Dec 25, 2012

By the Evergreen

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:14, KJV


I sit next to the lit tree, all silver and blue this year, guarding its assortment of gifts.

I never believed in Santa Clause. It wasn't even an idea I toyed with as a child. I didn't even think other kids my age believed in him; I apparently thought my generation had grown more savvy than our predecessors. It wasn't until I was in my late teenage years that I met people who had believed in him when they were younger. It was a remarkable discovery for me.

I have always liked staying up late on Christmas Eve. Of course, this has never had anything to do with a hope to see a red-suited man with a stomach like a bowl full of jelly somehow squeeze himself out of the fireplace. But there is a certain stillness to the night that seems characteristic to Christmas. The following morning always dawns with eagerness: wrapping paper torn, gifts tallied, thanks given, new toys taken out of their packages and properly played with, and wonderful food eaten. But on that night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature is stirring (not even a mouse), it's like all the joy and wonder of the season has been pent up and is ready, waiting anxiously to be unleashed at the grand finale that is December 25.

As I've gotten older, I think I've grown to enjoy Christmas Eve even more than Christmas Day. Just being awash in the peace and wonder that comes with a carefully decorated evergreen, a house full of family tradition, and the knowledge of a strange unity that stretches around the world every December. Another night and day will come and go, and another Christmas will be gone. But for now I will receive the peace of this moment as the gift that it is.

Dec 18, 2012


"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35
"Can you stay a little longer today?"
I looked at the long list of names before glancing at the clock. "I really do have to study, but I can stay one more hour."
I'd been working as a student chaplain at the local hospital for a couple months, observing the other chaplains as they visited patients, then leading out in visits as the chaplains observed me. Now I was transitioning to do visits on my own. On this day, I had just come in for an education seminar at the hospital, but the census was high and so my boss asked me to cover ICU.
After a nice chat with an elderly patient and his wife, I checked the other rooms in ICU, only to discover everyone asleep. I headed over to MedSurg to see where my boss had and had not already visited. I passed by several rooms when--
I stopped and popped my head into the nearest room. "Well, hello Ms. Daniels!"*
Ms. Daniels was one of the first patients I had met when I had begun taking the lead. Apparently she had only been home for a few weeks before having to return to our hospital. I'd loved talking with her last time, but  while I had remembered her, I was a little surprised that she had remembered me.
"How are you feeling, Ms. Daniels?"
"Ok, I guess, but I'm just not bouncing back as quick as I usually do. So I'm still here."
We chatted for a while about how she was coping, what support she was getting from friends and from her (non-SDA) church, and what she was anticipating for recovery. Towards the end of our conversation, she mentioned that she had seen the other two chaplains over the last few days she'd been in the hospital. "This is great! Now that I've seen you, I've got the complete set!" she said with a laugh and a smile. "Guess I'm ready to head home now." And she thanked me for the talk.
On another occasion, my boss and I were hosting a Tea for the Soul, an opportunity for employees to take a break, grab some tea, socialize, and ultimately experience some rest.  This day we had set up our table for an hour in a large department. Towards the end of our time there, after everyone else had come and gone, an older woman and a college-aged girl approached our table slowly, talking in low voices to one another.
"--religion crammed down my throat my whole life."
"It's just tea," the older woman replied.
I smiled and nodded. "And we won't even cram that down your throat."
They both smiled, and we all continued with conversation, chai, and ginseng. It was nice, but it left me thinking.
Life in such a career would be so much more comfortable and restful if everyone was a Ms. Daniels: eager to converse and share despite a difference in beliefs. But the idea of being perceived or stereotyped as one who crams religion down throats, beats people with Bibles, and bulldozes for Jesus--I find it all rather off-putting, to say the least.
But that is exactly why pursuing such a path can be so critical. Facebook walls and bumper-stickers plastered on cars quote Gandhi's renown saying, "Be the change you want to see in the world." If no one brings the change, then nothing changes. If I don't act in a way to break the mold of the stereotypical chaplain (Bible worker, missionary, pastor, Christian, what-have-you), then the pre-conceived assumptions will persist. And years down the line, there will still be a girl afraid that she will get an unwanted complimentary baptism with her tea.
Jesus said His disciples would be identified by the love they demonstrated for one another. Wouldn't it be something if that was the first characteristic that came to mind about Christians? (I heard a recent survey result ranked "anti-gay" as the most common characteristic attributed to Christianity. This causes my soul to grieve.)  Can I say I am known by God's love? Can I say the way I love demonstrates a connection to God? I want the answers to be yes, and I want to live in a way that contributes to a different definition of the word "Christian." Or maybe not a different definition. Maybe just the original definition.
So I guess this is me reaffirming my choices and my desired choices in beliefs, in actions, in career decisions. Gradually, patiently, and repeatedly, God is showing me who I am to be and where I am to go. I may be a slow learner…But at least I'm learning.
*Name changed, of course

Nov 18, 2012

"Want Some Help?"

"Be at rest once more, oh my soul, for the Lord has been good to you." Psalm 116:7

I was stressed.

