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.

‘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.

On Grad School, Grace, & Growing Up

My three most recent blog posts are all saved as drafts, ne'er to be published. The last couple of months have been particularly trying. I've attempted to articulate my thoughts in writing, but the results have not exactly been blog friendly. I finished — nay, survived — graduate school. I literally want to burst into the Doxology every time I think of this. It's the only response I can muster.

Portions of the unpublished posts I'd written were about grad school — about the stress of the final stretch and the idol that I'd let a master's degree become and the lessons the Lord is teaching me about grace and more grace and more grace.

And portions of the posts were about the future. (Insert that Beethoven intro here: DUN DUN DUN DUNNNN.) I don't know what I'm doing, where I'm living, where I'm going. Missouri and Kentucky are playing tug of war with my heart. And for the first time in my life, I don't have a plan.

People keep asking me what I'm doing next. I field this question every day in text messages, in emails, in face-to-face conversation, over Skype. When other people aren't asking me, I'm asking myself. The answer is: I don't know. The best I can do is tell you what I'm thinking, so here are my thoughts, distilled and itemized in a somewhat logical order:

1. Now that grad school is over...

I need to exhale for a minute — to recuperate. I just want to run until I've sweat out the stress of the last two years. I want to spend way too long walking around Target. I'm enjoying things like vacuuming my carpet and washing my dishes and cooking actual meals from recipes. Those were the things that grad school always prevented from happening. I'm done. I'm done. I just want that to sink in. I just want to cry tears of exhaustion and gratitude.

2. Kentucky vs. Missouri...

I might stay in Missouri. I might return to Kentucky. Missouri has my church. Kentucky has my family. Both states have my heart. Let it be known that neither option seems easier than the other. Leaving Missouri would break my heart. Not returning to Kentucky would break my heart. It's a win-win and a lose-lose.

3. The immediate future...

My plan — the only plan I have, I suppose — has been to apply for jobs in both states and walk through doors as the Lord opens them. I have not yet dived headfirst into this process. See item one.

I will be going home to Kentucky in the next week or so to attend a series of weddings. I've been so homesick lately, and I can't wait to see mah family and mah Kentucky people. I don't think it will fully hit that grad school is over until I get to go home. I'm not sure, at this point, how much of my stuff to take with me.

4. Looking back...

Part of the reason I want to stay in Missouri is the fact that, over the past two years, I have had such a strong sense that I was where I supposed to be. The road that takes me to campus and church and work and MC is called Providence. Providence. How fitting! I often marvel over the street signs en route to my various places. I have been led to where I am. I have no doubt about that. I thought I was coming to Columbia for the J-School, but God has shown me so many other reasons why he brought me to this place.

When I look back at my time here, I am amazed by the Lord. AMAZED. He has blessed me over and over and over and over again. He is faithful even when I am not. During grad school, I learned a lot about research and strategy and brand development, but I also learned a lot about my own sinfulness and inadequacy and the Lord's goodness and grace and faithfulness. The Lord has been so evident to me in this city.

5. The future future (TMI alert)...

Part of the reason I want to move back to Kentucky is that I MISS MY FAMILY and I hope to settle near them in the long run. This, in my opinion, deserves sub points:

  • My family members are literally my favorite people on the planet. I cannot adequately convey my love for them, and people make fun of me when I try, so I'm going to stop trying. I just think they are the best.
  • Wanting to settle near home sometimes seems strange to people used to the American ideal of individualism, but in almost every other country, settling near family is normal. It is not a sign of weakness or dependence or lack of ambition. It is a sign of collectivism, a form of valuing community.
  • I grew up 12 hours from one pair of grandparents and 15 hours from the other pair. For most of my childhood, I saw my extended family once a year. I have always hoped my future kids will get to be raised near my parents, and the longer I live far from home, the slimmer the chances are that I'll ever move back, right?
  • Let it be known — because this point is oft raised when I talk about wanting to raise my kids near my family — that I hold these hopes with open hands. I understand that the Lord may have other plans for whomever I marry and, thereby, for me.
  • It is difficult to find the happy medium between considering my hopes for the future too much and considering them not enough.
  • Let it also be known — because this point is oft raised as well — that I'm not afraid I will disappoint my parents if I stay in Missouri. My parents may be the only two people in my life whom I never worry I will disappoint.

Part of the reason I want to move back to Kentucky is also that I miss my friends there, but I'm unsure how much to hope or expect that the few who are still there will stay if I return. They keep peacing out for "more important" things like "marriage" and "mission trips." (Just kidding, girls. You know I think what y'all are doing is amazing.)

