Friday, March 30, 2012

Famous (Ghostwriting Part Two)

Open mouth. Insert foot.

That's what I did a few days ago at one of my freelance jobs. One of my new colleagues was telling me about the tongue-in-cheek book he's going to write. I opened my big mouth and told him I'll ghostwrite it for him.

Big mistake.

For the rest of the day, I heard him going up and down the hall telling people he not only had a new friend (me), he also had a ghostwriter (me). Up and down the hall people shook their heads and told me to run.

"Katie, my book, it's going to make you famous," he said.

We laughed, and he went off to work on "his outline."

I went back to my work with two juxtaposed ideas rolling around in my head: ghostwriting and famous.

Those two words don't really go together. Ghostwriters don't ghostwrite to get famous. Most of the time they don't even get credit (or get very little credit).

When a book, article, letter is well done, the ghostwriter is invisible. The ghost strives to match the author’s tone, voice, pattern of speech, thoughts, ideas, etc. The ghostwriter is less so the author is more. The ghost's job is to make the author look good.

I have no problem with ghostwriting because I am a ghostwriter. Yes, pieces I have written have been published under names that are not mine. But even this blog post with my name signed at the bottom is not my own.

The goal of a ghostwriter is to become invisible. As a Christian, should that not be the goal of my entire life: to be invisible so that my Heavenly Father is visible? Should I not be less so that He is more? Should I not do everything I can to make Him look good?

The reality is, we are all ghostwriters.

If we label ourselves Christians, people of Christ, we are ghostwriters, ghost-teachers, ghost-preachers, ghost-truck-drivers, ghost-singers, ghost-firefighters, ghost-painters, ghost-nurses, ghost-accountants, ghost-whatever.

Our job, no matter our career, is to be invisible to make Christ visible.

Whether my name is on it or not, everything I write is ghostwritten because it’s not for my own glory but for the One who deserves it. Every blog post, every novel, every letter, every article, every press release… they are all pieces written for His glory.

I am but a broken pen in the hands of the Author of Life.

It is God who has given me a talent and passion for writing. It is God who has given me the amazing opportunities I’ve encountered. It is God who has give me life and breath.

How could I ever even think about writing for myself?

<>< Katie

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Moral (Ghostwriting Part One)

There's a lot of drama surrounding the authorship of Isaiah. Did Isaiah himself write it or did someone else write it in his name? There are other books of the Bible that have questionable authorship, too. They’re called pseudipigraphal because they’re written in someone else’s tone, style.

To me, it sounds a whole lot like the idea of ghostwriting.

With permission, a ghostwriter takes the thoughts and ideas of an author, puts them on paper in the author’s tone, and signs the author’s name to the article, letter, book, whatever. The thoughts are the author’s; the words are the ghostwriter’s. Some authors have more of a hand in the writing of their work than others.

It’s perfectly legal.

But is it morally right?

Is it right for one person to do the work and someone else get the credit?

I’ve read arguments, Christian and secular, for and against ghostwriting. I have formed my opinion, but before I post it, I want to hear yours.

Let’s hash this out together:

How do you feel about the pseudipigraphal books of the Bible?

As a reader, do you feel cheated to learn the book you read wasn't actually written by the author?

As a ghostwriter, would you feel cheated to see someone else get the credit?

As a ghostwriter, do you want to help authors put into words their concepts, thoughts, ideas?

As a reader, do you want a well-written book or are you ok with less than stellar writing?

Be sure to come back later this week as we continue to unpack the idea of ghostwriting.

<>< Katie

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Guatemala

From Katie: I love how every post in this series has been different because everyone has a different story about how God works. Do you have one? I'd love to hear it! (KatieAxelson[at]gmail[dot]com). Thanks.

This week's post is from Amber, a fellow Young Adult Volunteer at the LCMS National Youth Gathering last summer.
<>< Katie

When I left on March 6th to fly to Guatemala with the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve done local mission work before, but it was always through a church and our focus was always on outreach. This time was different. Not only was I traveling to a different country, but I was going with a somewhat different purpose. The Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation focuses on improving the health care in Guatemala through education, therapy, and surgery, with a special focus on pediatric congenital and hand injuries.

I applied to go on this trip as one of my occupational therapy fieldwork rotations. One of my professors is actively involved with the organization, and so she is able to take two students with her for every mission. To be selected, I had to write a series of seven essays explaining why I should go on this trip. In my application, I wrote, “My philosophy of service comes from the beliefs I have in the Bible and the servant heart it frequently discusses. This is the heart that inspires me in my pursuit to become an occupational therapist, and it inspires me as I am applying to go on this trip. First John 3:17 says, ‘But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brothers in needs, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?’ My philosophy of service comes in showing God’s love by sharing my talents. God gave me the gift to be a strong student. He gave me the desire to help others. He helped point me in the direction of becoming an occupational therapist. My desire to go on this trip can be seen in the above verse – if I have the world’s goods, if I have the skill set to help someone out, and he or she is in need, then it is my desire to help them out in whatever way I can…in doing that, I serve not only others, but I also serve God.”

