Monday, January 31, 2011

Moving Mountains & What If Questions

During church, we were doing an illustration about moving mountains.
"God will move the mountain if we're willing to put in our shovel," Pastor Rob explained.

To demonstrate this, the entire congregation got up in an unorganized communion-style line and proceeded to the front where we used a playground shovel to move some sand from a litter-box like mountain to a new box.  It was actually really powerful.

While we were in line, out of my peripheral vision I saw this kid flailing.  I didn't think much of it because I grew up in a church with a lot of (sometimes unruly) kids.  You learn to ignore them.


I turned.  Those flailing legs belonged to my favorite six year old.  When I turned and opened my arms, my buddy took a leap of faith and jumped into my arms.  I talked to him a bit as we walked to the front of the church, but he wasn't interested in conversation.  He just wanted to be held.

I think it's illegal to walk like a normal person when you are carrying a child.  We danced down the aisle.  Yes, I danced in a Baptist church.  And I didn't care what everyone else thought.  I was focused on my buddy.

We got to the front of the church and I shifted him to my right hip.  He shoveled his sand, and I did the same awkwardly with my left (nondominant) hand.

I went back to my seat, (temporarily) kidnapping Buddy.  He worshipped with us for the rest of the service.  I don't know that I've ever worshipped with a young child without his/her parents in the same pew.  It was weird.  Cool weird!

After church, our "Self Imposed Minster of Coffee" caught me.
SIMC: I saw you got yourself a child today.
Katie: I did!
SIMC: Where'd he come from?
Katie: He kind fell from the sky and into my arms.
SIMC: No, really, whose kid was he?

What if we were willing to take a leap of faith and jump into the arms of God? 
What if we just allowed our Abba Father to hold us, to carry us?
What if we danced like no one was watching?
What if no opinions mattered except for the Lord's?
What if we were willing to be used to move mountains, even when it's awkward and uncomfortable?
What if we shared our pew with others, even if it's a bit strange?
What if our posture and attitude change with God's presence in our lives?

When I was carrying my buddy, I no longer mattered.  Everyone wanted to know where the random kid came from.  As a Christian, I no longer matter.  I want everyone to know about God.

Going from "Katie the college student" to "Katie the college student carrying a random child" was an obvious change.  Is the change from "Katie that girl" to "God's daughter Katie" as obvious?  What if people saw that kind of change in me?  What if they asked where it came from? 

It fell from the sky.  It was all God.
<>< Katie

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What have you read?

As I was running late to class, Amber sent me a text message.  "What have you read today?  It's for a class."

I left her a long, rambling voicemail that went something like this,

"I read a chapter in Lipstick in Afghanistan, a handout for class, fifty pages in a textbook, blogs, a letter of recommendation that waived my right to see but the professor gave me anyway, emails, facebook updates, um... the caf menu... um... I haven't read my Bible yet but will before the day's over."

It was 3:00 in the afternoon.  I'd gone to three classes, eaten breakfast and lunch, submitted my last graduate school application, played badminton, harassed Evan about his bland office, and five minutes earlier I had single-handedly kept my suitemate conscious.  (Unfortunately, "Saving lives and getting to class on time" could become a blog series... she's much better now but it was a scary afternoon).  It had been a busy day.  But I hadn't spent any time in the Word.

As I write this, it's 11:30pm.  Guess what I still haven't done today?

Yeah, that nearly-completed blog-post is going to have to wait until tomorrow.  I've got an important appointment to fulfill a promise.  Actually, two promises.  One to Amber and one to the Lord.

There are days when getting into the Word is the last thing on the to-do list and prayer seems like a waste of time.  I have a lot of those days, I'll be honest.

But I'm slowly learning to push through.  I try to read the Bible even though I'd rather be reading be reading a fiction novel. I try to pray even though I'd rather be in conversation with my (not dying) suitemates.

To an extent, that's normal.  There is a fine line between establishing a healthy habit, persisting even when you're "not feeling it" and going through the motions.  Find that line.  Persevere.  Even if it feels a little insincere.

"What we call insincerity, God calls obedience." - Jonathan Martin  "Sometimes God's doing the most profound changing in your life when you don't feel His presence but you keep showing up."

Keep showing up.  Even when it's hard.

Ok, for real now.  "Today" has become "yesterday" and the book of Exodus still calls. 

Friends, what have you read today?

<>< Katie

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thriving in Exile

"Take off anything you're wearing that has any value, monetary or sentimental," my small group leader Natalie announced.

The faces of six freshmen girls expressed confusion as we obediently began to remove necklaces, belts, and ear rings.