6. Nice problems...

My mom often reminds me that most of my problems are nice problems. (She taught me that my problems were nice long before #firstworldproblems became a meme.) A nice problem is the pain from braces or the stress of college or the difficulty of choosing which dress to buy when you've found two pretty ones. A nice problem is a problem that results from blessings.

The pain I'm experiencing now as I look at my church in Missouri and my family in Kentucky and know that I can't have both nearby is the epitome of a nice problem. I am so blessed to have so many people whom I love and so many people who love me.

7. Things to remember...

I've been doing a lot o' praying, a lot o' Bible reading, a lot o' wisdom seeking, and a lot o' sermon listening (and a lot o' crying) as I try to discern where the Lord is leading me. In lieu of a clear "You should ____, Kate," I keep getting the same reminders, which also deserve bullets:

What amazing reassurances! Sometimes I think the whole reason this "decision" has been dragged out so long is that the Lord likes it when I cling to him more closely.

8. Reality check...

When I was growing up, our family car was this 1983 Volvo two-door sedan. This car was so old that it didn't have an airbag on the passenger side, which meant I got to ride shotgun even as a little kid. I loved riding with my dad because he would let me man the stick shift.

As my dad drove, he would say "Put it in first" or "Put it in second," and I would do accordingly. He did all the real driving and navigating, but somehow I felt I was helping us get places.

I remember getting the stick shift stuck in the wrong gear on occasion and hearing the engine complain. When that happened, my dad would just reach over and calmly right it. He was in control even over my own tiny task.

This afternoon while waxing nostalgic to my roommate about my stick-shifting days (I can't drive a stick now for the life of me), I realized that it was an apt analogy for my current state in life.

As I try to figure out where I'm supposed to go, it's easy to forget that I'm not the one navigating or even holding the steering wheel. I'm basically just doing my little part from the passenger seat, trusting in my heavenly father's plans and power and love for me. I try to follow his directions when I recognize them, but even then, he is in control. I cannot screw up his plans.

It is a great reassurance to know that I can't accidentally — or even deliberately — step outside the Lord's plans. There is no wrong decision or wrong state that will render me untouched by his sovereignty. He is so good to me.

(You guys didn't think you were going to get through this whole super long post without some sort of illustration, did you? C'mon.)

9. Avoiding adultescence...

The difficulty of my current state is compounded by (a) the general uncertainties that come with growing up, (b) my newfound fear of becoming independent — financially and otherwise, and (c) the fact that I never really pictured myself going it alone in my mid-twenties (TMI alert). I may be tripping clumsily towards adulthood, but at least I'm attempting to get there, right? I'd like to imagine that, somehow, somewhere, Judy Blume is applauding me for making it this far.

10. A taste of heaven...

In a strange way, everything I'm experiencing right now has reminded me that I get to look forward to a time without goodbyes and separations and heartbreak. Shane & Shane's new CD finally came out today, and (a) it is amazing, and (b) I can't get over the chorus from their song "In a Little While":

I see a city, a new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven / Every tear that's falling will be picked up again, and we will live as one

I look forward to the day when my Missouri people and my Kentucky people and my Asbury people and my Georgia people and my Pennsylvania people and now my Texas and New York and Tennessee and Ohio and North Carolina and South Carolina and Indiana and Wisconsin and Illinois and Virginia and Alabama and Africa and Asia and everywhere people live as one — with Jesus and a whole bunch of other people I haven't even gotten to meet yet!

That sounds like heaven to me.

All the love and encouragement I've received in the midst of this has also been a taste of heaven. I'm going through a tough transition, but there's a sweetness to it because it has reminded me how loved I am and how good God is. I'm so looking forward to heaven with the Lord and you crazy wonderful people.

Images via WeHeartIt and lyrics via this cover that I can't quitttt.

A bunch of little blog posts mushed into one.

1. Back in Missouri

Drove back to Columbia last Saturday after another tearful goodbye. My brother rode with me to keep me sane. It was dark by the time we pulled into town and still dark when I said goodbye to him at the airport the next morning. The darkness somehow exacerbated by sadness, and I was a mess until I got to church and remembered why I had loved this city. "I'm so happy you're back!" were literally the first words that greeted me when I walked in the door. And then I got a hug, and, oh, I could've just crumbled into it.

Skyping with (most of) the fam on my first day back in Como.

Skyping with (most of) the fam on my first day back in Como.