In the days leading up to the trip, I prayed that God would give me a servant heart and attitude as I journeyed into the unknown. When I stepped foot in Guatemala, I was able to quickly see a lifestyle much different than our own. It was as if time stopped while I was there, and I was able to appreciate the beauty of the world around me. I was able to take my time and form relationships with people. I became thankful for everything that I own. Each day, I felt more and more overwhelmed with thanks to God for all the great things he has provided me with.

We started our mission by team building in Antigua for two days. My favorite thing about Antigua has to be the cross that overlooks the city. Our tour guide told us that every city has a cross looking over it from the north. How powerful is that!? We also were able to go shopping at various markets and spend an afternoon on Lake Atitlan. We also went zip lining and were able to visit a macadamia nut farm. During these two days, I felt very immersed into the Guatemalan culture. First, I saw so much beauty around me, especially when I was zip lining. On anticipating the excursion to go zip lining, I was pretty nervous because heights aren’t my thing, but when I got there I felt so calm. My fears were gone and I was able to take in God’s creation.

The next big thing our team did before we began the surgical mission was spend a day in Chichoy Alto, a small Mayan village with about 750 people living in it. The Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation has helped sponsor stove and latrine building projects in the village in the past, and this year the foundation did even more. Children in this village stop going to school after the 6th grade because of financial reasons. The foundation sponsored students to continue into the 7th grade next year. Additionally, the foundation provided the money for the village to prepare a whole meal for the day we came so that we could have a celebration with them. The village people spend a few days working on preparing for our meal, and it was a special treat for them to have meat (they usually never get meat). The foundation also paid to build additional stoves and latrines this year. The whole team helped start the building project on Saturday, and the family members of the surgeons and therapists continued during the week.

I’ve never felt so overwhelmed with emotion as when we stepped off the bus in Chichoy Alto. The people were so excited to see us and welcomed us like we were family. While we were in the village, we were able to take the time to play with the children and bring smiles to their hearts. It was while I was in the village that I really wished I knew more Spanish so that I could really connect and relate to these children and their families. In the center of the village, there were two churches, and I felt joy in knowing that they had access to the house of our Savior. While some might look at these people and wonder how they could be content and happy with so little, maybe that’s why they’re so happy. I realized when I was there how distracted I am day-to-day, and how much the fast paced world never lets me rest. The Bible tells us that our money and possessions are nothing. They won’t go with us when we die. What’s important is our relationship with Christ. Not the desire for objects, not having objects, not greed, not wealth. God is what matters. When I was in Chichoy Alto, I was strongly reminded of that, and it made me think again about what my real focuses are in life and what they really should be.

The remainder of our mission was spent working with children with congenital and hand injuries, as well as educating therapists at Guatemala City hospitals on how to treat certain injuries using best practice techniques. Our headquarters was through a Christian organization based out of Nashville, The Shalom Foundation. Shalom is Hebrew meaning peace, wholeness, completeness, harmony, healthy, safety, and soundness; a powerful blessing. A powerful blessing indeed. The Shalom Foundation is an amazing foundation that seems strongly connected with what I wrote about when I applied to come on this trip.

When someone is in need, including medically, we will help them, just as Christ has loved us and helped us. The foundation sponsors one mission every month and all are surgically or medically related. Our team performed about 15 surgeries a day for five days on children with problems such as trigger fingers, burn contractures, syndactyly, and complications associated with cerebral palsy. Going on rounds the morning after surgery, I saw a lot of smiles, much to my surprise. The families were beyond grateful for what our team offered medically, and I’m thankful that we were at the Shalom Foundation where a spiritual offering could be given to the families as well. The Shalom Foundation’s hospital is not located in the best neighborhood, but behind the doors of the hospital, you could feel love and thanksgiving. The walls were beautifully decorated and scripture verses could be found painted into murals. God is love, and that love could be seen throughout this mission.

Each day, I asked God to give me a servant heart. He did. Each day I asked God to pour out His blessings on everyone we encountered. He did. While this wasn’t an evangelism mission, I think we were able to touch the lives of the people in Guatemala. Christ asked us to humble ourselves and serve others. That’s what this very mission did. When people ask about the trip, I tell them it was humbling. You realize quickly how much we have as Americans. You realize quickly how distracting that can be, and you start to see God a little more in things it was easy to overlook before. At the end of the day, if I impacted nobody (which I know is not really the case) during my time in Guatemala, I felt Christ’s fire burning inside of me and reconnecting me with the passion to always have a servant heart and to see God speaking through everything, in everything, always.

Friday, March 23, 2012


I don't know if it's my favorite season, but I sure love spring. After a long, harsh winter there are few things more wonderful than seeing the first buds on the trees, the first grass-cutting, the first Chaco-wearing days of the year.

Spring is a fresh start. It's a beautiful taste of hope. It's a reminder of God's promise that He will make all things new.

