Trust the Lord with all your heart

This past May was my two year anniversary of being with Team Huancayo. What a journey it has been! There were ups and downs and what seemed like a million curve balls through it all. It seems only fitting that this journey ends with a curve ball as well.

Earlier this week the team and I decided that it would be best for me to not continue onto Peru with the rest of the team. 

When I joined the team in 2014, we consisted of 2 families and 3 singles. We had a similar vision that God had put on our hearts and were excited about the community we were going to create with one another. Before we moved to Costa Rica, the team had experienced some downsizing. Now the team consisted of 2 families and 1 single – me. We were still excited about the vision and community we would be for one another, but we also realized it now looked very different than what we had originally expected. Throughout the 9 months spent in Costa Rica together we learned and grew together as teammates, a community, and even in some ways as a family. It was a messy and beautiful experience.

Despite all the growing together, there was still a part of me that didn’t feel peace. The rest of the team recognized this and so we changed my role and time commitment to the team. Instead of a 5-10 year commitment, I had a 2 year commitment and became an apprentice. As much as this change took away my anxiety, I still struggled and my teammates saw this.

We all agreed that at this season of my life, remaining in the United States would allow me to have more fruitful opportunities to explore my graduate school studies, different ministries, and be a part of a larger community in a more stable environment. While moving to Peru with the team would allow for some of these things, we were concerned that overall it might not be the best environment to jump into at this time and that it would become a negative experience that could hurt my growth rather than foster it.

We all sought God in this decision, and I can say that I have an overwhelming deep sense of peace about this decision. I believe God has been working on my heart (and in the hearts of my teammates) in this area for some time now. While God’s been at work for awhile in this decision, it’s still a major life change that none of us really expected – including myself.

I want to thank each and every one of you for the endless ways that you have supported me over these past years – emotionally, spiritually, and financially. It has truly been a wonderful experience and I’m looking forward to see how God is going to use it in this next chapter.

Proverbs 3 is a great passage to read alongside this post.

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Pondering God’s Goodness

Our team mentors Gary and Frances Green recently visited us. While they were here we went through different evaluations. One of the most important thing we did, however, was receive healing from the Lord from hurts over this past year. It’s interesting how things can build up within a person without them realizing their depth.

Frances has been going through the Psalms for years and has re-written some of them. She’s shared some with us before in the past, but the once we went through recently together seemed to hit a deeper chord within me. We shared a psalm medley for communal prayer, an invitation for the weary soul to rest (adapted primarily from Psalm 62 and 31), and a psalm of gratitude. With this last re-written psalm we had an exercise to make it more personal. We were asked to remember a time when we were in need or distress and how God delivered us from it and then write it like a psalm. Ironically, all of us wrote about something that took place within this past year.

I decided to share what I wrote. Psalms were written to be read allowed and shared. I figured mine should to. Frances named this psalm exercise “Pondering the loving deeds of the lord.”

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
His love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story. 

I had listened to the Lord and obeyed his call.
I left mother and father and country.
I entered a culture familiar yet foreign,
and tried to walk in his ways.

Every step I took, I slipped.
Every path before me was hidden.

My family grieved my choice.
My friend left me in my darkness.

I was drowning in my
fears
insecurities
failures.

I was alone.

Then I cried out to the Lord in my trouble,
and he delivered me from my distress.

The Lord called me once again.
“You must go deeper still,” he said.

He took me by the hand
and gently guided me in His ways.

My family found comfort.
My soul found new connections.

I was dancing in
community
grace
acceptance.

I was free.

Let us give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

The Lord is good.

I encourage you to try this exercise yourself. The words in bold are what Frances wrote down and are reminiscent of the psalms. The words that aren’t bold are what I wrote. In the first non-bold section, write about a time of distress or need you experienced. In the second non-bold section, write about how God delivered you from it. Then share it with a friend.

For more incredible things, check out France’s blog here!

The Body

One of the things I love most about life is relationships.

