Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Year in Review: Books Style

I started 2009 with a goal of reading 13 books, one a month and one more.  Since books for class don't count and I took three literature classes in 2009, that was a feasible goal.  I read 14.  So my goal this year was 17, and I hit 22.  I think that means in 2011 I have to read 25...

1. Five Love Languages: Singles Edition by Gary Chapman

2. The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

3. June Bug by Chris Farby

My thoughts on books 4-9 and some more can be found here

4. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
A must-read if you like historical fiction and/or Latina America.

5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Historical fiction set in the Jackson, Mississippi, during the Civil Rights Era

6. The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright
Laura, my dyslexic sister, devoured this book.

7. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Houssini
Christina, my other dyslexic sister, is eager to read this book.  It's a must read if you like historical fiction and Afghanistan.

8. Invisible I by Stella Lennon
Part of The Amanda Project

9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My boss asked me to read this book.  I never would have done it on my own, but I enjoyed it!

10. Unspoken Lies by Darrien Lee
I went to Barnes & Noble looking for a short book and bought this one just because it fit that description.  Honestly, the only reason I kept reading this book was because I liked the exposition.  I was not impressed with the dialogue, storyline or ending.  The whole story revolved around the characters having affairs and getting away with it, and the ending seemed like a cop out.  I don't recommend it, sorry.

11. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
I read this book as a writer and it was good.  I would love to go back and read it again, this time just as a person.  My roommates and I have embraced his idea of filling life with memorable moments.  Our first Memorable Moment was putting birthday candles in Amy and Melia's chicken breast instead of in their cake.  I do recommend this book but take your time reading it.  Let everything sink in before you move on to the next chapter.

12. Fearless by Max Lucado
I didn't realize how much control fear has in my life until I read his book on how to get rid of it.  I love all Max Lucado books, but this is definitely one of my favorites.  If you're going to try Max for just one book, pick this one.

13. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
I was promised I would love this book.  And I did.  It did take me awhile to get into it, though, because I was coming off a long stretch of historical fiction books.  All of my other thoughts about it are in a Writer's Notebook at school, sorry.

14. A Novel Idea
A writing book I highly recommend if you're interested in writing Christian fiction.  I took notes.

15. "Unveiled," "Unashamed," and "Unshaken" part of A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers
They are three fictional short stories looked at the lives of nonfictional Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth.  Francine Rivers brings Bible characters to life in a way I've never experienced before.  I had a hard time getting into these stories at first, but I was disappointed I couldn't finish the book (I borrowed it and had to return it).  Although, if you're going to read Francine Rivers you have to read Redeeming Love.

16, 17. Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Books two and three in The Hunger Games series.  When I read the first book, I criticized Collins for dragging the story out through three books rather than just ending it.  Maybe it's just my dislike for sequels.  I still understand why I argued that, but I'm glad she didn't ask my opinion before writing books two and three.  The books are considered young adult fiction, but I've heard of a lot of adults thoroughly enjoying them.  Elizabeth and Andy kept pestering me to read and finish them so we could all talk about them.  Catching Fire I read in one weekend, but Mockingjay I spread out over months just because it was that time in the semester.  They're not hard reads, and Mrs. Mary says her seventh graders are devouring them.  Maybe a good book for a middle schooler to read with a parent.

18. Cast of Characters by Max Lucado
This is kind of like Lineage of Grace in that it takes Bible characters and focuses in on their lives.  The way Max (can you call the author by his first name when you've read 15 of his books?) brings the characters to life forced me to think about them in ways that had never crossed my mind before.  It's also a devotional so you can see trends between their lives then and ours today.  Are they really that much different?

19. One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash
I love Ron Rash.  I'm a little biased because I've met him twice but that's besides the point.  I prefer Serena, but I enjoyed One Foot in Eden, too.  It doesn't have the "typical Rash body count" (Rash); only a handful of (creative) deaths.  Every section is written from a different character's POV and in their voice.  I liked the overlap, hearing the same story told in two different points of view.  If I wrote it, I would have ended it one section sooner.  Actually, if I get to meet Rash again, I want to ask why he did it the way he did.

20. Grace: For Those Who Think They Don't Measure Up by Bob Lenz
Another author I've heard speak many times.  Bob writes just like he talks which was a bit of a deterrent for me since I am a writer.  The tangents he takes in real life work well.  The same principle doesn't work as well in writing.  I started reading this book years ago and just now finally finished it because I'm not his target audience.  It is a great book for youth struggling with the ideas of grace and faith.  Not so great for a 20-something confident in her faith.

21. Flight
Not a published book yet but when it does become published you can say I told you about it.  One of my friends send me the novel of another friend and asked for my feedback.  I enjoyed it, I learned from it, and I gave constructive criticism.  I look forward to seeing it on a shelf in Barnes & Noble one day.

