Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas Prayer Request: to be made Shiny & Renewed (My Malaria Update)

My Christmas wish this year is for my friends and family to pray for the complete restoration of my health. This fall it was confirmed by the former head of the parasitic division of the CDC that I was, indeed, infected with malaria (vivax) while I was in Uganda in May of 2012. This Sunday I'll take my last pill that should rid my body of any lingering malaria in my system.

I've been hopeful the medication might do the trick, and that I might return to normal me, pre-Africa. However, it has become increasingly clear that the malaria gone untreated triggered chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in my body, which can't be cured, only managed by doing less--a lot less. (Here is more on CFS and the brain differences found in those who battle it.)

CFS is yet to be mastered by modern medicine or a special diet (unless you have a gluten allergy, which I don't.) But Jesus' hand of healing CAN set me free... if He so chooses to heal my body. Between now and the end of the year, I ask that you would plead with God, on my behalf, to heal my body.

CFS is a confusing disease to the observer because although it is debilitating at times, I can still do everything. But when I do push myself to do life (i.e. to clean and do several loads of laundry, go for a jog, go grocery shopping, substitute teach a few days a week, shovel snow, drive long distances, etc.) I "pay" the price for my activity in the same exact way you would if you drink too much alcohol. Living with CFS is a lot like living with a never ending hangover, and the more you do, the worse the "hangover."

Another way to look at it is like this: it's like playing football on an injury, except with CFS the season never ends. But on occasion, in wanting to keep my spirit alive, or because life requires, I'll push myself to play the game. Physically, I can't do this every day, but sometimes it's worth it to me to push my body beyond the limitations of this disease. For instance, for my 35th birthday, I went snowboarding with my friend Lisa, then spent the next three days in bed with a debilitating migraine. For me, at that time, the snowboarding was worth it, and so was the crash I experienced following a half day of white water rafting this past summer. Or, in July, I danced some and even caught the bouquet at a wedding. But then I had to disappear and go lay down, and bow out of the late-night festivities.

So yes, I can still do LIFE with CFS, but it just looks a lot different, and with it, I'm not well enough to work a full time job or any job with regular scheduled days and hours. For me, as a single woman, the economic implications of the illness are the scariest part. I'm nearly $6,000 in the hole with medical bills, and tapping into my 403b for survival. (PTL, I'm now on Medicaid.)

If you would, along with healing of my body, please pray for financial favor as I continue to pursue writing. This past year I submitted a few devotionals to possibly be published. One was picked up, but this one I pulled after seeing the changes made to it. But here is the original draft, a piece I wrote prior to knowing I had been infected with the malaria parasite.

Jonah 4: Letting Go

Growing up, in hearing the Sunday school version of Jonah, I learned I better do what God says... otherwise something bad might happen. I could face a storm, be tossed off a ship, and end up in the belly of a smelly fish if I didn't listen to Him.

I learned a formula: walk in obedience to God, and life will be good... or at least relatively so.

I didn't anticipate that in following God I could still face a storm in losing my job, be tossed off a ship in losing my home, and then have my stored possessions swallowed up by a hurricane.

Growing up, I don't recall much discussion of the last chapter of Jonah: the part where Jonah is angry at God because life didn't pan out as he believe God had "promised."

While Jonah got angry at God for extending compassion to his enemies, I've gotten angry at God for feeling like I've received unwarranted calamity.

After two tumultuous years, and no end in sight, and battling health issues to top it all off, I was tired of fighting to get my life back. My natural drive and positivity were run down with each job and health insurance rejection I received.

Then I went Christmas shopping (Dec. 2013), on a day my body was already weak. I leaned against my cart for support, but by the time I got to the back of the store I had to sit. So I rested on the shelving where the shiny new bikes hang out, feeling pathetic in comparison.

After some sitting and unhappy thinking, I garnered up enough strength to grab a few more items and check out. But by the time I got to my car, I was angry--angry at God. And as my fatigue transitioned into a migraine for the umpteenth time, I lingered in the lie that God doesn't care enough about me to intervene.

I started my 45 minute drive to my parents' place--angry at God for not healing my body, fearful of my financial future in not being well enough to work a full time job, and jealous of my married friends for the economic protection and health insurance they received from their husbands. My anger melted into tears, and half-way home, on US-12, I gave God the middle finger.

Immediately I acknowledged that was not the best idea. I supposed I had succumbed to the advice Job's wife had given him--to curse God and die. I wondered if I'd be struck by lightning, or more likely in Michigan, be struck by a herd of deer, waiting in the woods, getting ready to dart out in front of me.

I lowered my hand back onto the steering wheel, crying even harder as I did, and explaining to God, "That's how it feels like you're treating me. It feels like you're giving me the middle finger, that you've turned your back on me."

It was an interaction with God I didn't think I'd ever share--because it was shameful. Giving God the middle finger isn't a very Christ-like or lady-like thing to do.

Several weeks later, plagued with insomnia at 3 AM, I called my friend Amy in Hawaii. She updated me on the chaos she has been facing, and how God got her attention.

"I was at this church gathering and this woman I hardly know tells me she has a verse for me: Ephesians 4:31. 'Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger.' At first I was taken aback because I'm not an angry person, and I wasn't upset with anybody. But then it hit me, I was angry at God, and needed to get rid of the bitterness I felt towards Him. I needed to forgive God for not feeling like He protected me, for not meeting my expectations."

The idea of forgiving God seemed a bit blasphemous, but I understood how she felt, and why I might need to do the same. Amy explained, in letting go of her anger towards God, favor and grace are being redefined in her life. In seeking a posture of gratitude, she's determined to praise God regardless of her health and circumstances. In doing so, she is receiving much peace, strength, and hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. "That's where you and I are different," she insisted, "and where God's favor rests upon us. That's the University of Jesus Christ, and you have to go there to get it."

Q: Are you harboring any feelings of bitterness or anger towards God that you need to relinquish?

Pray on these things:
  • That you may pursue a posture of gratitude and praise regardless of your circumstances
  • That you may choose celebration rather than jealousy when goodness falls upon others
  • That you may remember God is with you every step of the journey, and He will never turn his back on you
Again, if you would, please keep me in your prayers this holiday season for complete healing of my body. That I may be made shiny and renewed, like the bicycles you see above. And, if you'd like to extend financial support, help me in promoting my book on facebook, or are willing to host me for a week or two this next year as I seek to set up a slow-paced book tour, please shoot me an e-mail. katrinablank (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks all for your prayers and support!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

And so as one season ends, the next begins.

Today marks first day of winter. (It also marks the Fourth Sunday in Advent.) I told my friends I hoped to have my books shipped out sometime this fall. Well, on Thursday I picked up my first round of the books from the printer.

I Hate Books on Christian Dating by Katrina Blank

By Saturday, the last day of fall, nearly all my pre-orders had been shipped out. Hurrah! Even with my computer crashing in October, I reached my goal to send out my books before winter. That said, I still have a ways to go in reaching my financial goals. My hope is to break even on production and printing costs by the end of winter.

If you haven't yet secured a copy, would you consider joining my print team by contributing a twenty dollar paypal friend gift to katrinablank (at) gmail (dot) com? As a thank you, I'll mail you an autographed, pre-release copy of I Hate Books on Dating, a memoir journey towards a mysterious God.

If you already have a copy, perhaps you refer your facebook friends to my website www.katrinablank.com where they can read the first chapter and join my print team if they're interested.

Thanks again, to everyone, who has been rooting for me in this endeavor!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

THIS is Victory

Two and a half years ago I jumped out of an airplane and plummeted two and half miles toward the earth. I jumped with friends, and landed safely on California soil.