I had a harsh life-winter that began in May. When I say "this summer," I generally mean the time between graduation in May and when I moved back to Baptist Country in January. "This summer" is synonymous with "life winter"--the harsh season that makes you wonder if spring will ever come again.

I grew up on the Great Lakes region. We start getting snow around Thanksgiving and it doesn't usually stop until March. A white Christmas is expected. A white Easter is not unusual. After being buried in white nastiness for five months out of the year, you do begin to truly wonder if you'll ever be able to leave your house without a parka, ear muffins, and gloves. You dream about days when your first appointment of the day is not with the snow blower. You stop praying for snow days after spring break.

Harsh winters make spring all the more enjoyable. Suddenly the temperature reaches 50 and people are outside in shorts and t-shirts. The smell of spring makes everyone crave hamburgers. People realize walking to the mailbox will not result in frostbite.



Around here, the same time when the temperature soared to above freezing, I went inside to a new job. I'm still a freelance writer but this job involves showing up for work four or five days a week. I don't love my alarm going off every morning, but I do love my job. We laugh, we tease, we eat Reese's peanut butter cups with smiley faces.

The work is within my qualifications, the pay more than I was making before, the people great, and the company ideal.



I declared 2012 the year of hope, and by February I was pretty sure I had used up my annual quota.

Then the flowers started to bud, the snowmen began to melt, and the temperature rose. Hope was restored.

What is spring bringing for you?

<>< Katie

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Like Sweet Potato Pie

It's safe to say I'm behind in my goal of reading 52 books this year. The year is still young, so maybe I'll catch up.

I would like to highlight one book I finished last week: Like Sweet Potato Pie by Jennifer Rogers Spinola.

I loved it!

I read Southern Fried Sushi last fall when it came out and fell in love with it. I was anxiously awaiting the release of Like Sweet Potato Pie, the next  book in the trilogy.

I do wish I had re-read Sushi before diving into Pie but only because it was twenty-five books ago. Spinola did a great job of recapping vital parts of Sushi without making me feel like I was reading the same book or being talked down to. Like Sweet Potato Pie is predictable at times but some parts were so off the wall that you never would have seen them coming.

I love Spinola's writing style. We can all learn from her similes and metaphors! Her plotline moves, and there's no lack of humor, especially for someone like me who lives in the South but didn't grow up here.

Like Sweet Potato Pie is definitely worth reading (but read Southern Fried Sushi first).

Be sure to check out the interview I did with Jennifer Rogers Spinola last year.

<>< Katie

PS: This book was provided to me for the purpose of an online review, but all opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Canada

From Katie: Ministry looks different in every part of the world. This week my friend Adam's giving us a glimpse at what it looks like in Calgary, Canada. As always, if you have a story to tell or want to be interviewed, I'd love to hear from you. KatieAxelson[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks! <>< Katie