I love the excitement of meeting new people. I love the process of trust growing between people. I love intentionally walking alongside others in life and purposefully cultivating deeper relationships. I love those moments when I’m hanging out with a group of friends and we all suddenly realize how close we are and try to figure out how the heck it happened.

For those that know me this isn’t surprising at all. I am very much a people person. In fact, all of those strengths and personality tests I’ve had to take for team training and grad school point to the fact that I was indeed wired for relationships. Really I believe we’re all wired for relationships, it just also happens to be one of my favorite hobbies.

This is probably why the metaphor of the Church being the body of Christ resonates with me deeply. Read the metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12.

There are honestly so many different things I could say about this chapter. I could talk about how we are all different parts of the body and so have different talents and gifts.* I could talk about how we should encourage one another in our diversity. However, for the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to talk about why the body needs exercise.

*Side note: you should totally ask God what part of the body you are & how he uses you. It’s a fun way to know self and know God. 

Over the past few years my understanding and respect for physical exercise has been growing. I’ve run a few half marathons and have done different workout programs like Insanity and Fit Girls Guide. I’ve also been super inconsistent and have injured myself because of it. But hey, progress, not perfection.

A few weeks ago I realized the need for consistency and growth in this are of my life so for the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing the FGG work out plan with a friend. We’ve been consistent and I can honestly say it’s been the highlight of my day since being back in Costa Rica.

I think the turning point for me was in realizing my need.

Living cross-culturally produces mucho stress and anxiety in me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it and think it’s good for me, but it is hard. Last week a friend told me that anxiety and stress and all those Scroogey feelings you get is the culmination of a bunch of chemicals in your body, and that working out kills those chemicals. It was definitely one of those “ah-ha” moments for me, and I’ve been able to experience how working out truly does help restore my peace.

But working hard to kill those chemicals sometimes leaves me sore and exhausted. There have been many a days lately where I’ll wake up and find it hard to get out of bed because my body is aching. It’s not a bad “I’m injured” kind of ache (believe me, I know what that feels like), but rather a “Oh, I didn’t realize that muscle existed before” kind of ache. It’s that kind of ache that points to a future strength. 

Just as our physical bodies need exercise, the body of Christ also needs to be exercised. This happens in the Church as a whole, but it also happens in smaller community settings. Sometimes we experience some easy to moderate exercise. This could take the form of starting new relationships or experiencing some miscommunication. Sometimes we go through some pretty intense exercise plans as a community. This could look like moving to a new country with a group of people or starting a business with some friends. Other times, we think we’ve signed up for a regular half marathon when what we actually signed up for was a full on adventure marathon that has mountains and creeks and not as many water breaks as we anticipated. This could look like a death in the community, a divorce, or heartbreak.

The point is, we may not necessarily enjoy exercising but it’s crucial to growth and living a healthy life. Relationships aren’t always easy and they aren’t perfect. They require work and commitment. However, it’s in relationships that we experience connection, joy, love, and Christ.

So may we discover and accept our roles in the body. May we take the time to know ourselves and to know God. May we push through the uncomfortable times of training so that we can push through to the finish line and receive our prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Fun fact: the picture for this post was taken after my first ever race; a Mujeres 5k in Montevideo, Uruguay in 2012! 

If you’re interested in learning more about honoring God with your body, check out Beltway’s Essentials sermon series here

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Vulnerability

Vulnerability and I have an interesting relationship.

I didn’t really understand what being vulnerable meant until I was 10 years old. When I was 10 my mother, brother and I were hit head on by a drunk driver. This wreck took 3 lives and drastically changed multiple families forever. You can check out more about the wreck here. The following two years I had to learn how to be vulnerable with my family. It was a struggle. I often floated between bitterness and pretending nothing happened because as a young child I didn’t really have the capacity to fully accept.

When I was 14, my mom made me learn vulnerability in a different way. To cope with what happened and to help prevent it from happening to others my mom, grandparents and I began speaking for Mothers Against Drinking and Driving. I was 14 when I had my first public speaking engagement. I was in 8th grade and was speaking to the juniors and seniors of the high school I was about to attend. Oh, and I cried the entire time I spoke. It was humiliating, but it was also freeing. I found that I rather liked being transparent with people, at least in this area of my life.