22. The Bible
For the second year in a row I did a "Read the Bible in a year" thing.  If you've never read the Bible in a year (or ever), I recommend using this one.  It's challenging but doable.  For me, I wasn't very diligent about getting into the Word but this helped a lot.  I did spend a lot of time behind but (unless something changes in the next two days) I'm finishing on time.  I don't know if I'm going to do it again in 2011 just because after two years it's kind of assignment-like rather than a desire to seek Him.  We'll see if I can dig in without the accountability...

What have you all been reading lately?

I'm ringing in 2011 with a moving bookmark in A Love With Giving (Max Lucado) and How the Garcia Girls Lost the Accents (Julia Alvarez).  What else should I add to my list?

<>< Katie

Monday, December 27, 2010

Marathon Christmas

I grew up thinking this was normal.  I grew up thinking a lot of things were normal, myths my roommates have quickly dispelled.  You mean everyone doesn't have four Christmas trees and a 30-hour Christmas?  I supposed now you're going to tell me everyone has more than three cousins, too, right?

Christmas Eve
3:00pm- "Get in the car now!"

4:00pm- We start Christmas where all Christmases should begin: in church.  We pass the bulletin from one end of the pew to the other, share notes, and split a half a piece of gum thirteen ways.  You think I'm kidding.

6:00pm- "And WHY are you snow blowing in your Christmas suit?"
All thirteen of my maternal side of the family is gathered in my aunt and uncle's kitchen.  We're munching on meatballs, shrimp, and the world famous cheese dip.  We need something in the stomachs as we begin a long night of alcohol consumption.

7:00pm- "Maybe we should open presents." 
"Yes, that bow is beautiful on your head." 
"What kind of tape did you use?  It's impossible to rip!"

8:00pm- Grandpa and Grandma get a fifteen minute head start (we even use the microwave timer) to light candles and turn on lights before the entire party mobilizes to Grandpa and Grandma's house.  We open presents first from my grandparents and second from my aunt and uncle from out of town.

9:00pm- Grandpa and Grandma serve us pizza subs on paper plates just to have some substance during our night of grazing.  "Sure, I'd love some blackberry wine."

10:00pm- My family's turn for the fifteen minute head start.  There are advantages and disadvantages to being the last house in the round-robin.  The biggest disadvantage is that the hair and makeup need remedial help before the photograph in front of the tree.

11:00pm- "Who wants to be Santa?"

12:00am- Grandpa and Grandma decide it's time to go home.

1:00am- "Someone has to eat my food!"

2:00am- We karate chop the remaining family out of here, clean up the kitchen, and set up for the morning.  Time for bed!

For the next four to six hours visions of sugar plums dance in our heads while Santa flies over head.

Christmas Day
8am- "Santa's been here!"

9am-  The family gift exchange and Santa presents are opened on Christmas morning.  Dad gets coal.  And the grille to go with it.  Mom cries when she opens the puzzle photo collage of my sisters and me growing up.  My flannel jeans from Cabela's miraculously fit!  "Dad, I got you a six pack of beer just because I can.  No, I don't want one." 

10am- "Get in the car!  We're late!"

11am- "Are we there yet?"

12pm- Growing up, my family was always the last to arrive at my paternal grandparents' house.  Some traditions die hard.  Christmas dinner will be served at two.  I regret not eating more than a banana for breakfast and dive into the chips, fudge, and pie on the kitchen table.

1pm- I'm in a photo war with Travel Buddy, my uncle who's a professional photographer.  I take literally 178 photos.
2pm- The Charlie Brown Tree. 
Every year my grandparents go to the tree farm and find the most ridiculous tree in the $5 bin.  It's too thick to put ornaments on it.  It's so thin you can see through it.  It has two tops.  They then barter until the owner lets them buy the tree for $3.  They give him a $2 tip.  This year the tree branches needed to be transplanted, so they got it for $2 with a $1 tip.  Remember, the camera adds ten pounds.
3:00pm- "This restaurant is only open twice a year, so you'd better dig in!"
Thanksgiving dinner is remarkably similar to Christmas dinner.  The main difference is that the men are actually allowed to sit in the dining room with the women rather than being banished to the kitchen.  We pass rolls by overhand tossing, make the misbehaving adults sit at the children's table, and, heaven forbid, we forget the olives.

5:00pm- Photo shoot! 
Each family.  "At least pretend like you like each other."  All the girls.  All the boys.  "Stop that!"  Three generations.  "Where'd Grandpa go now?"  All the granddaughters.  All eleven of us.  The stray people we picked up on the street.  All dogs.  "Ok, my camera's memory card is full."

6:00pm- "Yes, I'd like a brandy old fashion, please.  We're going to be here for awhile."
Commence the longest present opening extravaganza in the history of present openings.  Grandma hands the first present to Tina.  Tina opens it, throws the wrapping paper on the floor, and examines it for fifteen and a half seconds before she must stand to pick and hand out the next present.  If she surpasses her allotted fifteen and a half seconds, the entire crowd shouts, "PICK A PRESENT!"