A month later, I traveled to Africa. But when my plane landed back in New York, my body wasn't safe. Unknowingly I had been infected with what Bill Gates calls the worst thing on the planet.

Upon my return to the States I felt miserable. I was relieved when I received the call that the Colorado youth trip I had volunteered to help lead had been canceled due to forest fires. My energy levels were low and I didn't trust my body to take on the wilderness with a bunch of high school students.

As days turned to weeks, the vomiting and flu-like symptoms ceased, but the debilitating fatigue and headaches didn't. I blamed it on transitioning out of my job and packing up my NYC apartment.

Certainly, I thought, I'll feel better after spending some time at our family lake house in Michigan. But my zombie-like existence persisted, so when I returned to New York that fall (Sept. 2012), I scheduled an appointment with my doctor, and expressed concern that I may have picked up something in Africa.

And so that began my journey to find answers to what might be plaguing me. After 28 months, I received the news I had tested positive for malaria, plasmodium vivax. I was thrilled that something had been identified. But red tape (and a doctor at U of M) prevented me from properly treating the parasite in me.

Seven doctors later, including three tropical disease specialists, this past week I finally received the prescription I've desperately needed to eradicate this parasite from my body.

THIS is victory.
Celebrating my Malaria Prescription over a Shake Shack Burger

Yesterday I started Part 1 of my treatment. (The Michigan tropical disease specialist was only willing to prescribe Part 2, while the prescription print out & CDC guidelines insist not to take until you've been treated with Part 1.) Although it is yet to be determined if the medication will help with the chronic fatigue that the parasite triggered, I'll keep hoping (I have to!) that someday I'll return to full health.

In the meantime, I'll keep pressing into my book writing dreams and the hope of meeting a man who will stick with me for the long haul.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Momentum

This past week my blood made it safely to Utah. And I made it safely to Chicago.

After 48 days of fighting for a more sensitive Malaria test, a week ago Tuesday I had my blood drawn to be sent to a special laboratory out west. I celebrated the victory by picking up a few cute pairs of panties from the Gap in the mall. And, in a moment of weakness, I texted my ex-boyfriend.

I also returned a pair of black boots to Payless. The lady behind the counter wanted to know the reason for my return. I explained that I had been dating a guy who was 6'3", but since he and I were no longer an item I felt the heels on the boots made me too tall for dating purposes. The store worker was empathetic to the break up and the tragedy of having to worry about which shoes you can wear when you're already a rather tall woman. (For the record, I'm 5'8".)

Anyway, since I couldn't track my blood's journey like you would a fed ex package, a few days after my panty celebration I called to check on my blood's progress across the nation. Rather than receiving news of a confirmed arrival, I found out the wrong test had been performed and my blood had never even made it out of Ann Arbor.

Since my blood had since been discarded, I had to race back to Ann Arbor to get more blood syphoned out of me before the draw station closed for the weekend. I arrived at 5:59, a minute before close. Finally, this past week, I confirmed my blood had arrived in Utah. Next week I'll find out if  I have active malaria in my system that can be easily treated, or if I have unexplained chronic fatigue syndrome, which lasts an average of 6.7 years.

For now, I'm in Chicago. I drove out this way for Donald Miller's Storyline Conference. Although I was hesitant to attend, I felt like I was supposed to be here. And since this was the only week that I didn't have teaching jobs or doctors' appointments already booked, I said yes to the invitation. I felt the God nudge that I needed to go.

And since I recalled my favorite teacher, Erwin McManus, once say that it's easier for God to work with someone who is in motion, I chose momentum despite my health being rocky.

I'm so glad I did. Aside from the amazing sessions, I had the opportunity to say hello to Don and to meet his wife. He introduced me to her by saying, "This is Katrina Blank, one of my favorite young writers." He requested a copy of my book be mailed to him once it is printed. (If you'd like one too, katrinablank.com has the scoop on how you can order one.)

Also, today I got to meet and chat with the man who inspired the title of my book, Joshua Harris. Josh wrote a book years ago titled I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I apologized to him for poking fun at his book with the title of mine. He didn't seem to mind. So I toyed with asking him to endorse my book, but didn't.

I received a Bob Goff hug, and sat between his wife Maria and author Susan Isaacs during the final session. Before the session started, a woman in the row ahead of us told me there's a guy she'd like to set me up with. Apparently he's rather tall, which got me thinking, maybe I should go back to Payless and repurchase those black boots I just returned.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Muskoka Remix

And so I saw a shooting star.

I wasn't even wearing my glasses or my contacts and I still saw it. I'm near-sighted, which means I'm not supposed to be able to see that far away without assistance. But I did. I saw a flash of light soar through the heavens.

(In works)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Muskoka

As the seasons shifted from summer to fall, I crossed over country lines from the US to Canada to spend a couple of days with a couple of good friends from New York City.

After finding out that my malaria test might be a false positive, I needed a break from thinking about the health mess I am in. I am tired of battling insurance, medical bills, doctors, referrals, and a possible worker's comp claim. I'm exhausted by the red tape involved in my journey to get my health back. I just want a conclusive diagnosis, so I can be properly treated, so I can be well enough to start making a living again, and possibly even start living out my dreams again.

The other day I decided I needed to pause, and "fast" from all of that.  Because all of that was killing my spirit. So I left the country and drove up Muskako Canada...

IN WORKS...


Last night, while I was out on the dock, I saw a shooting star. It reminded me of the shooting start I saw in July when

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Plasmodium Vivax

Last Tuesday, September 2, 2014, I received the news.

That I'm not crazy,
And that the health issues I've been facing since May 2012 aren't simply psychosomatic.  

Last week I received the new from my doctor that I tested positive for Malaria, plasmodium vivax.  I couldn't be more thrilled to have a diagnosis and to know that I'm going to my health back.

This changes EVERYTHING.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Search Continues

As I settled into the passenger's seat, he handed me a long stem rose and I handed him a fortune cookie. After an early arrival at Denver International Airport, I had picked up an egg roll snack at Panda Express.  And, at check out, I had requested two fortune cookies.

Mine claimed, "A financial investment will yield returns beyond your hopes." Now that would be amazing. I've been crowd sourcing funds to edit, design, and print my first book. And yes, I'm making progress (hurrah!); however, I have a ways yet to go in my pre-release book sales. (See katrinablank.com for information on how you can obtain a pre-release copy for $20.)

Meanwhile, his fortune stated, "Enjoy the good luck a companion brings you." We both liked our fortunes, but I think he liked mine better. I'm not sure how much luck I've brought him since we've been getting to know each other. Perhaps our fortunes got mixed up. Because Mr. Colorado has brought me good luck in my search to find answer to what has been going on with my body.

The day before I boarded the plane to Denver I received the news that my July round of blood work returned with no answers. The doctor who it took me four months to find and to get in to see couldn't make a diagnosis for me. He was my last hope, and he had nothing to offer me. I was devastated, yet still determined to find answers, because I don't believe I'm just crazy. There has to be a reason that I've been feeling so miserable since returning from Africa.

In my final moments with this tropical disease specialist, he inquired, "Have you been tested for thyroid issues?" I got quiet because I felt so defeated. The first time I had met with this man he was kind and caring. This second time around, he wanted nothing to do with me.

"You probably have plenty of times already," he answered for me.

"Yeah, I have."

The doctor agreed to place a few more tests, including a malaria screening, and gluten/celiac disease evaluation, along with a few others. But he also told me, "I'll order these tests, but I want you to understand, I don't think we're going to find anything." Five more vials of blood were extracted from my arm that day (two weeks ago), and I could only hope, that maybe, something might be found this time around.

