a blessing

i am sad that i've had such a long absence from this space. i was a little overwhelmed by it, then it was tucked away in my mind and forgotten about, and lately i've found myself needing to write more again. so, hopefully, i will return here sooner than later.

i found this old Franciscan blessing back in May on a friend's blog, and admittedly have no clue what friend i swiped this from. my apologies for not being able to give credit where it is due.

{sunset over the blue ridge parkway, western carolina}

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart where God's Spirit dwells.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world and in your neighborhood, so that you will courageously try what you don't think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you'll have the strength necessary to do.

May God bless you so that you remember we are all called to continue God's redemptive work of loving and healing in God's place, in and through God's name, in God's Spirit, continually creating and breathing new life and grace into everything and everyone we touch.
 // katie anne


GO >> Valencia

I've been staring at this blank screen for way to long. I'm not sure where to start.

This time last week I was in a different and very foreign country, on a continent I had never visited before, and walking around a university that was unknown to me 3 months ago. I was both frustrated by my total inability to speak or understand the language surrounding me and surprised at how easy it was to connect deeply with people despite vast language and cultural differences. I was in awe of the sense of family that can exist so instantly among the people of God.

And today, I'm back at my computer, in my windowless office, pondering how we blip back into our normal life so quickly. Picking back up where we left off, while carrying with us the things we saw and learned, is what I desire to gain from this experience. As impactful as it is to fly across the world to serve and love others, I am more and more convinced that we are called to live with missional hearts right here in our own city, jobs, and neighborhoods.

It's hard to distill the stories and lessons learned from last week's journey to and through Valencia, and I confess I'm not quite up to that challenge yet. The fatigue of waking at 4:30am daily and returning to the apartment at 10pm caught up with me on Monday morning, and I'm fighting to stay awake at my desk. There were some miraculous provisions of translators, ordinary moments that required obedience, and transcendent moments of watching God work in and through and around us. I continue to be humbled and grateful for the love, prayers, and financial support we received for this journey, and certainly hope to bring encouragement and light through this experience.

// katie anne


boeuf bourguignon + worship

Do you ever have those weeks when the same topic or issue seems to pop up all over the place, in unrelated conversations, articles, books, or blogs? Sometimes it's a new word or a new place name, which I then hear 3 more times that week, while wondering how many previous times that word just flew over my head.

Last week, it was Julia Child. I finally finished reading her biography My Life in France, which despite getting a little bogged down in variations on bouillabaisse, is a delightful read that sheds light into julia's authentic joy and curiousity about French food, culture, and recipes. Some days, it would be nice to intraveneously receive her infectious, childlike spirit. Anyway, after turning the final pages, I googled and youtubed videos of her on "The French Chef," including her first one on making boeuf bourguignon. The very next day, one of my favorite cooking blogs posted a recipe for their vegetarian version: BEET bourguignon! (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE beets?) I quickly decided that I HAD to try this, so last Sunday, I followed the recipe and we enjoyed a vegan version of one of Julia's classics.

cute story, isn't it.

But over the past month, a bigger, more significant message has been popping up all over the place. In the sermons at church, in the new book I'm reading, in our Community Group discussions, in my book of Lenten readings. It's like Julia x's 10. And so I'm thinking I ought to pay attention.

It's the message that we are created to worship, that our hearts are prone to wander, and that the lie is subtle and dangerous that we might find life apart from Christ.

It's not a matter of if we will worship. It's a question of WHAT we will worship: the Creator or the creation. We all worship something, all of the time. Our hearts were crafted to look outside of ourselves to be complete; specifically, to look to and know the Lord. And it is in Him alone that we find nothing less than LIFE, joy, significance, completion.

But, we wander, don't we? We buy into the "lie of lies," as Paul David Tripp writes, "that life can be found apart from God." When I step back and think about it, it seems silly. Ridiculous, actually, that I often live as if the perfect wardrobe, an impeccably clean house, or a lively social circle will give me the deep satisfaction I desire. Many days, I pine for control of circumstances, for my needs to take center-stage of my relationships, for recognition and success in my career. Most days, I value my comfort above most other things. And every day, those desires will fall short of the fullness and joy that I have been created for. They can never bring true, eternal life.