The Missio Dei in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
The city of Calgary, with nearly 1.3 million people bursting the seams of the city limits into the limited remains of the “New West” and the “Final Frontier,” is a place of booming economics, industry, natural and civic beauty, and opportunities for just about everything you could imagine. For the last fifteen years, the population has been steadily growing at around 90 persons per day. This drastic growth, led by the powerful banking and oil industry, has provided ample amounts of prospects for other businesses, namely construction, food, education, and sports to flourish alongside of them.
With such wonderful prospects surrounding the city of Calgary, it is no wonder that so many people are flocking to it. There are numerous world renowned sports teams, several top-of-the-line university and technical schools, a diverse array of cultures, the world’s largest fair/rodeo (Stampede), the beautiful scenery, and notions of every season. Calgary has its own shopping marts, complete with doctors’ offices, schools, and sporting facilities in every newly developed neighborhood. It is the ideal location for aspiring young singles, newly forming families, established ones, or even the individual looking for a place to relax and retire. Simply put, Calgary is the perfect city and has everything—except hearts that are broken for the Lord.
Some of the most recent reports show that far less than 10 percent of all Calgarians are saved, professing the name of Jesus Christ and being actively involved with a local congregation. With the setting of Calgary, it is honestly easy to understand. As most communities provide individuals with all needed provisions, there just seems to be no place for the Christian church. Truth be told, there are more churches within just about any one single city’s church organization than in all of Canada combined. Being the case, Calgarians are forced to make long treks just to find a church, provided they even desire to go to one.
And it is not like a group can simply build a new church. One acre of land (just the land alone) is priced at just over $1 million within city limits. That, unfortunately, is something that many Christian groups just cannot afford. Being the case, a new initiative has begun—home groups and community church plants. We have discovered that we must bring the church to the people and portray to them the power and blessing of having Christ in their lives, not to mention the need for His salvation, redemption from sin, and restoration to the God who created them. Thus the struggle begins though, as most show no signs for need. They have the job; they have the money; they have all of the “things” they could want; they have the family; they have the friends; and they have the vacations. What more could they possibly want?
One group that has settled to face this act of service is Southtrails Network, a movement of church plants along the southern most expanses of Calgary. Their aim: to provide a church opportunity in each and every community throughout Calgary. Let it be known that this is first and foremost God’s work; something that He began, something that He is maintaining, and something that only He can fulfill. Let it be fully established that aside from the presence of the powerful Mormon Church, and a few spiritualist groups, no formal sense of religion is present. On the contrary, most Calgarians hold fast to a very post-modern and pluralist mindset, more than not desiring religion but truly being turned off by the notion of it. The slim few minorities that are seeking it are unfortunately quickly drawn into the Mormon Church, the only establishment that has the means to build a $2.5 million facility.
So, Southtrails Network begins their own initiative, going directly to the people and beginning their service of impact the city one family at a time. The basis of their service is community engagement, formulating relationships and building trust with any and all individuals. Be it as small a thing as always getting gas from the local station and getting to know the cashier, to working part-time at the community center, to hosting block parties and various camps, the aim in building these relationships is to relate to them the import of a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a slow work, but it is a progressive one that is having colossal effects.
At the turn of the century when Southtrails first began its work in south Calgary, the availability was very limited. Individuals offering time of service where restricted to the back corners of community centers, only allowed to provide the blessing of yard work and painting. Though their efforts where much appreciated by the locals, the implications of having a church group on site created an out-of-sight out-of-mind mentality. The popular thought of the day was that “If we keep them in the back corners, hidden from anyone who may pass by, we can limit and control their effect.” Little did they know that God has already breaking the hearts of many.
As the years progressed, and as individuals were faithful in service and prayer, their impact began to grow. The groups that were once cutting limbs and weed-eating around the fence line slowly moved up to the foreground, volunteering as organizers and planners of large community events and even being allowed to host their own events. Before they knew it, Southtrails network was the leading force in the community. Everyone knew their simple red tee-shirts with the church logo on the front, and everyone trusted them.
This trust continued to grow as further events were held. Before too long, parents were bringing their children in flocks to the camps being hosted by Southtrails, completely comfortable with the leadership and governance of the church. Though not everyone knew of Southtrails, those that did quickly became advocates and supporters of their efforts, pushing new comers to register as early as possible for their events. It became apparent that even though no literal building was in place, the Christian church was being established and growing. It was not confined to the walls of a building on Sunday morning but had grown to reach the soccer fields, the tee-ball diamonds, and the local ice rinks.
Allow me to share one specific example of how this trust has grown. In 2005 a young family of four moved to south Calgary from England. With two little girls ages 3 and 5, the parents were quickly searching out ways to get involved in the community, and Southtrails provided just that opportunity. This family, definitely not one that would be considered Christian, did not come to church, did not attend a Bible study, never made a single mention of God, yet began attending every community event hosted by Southtrails. They, actually, grew to be the biggest supporters across the town. The impact did not stop their though.
During each of the camps, Southtrails’ leaders would present short “devotions” to the children and parents, typically focused around topics such as honestly, truth, love, forgiveness, etc. It was evident that these lessons were sticking as the parents would often return days later speaking of how, when a fight would break out in the house, it was the children who would step forward to provide guidance, a sense of wisdom and insight, and remind the parents of the lessons learned during camp. People may not have been showing up regularly on Sunday mornings, yet they were receiving the message of the Gospel, complete with examples from Scripture and prayers to go along.
The relationship with this British family grew to a paramount level. Still focused upon obtaining more money and possessions, never showing up at church, and definitely not bringing up direct conversations about God, they were nonetheless advocating and supporting every work of the church. Beyond this, the trust that they had with the church workers around their daughters grew too. It was not uncommon for them to use the church workers as babysitters, for the trust had been established. When a birthday would roll around, whom else but the church members would be invited. And when a long summer of camps would come to a close, this family would flood the houses of several church members, providing them with mounds of thank-you cards, personally drawn pictures and letters, baked goods, and enough hugs to keep you warm through the long winter months that Calgary has to offer. Again, it was evident that the church, not that which is held on Sunday mornings around a pulpit but one lived amongst the people, had been established. Community had been established, trust had been formed, and lives were being shared together—all in the name of Christ.
Never let it be forsaken the power that comes with community. Again, this British family may not have been attending church yet, and may not have even made a clear confession of faith, yet they were actively engaged in every conversation, were actively participating in every event, and were growing as a family unit. They had joined the efforts of the church, were openly advocating all of the efforts of Southtrails, and were even beginning to offer up their own service for the community.
In recognizing all of these blessings, the truth of Exodus 3:12 could not be more evident. Just as God promised Moses prior to the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, so has God promised the people of south Calgary: “When you have brought the people out, you will serve and worship God on this mountain.” This movement of Southtrails Network is not only making an impact among the community, but is completely revitalizing the characteristics of what a Christian church is meant to be. At no point is it there for its own gain or glory but rather only exists to provide hope and guidance in a lost world, glorifying God the entire time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

When a "Yes" To God is Not Enough

The job description matched my skill set perfectly. So I applied. The job was prestigious, and I'd consider myself lucky if I even had my application acknowledged. I almost dropped my phone when I got an email saying the hiring manager was interested. Next was a paper assessment.

