Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Year mercies

Here in KC we've been enjoying a bit of an "Indian Summer," with temperatures quite warmer than usual for winter. The weather and sunshine have a direct impact on my mood - I've been feeling excited for spring (prematurely) and for the fresh start of this new year. 

I don't really like setting New Year's Resolutions, but I think that I've been caught up in the excitement of a chance to begin again. I have an overly ambitious list running in my mind of areas that I'm hoping to see improvement in - I've already found myself feeling discouraged about the ways that I've let myself down. So I have to remind myself today that no matter how hard my situation may seem, I can find rest knowing that His mercies are new every morning, not just at the beginning of a new year.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

the eighteenth: my ebenezer!

As the eighteenth of each month passes, I become overwhelmed with gratitude. Another month of life. This date is easy for me to remember because my birthday is on the eighteenth of February. And my surgery "happened" to fall on my half birthday, the eighteenth of August. God is awesome like that. He hasn't allowed me to forget His goodness.

Mark Batterson, my pastor while I lived in DC, often talks about the importance of celebrating answers to prayer, ebenezer moments, with the same intensity with which we prayed. Ebenezer, a word in Hebrew, means "thus far the Lord has helped us."

It is hard for me not to celebrate every little answer to prayer these days. It's only been a little over a year and a half since my surgery. Just a year ago, I was asking for rides everywhere because I wasn't allowed to drive. I committed to play kickball weekly hoping that I would be able to find rides to all the games and practices. I'm playing kickball again this year, and I just realized the joy in the freedom of being able to drive myself to kickball!

So please rejoice with me in all that the Lord has done in my life! And take a moment to remember how much the Lord has done in your life.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

a moment of mindfulness and gratitude

I have given up complaining for Lent. This has been harder than I thought it would be. I catch myself on the brink of complaining ALL THE TIME.

As a part of Lent, I have also been more intentional about recognizing the positive choices I've been making toward self-care. One way that I've been taking care of myself is through no longer speeding excessively while driving. (I have been guilty of this for years.) This has allowed me to not feel as stressed all the time.

I left work early today because I was feeling exhausted and really sick to my stomach. As I was driving home at a relaxed pace (no speeding!), I considered calling someone to complain about how terrible I was feeling. Instead, I focused my attention on the trees that lined the street bursting with white blossoms and the fluffy white clouds that filled the brilliant blue sky. I was overcome with wonder and awe at how beautiful this life could be. And this was but a glimpse into the beauty of our Creator. How could I so often miss these details? I instantly felt calm and didn't feel the pain in my stomach anymore. I had shifted all my attention from my pain to my gratitude and worship.

I would like to encourage you to try the same. The next time you are in a difficult situation, take a deep breath and focus on one thing that you are grateful for. It can be as simple as a text message received or the cool afternoon breeze. This attitude can change your entire life. It has changed mine. And I'll never be the same.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Is it Ash Wednesday already?

Confession: Even though I grew up in a Christian home, I did not hear about Lent until high school. A peer of mine mentioned that she couldn't eat chocolate chip cookies because of Lent. I guess that I was too shy to ask about it, because I did not find out more until I attended a Jesuit university years later. As a Protestant Christian who was familiar with the concept of fasting (giving up something for a time in order to draw closer to God), I liked the idea of Lent. So even though I had not grown up with the practice, I gave up Facebook for Lent my freshmen year of college. And believe me, that was quite the sacrifice at the time. But honestly, I don't know if that helped me draw closer to God.

My senior year of college I decided to give up complaining while adding gratitude. I created a chart for each day of Lent and would write in something that I grateful for. (I was already cultivating a practice of gratitude and mindfulness.) This had a profound impact on my life. Every time that I was tempted to complain, I would shift my thinking to all the blessings that I had in my life. This helped increase my awareness of God's presence in the small, mundane moments of life. For example, I remember studying one afternoon at Barnes and Noble and a lady striking up a conversation with me. She asked me about my career goals (I think I was still clueless) and really encouraged me, giving me her business card. Without the practice of being grateful, I may have been annoyed by this woman interrupting my studies.