Here's the tricky part: Those things I listed above aren't bad. Relationships, meaningful vocation, and circumstances all matter. I show love for my husband through doing laundry, making dinner, and even taking care with how I present myself; so again, not bad. But, even all of these good things were never meant to sit on the throne of my heart.

I'm starting to suspect that this issue of worship is the core of our lives as people, as followers of Christ. That this is the primary lesson I'll be learning for the rest of my life. Thankfully, it's not about me mastering my heart, about casting out false idols and perfectly loving God. For now, at least, it's about recognizing the fallacy of these lies, and then turning to the Lord and relying on His strength and faithfulness to turn my heart toward Him more each day.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Venezuela to share this truly GOOD news with people who are as desperately in need of it as me. And hopefully, this message will dig its way deeper in my heart in the process.

// katie anne


{30 days} of thankful : day 30!

i just breathed a sigh of relief as i typed the title of today's post. to be sure this has been a fruitful exercise, this practice of gratitude that i have shared here. and it has been challenging. i clearly failed at the whole "30 day" time frame i envisioned. perhaps more graciously toward myself, i adopted a loose interpretation of time. the pressure of writing a meaningful post everyday was more than i had anticipated, with holiday travel and a week of being super-busy at work bringing additional obstacles and stressors to the table.

it's also been a month two months with unexpected twists and turns, discouragements, and excitement around me.

at the core, i notice that at once, nothing has changed and i am changing. my circumstances are largely still the same: i love most things about life, am generously provided for, and can't stand my job. i am often confused about vast discrepancy between my desire to participate in the healing process of people's lives and how i actually spend my time at work. and, as usual, as i start to lose heart, the Lord graciously shows up and provides new opportunities to grow and be stretched, new hope for the days ahead.

and i'm changing. that feels hard to see and quantify, because i'm not getting better. i'm still an impatient, emotional mess some days. but perhaps, i'm more quick to give thanks, to find hope. i'm growing in recognizing my need for grace and to accept it, rather than just stay in my own mess. i shared a song lyric when i started this practice of thankfulness: "a thankful heart prepares the way for you, o Lord." perhaps that is a helpful frame for understanding how this process is shaping me - opening and softening my spirit, to do things like go to venezuela, search for volunteer work, to keep plugging along with my job without losing heart. each of those things is surely on a different scale: ranging from the daily mundane to the once in a lifetime. but, on some level what matters is my heart and attitude as i approach and undertake what lies before me each day.

my hope is that each moment, each day, is characterized more and more with thankfulness. for there is much to be thankful for.

katie anne


{30 days} of thankful : day 29

i am really thankful that today is friday. i am sleepy, tired of being at work, & in need of some respite. i'm not sure how to characterize this week: there have been both amazing parts and also parts to it which reminded me of my desperate need for God's grace. i am thankful that grace shows up in my life when i least deserve it + most need it.

i'm looking forward to reflecting on this experiment of giving thanks. although it's been a much longer journey {on here} than i'd anticipated, i am quite confident that the timing has been right + good. i don't struggle any less, but i notice myself more quickly moving through disappointments + struggles to hold onto grace + fix my eyes on the goodness around me.

one last thing today. i can hardly believe that i've neglected to share with you about this band, which i can't seem to get enough of. their music is beautiful + complex, their lyrics filled with themes of growing up, moving far away from family, figuring out who you are, + finding love. it's perfect for belting out in the car or listening to while cooking dinner at the end of a long day. i both cry + laugh along with their songs. seriously. do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes listening to the head + the heart when you get a chance. i am thankful for the comfort i find in their music.

katie anne


{30 days} of thankful : day 28

i mentioned recently that there are some pretty exciting opportunities for growth + service + purpose that are in the process of coming to fruition. so this evening, i'd like to share about one of them.

tim + i are going to venezuela!

not for good, but for about 10 days, which feels like quite a long time i must say. the US passport agency has cashed our checks for expedited passports; our bosses have given us time off; and plane tickets will be bought any day now.

we'll be going with a very small group from our church, to serve alongside a pastor in valencia, venezuela, with a focus on the university there, which boasts a student enrollment of over 52,000. to be honest, we don't know a whole lot more than that.

except that we felt a call to GO.