In college I learned true, deep vulnerability in friendships through the college ministry I was a part of. I learned how to be fully transparent with the good, the bad, and the seriously ugly. This is when I learned authentic connection with other people. I would share my ugly side with my community and they would encourage me by speaking truth and holding me accountable. By the end of college, I thought I had this whole vulnerability thing down.

I was definitely wrong.

Last fall I had a hard time adjusting to post-college life. Moving to a new country, starting grad school in a different discipline, living alone for the first time, having my first full-time job all made it a pretty stressful time. The thing that added the most stress, however, was not being willing to be vulnerable.

You see, I always want to be the best me I possibly can be. I think that’s important and I don’t think it’s inherently bad. Yet, I was convinced the best me that could possibly exist was perfection. So when I experienced culture shock or couldn’t handle everything I put on my plate, I got so mad at myself. I minimized all of my struggles and refused to give myself grace. This led to a huge amount of stress and anxiety that I honestly didn’t even realize I had. This also kept me from being open to my teammates about struggles I was having. I didn’t want them to know I wasn’t perfect.

The past two nights I’ve watched Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability. It’s actually a little funny. During team training we were supposed to watch this video and talk about it, but I never got around to it. Sorry, Gary! 🙂 Anyways, in the talk Brené gives the old school definition of courage. She says, it means “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart; the courage to be imperfect.” I know I’m not perfect and that it’s impossible to be perfect, but sometimes the dreamer in me has to be reminded that as well.

Brené also mentions that many of us numb vulnerability. It’s not necessarily a fantastic feeling. It’s kinda like that feeling you get right before the roller coaster takes off. Half of you wants to stay on the ride and experience it all while the other half of you wants to hurry up and get off the ride before it’s too late. The problem with numbing vulnerability, she says, is that you can’t selectively numb emotions.

If you numb the pain, you numb the joy.
If you numb the loneliness, you numb the connection.
If you numb the hurt of unmet expectations, you numb the delight of new discoveries.

Like many areas of my life, I want to grow here. I want to actively choose vulnerability.

Watch Brené’s talk here.

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A Little Like a Puddle

Sometimes I feel a little like a puddle. I feel shallow. I feel murky. I feel like a tiny little space in the earth where all sorts of filth comes to fester. IMG_0726

Sometimes I feel like the beautiful clear blue oceans I see on vacation ads. I feel transparent. I feel like people can see who I am deep down inside. I feel inviting.

Sometimes though, sometimes I feel like a puddle.

No one really wants to be a puddle. Puddles are messy. Puddles get you dirty and leave mud on your shoes that gets tracked throughout the house. Occasionally someone will want to play in a puddle, but only for the experience. After they’re done playing they’ll go inside and take a shower. All traces of the puddle gone. No one ever really wants to be a puddle.

It kinda bothers me that I sometimes feel a little like a puddle. Puddles can’t do anything good, can they?

One thing I noticed about puddles the other day is that if you stand in just the right place they reflect the sky. I could still see the mud around the edges of the puddle, but the center was pure blue and purple sky.

It was mesmerizing. It was beautiful.

So I suppose it’s okay if I sometimes feel a little like a puddle. I just hope that those who find me in these moments are standing in just the right place, with just the right perspective, to see the sky.

The fun thing about metaphors and creative writing is that it can be interpreted in many different ways. I encourage different interpretations because I encourage creativity. Now that you’ve read this post and have come up with your own interpretation, I’d like you to know mine.

Humanity is sinful in nature. Even after dedicating our lives to Christ there are times where we still feel stuck in muck of our old sinful lives. That’s normal. Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect. Being a Christian is about growing closer in relationship to God and looking more and more like Christ. It’s a life-long journey. Sometimes, we feel closer to our sinful nature (like a puddle), and other times we feel closer to Christ (like a clear ocean). The beautiful thing is that even when we feel too close to our sinful nature, God can be reflected off of us. His power and divinity is shown greater in our weakness. 