Today is Ash Wednesday. I'm sitting in Panera, watching people come in with their ashen crosses on their foreheads. I saw many people announce on Facebook that they would be giving up Facebook for Lent. I honestly haven't been really been thinking or praying about what to do this Lent. But as I recalled my senior year of college, I am leaning toward giving up complaining* again and keeping another list of gratitude. I will also continue to let go of a difficult grudge that I've held on to for a long time. I think that I will also make an intentional effort to record all the times I make a positive choice toward self-care (a constant struggle for me)--this will help me have more margin in my life in order to be more present in the moment and to be more emotionally and physically healthy.

*complaining topics include: the cold weather, my health, finances, living situation, relationship status, etc.

Day 1:
Gratitude: I'm grateful for a working computer that I can take to Panera, in a neighborhood in which I feel safe.
Self-care: I did not order a Chai Latte at 5pm (even though it sounded amazing!)because I wanted to make sure that I could sleep well this evening.

Confession #2: I came to Panera to get ahead on a work project. But apparently that really inspired me to write this post. ;)

Friday, January 1, 2016

lessons learned from 2015

I have found out that, although I continue to journal regularly, I have not been quite so consistent with blogging. (I have about 10 drafts that I have not completed from the past six months.)

I began 2015 so full of hope and excitement for new opportunities and experiences, but by the end of the year I was disillusioned and exhausted. The truth is that I had lost my focus. While #practicegratitude and #nofear2015 were good reminders about how I wanted to make some intentional changes in my life, I slowly over-committed myself by trying too many of the things that I had always wanted to do. (I felt so empowered--nothing was stopping me!) Before I knew it, I was spending very little time at home. At some point in this process, I also got distracted from my personal devotion to Christ.

I am not going to make a long list of goals this year. I didn't really complete most of the ones that I set for last year. But that doesn't mean that 2015 was a failure. I learned that in order for me to be able to help others, I must first take care of myself. I am also reminded that I must continue to place Christ as first in my life, even when things get busy and/or stressful.

I am excited to leave the pain of 2015 behind without forgetting the lessons I've learned. Here's to a new year with a new focus!


Friday, August 21, 2015

life is an adventure [lessons learned from #inthecarwithKat]

"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered."
-G.K. Chesterton

In January, I was told that I would not be able to drive for six months. One of my friends asked me why I wasn't freaking out more about this. I simply said that there was nothing I could do about it, so I wanted to focus on the positive and make the most of the experience. When I had my neurosurgery back in August 2014, I had no idea what would be the implications of recovery. I chose to be grateful for the hard moments and treat them as strength-building for myself as well as an opportunity to encourage others.

I was commenting to my friend, Estuardo, about how fun it was for me to get to know different people as they gave me rides. He suggested that I create a podcast called "In the Car with Kat." I ended up just turning it into a hashtag series of photos on Instagram.

Here are some of the lessons I learned from #inthecarwithKat:

1) Most people are willing to help, but we are just too afraid to ask. Most of my life I was hesitant to ask people for favors; I never wanted to inconvenience anyone. But I quickly learned that if I wanted to get anywhere, I would need to ask for rides from people. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get to where I needed to go without asking too many people. Some people went completely out of their way to pick me up or drop me off--thank you so much! I only took a cab twice (once out of sheer laziness, and once because of poor planning). I have yet to use Uber.

2) I used to spend way too much time shopping or running errands. I realized that the things that I thought I "urgently needed" could actually wait. Usually it didn't seem worth asking for a ride.

3) Be careful as you choose a driver. I won't name any names, but there were a few times when I didn't feel 100% comfortable on my ride home (driver texting, just met driver that day, teenage driver didn't have license, etc.). I said a lot of prayers for safety while in the passenger seat, haha. But the majority of my experiences were positive and fun.

4) I love walking. I miss when I lived in DC and walked most places. I enjoyed being "forced" to walk around my neighborhood: to work, to the corner store, to a friend's house, etc.

5) I have a lot of supportive people in my life. I already knew this, but it was amazing to see all the different people who gave me rides: roommates, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, students, parents, YLP members (especially kickball teammates!), etc. I didn't even take a picture with majority of the people who gave me rides.