A night or two later, when I couldn't sleep, I studied my old blood work, considering, perhaps I might find something the doctors overlooked.

And I did.

Since the UM doctor had mentioned thyroid issues (as every other doctor I've been to has also suspected) I went through my thyroid test results and discovered my T3 level in December of last year was on the low end of the "normal."  I quickly learned that low T3 can be a huge culprit of fatigue and can also be an indicator of "comprised liver function."

I knew I was on to something, but again, I would need a professional opinion and evaluation.

Well, it just so happened that while I was out visiting Mr. Colorado, he introduced me to a friend of his -- a thyroid specialist. Last week she agreed to review my compiled test results over the past two years. She confirmed my suspicion: I need to be treated for thyroid issues.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dreams of Long Ago

Sometime ago I got stood up on a Friday night (well, canceled upon, two days in advance). Rather than making alternate plans, I determined I'd stayed in for the night.  I didn't feel well, and I had a piece of writing begging for my attention.

But in hopping on my computer, rather than going straight to my writing, I checked every form of social media first. (I'm so glad facebook and twitter didn't exist in my undergrad years.) I then continued on to my e-mail and discovered my pastor from LA was speaking that night in New York, near Columbus Circle.

Even though I didn't feel the greatest, I didn't want to miss his book signing.  I had to go, so I invited a friend along, and we booked it up from Soho to hear Erwin McManus speak, and to pick up copies of his most recent work: The Artisan Soul.

As I waited in line for my book to be signed I recalled how seven years prior I was nervous to talk to this particular author.  Back then I informed him I'd like to cohost a talk show and inquired if he had any suggestions for pursuing such a dream.  He recommended I become an expert on a particular subject matter.


I thought on it some and didn't know what I might become an expert on.  I wanted to have a talk show so I could interview other people -- expert individuals -- who could provide the meat of the show's programming content.  Erwin signed my book --Wide Awake-- and I continued on my way a bit discouraged, thinking the dream of my youth might be too far fetched, a bit too unrealistic. 

Still, that December my friend Aaron (a camera man who had worked on a series call The Drive TV) and a potential cohost, made plans to meet with a family friend of mine in Owosso, Michigan.  It seemed this individual (Gordon Pennington) might be able to help us with "The Dream." Although we enjoyed the conversation, our time in Owosso didn't seem to help move the dream along.

But then I moved from California to New York a few years later and I ran into this same family friend at a dinner party in the city.  Eventually I started to assist Gordon with some conference coordinating and in the process of booking speakers I befriended an amazing woman named Jackie.  En route from New York to Nashville last fall, I dropped by her place for a night, and she told me about this television network she has been in the process of getting off the ground.

Tonight I participated in a vision conference call for Jane TV .  Funny how the media dreams of my youth no longer seem so unrealistic.

But back to that Friday night - the night I got stood up.  This time when I got to the front of the book signing line I wasn't at all nervous to speak with Erwin.  In fact, I told him, "Extra bonus points if you can remember my name."


He replied, "Of course I know your name.  It's Katrina.  Katrina Blank."  I then insisted he stand up so I could give him a hug. 

Following my conversation with Erwin, I chatted with another author named Eric Metaxas.  He took interest in chatting with me because he also knows Gordon (that family friend), and I had connected with his top assistant a year or so prior.

I mention Eric because a few days following the book signing I learned that Eric is living out the dream of my youth.  You can check out his show, 100 Huntley

At this point in my life, I'm not overly eager to pursue possibilities in television.  However, I love seeing friends and acquaintances embrace such a medium as a means of offering hope to the world.
 

Monday, July 28, 2014

I Get To

I get to

Tonight, I get to

I don't get to every day

Because most days aren't that great

But tonight, I get to

Because my thinking isn't too foggy

And the fatigue isn't too heavy for me to type legibly and intelligibly

Or at least somewhat, anyway

Tonight I get to because I'm not drugged up on medication, or en route somewhere when I know I shouldn't be traveling

Tonight I get to

Tonight I get to write

Yet tonight, when I finally can, writer's block gets the best of me.  I can't seem to dig up anything notably creative or cleverly anecdotal. Instead, my default is to turn to the factual.

Like the four year old who asked me last Thursday evening if I would also be leaving the following morning.  I told him no, but explained I would soon be heading to Colorado.

"Do you know where Colorado is?" I inquired.


"Of course I know where it is," he insisted. "Colorado is where Paleontologist Daniel Fischer found a mastodon." He spoke his dinosaur geography like it was an obvious association to Colorado that everyone should know about.

Confession: I didn't know.  (Nor did I know how to spell mastodon without the assistance of spell check and google.)

Colorado also happens to be the state where the shooting star guy (see previous post) resides. Against my better judgment, I agreed to let him buy me a plane ticket for me to fly out to see him.

Yes, I want to see him, but I know better than to be traveling - and especially by plane.  I've avoided airplane travel since last summer, when I wasn't so sure I'd make it off the plane alive. I remember getting on the plane thinking, this could be it.  Not because I feared the plane might crash.  Rather, I feared my heart might give out on me before we landed.

Last June and July, especially, my body struggled to get enough oxygen. Although my ferritin level of 12 was considered fine by the labs, by God's grace I found an article on running that explained a ferritin level below 30 can cause all sorts of problems - like breathing issues and heart palpitations. 
Within a week of being back on iron, I no longer feared I might be dying.  The breathing issues subsided, and I hoped the heavy fatigue and headaches would eventually cease too.

But they haven't.

But I get to.

I get to because I occasionally have a good day or two in between the bad.

And I get to because I have parents who let me live with them at their lake home until my health can be figured out.

And I get to because I have a 401 K I can borrow from or cash in, once my credit card is maxed out.

And I get to travel, even when I'm not feeling it, because I have 4 friends getting married this summer and I wouldn't want to miss their wedding celebrations.

And I get to spend time with shooting star guy, because he believes I'm worth pursuing even though I'm not all that put together at this point in my life.

I get to because of God's grace.

And, last week, I FINALLY got to see the doctor who may have found the answer to what has been going on with my body.  More soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shooting Stars

"What would you wish for if you saw a shooting star?" I asked.

It was shortly after midnight on a moon-less night.  The stars shone bright on the dark tapestry of the night.  And we layed on the deck staring up at them. 

sand lake: the deck before dark

"I can't tell you, otherwise it won't come true."  He explained.

"But we haven't seen a shooting star.  It shouldn't matter." I argued. 

I answered my own question in my head, and then pushed the matter some more with him.  "Come on, we're hypothetically speaking.  If you saw a shooting star, what would you wish for?"

He paused and then finally answered, "I'd wish for you to get your health back."

He pulled me in a bit closer to side, and I looked over to him and said, "Yeah, me too."

We had both hypothetically wished for the same thing.  He and I know any sort of us or potential future is on hold until I can get better.

I'm still not.  And although we've linked my health troubles to my time in Africa two summer ago, we still don't have a conclusive diagnosis.   I'm not sure why I write "we." I'm still an I. 

Just moments after sharing our hypothetical wishes, we saw a shooting star together.  The question remains, will our wish someday come true?

At the end of May I returned to New York to spend time with "him" and to meet with my doctor.  Finally, he agreed with what I suggested two years ago - I wasn't doing so well because of something I picked up in Africa.  My doc prescribed some meds, hoping they would do the trick.

paromomycin

On June 16th I took my last round of 7, hoping my health would return...

