California Lo-ove

Last week I headed to SoCal to spend some much-needed time with two dear friends from my grad school days, Melissa (who lives there) and Bekah — and, of course, to get a spring break tan. Just kidding about that last part. We all know I wore SPF 70+ the whole time. I do have some new freckles, though. Prior to this trip, I’d never been farther west than Kansas City, so this was my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean. We visited Hollywood, Santa Monica, Corona Del Mar, Malibu, and elsewhere in L.A., so I feel as though I got a good taste of the West Coast.

Here are a few of my thoughts and observations from the week:

1. Praise the Lord for air travel and direct flights. I drove to St. Louis to meet Bekah on Friday after work, and the next morning she and I hopped on a plane to LAX (with dreams but not cardigans) and arrived there by like 10:30 a.m. Arriving so early made it feel as though we were getting an entire extra day of vacay. I love living in the future. I also love sitting next to mah bestie on a plane.

2. The only thing more amazing than the number of languages I heard spoken in Santa Monica was the number of selfie sticks I saw there. I knew such contraptions existed, but I didn’t know who actually bought them. Now I know who buys them: European tourists.

3. All the palm trees led me to believe initially that California was quite similar to Florida, but the longer I stayed, the more I realized that, though California caters to Florida-esque activities, Californians — or at least those around L.A. — live at a much faster pace than Floridians. The pace of life around L.A. reminded me of Pittsburgh. People seem to be in a hurry. The traffic is ri-dic-u-lous.

I don’t think Clay Aiken has a star on the Walk of Fame, so I settled for Barry Manilow — which, let’s be honest, is pretty close. Look to our right behind us, and you’ll see the Hollywood sign.
I don’t think Clay Aiken has a star on the Walk of Fame, so I settled for Barry Manilow — which, let’s be honest, is pretty close. Look to our right behind us, and you’ll see the Hollywood sign.

4. We tend to use “Hollywood” as a synonym for the entertainment industry, but when you’re actually there, it feels like any other neighborhood (save for the palm trees). I expected driving through Hollywood to be like driving through an episode of The Hills or something, but we didn’t see Lauren Conrad or, much to Melissa’s dismay, Zac Efron. (But we did see a guy who looked like an Indian version of Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec, if that counts.)

Wetsuits make us look like legit surfers, but I promise, IT’S ALL A MIRAGE. Here we were with our surfing instructor/new friend Justin.
Wetsuits make us look like legit surfers, but I promise, IT’S ALL A MIRAGE. Here we were with our surfing instructor/new friend Justin.

5. Wetsuits are so hard to put on. Putting on a wetsuit is sort of like putting on Spanx — if Spanx were three times tighter and covered your entire body. That said, WETSUITS ARE AMAZING. They keep you totally warm in the cold water. I’d never given this any thought before. Additionally, though wetsuits are super tight, I found they made the beach much more enjoyable because the only two un-fun parts about going to the beach are 1) covering your entire body in sunscreen and 2) exposing said body to the masses. Put on a wetsuit, and you don’t have to do either of these things. I never want to wear a regular bathing suit again.

6. Surfing is just as fun as would be expected, and I am just as bad at it as would be expected. I did manage to catch a few waves (as the pros say), but only while lying on my stomach on the board, which is the step you master before getting on your knees on the board, which is the step you master before getting on your feet on the board. So what I did was like two steps removed from actual surfing.

Our surfing instructor, a.k.a. Melissa’s friend Justin, graced us with these words of wisdom while we nommed on In ’n Out burgers after our lesson: “Catching a wave is the best feeling in the world, second only to being born again.” Quote of the week.

So much food. Look at our cookies
So much food. Look at our cookies

7. SO MUCH FOOD. We ate so much food. California may have more restaurants than people. There are so many options that making a decision about where to eat takes 45 minutes and a pro/con list and prayer and fasting. The best thing I ate, though, was probably the double chocolate caramel sea salt fudge cookies that we made in Melissa’s cookie laboratory. She works in research and development for a wholesale baking company (putting her engineering and food science degrees to work). Her lab has every cookie ingredient imaginable. It’s like being on a Food Network show, except that I would’ve eaten far fewer ingredients if I were being filmed for television.

Hiking in Malibu
Hiking in Malibu

8. Californians only know about California. (I thought this was only true of Texans.) The rest of us just live in “flyover states.” Melissa’s friends kept referring to Missouri and Kentucky as Minnesota and Kansas. MINNESOTA AND KANSAS.

I did speak to two people who were marginally familiar with Kentucky, and they mentioned the classics: fried chicken and horses. “My mother gets all her horses from Kentucky,” said a man in Malibu. I wanted to be like, “Why, of course she does, our thorahbreds are unrahvaled in this faaahn country.”

I'm so creepy.
I'm so creepy.

9. One of the best parts of the trip was getting to visit Melissa’s church and meet her new friends. Now I have faces to match with names, and one glance at the bookshelves in her friends’ house had me convinced that she’s in good hands. (I judge books by their covers and people by their books. Sorry not sorry.) I snuck this pic of one bookshelf to show everyone back in Missouri who loves and misses Melissa that clearly she is in good hands — or at least in the hands of people who read good books.