7:00pm- Fifteen minute intermission to fill the glasses and empty the bladder.

7:15pm- "Pick a present!"

8:00pm- "PICK A PRESENT!"
Every year Grandma and Grandpa give each of their four grandkids a gold ornament engraved with our names, the year, and "Love, Gma & Gpa."  After twenty-some years, Wal-mart stopped making the ornaments, so Grandma had to get creative.  This year she bought some silver ones from Target and engraved them herself.

9:00pm- "Pick a present" brouhaha is finally over after three hours of present opening!  Grandma and the four granddaughters sit in the heaps of wrapping paper for the annual photo.  Grandma boasts that she is 71 and can still get down on the floor.  We help her up.

10:00pm- Grandma asks who brought the iPod for the traditional Christmas Day dancing in the kitchen.  No one has music; no one has the energy to dance.  The men are Wii bowling in the kitchen.  Grandpa's winning.  "That's an awful nice purple dress you've got there, Jim," Greg says, and the crowd rolls.  Grandpa's using my Mii.

11:00pm- The food comes back out for those who are hungry.  I eat some cherry pie, little smokies, sweet potatoes, and fudge.  In that order.  "Shhhhh!  Someone may be sleeping."

12:00am- That someone should be me.  But we're having too much fun retelling old stories, hacking up lungs, and laughing hysterically.

1:00am- That someone is me.  It's the only night of the year when I can sleep with socks on because of the heat problems in the old farmhouse.  Yet I sleep with a smile on my face.  Another great Christmas!
I love hearing about Christmas traditions.  What are yours?

<>< Katie

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas Miracle

Our motto for this family get together has been, "It's a Christmas miracle!"  The pants I bought you actually fit?  It's a Christmas miracle!  You guys made it here safely through the snow?  It's a Christmas miracle!  You found some extra dipping sauce in the back of the fridge?  It's a Christmas miracle!

It's been a bit overkill.  Don't get me wrong, I love acknowledging everyday miracles but "Christmas Miracle" is kind of a term already on reserve.

A few days before Christmas 2006, we received a phone call from my grandma.  Our family friend Arnie, 81, had a seizure during dinner.  He vomited, aspirated, and earned himself a flight for life ride to the intensive care unit.

While the rest of the world was preparing for a joyful holiday, we were preparing for the worst.  Decisions were to be made on December 26.  The decision was that life support would be terminated the following day after everyone had the opportunity to say goodbye to a warm hand. 

The following morning, my dad received a wake-up call asking him to make the drive to be with them.  While he was showering my grandma called back.  She had to hand the phone to my grandfather because she was crying too hard to talk to my mom.  They were tears of joy.  Arnie was awake, sitting up, and by that afternoon he was asking for a drink.

Arnie lived for eight more months before he passed away peacefully.  There was no reason he should have survived that December.  His funeral was planned!  Even my agnostic grandparents admitted it was a Christmas Miracle.

Sometimes God works in life-saving miracles and sometimes He works through everyday miracles.  The question becomes, will we acknowledge them?

I pray you all had a miraculous Christmas, my friends.

<>< Katie

Friday, December 24, 2010

Faith, Hope, Joy, Love

Christmas is finally here!  School is on a hiatus while people become cooking maniacs and wrapping machines.

The traditions rooted deeply except I don't really think Mary and Joseph sat around staring at dead trees and eating candy out of their socks.

I bet they were exhausted from traveling and discouraged by the lack of places to stay.  Then Mary gave birth in the most unsanitary place ever; oh, yeah, and her fiance isn't the father.  Now all of the animals want to know where they're supposed to be eating for the next several days because there are some unexpected visitors.  Shepherds are being visited by terrifying angels, and magi come bearing expensive gifts--one of which was a burial spice.  I think most modern parents would be offended if someone gave them embalming fluid at a baby shower.  Just saying.

Big mess! Big message!

God became man.  The creator of the universe shoved Himself into a little baby's body.  Prophesies and promises fulfilled.  Christ, our Lord, born to die for our redemption.

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!
(Luke 2:1-20 MSG)
It's a story of real people having the FAITH to do what God called them to do--even if it was uncomfortable.

It's a story of the HOPE given to the world in the form of a baby.

It's a story about JOY bundled into an unusual package.

It's a story about the LOVE my Savior has for me. The LOVE He has for you.

Merry Christmas!  Have a blessed day, my friends!
<>< Katie

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Katie: I'm going to go upstairs now before one of those cookies leaps off the pan and into my mouth.
Mom: One already leaped into Dad's mouth.
Katie: They're my favorite.
Mom: I thought the rugelach was your favorite?
Katie: It is.  And Grandpa's Favorite Cookies are my favorite too.