My days had been formed in advance, filled to the brim with classes, work, meetings, and all the little things that seem to line up in an endless list. And the thing is, if I spread out all of those activities over a significantly longer span of time, I would really enjoy them. Volunteering with Walla Walla's Interfaith Coalition on Poverty and then shopping for a student missionary's Christmas package? That sounds awesome! But it feels less awesome and more exhausting when everything happens at once, and I'm left scarffing a late lunch/early dinner in the 15 minutes I'm home before running off to my next appointment, finally finishing my day around 9pm when I can then begin homework.

And no, not every day has been like this: this describes 4/5 of last week, and maybe 1/2 of previous weeks. But I need to acknowledge what I have conquered, or at the very least endured.

Several times I was able to adjust my perspective as I rushed into the next appointment, reminding myself that everything is ultimately optional and I was choosing to attend because I tuly desired it. But no matter what view point I used, I was still left utterly spent at the end of each day, fully aware that a schedule adjustment was in order at some point. So far I've made a music playlist entitled "Rest;" otherwise, I still have a fair share to hash out.

So I was stressed. Finally, Thanksgiving break made its glorious entrance, and after packing up and gassing up, I was off for Auburn, glad to have a long drive to myself so I could think and destress.

And then I got a flat tire. It was just too much. I sat in my seat, closed my eyes, and let tears of frustration and exhaustion slip down my cheeks. Could I please just be done with this?!

I recollected myself, opened my trunk, and started getting my little spare out. "Want some help?" I jumped and looked up to see an unfamiliar face. He grabbed my tire and jack and knelt down by my flat. I thanked him and sat down on the ground. He was chatting away and glanced up with a smile, only to see my tear-stained face. "You crying? Don't cry!" I began to explain to him the build up to the tears. Towards the end of my explanation, he said he had better tools and a good tire at his house, if I still wanted his help.

So over the next hour and a half, William and I talked about all sorts of aspects of life. He listened to me vent out my pent up emotions and asked me how I cope with stress ("Personally, I just hit things," he explained with a laugh). He reminded me that we all need to be able to voice what we're experiencing, and we agreed on how important it is to have people who will listen and sit with you through the rough stuff. We talked about the importance of genuine friendships and love, about Christianity, about family, and about driving stick shifts. I was amazed by the entire conversation: I couldn't believe it was happening, and I couldn't believe how much better I was feeling. When my car was good to go again, I hugged and profusely thanked William for the kindness he had shown me in so many ways.

I'm pretty sure God knew I needed this unorthodox pause. I'd been going and going and going--something had to stop me if I was going to find any kind of rest for my soul. It turns out a flat tire and William from Pasco was just what I needed. Less than two hours after pulling onto the shoulder of Highway 12, I had a new tire, a new friend, a new light on people called "strangers," and a new attitude. Best car trouble I've had yet. Thank you God, and thank you William.

Oct 12, 2012


"I am sure that God who began the good work in you will keep on working in you until the day Jesus Christ comes again." Philippians 1:6 (New Life Version)

I've started and stopped a couple posts since school started 3 weeks ago. I feel like much and little has happened since last posting, and my thoughts have been many and scattered. They still are. Perhaps that is why now is a good time to write.

Right now it's raining: the first time it's really rained since I came back to Walla Walla. I'm really excited by the thought of falling asleep to the sound of rain. But one thing has kept me from dozing off on this peaceful Sabbath evening, something little but significant. You see, I'm giving a talk tomorrow during Walla Walla's Student Missionary Re-Entry Retreat. I'm just supposed to speak for ten or fifteen minutes about the transition process, speaking as the supposedly successfully transitioned missionary that I am.

So what am I telling these newly returned missionaries? Be present. Let yourself feel and think what you need to feel and think when you need to feel and think it. Not what others seem to be feeling and thinking. Not when others seem to be feeling and thinking it: your SM experience was unique, and so your transition experience will also be unique. Engage in your story and let yourself be changed by what you experienced. You are still the teacher, still the Bible worker, still the orphanage attendant. You don't lose your gifts and passions and stories when you change environment. There ARE people who want to hear your story, want to support you, want to help you navigate the rough stuff whenever you need to navigate it.

I think these thoughts are just as much for me as they are for my audience. So have I successfully transitioned back into America? I think so. But I also think I'm continuously transitioning, in a way, in perhaps a multitude of areas, as I learn and grow and experience the new. And I think I'll hold onto these pieces of advice as I ever continue the process.

Yes, I think that's exactly what I want to do.

Sep 9, 2012


"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:10,11

Ok, now for the ironic side of the last entry.

There is one lesson that I have been taught repeatedly over the last few years. It's quite simple, but evidently I have a difficult time letting it stick. The lesson is this: I am not God.

"You know, you're kinda like God to me," she'd said. Oh goodness, child, please phrase that sentence differently! Let me explain my severe discomfort.

A week after hearing this phrase, I found myself surrounded by girls in sorrow and pain. Naturally, I loved on them. I hugged and listened and questioned and prayed and cried. The floodgates of hurt flew open in a fashion that I know began by God's leading: that was the only time this summer that I felt that I needed to have this particular worship. And there was a healthy space for it. There were words that needed to be said and heard. There were hugs that needed to be received.

But somehow it became unhealthy very quickly. I became an emotional crutch for a number of children. Very subtly, my focus became problem-solving: how can I help/fix/restore? Yet whose mind should be on these matters, mine or God's? How embarrassing it is to examine this in retrospect. But in the midst of it all, I was a blinded wreck--emotionally, physically (late night conversations were taking a toll on all of us), and spiritually. Thankfully, I have people in my life willing to continue sentences that start with, "I know you won't want to hear this…" Camp isn't therapy was the gist of that conversation. Also, Katelyn has limits.

