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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.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

the problem with social media

As I scroll down my Newsfeed on Facebook, I often become depressed. I see happy couples, cousins growing up together, babies being born, exotic vacations, my friends becoming doctors and lawyers...I feel like my life doesn't measure up. But I am also guilty of contributing to this unrealistic image of a "happy" life. I don't want to use social media as an outlet for complaining, so I often just post the happy moments. 

If you are following me on Instagram or Facebook, you have probably noticed an overwhelming amount of positive posts from me in the past six months. But please know, this is a choice. My life is extremely difficult. But I am choosing to practice gratitude and to focus on the positive.

The truth is that I don't like to talk about some of the hard moments. I got a spinal tap done in December and was in so much pain that I had to get a follow up procedure to help me be able to function. I've had seizures, so I'm not allowed to drive (the reason why I'm having other people drive me around as seen in the #inthecarwithKat series). One day in February I was late to work because I had to get an EEG brain scan. 

Beyond the inconvenience and discomfort of all these appointments and procedures, there is a lot of pain. For about an hour one recent afternoon, I was lying still on a table, getting a brain MRI completed. As I lay there, I prayed for people. I sang songs in my head. I got excited about my plans for that evening. But before I knew it, tears started welling up in my eyes. I found myself remembering my first MRI after my surgery in August and how scared I was, not knowing what my future would hold. The emotional pain is still there. I've gone through a lot. No one can understand what I've gone through. Every neurosurgery patient has a different experience. It's a lonely place to be in.

I am not alone, of course. I am so grateful for Jesus, and the way that He has provided the strength and the grace that I have needed to make it through every single moment. I thank my friends and family who have stuck by my side and supported me, even as I've gone through some crazy personality and behavioral changes (right frontal lobe). I'm excited to have made a lot of new friends who have been incredibly supportive and kind to me, even after I've explained my health situation.

I've been thanked for being vulnerable, for being honest about my struggles. I will continue to do this if it encourages people. I honestly have no idea who is reading my posts. But if I encourage even one person, then it is worth it to me.

Monday, May 11, 2015

uncertain times [journal excerpt from 7 years ago]

Excerpt from my journal, when I was about to graduate from Georgetown University

May 8, 2008

Jesus,

I have so much to talk about, but I feel so pressed for time...anyway, first, I wanted to than You for speaking to me and opening my ears to hear it. Thank You for Catacombs [church worship event] on Sunday and for reminding me that what others say about me doesn't matter--I'm a daughter of God, and nothing anybody says can change that. No job title can define me. You have created me with certain passions and You have given me a dream--no one can take that away. I pray that You continue to speak these truthes to me, especially over the next few critical weeks.

Thank You so much for the Social Justice Bible Study and all the events surrounding it. Thank You for [the woman] on the bus, questioning who is the ruler of this world, and why is there so much chaos. Thank You for the Bible Study itself and how You really got me thinking about living a lifestyle of social justice, and how this should just be an outpouring of Your spirit within me. Thank You for my scare coming home--it helped me consider the implications of what I want to do with my life (living and/or traveling in areas where I feel/am unsafe). Thank You, thank You, thank You.

God, please give me discernment over the next couple of weeks as I have to make difficult decisions. Also, give me grace and favor during my interview tomorrow. Open the door if this would be according to Your will.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

what type of legacy do I want to leave?

Excerpt from my journal (age 15)

February 25th, 2001
Sunday, 12:10am

Today I watched the video Anne Frank Remembered, and in a way it overwhelmed me. This girl had her legacy written in a diary, which is now translated into many languages. I have started thinking about what legacy I will leave on this earth. 

What if I died tomorrow? How would people remember me? Would people see me as a caring person who loved Jesus or a shy person who followed the crowd? I truly want to be remembered as a person who loved Jesus with all my heart and who strived to become more like Him. A person who cared about others and showed her true self.

getting ready for college...

Excerpts from my journal

March 28th, 2004

Jesus,


I really need help deciding what do regarding college and/or missions. I need to make an official decision within the next month. Please give me wisdom to make the correct decision--what You want in my life. 