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The Reason Behind the Name

Recently I changed my blogging site and with that came a new name.

There were a few reasons I decided to change the blogging website and get a personalized domain, but they all come back to sharing. I want to share my life with my family, who lives so far away. I want to share my life with the wonderful friends who are praying for Team Huancayo and financially supporting our efforts. I want to share my life with those who dream of their own futures and are looking for inspiration.

I remember being in high school and being interested in attending ACU. One day while I was doing some research on what ACU offered, I came across a blog two girls wrote during their study abroad semester in Uruguay. They talked about fun things they did and interesting encounters they had with people. They shared pictures and videos to help their experiences come to life for people who weren’t able to be there. In the end, their blog is what fully convinced me to attend ACU with the hopes of studying abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay. Who would’ve thought I’d end up spending two semesters in that beautiful country?

I had attempted to share my experiences like those two girls did with my last blog, but wasn’t very successful. I had that blog for 3 years but only updated a handful of posts. During that time I interned as a missionary for 2 months in Costa Rica, studied abroad in Uruguay for 2 semesters, and took a couple of work trips to Huancayo, Peru. Yet there isn’t much on the blog to show for it. I was too busy learning how to process all that I was experiencing myself.

It’s like the different stages of learning. The first time you learn about something, you’re really only familiarizing yourself with it. You generally understand the concepts, but trying to explain them to someone who has never learned it before is like pulling tooth and nail. You just don’t know the material well enough to explain it in a way that makes sense yet. The more you learn, however, the better you grasp the details of the concepts. The better you grasp the details, the more you can explain them to others. In a way, that’s what these last few years of traveling abroad has taught me. Now I’m familiar with how my brain processes new things, and can better explain them to others. That is why this blog is dedicated to sharing.

The name of my previous blog was “to the ends of the earth.” It’s the last part of Acts 1:8 in the New Testament and holds a very deep meaning for me. So much, in fact, that it became my first tattoo when I was 18. To go everywhere and anywhere, to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the gospel. & being reminded in the journey that it’s not through your own power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit that people receive the good news. Acts 1:8 reminds you of these things, but also that you’re not alone. That God has not abandoned you no matter how far away he may seem in the moment. It’s a very powerful verse.

I thought about keeping the same blog name for a while, but the more I thought about it, the more “calling” came to mind. You see, like most North American Christians I’ve thrown the word “calling” around a lot.

I’m called to go to ACU.
I feel called or led to speak to so-and-so.
God’s calling me to Huancayo, Peru
.

The more I reflect on how we use this word, the more I get the feeling we’re missing the bigger picture. We mostly equate calling to action. Whatever career we have or place we choose to live in becomes what God has called us to because we feel a certain amount of peace in the decision or perhaps an intense supernatural attraction to it. I’m not saying I don’t believe God doesn’t call us to do certain things, because I believe he does. However, I believe it’s secondary to what God calls all of us to.

More than calling us to go somewhere or do a certain thing, God calls us to be.

God calls us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. Matthew 22:37
God calls us to love our neighbor like ourselves. Matthew 22:39
God calls us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Matthew 5:13-16

More than anything else, God calls us into a new character and identity in Christ. As Christians, this is what our life’s journey is all about.

& this is the reason for the new name of the blog, Calling Katie.

Journeys tend to be a little messy and often don’t go according to plan, but they always make a great story. So this is me, sharing my story with you.

Photo by Amanda Juillard

 

Christmas in the Tropics

Can I get a Holly Jolly Christmas for one, please?

While I celebrated holidays growing up, the constantly changing family dynamics made it nearly impossible to have family holiday traditions. We had a few things we would try to do every year, but it was never a big deal if they were skipped for a year or two. That’s why when I went to college, I was amazed to hear about all of these Thanksgiving and Christmas family traditions. Some were centered around the kids while others were centered around Scripture. It was fascinating to see the excitement in my friends’ faces when they talked about the holidays. Slowly but surely, that same excitement started to grow inside me. The last two years of holidays spent with family included longer conversations and family games. A huge difference from the post-meal communal nap we all used to take!