These girls — such a blessing to me!
These girls — such a blessing to me!

10. Part of me didn’t want to be that girl blowing up Facebook with pictures of her vacation, but most of me knew I would want to look back on the pictures, so I blew up Facebook anyway. (Am I the only person who sees Facebook as my own virtual scrapbook of memories?) Some of the best parts of the trip couldn’t be captured in an Instagram photo, though. Because, as fun as surfing was, it was not as fun as chilling in Melissa’s room with her and Bekah and laughing so hard about I-can’t-even-remember-what.

When we scheduled this getaway back in February, I had no idea how much I would absolutely need to be with these girls this past week. Throughout the trip I found myself marveling at the Lord’s provision and timing. He knew when I would need some QT with mah people, so he provided it at just the right time. I am so so grateful for these girls' friendship. Even though we're usually at a distance, they are a constant reminder of the Lord's goodness to me throughout the ups and downs of these 20-something years.

Our Little Work at the Edges of the Stars

For the past few months, I’ve been participating in women’s leadership school with my church. Each week we have readings and teaching on different topics — the Trinity, evangelism, friendship, etc. This past week was focused on the Sabbath. You may remember that I’ve blogged before about my growing love for keeping the Sabbath, which is decidedly my favorite commandment, though I’ve only come to appreciate it in the past few years. [Maybe having a favorite commandment is weird, but I love this one because I have a terrible tendency to picture God as one who tsk-tsks me about all the work I haven’t finished yet. (This is primarily because I tend to tsk-tsk myself about all the work I haven’t finished yet, and then I attribute it to him.) The Sabbath commandment reminds me that the call of God is not a call to work harder.]

Last week, in prep for teaching on the Sabbath, we read a chapter of Andy Crouch’s book Playing God. One sentence struck me in such a way that I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I found myself rereading it each morning this week before starting my day:

I made this image to use as my computer wallpaper this week. (The background is taken from the Hubble photo of Andromeda!)   To download the full version for your computer, click here!

I made this image to use as my computer wallpaper this week. (The background is taken from the Hubble photo of Andromeda!) To download the full version for your computer, click here!

“At the edges of the vast fields of stars we do our little work, sowing what we could never have provided for ourselves and harvesting what we have not sown.”

What a sentence. 

It reminded me of two things — first, of a Hubble Space Telescope photo I’d seen circulating on the Internet a couple of months ago. At 1.5 billion pixels, the composite photo was heralded as the largest ever pieced together. It showed what Crouch had described: a vast field of stars — literally 100 million of them — a chunk of Andromeda, the galaxy next door. (Apparently we can photograph Andromeda because it is a mere 2.5 million light-years away.) Though enormous, it is tiny in the scheme of things — one of more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe. 100 BILLION.

Second, the sentence reminded me of Isaiah 40, which I used to read over and over again in grad school. (When you’re seeing the world wrong, Isaiah 40 will correct you, and if you’re stressed, you’re seeing the world wrong, so naturally grad school lent itself to this chapter.) Here's a snippet, but you kind of have to read the whole chapter to get the full effect:

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? …. ‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

I can’t wrap my head around the idea that there is a being big enough to call forth 100 million stars by name — just in that one snippet of one neighbor galaxy. Or, crazier still, that there are 100 billion other galaxies that we know of whose stars he also calls forth by name. When I think about it, I feel positively microscopic. Infinitesimal.

It’s tempting to call this sense of my own smallness disorienting. Give me a glimpse at another galaxy, and suddenly I lose my frame of reference. But, in truth, I think it’s the opposite. Recognizing the vastness of the universe is actually reorienting. It causes me to realize I’ve been seeing things all wrong. When my perspective is corrected, I realize I’m far smaller than I like to pretend. When my perspective is corrected, I feel compelled to get down on my knees, to get down in the dust where I belong.

Until now I’ve loved the Sabbath for its reminder of the gospel truth that my work isn’t that important. Everything that ever really needed to get done got done — 2,000 years ago. It’s okay — nay, good! — to take a day off specifically to rest in the completed work of Christ. It’s okay if the laundry waits until Monday. The Lord’s got stuff under control. The world will keep spinning even if my washing machine doesn’t.

But I think I’m only now beginning to realize that the gospel changes more than just the significance of my work. It changes the scope of my work and the purpose of my work, too. What is huge to me is tiny to the Lord. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter to him; it just means that it’s not daunting to him. The projects that seem so overwhelming to me, so beyond what I am capable of, are dust in the dust in the dust of his hands. I do my little work at the edges of his vast fields of stars, and just the act of working — of using the gifts he’s given me — is glorifying to him.