Fear. This was like the SAT. Only worse.

I filled it out to the best of my ability, prayed that God's grace covered my uncertainties, and mailed it back. I knew if I was supposed to have that job, He'd get me there. In the meantime, waiting, waiting, waiting.

Then it came, the email no one ever wants to receive. My score was good but not good enough.

What happens when your best isn't enough? Do you throw in the towel and explore career changes? Do you flee the country? Do you cry and type an angry email back to the company telling them their test is a poor representation of your spectacular skill set? Do you hide in your closet until some notices you're missing and cares enough to come find you?

Those all sound appealing. Instead I did what I do every other Wednesday evening: I went to church.

As if God planned it (because I'm sure He did), the song that was playing when I shoved the key into the ignition was, "That's What Family Does" by Peder Eide.

From the second time I heard the song, I found myself in the first verse:
There are times when life is tough.
When a yes to God is not enough.
The hill is steep and the summit high.
You wonder why.
You've lost your spark, your fight, your song.
Now wrong seems right and right seems wrong.
Yes to God not enough? Steep hill? Wonder why? Missing spark, fight, song?
Yup. That's me.

How easy it is to stay there in the first verse, to mull over what life used to be like when the smile on your face was real, when a glimpse at the top of the mountain was encouraging.

Since I've heard the song once or twice, I know it's not over after the first verse. Listen... er, read... the chorus.

Look around and see
the face of family
and lean into the love.
Lift each other up,
cheer each other on.
We do it all because
that's what family does.
I hate sending text messages, facebook messages, and emails saying I didn't get yet another job. But my family (we're not just talking blood relation) is great about encouraging me that God's got a plan. Some days I'm more open to this encouragement than others. But either way, it's there.

The table's set and the food is hot
reminding you what you've forgot:
the warmth of home and a fragrant grace
a holy place.
And all of us can hardly wait
to hold you close and celebrate.
When I first heard the song, I wasn't a big fan of the second verse. Maybe because I cooked dinner for myself and ate it alone. The house was quiet and drafty. Wednesday is the only day of the week when I always eat dinner with people.

But I've stopped taking it literally. Instead, I look around at all of the friends and family who will celebrate with me when I finally get a job.

I don't have one yet. But I do have some encouraging text messages and virtual hugs. I have a Twitter message asking for the use of my skills... the same ones that the company said weren't good enough. I have an email from a missionary I've never met who is willing to be interviewed for Jesus Worldwide. I had ten people come over tonight who were practically on their hands and knees begging for me to make cheese dip.

They say out there that no one cares
and you are all alone.
Seems they may be alone
but we claim you as our own.

Even if a company isn't willing to claim me, my family will. Job searching is not what I call fun but I know I'm not alone.

God isn't scared by the harsh words flying from my mouth in His direction. He isn't put off by the tears that outnumber the hairs on my head. When I said yes to God, I said yes to spending more money on groceries than I make. I said yes to more rejection letters. Yes to the unknown. Yes to this.

Yes to the church family who turned my fake smile into a real one. I didn't forget about the newest addition in my collection of rejection letters but I leaned into the love in the form of shouting, chocolates, and an extra chair pulled up to the table just for me.

I don't love limbo, but I love being loved by family as I journey through limbo.

I've got so many wonderful people singing my song back to me when I forget it.

Thank you,
<>< Katie

PS: If you've been following me on Twitter (@KatieAx3), you've seen me refer to work and a job. This is a freelance job that involves me going into the office most days. I am nothing but grateful for this amazing opportunity.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: The Homefront

I have friends all over the world. Literally. People who I've hugged in the last week or two are now on four different continents. They promise to come back and report how the Lord is working.

Yet here I am, with my ever-strong desire to GO!, sitting at home scrambling for a Jesus Worldwide post for the third week in a row.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Last October Ted invited me to travel back to Nicaragua this week, one of my favorite places in the world. Saying no was one of the hardest and most peaceful things I've ever done.

As Ted and his team of mostly nursing students spent the afternoon flying to Central America, I spent Friday afternoon in the worship center (the gym) at my church getting drooled on.

Only five feet from where my pastor stands every Sunday, I sat with a biracial baby in my arms. His sister was in front of us trying to hula hoop sitting down. He's old enough to stand but spit up on me three times in an hour. She's 11.5 months older but I never heard her say a word. They're the same size and have been for awhile.

Their uncle, age 13, fed his nephew some banana that later got spit-up on my pants. He retrieved paper towel and held the baby while I tried to disinfect myself. He was a good uncle. I told him that. His face lit up.

He entertained himself playing basketball while I tried to keep track of which toys had been sucked on. He made some nice shots. I told him that. His eyes smiled. He missed some nice shots. His mother and sister told him that. Separately, they both said to him, "Wow, you suck."

I hope their words hurt me more than they hurt him. They smashed my heart to pieces for this teenager who lacks affirmation and encouragement. He could be out on the streets fighting, using drugs, and getting drunk. He could be an invisible child part of Kony's army.