My roommates throughout the years also enjoyed decorating for the holidays.

Thanksgiving? Let’s throw up a “I’m thankful for…” wall.
Christmas? A mini Christmas tree and lots of tinsel.
Valentine’s Day? Pink and heart shaped candy everywhere!

I come from a family where the Christmas tree stays up year round or doesn’t get put up at all. Now I will say, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with not decorating or not celebrating holidays con mucha fuerza. There’s a difference in values and that is A-Okay. I have noticed though, that when I am in an environment decorated for the holidays, my spirits are lifted. It adds more excitement to the home and everyday routine. If there is one thing I love, it’s definitely excitement. So I am very thankful for being surrounded by friends who have taught me how to be excited about holidays.

But now I live alone in a different country and am forced to figure out how to carry this excitement sola.

It seems like my two pasts are trying to figure out how to coexist. I want to decorate for the holidays, but what’s the point when there’s only one person living in the house? Am I really going to just hang up one stocking that will never even be filled? I’m pretty sure that would be more depressing than not having a stocking put up at all. What about other Christmas decorations? I just can’t make myself buy all of these Christmas decorations that I’ll only use for one year. Since I’m in between countries right now, it’s harder to justify buying holiday decorations.

So how do I experience the excitement of holidays while living alone?

The answer, my friends, is community.

When Halloween rolled around, I decided I wanted to throw a Halloween party with some other single expat friends who I went to Spanish school with. To get ready for the party, two sweet friends helped me decorate the entire apartment. It was awesome! At least half of those decorations stayed up until December, but hey, progress right?

The first week of December I moved into a new apartment. The owner of the apartment, who lives in the house below it, is very kind and communal. She’ll often ask how I’m doing and even brought me up some food my first week here. My second week living here, she brought up a bunch of Christmas decorations and helped me decorate the apartment.

What a joy to be surrounded with such a thoughtful community.

I’m thankful that this year I’ll actually be able to spend Christmas with my family, but I’m also thankful that I’ve been able to experience the joy of the Christmas season while living alone in the tropics.

What are some of your favorite family holiday traditions? Share below in the comments!

On Leaving Family

This was posted on my previous blog on August 28,2015


As I was walking home from the Spanish Institute a half hour ago I was reflecting on the feelings of loneliness I’ve been experiencing. These feelings weren’t unexpected or unfamiliar. They’re also not always intense. Yet they’re often there. I’m not a TCK (third culture kid) and will never know what it’s like to be one, but I understand the feeling of not belonging. I have a colorful childhood and while I can explain that to close friends, they still don’t understand what it’s really like to have lived through it. For those close friends who do understand what it’s like to come from a broken family, not many of them can relate to the restoration of relationships Christ has brought about through the years.

Still even less are able to relate to the tragic loss of a loved one at a young age. The more I began to think about being alone, the more I realized the most known I have ever felt among other people was when I was with my family. While they may not be able to understand the cross-cultural experiences I’ve had over the past four years, they’ve been with me through the most challenging things.

They know me.

They get me.

They understand me.

They accept me.

& I have left them.

I am certain that God has called me to this mission team and to Peru. I am filled with joy being here in Costa Rica right now with my teammates and being around my hermanos in the church here once again. If I could go back to when I made all of the decisions that led to this moment with his team for this purpose, I would choose the same path without wavering. Yet this path is the hardest one I could’ve chosen, and it’s because of my family. My family means more to me than almost everything in this world. So yes, leaving them is hard. But it’s not leaving them that is the hard part. It’s knowing that this is the first major life event that they are not able to share with me that is heartbreaking. I can tell them what it’s like and they’ll get glimpses when they visit, but they won’t be able to fully understand. Just like I won’t be able to fully understand what they’re going to go through back home.

I’m thankful for our God who vows we will never be alone. I’m thankful for having a family so wonderful that I can’t help but grief the loss of their nearness. I’m thankful for the wise men and women who have tried to prepare me for this moment. I am thankful for the pastor who last left me with these encouraging words: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.'” Mark 10:29-30