Thursday, January 27, 2011


Prompt 3

Home in the simplest form is the ranch style building on west 7th in a tiny town that no one really knows. All 500 residents know that’s where I grew up. It’s where I cut my teeth, climbed trees and rode my bike barefoot. It’s the familiar side door I always entered through to find mom cooking something delicious and dad relaxing, sweaty and greasy after a long day at the shop. Even though I haven’t lived there for going on 6 years now it’s still the first thing that comes to mind when I think of home. I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever transition that association to the home I’ve built with my husband, the little bungalow on Arlington St. Maybe there is an equation involving years lived in, mortgage payments or persons shared with but maybe not. I know that I sleep better there with my head on my fancy pillow and our bodies curled just right, but that doesn’t make it home does it?

I have a love/hate relationship with cheesy anecdotes. For example that “home is where the heart” s___. I don’t believe that for a second, but to say that home has nothing to do with the heart would be foolish. Home is so much more than a building or my favorite place to sleep. Home is all the little affections that put my mind at ease. Home is the arms of a faithful friend, where I can claim sanctuary and plead temporary insanity. Home is lying next to him on the couch knowing that I don’t have to say or do anything to sustain our perfect harmony, my sweet contentment. Home is being a black sheep in this whole walk of life and still feeling a deep sense of belonging. Home is my refuge, my haven, whatever that might look like on a given day. Home is wholeness.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Exercise Numero Dos

She is not the fearful type. In fact, she is quite the opposite, bold and confident. Her self-assurance has always caused her to be a bit careless; careless with her words and careless with her actions. Her recklessness often finds her in compromising situations. Like when she got off the ‘L’ at 2 a.m. in a foreign part of the city and found herself alone and surrounded by dark corners and suspicious characters. She didn’t panic. She loosened her posture and slowed her gait. She sent a nonchalant text message and walked to the bus stop. Sure, her heart was beating a little faster than normal but not out of fear, out of excitement. She loved the thrill of uncertainty, the challenge of it all. She called it confidence, I called it stupidity.

The problem with all of this is that relatively speaking she hasn’t suffered any consequences. Relatively speaking, she has gotten by quite easy. When she used to wake up after an evening of binge drinking, she never suffered a hangover. In the course of her series of “social activities” she never suffered more than the occasional walk of shame. Even now, when her blunt, sarcastic words fall on unsuspecting ears, more often than not, they are met with laughter; found to be charming and witty. And, on the occasions when those words are met with resistance it generally comes from someone in it for the long haul, someone who for all intensive purposes forgives quickly.  How can she swallow a healthy dose of humility when her harshness is applauded and her recklessness punished with less than a slap on the wrist?

However, albeit she’s confident, to say she is without fear would be a lie. Indeed, her fears traipse around her subconscious like little thieves, stealing away precious moments with lies of what ifs and memories of helplessness.  When they surface, she can’t stop the goose bumps from hardening or the suffocating tightness in her chest. They suck her back into a moment in time when boldness and confidence were non-existent; a moment when fear of the truth and reality kept her loud mouth abnormally quiet. She fears her silence will reap far greater consequences than the combination of all her crass remarks. Depending on the day, the scales teeter precariously on the edge of either outcome. Fear lingers on indecision and uncertainty, patiently awaiting its next opportunity to blindside her. As for resolution, it’s hard to come by when you’re the villain.

I’d like to say I feel sorry for her, but truth is, I don’t. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just a Game

Disclaimer: This was an exercise inspired by my brilliant writer, sister/friend. Shameless plug.

As long as I can remember this game has been an outlet of sorts, an escape from reality. Sure it’s just a game, a round ball and a hoop, offense defense and the in-between. However, it was once prized YMCA, Spirit League and Select Team jerseys that marked my progression through tryouts and tourneys. It was ounces of sweat dripping off my forehead onto yellowed hardwood, and overpriced Jordan sneakers that made me run faster and jump higher. It was the tapping of my anxious right leg during the Star Spangled Banner and the towel over my head as I wept over fouling out of a big game. It was belligerent battles with coaches and referees; a heart swollen with pride over stats and newspaper articles. It was the #32 necklace that I proudly wore to match the numbers on the front of my letter jacket. It was all-star teams, recruiting and state recognition.