Instead, this kid loves his niece and nephew. His favorite subject is math. On Friday afternoon, he was Jesus in the flesh in front of me.

This is my city. This is your city.

This happened in the same gym where I worship every Sunday. We were sitting where the kneeler goes. The same gym where I eat dinner every Wednesday. We were sitting where the kids' food is served.

Yes, I want to go. If you offered me a plane ticket, I'd apply for a visa this afternoon. But there is a need right here in my own backyard.

My local mission field includes baby drool and missed three-pointers. What does yours include?

Love you all,
<>< Katie

Have a story about how you've seen the Lord work? I'd love to hear it! KatieAxelson[at]gmail[dot]com. I can't do this without you.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Being Called

Our conversation was brief. Just long enough to drive from the coffee shop back to her dorm.

She spoke about how she was studying for a test in her missiology class. We spoke about Compassion. I mentioned that I'm a writer. She said she feels called by God to open an orphanage in a specific African country.

I wanted to practice asking questions. Why that specific country? What did her call look like? Why start an orphanage rather than work for an existing one? For once I had no shortage of questions.

We did have a shortage of time. So I packed my questions away to save for a future opportunity.

As I drove home I wondered what it would be like to have such a clear calling on my life. To know--at the start of my college career or earlier--what I wanted to do for God's kingdom. I figured it must be nice.

I'm just a writer with a degree and no idea where God's calling her to step next. I was jealous of her and admired her all at the same time. I wanted my own clear calling.

I saw her again two day later. Before I could pour out my question box, she mentioned that maybe she wasn't interested in that specific country. She'd heard some terrifying things that had happened there. Part of me wanted to tell her not to give up her dreams. The other part of me breathed a sigh of relief.

She's just like me: some clue of what to do but no idea what it will actually look like once she gets there. She didn't get a jet-stream message from the Lord. Her confidence was as thin as mine when I said I was a writer.

True, I am a writer. A freelance writer. A ghostwriter. A professional writer. An underpaid/underemployed writer. A blog-writer. I didn't say all of that. I just said, "Writer." It sounds better that way.

True, she's studying missiology (the study of missions) because she's got a heart for missions. True she wants to care for orphans. True she loves Compassion as much as I do. Maybe true she'll start her own orphanage and maybe true it'll be in that specific African country. But who knows.

God does.

And right now, He's not telling.

For either of us.

<>< Katie

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wacky Wednesday

From Katie: The following are a collection of real conversations and quotes that happened in real life, over Facebook/Twitter, or were found in books. <>< Katie

"Worship is giving God the best that He has given you." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

John: I'm going to make another phone call. If he answers, I'm going to take it.

Neal: No matter the question, Jesus is the answer.
Katie: What's for lunch?
Stephen: Communion?

Rebekah: Katie, you're obese on the inside.

David: Anyone want anything while I'm upstairs?
Katie: I want lots of things but not that you can get upstairs.
David: If I find a job up there, I'll let you know.

Katie: Did you just say, "I'm turning my cat into an elephant?"
Rebekah: Why would I want to eat my cat?

"Never let praise go to your head. Never let criticism go to your heart." - Rick Warren

Katie: Thanks for implying I'm nobody.
Sara: No problem, Poop Brain.
Stephen: No! Righteous Holy Spirit Brain!
Katie, Sara: What?
Rebekah: I challenged Stephen that anytime he thinks about poop he has to think about holiness and righteousness.

Jim: I'm going to have to start reading your blog next month.

Jen: Ok, guys, this is what we're going to do: we're going to go buy Jennifer the exact same heater and switch them like parents do when goldfish die.
Katie: Except we have to go back in time ten years to get the exact same heater.
Alex: And we have to find ten years worth of dust to put in it.

Brett: Do you not point with your middle finger?
Garret: I do that too. Especially when I'm driving.

Kevin: God's teaching you to be content in Him.
Katie: I'm trying!
Kevin: Being content in the Lord doesn't mean you want to stay in your situation. It means He put you there for a reason and therefore it's a good place to be.

Jennifer: What time is this test tomorrow?
Allyson: Your mom.
[Lots of laughter]
Allyson: I meant to say "Nine." They kind of sound the same.

Rebekah: I'm going to toast these buns then put some of Will's apple jelly on them.
Katie: Because that doesn't sound awkward at all.

Brett: I care not about a woman's ankles!

Sara: Now we know why we don't hang out with Stephen when he's alone.

Alex: No! It boosts my self-esteem as a male to be able to fix things.
Katie: How's your self-esteem doing tonight?
Alex: Give me just a minute.
Jennifer: Ok, I give you until 8:35.
Alex: What?! I need to at least 9:00.
Jennifer: You said, "Just a minute."
Alex: Ok, give me just a half an hour.

Allyson: We can't do this to myself.