--------------------------
March 29, 2004

Jesus,

I give everything to You. My worries about college, AP tests, scholarships, prom, Mom's health, [guy], friends...EVERYTHING!!! Please remove all this stress from my shoulders--I cannot bear it anymore! I need You to take it off of me! Take it away! Lord, I cannot do this--I am so happy that I can finally say that.

Thank You for allowing me to be accepted to Georgetown University...I feel very honored. :) Really it does boost my self-esteem majorly though. Despite my not-so-perfect test scores, they accepted me! Out of 14,800 applicants, they only accepted 1,500--and I was one.

Jesus, I now have one month to decide about college. Please help me decide and show me what decision You want.


-------------------------
March 31, 2004

Jesus,
This evening was exactly what I had been needing for a long time. I suddenly felt at peace--it's not that I was denying my problems and/or worries, it is just that they didn't matter anymore. I don't have to carry the burden. It is so wonderful to finally experience that. I also finally didn't care what people thought about me. I got rid of all the crud I had been holding on to and the façade I had made my own.

Jesus, I am such a screwed up person. But You love me and DIED for me anyway...You MUST be true goodness if You would die for a messed up person like me. I really understood that for the first time this evening.

Jesus, I give You today and all of me because that is all I have to give. And that is how it should be. I have no control over what happens, so why not give all my strength and controlling attempts to You?


Friday, May 1, 2015

reflections on becoming an adult...as told by my 18-year-old self

Excerpt from my journal:

February 21, 2004

Jesus,

So my birthday has come and gone, and I still feel the same. Am I supposed to feel like an adult when I turn 18 years old? Am I supposed to feel like a peer among other adults? Am I supposed to be above all the teenage drama? Well, I don't feel any of those things. I don't even look 18--people say that I look like I am 14 or 15. But hey, I've also been told that I am very mature for my age and a natural leader.

Lord, within the past couple of weeks I have really contemplated my self-image. I don't have enough self-confidence. I always want the right clothes; I want to befriend the semi-popular crowd; I want to be liked by guys (but when this happens, I am still not happy); I want recognition; I want to be the best; I want perfect hair and a skinnier body (though I am really thin but muscular); I want better scores on the ACT, SAT, and SAT II's; I want better guy friends; I want, I want, I want...

Yet I know that none of this will satisfy me--it's all superficial...but it is so hard. I sometimes think that I look pretty and that my hair/body are perfect. Sometimes I feel really ugly and awkward and that my hair is annoying and that my body is disproportional. 


Lord, help me to be secure in You. help me develop my own sense of style. Help me be content with all the wonderful things that I have. Help me appreciate all the people I have changed, all the friendships I have gained. Help me see things the way You see them. Help me see myself the way You see me. Help me praise You in the midst of blessing and suffering.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

11 years ago...

[A recent prayer request from a senior in high school reminded me of my difficult time not that long ago, when I was a senior in high school and my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Please pardon my terrible Spanish...I honestly didn't even speak Spanish back then and I definitely never prayed in Spanish.]

February 2nd, 2004

Jesus,
I have to admit that I am scared beyond belief. I am so afraid that tomorrow the doctors will say that Mamá has _____ time to live. Lord, that makes me want to live my own life to its fullest and also to forget about school and to just spend time with Mom. Maybe I am overreacting since I don't know any info yet but I am at least being honest. Please give me faith to believe in you in a time like this; please give me the grace to not explode on my friends; and please give me a blatant reminder of your love for me and your love for Mom.

*Refer to Hosea 13:14 
[I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?]

_________________________________________________________________________________

February 3rd, 2004

Jesus,

HELP MY MOTHER (PLEASE).

I am so torn apart. I am sad, depressed, angry, spiteful, rebellious and more than anything want to start cursing. I want so badly to turn into a "bad girl" and to stop feeling the pain. But in my heart I know that all of that is wrong, but sometimes I wonder what is holding me back. I want to rebel and talk back to my parents; I want to punch my brothers; I want to yell "F***" as loud as I can; I want to not care about anything; I want to forget about school and to not do any homework...As I said, I don't want to feel the pain. And the inevitable question...

WHY????