In college it was exclusive parties and all day workouts. It was weights, conditioning, practice, team dinner and camaraderie with my sweatpants sorority. It was solitary cold soaks to momentarily cure the increasing agony of my shoulders, back, legs, etc. It was my source of joy, my identity all wrapped up in a round ball and a hoop. Then, it was forced retirement, doc’s orders. It was grief, anger, bitterness, resentment and eventually acceptance. 

Now it is my Wednesday workout. It is exercise for the out of shape and slightly overweight. Its exaggerated cheers for 3 pointers made and “she’s still got it!” for no look passes and fancy dribbling. It’s more laughter than yelling, more miscues than precision, and its tom foolery really. For the first time in my life, it is just a game.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Track One

Whenever I get together with my “FCA” friends, it is always a joyous event. I call them my FCA friends because it kind of explains how we all know each other. Basically we’re a group of women spread all over the Midwest who love Jesus and each other. We are/were all athletes, most of us college athletes who at some point and time got involved with FCA. During college we would use any excuse to gather together for weekends of ridiculousness, sleepless nights, and worship. Since college our gatherings have gotten fewer and farther between but the quality is still unbeatable. There is still ridiculousness, like when I tipped on our night kayak session. We have all grown quite a bit fonder of sleep but there are still a few late night conversations and even though the nature of our time together has changed there has been one consistent event that occurs at least once when we gather. We worship. KP gets out her guitar and occasionally we throw in a djembe. We sing the usual songs, Come Thou Fount (in southern accent), We are Hungry, and a few others. Then, like clockwork, we harass KP to play her songs, the ones she wrote about life and her family. KP is always a little hesitant. Sometimes all it takes is a request and sometimes we need to slow clap to get her going but my favorite is when we all chant track one. Track one of our favorite playlist. Sure it only consists of three songs and they all have actual titles but we all affectionately remember track one.

The crew minus a few.

Track One has been our anthem of sorts. We sang it at the barn who knows how many times. We sang it the night we gave KK her book, at school street and in the parking lot of UNO. We sang it as we sat in California days before AP’s brain surgery, the day of her wedding. It was particularly poignant that day. As we sat there filled with joy and excitement and fear and anxiety we worshipped. When track one was requested there was no hesitation, smiles spread across all of our faces. KP started up and we sang with a capo so I could sing my comfortable tenor harmony (thanks for coming down an entire octave for me guys). SB made sure to point out that her favorite parts were coming up and we all laughed. I fought the lump in my throat the entire time. I needed track one that day. I needed some consistency, some sort of sign that everything was going to be okay. I needed to hold fast. I love track one and I love the people I sing it with. It is a perfect prayer for me and one that I pray for all of you.

He loves us and has set us free,
From our sins and has made us whole again.
His kingdom reigns on high,
And because of Him we will never die.

Hold fast to the fire in your heart,
Open the door and embrace My love for you,
Walk with Me in garments pure white,
You are worthy to be called a child of Mine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Thousand Words

I look at this picture everyday as I sit at my desk. It encompasses one of my favorite moments of my wedding day, but it’s so much more than that. It illustrates a redemptive story that only you and I will ever understand. When I rifle through the memories of my childhood there are very few that involve you being tender, loving or compassionate. In fact most of the things I remember have something to do with your rough hands landing swiftly against my backside. Not to mention countless memories of hurtful words exchanged and weeks of not speaking. I patronized you as often as I could and belittled your intelligence in front of my arrogant friends. You never took the time to put up with my bull____ which only fueled my desire to rebel against whatever mandate you had put forth. In hindsight I realize that this friction between you and I occurred because of our likeness. We’re stubborn, hard-headed, aggressive and slow to forgive. Neither one of us likes to show emotion or weakness, we’re self-sufficient and proud. These qualities although admirable at times inhibit us from communicating well.