"[T]he wonderful news is that Jesus has not stopped acting and speaking. He is resurrected and at work in our world. He is not idle, nor has He developed laryngitis. He is alive and among us as our Priest to forgive us, our Prophet to teach us, our King to rule us, and our Shepherd to guide us." - Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 19

Katie: My lemonade tastes like blue cheese.

Neal: Snow? Tonight? Possible. Tomorrow? Possible. Big storm Sunday? Maybe... just  maybe.
Katie: Awe, man, I'm out of milk and bread. Now I'm going to be on of those Southerners stocking up for the blizzard.
Neal: Hey, just because you are from the frozen tundra area of the US, don't be a killjoy.
Meredith: I never understood the milk and bread thing. What are you doing to do with them? Milk sandwiches?
Neal: I know, right? Milk and double stuff Oreos makes more sense.
Katie: Ok, I'll totally go buy milk, bread, and double stuffed Oreos. - Killjoy

David: If you live above the Mason-Dixon line, you're half-Canadian. If you live west of the Mississippi, you're full cowboy.

Katie: Make sure whatever comes out of the toolbox goes back in the toolbox.
Alex: Oh. I was going to put this screwdriver in the cabinet. Is that ok?
Katie: Dishwasher. Please.

"Wait for God's timing and He will do it without any heartache or disappointment." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Rebekah: You need to keep taking Vitamin B6.
Katie: I already eat four meals a day. If I take that I'm going to eat the entire house!
Rebekah: It's not going to mess with your metabolism.
Katie: That's what it says!
Rebekah: It's not true; it's just what the medicine bottle says.

Jennifer: If you break it--
Alex: It won't be any more broken than it is now.

Corey: It's not sand; don't taste it!

David: Opinions are like butts: everyone has them and they all stink.
Alyssa: Nut-uh! Some people only have half-a-butt 'cuz they're Siamese. Isn't that a cat? What?

Danielle: Let's play a game. Name places you've been. Dominican Republic.
Courtland: Honduras.
Danielle: Nicaragua.
Courtland: England.
Danielle: Scotland.
Courtland: Ben's house.

Stephen: Yoga is not as fun as yogurt.

Weatherman: There were some snow flakes tonight, and we're not done. In some places there have been accumulations of over an inch. It's icy on bridges and roads and will continue to get worse overnight. It's been following consistently for the last hour. If you don't have to go out, stay home! By tomorrow afternoon we will have a high of 54.
Katie: I really love listening to Southern weathermen.
Jen: I WANT SNOW! I've never seen it!
Katie: How old are you?
Jen: Nineteen.
Jennifer: Around here if they even say the word "snow" they close school.
Jen: Why hasn't our school done that?
Katie: 'Cuz there's NO SNOW!
Jen: Yes, there is, on the TV!
Katie: Ok, let's watch Frosty and then there will be snow on the TV and they'll surely cancel school.

Isaac, 4: When someone has a broken heart it means I think they have to fix it with tape or something.

Keith: Rappers have two choices: grow up or get shot.

Rebekah: I love being domestic. It's my favorite thing to do! No, actually laughing's my favorite thing but being domestic is second.
Katie: Praising Jesus is my favorite thing to do.
Rebekah: Right. Whatever. [Beat] Don't Tweet that!
Katie: Nah, I'll save it for Wacky Wednesday.

Neal: Have you told God how you're feeling? He's a big boy. He can handle it, and He's the only one who can.

[Over the phone]
Tara: What are you doing?
Garret: I'm putting on a hoocher.
Tara: Where are you?
Garret: In Rebekah's bathroom.
[Tara said something I didn't catch]
Garret: No, I didn't say I'm wearing a hoocher; I said I'm putting one on.
[In this case, a "hoocher" was a cabinet latch]

"Once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely and we never lack for understanding or compassion. We can continually pour out our hearts to Him without being perceived as overly emotional and pitiful. The Christian who is truly intimate with Jesus will never draw attention to [herself] but will only show the evidence of a life where Jesus is completely in control." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Monday, March 5, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: China

Throughout the month of March I have friends spending their spring breaks on mission trips in the US, Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia. I know they would appreciate your prayers. I've been praying that they are willing to be bold for the Lord, radiate the Holy Spirit, and are encouraged by how He is working. Thanks!

Know someone with a story to tell about how the Lord is working? I would love to chat with him or her! Send me an email KatieAxelson[at]gmail[dot]com. <>< Katie

We'd finished eating my birthday lunch, Pizza Hut, and I decided it would be a good idea to show off some of my mad Chinese skills. Emphasis on mad. I'd been in the country a whole week and a half, so I was practically fluent. I knew seven words.

Nǐ hǎo (hello)
Xièxiè (thank you)
Bīng (ice)

The first three went great. My new friends were so impressed! So I decided to show off a little bit.


Blank stares.

So I said it again. Yēsū. They still had no idea. This had happened before, my Northern accent got in the way of my Chinese, making me difficult to understand. Yēsū.

After several tries I gave up and said it in English.


You could see the light bulbs go off on their faces. They understood. We'd been talking about Jesus and Christmas for the past several days in class. Yes, they knew the English word "Jesus."