Huh?  Katie, you can't have three favorite cookies.

Actually, I can.  If Peder Eide can have five favorite children, I can have three favorite cookies.

Peder [to his middle son]: Ethan, guess what?  You're my favorite.
Ethan: Cool!
Peder: Ethan, guess what?  Allison's my favorite.  And Taylor?  He's my favorite.
Ethan: Let me guess, Makenzie and Teshome are your favorite too?
Peder: Yup!  You are all my favorite!
Ethan: That's not as cool, Dad.

I understand Ethan's plight.  My sisters and I used to drive our father nuts asking him who was his favorite.  Now he says his favorite number is one-two-three.  He leaves us all notes proving he loves us each the most.

That just doesn't make sense.  I can't have three favorite cookies.  Peder can't have five favorite children.  Dad can't love us all the most.  It's not possible!  Or is it?

Why can't it be?

Friend, you are God's favorite.  He loves you the most.

He loves you so much He engraved your name on the palm of His hand. (see Isaiah 49:16).

He sent His Son to earth to be born in a dirty manger, to grow up in a world that disagreed with Him, to be brutally killed, to be raised again from the dead.  All because He loves you.  All because you're His favorite.

How does that make you feel?

Excuse me now while God's favorite daughter catches the favorite cookie that is flying at her mouth.

<>< Katie

Monday, December 20, 2010

"You are Faithful"

Some families watch movies. Some families have a game night. My family goes to concerts. It's our bonding activity.

I think it's safe to say we are professional concert go-ers. We are armed with CDs to have signed and even bring our own Sharpies. We consider our seats good ones if we can see the performer's teeth. We know all the words and sing along, even if not invited. We've had artists talk to us from the stage, tease us in the Meet & Greet line, and remember us from concert to concert.

The other night, we went to a Peder Eide concert. Peder has recognized me before, but I was out of context so I wasn't sure if he'd recognize me again. At one point during the show, I was looking at the screen and he was looking at me. When I looked back, we made eye contact and he gave me an "I see you" look.

After the show, we made our way through the crowd and towards Peder. When it was my turn, he greeted me with a hug and said, “It’s good to see you, Katie.”

He remembered my name! If I ever gave him my name, it was six months ago in a very different atmosphere. Maybe he found eight seconds to facebook stalk me. I don’t know, but he knew my name! We could have walked away right then and I would have been happy.

But we didn’t. When he signed my CD, while teasing me about being old school for bringing a CD from 1999, he signed his name, wrote my name (which he spelled correctly), and then thought for a minute. Eventually he wrote, “You are faithful.”

Ok, Peder Eide addressing me by name and calling me faithful. That’s cool!

But you know who I really want to hear that from? God.

I want God to put His arm around me and say, “Katie, you are faithful.”

I don’t want my faith to be limited to Christian concerts and blog posts. I want my faith to be a daily experience. I want to always seek God more. I don’t want the smile on my face to be fake. I want to be filled with joy—even when I have a headache, even when I’m stressed, even when the world seems to be against me.

Through it all, may I live faithfully to the Lord.  After all, He's the one that gave me my name.

<>< Katie

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Carpenter's Hands

You can tell a lot about a person from his or her hands.

When this was first brought to my attention, I immediately thought of my grandfather.  I thought about the hours I spent as a child lotioning his rough carpenter hands.  I thought about how appalled my child-self was that he let his hands get so chapped and cracked.

I look down at my own hands now and realize my child-self would be appalled.  Calloused from holding a pen.  Blistered from raking leaves (yes in December).  Red and rough from the cold, despite the gloves.  I thought about the abuse they receive throughout the day.

Hands vital for communication.  Hands that fidget.  Hands ready to hold.  Ready to perform.  Hands that spell "Hi!" with veins.  Hands that are washed way too often.  Hands that work just as easily in polar fleece gloves as they do independently.  These hands hurt.  These hands are cold. 

These hands don't care.  These hands will do their best for God's glory.  These hands were made to praise Him.  These hands were made to serve Him.  These hands may have to work slowly, but these hands will work and He'll get the honor.

As a child, I never wanted to have the hands of my grandfather, the hands of a carpenter.  As an adult, I want to be the hands of a carpenter, Christ Jesus. 

A carpenter's hands are beat up, bruised, and rough. When I say, "Lord, I want to be Your hands" am I willing to be beat up and bruised?  Am I willing to accept that life will be rough?  Am I willing to accept the scars?

If you can tell a lot about a person by his or her hands and we are called to be Jesus's hands and feet, what are we saying about Him?