I got the crazy idea a few months ago to write a book — not for the sake of writing a book (that sounds miserable) but because a book had started to write itself in my head without my consent. While I was still in the I-kind-of-want-to-do-this-but-don’t-think-I-have-what-it-takes stage, other people who didn’t even know about the book in my brain started telling me to write a book about the very topic I couldn’t shake. So I started writing it. Even though I’m working full-time. Even though it feels like a freaking huge undertaking.

(I’m almost hesitant even to mention my fetus of a book on the Internet. I’ve read both that you should never tell people that you’re writing a book because then they’ll see you fail and that you should always tell people you’re writing a book because the accountability will force you to finish. So I won’t tell you a lot, but I will tell you that I’m working on it and that that’s part of the reason I have been less present on this blog as of late. Oh, also, it’s nonfiction, and, no, it’s not about grammar. I’ve talked to a fair number of people about this book in real life, so it’s not exactly a secret, but this is all the info the Internet gets for now.)

Here’s the thing, though, about me and book-writing: I feel compulsion and fear in equal measure. On one hand, I want to write this book. I think maybe I’m supposed to write it — or at least supposed to try. On the other hand, I don’t think I have what it takes. I could potentially spend years researching and reading and writing and, one day down the road, realize I’ve gotten myself in way over my head. Nothing about this undertaking feels like a sure thing.

This week, though, as I thought about the true scope and purpose of my work, I found myself worrying less about how this project will turn out. I found myself focusing instead on two things: first, that a book is not big to the God who spoke 100 billion galaxies into existence and calls their stars by name, and, second, that God never asked me for a book in the first place. He never looked at me and asked me for results or a finished product of any kind. He only asked me to be faithful with the gifts that he has blessed me with, to steward the seeds and the land that he has lent to me.

If I base my willingness to be faithful on the likelihood that my faithfulness will result in fruitfulness, I’m not being faithful at all. So I will write. I will spend my early mornings working on what may, in a few years, turn into a book or what may, in a few years, end up on an extra hard drive in a desk drawer, never to be printed, bound, or read. And I will trust that the willingness to use my gifts is honoring to God. I will trust that he is glorified by my little work at the edges of his vast fields of stars, even though he doesn’t need my crops.

Did you miss me?

This blog is dedicated to everyone who was like, "Kate, it has been so long since you have blogged." (Nothing motivates me quite like remembering that I'm not the only person who reads what I write.) The longer I go without blogging, the harder it gets to start again because I become overwhelmed by all the things I should have said. But that's no way to live my life. Here’s a glimpse into what I should have blogged about these past few months.

1. Fall makes me happy and sad simultaneously.

Real talk: I don’t have time to carve you, pumpkin.

Real talk: I don’t have time to carve you, pumpkin.

Funny how fall ushers in both the most color of the year and the most darkness. I miss the leaves that have already fallen, and I miss the sunlight in the evenings, but I love the crispness of this season and the hints of the holidays ahead.

I always get all excited about fall and then fail to follow through with most of my autumnal plans. Exhibit A: I started carving a pumpkin the other day and only got this far.

I'm not letting myself feel guilty about buying a $4 pumpkin and then not carving it. In fact, I'm considering my failure to carve this pumpkin to be a victory over false guilt. There are more pressing things in life than making Pinterestastic pumpkins. 

2. I'm over pants.

One time my mom applauded my April Ludgate impression when, in fact, I was not doing an April Ludgate impression. Sometimes I do Mona-Lisa Saperstein impressions, though.

One time my mom applauded my April Ludgate impression when, in fact, I was not doing an April Ludgate impression. Sometimes I do Mona-Lisa Saperstein impressions, though.

I used to be one of those people who was a hard pass on leggings as pants, but then I tried leggings as pants and repented of my legging-hating, pants-wearing ways. Here's how to make the transition smoothly:

  1. Invest in thick, non-see-through leggings.
  2. Make a friend confirm the non-see-through-ness of them.
  3. Stand in different lighting and make your friend confirm the non-see-through-ness of them again.
  4. Make another friend confirm the non-see-through-ness of them.
  5. Still wear a shirt long enough to cover your rear.

(I will debate you in the comments.)

3. My Facebook newsfeed is like babies babies babies babies BABIES.

This may be my favorite GIF of all time.

This may be my favorite GIF of all time.

Babies in Halloween costumes! Babies in their mamas' bellies—already in Halloween costumes! Babies with their baby friends! Babies holding other smaller babies!

Let it be known that when I finally have babies, Lord willing, I will ABSOLUTELY INUNDATE all of your newsfeeds with pictures of their little faces. Just returning the favor.

4. I am mad at every person who has ever heard of Greg Laswell and not told me about him.

Recently found his music on Spotify and cannot stop listening. This song at right + "New Year's Eve" + "That It Moves" + "And Then You" are my favorite songs of his. It’s the perfect writing music.

I found his music after hearing “Wonderful Unknown,” which he sang with his wife, Ingrid Michaelson, on her new CD. The bridge—“In the best way, you’ll be the death of me"—gets me every time. How countercultural.

5. I LOVE RUNNING. I LOVE RUNNNNNNING!!!!!

That is how I feel every Tuesday and Friday when I get to run and, consequently, get a crazy endorphin high. (Seriously never let me do drugs.)