I pray I was just mispronouncing His name in Chinese, but they offered no correction. Maybe they were nervous to speak His name in public. While Christianity is accepted in China, it is not without repercussions. Previously, they had never hesitated to correct me (read: laugh at and correct). It was their turn, the students, to be the teacher. But this time they said nothing but continued conversation in English.

The only alternative I can think of to my mispronunciation is that they did not know the Chinese name of the man we call Jesus. They could not translate the story of the baby born in a manger into their native language.

It broke my heart.

They know Jesus in English, my language, but His a foreign concept to them in their own language. To have never heard the name of Jesus from their own people.

We knew we weren't in China to plant seeds. We were there to plow ground and prepare the soil for seed-planters.

They did know Jesus in English which meant we were doing our job. We were speaking the name of the Lord, presenting to them the Christmas and Easter stories for the first time. For many of them, we were their first interactions with native English speakers. We were also their first interactions with Christ-followers.

That's a huge responsibility. A huge honor. A huge burden.

Even though I was definitely ready to be back in a world where toilets are actually porcelain seats, pollution isn't going to choke me tomorrow, and corn is not a normal pizza topping, I left China realizing that there is so much work left to be done.

The Lord is doing great things in China, don't get me wrong.

We visited a church that after 30 years of arguing was finally granted land after having theirs confiscated by the Chinese government decades ago. It is smaller than the original land, but it is coming with increments of money as well. They have seen the first increment. The government has even said once the worship site is moved, they will work with the bus company to get a stop near the church. For the last 30 years, the church has been meeting as a chicken plant.

In China, Christian churches must be registered with the government. In order to do that, they must be part of the Triple-Self Church.

1. Self-propagated (no foreign evangelists)
2. Self-led (no foreign preachers, guest speakers, worship leaders, et al).
3. Self-funded (no foreign money funding Chinese churches).

Being foreigners in China, we could answer any and all questions honestly (aka: find a way to talk about God in any answer you give). We could teach American holidays (including the real Christmas and Easter). We could hand out Bibles if we were directly asked for them.

It wasn't easy. It was three weeks of jumping loopholes and being concerned about what we could and could not say. It was three weeks of watching God work and trusting Him even when we couldn't see His hand.

There is so much left to be done. But I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of what the Lord is doing there.

For more China stories, including photos and some goofy videos, check out the blog Amber and I kept while we were there: Also check out blog posts with the label China.




Saturday, March 3, 2012

Writing, Family, Fudge

The conversation went something like this:

Katie: I'm really struggling in writing the family relationships in this piece.
Joe: Will you write a guest post on how to write family relationships?

In case you missed it, I talked about fudge yesterday in my guest post at The Write Practice yesterday.

Check it out. Let's hear about your family. If I could have included a free fudge sample, I would have.


<>< Katie

Friday, March 2, 2012


Let me tell you something you probably already know: waiting stinks.

Waiting for your oil to be changed, waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for the bus.

Waiting for a company to post an opening, waiting for a manager to want you on her team, waiting for the phone to ring.

Waiting for someone on the other side of the world to say, "I've never met you but I love you."

As of when I'm writing this, there are 407 Compassion children who have been waiting, waiting, waiting for more than 180 days for a sponsor. That's six months or longer.

Where were you 180 days ago? That would have been September 2, 2011.

A forgettable day, perhaps? Too long ago to remember?

Not for Walson. One-hundred-and-eighty-three days ago Walson was at a Compassion Child Development Center in Haiti signing up to be a sponsored child. Walson has spent the last 183 days waiting for a sponsor.

Sponsor Walson here
His child ID number: HA8150328
On the Compassion website, the children that have been waiting for more than 180 days are marked with a heart.

It seems only appropriate.

When you're waiting, you need someone to love you and love on your. With every day of waiting, hope seems to dwindle.

Two-hundred-and-ninety-five days ago I walked across a stage and received the most important piece of paper of my life so far. Having spent almost 300 days unemployed/underemployed, I understand waiting. It's miserable.

There are things I can do (am doing) to bring my wait to an end. I can pray, pray, cry, and pray. I can network, I can apply for jobs, I can make cold-calls.

When you're waiting for a sponsor, there's not much you can do but wait and pray.

I've been waiting in hope.

These children are waiting for hope.

For fresh water. For medical care. For education. For someone to say, "I believe in you."

These 407 children waiting for sponsors want to be wanted. They need to be wanted. They deserve to be wanted, to be cared for, to be loved.

During my days of waiting, I've had so many great friends pray for me, offer suggestions, and pull me into their arms as I cry again. They've loved, encouraged, and held me. I appreciate every single one of them! (Yes, even the job suggestions that don't fit my skill set).

This is my plea: do the same for a child.

In turn, you're doing it for me.

The words "Thank you!" don't seem sufficient. If you decide to sponsor a longest waiting child (which I hope you do!) Compassion will give you a scrapbook for you to use to keep your letters, photos, et al.

What are you waiting for?
<>< Katie