I'm still seeking answers.

Friday, June 20, 2014

18 Years Ago Tonight

I remember 18 years ago tonight like it was last week.  Funny how life would have me return to the same city this evening.

Falling in love at 18 is much different than at 36.  It was much easier then.  On the very day we met, he and I both considered, this could be it.

Of course it wasn't it, but he was the first guy "I knew" for certain was the one and that I would someday marry.  (After being wrong twice, I gave up on knowing.)

It wasn't intended to be a date, but we excused ourselves from the rest of the group to feed the parking meter, and then it was just us.  And by the time we drove home that night, we just knew.

The guy I'm talking to now called me the other night as he was feeding a parking meter in Denver.  Funny how Denver happens to be the same city the guy 18 years ago disappeared to and married another woman.

I had a dream about a decade ago that I ran into my 18 year old crush at an airport.  We both happen to be in the same terminal, waiting for our connecting flights.  He told me he was glad he ran into me, because he had been wanting to tell me for quite some time, "You were the one, but I chose differently."  In my dream, he felt badly, but he thought it was only fair I should know the reason I was still single.

Even before that dream, I had acknowledged there is no "the one" in the universe.  It's a beautiful concept to consider God picking someone specifically out for me to share my future with - but that's not how it works - even at times when it feels like it does.

The guy I'm talking to now, could be the one, but I also thought the same about the guy who parted ways with me last fall, when he decided to pursue work overseas and to not continue to pursue me.

That was confusing for me.  Because even though I don't believe in "the one" anymore, I thought he was - just like the man before him.

So I tell myself there isn't "the one" yet I still want to believe that God is orchestrating on my behalf a somebody for me to someday share the rest of my life with...

The guy from Denver arrives on Friday for a 3-day visit.  Perhaps he could be that somebody.  So we'll see...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Selah

Selah in the Psalms means a pause or a rest.

I'm taking a Selah from my scratch pad ramblings (i.e. what you find here) to work on a few well-developed, professional pieces of writing.  By professional, I mean, paid writing gigs. 

Although it's too soon to speak the specifics, I'm THRILLED to share I've been invited to contribute to a significant project, that will go to print by a significant publisher.


During my blogging selah, please browse old entries, and if you find any you really, really, like, please let me know here in a comment, or e-mail me at katrinablank (at) gmail (dot) com.  I'll be refining and developing several pieces for my new blogging site, and would love your recommendations on which blog entries you think I should include in the transfer. 

For now, chapter 1 of my book - I Hate Books on Christian Dating, a memoir journey towards a mysterious God - is still posted on katrinablank.com 

I'll be back in July!  And THE book will be made available soon after! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Beyond Mozambique

The other day I came home to find my 74 year old Dad jamming with a 19 year old.  The tattooed up kid was on guitar while my Dad alternated between sax and vibes.  This took place after my dad had spent the morning visiting a 21 year old in jail who lost his father years ago.  In short, my dad is rather amazing, and more senior citizens should take after him.

In between "songs" I chatted some with the guitar player.  He explained he is heading to Mozambique, Africa to spend the summer learning from Heidi Baker and partnering with her in the work she is doing.

I had heard about this Heidi lady before from my parents, but also from a kid named Lou Lou (or Leonardo), who was one of Heidi's original street kids she took in as she was starting up orphanages in  Mozambique years ago.  As life would have it, I showed Lou Lou around New York City two Septembers ago, and in doing so, he shared some of his life story with me.

He explained to me that shortly after he was born, he was tossed in the trash.  For whatever reason, his mother (or perhaps his father), didn't want to keep him.  He was left to die, but a nice lady came along, and saved him from death.  The woman and her husband raised Lou like he was one of their own - until the age of 7.  That's when the couple who took him in visited a witch doctor, who insisted, they get rid of him or they'd be cursed.  And so Lou was tossed to the streets, to fend for himself for the next several years.

But then Heidi came along...

IN WORKS





He didn't know anything about Central Park, Times Square, or The Empire State Building.  He only knew about and requested we see the Statue of Liberty. 

And so after lunch we headed to the Staten Island Ferry to see the very figure that he has been making clay figures of for years in Africa, to be sold at churches in Orange County.


 


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What's in a Name?

The other day I wrote a few friends to tell them...

so i think i might be related to christie brinkley - which would be a fabulous, especially if she agrees to meet up with me sometime in the city.  i tweeted her today; i'll keep you posted if i hear back.  i'm foolishly dreaming she could be the answer to help fund the company i'd like to start that would sell products/raise funds for women who have escaped human trafficking.

here's the story: after new, new guy (from eharmony) mentioned he thought i kind of looked like christie brinkley in some of my online profile pictures, i looked up christie on Wikipedia and discovered she's originally from monroe, michigan, and the daughter of a man named herbert hudson.

monroe is the same town that my Wikipedia notable relative - Stephen Herbert Langdon - is  also from.  so perhaps - just maybe - her dad was named after my great, grandfather's brother - and we're distantly related.

after dreaming of this possibility, another man messaged me today, telling me i resemble christie brinkley. ha!  how crazy would that be if we shared some of the same genes?!


I'm not exactly sure why I got so stoked about this far-fetched possibility, but I'm glad I did because it served as a reminder that the world is full of possibility and you never know what might be waiting around the corner. 

And that's called HOPE, and even when a certain hope doesn't pan out - such as with a job possibility - the hope of a better future encourages us to press on, even when the present isn't looking so pretty.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

3 AM

Over the weekend - last weekend - I received a 3 AM text, from an individual who will make it into my second book.  The book is likely to be titled, "My Life is not a Chick Flick... or is it?" and will include my movie-esque adventures from my time in New York City.

I hadn't heard from this guy in a couple of years, so I was a bit surprised to receive the shout out, and at such an hour.  But in hearing from him, I thought I'd post the tale of meeting him that I first posted to facebook November 1, 2011.

SUBWAY MISSED CONNECTION in NYC - e-mail my boss received & forwarded to our entire department at work today; he thought the inquiry was for a student, but oh no, it was for me...

"I met you dressed as Pocahontas in the subways on Saturday night.  I was dressed as 1% milk (occupy the fridge).  For the rest of the night, I kicked myself for not asking the gorgeous girl with the happy smile on the subway for her number!

So, here I am trying to make amends.  You said you worked in Residence Life at King's, and I found this email on the school's site.  If you are so inclined, this is my e-mail, and my cell phone number.  Would love to meet you for a coffee sometime."

I'm impressed that this Yale med student found me; we didn't even exchange names...

I also went on to say in my facebook post something I wouldn't post now, regarding my wish that Christian men would pursue like that...  but actually, since then, I've had several Christian men show intentional interest in me, so I'm beginning to believe this pursue thing actually does exist.

Like today, I received this special flower delivery, from a man I'm just starting to get to know. 


Although he didn't have my mailing address, he attempted to have these flowers delivered to me while I was substitute teaching.  He surmised I'd be in Onsted - my hometown; however, I substitute teach in three different school districts - and I wasn't in Onsted, so the initial surprise delivery didn't quite work as planned.  In the end, the flower place called me, and delivered them to my home.  But yes, they eventually did find their way into my hands, and I was thrilled to receive them.  After all, what girl doesn't love getting flowers?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Redefining the Wow

Sometime ago I updated my facebook status to read, "Dear You, You've redefined the WOW of what I am looking for in a man."

The "You" is a guy who reeled me in some summer ago as we sat on top of a lifeguard stand.  We exchanged stories and smiles, well after the sky had faded into night. 