I spent years fighting against you only to realize that I was fighting against myself. Sure you’re not the perfect example of parenthood but you attempted to raise me strong, independent and perceptive. You had my best interest in mind and you still do, but now I have respect for you. You’ve become a lot more tender the past few years. Maybe it was mom’s cancer or getting older. Maybe you haven’t changed at all. Maybe I just woke up to see all the ways I’ve gone wrong in judging you. Whatever it is, I love who we’ve become lately. Sure, we will continue to have our scuffles but you’ve seen more sides of me than anyone. After all, you’re the last person I’ve cried in front of, and you were the only one to see me nervous on my wedding day. As I stood there alone for the first time all day, watching my bridesmaids walking up to the altar, I started breathing heavily. You came over and placed your rough hands on my shoulders. I knew you put them there because you were afraid the calluses on your hands and permanently dirty cracks from years of laboring would snag or stain my satin dress. You kissed me on the cheek like always and whispered I love you. That was all I needed, it was perfect. Your tenderness in that moment erases any tarnished memory of my childhood. Our dance that night was full of sarcastic remarks and laughter as you spun me around the dance floor. As cheesy as is sounds, that picture really does say a thousand words but usually only four come to mind. 

I love you, Daddy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The First

It seems like we all have a fascination with firsts. We carry fond memories of the first time we rode our bikes or flew on an airplane. There are all sorts of emotions tied up in firsts, most of them include excitement and adrenaline but some of them include heavier emotions like pain, suffering and disappointment. Up to a certain point in my life many of my firsts were all enveloped in guilt and shame and lies. I don’t remember my first lie, but I know that I became imposingly good at it. It felt quite natural to string together a delightful sounding phrase to confuse or distract whomever I was duping.

I did just that the night I had my first kiss. I told the boy I wanted to kiss that he had to help me finish a scavenger hunt, that I had to find the cutest boy at camp and kiss him for ten seconds. He obliged even though we were in front of campers and counselors and he was 5 years my senior. I was quite surprised that my lips felt tingly and even more surprised when I felt his tongue touch mine. I found that to be weird and a little disgusting but I played along like I knew this whole charade backwards and forwards. When a counselor approached to break up our little love fest (after all it was a Christian camp) I spouted off another lie blaming a giggling group of nearby girls for daring me to commit such a scandalous act.

The truth is I didn’t know those girls and I didn’t even know the name of the boy I had just kissed. I didn’t have a scavenger hunt to accomplish nor did anyone dare me but I did know that my older sister had a crush on him and that she had just seen the whole thing. So when someone asks about my first kiss I say it was a boy at camp mainly because the only thing I remember now is that he wore a neon green backwards baseball cap and had bad breath. It was as unromantic as my second kiss which occurred in the middle of the dance floor on homecoming night my freshman year of high school. I assured my date that he was the fourth or fifth boy I’d kissed and I made sure all my friends saw our sloppy session during “Amazed.”

I continued this trend of deceit with many firsts that followed my first (or second) kiss. The first time I slept with someone and the first time I drank too much I pretended like I was a seasoned veteran and I recounted the stories like they were normal occurrences. All those firsts were a train wreck, a desperate attempt at social integration and acceptance but there is one first I’ll never forget. A first that makes all other firsts pale in comparison. I’ll never forget the first time I felt loved. There was no shame or deception, no lies and no plea for acceptance, just love. There was adrenaline and joy, excitement and anticipation and for the first time I didn’t have to be anybody but me.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I wasn’t ready for all of this you know. It was supposed to be about me, a summer of reform and revolution, but there you were. Instead of independence and self realization it was butterflies, phone calls and letters. It was so unfamiliar; not so much the mutual attraction but the mutual respect. I was shocked that someone wanted more from me than just instant gratification.

I wasn’t ready for commitment but there it was. I certainly wasn’t ready to be your wife. I don’t know how to function in this partnership of servitude. My arrogant selfish nature is debilitating and destructive. I’m supposed to help and support you not manipulate my agenda. I’m hopeless at best, but praise the One who sees infinitely more that my finite mind can perceive. He may not have sent prince charming but he did send perfect provision in the form of everything I’m not.

