In The Moment

Self Portrait

Tonight I had some of the best moments of my summer. Perhaps only rivaled by a moonlit night on a balcony in Ethiopia.

It happened by accident. Spur of the moment.

I had just finished a photo shoot with a sweet, fun family, and then I took a quick detour by Lake Michigan to try and capture my vision for today’s Instagram photo prompt. (By the way ~ success!)

While I was perched on that cement structure, doing my iPhone thing and taking in the world around me, I realized what an amazingly beautiful evening it had quickly turned into. Since I had to go back to the car for the big camera anyway, I headed up the drive to a favorite wayside, where the real magic happened.

With just, me, my camera, and God’s glory around me, I had the most wonderful 20 minutes.

I plopped myself into the wet sand at water’s edge, and took in the best evening of summer. It was one of those rare, rare times when the clouds are positioned just right that the sunset actually shows beautifully on my side of the lake.

Thunder was rolling in behind me, and the sand was already soaked from earlier rain.

The air was still muggy from the hot, humid day.

Not another soul in sight.

I breathed in the fresh air, and I felt it on my skin. I let the wet sand coat my pants and shoes.

I took pictures until the dusk no longer allowed it, and then I let the incoming rain drops drip onto my skin, before the downpour arrived.

I thanked God for the life He’s given me, the place He’s put me. The gifts He gives that have everything to do with sensory pleasure, and not so much to do with directly furthering His kingdom. Simply because He loves me.

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sunset 3

Sunset 4

Sunset 5

Dusk

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Psalm 19:1

Ethiopia Bound

As you read this, I am on a 13-hour flight, headed for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia. Africa.

Long before adoption entered our lives, Africa has been on my “someday” list. My “that would be amazing but will probably never happen” list.

And of course, international adoption has been on my mind and in my plans since my teen years, for no explicable reason.

Not once did it occur to me that those two dreams would collide, until suddenly they did, in a big way.

God’s been preparing for this moment all along. I caught up with Him a little bit later.

As I head into this trip, I’m not even sure what I’m thinking or feeling.

I’m blessed to be traveling with my husband. I am so excited to experience this with him.

I’m blessed to be traveling with an amazing group of people. Some of the people that I look up to most are on this trip, and some of the students that I work with and mentor through student ministries are in our group as well. I feel like this group was hand-chosen for me.

As we’ve just boarded our Ethiopian Airlines plane, I am feeling ready and excited.

See you all in 10 days!

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A Perfect Day For A Drive

I love to drive. Love it. Crank up the tunes, or occasionally a podcast, and let my mind go. Alone with my thoughts, alone with God, alone to laugh or cry or plan or sing at the top of my lungs. (Oh yea ~ that definitely happens).

Today I made the four-hour drive home from my parents’ house, and it was a completely beautiful day, so I whipped out the camera phone and snapped a few pictures of my favorite parts of the drive.

Not to worry, I deleted many more than I kept because my eyes were on the road!!

Landscape

The landscape on the western side of Wisconsin is beautiful; all hills and valleys.

Through The Bluffs

And then every once in awhile, I get to drive right through the bluff. Stunning.

After about 40 minutes, the interstate breaks; I keep going on my way home, but I always think of my sister because that’s the way to her house!

Through The Bluffs Again

More driving through the bluffs. Even after 8 years, it’s hard for me to believe that this is seriously Wisconsin.

Bluff-Scape

Seriously. I get to see this. Every time.

Mauston Exit

An hour into the drive, I’m done with the interstate. Straight would take me to my friend Sarah’s house, which is another happy thought!

Woodside Ranch

This is my favorite. Woodside Ranch. The highway literally runs through the ranch, which houses horse trails and beautiful rustic cabins in the woods on one side, and hundreds of horses and buffalo on the other. After several years of driving through, Terry surprised me with a long weekend here!! It definitely lived up to everything I had always imagined, and now driving through means wonderful memories every time.

Woodside Ranch Cabins

See the cabin towards the bottom left of the photo? The cabin that we stayed in, aptly named Memories, is that dark space just up and to the right. Seriously. Such great memories. I loved that trip.

Approaching the WI River

Crossing the Wisconsin River is definitely a highlight for me.

Wisconsin River

Stunning.

Ice Fishing

My drive curves around this beautiful little lake; you can see a truck and some ice fishermen out there! I saw quite a few people out enjoying the winter weather on the lakes today.

Train

I saw two trains today! Trains rolling through the countryside speak nostalgia to me…

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As I traverse across the middle of Wisconsin, the landscape takes a turn towards hugely forested.

Montello

Although my Dad assures me that I’m quite wrong, in my mind Montello always signals the halfway point of my drive!

Montello Waterfalls

I do not know the story here. I do know that when you drive through Montello, you see waterfalls. And sometimes, those waterfalls are frozen.

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Part of my drive carries me along this beautiful, sparkling river.

Smalltown, USA

This tiny downtown is actually not on my main highway home. I usually use it if I want to try to bypass a semi! Isn’t it adorable though? Terry and I ate lunch once in the restaurant in the very front left of the picture.