This past month marked ten years since I quit running due to leg pain. Forty percent of my life. That old lower leg pain is almost entirely gone, but the knee pain plagues me still, and two runs per week is about all these knees can handle.

I'm still doing the run-walk intervals my PT recommended a couple of years ago. I stop every 90 seconds and walk for 30. I hated it when I first started; stopping and walking feels like the ultimate defeat to a runner. Runners are the ones who tell themselves it's all mental and I've totally got this and just push through. But I've found that forcing myself to rest throughout each run has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in my return to running. It improves my form and lessens the strain on my joints and enables me to run farther in the end.

It has actually reminded me of the principle of taking a sabbath, which seems counterproductive until you try it. But once you do, you realize that you needed this rest thing, that you are only human, that you were bearing burdens that weren't yours to bear.

I'm still recovering, still have good and bad days, still get discouraged and fearful about my legs and my running. But things are looking up, and the Lord still knows what he's doing. When I see other runners out and about, I pray the Lord will strengthen their joints and muscles and keep them running. Will you please pray for my little joints and muscles? They've been through so much.

6. I'm in the market for a bookshelf.

My bedside table is starting to get cray. Here are a few of the books stacked there currently:

  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer
    • I've been told approximately 10,000 times to read this book, SO I'M DOING IT. . . SUPER SLOWLY. I like it, but I find it hard to read more than a few pages at a time. It has reminded me of the fact that I am literally in a constant state of breaking the second commandment. PTL for the new covenant, amiright?
  • Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner
    • I'm almost finished with this, but I don't want it to end. It's sort of in the same vein as Blue Like Jazz or Surprised by Oxford because it's part memoir, part testimony. The author tells of her conversion to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism, and she structures the story around the church calendar. It's full of reflections on the sacraments, but because it's written like a story, it feels more accessible than a lot of Christian books that keep you in your head the whole time.
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
    • Anne Lamott gets me. (Or maybe she just gets humans.) This book is full of her thoughts on writing and, by extension, on life. Her tone is so conversational that her writing sounds effortless at times, but this book confirms what I've heard before: The easier something is to read, the harder it was to write. This is my favorite bit: "People tend to look at successful writers . . . and think that they sit down at their desks every morning . . . feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell. . . . But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. . . . Very few writers really know what they are doing until they've done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. . . . For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really $%@&!# first drafts." PREACH, Anne Lamott. I'm 25, completely done with school (maybe . . . er, probably) and still learning the merit of $%@&!# first drafts—in writing and otherwise.

 7. BEING 25 IS HARD, but I’m trying to be 25 wisely.

My bad advice radar is going   weeooo, weeooo, weeooo.

My bad advice radar is going weeooo, weeooo, weeooo.

I saw this on Pinterest today, and it made me want to bang my head against the wall. (Seriously, why do I even go on Pinterest?)

This whole "your twenties are all about yourself and your independence" nonsense makes me want to scream. If you have no obligations, grow up and get some obligations. If you work 24/7, chill out; your career will not keep you company when you're 80. And if you think you have nothing to lose, you’re likely to look back on this decade and realized you lost more than you bargained for.

Go ahead, sue me for saying it. I'M GETTING BOLD IN MY OLD AGE.

8. Mornings are so underrated.

Speaking of lies we unquestioningly accept from culture at large, perhaps one of the strangest is that mornings suck and we should all sleep as late as possible.

I have recently started getting up an hour earlier, and I’m finding that this 60 minutes of margin has become the most productive and cheerful part of my day. (You do have to go to bed an hour earlier for this to work. #math)

I was wide awake this morning (SATURDAY, whaa?) at 4:45, and I actually tried to go back to sleep, but my body was like, HELLO, WORLD. HELLO, SATURDAY. HELLO, LIFE. LET’S DO SOME CLEANING.

This is my get-out-of-bed-already mantra for the difficult days: Getting up early is hard, but being up early is worth it. Turn the light on, Kate.

Can anyone second me on this? Or at least try it and let me know how it goes?

9. A to Z is my new fave show.

I'm mad that no one is talking about it. This is the cutest show, you guys. Everyone please watch it and get back to me. Go. Watch. Now. While the early episodes are still on Hulu!

tumblr_n5gkhmidHo1t0rpy4o1_500.gif
tumblr_n5gkhmidHo1t0rpy4o2_500.gif

10. PTL for Skype.

I've been spending a lot of time on Skype lately. When I moved to Missouri, I used to talk to my parents on FaceTime all the time, and I remember chatting with them on my couch one time—by myself, eight hours from home—and just marveling over the fact that there was technology that would let me see their faces and hear their voices and that I had it in my hands. Does that sound stupid?