6) Photos are important to me. As I look back over the series of photos, I smile with the memories of heading to Sunday lunch with my family; students helping me run errands; making new friends or catching up with old friends; road trips; graduation excursions; Royals games; YLP gatherings (formal/informal); kickball!; vacation; being with children and/or teenagers in the backseat; etc. I was bundled up in my parka in some of the first pictures and definitely in sunglasses and summer attire most recently.

7) The adventures don't have to end. I became a lot more laid back when I had to rely on others for transportation because there was so little that I could control. I laughed a lot more. I went out a lot more. I'm not saying that I will keep asking for rides all the time, but I hope to keep the adventurous spirit that I gained throughout this whole experience.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

what is my life really about?

What is my life about? I hope that the answer to this question is evident to everyone who knows me or has spent time with me.

These questions* challenge me to honestly evaluate if I'm living my life accordingly. Take a moment to see what the answers to these questions say about your life.

1) For what do you sacrifice money?
2) When you're hurt, where do you go for comfort?
3) What disappoints you or frustrates you the most?
4) What is it that gets you really excited?

Here is my best attempt at answering these questions for myself:

1) For what do you sacrifice money?
Show me your bank account, and I'll tell you what you value. Money is a necessary part of life, although I wish I didn't have to depend on it so much. I have always sought out jobs that are meaningful and something that I believe in. This usually falls into the nonprofit category, meaning that I don't make a lot of money. But I have chosen to live simply so that I can pay my bills and still give generously. I strive to support my church/ministry, community, and friends. I like to have the ability to give if needs arise.

2) When you're hurt, where do you go for comfort?
In recent months, I think that I've tried to distract myself from hurt by going out with friends and trying to forget what I'm going through. Ultimately, that doesn't heal my heart or solve my problems. So I end up turning to God, usually in tears. I am so grateful for wonderful family and friends who have helped me process my thoughts and emotions during difficult times.

3) What disappoints or frustrates you the most?
I am disappointed when things don't turn out the way that I had hoped or expected. That is why I was a pessimist for so long. I didn't want to get my hopes up if I would only feel crushed when things didn't work out. In light of some recent hardships, I've chosen to daily give up my expectations and hopes to ask God what He wants from my life.

4) What is it that gets you really excited?
I am most excited when I am talking about the transformation that Jesus has done in my life, especially in this last year. I also come alive when I spend time with the girls that I mentor, hearing their hopes and dreams, listening to their prayers. I also love when I am able to help someone in the community get connected with a resource needed, especially when it's related to education. I believe that my God-given purpose/calling in life is to be a voice for those who don't have a voice. To be an advocate, especially for the immigrant and refugee. So I am full of excitement when I am living out my calling in life.

I am trying my best to live an intentional life. I want my every action to reflect what I value and what I prioritize in my life. I hope that these questions can also challenge you to live a more intentional life.

*Questions found in Not a Fan. by Kyle Idelman

Saturday, June 27, 2015

attitude is a choice

At some point in this last year, I became the person who always used to annoy me. The person who is so full of joy and is always posting positive things on social media. If you didn't know me before my surgery, you may find it hard to believe that I used to be a huge pessimist.

I actually remember lying on an "about me" project in second grade to say that I was an optimist, even though I knew that I wasn't. (I used a sunshine happy face with sunglasses to represent my favorite season, summer, as well as my optimistic attitude.)

My life has been full of struggles. Poverty, family health issues, etc. I hated to hope because I knew that bad things would happen to me and that I would be let down. However, since my diagnosis and surgery last August, I realized that I couldn't control what was happening to me and around me. So I needed to focus on what I could control: my attitude. Bad things happen all the time, but I could still find positive elements in the midst of the pain. I could see God's hands on my life, even in the worst situations. On a very practical level, of what benefit would it be for me or for anyone else around me if I were to be angry or bitter about something I couldn't control?

That is when I started talking about #practicegratitude. Instead of asking "why me?" with my brain tumor diagnosis, I thanked God for providing me with the best neurosurgeon in the country. Instead of being angry at the doctor who misdiagnosed me for two and a half months, I chose to thank God for using that time to strengthen my faith and to prepare me for the rough times ahead.