God doesn't have limits. Katelyn has limits. And sometimes, most of the time, God will bring healing to someone without using Katelyn as a primary conduit. I wrote a while back about the concept of serving a limitless God. I think limits and inabilities and problems crop up when the emphasis on serving God and following His lead is disregarded. The more the focus is on me and what I can do, the more problematic the situation becomes.

Codependency. I don't like that word. I like even less that I participate in it. I'm working on that. I'm realizing that I have been given gifts and abilities that can be of great benefit to others in their walks. But if I am making a significant appearance on a stage set for God and His child, I think I can often be of more harm to all of us than the help I may intend. Restoration is something that God alone can provide for people. When I try to provide it, I become less of a friend and more of a crutch. And really, I don't want people to hobble through life with me supporting their weight; I want people to be healed.

God's working on restoring me. Ultimately, I want to see Him restore and heal those around me. And for that to happen, I just might have to take a step back and let that happen. Because I'm not God.

I'm Katelyn.

Sep 2, 2012


"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us." 1 John 4:12
"Miss Shasta?"
She was my girl who could never remember my name. She'd started calling me Mrs. Shasta after the name of my cabin, a name I constantly cheered throughout the day. I'd happily agreed to the name, requesting a slight modification to the title.
"Miss Shasta?"
I had come back from my weekly day off just before cabin worship and bedtime. Now I had just turned the lights out, an indication that all talking should cease. But one of my kids was calling me. I crouched down next to her bunk. "Yeah?"
"I'm glad you're back."
"I'm glad to be back with you, sweetie."
"No, I mean, I'm really glad you're back. I didn't go all the way up the giant swing today, and if you'd been here I think I would've."
"It's ok. You went as far up as you felt safe going. And you did it! That's what counts. That's awesome!"
She shifted in her sleeping bag. "I almost didn't do it. I was too scared. But then I remembered your face and how you helped me at BMX, and I did it."
I smiled. "Way to go, girly. I'm excited to do the activities with you tomorrow. But for now we need to get some slee--"
"You know, you're kinda like God to me." I gave a small chuckle as she continued. "I just thought of you, and I felt better."
"Sometimes God is easiest to see and feel when we experience Him in others. His love and His strength and His courage become more real to us when we see them reflected in other people."
"Uh huh. I missed you. Thank you for coming back."
"Glad to be back, sweetie. Now let's go to sleep."
There's a lot of irony as to when this exchange took place this summer. But I'll get to that on another occasion.
I didn't have any grand, teary, Friday night conversion experience with my girls this summer, a little different than the last two years. And I'm ok with that. Instead I had conversations about predestination while getting ready for bed. I had girls requesting me to intensely pray about dismal situations at home. I had "I love you more" wars with my cabin on the way to activities. And as I research and ponder and imagine what mission work looks like to me, whether in a primitive land or at a summer camp, I keep boiling it down to just two simple things.
First, I'm going to enjoy what I believe. I'm going to enjoy God. I'm going to enjoy what His salvation story looks like in my life. Because it really is quite fantastic.
Then, I'm going to love people. I'm going to love all kinds of people in all sorts of ways. And I'm going to enjoy it, because it's something I believe in.
Really, God can take it from there. I'll just follow His lead. I mean, if I'm asked to give Bible studies or a sermon or what have you, I'll very gladly do it. I by no means intend to be silent about the one I call Lord. But honestly, I don't want to be called a Soul Winner. That title makes me cringe, and I think it makes the "Winnees" cringe, too.
I think people today would much rather be invited to a party than be sought out as quarry. If I'm finding true life to the full within what I have chosen to believe, and if someone finds that appealing, then there is a beautiful, open avenue for good news to be shared. Telling people repeatedly that the Christian lifestyle is the way to go is nothing close to physical evidence of what such a lifestyle is like.
Some people call it friendship evangelism. I think I'd like to just call it friendship. No hidden agendas. If you like what you see, feel free to join the movement. If you don't, let's just enjoy the friendship. I'll cheer for you as you go up the giant swing. And if you see God in that, well, it makes sense. He can be kind of hard to dim at times. That's one of the things I enjoy about Him.

Aug 24, 2012

Pink Markers, Prayer, and Lights

"Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God. You live among people who are crooked and evil, but you must not do anything that they can say is wrong. Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, as you hold firmly to the message that gives life..." Philippians 2:15,16a, CEV.

It's been nearly two weeks since my fourth summer of camp came to its close. It was a good summer, a different summer, as they always tend to be. After having spent some time resting and recovering from exhaustion, I must say that I do miss it and am glad for having gotten to counsel for a third season.

I was just sorting through my cabin's art supplies, seeing how many markers, colored pencils, and clean pieces of paper managed to survive the five groups of girls that used them. As I was flipping through one of the notebooks--pausing to scan a scribbled note of greeting here, a sketch of a happy looking horse there--I stopped on one unexpected page. Written in pink marker with a very precise hand were the words "naimbag toy puso." Below this phrase had been written its translation: "it is well with my soul."

