The Blue Couch #NaBloPoMo

In my sophomore year of college, Brandon asked me to take a road trip with him.  We drove to Madison, where his sister was living, to rescue a big blue couch before it went in the dumpster. She called because she thought it was an awesome couch and couldn’t believe her office building was just going to throw it away.

At first, it lived in his dad’s house in Cedar Rapids, but before too long, Brandon was at Simpson College with me and the blue couch came along, too.  We lived in a co-ed theme house and the blue couch had center stage in our living room. Debates, drinks, friendships, and gamers sprawled all over that couch.  It was our senior year… a time of making decisions, finding new directions, and going different ways.

Brandon moved back home and his dad had long since replaced the furniture. So, the couch, our couch, came with me as I made the trek to Nashville for seminary.  It lived in the middle of my living room in my duplex on Poston. It was where we held Jeopardy Style study sessions, where my friend came out as Jewish, where we kept a long-distance relationship alive through phone calls…  And then the couch moved with me to the townhouse I’d share for a couple of years.

Brandon moved to Nashville too.   The couch was there… for the start of my obsession with Grey’s Anatomy… for the conversations with Glen where he kept reminding me I’d make a good pastor… for the night Brandon and I broke up (but just for a night) because we weren’t sure how ministry and marriage wedded together.

And then we did get married. We moved that blue couch into our first, little, one bedroom apartment.

Before the year was up, we moved again. Back home, to Iowa.

My first church, our first real house, and the blue couch.

Oh, and cats. We added some kittens when we arrived home.  And the couch was never the same. Claw marks, stuffing coming out on the ends.

I got up early on Sunday mornings and wrote sermons on the couch. I reconnected with old friends, and we made new ones on that couch.

It moved with us one more time to Cedar Rapids… tattered… grungy… and sat in a room we barely used.

So when the time came to transition again, to Des Moines, we thought about leaving it, for good, in the dumpster.

But that couch still has life in it.  This summer, I bought some new fabric and if I ever find time, I plan to reupholster the whole thing. The cats are declawed now and that couch has too many damn memories in it.

Life's Not Perfect #NaBloPoMo

Format Status

It was a lovely day.

We slept in.

The Hawkeyes won.

Friends came over and we binge watched some television (Newsroom is FANTASTIC, btw).

I figured out how to do a double crochet front post and a double crochet back post for an afghan I started.

My husband made apple pie.

The snow fell and it was so lovely.

And then tonight, as I’m setting my clothes out for the morning, I find it:

A nice little pile of poop.

A present left by Tiki or Turbo.

It rarely happens. I could guess at the reasons, but whatever, I’m not a cat.


Tomorrow, I’m preaching on thankfulness and gratitude, so I’m led to say these things:

I’m grateful for the invention of paper towels and carpet cleaner.

I’m grateful messes can be cleaned up.

I’m grateful for the companionship of those two little furballs.

I’m grateful for imperfections that ground us and humble us and help us to not take life so seriously.

I’m grateful for the grace that I have received when I have messed up.

I’m grateful for people who have helped me to clean up my own mistakes and fumbles.

The Blue Couch #NaBloPoMo

Today’s prompt is:  Do you have a book in you? Fact or fiction? Related to your blog or totally different?

Well, the first part of the answer is that I have already worked on two books!

The first is an Advent study that is available here.  It weaves between the story of the magi and the book of Hebrews in order to show how the gifts brought to Jesus foreshadow the roles he plays in our lives.

The second is a lectionary based study that is available for Lent 2015 and can now be preordered! It takes a broad view of salvation and discusses a variety of atonement theories along the way.


IMG_2460There is a book that someday I would like to write, however, that is more autobiographical in nature.  As the post title suggests, it revolves around a blue couch, but more than that, it would be the story of my call and my relationship with my husband.  While in large part it is a book I would love to write, particularly for anyone who also is in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share their faith story, it is also a book that a) isn’t a complete story yet and b) might be too personal at the moment to share.