"Take off your jackets.  Your sweatshirts," she continued.  I'm sure if she could have stripped us down to our underwear, she would have just to prove her point.  She did once come to small group in a bathrobe to demonstrate Isaiah's walking around naked for three years (see Isaiah 20).

"We're going into Babylonian exile," she explained.
"Should we bring our Bibles?"
"Your what?"

She then led us out in a January icy drizzle while she played the role of the Babylonians and we were the Israelites.  When we began to shiver, she let us back inside.  Ironically, she accidentally tripped on the sidewalk symbolizing the fall of Babylon.

Looking through the Bible, there are a lot of people who experience exile.  Personally, I've never spent a significant amount of time being oppressed and exiled.  Unless you count being a Lutheran in Baptist Country.  They're usually nice to me if I keep my mouth shut about alcohol and original sin, but let's use it as an example.

I heard a speaker the other day talk about exile.

"The question is not 'Why are we in exile?' or 'How do we get out of exile?'" he explained.  "The question is, 'What is God up to in exile?'"

What is God up to in exile?

What is God up to in your life, wherever you may be?  Sometimes there are things God needs to do in your life that He can only do while you're in exile.

Some Biblical examples of exile show the strengthening of faith while being removed from that which is comfortable.  Here in Baptist Country I've been forced to contemplate and question why I believe in infant baptism, why I don't have a problem drinking wine, and that whole in-with-and-under thing (that I'm still working on).  Things I probably would have simply accepted forever had I not been sent here.

When Daniel experienced his exile (see Daniel 1), his name and the names of all of his friends were changed.   Daniel became Belteshazzar (please name your son that).  Hanniniah, Mishael, and Azariah became Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Their Hebrew names celebrating God's faithfulness were replaced with pagan names.

My name too was changed.  My often mutilated three syllable last name has been axed to two letters.  A pagan name; a murder weapon.  Rack, Shack, and Benny let that one go.  As have I.  To some, I will forever be only Katie Ax.  I think I'm ok with that.  Like Rack, Shack, and Benny, I have to pick my battles.  I'd much rather people realize I'm still a Christian than know I have a whole last name.

God has done (and is doing) some cool things here in my exile.  He even pulled me through a near-hypodermic small group experience.

What's He doing in your exile?  What's He doing in your life right now?

<>< Katie

PS: If you know my whole last name... do NOT post it in the comments section or I will delete your comment.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saving Lives and Getting to Class Ontime

Last week I donated blood for the second time. My appointment was at 12:15 and, naturally, they were running behind.  Even with my scarlet letter "A" (for "appointment"), 12:30 came and went.  Taylor was sitting near me as I complained about being so close to getting to class on time.  He said he had a 1:15 class, too.  We didn't think we were going to make it.

Ms. Red Cross called for an appointment and I leaped to my feet.  Then she changed her mind and called a walk-in instead.  Taylor got to go instead.  I made a snotty comment about being angry if he made it to class on time and I didn't.

"What time's your class?" a professor sitting nearby asked.
"One fifteen."
He looked at his watch: 12:35.  "You're probably not going to make it."

I said I'd give them five more minutes before I left and came back after class.  The only trouble with that was having to eat again and healthy mid-afternoon snacks don't exist here.

In that five minutes, a man called for the next appointment.  I jumped up and literally ran to the computer station.

"Are we having fun yet?" he asked.

I told him about my class and he gave the clock a skeptical glance.  It was going to be tight!

"Don't pass out on me."

I assured him I wouldn't... hoping I could stay true to that promise.

We sped through the identification questions as fast as we could.  To the point where he almost asked my temperature before taking it, like I was supposed to know it off of the top of my head like my height and weight.

When I gave him my height and weight, he looked away from the computer and met my eye when he repeated it to confirm.  I'm dangerously close to the limit.  I know that.  It's a generic weight limit not accounting for different heights.  Which means I'm technically still over the limit even though I'm five eight and have the body of a microphone stand.  (Shaun Groves said that).  I was prepared to argue that I did not have a problem donating last time.

"Listen, you're very close," said Mr. Red Cross.  "I don't care if you're late to class.  When you're done, you're going to sit at the cookie table for at least ten minutes."

"Yes, sir."  Honestly, if you're going to be put in time out, the cookie table is the place to do it!

"I'd rather you pass out here than on the asphalt outside."

Thanks for that encouragement, buddy!