<>< Katie

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snow pants and iced coffee

Sometimes so many cool things happen in life that I just want to write about every minute of every day.  Except I can't.  Let me give you snapshots of my yesterday.  <>< Katie

Snapshot One
Five of the six girls in my apartment had somewhere to be by 8am.  Remember, we're college students, so that is unheard-of early!  A little before seven I rolled over and noticed Jennifer was missing.  Honestly, I wondered if she ever came to bed.  I fell asleep before she came in and she apparently got up before I did.  She could sleep while doing a headstand, so I wasn't too worried.  I was worried about our frantic, groggy noise as the other five of us tried to get ready.  When I found her in the living room, she said she went to bed just after I fell asleep and got up not five minutes before my alarm went off.  I asked why she was up and she said she got up to make Allyson coffee.  I figure that's the epitome of selflessness, to get up at 7am to make coffee for your roommate.  It got better.  She then went out and scraped all of the ice off of Elizabeth's car.  At seven am, my amazing roommate woke up just to serve us.

Snapshot Two
Around nine, Dr. Z and J-M walked into the coffee shop.  I asked J-M why he was wearing snow pants.  He said it was eleven degrees outside and they had walked.  He then proceeded to order an iced coffee.  At which point I reminded him it was eleven degrees out.  His response?  "That's why I'm wearing snow pants."

Snapshot Three
I arrived at the Wal-mart crosswalk two steps behind an elderly couple with matching hand-carved wooden canes.  There was enough time of me to cross in front of the oncoming car but there wasn't enough time for them.  The man cleared his throat to find his voice.  "Let's go," he said to his wife.  One foot at a time they moved forward and I subconsciously slowed my naturally fast pace to half time.  When we reached the halfway point, I was sure the car had stopped and there were other people in the cross walk, so I sped up again, but for some reason that cute old couple has stuck in my head for the last few days.

Snapshot Four
Around eight pm, my roommates announced it was wintery mixing outside.  I left my study perch on the couch and got up to look out the window.  Honestly, I was excited to see big white snowflakes for the first time this season.  As soon as I pulled open the blinds, I remembered I live in Baptist Country.  If I closed one eye, tilted my head sideways, and stared at the street light, I could kind of see something that resembled a rain drop.

Snapshot Five
Remember those nice things I said about my roommate in Snapshot One?  I take them all back.  That morning she also washed our sheets.  She said it took forever to put the sheets on my bed.  Apparently she had finished when she realized she missed a layer and had to start all over again.  Honestly, I appreciated it.  What I did not appreciate was the fact that she intentionally made the bed backwards.  I think next time I do the sheets I'll make Jen's bed inside out with the sheet on top and comforter on the bottom.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Looking Like People

"Your characters talk and act like people, but they don't look like people," my fiction writing class told me last week.  This constructive criticism has stuck in my head since then. 

It's true: I rarely describe the physical features of my characters.  Maybe it's because even though I'm a visual learned I struggle to describe real people much less made-up people.  There are almost a million 5'4" girls with light brown hair.  Maybe it's because I find writing physical description to be boring.  "Her dyed red hair fell in her face covering her hazel eyes" lameness.  Maybe it's because when I'm reading I envision the characters my own way and don't like being told I'm wrong.
"But we want to see the characters the way you see them," my professor told me.

My question is: Does it matter?  If it's vital that a character has curly, dark brown hair looks like she jumped out of a Jane Austen novel, then, yes, of course I'll mention it.  But does every character, or even the main character, need to be accompanied by a physical description?

Elizabeth says yes.  Otherwise they're just voices.
Nikki says she's stop reading if they weren't described.
Without looking up from the book she was reading, Amy nodded.

I remember as a fourth grader reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe before watching the movie.  Afterwards, the teacher asked us what we thought.

One student (I wish it was me...) said, "I liked the pictures in the book better."

I gave my protagonist strawberry blonde hair just to appease my classmates.  But deep down inside I wonder.  Does it matter to you if you know I'm so skinny I disappear if I turn sideways, my hands are so chapped they're bloody, and my not-quite-shoulder-length dirty blonde hair spends a majority of it's time in a three-quarters pony tail?

<>< Katie

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Voices

You are cornered.  The crowd surrounds you hurling insults at you like rocks.  Like rock, each one strikes and bruises as your imperfections and failures are called out publically.

"You're not pretty enough."
"You're messed up."
"You're not good enough."
"You're sick, selfish, insecure, greedy, impatient, lonely, hostile, unforgiving..."

The list goes on but you stop listening.  You're broken.  Each rock hurts.  You believe each rock to be true.  You cower in your corner and cry.

Suddenly, everything stops.  You slowly open your moist eyes and see a hand reaching to you.  Hesitantly you take it and He compassionately pulls you to your feet.  He holds you to His chest and comforts you as you cry.  When your weeping slows to whimpering, your Savior reaches down and wipes your tears.  He touches each one of your bruises as He turns to the crowd.

"How dare you!" He shouts.

God is angry for you.

"These rocks have already been thrown.  These insults hurled. This price paid and this punishment fulfilled."