I remember feeling in that moment as though maybe God had made FaceTime just for me—as though he'd looked at his wrist in 2010ish and known that Kate was going to be far from home soon and that he better prompt Steve Jobs (or whomever) to get on it. I know this is inaccurate, so don’t jump on me; the Lord's plans and promptings of other people do not revolve around me. But this is what I mean: Sometimes his provisions seem so specific to my little heart that I can't use the phone or Skype or FaceTime or Voxer without thinking that their very existence and my very access to them is a reminder of the Lord’s love for me specifically.

11. New Taylor Swift finally.

It was a very good year.
It was a very good year.

What can I say about Taylor Swift that would convey the depth of my love for her?

I have had 1989 on repeat for a week now, and I'm already sad that I must again wait for more music from her. My immediate favorites are "All You Had to Do Was Stay," "How You Get the Girl," and "I Know Places.”

I'm toying with the idea of doing a blog post in which I analyze Taylor's lessons on love in a song-by-song breakdown of the new album. Would you guys like that? Sort of like a true-or-false quiz covering Taylor's take on life.

12. One year in Louisville.

Halloween marked one year since I moved to Louisville. A WHOLE YEAR. It almost pains me to say that because—though some things about living in Louisville have been great—in general, the year has been marked by loneliness. It's not that people here haven't been welcoming and friendly; they have. It's just—honestly, I think it would be difficult to feel settled anywhere when you’re just one person and 97% of the people you love live elsewhere. I picked Louisville for a lot of reasons, but one was this: I’m tired of moving. Oh, my little heart. I switched schools in 2003, moved states in 2004, graduated from high school in 2007, graduated from college in 2011, graduated from grad school in 2013, and that adds up to five community changes in roughly a decade. I just wanted somewhere that I could stay. I’m tearing up as I write this. On paper, Louisville looked like a logical place to try to settle, but, in reality, I’ve never felt more unsettled in my life.

13. Travel-fest.

Mah people.

Mah people.

Travel stresses me out. I love it in theory and enjoy it once I’m doing it, but when I’m planning for it, I have to, like, repeat Psalms to calm myself down. When I was little, I dreamed up this thing called “Vacation Preparation” and made my brother and sister participate in it with me.

Every summer, for two weeks before vacation, we would have daily meetings in our (non-air-conditioned!) attic in Pennsylvania. There were folders and a Fischer-Price chalkboard involved. As the name suggests, we spent these meetings prepping for vacation. More specifically, we prepped for the road trips. Who was sitting where? Which stuffed animals were we bringing? Did they all have carseats? What candy did we need? How were we going to ration the candy over the course of the 15-hour drive down south? (I remember that one summer we actually decided on one piece of candy per hour, which, in retrospect, seems super self-controlled for three elementary schoolers, but we were also the type to have daily meetings in the attic, so.)

In the year-ish since I moved here, I’ve traveled to Columbia three times, West Virginia twice, St. Louis twice, Chicago twice, Nashville, Georgia, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Charleston. Undoubtedly, all this travel has added to my stress level and sense of unsettledness, but it’s so good for this little heart of mine to see the people I love, and I’m finding myself curious about where the next twelve months will take me.

Adulthood, you know?

‘40 is the New 20’ and Other Questionable Math

The Semi-Annual TRY HARDER Issue

The Semi-Annual TRY HARDER Issue

I'm turning 25 tomorrow, and I have mixed feelings about it. Twenty-five sounds momentous to me for some reason — maybe not as momentous as a brand new decade but important in its own way. This birthday puts me on the downward slope of these 20-something years that pop culture so glamorizes.

While at my sister's house last month, I noticed an issue of Women's Health on the kitchen table. "40 is the New 20," its cover claimed in bold red letters. It was the magazine's "Age-in-Reverse Special."I found it absurd and appealing simultaneously.

If 40 is the new 20, I thought to myself, is 25 the new 5 ... or the new 12 and a half?

And if 20 is the age we're supposed to aim for, how am I to feel at nearly 25?

The older I get, the more I realize how obsessed our culture is with not getting older — and the more I realize how much I've bought in to the obsession.

For the first time in my life, I've recently found myself noticing faint lines on my forehead when I’m doing my makeup in the morning. Unsurprisingly, I've also found myself noticing just how many products promise to rid me of those lines. I mean, have you been in the Target makeup section lately? I can't help thinking that Ponce de León would have a field day in there. All those “anti-aging” serums and “age-defying” concealers — youth in a bottle for just $7.99.

But it’s not just magazine covers and makeup aisles that reveal our obsession with youthfulness. The other day I caught a car commercial that exemplified the same:

Want to feel younger? (Don’t we all?) Buy a Cadillac.

News flash: Buying a Cadillac won’t make you younger.

But, oh, we want it to.

A few weeks ago, at the beginning of Lent, I got up early to go to our church’s Ash Wednesday service. I’d never been to one before. After the sermon we all filed up to the front to get our ashes. “You are dust, and to dust you will return,” the man said to me as he smudged some ashes on my forehead — right on those faint wrinkles that had been bothering me.

To dust I will return, I thought.

I lingered after the service to chat with my friends before we headed off to our days at work and school. We chatted like normal — like 20-somethings who never think about death — but I was thinking about it.