He seemed different from the city men I was accustomed to - there wasn't anything particularly "flashy" about him.  He wasn't overly attractive (like the model I had dated), overly wealthy (like the man with the gold mine who took me out for drinks), or overly well-known (like the one who prayed for the president on television.)

Instead, he was comfortable.  I was comfortable.  I felt safe with him - even though we had met only hours before.  My spirit told me he could be trusted.  And I felt perfectly content sitting beside him. 




Yet, as summer shifted to fall, I was hesitant - because I still wanted the "greatness" of New York - a him who the world - not just me - acknowledged as amazing.

But "You" was patient (as love is) and persistent with me, and it didn't take long for me discover the greatness in him. 

He was gentle - a gentleman.  Author Erwin McManus once pointed out, "It takes a lot of strength to be a gentle man."  He went on to explain that much self-control is needed to not act out in anger or rage, and to still be kind even when the world isn't. 

Like I said, I felt safe with him.  I felt safe in conversation, and when he held me in his arms.  I knew he'd be an amazing husband, and father.

Yes, he was different from what I had envisioned, but a good different.  I explained to my lawyer friend that when I thought of "You" I thought of Jesus.  And how the people anticipated a Messiah of a different sorts - one who would take over their kingdom with a power they understood.

Instead, the week before his death on the cross, Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey - a sign of humility.  And instead of overtaking the throne, he laid down his life - that we might have life.

Jesus is different - far greater and far safer than perhaps what we have been made to believe.  And he is committed to journeying with us into eternity.

As the leaves departed from the trees, "You" decided to part from me in his pursuits to serve those overseas.  Yet he has shown me much and who he is - in Christ - still amazes me. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

To Refurbish, To Restore

Just over a week ago, I returned to the story that will someday turn novel or screen play - but not until much later on in life. Perhaps in my 50s or 60s, when the 20% of the narrative that is based on reality won't weird out anybody.  By anybody, I mean, the guy from down the shore, who often appeared in my posts last winter, and who I haven't seen since last summer.  That is, until last Thursday.

Over seven months had passed since our farewell meeting at summer's end.  Although it was hot and humid that night, he warned me to wear jeans, long sleeves, and bug spray.  He had promised to show me the Tree Bar he had built before I left for New York.  So, with lanterns, we ventured into thick of the woods to close out our year of friendship.

Even though I've been back from the city since the end of December, the snow drifts along the shore deterred me all winter from making the quarter mile trek down to see him.  But with the snow near gone, he reached out and inquired about me stopping by.  So I did - as part of a negotiated business proposition.  I agreed to help him clean in exchange for him helping me with some graphic design work for my book launch.

I arrived as he was finishing up his grill cheese sandwich dinner.  I noted, "That's right - you typically eat about 10 of those.  Wait, make that eight."

"Yep.  This is number seven and number eight," acknowledging the two sandwiches on his plate, before  digging in. 

I quickly took note of a bowl of chocolate candies sitting in the middle of his table.  "Where did this chocolate come from?"  I asked.  He explained that one of the other guys on the lake brought it over one day, and I started opening up a mini package of M&Ms, knowing he would never eat them. 

"You can take as much as you want.  I don't like chocolate."  And I thought, huh, I already knew that - and I also knew his grill cheese sandwich count - so odd to me that I would know those little details.

He then inquired about the guy from Kentucky, and the guy in New York.  And actually, to my disbelief, he recalled the actual name of the New Yorker.  And that's when it hits me.  We know each other oddly well.

We spent the next few hours cleaning and conversing, and at the end of the night he took me down into the basement to show me the project he had been working on all winter.


Last summer he had acquired a boat (as pictured above) that needed a lot of work.  But throughout the winter months, he has refurbished it into something beautiful - that will hopefully stay afloat. ;)  Through his care, and commitment, he transformed this boat that another neighbor no longer wanted.

IN WORKS

refurbish
verb renovate, restore, repair, clean up, overhaul, revamp, mend, remodel, do up (informal), refit, fix up (informal, chiefly U.S. & Canad.), spruce up, re-equip, set to rights

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Thawing Out

Sometime early in December - sometime after I knew I wouldn't be returning to New York after the New Year - my friend Alan pulled up a chair to our already crowded dinner table at a restaurant in Chelsea.  He didn't order anything to eat or drink, but rather he just dropped by to hang out for a bit.

And in his hanging, I informed Alan I'd be heading back to Michigan for Christmas, and depending on where my job search took me, I might not be returning.  "Sure, sure, I've heard that one before."  (I've been back to the city five times since I first told Alan post Hurricane Sandy clean up, that I was done with New York, and probably wouldn't return.)

"So we'll see you in January then?" He teased.  I hadn't been away from the New York for more than two months since I first claimed I was leaving for good.  "You'll be back."  He insisted, and then said it again, all of a sudden getting serious on me.  "You'll be back.  I just sense your time in New York isn't over."

He hesitated, and then went Charismatic on me (which isn't typical of him.)  But he told me he had this image of a glass of water half full, being dumped backed into a container, and then this same glass being filled back up until it was overflowing.

He explained, I think this is what it will be for you - a going back feeling somewhat half-empty (he knew about my health being poor), and then returning to the city overflowing.  He went on to say, he thought it would be a difficult winter for me, but he sensed I might be back as early as spring - after the ice thawed.


The ice on our lake started thawing out last week.  Two days ago, while I was out for a run, I noticed two swans in an open patch of water in the northeast cove of our lake.  Then, today, I saw two ducks in the open pocket of water in front of our lake home,  and a few open patches of water out in the middle of the lake.  The ice is starting to thaw, but I'm still frozen here in Michigan, as I continue to battle health issues - now knowing it's not just an iron deficiency issue (although I was severely anemic at one point), but still not knowing what's wrong with my body.

As far as Alan's words go, it is yet to be determined whether or not I'll return to the city.  But even if I never do, I still like the imagery of the glass of water overflowing.  Certainly it's a hopeful picture - and one that resonated with me.  I had volunteered with Charity:Water throughout the fall, and since last winter I've been dreaming of someday writing a book that correlates what Jesus did on the cross with what clean drinking water does for humanity.  And, I had been holding onto this picture, that one of the girls in my small group had sketched on our fall retreat in Jersey.


Saturday morning of our retreat, we spent sometime reflecting on the verse Psalm 46:10 - Be still, and know that I am God.  I gave everyone 3 pieces paper, and plenty of crayons, and asked them to write "Be still" on the first piece, "and know that" on the second, and "I am God" on the third.  I then asked them to ponder the words before them, and draw pictures or write associated words that came to them as they reflected on the verse.

After some time we shared our drawings with one another.  Monica explained for "I Am God" she drew glasses of water - some only partially full, while others overflowed.  She pointed out, there will be times in our lives when we're feeling emptied out and that we need to seek God to fill us up again, so we can overflow to the world around us.  She reminded us, God is the ultimate source of life, drawing a large pool of water around the words I AM GOD.

As we near Easter, and the celebration of what Jesus did on the cross for humanity, I reflect on John 19:34 and how both blood and water flowed from Jesus' side, as a soldier pierced him with a sword.  I once heard Erwin McManus explain that the water would have been from a ruptured heart.  He poetically pointed out, Jesus, literally, died of a broken heart.  Of course, in his death and resurrection, he conquered death on behalf of you and me.  Blood and water flowed from Jesus' body so that we might have life and hope.