Why is my Mamacita diagnosed with AML - some sort of leukemia. Lord, I did pray for your will to be done no matter what but I do have to admit that now that this is closer to reality it is SO HARD!!! 18.7% chance of making it through the next five years. I know that means that only one out of five people with this CANCER survive. SOBREVIVIR - to survive. I just looked up this word a few days ago. How appropriate. :(

Lord, I may be overreacting, but...I want Mom to make it to my graduation. I want her to see her grandchildren and great grandchildren and great grandchildren. I want her and Dad to have a 50 year wedding anniversary. I want to confide in her when I believe I have met my future husband.

Oh, Lord, I am so heart-broken. Mom will probably still be in the hospital during my eighteenth birthday on the eighteenth of February. I will become an adult without...well, I don't want to actually say it.

POR FAVOR, MI SEÑOR PRECIOSO, MI MAMÁ SOBREVIVE DURANTE ESTE TIEMPO TURBULANTE. YO NECESITO TU AYUDA Y APOYO MÁS QUE TODOS TIEMPOS ANTES. AYÚDAME! POR FAVOR REPOSTA MIS ORACIONES. QUIERO SU CAMINO AUN SI ES UNA COSA QUE NO QUIERO. EN MI CORAZÓN TENGO POQUITO FÉ, Y POR ESO YO NECESITO RECIBIR MÁS FÉ DE TI. TU ERES EL GRAN SEÑOR Y TU PUEDES HACER TODO...POR FAVOR AYUDA A MI MAMÁ Y MI FAMILIA. TE NECESITO MUCHO AHORA!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

preparing to return to work [six months ago]

journal entry from six months ago

Sunday, October 12th, 2014
8:19pm
home in KCK

"Lord, thank You for bringing me to this point. I spent so much time worrying about health insurance, having a job, going crazy without working, etc. Now it's been 8 weeks since my surgery, and I'm going back to work tomorrow. Those first moments after surgery at my parents' house felt like they would never end --I do not have the strength to make it through, but You were my strength. Even on those incredibly difficult mornings when I didn't want to get out of bed.

I'm nervous about tomorrow (how people will look at me, what questions they will ask me, etc.). Thankfully, I am no longer scared about over-working. I am still Kathleen, but I am the new, improved Kathleen. Jesus, You are (still) my first priority. My health is my second priority, including healthy boundaries. My relationships (family, friends, community) come next. My worth is not based on my accomplishments, or how I perform at work. My worth is in the price that You paid on the cross. My victory is in You.

Please give me discernment tomorrow and in the coming days -- how to answer people's questions, how to keep some details to myself, how to integrate my role into a part-time schedule.

As I look ahead, I feel fear. Fear of failure, exhaustion, depression...But Your perfect love casts out all fear. The future is not guaranteed, so I will just do my best to draw near to You each day and to bring You glory, one day at a time."

Saturday, April 4, 2015

moving back home [six months ago]

excerpts from my journal, six months ago
Saturday, October 4th, 2014; 8:24am
Olathe, KS

"Lord, thank You. I can't say it enough. I know that this season or trial isn't necessarily over, but I feel great, and I'm so excited to have this chance to start over. There were so many times this summer and even right after surgery that I didn't think that I had the endurance to make it any longer. I was so tired and fed up with feeling terrible. I had lost hope. Many days blurred together, and it felt like the struggle would never end. But You were always there for me.

I have been so blessed to be able to live with my parents for four months. I was frustrated, while journaling, to not be able to write that I was back in KCK. It was so hard for me to not know when this could be a possibility. I had to wait and see how things would go. I was so tired of waiting (even of 'resting'). But the time has arrived. I move back to KCK today. I have no idea what the future holds, but I choose to trust You. You will continue to be my strength, and You will continue to give me the grace to make it through each day.

Please help me not to lose sight of You and Your faithfulness during this time. Please help me to not be terribly disappointed when situations do not meet my expectations Help me have grace for myself when I 'mess up' or do not accomplish everything that I wanted to. [...]"


Friday, March 20, 2015

6 months ago...still relevant today

excerpt from my journal, six months ago:
Friday, September 19th, 2014
somewhere on the road to recovery - Olathe, KS

"Lord, I don't know what to do, but my eyes are on You. It took a couple of hours to get out of bed this morning, even though I was hungry and knew I needed to take care of myself by eating breakfast and taking my morning meds. I don't want to be too hard on myself and say that I'm failing - the truth is that I'm scared. I'm scared of trying to move back home, of not being ready for work, of falling back into my old ways of being too busy/without margin. [...]