The ashes on each friend’s forehead reminded me of the bright orange spray paint used to mark trees that will soon be chopped down. When I see an orange line on a tree on the side of the road, I know that tree doesn’t have much longer. On Ash Wednesday I remembered that neither do we.

Did we learn nothing from Tuck Everlasting?
Did we learn nothing from Tuck Everlasting?

I’d be willing to wager that the value our culture places on youthfulness stems directly from our fear of death. That’s why age-defying anything sounds so appealing. That’s why some women get too many facelifts and some men just won’t let their combovers go. That’s why there’s a store called “Forever 21.” If we could defy age, we could defy death. But we can’t defy age.

Funny, then, that we're still surprised by it. At least I am. I've been aging steadily for 25 years, but I still wake up some days and wonder where the weeks went, where the months went, where my childhood went. Had I been hoping this aging thing would stop? That growing up was just a lie fed to us by grown-ups who'd secretly always been grown-ups?

I'm reminded of the John Mayer song "Stop This Train," which is so painfully relatable that I find it hard to listen to sometimes:

"So scared of getting older / I'm only good at being young / So I play the numbers game to find a way to say that life has just begun ... See once in a while when it's good, it'll feel like it should / And they're all still around, and you're still safe and sound / And you don't miss a thing till you cry when you're driving away in the dark / Singing stop this train, I want to get off and go home again / I can't take this speed it's moving in / I know I can't / 'Cause now I see I'll never stop this train"

Words of wisdom from John Mayer: We'll never stop this train.

Indisputably, one of the scariest prospects of aging is the prospect of a deteriorating body. I've heard about how difficult it becomes to maintain your weight, to rebuild after injury. I've spent the better part of the last decade dealing with chronic leg pain, so the idea of healing any slower than I already do is particularly terrifying to me.

Oh, and the beauty thing. What are we aging (and especially single) women to do in a culture that equates lovability with beauty and beauty with youth?

These Sara Groves lyrics made me tear up recently:

“What God meant by woman, I’m hard-pressed to find / I'm chasing paper dreams and a guilt undefined / Fighting to stay younger, trying to stay thin and in control / Searching for a magic formula, a thing to soothe our souls / Wondering where the peace went, wondering where the peace went, wondering where the peace went / I'm finite / I come to an end”

I have a feeling all these musings sound quite shortsighted coming from the keyboard of a (nearly) 25-year-old. What do I know of aging and wrinkles and death and life?

Admittedly, not much. But I this is what I do know: I know that I've begun to detect within my heart the inklings of a discontentment that doesn't belong. I'm barely on the brink of the age at which people starting minding their ages, and already I find myself entertaining age-related worries and wistfulness.

Anybody got some ashes I could borrow?

I think I need some more for this aging forehead of mine.

In a culture that tells me to cling to my youth for dear life (literally), those ashes served as a much needed reminder that my own impending death is not in question. But, more importantly, they served as a reminder that this world is temporary, that my hope is in heaven, that death is not the end of the story. It's been overcome. 

We spend so much time and money and energy just trying not to die. (Case in point: I wrote half this blog while "sunning" by a pool — covered in 100 SPF sunscreen, with a hat on, under an umbrella.) Who is this Jesus, then, who came to earth and died deliberately?

Who is he if not the only hope we have?

If the gospel is true — if Jesus literally rose from the dead to save us from death — there's no place in my life for age-related fears, and there's no reason for them either.

We sang these words at church yesterday:

"If sin be pardoned and secure, death has no sting beside / The law gives sin its damning power, but Christ, my ransom, died / So let us praise the God of victory, immortal hope for mortal flesh / So let us praise the God of victory, who makes us conquerors of death"

"Death-conquering" really one-ups "age-defying," if you ask me.

I've been reading 1 Peter lately (mainly because our church's sermon series on John made me realize what a total goober Peter was and also how much I relate to him), and Peter the goober totally explains what I'm trying to wrap my head and heart around:

"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay." (1:3-4)

I can barely conceive of a place "beyond the reach of change and decay," but it sounds like the place I'm looking for (and like the place John Mayer was looking for and like the place the guy in that Cadillac commercial was looking for).

Peter goes on:

"For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, 'People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.'" (I:23-24)

There's hope in Peter's words for those of us with failing knees and fading beauty, i.e., all of us. A lasting hope and a living hope in Christ Jesus.

Remind me, Lord, at 25, that I am only dust. Remind me that I live and I die in light of heaven.

Getting Lost in Louisville

This is one of those posts in which I try to make up for lost blogging time by mushing a bunch of mini-posts together. (Mini-posts are becoming my M.O.) Here are some snippets of my life lately:

1. I have a job!

Lovin’ my cute desk and my   November wallpaper  . It is an accurate description of how I feel about my new job.

Lovin’ my cute desk and my November wallpaper. It is an accurate description of how I feel about my new job.