You let go of Him so He can show them the holes in His hands.  In His feet.  The ripped flesh on His back.  This scars on His head.  His pierced side.

"How dare you tell her she's not good enough," He continues.  "I paid for her.  Yes, she can be selfish and insecure.  We're working on that.  But she's mine.  Nothing is going to change that.  Ever."

Slowly the crowd slinks backwards and away from you.  But He's not done.

"By telling her she's not beautiful, you are insulting My craftsmanship.  She is My creation; I formed her to be exactly who I want her to be.  I put that place on her head where hair doesn't grow.  I put that mole in an awkward spot.  I made her ears crooked on purpose.  I made her beautiful."

The crowd has vanished now.  You look up at Him and whisper, "Is that all true?"

He nods and smiles.  "Yes!"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Your Neighborhood Merch Sellers

Amy: Things like this only happen when I'm with you, Katie.

I subconsciously collect two things:
1. People named Mark (my family has FIVE family friends named Mark... we don't have any other duplicates).
2.  Odd situations.  I AM living a story worth telling.

On Friday night, Amy got another opportunity to experience this with me.  I wanted to go to Miracle in Bedford Falls, a musical in town, and Amy was the only one brave enough to go with me.

We showed up and the sign said the show was sold out.  I had four tickets on reserve, but we were only going to need two.  When I gave my name at Will Call the woman made an, "Oh!" face.  You know, the one that can only be followed by bad news.

Woman: We sold them.  We could only hold tickets for a week.  We tried to call you but we didn't have a phone number and you're not in the phone book.

When I spoke to a woman on the phone three weeks ago she never mentioned the week rule and I told her I was out of state.

They said don't panic.  Yes, the show was sold out but there were always no-shows, so they'd be able to find us two seats.  Just hang out for a bit.

Ok, great.  While we were standing in the atrium people watching, in came Mark.  This Mark happened to be the man who wrote the musical we were about to see.  Long story short, I know him.  We greeted each other with a nice long hug and some friendly chit chat.  I told him what had happened to our tickets and he apologized again.  As he was walking away he turned back to me.

Mark: Katie, can you stay after a little while and help me sell CDs?  [to Amy] And can you help too?

We didn't even have tickets to the musical but we were hired to sell CDs.  Of course, we said yes.

Amy: This is the second time this semester you've been asked to sell merchandise and I've been roped in to help.

She was right.  A few months ago we sold CDs for Shaun Groves and got to talk about Compassion.  It was the best job ever!  It was also moderately intense.  Everything I know about CD sales I learned from Ben, Shaun's merch and sound guy.

After the show, Amy and I set up the table to look nice, sold CDs, even made a make-shift cash box.
Mark: So, how many did we sell?  Two?
Katie: Five actually.  And you gave away two.
Mark: [Surprised] I'm glad you kept track of that!

Amy and I decided we're going to drop out of college and just become professional merchandise saleswomen.  We rock at this job!   Now, if only someone would pay us...

Amy: I have never done stuff like that in my life!  But I've done it twice this semester and it's because of you!
Katie: Either I don't know how to say no or I just know the right people.  Take your pick.

By the way, we did end up getting to see the musical.  We had third row seats even!  They were better than the tickets I had reserved.  God is good, right?

Have a great Saturday, and if you need someone to sell CDs, I know some good ones.  We could probably do books too.  ;-)

<>< Katie

Friday, December 10, 2010

Peruvian Christmas Gifts

In my science class this semester, we've spent at least three lab periods watching awareness documentaries on global environmental problems. Sure, some days the professor feeds us popcorn or nutella and oranges but let's be honest: bor-ing.

On Monday the video we watched showed a shanty town in Peru. A mother and her three children, all wearing white, walked away from the camera and towards the town.

They didn’t carry water. They weren’t hauling belongings. They were just walking. The four of them strolled together as a family.

The youngest, a toddler, held her mother’s hand. A daughter a year older walked in front of them. A five year old ran around the slowly moving trio. He grabbed his youngest sister’s hand; she hesitated. Like a good mother, the woman noticed the change in speed. She looked down at her children and missed a step.

As she recovered her balance, I lost mine. It was as if God whispered, “Katie, they’re no different than you are.” They live in a shanty town with no water. They speak I language I don’t understand. But they are no different than us.

They are a mother, doing the best she can to provide for her children. They are children with big dreams just like mine. They are cherished by God just like I am.

Take them out of their Peruvian shanty town and one wouldn’t know they were poor. Except they are. That’s the difference between them and me.

I worry about whether or not I’ll have time to run to the grocery store to buy more gallons of water or if I’ll have to drink the metallic tap water. They worry about whether or not they’ll have any water. I worry about whether or not I’ll have to go to the TYME machine this week rather than whether or not money will cover what I need. I worry about whether or not the Christmas gifts I ordered will come on time. Not whether or not Christmas will be any different than any other day of the year.