The blue couch is currently sitting in my office at home.  Together, we rescued it from being thrown away from an office building in Wisconsin.  We hadn’t been dating too long at that point, but were pretty attached to each other.  Since then, it traveled with us to college, moved with me to seminary, got destroyed by our kittens when we moved back home, but I just can’t seem to throw it away. It is a super high quality couch with real down feathers and although we have beat up on that couch, it is stick kicking!  (which might be a metaphor in and of itself for our relationship!) I’m trying to figure out how/when I might reupholster it… in blue of course!

Time flies when you are surrounded by cardboard

Six weeeks ago: I said yes to my Bishop and began hunting for a place to live.

Five weeks ago: I announced to my congregation that I was accepting the invitation to a new adventure in ministry.

Four weeks ago: we began to pack and say goodbye and let things go one by one.

Three weeks ago: I found myself in Nashville for training for my new position with Imagine No Malaria at UMCom.

Two weeks ago: Frantically handing over ministries and leaving instructions, I find myself down for the count with the worst sinus infection I’ve ever had and I start my new job.

One week ago: I said good-bye to my church family and began to transition to the next with new colleagues and new phone numbers and new emails and new everything.

Today: I’m sitting in our new home, directing conference calls, settling in, and starting a very different life for a short stretch of time.

I tried blogging through some of the chaos near the beginning, but then I didn’t have the time I needed to really process all of the change.  I knew I needed to, but I kind of bottled it all up and have bits and pieces of thoughts saved as private posts here and there.  As I get the time to look back through them, I’ll see if there is anything “salveageable” in them.

I think for today, however, the best metaphor for what my life has been in the past few weeks is to think about my kitty cats.

My cats Tiki and Turbo are shy.  They are extremely loveable and very nice, but they are introverts.  They don’t do well around people and would prefer to hide under the bed… at least for a few hours or until people have left.

They have traveled and spent time in other houses before.  Mostly my brother-in-laws house, where they spent most of our two week vacation hiding behind a chair where they thought no one could see them.

As soon as we arrived in the new place, we put them in the laundry room where they could have some space, but wouldn’t have to see all of the people moving all of the stuff.

The problem was, they didn’t want to come out when the chaos was over.  We found them hiding behind the dryer, huddled together, just hoping that no one would see them.

As my husband and I eventually dragged them out of their little cozy corner (who am I kidding, it wasn’t cozy – it was dark and dusty and a little dank, too), they were tramautized.  Hearts pounding, heads bobbing back and forth, not sure of what to do or where to run and hide.

I carefully cradled one cat, Brandon the other, and we showed them the house.  We took them through every room and set them lovingly on their familiar pieces of furniture.  And the whole time, their heads bobbed and weaved, sniffing and smelling, trying to take it all in, overwhelmed by the differences and yet the familiarity.  It was dizzying to watch them… and yet I knew how they felt.

So many things have changed in the last few weeks, and yet so many things have remained the same.  It’s like the world is upside down, but it’s the same world.  It’s not better… it’s definitely not worse… it’s just disorienting.  I’m still craning my neck and peeking around corners and “sniffing” out what all this new life entails.  I’m still unsure, and yet starting to get situated, excited, full of anticipation.

I knew the cats would be fine when Turbo hopped into bed with us last night and found “his spot” right between our pillows.  And even though Tiki never made it up the stairs to our master suite the night before, he found his own way and pounced on our feet… right on schedule as the sun started to rise.  They seem to be enjoying new places to run and hide, new adventures around every corner… and yet they also seem to be a little bit more cuddly and cozy – wanting to be closer than before.