Once I made this intentional shift in attitude, I started to experience inexplicable joy and freedom. I used to live my life captive to fear (fear of failure, fear of what others thought about me, fear of the unknown, etc.). I could and probably will write a whole separate blog post about that. But once I shifted my attitude to one of gratitude, I realized that even when I made huge mistakes, I could laugh and be grateful for the lessons that I was learning. Previously I would have felt so terrible about myself and would have had a really difficult time getting over those mistakes.

Let me be honest with you. It is often very challenging for me to be grateful and positive. The hardest year of my life isn't over yet. Recovery has been much more difficult than I could have imagined. But I don't want to return to my former way of life. I want to choose joy and freedom. So I am very intentional about reminding myself about all the reasons that I have to be grateful. Many of the Instagram or Facebook posts you see are actually because I desperately need those reminders. This is also why I am such a big proponent of journaling. My journal entries remind me that no matter how I am feeling, God is faithful and that He will not leave my side.

Even now, I find myself in a place of much uncertainty. I've been feeling discouraged and disillusioned. So I've made an effort to write thank you notes during some of these low moments. It's such an easy way to bring a smile to my face or joyful tears to my eyes! In my prayers that I journal, I talk to God about all the things that are troubling me, but then I make sure to thank Him for the lessons that I am learning or hopefully will learn through these trials.

Please know that I am still struggling. For every one #practicegratitude post, there are probably five complaining posts that I have churning in my head. I am not ignoring or downplaying the difficult moments. I am instead choosing to be grateful in the midst of them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

a headache: reflections on recovery, self-care, and living an intentional life

I have a headache, indicating that something is wrong. My body needs more rest, because I did not sleep well the past couple of nights. I've been contemplating some big life changes, and nighttime is when all these thoughts come to mind and often interfere with my sleep.

My headache reminds me that just one year ago, I had the worst headache that would not go away. I would vomit up to seven times a day out of pain. I kept telling my parents that I wanted to poke a needle behind my right eye to relieve the pressure. I could not sleep without multiple ice packs around my head to try and numb the pain.

This headache didn't go away until two and half months later, after I had neurosurgery to remove the baseball-sized brain tumor that was causing the pressure. Unfortunately, I still couldn't sleep. The doctors gave me many medications to try and help with this. It wasn't until I got off all of those medications in December, nearly six months later, that I was finally able to sleep well.

Prior to my surgery, I didn't value sleep enough. I would stay up as late as possible because I never wanted the day to end. I would wake up early and drink multiple cups of coffee to keep going. I loved it. I thought that I didn't need sleep. I worked a lot, served a lot. I got a lot done. I thought that I was thriving. But deep down, I knew that I wasn't taking care of myself. I knew that I needed to make some changes.

At some point in April 2014, I took a piece of paper and wrote down my priorities. I was determined to rearrange my time commitments to match my priorities. I thought that I would begin that summer. God has a funny sense of humor. I like to say that He gave me a friendly "push" in the right direction.

Here I am, one year later, trying to realign my life with my priorities again. I want to live intentionally, to not waste time. 

Here they are, in order:

1) God - spend time in His word and in prayer
2) My health - set aside alone time; sleep well; exercise regularly; eat well
3) Family - go to weekly family lunches and call parents/siblings during the week
4) Friends - make quality time for those closest to me on a regular basis; keep in touch when not able to spend time together
5) Church - attend church services when possible; keep in touch with my church family (see #4)
6) Job - my job is not my life; go home after the work day is done
7) Community - help serve the community whenever I can

Several notes: I don't think that I prioritized health as high on my list last year as I have it now. But I've come to realize that I need to take care of myself to be able to give to others. Please also notice that God and church are not the same thing. My faith in Christ is not dependent upon attending church, but I do need the support of the church community and enjoy the fellowship. Lastly, I am trying my best to not define my life by my job. I am confident in the purpose and calling that God has given me. This can be seen through every aspect of my life, not just in my job.