In the interest of time, he read the questions aloud to me rather than letting me answer them privately.  I think there were only 15 questions that would have made Melissa giggle.  I speak fast, but this man could give me a run for my money!  By the time we got to pulse and blood pressure we were in the middle of a marathon!  Yeah, not exactly what you want when you're having your blood pressure taken.  (Even if he had to inflate the cuff just to keep it on my arm).

“Are you nervous?  Your heart rate’s fast.  Don’t be nervous. I’m pretty good at this,” he said.

I wasn’t really scared nervous.  I was time nervous, anxious, and excited.  I was a big mess of emotions; no wonder my blood pressure was high.

However, having your blood moving fast does come in handy when you’re having a it stolen from your arm.  The actual donation, like everything else that day, was super sonic speed!

"Utto," Mr. Red Cross said.
Yeah, that’s never a good thing to hear when you’ve got an IV in your arm! He tried to fill up the test tube and it wouldn’t fill properly.

“You already took all of my blood,” I teased.

“And I’m going to take a gallon more,” he said.

“Do I get extra cookies for that?”

“You can have as many cookies as you want,” he said.

A few more jokes (“This won’t hurt me a bit.” “Two fingers on the booboo. Yes, that’s the medical term.”) and I was free to go to cookie time-out.
I looked at my watch: 1:02.

God is good! He gave me my ten time-out minutes to eat cookies, inhale water, and be interviewed for the newspaper.  I still made it to class on time!

In my interview, I was asked why I donate blood.  Like my buddy Jesus, I answered her question with a question: why not?

Then I explained–I had been the queen of excuses. I didn’t weigh enough. I had a cold. I left the country.

And once I got over that, got over myself, I took the plunge and tried it. I loved it.  The first time, I kind of felt like I was being rushed through and I was there for a longer amount of time. The second time, I was there for a shorter amount of time but Mr. Red Cross took the time to tease me, answer my questions, and truly care for me.  It made a huge difference!

It’s a simple, financially painless way to give of yourself and make a huge difference. Sure, hurts a bit, makes you look like a druggy who loves Sharpie, and makes you feel a little weird for a few days but with the lives saved, it's worth it.  I’m genuinely disappointed I’m leaving the country before I’m eligible again. But my April 2012 to do list: donate blood.

If you’re eligible to donate, why not?

<>< Katie

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Just One Shirt

All of the best ideas come from a "What if?" question.

"What if we went dorm to dorm asking people to donate one shirt to homeless shelter?"  Keith asked at dinner.

The idea exploded and on a Saturday afternoon Nikki, Keith, David, Ryan, and Wes wandered around campus with two plastic buckets for their "Just One Shirt" drive.

They walked dorm to dorm knocking on every door encouraging residents to find one item in their wardrobe that they don't wear.

Personally, this was a challenge.  If I don't wear certain clothes, they're at home.  I don't have the space to have superfluous stuff here.  I did find one shirt I don't wear--a yellow coffee shop shirt that makes me feel like I'm in my pajamas all day.

They gathered a car trunk and backseat full of clothes--it's approximately twelve trash bags full of clothing!

It was also part of a school-wide service project campaign where the three best service projects won $100 each.

Another winning project (the most creative project) was a hall of students who went to the nursing home and asked the residents to make Valentines Day cards for the children at the children's home.  Then, they went to the children's home and asked the children to make Valentines Day cards for the nursing home residents.

The Just One Shirt campaign won most spirited.  Get this: their $100 is going to support a Compassion International child for this month and for his birthday.

What if we all gave one shirt?  What if we were all servant-minded?  What if?

<>< Katie

Friday, January 21, 2011

Have Pen; Will Travel

My life ends in May.

Or at least my calendar ends in May.  In May, I will walk across the stage to receive a hard-earned diploma, but I have no idea where I'm going to walk when I descend the stage.

I'm praying by then I'll have it all figured out.

Today I started filling out five graduate school applications to study creative writing.  I've been told getting a masters in creative writing is like getting a masters in violin: you're never going to use it.

Thanks for the encouragement!

The person who told me that went on to explain that I should do it because I love to write and I want to get better.

So I'm throwing caution into the wind and applying to MFA programs in five states around the country (only one of which have I ever visited before).

On tomorrow's to do list is updating my resume and applying for writing and editing jobs all over the country.  So if you know anyone that needs a writer/editor, I can probably hook you up with a good one!

The next day I'll apply for hobo positions in mid-sized cities.  Does anyone have a shopping cart I can borrow?

As I was mulling over these options and moping, I was having a nice facebook conversation with Casey.  She provided the traditional suggestions: Have you considered journalism or teaching?  Yes, thanks, and, no, I'm not interested.