Change makes you think about what is really necessary and what is really important.  It brings your life into focus.  It makes you want to be cozier with the ones you love and cherish the home you have.  It has been a whirlwind of a month, and we are still surrounded by cardboard… but everything is finally starting to settle into place.  Tiki just used all of the boxes as an opportunity to leapfrog from one pile to the next and perch a top the highest one so he could survey his new territory.  I feel like even in the chaos, I’m on top of the world, enjoying the view, and ready to tackle anything.

twinkle, twinkle, little star #reverb10

Last night…. well, this morning… I drove home at 3:00am in the morning from a friend’s party.  It was about four degrees outside and the sky was absolutley clear.  The air was crisp and clean and the stars were so bright and vivid that you felt you could reach out and literally pluck them from the sky. I almost had to pull over the car just to look and gaze upon the sight… but I knew if I stopped at that hour I would most certainly fall asleep!

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

It has not been difficult in 2010 to really grasp a sense of wonder at this world.  Everywhere I look around me I see these miraculous and beatiful signs of God’s power and the beauty of creation.

The other evening we had seven deer in my back yard eating acorns.  I stopped at the bathroom window and watched them with amazement for fifteen minutes instead of brushing my teeth.

I was driving to my parents house and I saw a bald eagle soaring through the air and in between the trees.  Good thing it was a straight road or I would have driven off it!

My nephew’s little tiny smiles and giggles knock me over flat.  My neice’s expressions stop my heart. The things my older nephew comes up with make me want to wrap him up in my arms and never let him go.
The sunset one evening as I walked around the local park was so spectacular that I pulled out my phone and captured it to remmeber forever.

The waves crashing in one after the other on the west side of Oahu absolutely stunned me. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was blazing and the white churning sea dazzled.  I could have sat there and watched them for hours.

The intense feeling of reconnection and the amazing discovery that I love spending time with my parents as an adult child and a friend.
The warmth of a cat’s body curled up and nestled into yours when you are sick or sleeping, cold or lonely.

The thrill of a storm lurking on the horizon and the shades of gray and green that pass over the sky as the wind picks up and the rain starts to pour and the lightening streaks against the sky

You just have to look.

You only have to pay attention.

There are so many things to wonder at in this world.

one word: lonely #reverb10

The only way for your life to be different is if you take a good hard look at it and figure out what exactly needs to change.  And my life needs a good hard look right now.

In some ways, I am feeling a little snarky as I write this.  I am kind of in an off mood.  So this might not be the chipper Katie that you sometimes hear from.

Charged with this task:

December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

I have to admit that this has been a really strange year.  If I look back on it all and try to capture it in one word – that word would have to be lonely.

I pick that word, because it captures both the way I have felt and the way I didn’t feel.

In the midst of community and people, in the midst of a marriage and a family, in the midst of lots of people and relationships – there have been so many days where I have felt incredibly alone.

Alone because who I am makes me different from other people.  As a pastor, I am apart from my congregation.  As a woman, I am apart from my male colleauges in ministry.  As a young person, I am apart in the midst of gatherings of older folks at meetings.  As a person of faith, I am apart when we gather with friends who are not. As someone who is not a mother among family members who have kids and grandkids. And sometimes as the conversation gets rolling, I feel very lonely… even in the midst of community.  I long for people like me to talk with.  I realize just how alone I am.
At the same time, I have tried in many ways to combat that loneliness.  Our young clergy lunches have been a beacon of community and fellowship.  My online connections through facebook and twitter and my writing have provided an outlet and a place to find familiar voices. I am learning to find those common places with older folks and men and parishoners and friends that I can hold on to when I start to feel lonely again.
I also have learned in some ways to be okay with the loneliness.  Running was an outlet for a while – although the weather is colder and I got lazy and that stopped.  Crocheting has become a powerful way to be with myself… something to keep my hands and therefore my mind busy.
I have all of this talk about being lonely and I wonder if anyone out there reading would think that I am single.  I am not.  I’m married to a wonderful guy – but even in marriage there is loneliness.  That is not something I expected.  I didn’t expect the days when our schedules didn’t match up and the house was empty.  I didn’t expect the days when we were both so busy doing our own thing that we barely talked.  We each have our own little corners of the house:  his office and for me, well I move around between my office and the couch and whatever other warm little nook seems appealing that day.  I didn’t expect that our working lives would be so compartmentalized from one another.  And I didn’t expect that we would have no children.
That last one is probably my number one source of loneliness.  Just the two of us doesn’t quite seem to be enough for me.  I want little laughter rippling through the house.  I want teasing and tickling and the grumbles of a child who doesn’t want to eat their peas.  I want family gathered around our dining room table.  I want stuffed animals lying around that children forgot to put away.  I want to be woken up in the morning by kisses and tears.  I want to tuck someone into bed at night.
This year I realized that our cats – as much as I love and adore them – cannot replace children in my life.  And while Tiki and Turbo provide immense happiness and companionship, they are not mine in the same way.