At the summer's start, I'd made a name tag picture and placed it above my bunk. I instructed all my kids to make their own as well, and so we all had these works of art displayed, conveying not only our names but also our interests, hobbies, passions, and personalities. Mine had a tree, a waterfall, a cross, a space-filling sheep, and other various images, as well as several phrases, one of which being "naimbag toy puso." So naturally throughout the summer I was questioned on the meaning of the phrase. Evidently one of my girls jotted this down at one of these junctures.

I mention this discovery because it reminded me of another girl. Let's call her Anne. Anne was in my cabin last summer. A little 8-year-old with spunk who tried (half-heartedly and unsuccessfully) to get away with a lot, which typically resulted in a lot of good-natured laughter from all involved. We got along great. Last summer, at the conclusion of a prayer during Sabbath's church service, Anne stared up at me and asked me why I prayed with my hands open. I explained the symbolism with which I view it and the reminder it gives me to come before God with an open heart to give and receive. "Everyone has their own personal way for connecting with God," I told her. "Some people fold their hands, some people kneel, some people stand and look up. They're just different positions for getting your heart and mind ready to talk with God." She furrowed her brow, nodded, and thought hard about this.

Anne came back this summer and requested to join me again in cabin Shasta, much to my delight. The first night, I went to each bunk to talk and pray with each girl. When I prayed with Anne, I noticed that she mirrored my open hands. She saw that I'd noticed, so I smiled at her and asked if she remembered why I prayed that way. She nodded and quoted back to me what I'd said a year ago. "I like to pray this way, too," Anne added, her eyes wide and her face serious.

As I lay in bed that night, an anxious thought filtered through my mind. A reminder of something I'd first noted my senior year in high school and which hit me full force in Pagudpud and at Sunset Lake: people are watching and listening. So much can be taught in simply how a life is lived. Being aware of who we are and what we stand for is not significant for our own sakes alone, but also for the sakes of those whom we encounter. I remember many people who were of great influence on me, not for any great speech that they worked on or any fantastic feat accomplished, but simply for living as they lived. And now I'm honored to be in the other position as well.

It's definitely a responsibility; that couldn't have been clearer that night in cabin Shasta. Much damage can be done, much confusion wrought. But so much guidance and love can be shared, too. It's a responsibility that I find a privilege to possess. So I will remember my audience and choose my words with precision. But more than this, I will care for my heart, for it is out of the heart that all else flows. And in doing this, I will care for myself and others.

It's an honor to be counted as a light, and I desire to do the role justice.

Let's just tack on a little Shasta chaos

Jun 26, 2012

The Importance of Story

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5

When I was a young girl, I used to narrate my life. I have distinct memories of riding my bicycle around the neighborhood with phrases of narration running through my head, such as "little did she know that this bike ride would change her life forever," and "Katelyn would often look back on this day with fond memories, longing to again jump the curbs on her old street." Everything was big. Even the most mundane of things turned into a great adventure ("Katelyn quickly scrambled up the stairs, determined to beat her brother to the gameboy").

This was a memorable scene
Over time this narration faded out (or perhaps just changed form), but I tended to hold on to this idea of grandness. Moments were always more than they would seem. Watching a deer, laying under the moon at midnight, battling in silly string fights, holding kitchen conversations, playing hopscotch with 4-year-olds, listening to birds as they slowly realize day has dawned... There was always a certain sacredness to everything, to each moment, all crafting an incredible story. Along the way there would be particularly memorable scenes, turning points in the plot, and in these moments I would especially feel the weight of existence and the unbelievable beauty of life.

 And then I thought my story ended.

I remember talking about this feeling with my friend Megan last summer. We'd both just come back into our lives in America, and we had no idea what was to happen or to be done next. "There was all this build up to go…I never really thought passed the SM experience." "Me neither. Getting on that plane kind of felt like the conclusion, and I didn't ever think about what would come in the weeks and months after landing."

What would come was a life without story, which meant a lack of direction, a lack of meaning, a lack of grandness. Just events occurring without a plot, without a feeling of more to come. Much happened, many scenes that could have been claimed as part of an incredible story, as part of my story. But I didn't claim them. Maybe I didn't want them.

But all I did was finish an act, one act in a set of many.

My story's been known for a long time, set apart, appointed. I'm choosing to claim what is mine. Because in all honesty, my story is absolutely fantastic. And if I think about it, I do know where I'm going, and I can see how certain events do or do not fit into my God-given epic. So I'll talk to the Author and live in the divine pages of life. I will experience the holiness and the weight of my scenes. Because each one is beautiful, instructive, and big.

And I will claim the scenes that are a part of my story, no matter how they may appear at first glance. Because they are mine. They've been planned for me. And I want them.

[When my lot of returning SMs went through our re-entry retreat, we were told that reverse culture shock and processing would happen at different times for different people: maybe we'd already gone through the bulk of it, maybe it would take several months. It kind of annoys me that I'm still writing about my Philippines experience, that I'm still processing. But…this is where I am. And I'll let myself be here. I always was a mosey-er anyway.]

Jun 15, 2012

Beautiful Chaos

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Ah, feels good to be back in Shasta!
As I begin this post, I'm not really sure where it is going to go or what thoughts I'm going to string together. Night is now morning, and I'm still tired from the little sleep from the previous evening, but I feel like there's a great chance I won't be writing on here for a while. And as I transition into summer, I feel like a post is warranted.