As part of my ongoing attempt to be a grown-up, I have taken a job. I am the marketing coordinator for a company that is based in West Virginia and has additional offices in Louisville and St. Louis. This job is roughly 1000% better than I expected my first job to be. My day-to-day is a mixture of writing, design, editing, planning, and teamwork.

I have this idea that God looked down at me and rubbed his chin and said, "Hmm, Kate needs a job in Louisville. How about I give her THE ABSOLUTE BEST JOB FOR HER IN THE WHOLE CITY?"

I hope to blog more about my job soon, mainly to offer hope to the frazzled, weary students who are too frequently told, "This is the most freedom you'll ever have! Enjoy it now!" Take heart! That's hogwash.

2. I have roommates!

Roomies Jamie, Rachel, and Becca + their froomie Liz (who moved out to get married but who is still an honorary member of the house) and   moi

Roomies Jamie, Rachel, and Becca + their froomie Liz (who moved out to get married but who is still an honorary member of the house) and moi

I live with three other girls in a big ol' house in Louisville. Having just moved out of a house with three girls whom I adored in Columbia, I considered living with three girls to be my dream arrangement, and that is exactly what I ended up with.

I'm pretty sure that when God was rubbing his chin about my job, he also said, "And she needs roommates, so how about I put her in the ABSOLUTE BEST ROOMING ARRANGEMENT FOR HER IN THE WHOLE CITY!?"

Two of my roomies are moving to Boston in the spring, and I'm already sad about it.

3. Louisville is super confusing.

Well, hello, giant man at the mall.

Well, hello, giant man at the mall.

I got lost literally every time I left my house for the entire first week that I lived here. Now, having lived here for almost four weeks, I can say that I only get lost about 40% of the time. I blame my lostness on the fact that we fell back to EST three days after I moved, so I've done a large portion of my new-city-navigating in the dark.

4. I picked the right time to move...

because Louisville just got an H&M! Who wants to make a weekend trip to stay with me and shop at H&M!?

See that cute leopard scarf I'm wearing up in that picture above? Yeah, FIVE DOLLARS at H&M. It's bad stewardship not to buy a $5 leopard print scarf.

5. I still miss Missouri.

My heart hurts just to mention it. I can't wrap my head around the fact that I've been gone half a year. I remember visiting Columbia when Jane moved there in August, and I cried to my small group and said I needed a job and friends in Louisville, and I know they have prayed for me. I still feel the effects of my church there in so many ways.

When people ask me where I moved to Louisville from, I never know what to say. I think I say Versailles half of the time, and I say Columbia half of the time.

6. Versailles is only an hour away. 

You know what's nice? This year I will drive ONE HOUR home to Versailles for Thanksgiving instead of EIGHT HOURS. I have this personal goal to feel as though I live in both Lexington and Louisville, and I have three trips home planned for the next month, so I think I am succeeding at this goal.

7. I'm going to Sojourn. 

I'm getting plugged in, and I've joined a small group there. I like Sojourn because the gospel. It feels so overwhelmingly large at this point, but yesterday morning when I walked in, I found that one of the girls from my new small group was waiting for me in the lobby, and that just warmed my heart so much.

8. This is definitely a seminary town.

Approximately 80% of the people I've met in Louisville (and 100% of my roommates) either currently attend or have graduated from Southern Seminary. It is 70% intimidating and 30% fascinating.

It is not uncommon for our conversations to involve references to Wayne Grudem, John Calvin, complementarianism, heresy, and Albert Mohler.

(Addendum: I wrote those last two paragraphs of this blog on Saturday, and then Sunday I had lunch with my three roommates, and our lunchtime conversation culminated with each of us explaining how many points of T.U.L.I.P. we held to. There may also have been a copy of Systematic Theology brought to the kitchen table. It was like A CARICATURE of a conversation that seminarians would have. LOLOLOL.)

9.  I speak in abbrevs too much.

I never realized how ridiculous it sounds when I say BRB, JK, LOL, and IDK (and hashtag) until I caught myself saying them in the office. But part of my job is handling social media, so it's just fitting, right?

10. I am in room-decorating mode. 

My bedroom looks way too much like what I imagine nuns’ bedrooms look like. GOTSTA get some color.

My bedroom looks way too much like what I imagine nuns’ bedrooms look like. GOTSTA get some color.

Remember how in my very first post on this blog back in 2007 (!!!) I said that I had ordered a hot pink bedspread for my dorm room?

Well,I had that bedspread (and matching hot pink and lime green decor) all through college and grad school, and I got a little hot-pink-and-lime-green-ed out. I know you are all shocked.

In thinking about decorating my new room here, I realized I wanted white. All white. It's so calming and peaceful and clean. So I bought a white bedspread. And, y'all, I highly recommend. It makes me feel as though I'm sleeping in a marshmallow.

Unfortunately, though, a white bedspread + a white desk + a white chair + a white dresser = a room that looks far starker than I'd expected. So I'm on the lookout for coral and gray accents, but I'm having trouble finding them, seeing as it is NOVEMBER, and retailers aren't crazy about the coral this time of year. If anybody knows where a girl can order a coral throw and some coral pillows up in here, let a sister know.