We far from have it all together but as long as we’re doing it together I don’t really care. We will take this organized chaos and slap the label love on it because that’s what it is and so much more. I'm sure we won't be ready the day we hold a baby in our arms and I can’t help but be excited to see the beauty that our helplessness will reveal. 

I love stumbling through life with you even though I'm terribly unprepared.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Untitled... for now.

She was beautiful. Her silver hair framed her face just right. She had deep lines around her face from years of laughter, her best feature in my opinion. Her laugh was deep and hearty, such a big surprise coming from such a small woman. I remember her laugh as if she were sitting next to me laughing right now. It revealed such a deep joy. She had big, strong hands and was proud of the ability to palm a basketball at the age of 70 (my hero.) She often wore pearls and always told me that you shouldn’t wait for a special occasion to wear them. I wore hers on my wedding day. She was the most kind and compassionate person I ever knew. She wasn’t supposed to have favorites but it was clear that I was hers. We were the best of friends. We spent nearly every Wednesday during summer exchanging candy between fits of laughter and mischief. She would bring me an apple pie, my favorite, and I would buy her some disgusting boston baked beans or burnt peanuts, her favorite. Amidst our laughter we had many conversations about life, faith, friendships and anything else. She shared all sorts of wisdom with me, like, never withhold a compliment, always be kinder than necessary to someone in need and always tell someone when you love them. I heard her say those three words more times than I could ever count and never once did I question her sincerity. I try to live up to those things as best as I can. I realize I remember only the best version of her. Mom says she swore like a sailor but I secretly like to chalk that up into my favorite things about her as well. Even when she had surgeries to fix her back and other things, I still thought she was invincible.

I walked into the kitchen one hot summer morning. I’d slept terrible and hadn’t bothered to change out of my oversized pajamas. Everyone was sitting around the kitchen table looking somber. It was obvious they all knew something I didn’t; either that or I was in trouble again. They had all known for awhile, since the night before when my entire extended family had been over mourning together, when I had obliviously retreated to my upstairs bedroom to play obnoxious music and be a moody teenager. No one could bear to come get me, fearing what my reaction would be. Mom refused to look at me, so I laughed at all of them and sarcastically remarked, “Who died?” Dad looked up and told me, his voice shaking and his eyes full of big sloppy tears. It felt like someone had emptied all the air out of my lungs and I gasped loudly between sobs as I beat my dad’s chest calling him a liar.  I cried until it felt like my tear ducts had dried up; until all I could do was sleep. It was the first time I ever felt broken, the first time that I couldn’t think of anything to do to mend myself and I mourned for a long time. I refused to acknowledge the reality and I haphazardly masked the pain I felt. It took a long time but I healed and eventually grasped on to reality and tried to start walking in direction that she so often instructed me.

On Christmas Eve we watched home movies. It wasn’t until I heard her laugh half-way through that I realized she had been filming. She was laughing at my hopeless attempt to steer a go kart around the kiddy track at Okoboji and cheering me on. Hearing her laugh on tape was the best gift this year. I’ve recalled it to mind often since then as I did this morning on my drive to work.  It brings forth stronger emotions than I’m sometimes ready for but I love it, it’s the best sound.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lunch "Dates"

We meet for lunch from time to time to “catch up” or so you call it. I call it that too until I encounter someone who thinks our contact is inappropriate, in which case I make more holy excuses to escape judgment. You always let me choose the venue, even though I still “owe” you a meal at your favorite restaurant. You bring it up every time but I know you’ll never make me pay my debt on account of the provocative things that occurred to make me lose that bet. You brought up the “bet” in front of my husband once. I laughed it off as something playful followed directly by a piercing glare in your direction.  It bugs me that we can still communicate in that way, that you can almost read my thoughts.  I always choose a restaurant close to where you work; partially because you didn’t have a car for so long, and partially because I like to feel like I’m pursuing the situation and not other way around.  The last few times we ate at the same sandwich shop. You’re always late but manage to jump into line as if I were waiting for you. You talk about me to the ladies preparing the sandwiches and order mine for me.  (Am I that predictable that after 6 years my sandwich order is still the same?) We get to the cash register and I retrieve my wallet only to have you slide your card across the counter.  I decline repeatedly but the cashier lets you pay. She thinks you are being chivalrous but she wouldn’t if she knew our story.  You say you’ll let me pay next time but I know you won’t.