Farmscape

I. Love. Wisconsin. Farms.

I love this drive, and on a beautiful sunny day, it was perfect.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Psalm 19:1

“Finding” What I’ve Been All Along

Free Indeed

Since the start of this blog a little over a year ago, I have changed. I suppose it was inevitable. Sigh.

When I chose “Katie Without Restrictions” as the title for this blog, I knew it had meaning. I knew it expressed my desire to live freely, transparent in my dealings and open in my words and actions. What I didn’t know was how very much I, and consequently my blog, would really grow into its name.

To read all about the new direction that Katie Without Restrictions will be taking from this point forward, check out my newly updated “About The Blog” page. Although, I’m not sure that new direction is the right description; Katie Without Restrictions is still the place where you’ll find me, open and honest. Perhaps now, ready to be more open and honest. But the new “About the Blog” page puts words to what I’ve maybe been hoping to do all along.

Thanks for those of you who’ve been on this journey with me. Moving forward, I’m excited to share tons of growing and learning experiences I’ve had in the past several months while I’ve been pretty much MIA. I’m excited to share how I look back, and look at now, and see how it all builds on itself and blends together beautifully.

Talk to you soon!

Linked Up: Unite the Bloggersphere, Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood, Teach Me Tuesday, Titus 2sday

Flipping That Switch

I returned home yesterday after spending the weekend at a conference with the teens from my church. On the last day of the conference, Sunday morning, as we all sat in that huge convention room one last time, sleep-deprived and ready to go home, the keynote speaker issued a final challenge.

By the thousands, we bowed our heads in prayer, and we invited the Lord God to speak into our hearts at that moment. As we were about to head for home, we invited the Lord to tell us what in our lives needs to stop, immediately.

Well, the Lord spoke to me instantly, and in usual Katie style, His answer was grand, and moving, and beautiful.

Um, no. The Creator of the universe and lover of my soul spoke to my heart, and he said these four little words:

“Turn off the TV.”

And, in usual Katie style, my automatic response to the Creator of the universe and lover of my soul was truly accepting and eloquent:

“Wait, what? That can’t be right…”

Yes, for just a few seconds, I argued with God and justified my sin. I told myself that He didn’t really say it, He couldn’t really mean it. Since when does God tell people to turn off the TV? I gave Him this great opportunity to tell me anything, and that’s what He said? I must have imagined it.

And then I admitted to myself that I had opened my heart to Him and He had indeed spoken to me. I just didn’t like His answer. I don’t like that TV watching is my sin. One of my sins. Quite frankly, my sin sounds dumb to my ears. But it’s so very true.

This morning I got out of bed, and as I went about my bathroom routine, my finger itched toward the television remote. It’s my routine; I listen to the TV. The TV is on in my home pretty much every waking minute of the day while I’m there, at least while I’m there by myself. I turn it on to listen to, to keep me company, entertain me, and I suppose even to block out my own thoughts at times. It fills my brain so that I don’t have to.

It steals my attention, it steals my focus. It fills my mind with the world. And on mornings that I don’t have to immediately get ready, I sit down for “a few minutes” to watch. And I become a slug. I hide from the world, from responsibility, from emotions and people and God. The TV is my go-to, catch-all comforter and fixer.

Watching TV is not always a sin, but it is a huge area of sin in my life.

My sin is gross, and it shames me.

This morning as my finger itched, as I automatically longed toward the noise that gives my brain respite, it suddenly clicked that it was time for me to choose.

What’s more important to me? Obeying the command of my Creator, who has a brilliant plan for my life if only I will allow Him in, or flipping that switch?

The answer seems obvious, but every time that I have chosen to turn the TV on and tune the world out I am speaking with my actions.

I finally know the right choice.

Turned OFF TV

Bulletin Board Wreaths: Christmas Card Display

This project actually happened for the first time last year, and it was such a success that I knew I had to share it with you.  I thought it would make more sense to wait until Christmas rolled around again, so that it would be a bit more relevant than if I shared it sometime in mid-February!

Near the beginning of the holiday season, I was flipping through one of those Christmas catalogs ~ you know, the ones that stores send en masse around this time of year?  The same catalog that inspired me to make these.

As I was turning pages, I came across this picture:

I don’t even think this was an ad for anything; I’m pretty sure it was just background.  But it got my creative juices flowing, and I decided that instead of my usual basket, I wanted to display my Christmas cards on a bulletin board wreath this year.

So, I supplied up:

It turned out that the biggest bulletin board squares I could find were really not that big, so I decided to make two wreaths instead of one.

I had a perfectly sized wooden wreath to trace that I had bought for another project ~ score!  After tracing and cutting, I set about to wrapping my wreaths in ribbon.

Yes, I sometimes craft on my living room floor!

Then a sad, sad situation occured: I underestimated the amount of ribbon I would need for each wreath.

So after a quick run to the store, I was able to finish up!  Add some bows, and they’re ready to hang!  For hooks, I used plain metal key rings.

Photo Source

I hung them on our wall that transitions between our living room and kitchen.

They’re a perfect decoration because they were beautiful on their own,

And they look awesome as they fill up with holiday greetings from our friends and families.

Enjoy!