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!

Summer Unscripted

I had many, many things planned for this summer. And I cannot tell a lie: most of those things did not happen.

What was completely unexpected? My hiatus from blogging!

At first, the break really stressed me out. Why couldn’t I get my words out? What kind of hole of darkness was I falling into? The funny thing is, the not writing turned out to be exactly what I needed.

This summer has been arguably the best of my life. I’ve learned so much about me, and grown so very much. It’s been a process, and it turns out there was just nothing to say in the middle of the process.

I’m so excited to get so much of this written, out of my mind and organized and publicized. In the meantime, here are some scenes of my summer, a little bit of what’s going on. When I scroll through these pictures, I see a collection of impactful moments, journeys, processes, connections; I hope that you enjoy living some of my summer vicariously!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Not) According To Plan

Today did NOT go according to plan. But I bet you already figured that out, right? I know you’re smart that way…!

After getting up at 3:30 (!) to begin our journey to San Francisco, meeting at church at 5:00, and getting to the Milwaukee airport by 7:30, everything seemed to be smooth sailing. Then we boarded our plane…

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After sitting on the plane for 45 minutes, they announced that we needed to de-board the plane because the had to change two tires; and the tires had to come from somewhere else! They announced that it would take at least a couple of hours; this meant for us that we would (at the earliest!) first be leaving Milwaukee only 15 minutes before our connecting flight in Denver took off! (Spoiler alert: we didn’t make that connection.) Ugh.

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Pastor Mike worked his butt off trying to figure out our plan, while in the meantime we just had to chill in the not-very-exciting Milwaukee airport. When noon finally rolled around and they started re-boarding our flight, our group was instructed not to board because we weren’t even sure yet if we’d be taking that flight! Finally after a good half an hour, they had us board after all. A little bummer there was that passengers were crabbing at, and a stewardess even yelled at, our students for not being where they were supposed to be, even though our students had been awesomely patient and right where they needed to be.

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When we got to Denver, Pastor Mike immediately hopped in a line to try to get our situation figured out; he spent the next three hours there. The rest of us found food, and then an emptier balcony area to set up camp. The students were super-troopers: they napped, they played games, they talked, they read the Bible together. The students were not allowed to bring any technology along, and i think this definitely tested their resolve! They rocked it though.

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After Mike’s three hours in line, he came back with the news that 14 of us had a flight out to San Francisco in four more hours, and four of our group had to stay overnight and catch an early flight tomorrow morning. We spent the next four hours riding the train from concourse to concourse, finding food, hanging out. Not ideal, but better than a lot of the alternatives that were thrown at us!

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We missed some really fun sightseeing plans this afternoon, and had to reschedule some stuff that we had planned to do tomorrow. Today didn’t go according to our “plan” at all. And yet, it still was awesome. We bonded in a big way, and we really got the chance to hand it over to God and let go of our own preconceived ideas. Nothing but good.

Today’s stats:
24: hours from getting up this morning to arriving at our hotel tonight
14: hours spent in airports
8.5: hours behind schedule
5: hours spent in planes
4: team members left behind
4: missing bags
1.5: hours in baggage claim

I’ll try to be back tomorrow to tell you about a couple of really cool things that came about through this!

On tomorrow’s agenda: chilling in San Francisco, rockstar fancy dinner, and checking in at our mission site.

Goodnight!

San Francisco Bound

Yes, that’s right! Terry and I are currently sitting in the Milwaukee Mitchell Airport, along with two other adults and 14 high schoolers, waiting for our flight to San Francisco. We’re headed out for a weeklong missions trip, where we’ll be serving the people of San Francisco in various different ministry organizations.

Terry and I jumped headfirst into this opportunity last summer as soon as we heard that our church was partnering with YouthWorks because when we were in high school we did two mission trips through them with our youth group. We were super excited for the chance to work with them again.

Just for fun, a couple pictures of us on our Mississippi trip, circa 2002:

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Unfortunately I couldn’t find any pictures from our West Virginia trip the summer before on my computer!

For most of the past year, I’ve been pumped thinking about the awesomeness of participating once again in something I have such great memories from, and I’ve been even more pumped since Pastor Mike settled on San Francisco as our destination; check one item off my bucket list!

Then about two months ago after a conversation with Pastor Mike, the truth hit me hard: unlike my past awesome mission trips, I’m attending this trip as a chaperone. As in, I’m expected to be a responsible adult. And beyond that, it’s going to be my job to guide the teenagers I’m traveling with as they serve. It’s not about me; it’s about them. Woah.

I’m not going to lie, that realization hit me with a TON of self-doubt. Unlike the other chaperones, including Terry, Pastor Mike, and one other woman, I haven’t been working with the youth all year; I barely knew most of the kids we would be traveling with. I wondered how I would interact with them, get along with them. Would they like me? Would I be an impactful leader for them? Would I be what they need?

Much anxiety followed and I really struggled for several weeks. Pastor Mike is hyper-organized though, and we’ve been having team-building meetings for several weeks. I’ve started to get to know the kids, and that eased some of the stress. The other piece of the stress ~ doubting my capabilities and worthiness to serve ~ was eased through prayer, by me and many others. I finally came to a place of realization that I am here, I am in this place, because God can use me.

Going on this trip, chaperoning this trip, is definitely outside of my comfort zone. If I had thought it through before committing, I honestly can’t say that I’d be here right now. Thankfully God had a bigger plan than that, and He brought me right to where He wanted me.

This week, for the first time, I finally got excited for the trip. Not “yay I’m going to San Francisco” excited (that’s been going on for awhile!), but excited for the full experience of all that I’ll see and do. I got super stoked! Then anxious again. Than excited. You get the idea. It’s been quite the up and down week! When my alarm went off this morning (at 3:30!!), panic struck me full force; when we got to church to meet the group, I remembered the bigger picture.

I’m not sure what the week will hold as far as blogging ~ I hope to be able to do some updates, but we’ll see. I also have a notebook with me for journaling, so I’ll at least remember what was up for later posts!

Our group has a blog running for the week that you can find here; all four of us leaders have access and will hopefully be posting throughout the week. You can even sign up to have new posts sent to your inbox if you’re interested (Mom, that’s you!).

You can also follow our trip on Instagram (katiewithoutrestrictions) and on Twitter by following #crossfiresanfran

For a last bit of fun, here’s Terry and I in the church parking lot at 5:00 this morning:

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Yes, I did say 5:00.