It's been a bizarre week. Seven days ago from this moment, I was having a last hurrah sort of evening with a couple friends of mine. Since then, I've had to say "see you later" (I don't believe goodbyes exist) to a number of good friends--some heading to distant countries, some off to grad school in far-off states, and some just away for the summer; I've sat and cried with a deeply heart-broken friend, listening to her pain and processing wounds with her; I've unpacked, repacked, slightly reunpacked, and then left the whole mess to live out of a backpack for a few days; I was joyfully surprised to be visited by a dear friend of mine, with whom I shared an exceedingly lengthy and refreshing conversation far into the wee hours of yesterday morning; I helped to train and give input for newly appointed camp counselors; I got the pleasure to experience a Korean spa, which turned out to be quite an unexpectedly spiritual experience (lots of interesting things to say on this one, but...somehow this doesn't seem like the time or place); and I met a slew of marvelous people.

And through it all, I'm reminded how much I prefer such beautiful chaos to routine. What luck that I get to spend eight weeks with youngsters who can offer me such pleasant pandemonium!

Yes, camp is starting up again. This marks my fourth summer at Sunset Lake. Since counselor training began yesterday evening, memory after memory has started popping into my head: all the highs and lows, the prayers of weary desperation, the hands lifted in awe and praise, the rowdy mobs of energetic children, and the Friday nights spent in tearful vulnerability, connection, and love. Names and faces are resurfacing, each one bringing a smile to my face and the hope that I'll see them again in the next few weeks.

As I was discussing with my friend yesterday, there's just something so incredible about this place. Each year God teaches me something new, grows me in a different direction. It leaves me curious as to what will take place this summer. But above all, right now I am simply relieved and at ease to be back at

The Place Where You Belong.

Typical cabin portrait for Shasta...

Jun 7, 2012

My Evening to Stop

"You hem me in —behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me... Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even here your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." Psalm 139:5,7,8

My time to stop arrived this evening.

If you can imagine God clearing His throat, that's what it felt like: a giant "Ahem!" And after a night of work and an afternoon of constant demand and activity, I embraced my stopping time whole-heartedly. With finals behind me and the thought of necessary emails and phone calls discarded until my return, I stuffed my blanket, hammock, notebook, and ipod into my bag, grabbed a coat, and went to fetch my bike. Just as I was unlocking it, I felt a drop of rain. I paused to look at the sky.

There was no sun--only clouds. It was just a little chilly, but darkness wasn't too far away, and it would be getting colder. And now it was starting to sprinkle. I hesitated just a moment before pulling my bike free. This was the time, and I knew I couldn't be inside for it. Perhaps this was just a good opportunity to test my resilience.

I rode to Lions Park and set myself up in my favorite tree. The branches provided shelter from the majority of the rain. At first. But the sprinkling was picking up the pace. So I cocooned myself in my hammock, keeping my notebook dry as I began releasing my pent up thoughts onto the pages.

Then came the thunder.

I paused my pen to consider this new twist. Was it wise to be in a tree? Was it wise to be out here at all? I could feel drops of water filtering through my shelter. It was cold. The sky was filled with dark clouds, and it was getting harder to see what I was writing. But this was the time.

I continued to let my thoughts flow, to let myself acknowledge what was in my heart. I allowed myself to be frustrated and deeply sad, to be proud and bewildered, to be afraid and honest and open. And I felt and I thought and I listened and I prayed and I wrote.

And then I stopped. The roar of thunder overpowered my music, the soft and thoughtful songs I'd had playing in my ears. I felt a sense of peace sweep over me. I couldn't help but smile. It was all so beautiful, so unexpectedly serene. Cuddled up in my blanket within the cocoon of my hammock, I felt the rain hit the earth and heard it dance across the creek behind me. I felt the thunder in my bones, and I rested in the gentle sway of the wind. This storm is no test, I thought to myself. This is no obstacle to overcome. This storm is a gift. And so I enjoyed my present. It was a medicinal experience, one that filled my heart and left me brimming with gratitude.

When I knew the time had come to enter a new moment, I loaded up my things and hopped back on my bike. It was pouring by this point. I still had my ear buds in my ears and my music set to random. As I started riding up the road, my soft and thoughtful song came to a close, and "I Gotta Feeling" erupted in my ears. A grin spread across my face. Call me a heathen if you like, but I'm confident God speaks through an infinite number of means, including the Black Eyed Peas. So He and I and the Black Eyed Peas half-rode-half-swam back to campus. I arrived drenched, joyful, and rejuvenated for life.

I like serving a God who's a part of everything. I like that He knows what I need, and I like that He shows me how to find it and receive it. I like knowing that there's no way to be hidden from Him. And I like how wherever I go, He is there. In a feeling, in a thought, in a roar of thunder, in a smile, in a song, in a raindrop. His hand guides me. His arms embrace me.

And I like that a lot.

Jun 2, 2012

I'm Here

I don't know where I am.

But it hurts.

This last year, there have been conscious moments of shutting off, of pushing away, of stuffing down the larger thoughts and emotions. It was easier. Easier than facing that same painful restlessness of two years ago. Easier than trying over and over to explain what seems so incredibly inexplicable. Easier than studying chemistry or philosophy through tears. Easier than being aware of my own soul.

