your friends as well.  Those skinny little troublemakers will grow into giant men of God who will marry beautiful girls who become your dear friends.  They will move away eventually, so spend as much time as you can with them- even if they drive you crazy with all the farting and the made-ya-looking.

Even crazier than befriending your brothers?  One day you’ll be friends with your parents.  After you grow out of your eye-rolling stage, you will discover that all their “no’s” were for a reason.  You will realize how much they have sacrificed for you, how much they have lavished their love on you, and you’ll finally be truly grateful for these intelligent, hilarious people you call Mom and Dad.

The world will change dramatically in the next 17 years.  People will be googling, tweeting, snap-chatting, blogging, and tumbling.  The number sign will get used a lot more often, phones will get tiny and then huge again; your giant book of cds will become obsolete, you’ll use a selfie stick when traveling, and it will become a good thing to be “sick” or “swag.”

However, some things will never change.  Farts will still be funny.  Cartoons will still be awesome.  Your cat will still be alive!!

Mom will still slip you money when Dad’s not looking.  You still won’t be able to sing.  You’ll never learn to dance.  But you will become a pretty proficient French-braider thanks to something called Pinterest.

Now I’m afraid I have some bad news.  That acne that plagues your face and makes you want to wear a paper bag over your head?  It still hasn’t gone away.  Ridiculous, right?!? But hey, it’s okay- you’ll figure out the whole makeup thing eventually, and all those zits force you to develop a sense of humor.  And those giant, thunder thighs you can’t seem to hide?  You’ll run marathons on them one day, so be grateful.

That’s right.  In the not-too-far-future you will become a runner and people will have no idea you ever played basketball.  You will discover that you are so much more than just the things you are good at.  Your identity will no longer be wrapped up in your ability to dribble a ball or block a shot.  No one will ever ask you about your GPA or SAT, so stop stressing.  You are so much more than your grades.

I know that some days you feel ugly and invisible since boys don’t pay much attention to you.  Be grateful you don’t have to deal with the drama that comes with them and instead enjoy the freedom to be gross and goofy with your girlfriends.  There is a reason that your attic will be overflowing with a bright assortment of bridesmaid dresses.

I know your main question for me is whether or not you’ll ever get married.  Do you ever find “the one?”  Do you have kids and a dog and live happily ever after?

All you need to know right now is that during the years when your friends are going on dates, then buying white dresses, and then painting nursery rooms, you won’t.

I know.

It kinda sucks.

But then again, it’s kinda wonderful.

Because it is during these years that you will fall truly, madly, deeply in love with Jesus.   You will hurt and sometimes feel alone.  But He will comfort you and give you the gift of His presence.  You will get to know Him in ways you never would if you had never experienced the pain of a longing heart.

In the midst of the longing, you will discover that He is all you need.

In the middle of the long wait, you will encounter a God more intimate and loving than you could ever imagine.

So to answer your question about getting married, sorry but I just can’t tell you.  The only way to learn about trust is to be forced to face the great unknown.  However,  I can tell you that you do find your happily ever after.  You find it in your relationship with your Savior.

Before I go, here are a few final suggestions.

Enjoy those bottomless bowls of ice-cream while you can.  Your metabolism will not always be so kind.

Stop dreaming about marrying Prince William.  He’ll find a Kate who is much more put together than you’ll ever be.

Learn to care more about God’s opinion of you than the opinions of others.  The quicker you can learn this lesson, the better.

When you’re tempted to buy overalls and tube tops, please don’t.

Cling to God with everything you’ve got.  Everyone you know will change, but He will always stay the same.

Do NOT get your belly button pierced.

Reading in bad lighting really does hurt your eyesight, so turn on a light already.

Stop comparing yourself to the popular girls.

Keep getting those warts burned off.  Eventually they go away for good!

Ease up on the eye liner.

Call your grandparents.

All those years of laughing till your stomach hurts will give you some crazy laugh lines, but they are worth it.  Keep howling.

Life turns out to be one wild and crazy adventure, but it is filled with seemingly mundane days.  Learn to find the adventure in each of those days, and you’ll never be bored.

But if you do get bored, this thing called “Netflix” will be invented.  It. Is. Amazing.

I write this letter to give you hope during your high school years.  You have no idea the joy and adventure God has in store for you.  You will befriend incredible people all over the planet and eat foods your tastebuds have never dreamed of.  You will laugh hard but also hurt deeply.  You will explore places on the globe you couldn’t find on a map and you will love people in ways that will physically hurt.

Oh, Katie, it is such a glorious journey.  Keep reading the Bible as your guide and when you celebrate your 33rd birthday, you will have a full heart and a content soul.

Happy birthday!


your 33-year-old self

PS-  For the love of all that is holy, put on some sun block!!!