Dad says that I just need to trust now. Yes. How do I keep struggling with the same thing over and over and over again? [...]

Lord, I choose to trust You even in difficult times like this. It seemed so simple to trust You with the surgery. I obviously had not really considered how difficult the recovery could be for me. It almost seems ridiculous to me that I'm struggling so much with recovery. You got me through this summer somehow and through the surgery and through almost 5 weeks of recovery, so why am I freaking out now? You will not drop me now. [...]

Lord, please help me. I want to be able to 'not worry about tomorrow.' But I'm so weak and prone to worry. Michael came by and reminded me to be thankful. So let me choose to praise You, even when I don't feel like it.

Lord, thank You for my family who is putting up with me during this difficult time. Thank You for my brothers who are also my friends. Thank You for all the people who prayed and are praying for me. Thank You for all the encouraging cards and balloons. Thank You for how accommodating Donnelly has been. Thank You for showing Donnelly favor with enrollment this fall. Thank You for the significant progress that I've seen since the surgery. Thank You for the healing work that You are performing in my skull and in my brain. Thank You that Your mercies are new every morning. Thank You for never leaving my side."

checking in with 2015 goals

Some goals (in no particular order): [written on January 3rd]:

Revive this blog [working on it!]
Read at least one book per month (goodreads) [no progress with this]
Do more art [check]
Finish reading Bible (last year I got more than halfway through the ESV) [basically no progress]
Continue learning French and planning for France trip (April 2016!) [haven't worked on this in a while]
Teach ESL [hoping to do this in the summer]
Learn Nepali [Ashish is sending me the Nepali word of the day]
Help my mom launch a blog and youtube channel [I've had a lot of health issues preventing me from spending time with my mom]
Sundays: family, friends, church. No errands, chores, or work. [check-mostly]
Go to Guatemala for mission trip & vacation (October 2015) [planning on it!]
Make new friends [check!]
Learn how to dance [working on this]
Work on personal projects [kind of...]
Go on at least one date (any takers? haha) [check!]
Get involved with Young Latino Professionals and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce [check!]
Exercise at least three times per week [does walking to work count?]
Switch to organic, natural food & other products (makeup, household cleaners, etc.) [check]
Run at least one race this year [planning on the GCI 5K in May...]

Saturday, January 17, 2015

new life

I was just thinking, I wish everyone could experience this gift of new life that I've been given...and then I realized, everyone can! So much of life is about how we react to situations and the attitude that we choose. Each new day is a gift. Each moment, each breath. When we start to view life as a gift, we start to practice gratitude. And gratitude has the power to change our lives. It colors our life and our experiences. Challenges and trials become opportunities. And these opportunities, no matter how painful in the moment, can become catalysts for lasting transformation.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

#practicegratitude


In preparation for the New Year update card that I'm sending out, I've been spending quite a bit of time reflecting upon this past year. 2014 was an intense year: intensely challenging & painful, but also intensely rewarding & liberating.

This year I hope to challenge everyone to join me in making a conscious effort to practice gratitude. Tag your pics and posts: #practicegratitude 

Gratitude is contagious and meant to be shared.

Monday, January 5, 2015

two thousand fifteen


Some goals (in no particular order):

  • Revive this blog
  • Read at least one book per month (goodreads)
  • Do more art
  • Finish reading Bible (last year I got more than halfway through the ESV)
  • Continue learning French and planning for France trip (April 2016!)
  • Teach ESL
  • Learn Nepali
  • Help my mom launch a blog and youtube channel
  • Sundays: family, friends, church. No errands, chores, or work.
  • Go to Guatemala for mission trip & vacation (October 2015)
  • Make new friends
  • Learn how to dance
  • Work on personal projects 
  • Go on at least one date (any takers? haha)
  • Get involved with Young Latino Professionals and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Exercise at least three times per week
  • Switch to organic, natural food & other products (makeup, household cleaners, etc.)
  • Run at least one race this year