Friday, June 12, 2015

tutte le possibilità

Life is full of possibilities. I'm at a point where I feel like the choices that I make today could determine the outcome of my life. But then I remember: "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." (Proverbs 16:9; NLT)

This life is but a breath. It seems like yesterday that I was a high school student hiding in my walk-in closet to finish my homework after my bedtime. (My parents insisted that I go to bed at 9pm, but I was in all honors classes and did sports after school...not leaving enough time for me to complete by homework by 9pm.) But I graduated from high school over 11 years ago. People keep telling me that I am young and that I have so much life ahead of me. But that is not a guarantee, nor is it an excuse to be frivolous with time. These first 29 years have gone by very quickly, and I don't want to waste a single moment of the rest of my life.

I have so many ideas of what my life could look like: to get married and have a family (including adopting/fostering children); to become an artist; to start a ministry and/or a non-profit organization; to go to graduate school (for what? I still don't know); to teach; to live in Buenos Aires; to write books; etc...I guess that these are not all mutually exclusive, but I probably can't become a doctor and lawyer and teacher all in one lifetime. 

I once came across a quote that really resonated with me from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath:

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

I don't know what my future might hold, but I am determined to live every moment with purpose and conviction. As I continue to trust God with each moment and each decision, He will direct the course of my life.

May my life bring glory to God. Soli Deo gloria. 

Friday, June 5, 2015


If you know me or follow me on social media, you have probably figured out that I am passionate about supporting students. I especially cheer on students who are the first in their families to be graduating from high school or college.

I have been SO excited because students have been reaching out to me through Facebook and other means to ask for help in getting ready for college, applying for scholarships, getting more involved in the community, and finding jobs.

I recently spent an hour or so looking for potential local scholarships for a student to apply for. As I read through the descriptions of the scholarships, I started to notice a theme. Many of the scholarships were named in memory of a student who had died before he/she had reached his/her potential. Other scholarships were named after individuals who had dedicated their lives to education.

One of my life goals is to begin a college scholarship fund. (I've already started a high school one without setting out to do it.) I'm obviously passionate about education, but I don't want this to be named after me. This isn't about me at all. I also don't want this to be completed post-humously.

As I was reading through these scholarship funds, I started asking myself, what would be the criteria for my scholarship? I would want it to be available to those who are often overlooked, not at the top of their class. Maybe those who don't have a lot of extracurricular involvement because they are helping support their families.

For now, I don't have the means or the influence to start a scholarship fund. But I will continue to support students and great programs like the Hispanic Development Fund.

One of my favorite things is to read scholarship essays, especially ones that describe a student's story. They inspire me to never give up. Their stories and perseverance give me hope for the future. These students are going to change the world for the better. It has been such a privilege to have helped some of them apply for scholarships and to have helped them sign up for college.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

GRATEFUL: the hardest and best year of my life

Seriously. This past year has probably been the hardest year of my life.

On June 4th, 2014, I woke up with a terrible headache and started vomiting from the pain. My whole body hurt and my vision was blurry.

This ended up lasting all summer. It wasn't until August 14th that I was diagnosed with a large Oligastrocytoma brain tumor. August 18th was my surgery, and I focused all my efforts on "recovery," even though I had no clue what that was supposed to look like.

I celebrated each accomplishment, no matter how small: washing my hair with normal shampoo, walking around Target without being overwhelmed, moving back to my apartment after 4.5 months of staying with my parents, etc.

I was obsessed with returning to work. I loved my job. It was so hard to spend an entire summer trying to get better from a misdiagnosed ailment and not knowing when I could work again. 

On October 13th, just two months after brain surgery, I returned to work part time. It was exhausting. I focused all my energy on making it through each day. I maintained a positive attitude, because I was SO grateful to be back. I had a renewed sense of purpose and asked my work to start including my mother's maiden name. I started to really own my Latina identity.

By December 1st, I was back to full-time at work and by mid-December, I was promoted. This was surreal. Every moment was still a struggle, but I started to become more confident that I was going to be okay. Physically, I was struggling to cope with the terrible side effects of the many medications that I was on. I lost a lot of weight and was vomitting most mornings when I woke up.