11. My legs are still cranky. :(

Oh, my heart.

Pink skin and taped knees after a chilly run. When you see runners happily jogging down the road, please think of me and pray for my little aching knees. :(

Pink skin and taped knees after a chilly run. When you see runners happily jogging down the road, please think of me and pray for my little aching knees. :(

Many of you know that I've slowly been returning to running after several years of being sidelined by chronic leg pain.

That old pain that I dealt with in high school and college is almost completely gone. (PTL!) But in trying to get back into running, my knees (which had never before been the problem) have given me a lot of pain on and off. Right now, the pain is on. I wrapped up five more weeks in physical therapy this summer before my move, and I'm not sure how much it really helped.

(Interjection: Does anyone know a physical therapist I could marry? That sounds like a joke, but I'm kind of serious. I just need my own personal PT who's stuck with me for the rest of his life. I've been through ten in recent years. At least give me an honorary doctorate in physical therapy. Something.)

When my knees feel good, I'm so hopeful about how far I've come and about my plans to run until I'm 100 years old. But when my knees hurt, I just want to curl up in a ball and weep. I so quickly revert back to that little 15-year-old girl who had too many doctors tell her they didn't know what was wrong. My head knows it's a different injury, but my heart doesn't.

I just want to run. I just want to run. These years of leg pain have been my greatest sadness.

12. The Lord is good.

Even when I am in pain.

Anticipating life in a new job and a new city was horribly frightening to me, especially before I knew where I'd be working and whom I'd be living with. I wrote a blog post about my fearfulness, but it was a million years long, and I never ended up publishing it. I may still post it after the fact.

I prayed all summer for a job and for roommates, and the Lord one-upped my prayers by giving me crazily more than what I had asked for. But I have prayed for nine years that the Lord would heal these legs so I could run again, and the Lord's answers have mostly been confusing. Why bother healing me the first time if you were just going to let me get hurt again, God? I ask that question a lot.

But this is what I know: I know that God has always provided for me. I know that he has provided the aforementioned job and roommates as well as every other blessing in my life. I know that he always has more provisions up his sleeves. (Does God have sleeves?) I know that he loves to heal and that he has the ability to heal my legs with a word. With a thought. And I know that if he isn't doing it, he must have a really good reason for not doing it. He withholds no good thing from me. So I will keep praying, and I will keep crying, and I will keep running on the good days, and I will keep hoping and expecting that the Lord has something good up those figurative sleeves of his.

13. This song is on repeat. 

I heard this Matt Maher song on Pandora recently, and I've been listening to it on repeat ever since. I went to go get the YouTube link for y'all to listen to it and realized he RECORDED IT WITH AUDREY ASSAD. Hello, she is my favorite singer! (Last night I actually dreamed I met Audrey Assad and hug-tackled her and said, "Your music changed my life!")

"My one defense / my righteousness / oh, God, how I need you"

14. You should go see About Time. 

It is so good on so many levels. I knew basically nothing about this movie before I saw it. (Didn't even know it was rated R until I was already sitting in the movie theater ... oops.)

Anyway, the trailer doesn't do it justice, but, y'all, this movie is so good. I am not normally a movie crier, but there were tears streaming, STREAMING, down my face by the time the credits rolled on this one.

I hated   Love Actually   and LOVED this movie.

I hated Love Actually and LOVED this movie.

I know what you're thinking: Rachel McAdams is on the cover, so the whole movie is probably about an unrealistic Hollywood touchy-feely romance, and she probably gets cancer and dies. You are so wrong. SO WRONG. On both counts.

This movie is about the man on the cover. (No spoilers here.) He learns that he, like all the other men in his family, can travel backward in time. I want you to pause with me right now and contemplate how you think this story will go. A man in a movie can go back in time and undo or redo things. I'm pretty sure that Adam Sandler was in a movie in which he could control time, and all I really remember from the trailer is that he used the power to slow-mo the lady jogger on the road and fast-forward his wife's talking. Eww. But that is a pretty typical Hollywood portrayal of men, right? If they're not totally unrealistic, perfect dreamboat Ryan Goslings, then they're lazy, selfish, and immature Adam Sandlers.

But the guy in this movie was just a normal, hard-working, nerdy guy who was faithful to his wife and loved his children and used his time traveling almost exclusively to love his family better. CUE TEARS. My friends and I all came out of the movie just really wanting to get married and have a million babies. For real. How often do Hollywood movies portray love as something that requires selflessness rather than something that justifies selfishness? LIKE NEVER. But this one does, which is why it is my new fave.

Anyway, go see this movie. I want to see it 10 more times.

p.s. It was rated R for legit reasons, so you may want to read a more detailed review before buying tickets, but I think the good stuff is redemptive enough that the movie is worth watching.

15. I will blog more soon. 

Now that I have verbally vomited my every thought onto the internet, it's time for me to sign off. I've gotten out most of the blog posts that piled up in my brain, but not all of them. Hashtag winky face.