Not having a family makes me very lonely.

All of that being said – what word would I want to represent the next year of my life?
I cannot make children come into my life.  It may not be a reality for next year.  But I do want family to take absolute priority.  I want to find new ways to be family with congregation members.  I want to take my own family more seriously and less for granted.  I want to talk with my brothers and sisters more often.  I want to spend more afternoons with my mom and dad and in-laws.  I want to go on more dates with my husband. I want those relationships to be more important than anything else.  I want next year to be about family.

A Mighty Wind

This morning it is windy.  And that is an understatement.

Because of the cool weather we have had our windows open and the cats love to sit on the sill, with just the screen between them and the great outdoors.  It’s a good view, they can smell everything and their ability to hear the birds is increased ten-fold.

But this morning, the curtains are going everywhere with each gust of wind.  The breeze throughout the house moves things off the tables… and I love it.  It’s refreshing and cool and crisp and just a perfect morning to sit with some coffee and blog.

My cats are not pleased.

I think I spent about half an hour petting Tiki and reassuring him this morning.  We were sitting there in the living room and with every gust of wind, his ears would perk back and he would meow and I think he was a bit overstimulated for a lazy holiday morning.  He didn’t know where to look, or what to do, as this is not a typical occurance inside of our home.  I’ve noticed that since I left his side, he sits in the middle of the room, far away from the windows on both side.  Our other cat… Turbo… the one who likes to sit in the windows the best, has still not made an appearance.

Wind turbines like these have become common over the skies
in Iowa.  You can look out and see hundreds turning and know
that the wind is moving… where you would have forgotten it
was moving before.

The blowing of the wind always leads me to ponder the Holy Spirit.  She blows where she will, she stirs things up and creates a ruckus, and we are either comforted or agitated by her presence.

When we are ready and receptive to her promptings, it is a refreshing change of pace.  I was recently at a training event with some of my leaders and we were exasperated by the lack of movement we had seen with a process we were implementing at church.  We felt stuck and yet we were surrounded by people in prayer and song who had been hearing the Spirit’s beckoning.  And so got through the morning and sat down for lunch together and over food and breaking of bread, the Holy Spirit showed up.  In half an hour, we had completely reinvisioned how we might lead our church through this process and felt energized and moved to go wherever the Spirit sent us.  It was mighty.

But when we are not ready for that change, when we are not looking for the Spirit and she shows up… trouble is brewing.  We tend to isolate ourselves and run away.  We make noises and complaints about how we have never done things that way before.  We run around like chickens with our heads cut off and then when its obvious that the changes are here to stay – that the spirit is moving and there is nothing we can do about it, we plop down and give up.  We get in the way.  We refuse to budge.  That is how I responded (for the most part) to my calling.  I tried to ignore it.  I told myself and others it was never going to happen.  I headed off to do something else all together with my life.

But the Spirit will keep blowing.  And even when you sit down and cross your arms and your legs and refuse to budge the Spirit will gently nudge you to look around and somehow you’ll realize that you are where the Spirit wanted you to be all along.  And maybe at that time you’re just more receptive to seeing it.  And you stand up, and she fills you to the brim.  And you realize, it was a mighty ride.