She also provided me with some encouragement, said she was praying for me, and sent me on my way.  It helped.

That night, as I was going to turn off my iPod off, "Peace Be Still" by Rush of Fools began to play.

I didn't sign.  I didn't sing.

I sat cross-legged on my bed and let those words wash over me as God sang His daughter to sleep.

Come to Me, you who are weak.

Let My strength be yours tonight.
Come and rest, let My love be your bed
Let My heart be yours tonight.

Peace be still; peace be still.
Please be still and know that I AM God.
And know that I AM God.

Come empty cup, let Me fill you up.
I'll descent on you like a dove tonight.
Lift your head, let your eyes fall into Mine.
Let your fear subside tonight.

Peace be still, peace be still.
Please be still and know that I AM God.
And know that I AM God.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

The line that hit me the most was, "Please know [in your heart] that I AM God." I know that He is God.  I know that He has it all figured out.  I know that I don't have to know.  But that doesn't give me peace.

Please know in your heart that I AM God.

<>< Katie

Writer's Notebook entry dated 12-30-10.
Update 1-20-11: Four of the applications are now complete, the resume is updated, Dad told me I'd make a good hobo (what the heck does that mean?), and the oldest working iPod known to man has since died (August 3, 2005-January 13, 2011).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Relational Obsession

Allyson, Amy, and I were sitting in the food court zoning when Allyson turned to me.

"The world is so obsessed with relationships!"

Her comment caught me off guard.

"You know," she continued, "like if you're single you're told you're not worth anything.  And if you're in a relationship it's the best thing that has ever happened to you.  I bet that's a way satan uses to distract us from God's love!"

Woah!  That was way too deep for my hazy brain.  As I regained full consciousness and began to process her words, I decided she is absolutely right!

I'm single.  But a disgusting amount of time is spent wondering and day dreaming about my future husband and family.  I spend a lot more time yearning for what I can't have rather than embracing the unfailing love that was graciously given to me.

Allyson wasn't done.  "And if that one relationship is the best thing that ever happened to you, what about all of your other relationships?  Don't they matter?"

Recently the loss of a close friendship has left me mourning and dejected.  But what about all of the other flourishing relationships in my life?  Don't they count for anything?

Sure they do.  But they aren't the one completing relationship.  The one we girls think a man can fill.  The one, truthfully, only God can fill.

Allyson's thoughts were spurred by a music video I wasn't watching.  I looked up at the end to see a mother and father playing with their two sons by splashing each other in the ocean and jumping on the bed.  It was really sweet.

I hope to one day have that.  But until then, can I embrace the love of God given to me?  When I do have my own family, will I still put my joy and hope in Christ?

Right now, I honestly don't know if I can answer yes to both of those questions.  Maybe that's why I'm single.  There are still a lot of things for me to learn before someone else can walk into my life.

<>< Katie

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snapshots: Precious, Priceless, Nerdy, Compassionate

Snapshot One: Precious
Neal bent over to zip his daughter's (age 4? 5?) jacket as they walked towards the caf door.  She let him zip it all the way past her chin without protesting.  When he stood, she took the cookie in her hand and tried to put it in her mouth, colliding with the jacket zipper instead.  Twice she pulled her hand back and jabbed the cookie more forcefully into her jacket.  Finally she used her chin to open the zipper just enough to free her mouth and enjoy the caf's mass-produced sugar cookie.

Snapshot Two: Priceless
My friend Emily saw some firemen, in full uniform, building a snowman outside the firehouse.  I'm jealous I didn't get to witness this.

Snapshot Three: Nerdy
Elizabeth's boyfriend Andy came into our apartment with a fanny pack of medical stuff that's his to keep.  Of course, he had to try it out on himself and Elizabeth.  It was hilarious because he's trying to take her blood pressure while she was going out her daily routine, typing papers, and conversing on Skype.
Elizabeth: What was it?
Andy: Good.
Elizabeth: Really?
Andy: Well, I couldn't get the bottom number because you kept moving but the top number was good.
Sometimes Andy and I fight like brother and sister.  I consider it good practice because I don't have any biological brothers.
Katie: Nerdy.
Andy: If saving lives is nerdy, then yes.
Katie: Yes.
Andy: I'll keep that in mind in case you ever need to be saved.
Actually, I own and proudly wear a shirt that reads, "Talk nerdy to me."  Andy designed it.