The back-and-forth-ness of graduate school has done such a number on my heart. Being away from my family and Kentucky friends weighs on me so heavily, and so much of me just wants this semester to fly by. But I know that when it comes time to leave my Missouri friends in May, I will be an absolute wreck — a giant tear duct in human form.

2. Semester shock

Classes are over, so this semester I'll be occupied with my professional project (which is like a big internship, but we're not supposed to call it an internship) + my assistantship + my master's research. I would be excited if I weren't so anxious. I love my professional project so far. It's really the prospect of doing my research on top of it that sounds impossible. Let's not talk about it.

3. Sabbath

Speaking of not talking about it, my roommate, Bekah and I are taking Sundays off this semester. Shocker, right? I read this book over Christmas break, and it made me want to cry. Not because it is sad — it isn't — but because it reminded me of how tired I am and have been throughout my entire college and grad school career. The main reason I dreaded this semester was that I was so beyond worn out and beaten down last semester. I just couldn't do it any more. So, despite my uncertainty about how all my work will get done in the next few months, I've decided that none of it will get done on Sundays.

Oh, and I bought a "luxury sleep mask" at Walmart for $4. It is hot pink — fuzzy on one side and satiny on the other. It makes me feel very restful. And luxurious, duh.

4. Reading

Speaking of books, I have a problem, y'all. I have a problem with starting books before I finished my last one and then not finishing them. My bedside table is now host to nine books that I'm "in the middle of." A few of them are even from interlibrary loan, which means I went out of my way made a librarian go out of her (his?) way to get them for me.

Screen+Shot+2013-01-24+at+9.48.04+PM.png

Maybe thinking I can finish non-school-related books in grad school is setting my hopes too high.

4. Smoothies

In the same way that I am the type of person to start a book and never finish it, I am the type of person who pins a lot of things to Pinterest and then never makes said things. But I saw this green monster smoothie pin last Tuesday, and I went out later that day to get the ingredients. I have made it three times since. I have a feeling it is going to be my new go-to meal. It feels indulgent, but it's oh-so-easy to make and oh-so-good* for you. The perfect combination!

2A3B8E02-80D8-43CB-A656-1D1B15B9C65C.jpeg

*What is the correct way to punctuate that? "It's, oh, so easy..." "It's oh, so easy..." Set off interjections with commas, right? But that looks so weird. Sticking with hyphens...

4. Running

Speaking of things that are good for you but also wonderful, I have been running more and more lately!

Er ... I wrote that sentence last week when I was all excited to tell y'all how much better my legs have been doing. Today I sat back down to work on the blog post I left unfinished, and that sentence is mocking me. My left knee has been hurting again. Aching hips are keeping me awake at night. Before this week, I was running great, and now I'm in pain again and trying not to be discouraged.

Here's to hoping this setback won't last long. I'd had at least two months of doing really well before this. Boo, you know? BOO AT PAIN.

14E7CBE3-5CBB-48FD-8150-0C16725EF4B4.jpeg

Apparently retailers think that people have already given up on their new year's resolutions, so they have discounted workout wear. Snatched up this cute pink running jacket for TEN DOLLA NO HOLLA last week. Talk about a score. Pictured right before I hit the pavement in 19-degree weather. I told you I love running.

5. Pop culture

Screen+Shot+2013-01-24+at+7.55.35+PM.png

So much good stuff going on in pop culture lately, you guys. I have thoroughly enjoyed the return of Downton Abbey and The Bachelor, and I want to see Les Miserables approximately a thousand more times.

In related news, I want to marry a barricade boy. They're just so studious and masculine. I know Les Mis isn't primarily a love story, but the scene in which Jean Valjean basically passes the torch of protecting Cosette on to Marius made me swoon and long for times past. You know, times in which men were men and women were women.

6. Dating

Speaking of men and women being men and women, this article, "The End of Courtship" that ran in the NYT recently was totally singing my life with its words and killing me softly with its song.

"Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of 'asynchronous communication,' as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.

'I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out,' said Anna Goldfarb, 34, an author and blogger in Moorestown, N.J."

I thought this was a problem unique to Christian culture, but apparently I was wrong. Read the article, marvel at its accuracy, and weep for our future.

7. Blogging

Look whose blog hit 50,000 views this week! Little old me. Thanks, everyone! Thanks for reading and putting up with the fact that I began four paragraphs in this post with the words "speaking of." You are all the best.

Screen+Shot+2013-01-24+at+10.20.20+PM.png

Stream of Consciousness

I probably shouldn't trust the part of my brain that says, "Yes, Kate, you should start writing a blog at 11 p.m." But, for whatever reason, nighttime is usually when I want to write. Vacation journalism fell through. That is okay. I was all excited about it until I actually started to attempt to write every day, at which point I felt like I had little to say that was interesting. When Marie's computer died, I saw it as a sign that we should not require ourselves to produce more written content for deadlines. Grad school does that enough.