It started last May on a couch with a remote in my hand. I knew it was happening, and I was grateful for the knowledge that I could escape, that I didn’t have to face my heart. Because it was easier.

But I think my escape plan got carried away, to the point where it was no longer a conscious effort to find respite, but instead a new form of existence. In reexamining the last thirteen months, there have been frequent and extended periods of numbness. And to the untrained eye, I'm fairly certain this has been difficult to distinguish from my even-tempered, laid-back attitude. But when I have to sit and feel my stomach churn, my pulse quicken, and my breathing become shallow, all to determine what emotion I must be feeling…something is most definitely off. Have I really become so removed from my heart?

This quarter has presented a shift, though. And it hasn't been easy. Beginning to live in reality again has been taking its toll on me. I think that's why I'm here, hurting.  I think that's why my mind is so very scattered and unfocused and confused. Because I have all this pent up feeling and thought that is begging for attention and consideration, and meanwhile my pile of textbooks and notes screams out emphatically that this is no time to neglect it. Seeing as how I'm now in my final five days of sophomore year, that pile has a point. But it is exceedingly difficult to direct my mind as wholly to the tasks of academia as they require when the floodgates of my heart have finally burst open.

I think I need to work on my timing.

At this point, I don't have any eloquent conclusions to draw from this. I'm sure I could write out something that seems thoughtful and fits beautifully with these feelings and words, but I know it would be trite, not genuine. Because the fact of the matter is that I haven't a clue where I am in my heart or in my head.

But wherever I am, let it be known that I'm there. Here. And from here I can see the sunrise, and I know that whether easy or difficult, today is a new day.

May 12, 2012

Insulation and Medicine

"Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10

The other day, I went to an interest meeting for Walla Walla's masters in counseling psychology program. As the only sophomore in a group of juniors and seniors, I was slightly out of place: I was the only one the presenting professor hadn't met yet.

It was an informative meeting, one I was glad I attended. When I first came to this school, I was fairly certain I'd just stick around after I graduated and go straight on through the 2-year masters in counseling program. It's been slightly over a year since this idea concerning grad school (and ultimately concerning career) started to shift. So while I sat and listened to the details of program curriculum and financial aid and obligation, I couldn't help but think, Well, I am certainly uncertain. Guess I'm officially part of the club.

But that's an entirely different matter than what I wanted to explore. Several minutes into the meeting, the accompanying PowerPoint presentation flashed a slide onto the screen with this quote:

"Do not insulate yourself from the pain in the world. When we open ourselves to the pain of the world, we become the medicine that heals the world."

And I was astounded. This was how to explain it.

I was leading out in a Bible study one night a couple years ago, and while I can't remember the topic of the night or the means by which our conversation shifted in the manner that it did (which would be interesting to remember, considering the result), I do remember one thing that I said. I was trying to explain a compulsion that I had been experiencing since I was 17. The explanation went something like this:

Tita Evelyn and I spent many hours tearfully
discussing the pains of life.
"I know this may sound dark, or morbid, or twisted, or whatever…But I find I don't feel right unless I'm in a place where I can see the pain of those around me. In being in contact with people who are openly suffering, I feel like I am really living in reality, really connected to the reality of sin and the true condition of the world--not just walking through the façade of the world. The true state of earth and the realization of spiritual warfare become so much more evident. I need to see it--to have my gut wrenched by the sight of it and to have my heart ache from it--for my own soul. But beyond this, I feel like I need to see it so I can change it. I won't feel right unless I am acting as God's vessel for change, to bring love and healing to wounded hearts. I need to go to hell on earth so that I can bring some of heaven into it. I don't feel right unless that is where I am: in the hells of earth."

If I remember correctly, there was a slight pause, and then one of my friends leaned slightly towards me. "Yeah," he said, "that does sound kind of morbid."

So this week, when I read those two sentences, I was amazed at their power to succinctly encapsulate the stirring of my soul. And I wonder if, really, this isn't something that every heart yearns for in one capacity or another. To be honest and open and real with our pain, even as those around us are as well, there is connection, solidarity, support, understanding, comfort, growth, and healing.

The Lord's Prayer is probably one of the most well known passages of the Bible, up there with John 3:16 and Psalm 23. So it is easy to recite without realizing the full force or meaning of the words. But to me, when I get to that phrase "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," I can't help but stop and imagine what that would look like: for earth to fully experience God's will, no sin attached, earth would be as heaven.

A sharing of heaven.
So then the question is how can God's will be done on earth? What does that look like? And I think it looks like us. Humans living in the love and light of God, touching those around us, passing on this love and this light. Living as though we were already in heaven. And if we each live as a piece of heaven, I think the world would seem…less like hell.

So I claim this as my truth and the pull of my heart. I will not insulate myself from pain. I will feel it. And I will work by God's will to heal it. To be medicine.

Apr 30, 2012

Dinner Guests

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." James 1:27 (KJV, Sam's favorite version)

The academic in me knows yesterday could have done with a fair bit more studying.

But I don't always listen to the academic.

After spending several hours in belated birthday celebration (which included romping around town in a blindfold, treasure hunting, convenience store shopping, and a water gun fight), I got a couple good hours of studying done. And then it was off to the church.