Snapshot Four: Compassionate
We were driving through town and saw an SUV stalled on the other side of the median.  It had been turning left and died just before it got out of the intersection and into the lane.  One intersection away from Wal-mart, this ranks up there as one of the worst places ever for a car to die.  The passenger jumped out and started pushing on the side of the car.  A few vehicles went around them, and a police officer continued he day obliviously.  One car pulled over, and the male driver jumped out to help.  A few seconds later, a mini van pulled over, and the male driver jumped out to help.  A jeep blocked the lane and intersection behind them with emergency flashers.  Together they got the SUV to the side of the road just after our light turned green again.  There are caring people in this world!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

One Handed Mermaids

At school I'm a part of a ministry team that works with local churches to lead youth nights, retreats, lock-ins, et al.  Our job is to basically be silly, bond with the youth, and teach them about Jesus.  I like the ministry, but I always feel like there's an element missing.  We work with the youth all weekend and then on Sunday night we go home.  The might be-friend us on facebook or something but the relationship's pretty much over.  That makes me sad.

Which is why I love going home.  Even though I'm only there every few months, I get to spend time with middle and high schoolers.  Sure, I have to go back to school eventually but I get to go back and forth between the two.

On Sunday, I spent the morning getting powered sugar all over the ancient, blue church pew with my middle schoolers.  They're almost done with Confirmation class, looking towards high school, and have built a great friendship among them.

Their leader asked the best present they received for Christmas.  One of them responded, "Jesus's forgiveness."

That was the end of that discussion question.  She blew us out of the water!  So powerful.  So profound.  So perfect.  So simple.

When I got home from church, I looked at a national weather map and noticed this itty bitty snowstorm hitting half of our country... including Baptist Country.  I wanted to just sit around and mope about how I probably wasn't getting back to school in the near future.

I'm so glad I didn't cancel my plans for Sunday night.  Instead I went to what my church calls Home Group.  Basically it's like small group where high schoolers get together in a family's house to hang out, learn about Jesus, and eat, eat, eat.

I wanted to get home and mope about my potentially cancelled flight.  Instead I got lost in the most intense conversation ever.  Or at least in the week.

Trevor (Who's been begging me all week to blog about this just so he can see his own name in print) asked the question: Why did God give us two of everything? 

Two arms, two legs, two halves of the brain...

One stomach so we don't overindulge.
One tongue to control.
One appendix to have removed.

But two lungs, two kidneys, two eyes...

The best answer we could devise is that God likes symmetry.

Dawn, Jake, Trevor, and I continued our conversation to pondering if there are any warm-blooded animals that do not have four appendages.  Mermaids.

Maybe it was a weird conversation.  A "Peanut Butter Bagel" blog post.  But still something to ponder.

I love being able to spend time with the same youth.  I knew most of these guys from the Gathering in July.  Wonder about weird things that have never crossed my mind before.  Spend some time with youth and see what you come away wondering...

<>< Katie

PS: Happy now, Trevor?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Even for Red Wings"

My family's big into Nashville Predators hockey, even though we don't live in Tennessee.  We get Center Ice just so we can watch Preds games live on FS Tennessee.

Our Tivo catches most games, and we watch them later.  It's a whole lot easier than trying to arrange our schedule around a distant hockey team.  It also means we get to fast forward through the commercials.

Earlier this week, we caught game live.  Meaning we got to watch Nashville's local commercials.  Like our local commercials here, some we can quote, some make us laugh, and some are lame.

There was a commercial I've seen before for Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  I tried to find it on YouTube, but, of course, when you want a commercial you can't find it; when you don't want it it's everywhere.

The commercial features four different healthcare professionals vowing to do what you would expect of them.

An orthopedist vowing to fix broken bones.  A nurse promising to use her wisdom and compassion.

Again, things you would expect.  Maybe not always received but expected. 

The remarkable thing is the promise to do this "even for Black Hawks, even for Red Wings, regardless of Western Conference standing."

This is a Nashville hockey commercials.  The Nashville Predators HATE the Detroit Red Wings.  But the Vandy nurse promises to provide compassionate care even to Red Wings.

What if we vowed the same thing?

I don't mean we all promise to fix the Red Wings' broken bones unless, of course, we are the ones lucky enough to break them.  Kidding.

What if we re-wrote the commercials to put in things we're expected to do even when confronted by people or situations we don't particularly like.  Mine might look like this:

I will be patient... even when I'm on a tight schedule.
I will be joyful... even when I have a headache.
I will love... even non-Christians.

What would yours look like?