Oh, grad school. It's almost 2013, the year I will graduate. I don't know how to make sense of time — the way it can go too quickly and too slowly simultaneously. I can't believe I'm just four months from being done. I can't believe that 75 percent of grad school is already behind me. When I'm in the middle of it, though, the days and weeks drag on.

The weather has been mild enough that this Christmas break has felt like something other than Christmas break. It's just some sort of bizarre pause in time, and I have briefly escaped my grad school reality into an alternate reality of late mornings and days spent in yoga pants. I like being home because I can get hugs whenever I want. I need a lot of comforting these days.

The future seems so up in the air. I traveled to and from Georgia with my family earlier this week, and at one point on the interstate, it was so foggy that we couldn't even see the closest car in front of us. That is how I feel about life now. I don't know what the semester ahead will be like. Even as I'll be wrapping up my time in Columbia, I'll be taking on a new job and beginning my research. It doesn't feel like I've been there long enough to be preparing to leave already, but I'm ready. I'm ready to settle somewhere that isn't so far from home. My heart feels stretched among too many places.

I expect that my memories from Columbia will fade away more than my memories from high school and Asbury. When my mom talks of her time at Mizzou, she talks primarily of the cold weather. She remembers trekking across campus and having to stop halfway to warm up inside a heated building. I think I will remember the friends who welcomed me when I was new in town and the church that I became a part of and the way it felt to have to stand on my own two feet for the first time in my life.

It occurred to me recently that it's funny how much emphasis is put on the changes that take place in adolescence. As soon as you turn 12, there are youth groups specifically for you and books to help you navigate this time of change. (And books for your parents about how to communicate with you once you start, like, totally rolling your eyes at them and slamming doors and saying "whatever" all the time.)

I'm just over here at 23 thinking, Why do adolescents get all the guidance? When you're 12, you're still a kid, and you still live with your parents. Making your bed and doing your math homework are still basically your biggest responsibilities. When you're 23, you have no idea what the heck you're doing. People treat you like a grown-up, but you still feel like a kid.

Twelve-year-olds may have to deal with hormones, but 23-year-olds have to deal with:

  • Grad school and all that entails (at least in my case)
  • Finding a job, networking, self-promotion
  • Figuring out when to move out, where to move, whom to live with
  • Figuring out meal-planning and cooking
  • Learning to budget
  • Maintaining long-distance friendships (>90% of my friendships are long-distance. Sigh.)
  • Having good time management
  • Being bombarded with engagement announcements on Facebook
  • Dating (which is just "a big LOL," as Marie would say)
  • Wrapping your head around the fact that things won't go back to the way they once were
  • Realizing that this aging thing is just going to keep happening

Basically 23-year-olds have to be beginner grown-ups.

I'm jealous of my married friends — not in a sad, when-is-it-going-to-be-my-turn sense, but just in the sense that I want to know who will be doing life with me. My close married friends are all in times of transition, too. New jobs, new locations, new responsibilities. But they know that they'll have somebody there accompanying them through all of it, carrying half the burden and sharing all of the memories.

This is a total Jesus Juke moment because you could say, "But, Kate, you know Who capital W will be with you!" Yes, well, it would be nice to know who lowercase w will be there, too.

My parents bought my brother a plane ticket so that he can ride to Missouri with me before the semester starts and then fly back to Kentucky. I couldn't bear the thought of making that drive alone. I've made the trip by myself for Thanksgiving and spring break, but I've never done it by myself at the start of a new semester, when the return home seems so far in the future. I usually feel sick to my stomach for days before the goodbyes that precede a new semester. My first few days in Columbia this school year and last were indisputably the saddest days of my life.

I know that once I get there, it will be fine. I know that I have to go back. I know that four months will go quickly. I know that I am so close to being done. I know that I want to finish this degree. I know that I have friends there whom I love and miss and think about often. I know that I have gotten a nice, long break and still have more time at home before I have to leave.Still, though, I want to stay here. I want to curl up and pretend that I don't have to be a grown-up, that none of my friends have married and moved away, that no one's getting older, that goodbyes are the furthest thing from my mind. Or I want to go back to Asbury and live in the dorms. It's crazy now to think that there was a four-year period of time when so many people I love, who are now spread out all over the country and the world, were all together in the same place. That sounds like an absolute dream. I think I am homesick for heaven.