Last week a friend of mine had asked if I would help with a dinner being held to honor a number of nursing home residents and elderly church members. She was hard pressed for volunteers and was sounding rather desperate. Deciding to push midterms to the back of my mind, I agreed. And so I showed up at the fellowship hall at 5, ready to cook or help serve food. After hearing the first 30 seconds of waiter instructions, though, I was asked what I was doing in the kitchen. Before I could reply, I was ushered out of the group of waiters and waitresses, and I was given the instruction to be one of the several students to mingle.

"Wait, so you just want me to sit and talk to people?"

"Yep. Enjoy the food while you're at it."

No one wanted to volunteer for this? I was shocked at my good fortune. This wasn't "helping with a dinner." This was free food and great conversation!

I ended up sitting across from a couple who had been married for 52 years, most of those years being spent overseas working as medical missionaries. Naturally, this made me doubly excited. We spent the evening talking about missions and what it means to truly be a missionary. They told me stories of crazy medical miracles and experiences with cultural adjustments. They started naming off all the countries they'd lived in: I lost count around 7.

At one point I asked the wife, Effie, if she had always planned on being a missionary. She said that for the majority of her life, she had known she'd live abroad. "But my problem was," Effie said in her thin voice, leaning in as if to share a secret, "that I couldn't find any men who wanted to leave the country. All the boys in college wanted to settle down in the states, and whenever they'd try to pursue me, I just had to tell them no."

So this is me in 55 years, I thought to myself.

"Until this guy came along," she continued, putting her hand on her husband's shoulder. A beautiful smile spread across her face.

I had told them my history with missions and my hopes for continuing such work in the future. They queried me on my majors and asked about my plans for the future. At one point I turned to the Sam, the husband, and asked him what he considered the most important advice he could give to an aspiring missionary. He replied almost immediately. "Learn how to be nice." I smiled at this and nodded for him to continue.

"You don't have to always be right; that won't get you far. But if you can be nice and give up always being right, then you really form relationships with the people. And really, that's what matters."

I told him that seemed like some very sound advice. We both ate a few more bites in silence before Sam added to his last statement by quoting from James 1:27. "This is true religion, true faith," he declared. "Looking after those who need help. If you see that someone is hungry, you feed them. If you see someone who's thirsty, you give them something to drink. If they have nowhere to stay, you open up your home to them. Really seeing the needs of others and responding to them; stepping out of your comfort zone to make others more comfortable. That's what it's all about."

"That's right," I replied, a contemplative smile undoubtedly playing across my lips.

At some point the dinner ended, and before we knew it, we were the last ones there. It was time to leave. As I hugged Effie, she told me she hoped she could see me again in 5 years to see where God had brought me in life. I agreed with that hope. After saying goodbye to the two of them, I stopped in the kitchen to say goodbye to the other volunteers. "Hey, thanks for inviting me," I told them. "I would have been fine working in here, but I'm really glad you needed me out there."

"Well, we needed someone like you out there," one of them said. "We had plenty of cooks and waiters come, but we really needed some people who could connect with the guests."

As I headed back to the dorm to continue studying, I considered again the person God has made me to be, the passions and gifts He's given me. And I re-remembered how much I love serving within my gifts, and how much of a blessing it always is to me as well. I think Sam nailed it: relationship is what this whole concept of service is all about. Being nice. Loving people.

And I think Effie was on to something, too: God's got some beautiful plans for my future of loving people. Like her, I'm excited to see me in 5 years and discover what God has done with and through my life. I've got a good feeling about it.

Apr 24, 2012

Life is Lived in the Lightning

"Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot.  Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God." Ecclesiastes 5:18,19

[written the night before my 21st birthday]

I'm sitting and watching indescribable lightning light up the sky. Wind and rain rails against the window. This is the second night, now, that we have had a lightning storm. Last night it was warm and dry, and I sat out in a grassy field and watched the long streaks spread out over my head. There's something about these flashes of light that makes my heart ache: it is so beautiful and so magnificent, nature in its utter brilliance. Fireworks from the heavens. I could sit and watch it until the darkness of night brightens into dawn.  

Last night, as I sat and marveled at the sky, I thought back to the last time I saw a real lightning storm. I could pinpoint it exactly: 360 days ago. We were in Manila, just a few days from departing the Philippines. Most of the goodbyes had already been said. That night, Rainey, Cliff, and I found ourselves outside the Mall of Asia, sitting on the concrete slab, the barrier between the mall and the bay. We sat and watched the arms of lightning reach out over the waters, again, and again, and again. I think we joked around a little, but the mood was somber. A bittersweet feeling. A sense of disbelief. Could those months really have gone by so fast?

And now I sit and watch the lightning again, and I think back to that night from almost a year ago. Can it really have already been a year? 

For my birthday last year, I woke up early and went down to the beach to reflect on life and talk with God. I'd had a wild year upon which to reflect: first time counseling, sickness, surgery, ministry experiences, deaths, sad truths, friendships, leadership roles…I felt beyond my years in many ways. (memory jog)

And so now, as I sit and watch the sky make drastic changes from dark to light and back again, I am of course finding myself reflecting over this last year. What have I gained? What have I accomplished? More than I think I initially see. 

I've officially changed my plans for the future. I've returned as an experienced, passionate, and enthusiastic counselor, and I got to see one of my kids get baptized. I've faced some more deaths and hard truths. I've made a number very wonderful friendships. I've had the honor to meet some of Portland's homeless residents. I've spoken truth and love into the lives of others. I've pursued knowledge beyond the classroom and have learned much. I have played, I have worked, I have served, and I have led. I've lived.