<>< Katie

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Hope You're Bleeding

"Writing is easy.  You just open a vein and bleed." - Red Smith (qtd. in Lifestories, 206)

I nicked my ankle while shaving.  I knew I'd gotten skin.  It hurt!  I kept waiting for the blood.  There was none.  I didn't understand.  Where was the blood?  Eventually, a drop came.  When I wiped it away, there was no more following.  I was disappointed (and relieved).

Some days that's writing.  You open your notebook, sharpen your pencil, and are ready to go.  You're excited.  You sit there and wait and wait and wait.  Hours pass but the words stood you up.  You've got very little to show for all of your waiting and pondering.  It's disappointing and discouraging.

That can be time spent with God too.  You open your Bible and start reading.  "Ok, God, speak," you say.  Except God doesn't take commands from you, as you've probably noticed.  You feel dry and empty.  It's disappointing and discouraging.

I blew my nose into a Kleenex.  The Kleenex magically turned red.  Well, that wasn't what I was expecting.  Enter the biggest bloody nose known to  man.  Or at least to me.  I'll spare you the details.  It was disgusting.  And long.  Gushing blood.

That's my favorite kind of writing: gushing words.  When they fly so fast your fingers can't keep up.  You go back and read it later realizing you dropped words and you completely forgot how to spell.  You were just trying to get everything down on paper.  Hours wash away.  There's no time to re-sharpen your pencil; you reach for a pen and continue.  It's wonderful!

Some days that's God.  Every moment He's speaking.  You can clearly see Him in every moment, every interaction, every word you read.  His Word is alive and the Holy Spirit has your undivided attention.  It's exhilarating to learn so much!  It doesn't happen often enough.

Friends, I hope you're gushing blood.  (But not literally).

<>< Katie

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rediscovering a Favorite

Romans used to be my favorite book of the Bible.  Then I tried to teach it.  All.  In one semester.

Ever since then, I've kind of been scared of it.  Like my small group girls were going to leap out of the pages and call me a failure.

I've read Romans because I had to, but all in all I've tried to steer clear of it.

The other night, a verse popped into my head,
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:2 NIV
I wanted to investigate something, so I reached for my Bible and flipped to Romans 12.  I started reading and nothing looked familiar.  Maybe I had the reference wrong?

No, I was reading the Message.  And I was loving it!  Words, phrases, and ideas I'd grazed over a million times were hitting me in a new way.  It was so powerful!

I read the chapter all the way through and immediately returned to verse one to read it again.  Words bounced off the page and into my heart.
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." - Romans 12:1-2 MSG
I know it didn't have anything to do with Eugene Peterson or the MSG, but it had everything to do with the Holy Spirit.  He used something different to get my attention.

And I liked it.  A lot.

TSD- Try Something Different

Excuse me, I have more passages to rediscover.

<>< Katie

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wacky Wednesday- Friday Edition

Christina: Will it go on your blog?
Katie: You betcha.
Mom: On Wacky Wednesday?
Katie: Yup.  I haven't had a Wacky Wednesday in awhile.
Mom: What?!  You've been with your family!  How could you NOT have a Wacky Wednesday?
Katie: I have plenty of quotes for a Wacky Wednesday, but I haven't written one.
Christina: Have a Friday Edition of Wacky Wednesday.
Mom: On Thursday!
Katie: It seems only appropriate since I have no idea what day of the week it is anyway.

Mom: Ooooh!  I'm a trash compactor and I can vacuum seal the bag!

Dad: How did I get in this family?
Auntie Gwennie: Better question: how do I get out?

Katie: We're lost... outside (without the car)... in Minnesota... in January!  All because Mom wanted seafood... in Minnesota... in January!  It might be August before I warm up!

Mom: Then we can go to Denise and Greg's, and Greg can do the photo shoot in his... jammies.
Laura: As long as he doesn't sleep naked.

Auntie Gwennie: Doesn't iron give you energy or something?
Uncle Bill: Tina, you've taken anatomy.  Is that true?
Christina: Well, we studied iodine.

Mom [making white frosting]: There's something green in here.  Oh, and red.  Who put jimmies in my frosting?
Katie: Jimmy!  Get out of the frosting!
Laura: Jimmy want to go in the frosting for a swim.
Katie: No, Jimmy licks the frosting.
Mom: Grandpa!
[Grandpa Jim taught my sisters and me to steal frosting from a cake without anyone noticing]

Dad:  What's wrong?  Why are you up so early?
Katie: It's ten-thirty, eleven-thirty to my body.
Dad: That's it.

Aunt Denise: Gail!  You can't give him a present just because it says his name!
Mom: It says his name, just in the wrong spot!