It was also in December that I finally joined Young Latino Professionals and met some of the people who would become my friends and greatest supporters. Thank you so much for not treating me differently because of my surgery. I love you guys.

In January, after having recovered from some spinal procedures, I had a partial seizure and found out that I would need to be on medication to prevent seizures and that I wouldn't be able to drive for six months. My work rewrote my job description to accommodate me (thank you!), and I found ways to get around.

On February 1st, I had a full seizure while I was waiting for lunch with my parents. I blacked out and was rushed away in an ambulance. A week later, on February 7th, I hosted my #practicegratitude party to celebrate six months of surgery recovery, as well as my 29th birthday. I still have everyone's contributions hanging up in my house. Thank you.

During this time, I started realizing that I had been going through some personality changes. I was no longer shy or afraid. I enjoyed being social. I had to re-learn how to not speak everything that was on my mind. This is quite scary for someone who has been a shy, reserved for 28+ years. Thank you to my friends, family, and co-workers who helped point out my innappropriate comments and temporary loss of filter.

This year has been so challenging. I've had to deal with the unknown on a regular basis. Would I die in surgery? Would I be permanently disabled? Would the tumor grow back? Almost every day I am faced with a new challenge. But I have learned to focus on what I can control: my attitude. I cannot control what has happened to me.

Why would I want to be bitter and angry for all the pain I've gone through? That would only hurt me and hurt those around me. Instead, I've chosen to #practicegratitude and to focus on giving thanks to the Lord for giving me the strength that I've needed to make it through each challenge (and to survive every moment of everyday).

I've learned that it is okay to not be okay. Our society really pushes individualism and glorifies the image of people who "have it all together." But this is not reality. Everyone is struggling and needs help. I hope that we can become more open about this. We would become a much more healthy society and there would be less stigma attached to people asking for help.

I've learned to take care of myself. I used to just give, give, give. But now I acknowledge that it's healthy for me to have friends and to not spend every single moment serving the community. It's okay for me to have fun. I've finally reached a healthy weight, and I'm exercising on a regular basis. This is so important. If I want to be effective in giving to others, I must be healthy: physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally.

I've learned the power of vulnerability. As I share my story with others, people thank me and say they are encouraged. All I'm doing is being honest. Life is hard and can be extremely painful. But there is hope in Jesus. And I want to share that with everyone I meet.

excerpt from journal [one year ago]

Note: I wrote this journal entry/prayer only three days before I ended up getting "sick" and not being able to function. The Lord had been preparing me for the battle ahead. I'm so grateful for that.

Excerpt from journal
Sunday, June 1st, 2014
Buffalo Ridge Retreat Center

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. -Psalm 119:130

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may medidate on your promise. -Psalm 119:147, 148

Let my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word! -Psalm 119:169

Lord, I commit this summer to You. Have Your way. Have Your way with me, in my life. May I continue to walk in the conviction of Your sacrifice, of the work that You completed for me on the cross. May I continue to experience the freedom of not having to accomplish things. No matter how stressful it gets at work. No matter how I may feel. Don't let me lose this powerful revelation. Instead, please keep speaking this truth over me.

I love Your truth, Your words. They are life to me. For too long I tried to live my life in Your name by my own efforts. But I give in. I choose to be comforted by Your truth. I choose to stop trying to feel good about myself, about my accomplishments. I choose to find my identity in You, not in what my hands can do or make or hold. I'm giving all of myself for all of You. What an unfair exchange. But what a beautiful exchange!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

five years [a long obedience in the same direction]

I was introduced to the concept of "a long obedience in the same direction" the first time that I visited 61 as a part of The Gathering in January 2009. It was the title of the series we were going through. It is also the title of a book by Eugene Peterson (that I still need to buy!).

The first time I visited 61, Molly M got up to share about Mission Adelante. I was very interested in finding out more about the ministry. Throughout the rest of that year, as I would tell people about how my passion was working with Latino youth and families, they would ask if I had heard of Mission Adelante. It took me a long time to finally visit. It took me even longer to commit to volunteering. Finally, in January 2010, I committed to volunteering with LIT (Leaders in Training, Mission Adelante's after-school program). Within a couple weeks of volunteering, I knew that I couldn't keep driving to my Johnson County home and leaving the kids behind in KCK. I had to move to KCK. This wasn't just a volunteer commitment. This was my heart and passion, my community.