My heart went out to this Peruvian family, and immediately I thought of Compassion and the impact they have had on these kinds of families worldwide.

My family sponsors a little girl in Columbia, Maria Jose.  With our help she has access to education, medication, and the gospel.

If you can’t sponsor a child year round, maybe you can buy a Christmas gift for a child like my Peruvian children from the video. It’s a one-time gift that’s a lot more feasible for students on a tight budget.

Have $10 to buy a mosquito netting so a child does not have to worry about getting malaria?

Have $13 to spend on a soccer ball to child? Let me tell you, the kids I met in Guatemala were passionate about their futbol.

Have $16 to buy a chicken? Really, how often do you get to buy chickens?

Let some impoverished kids make Christmas cookies with baking supplies for $20.

Or $25 for vaccinations… you know, the ones that made us all scream as babies?

Educational supplies… I like books… only $30.

The list goes on and on.  Prices range from $10 to $5,000... just in case you have that kind of money laying around, you know.  Check out the catalogue!

Really everything helps. Every gift is cherished. Every life is touched. In the name of Jesus.

I can pray for the Peruvian family I saw in the documentary. I can thank God for them. And I can make a difference in the lives of similar families. Maybe I’ll even choose to believe my vaccines are keeping those children alive. My baking supplies are giving them family bonding time. My soccer ball is keeping that boy on the field playing rather than in the streets playing with drugs. Maybe my simple sacrifice will make more difference than I can even comprehend. With God’s hand, it does.

<>< Katie

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Healed By His Wounds

Last week I got unjustifiably angry at my close friend "Keely."  It was silly really.  It all boiled down to me being jealous... and hurt.

Something happened in the living room and instead of addressing it like an adult, I pouted in my room and text-vented to Amber.  I got so worked up that I was crying.  Silently.  Even in the same room, my roommate was unaware that I was having one of the most intense text conversations of my life.

For the next several days I held a grudge against Keely.  That's when the suitemates began to notice. 
"You've been extra sensitive lately, Katie."
"Katie and Keely have to sit on opposite sides of the room because they might rip off each others' head."

The two of us agreed to tone down our playful sassing for awhile and make sure we're showing love.  Through carefully planned words (and some not-so-carefully planned ones) I acknowledged why I had been so sensitive.  When it all boiled down to it, my anger had nothing to do with Keely.  Yet she had been the recipient of my frustration, jealousy, and anger.

She accepted my apology, which she said was unnecessary.  She hadn't considered my feelings about the situation.  We both decided to be more careful and move forward.

I got to take communion this week (a rare event in Baptist Country).  In confessing my sin to my Lord, the first situation that popped into my head was the situation with Keely.  I again asked for forgiveness and for those hurt feelings to be removed.  I wanted to be healed of the whole situation.

I almost cried again when Keely served me the bread.
"Body of Christ, given for you."

Forgiveness.  Given to me. 

"But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5 (emphasis mine)

Be healed in His wounds today, friends.
<>< Katie

Monday, December 6, 2010

That's My Daddy

Every Christmas my entire extended family worships together to start our Christmas Eve brouhaha.

As a toddler, I would walk between the knees of my relatives and the pew in front of us.  One of my uncles, neither will fess up to being the culprit but it could have feasibly been either one, handed me a piece of paper and told me to take it to my other uncle.

I looked down at the piece of paper, recognized a big "D" scribbled and loudly proclaimed, "That's my daddy!"

The paper really said, "Dork."

Yeah, church was pretty much over for my family at that point in time.
Happy Monday!
<>< Katie

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Rapid Turn of Events

Last Friday when we got in the van on our way to Philadelphia, Lori was a bit groggy from her midnight shopping trip.  She talked about seeing a man from her church, Mark.  His pregnant wife Beth was two days overdue at the time.  Obviously she couldn't go shopping, so she sent him out with a huge list of items to get Black Friday shopping.

"Wouldn't it be funny if he went home ready to take a nice long nap and she went into labor?" Lori said.

God thought it would be funny, too.  By the time we were in the Wells Fargo Center enjoying our intense hockey experience, Beth had gone into labor.

After the game, we got back in the van and Mr. Steve said, "God said we can come to Him in the good and in the bad.  Today we need to go before Him in the bad."

I thought he was referring to the recent devastating Flyers' loss in the third round of the shoot out.

No, Beth had delivered the baby and there were complications.  We didn't have a lot of information.  Neither did Beth.  But the baby had been transferred to a different hospital, and the prayer chain notified.

So pray we did.  Right there in the middle of a traffic jam in Philadelphia.  We said we wanted healing for Mark and Beth's youngster.  We didn't even know if it was a girl or a boy.  We didn't know what was wrong.  But we knew God knew.  We knew God cared. We knew God could heal the baby, if it was His will.