Dad: Get naked and give me twenty.
Uncle Jay: I am not getting naked in front of you!  And I'm not giving you twenty bucks either for that matter.

Mom: I will not put the Advent candles on Christina's birthday cake!

Katie: Ok, Daddy, I'm ready!  I'm even wearing Grandma's long underwear.  Where'd you go?
Dad: I'm hiding!

Mom: Do you want a poker stick to get the Christmas lights all the way up there?
Dad: I don't need a poker stick.  I have Katie!

I was startled out of dream world by Laura's shouting.
Laura: That's ok; she loves me!
Without opening my eyes I knew--much to my dismay--that I was the she.
Katie: No she doesn't!
That wasn't going to stop her.  When my bedroom door flew open, I threw my pillow over my face. There was no way to avoid whatever I was about to be the victim of, but my pillow would protect my face as I prayed for the best.  Laura crawled on top of me in bed.  Between the two of us, we make a normal-sized person, but that doesn't mean I like to be on the bottom of our person.
Laura: Katie, give me a hhhhhhhhug!

Mom [to Dad]: Do not pants your daughter!

Laura: Mom, I saw an animal outside.
Mom: What kind of animal was it?
Laura: Um... a giant white gerbil with a raw tail.
Mom: An opossum.

Man at Quiznos: Chips?
Mom: No, thanks.
Man: Beer, bourbon, scotch?
Mom: Oooh! Scotch, please.

Ben: Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Ax.  Sorry in advance for drinking all of your milk.
He and three friends (the one other male among them being lactose intolerant) were here thirty-six hours, and they drank three gallons of milk.

Christina: Katie, what are you going to do when you're married?
Katie: Have kids.
Christina: And make them empty the dishwasher? Even your one year old? Does he have to empty the dishwasher?
Katie: It's a she.
Christina: And your three month old? Does she have to empty the dishwasher, too?
Katie: Yeah, he gets the plates up to the top shelf without needing any help. Wait a second! Why do I have a one year old and a three month old? Oh boy!
Mom: Adoption.
Christina: Your husband was married before. Katie got a used one!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"And Then I Found Five Dollars"

Since I've been home, I've told a lot of stories around our dinner table. When I finally pause to breathe at the end of each story, Christina has looked at me and said, "And then did you find five dollars?"

Every time she's said it, I've boiled with anger and frustration.  The desire to rip off her head has increased with every smart alec comment that could be translated to, "That pointless story was a waste of my time."

I think that may be why Max Lucado's A Love Worth Giving has resonated so well with me, the queen of pointless stories.

In the chapter "Your Kindness Quotient," Max talks about Christ wanting to hear your story.  The example used is the woman with the bleeding problem whose story is found sandwiched in Mark 5

Basically she's been sick for years and years.  She was out of money, and everyone told her to be out of hope.  But she wasn't.  She had the faith to believe Jesus could heal her, so she went to find Him.

Of course, He was busy.  The daughter of a city leader (Jairus) was dying, and Jesus was on His way to perform a miraculous healing.  This woman didn't want to take up Jesus's time, so she slid behind Him in the crowd and touched the hem of His robe. 

Instantly she was healed and ready to go on her way.  Jesus wasn't going to let her get off that easily.

"Who touched me?"  He demanded.

Can you imagine the disciples' response?  "We're in the middle of a crowd and You wonder who touched You?  A million people!  That guy there, this woman over here, but I was the one who stepped on Your foot.  Sorry.  Come on; let's go!"

Christ was adamant, and the woman timidly came forward.  If it was me, I'd be ashamed of the ruckus I'd caused.  Maybe she was, but she was also healed.

Max writes, "A girl was dying, people were pressing, the disciples were questioning, but Jesus... Jesus was listening.  Listening to the whole story.  He didn't have to.  The healing would have been enough.  Enough for her.  Enough for the crowd.  But not enough for Him.  Jesus wanted to do more than heal her body.  He wanted to hear her story--all of it.  The whole story" (26).

It blows my mind that we have a Savior who is willing to hear every story we tell.  He's not even disappointed when they're long and pointless.  He'll never ask if we found five dollars.  If the story is important to us, it is important to Him.

I saw a prime example of this years ago at a concert meet and greet crowd.  A little girl came up and cut me in the blob of a line.  Of course, at the time I was annoyed but years later I'm glad to have witnessed such a beautiful moment.

The artist, Peder Eide, leaned over to be at her height, put his arm around her, and held his head next to hers in order to hear her over the crowd.  I couldn't hear what she was saying, but I knew it was intense because every once in a while Peder would draw back to make eye contact with her.  As her story drew to a close, he started gently asking her questions.  The crowd pressing for his attention no longer mattered; he wanted to know more about this little girl.