We sit down and flow into conversation like old friends which indeed we are. I used to hate hearing about all the girls you are dating but now it doesn’t bother me. You tell me all about them and ask my opinion because you know I always give it freely. We talk about my husband and how we all need to get together. It’s strange how well the two of you get along. You ask about mom and dad and my brother and sisters. I sometimes forget you were like family for a long time. You ask about church. A topic that I know you bring up for my sake. I tell you about Mosaic and all the crazy things happening. I can tell that you stopped listening and it hurts my feelings but I hope that you tune back in to hear a little. In the middle of my story you ask about new years, a reasonable topic since it was last week. I start telling you about the wonderful time I had in Chicago and the amazing girls I spent it with. You ask if it was as amazing as our new years, throwing in buzz words like “hot tub” that will surely make me blush. You succeed in making me blush but I push through my sentence defiantly avoiding your bait. I talk about how encouraged I was without using any “Christian words” (like encouraged).  You smile and tell me how much you love to see me happy. The part of me that wants to be bitter towards you for everything wants to make a snide comment but the bigger part of me that wants you to know what I know and feel what I feel wins out. I’m reminded of why I have lunch with you.  It’s not because I feel guilty or because I have an agenda, it’s because I see part of who I used to be in you and I want to take the time to love that,  the way someone took the time to love me.  So I’ll continue to sit through awkward innuendos praying that one day you’ll see past me into the bigger picture, that you'll learn to love and be loved.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Letter to my Future Self 1/11/11

Dear Katie,
At the time this letter was written you were at work drinking your second cup of tea attempting to get motivated. Shame on you. A lot of things are going on right now. You and Nathan are helping plant a church. You’re gathering with a bunch of rag-tag misfits who have no idea what this looks like. You have a job you love and a community of brothers and sisters spread far and wide who support and love you.

However, I’ve noticed lately that you are gripping pretty tight. Your desire to control every circumstance of your life is inhibiting you from experiencing some of our Savior’s greatest gifts. I know you don’t take kindly to unsolicited advice but hear me when I say, “knock it off” you’re really cramping our style. You have so much to be thankful for. You and Nathan have jobs which allow you the financial freedom to have a warm home and running cars and plenty of delicious food on the table. Who cares if you can’t go on the trip you wanted to because something had to be repaired? Comparatively speaking you have nothing to complain about.

I don’t know where you’ll be when you read this again. Maybe it will be tomorrow or maybe it will be 5 years from now. When you do please, please remember these things. Don’t forget what surrender looks like. Don’t forget what it looked like on that clear spring day in your dorm room. Don’t forget what it looked like on the foggy drive home from camp, or August 1, 2008. Please don’t forget what it looked like this morning when you remembered what Christ can do with a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Remember His faithfulness in commissioning a group of people without a clue to do immeasurably more than anything you could have imagined. Remember the people He has used to crush you and remember the ones He sent to help restore. There may be time in which you are called to one or both of those positions, be diligent in either role. Fight the urge to view any insecurity you might be feeling as bigger than what you know to be true.  Fight the urge to control everything, and surrender. You are not your own. Remember that.


Friday, January 7, 2011

I've Always Loved the Rain

The air was thick on a hot July night;
the cool raindrops fell from the sky,
making small puddles on my sticky bare skin.
I imagined them to be tears since I couldn’t muster any of my own.
I still love the rain.
You may have ruined me, but you didn’t ruin that.