i'll be honest: there isn't much in me that actually wants to go to venezuela. i know next to nothing about it, and i recently commented to tim about how south america as a whole just isn't on my radar. at all. but, sure enough, the Lord has been preparing our hearts for this for a while, just without letting on how things would play out. we have felt restless, desiring to grow and serve, recognizing a need to be UNCOMFORTABLE. our practical selves found many reasons to dismiss the idea of going on the mission trip to venezuela (oh, did i mention the trip is in about 5 weeks!?). you know, things like lack of time off from work, not speaking spanish, tim's fairly new job. and slowly, those things were chipped away by people who probably didn't even know the impact of their words.

a week and a half ago, i found myself crying my way through the sermon at church, tears streaming down my face. tim had left church early for a soccer game, so i was sitting by myself trying to hide my sniffles. but, i just couldn't get out of my mind the call to leave our comfort zones for something greater. my brain was in no way thinking venezuela, but at the same time the Lord was working on tim's heart to where he came home and said over dinner that he just knew he needed to GO. everything he said rang true with where my heart was, with what i've been thinking and unconsciously knowing for a while. i think i'm going, too. part of me doesn't actually want to, but it seems right.

our decision hinged on open doors: on getting time off (tim has been granted a few days of unpaid leave & i have enough pto accrued to use) and on quickly acquiring passports. fortunately i realized that i would, in fact, have to get a new one (fyi, turns out you have to buy a new one when you get married, even if your previous one is only 2 years old. cool, huh?)... and the estimated time for expedited passports is 2-3 weeks. just in time.

so, we shall be off! march 3-10. i'm excited to share more as we prepare and learn about what is in store, and as we GO and experience whatever good works the Lord has in store. we speak about 25 words combined in Spanish, so it will be far beyond our own talents and skills and strength to do anything of value in venezuela. which, i think, is exactly as it should be.

katie anne


{30 days} of thankful : day 27

i decided yesterday that if i am ever an employer, i will give everyone 2 hours off on their birthday to sleep in, take a leisurely lunch, or go home early. wouldn't that be awesome?! everyone would love working for me. sadly, i did not get those 2 hours off yesterday, and lets agree: monday is a disappointing day for your birthday to land on. {let's hear it for 2016, when i'll once again have a weekend birthday!}

i'll quit my complaining, because despite working yesterday, it turned out to be a sweet + fun day. i walked in to an office with happy birthday balloons covering the floor, thanks to my kind co-workers. they also took me out to a quick lunch, which i appreciated, despite the awkwardness of interacting outside of work for the first time and hearing them reminisce about turning 40, 50, & 60. birthdays also make me thankful for facebook, and receiving wishes from people who span all 6 cities i've inhabited. i opened sweet cards and presents from my parents & in-laws. {thanks, mom, for scouring the closets to find a gift you forgot to ever give me 20 years ago... ha!}

and then it turns out that monday may not be such a poor day for a birthday - mondays are half-off bottles of wine at The Local !!! the fun table of 3 older ladies next to us effused birthday wishes {they were so friendly & personable, i seriously thought they might simultaneously hug me & try my food}. and then a friend we ran into there bought us a dessert: blackberry cobbler with house-made blueberry ice cream, oh yes! a perfectly sweet ending to the day / birthday weekend.

it occurred to me the other day that my next big birthday will be 40. whaaaa? that is crazy, and was nearly cause for an age-related freak out, which i am generally not prone to having. and then i thought back to turning 20, which feels like a lifetime ago, and reflected briefly over the last decade. a lot happened in these past 10 years: surviving and graduating college, becoming a vegetarian, hiking my way through the Yukon for a summer, moving to Branson and working at Doulos for 3 years, learning to snowboard, traveling to Europe, moving to Asheville, harvesting grapes at a vineyard for work, meeting my husband, watching one of my sisters get married, meeting my precious nephew. I moved again, starting & finishing graduate school, got married, moved to Virginia and started working, supported my husband in grad school, and carved out a life & community for us. in there were moments of joy & heartache, getting lost in new cities & then learning the shortcuts, and lots of figuring out who i am and growing more comfortable with the person i am & the hope of who i am becoming.

my mom shared that she thinks each year will just keep getting better for me. i think she's right.