* If you haven't had the chance to read the first chapter of my book, Chapter 1 of I Hate Books on Christian Dating, a memoir journey towards a mysterious God is currently posted on katrinablank.com and yes, I would still love for you to join my 100 X 100 party if you haven't already.  :)

Monday, March 31, 2014

i n N O A H v a t i o n

For the first third of my life, whenever I'd flop in life - like spill a beverage or drop something breakable - I would explain to my parents in defense, "I did it on accident."  And my Dad would laugh and laugh, and then insist, "No, you didn't do it on accident."  And I would argue back, already upset by the mishap, "Yes, I did. Yes, I did.  I did it on accident."  This would throw my Dad into an uproar.  Laughing even harder - near tears - he'd ask, "Now how could possibly do such a thing on accident?"

I didn't understand why my dad would laugh at my misfortune.  But since he was laughing, I knew he wasn't upset by whatever it was I did on accident.  I knew I wasn't in trouble, and that's what was important.  It wasn't until I was in my teens that I understood why such a claim would be so funny.  But to be perfectly honest, I'm still not sure why such a phrase couldn't be used in such a circumstance.  Yet I understand my Dad's point too - that when something is an accident there is no game plan or blueprint for carrying out the action.  People don't pursue or create accidents; accidents just happen.

I mention this because last week I substitute taught for six graders, and during the science portion of the day, we watched a video with Bill Nye the Science Guy on the topic of innovation.  Bill explained that part of the innovation process often involves trying and failing several times before we come up with the thing we are hoping for.  However, Bill also explained, that it's not unheard of to find something else unexpected - and really great - along the way.  He called this innovation by accident, which, of course, made me think of my "I did it on accident" days.

After the video we discussed the significance of innovation (and I added in a mini business lesson on the importance of disruptive innovation within companies, using the evolution of gaming systems as my example, and pointing out that Ataris are no longer profitable.)  As part of the discussion, I asked the students to think of an innovation they appreciate, and then called on students to share their answers.  After a half dozen or so responses, one boy energetically exclaimed, "Me!"  The boy laughed, and so did a few others.

 "Well, I don't think you would fall in the category of innovation." I stated.  "But... " I hesitated, knowing if I was going to say what I wanted to say next, I needed to make sure I kept my statement PC enough for a public school.  "Depending on your religious background, I suppose you could say you're God's innovation." 

I later second guessed what I had told the students.  I knew we were God's creation, but could Adam in the Garden of Eden really be considered an innovation?  I needed to look up the definition. 

Innovation

: a new idea, device, or method
: the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods

In that case, I suppose God did innovate human beings - and when He did, the Scriptures say he designed us in his image.  One of the most obvious differences between animals and humans, is that animals aren't known for their creativity.  Yet, God instilled in humanity the ability to dream and to think up new ideas and create new things.  God thought us up, and entrusted us to keep on thinking and tinkering to add to beauty to this world.

This past Saturday my friend Amy and I went for Mexican and a movie.  We decided to see Noah to see for ourselves what all the controversy around the film was about.  In viewing the movie, we learned that the writers of the screen play had gotten rather innovative in taking the story of Noah found in the Bible, and turning into something completely different. 

My Review of the Movie Noah

1)      Actor Emma Watson’s eyebrows are amazing.  Can someone please help me get mine to look that way?

2)      If you’re hoping the movie Noah will help you understand the story of Noah found in Scripture, it won’t.  It will only confuse you, and make you less likely to think well of the God that I know.   

3)      If you’re a person of faith you might be frustrated by the depiction of the story, or the lack of hope offered.  Keep in mind an atheist produced it.  The intent is to entertain and make money – not to share a message of redemption. 

4)      If you’re looking for a redemption story reflective of the Christian faith – pick up and watch the zombie movie titled Warm Bodies instead, rather than watch this movie.

5)      If you can separate out your faith upbringing to view this movie, then yes, I can recommend it for the Big Screen.  If not (which I wasn’t able), this film might be better saved for Red Box viewing. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

18 X 2 = 36

Ten years ago, for my 26th birthday, I went snorkeling in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Mombasa, Kenya.  Okay, so I didn't go all the way to Africa JUST to celebrate my birthday, but it just so happen my birthday lined up with the debrief/tourist portion of our team trip - after we had spent time in orphanages, schools, and in the bush. 

Mission to the Fatherless orphanage in Kenya

However, for my 33rd birthday I did fly out to Hawaii JUST to celebrate, and the same for my 34th - flying out to California JUST to go sky diving in Santa Barbara.  I wonder now, if in actuality, those two birthday trips stemmed from a subconscious "old maid" crisis stirring within me.  I figure if can't live out the life I truly want (i.e. to marry and have a family), I still better be living up life somehow, someway. 

But I think I'm beyond needing an extravagant birthday hurrah to prove to myself (and to my facebook friends) that I'm perfectly fine living the single life.  As long as a yummy dessert is involved in the day - and either family or friends - I'm perfectly happy.  So this year, for my 36th birthday, I substitute taught at a nearby high school, and then went to dinner in Ann Arbor with my parents and big brother.

But my highlight of the day, was my final hour of the day substitute teaching.  A couple 9th grade boys were bit chatty in the front corner of the classroom, so I went over to them to see what's up, and to hush them up.  And the one told me it was the other guy's birthday.  I asked, "Is it?"  The accused birthday boy replied no, and I informed them it was actually my birthday.  Immediately they insisted, "We have to sing you Happy Birthday then, Miss Blank."  I said, "No, that's okay."  But they persisted, and by then the rest of the class was in on the news, so when the two started singing the rest of the class joined in. 

At the end of the song a girl in the back inquired, "So wait, how old are you?"

I replied, "I'm 18 X 2, if you can do the math."

"You're 26!!!" She exclaimed.

"Not quite."  But thank you, girl in the back of the classroom for thinking so.

18 X 2 = 36

Friday, March 21, 2014

I see...

Today Twitter celebrated its 8th anniversary and founder Jack Dorsey - who I don't know personally, but once stood in the same room as him - tweeted the following:

Jack Dorsey @jack
8 years of seeing and sharing the world around us through tweets!  What are you seeing right now?

After reading the tweet, I glanced up from my laptop and looked out my window to see the same snow-covered woods and ice-covered lake that I've been staring at ever since I returned to Michigan at the end of December.  Our lake house sits up high on a hill, and to my left I can see the nearest three homes - one year-round residence, and two summer cottages.

And mid-front of the first cottage, there is this tree that stands out from the rest.  Unlike the others, this tree has some sort of ivy winding up the first twenty-some feet of its trunk.  And to my amazement, these leaves have stayed intact and green throughout our long winter.

With so many unknowns to my future and my body still fighting to get better, the sight of the green ivy amidst this harsh winter often reminds me, as difficult as this season may be, you will get through it.  And even if I don't - if I never return to full health - it's better to believe that I will than to give up on a maybe.

And so I replied to Jack Dorsey with a tweet, explaining what I could see out my window.

Katrina Blank @katrinablanknyc
@jack i see hope.

My friend Marty (see previous entry) is someone who continued to see and hold onto hope, despite a four year battle with cancer.  At his funeral visitation, I learned that he continued to dream and plan for the future, even at times when the status of his health didn't appear promising.  He completed his doctorate in pharmacy at the University of Toledo just last year.  And in January, he got engaged, and he and his fiancĂ© began to plan for a lifetime together.  Tragically, his life ended prematurely at the age of 31, yet Marty inspired many with how he loved and by his faith in God. 

On my way home from the visitation, I turned on my car radio and scanned through stations, stumbling upon a country station and the perfect song to accompany me as I drove into the setting sun.