Racing Trains

Every afternoon I race the train. It is supposed to be a 4:45 train. I’ve tried to outsmart it by leaving 3 minutes early or 5 minutes late but no matter when I leave I still meet it on the corner of 48th street. That leaves me only 15 blocks and 2 stoplights to beat it to the crossing at 33rd. I’m not sure if it’s my “competitive nature” or just the stubbornness of not wanting to wait an extra 4 minutes to continue my journey home but no matter how fast the train is going I still try and beat it there. I accelerate quickly in my not so gas friendly SUV knowing that if I don’t hit the lights just right then I haven’t got a chance. The stretch of road is nice and 45mph so I don’t feel bad going 50. I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least 15mph on the train but I’ve still got to make the lights. I make it through the first one which is usually green and I let a little smirk show as I watch the crossing arms go down behind me. One light to go but it’s a tricky one because I have to wait for the left turn arrow. Sure enough I’m a little late for the arrow and even though I don’t see any cops around I’m afraid to break the rules on account of the traffic camera affixed to the stoplight. Once again I sit defeated for the next four minutes counting rail cars and examining the contents of the locomotive. I secretly enjoy that time even though I try so hard to avoid it. I turn the car off and decompress from the day to the chug chug cadence of the metal to metal melody. Once the train is gone and the crossing arms rise, I continue my journey home thinking about how silly it was to race the train, because to this day I’ve yet to beat it. It is futile really, but I’ll surely try again like chasing after the wind. Someday I might actually beat the train, but if no one is looking I might let it win just to hear the victory march I’ve grown accustomed to on my drive home.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tea Time with Charles

We sit, most days in the afternoon sipping the hot concoction I’ve brewed in my fancy tea contraption. I like all kinds of tea, Snow monkey plum, Madagascar vanilla, Indian chai, cream caramel rooibos, but Charles prefers just green (with a packet of Splenda). He always tries my brews and comments on their deliciousness although sometimes I can tell he is just being polite. We talk about all sorts of things, Charles and I. We talk about the news, his friends, my friends, his wife, my husband, the sermons we have been listening to and any other thing that comes to mind. He shares tidbits of wisdom from the nearly half a century he has up on me. That’s right, he is 72 and I am 23. Some days it feels like we are the same age making mischief and giggling (our banter is quite hilarious), needing to be scolded by our manager, and some days he is much older and reminiscent of my grandfather. I’d like to think I soak up our time as if each memory and anecdote shared were rare and precious. I can feel my eyes widen and my mouth drop whenever he starts a story with “when I worked at NASA.” I think it’s so cool. 

Sometimes he blows me away with the information he possesses and I relish the opportunity to teach him a new trick on the computer. He calls me “baby” which I’ve grown quite fond of and speaks tenderly when he sees that I’m upset. Occasionally he has been the reason for my discomfort based on things he has said to sharpen me; things that I foolishly brush aside with my defensive, harsh attitude.

Every once in awhile he gives me a big hug, which is inappropriate in the business world, but Charles doesn’t care. Yesterday was one of those days. It was nearing 4:30 and I walked over to say goodnight to Charles (he laughs every time I call him that because he has always been known as Chuck.) I turn to leave and he says “you know I haven’t always been known as Chuck either.” I replied with an inquisitive, “really?” excited for a story. He proceeded to tell me how he was really Charles Jr. which his mother detested so he went by his middle name Leonard which eventually got shorted to Lynn. I laughed at the idea of him being called Leonard and Lynn. We both put on our coats and he started to walk me out to my car. As we were walking he whispered, “And once I had a nickname that I sometimes use for passwords… Chucklynn.” We both chuckled at the idea. He then grew solemn and continued with a story about the only person that ever referred to him as Chucklin’. His story was sad. This friend (whom he worked with at NASA) was full of life and energy in his early forties when one day they found out he had bone cancer and two weeks later he was gone. I hung my head in sadness and Chuck continued, “No one else has ever called me that but it would be okay if you did.” As I sorted through the emotions of that statement I looked up to see two big tears unashamedly running down Charles’ face and he gave me a big hug. We parted with goodnights and this morning I returned to work as usual. I was greeted with a warm hello from Charles who I greeted back with a “Good morning Chucklin” and a wink. This afternoon we will have tea and I can hardly wait.