When she was done and he was done asking questions, Peder looked her in the eye and said, "Thank you for telling me that.  I'll be praying for you."

Christ's waiting for you to tell Him the whole story.  The crowd of people lobbying for His attention vanishes when He's got His arm around you listening to your story.  He's willing to sit there and talk with you for as long as you want.  He'll stay until your story is complete, even if it's long and boring.  He'll ask questions and carefully listen to the answers.  When you're done, He'll say, "Thank you for telling Me that.  I'm sure it wasn't easy."

Sit and talk.  Let Him be your Audience of One.

The non-monetary amount you find will be worth a whole lot more than five dollars.
<>< Katie

Monday, January 3, 2011

Futbol Confusion

This is an old note I wrote after attending a US vs. Costa Rica soccer game in Costa Rica.  It was scarier than going to a Flyers game in Philly.  But we all lived to tell the tale.
<>< Katie

I went to a football game today. Except there was no pig skin. No quarterback. The players actually used their feet. I was shocked!

On the way to the game we saw a brawl. Everyone on the bus was yelling, "Fight! Fight! Fight!" And when the two men fell, I screamed, "Let's see some blood on that ice!"

On the street outside the stadium, the bus of American soccer players was warmly welcomed by police on horseback and one-finger waves from the crowd.

When we arrived at the game, we had a pat-down search where they confiscated cosas commencing with the letter "C": cameras, cell phones, chap-stick, and coins. I found this behavior quite strange.

I was surprised they hadn't closed the roof due to the impending rain, but the rain held off and the roof remained open.

Our seats were prefect to watch the players fly and see the quaffle at all times. Although we were definitely within hitting range from the bludgers. Who are those little insects down there walking along the grass?

We sang two national anthems. When the second started, I smiled and said, "Oh, Canada" before searching in vain to find their flag.

The game began, and the ball was kicked high into the air. "Get up! Get up! Get outta here! Gone!" As it rose, I yelled, "Fore!" for safety. Once it hit the net, I said, "Let!" When it went over, I knew there would be a five-minute major penalty for Delay of Game. Luckily, I had kept my eyes on it the whole time and was in no danger of being hit (by anything except those bloody bludgers). Eventually, the ball returned magically from the stands. That's not supposed to happen; it was your team that did it!

The ball was definitely touched more than three times. Once it crossed the entire court and the ref failed to call icing. Another time the player took it over-and-back, and my Fang Fingers were ready! During a tough call, I don't know why they didn't consult the experts in Toronto to review the play again. They didn't even take a TV time-out. The play clock continued while they exchanged yellow Christmas cards.

Shots on goal were few and far between. The goalie even ventured far from his net to retrieve the ball, but I screamed at him, "Get back in your net, Vokoun!" When the ball went in the gutter, I offered to give them a second serve, but I was benched. One man patted the top of his head, clearly needing to tie his shoe, but the play-clock never stopped. Although, the one and only intermission was cut short by five minutes.

In the last two minutes, we should have pulled our goalie. At the end, the red, white, and blue was victorious. After all, the lowest score wins, and they had three while we only had one!

I went to a football game today. I prefer to call it soccer, but either way I understand all of the rules.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dear 2011

Dear 2011,

The ball has dropped.  My school friends have all welcomed you with open arms.  They say your first five minutes are great!

But I'm stuck in the past.  It's still 2010 here.  My pomegranate martini has yet to be concocted.  We're having our pizza dinner in my grandparents' kitchen as we wade out the last hour.  We smell like bowling alley.  It's tradition.

Yet I can't help but wonder, where will I be next year?  What will you bring me, 2011?  An apartment or must I hang that new Christmas wreath on my bedroom door?  A job?  More school?  A pair of lips to find mine at midnight?

One this is certain: you bring change.  "The other home" will no longer be a three-bedroom apartment with five of my favorite girls.  Will "the real home" still be the purple bedroom I outgrew years ago?

I saw a poster on clearance at Hobby Lobby that read:
Change: It's not only inevitable; it's vital to survival.
I should have bought it. 

We're ringing in a year of change.  We're trust falling into the arms of God.

May you, 2011, draw us all closer to Him.  Always.

Be nice to us 2011. 

We come with fear; you bring the unknown.
We come with trust; you bring His grace.
We bring ourselves; you let Him do marvelous things with all that we are.

(I would say, "Love," but I don't know you yet, but I could love you if I knew you)

and the rest of the Ax Family