So five years ago, on May 21st, I moved to Kansas City, KS. God had provided a wonderful roommate for me, Molly D, who is now one of my best friends. I was the one who signed the lease and put my name on all the bills. (I wanted to feel like a "real adult" after moving out of my parents' house). I didn't know what to expect, or how long we'd live here. But I knew that I was obeying the Lord. I didn't (and still don't) realize how long of a journey this would become...

I soon started attending church at Mission Adelante. Jarrett started a series on discipleship and encouraged us to think about who we could be discipling/mentoring. Since I mainly worked with kids, it made sense for me to think about which kids from LIT I would like to disciple. I prayed that the Lord would make it clear. Within a couple weeks, M, a sixth grader was telling me that she didn't know how she would finish all her homework. She didn't have enough time at LIT and she still needed help. So I asked her if she wanted to come over to my house to work on it Friday after school. The next week, G, M's best friend, asked if she could also get help. So I brought them both over to my house that Friday. Before I knew it, this became a weekly tradition. I would help them with homework, and then we would do something fun together. Family gatherings, First Fridays, movies, rollerskating, ice cream, pizza, birthday surprises, etc.

Fast forward two years, and the girls started talking about where they would be attending high school. They expressed interest in Bishop Ward. I knew that Bishop Ward was a great school, but I also knew that it would cost a lot of money. My dad encouraged me by saying that money was never an obstacle for God. So I wholeheartedly supported the girls in applying to Ward and studying for the entrance exam. It took them several tries on the exam before they were accepted to Ward. Then we faced the money concern. I knew that the money was out there and that I could probably find it, so I committed to assisting their families with the tuition costs for the first year at the school. I had no idea how challenging and time-consuming this would be. But I stuck with it and with them. Soon, Mission Adelante was able to start an actual scholarship fund for students who graduated from the LIT program who wanted to attend a private high school!

Please note; I never planned to start a scholarship fund. I just saw a need and volunteered to help some 11 year old students with homework. The rest resulted from building relationships with them and just being available. Conviviendo. Sharing life together.

Our relationships have changed over the years, but I've remained committed to being a part of their lives as long as they want me to be. There have been frustrating moments when I've wanted to give up. But I am finally beginning to see the fruit of all the years of ministry and PRAYER (and all the volunteers who have poured into their lives).

M and G are turning 16 years old this summer, and they have a bright future ahead of them. I can't wait to help them apply to colleges and and watch them graduate from high school in two years!

five years [following Christ is not safe]

Five years ago, I was really challenged. I believed that God was calling me to move to KCK, but I was scared. I went to high school in Johnson County, and I had heard terrible things about the "Dotte." I didn't think that I'd be safe there.

So I prayed. I begged Jesus to give me courage. I didn't want to be afraid of anything. I wanted to be able to be willing to die for Jesus. But I was scared of death, even though I knew my eternity was secure.

I started listening to old Urbana messages, and I listened to one that talked about how following Jesus wasn't safe and didn't necessarily make sense to others. Then it clicked. I wanted to follow Jesus with all my heart. And following Jesus wasn't safe. So it was okay for me to put myself in "unsafe" situations, if it was what Christ was calling me to do.

So I made arrangements to move to KCK. The day I went to sign my lease, I had a huge scare. But even that couldn't deter me. So five years ago, I moved to this wonderful community.

This is home. I'm so grateful to live in a neighborhood that is rich with culture. I don't feel scared anymore. Just yesterday you may have seen me walking along Minnesota Ave to Wyandotte High School's graduation.

Disclaimer: So many of my fears were based out of ignorance. Once I got to know my neighborhood, I was no longer afraid. I'd invite anyone to come meet my neighbors before making a negative comment about this community, my community.

Special thanks to Heartland, Westside, The Gathering, and Mission Adelante for all playing a key role in getting me here. And an additional thank you to BBBSKC, Donnelly College, and all the families and students that have made KCK home for me.

I'm so grateful.