By Luke Bryan

When I got the news today
I didn't know what to say
So I just hung up the phone

I took a walk to clear my head,
This is where the walking led
Can't believe you're really gone
Don't feel like going home

So I'm gonna sit right here
On the edge of this pier
Watch the sunset disappear
And drink a beer

Funny how the good ones go
Too soon, but the good Lord knows
The reasons why, I guess

Sometimes the greater plan
Is kinda hard to understand
Right now it don't make sense
I can't make it all make sense

So I'm gonna sit right here
On the edge of this pier
Watch the sunset disappear
And drink a beer

So long my friend
Until we meet again
I'll remember you
And all the times that we used to...

... sit right here on the edge of this pier
And watch the sunset disappear
And drink a beer


Friday, March 14, 2014

The Other Story

But before driving south to Nashville, I wrote a letter to a distant friend, and slipped it in the outgoing mail.  I composed it and mailed it, not knowing if it would actually reach the intended recipient.  Certainly, I trusted the US postal service to deliver my letter within 3 to 5 days, but I didn't necessarily trust that my friend would receive my words - in time.

Earlier this year, at my Ann Arbor church, one of the pastors spoke on the power of story.  Specifically, he encouraged us to consider the stories of our lives and how they intersect with God's story.   I find that church going people tend to call the good stories testimonies, and the bad ones prayer requests.  In general, it is the good stories that are most shared and celebrated in big church settings.  These are the stories where people find themselves in a tough spot in life, and somehow God works through the icky situation, and the individual shares some sort of happy, redemptive ending. 

We hear these good stories and think, if God worked like that in that person's life, certainly He can do the same in my own.  And so we continue to pray for the bad stories in our lives, trusting that, at some point, there WILL be a turn around.

But mid-way through this particular sermon, I got uneasy.  To help illustrate his point, the speaker played a video clip of a woman at a "rowdy"African American church, telling the story of how God miraculously freed her of a brain tumor.  Shouts of joy, Hallelujah, and Praise the Lord rose up from this woman's congregation.  Truly, it was a good and amazing story of how God healed her body and enabled her to continue on living.

But that Sunday morning - at my church in Ann Arbor - I wasn't encouraged in hearing it.  Instead, I left church thinking about my friend Alicia who passed away this past fall from a brain tumor she had been battling, and wondering how much time my friend Marty had left before he would do the same.  I knew Marty could still be healed, but when I stuck the letter in the mail a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't so sure he would be.  Well, as it turns out, Marty did receive my letter - in time - but today I received the heart wrenching news that Marty has passed on to be with God in His perfect peace and presence.  His fiancĂ©'s plans for a wedding have been replaced by a funeral. :(

While I was at my church in Ann Arbor, hearing the good story testimony of healing, someone at my church in New York, shared the other story - the unhealing in his life.  My lawyer friend Teresa insisted I listened to the podcast (which I did and you can too if you'd like).  The main point of the sermon is that the focus of our faith should be relational - not transactional.  The pastor who spoke (AJ) reminds us, the Christian journey isn't about what you can get God to do for you, but rather it's about God being with you every step of the way.

At the tail end of the talk, AJ invited a member of my NYC church to share his struggle with lyme disease that he and his family picked up when he was a kid.

In his story of unhealing, he shared the following:

We’ve been to healing services, redemption ministries.  We’ve fasted; we've prayed together;  I’ve had people pray over me and tell me I felt the disease leave you; you are no longer sick.  And the next day you wake up and you still have the same pains.   How do we reconcile it?  Now here’s the thing I’ve had to wrestle through all of this. God doesn’t promise us health, he doesn’t promise us a spouse, money,  a job, he doesn’t even promise friends.  He only promises us one thing, and if you read your Bible you will find this is true:  that he will never leave us and he’ll never forsake us; that even in the midst of our darkest times he will be there with us.  That’s the promise that we have.  So as I’ve cried out to God, I’ve sobbed to God, I’ve  beat my pillow and I’ve even cursed God he’s made one thing abundantly clear to me:  that is, never value a sign or promise more than your relationship with me.   (*Transcribed by Teresa) 

This man has decided to continue to choose God, even though God hasn't chosen to heal him.  I'm confident that both Marty and Alicia did the same in their final days here on earth. 

But I'm beginning to think, these are the types of stories we need more of in our church sermons and gatherings - stories of trusting God through storms, even when there is no glorious outcome.

* To hear the entire podcast of living a relational faith, the sermon is posted here: http://tgcchelsea.com/media/ and is titled
 
THAT YOU MAY HAVE LIFE | 02 (AJ Sherrill » 12 January 2014)

Also, if you like the sermon, AJ just released a book called  Quiet: Hearing God Amidst The Noise

http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Hearing-God-Amidst-Noise/dp/149522550X

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Nashville

Yesterday I ate breakfast in Nashville, lunch in Louisville, and dinner in Upland, Indiana at Ivanhoes ice cream place, just down the street from Taylor University.  And yes, I ate ice cream for dinner, unaccompanied by any real food.  (I suspect author Brennan Manning would have approved.)

But the night before - Friday night - I joined five other friends in Nashville, for Thai at a place called Koi.  And over dinner I explained to my Nashville friends that Christian Mingle is what prompted me to visit their city twice within the past six months.

I'd like to say there is a guy involved (although, I'm sure there is one responsible); however, my trips to Nashville stemmed from theological discontent, not romance.  For several years now, Christian Mingle's tagline theme verse has irked me greatly.  It gets under my skin that Christian Mingle misuses Scripture by insisting, IF you delight in the Lord, THEN he will grant you the spouse of your dreams.  Psalm 37:4 is not a verse that should be applied to dating or, for those who are already married, the ability to get pregnant.

To do so implies singleness and infertility are the result of an individual's inability to delight in the Lord correctly.  Christian Mingle's advertising is saying men and women who desire to marry, but haven't yet met someone, are single because they are bad Christians.  As Eric Metaxas recently pointed out, in 1970, 84% of 30 to 44 year old citizens born in the US were married.  Today, less than 60% of 30 to 44 years old born in the US are in a marriage relationship.  Singleness is part of the cultural fall out of the world in which we live today - not something that God withholds from single people until they can "get right" with him.

So, last summer, after Christian Mingle's most recent commercials showed up in my Facebook newsfeed, I decided I'd like to submit a theological complaint.  So I went to Christian Mingle's website, hoping to find a customer service e-mail address, but instead, I stumbled upon Christian Mingle's 2012 advisory board, composed of five men and one woman. 

I wasn't at all surprised by the gender imbalance, but I was curious, who was this woman, and how in the world did she make the cut to serve on this advisory board?  After reading Jenni Catron's bio, I stalked her twitter feed to see what else I could learn about this woman from Nashville.  In doing so, I noticed a tweet,  mentioning she had 2 spots left for a women's coaching group, and that applications were due the next day by midnight. 

Curious, I explored the leadership program on Jenni's website.  Rather quickly I decided to forego my Christian Mingle complaint, and started working on my application to participate in Jenni Catron's coaching group.

And so, that's the story of how Christian Mingle brought me to Nashville.   

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beyond Thriller

In Chapter 9 of my book I explain...

My dreams as a child were inspired by Michael Jackson.  They were nightmares, actually.  After viewing Jackson's Thriller video at the age of four, I couldn't quite seem to get those zombie-like monsters out of my subconscious mind.  They frequently came after me in the middle of the night when I should have been dreaming about more pleasant things, such as Candy Mountain, My Little Ponies, or the day I would go to Disney World and meet Minnie Mouse.