It was His will.  But He healed the baby in the way we weren't hoping for.  By the time we made it home after a cheese steak, Mark and Beth's son was being held safely in the arms of his Heavenly Father.

Do me a favor and take a minute to pray for Mark and Beth and other families that have lost children.  I cannot fathom such a joyous occasion turning so devastating so quickly.

Do me another favor and let me know how I can best pray for you.

Thanks, friends.

<>< Katie

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Wishes from the Fire Department

Somewhere between ten and eleven on Sunday night reality hit.  It was bedtime and we still had "miles to go before [we] sleep and miles to go before [we] sleep."  Three hours worth of miles.

I offered to switch and drive for awhile, but Amber pointed out that might be futile since I was yawning too.  She said she'd just curl up and go to sleep rather than keep me awake, but I wouldn't fall asleep while she was driving.  Probably true.  A few days earlier we'd learned the hard way that her reaction time is good even when she's tired.

Hit was a sudden, God-send burst of energy, I began the most animated, elaborate retelling of one of my favorite Christmas Eve stories. Followed by three hours worth of other stories, laughter, and no yawns at all. 

It was Christmas Eve afternoon and I was almost done getting ready for the traditional brouhaha when the smoke detector went off.

As a teenager, what to do in case of a fire had been drilled into my head.  I went out the garage door and passed both cars in the garage.  I found out later that my sisters were in the car ready to go, unaware that the smoke detector was going off.  When I rounded the house and headed towards our "meeting place" I realized there is a flaw in our plan: snow makes the meeting place hard to get to.  But it didn't matter because I saw both of my parents just chilling in the kitchen.

I opened the backdoor and walked back in.  Apparently my mom had spilled something in the oven earlier in the day and wanted to clean it out before everyone came over.  She used the self-cleaner oven feature for the first time and it set the smoke detector off.  Other than a hazy house, everything was fine.

The security system on our house is supposed to call the police if our house is broken into and fire department if the smoke detector goes off.  We were literally five minutes away from leaving for six hours.  We didn't want to come home (with the entire extended family fifteen minutes behind us) to discover our door had been broken down because we didn't answer.

Dad called the non-emergency fire department number to tell them everything was fine.

Fireman: Since you called, we have to send a truck out.

Great.  Although, we later learned if the security system had called they would have sent trucks from two different stations because we're right in the middle between the two.  As it were, the other station got an ambulance call around the same time.  I like to think that in inconveniencing ourselves we saved a life.  Whatever, Katie.

Anyway.  Fire truck came.  Big flashing lights.  Alarmed neighbors called.  Firemen stood in the back hall and listen to our crazy story.  They didn't even go into the kitchen!  They left.  Dad called the security system people to make sure the fire department isn't going to be called again.  Ultimately, against their advice, he disconnected our security system.

We showed up to my aunt and uncle's church a half hour late.  My cousin's choir, the reason we were going to church there, was returning to their seats.  We did make the pastor's day because the sanctuary was full, so they put seats in the atrium for us.  This is why we don't save seats on Christmas Eve anymore.  You never know when some firemen are going to make you late to church.

After church we began our normal round-robin at my aunt and uncle's house.  Food, drinks, presents, cookies, moving on.  The entire party of 13 journeyed to my grandparents' house for a repeat.  Food, drinks, presents, cookies, moving on.

Our house was the last in our parade.  We are also the only house with a functioning fire place.  My uncle from out of town wanted to roast chestnuts over our fire.  It made the kitchen a little smokey, but we didn't think anything of it.

Until my aunt shouted, "FIRE IN THE OVEN!"

Some bread dish--the same dish that had spilled earlier--was literally flaming inside of our oven.  That's bad.  One uncle grabbed a hot pad, pulled out the pan, and held it over the sink.  The other uncle blew out the flames.  Dad took the scorched pan and threw it in a snowbank in the back yard where it stayed for the next three days.

Of course, the fire alarm went off again and the house is full of smoke.  For the second time that day we opened all of the windows to let the frigid winter air into our home and the smoke out into the world.  I'm pretty sure the temperature in my kitchen was below freezing that Christmas.  I camped out in the basement, the warmest place in the house.

No more chestnuts roasting over an indoor fire.  No more flaming bread dish.  Just a great Christmas tale.  And a year full of photos with the fire extinguisher in them.

About a week later my mom's oven still needed to be cleaned.  So she set the self-cleaner again and opened the kitchen window.  She was on the phone with my aunt when she heard sirens in our area.  It's not really that uncommon because there are two deadly traffic corners within a mile of our house.  Except this was a fire engine siren.  Getting closer.  And closer.  And closer.

Mom: I've got to go.  That firetruck is coming down our street.

It stopped two houses away where they had a small electrical fire.

I hope this Christmas there are no unexpected guests.  Especially those that drive a big red vehicle and wear yellow suits.  Happy December First!

<>< Katie