21. Really? Wasn't I just 17? I'm finding these years a lot like lightning: bright and magnificent and far-reaching. And brief. 

Since each year keeps flashing by, I'm making sure each day is lived to its fullest. It sounds cliché. It is cliché. But it's a cliché I want to hold on to. Day dawns full of possibility and opportunity. I want to make use of all opportunities possible.

So that when I turn 22, I'll sit on a mountain or stand in a hurricane and remember that last year

                            I LIVED.

Apr 21, 2012


"Give me your eyes for just one minute. Give me your eyes so I can see everything I keep on missing. Give me your love for humanity." --Brandon Heath

While walking on the sidewalk, making the trek from the ad. building to the cafeteria or any other point A to point B, I'll often find myself keeping track of some quick statistics. I'll walk passed a guy with a black backpack, and I'll tick off an avoided eye contact. Girl on her way to the gym, eyes meet and brief smile shared. Girl in a skirt hurrying to her class across campus, no eye contact. Guy I've been approaching for at least 15 seconds now, that awkward glance at each other at different times before just looking straight ahead.

I think eyes are pretty phenomenal in communication. While walking the streets of Pagudpud, looking and smiling at each individual as they looked and smiled at me, I felt like we were all enjoying each other's company, if only for a moment. There's this moment of connection, of acknowledging one another's existence and contribution to the world. You're not a tree or a building or a littered plastic bottle that I'm walking passed: you're a person, and I acknowledge this by seeing you, by taking a moment to focus my attention on you.

That's why we look at people when they're speaking, right? We want to focus our attention (or sometimes just appear to focus our attention) on them. This is considered a way to show that we're valuing their words, thoughts, and feelings.

There's something beyond this, though. We can look, but it is another matter to see. Jesus talked about this seeing beyond the surface. "Do you have eyes but fail to see, ears but fail to hear?" (Mark 8:18) Often times there is so much more going on to see, but we don't see, simply because our focus is not really on the other person. They may be talking, I may be looking, but I'm imagining what I'll say next or what I still have to get done today. But being fully present to truly see people where they're at: that's tremendous. I've had the joy of fully seeing people lately, and it really is incredible. It brings connection. It allows words to be exchanged that only eyes can exchange. And it leads us to a better understanding of those around us.

Whoever came up with the idea that "eyes are the windows to the soul" was quite clever.  Our eyes give us away. They reveal who we really are, what we're honestly feeling. I've been told that my eyes smile before my mouth decides to get around to it. Someone can sound brave as they face catastrophe, but I think often the eyes betray inner uncertainty. A plastered smile can't hide a tear-up. Usually. They can hide all this perfectly well, actually--if no one is even looking.

Which brings me back to my tally of eye contact. If we don't look at people, we can't see people. If we can't see people, I think we lack a full relationship. We stay caught in our own world, behind our own eyes.

I like seeing people, understanding people, knowing people, connecting with people. So I'm going to look you in the eye. I won't stare you down as you walk passed me on your way to the library. But when we stop and we talk and I listen, I will see you. I will see you because I value you and I think you're worth seeing. What I see when I look in your eyes is something too beautiful to miss.

Time to open our eyes and see what we've been missing.

Apr 12, 2012

This Isn't Over!

Ok, I'm back.

That little blurb in November was a sign. I "stopped" blogging when I returned from the Philippines last spring because, well, I was back in the mundane lifestyle filled with events that are unnecessary to chronicle. Right? No need to continue this. There's nothing exciting happening in my life, nothing worth sharing with the general populace, or at least the handful of people who know this blog exists.

But then I found myself in November publishing a post that demonstrated no exciting event in my life. Just me, processing. Why did I do that?

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and when I think, it helps me to write out my thought process and the conclusions that crop up along the way. And when I know there is a possibility that someone else can see what I've written, I'm held accountable to my thoughts and I (sometimes) receive feedback and new insight from others. Also, perhaps the biggest of my reasons, I know I need to write to fully acknowledge and work out the thoughts that are residing in my head, and having outside influence to keep me committed to writing on a regular basis is quite helpful. That's where the blog comes into play. Your existence and the knowledge of the possibility that you might read this help me to continue processing life well. Thank you.

So after several months of occasionally remembering to consider starting up writing again, I'm back. And why now? I've recently arrived at a new perspective on this time in my life. Upon returning to Walla Walla last fall, I picked up the concept of the next three years resembling a holding cell. Yes, I would learn valuable information along the way, but essentially it would just be the last stage before the REAL stuff started happening. Work through three years of school, and then enter into the adventure. 

Not a good perspective.

I've got to stop putting my life into segments. Now is part of next. The more I engage in life and plans and preparations and work and growth now means that I will not only experience a more fulfilled time in college, but I will also be assisting my future self to be even more the person I want to be.

So what does this look like? I've started to learn French (beyond the high school classes). I've begun looking into internships, grad school programs, and mission and humanitarian organizations. I've begun to cut down on noise and increase my reflection and God time. I've resumed writing. I'm letting myself think and feel and listen more.

So, I'm back. You don't have to read my posts. But the point of the matter is that they will be coming, available for you to enjoy or disregard. This is my life right now, and I'm going to continue to ponder it.