Sometime around second grade I told my dad about the nightmares and he instructed me, "The next time you have one, I want you to say, 'I rebuke you Satan.  In the name of Jesus I command you to leave."  I didn't know what the word rebuke meant, but the very next time those zombies came around I rebuked them in the name of Jesus and it worked like a charm.  All the Thriller-like zombies scattered and I haven't had a nightmare since. ~ Excerpt from I Hate Books on Christian Dating

Michael Jackson in Thriller * Photo from LA Times Music Blog

It's true, for most of my life I've been relatively nightmare free.  However, this past month I had two rather intense nightmares within the course of one week.  And, in both dreams, an evil presence - one in the form of a demonic spirit, and one in the form of a snake - grabbed ahold of my body, and I couldn't get it to let go of me.  Desperately I tried to rebuke "it" in the name of Jesus, but somehow it had a stronghold on vocal chords, and physically, I couldn't open my mouth to speak, nor could I breathe.  But I kept trying and fighting to open my mouth and eventually I was able to use my words, and speak in my dream, "In the name of Jesus I command you to leave."  And as I did, the evil presence let go of my body, and I abruptly awoke from my sleep.  Still, I continued to speak the words over and over aloud until I felt safe and confident, that in Jesus' name, I had the authority.

Now, I didn't intend to go public on such a bizarre experience.  Except, this past Sunday at church, the speaker shared in her talk about how she used to have nightmares when she was young, but more recently God has spoken to her through dreams in beautiful ways to encourage her and others in their life journeys.  (On a side note, this female speaker is a gifted communicator and business woman, as well as a wife, and mom of two. She works in faculty development at the University of Michigan, helping make doctors better leaders.) 

Following the sermon, as we transitioned into communion, the lead pastor said that if anyone has struggled with nightmares, or perhaps just started having them this past week, that he and the speaker would be over in the prayer station area to pray for those individuals at the end of the service.  Well, hello now.  I've been to churches where someone will sense someone needs prayer for something - typically a health issue - but I've never heard anyone specifically name nightmares as the thing to receive prayer for.

So, towards the end of the service, I sought out the speaker Brandie, and she prayed over me.  But before she did, I briefly explained, how I've been wrestling with health issues for the past few years, and that in these nightmares I'm not able to speak.  I told her, I know God has a future for me in speaking and writing, but right now, I'm feeling a bit stuck with my health being subpar.

After Brandie prayed for me, she told me,  "I just sense... you have something amazing to say... and you're going to say it."

I hope so.  I sure do hope so.

My Life Mission Statement: To be a voice of truth that sets women free to embrace the gifts that God has given them, that they, in turn, might make a significant impact in the world.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Randy's Barbeque

A week or so ago, while I was out for a run, a man tried to gain my attention as he was getting into his truck.  In New York, I would have blown right past him, as a natural defense mechanism for needing solo running time amidst the crowds of tourists who always have questions, men making hit on type comments, and homeless persons begging for money. 

When I first moved to the city I'd feel guilty when I pretended not to hear what was being spoken.  I felt like I was being deceitful and unkind, even though my ear buds and running shoes suggested I was unavailable for dialogue.  My counselor friend Stacey assured me, that in a city like New York, taking time for yourself - even amidst the crowds - is simply a part of self-care.  She reminded me, if you make yourself overly available to everybody, you won't be any good for anybody.

But running in Michigan - in the middle of winter - is a far different experience.  While I'm out for a jog near our lake house, I might pass by maybe six or seven individuals - not six or seven thousand pedestrians from all around the world.  So, without hesitation, I stopped to see what the truck man wanted.  And in doing so, I finally met THE Randy, of Randy's Roadside Bar-B-Que.


Randy's place is open in the summer months, and located a couple of miles from where my parents reside.  Long ago it was a donut shop, and when I was a kid, my mom and I would frequent the trailer for long john donuts.  I can't recall when exactly the donut shop went out of business, but it was before I started wearing a bikini, when access donut chub was a non issue.  With that having been said, I ate a donut both yesterday and today, and strongly feel everyone should eat a donut at least once a month.

But back to Randy.  I mention him and his Barbeque place, because I'm reminded of the uniqueness of living in a small town, rural area.  There's a good chance you'll actually meet the owner of a place when you go.  For instance, last winter, while at Jerry's Pub on a neighboring lake, I chatted some with Jerry while I was there watching Michigan basketball.

In addition, there is the element of running into people you know at the corner store gas station, the grocery store, the pharmacy, and pretty much any where you go.  I may see far less people here in rural Michigan when I'm about and about, but I'm far more likely than in New York, to see someone I know from years ago.  And there's something special about that - it's called community, held in place by years of people sticking around, in contrast to the transient ebb and flow of city life.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Women of a Different Breed

This morning a friend of mine shared with me a piece she had written, and after I insisted it needed to go viral, she okayed for me to post it on my blog.  So here it is, my first Guest Blog post, by my friend Amy.

Women of a Different Breed

It's not that we don't want to marry.
    It's that we won't compromise.
It's not that he has to be perfect.
    But he must have enough characteristics of The Perfect Man.
It's not that we need a relationship for the purpose of being with someone.
    After all, we've never been alone.
It's not that we are helpless by ourselves.
    We have a Helper and we've never had want for anything.
It's not that we have nothing to offer therefore we sit alone.
    It's that we've embodied His Everything and are content enough.  Until he comes.

We are not single because we're broken, ugly, or disdain.
    We are fully aware we are beautiful in His sight.
We are not waiting for someone specific, but only a gentle and courageous warrior -
    skilled, proven, and trusted by the One Holy God.


We are not like other women so do not compare us.  Do not pity us, or play matchmaker.  But love us with grace and patience.  Don't examine our imperfections or hypothesize what's wrong with us.  Consider, perhaps, we're right - and all around us are out of step.  We're simply experiencing a different life than most women aim to lead.

We don't want your categorization or dismissal, so please don't set us on a shelf.  Don't regard us as half full, half equipped, or incomplete because we're missing our other "half."  We are simply a remnant of women, who are doing His Bidding, at His Pace and, in His Time the other "he" will come.  But until then, call us His Maidens.  A special breed, very rare, yes indeed.

We've been allotted extra time alone, so we can know Him more all the more complete.

Only the man who is strong enough to be willing to be putty in His hand will be the one to whom we will quietly relent - and with our hearts, surrender.  Only for he who approaches us with His Permission to join us on our journey Home will we trade our habit for a wedding veil.

Not broken, but whole.
Not poor, but rich.
Not vain, but complete.
Not fools, but wise.

We are living out His Goodness in different terms than you.  But it's His perfection we are living in - we know no need but Him. 

This road that we have chosen, and upon which we daily tread comes with sacrifices, true.  But we'd rather pay this price as we wait for the right man, versus living as though a man can make life right.

Accept us for who we are, unattached, free agents of a very Powerful and All-Knowing King.  Let us live without the pressure of the expected, damning singlehood.  Instead, let us go about our business for our Master, watch what He will do with our vessels, and perhaps, someday it will happen.  But marriage isn't everything.  Everything is our union with our Beloved King.  ~AJH

Amy is passionate about Jesus, life, and politics. To read more by Amy, here is  Amy's Blog

Monday, February 10, 2014

Running Laps

While a friend and I were out to dinner the other night, a woman walking by our table collapsed to the floor.  The large man she had dined with immediately hovered over her, trying to figure out what happened, while the manager of the restaurant called an ambulance. 

After assessing it wasn't a seizure, I noticed the woman's right arm laying limp, near the base of my chair.  I knew at that point, the most I could do, is help comfort her as we waited for the medical professionals to arrive.  So I reached down to this stranger, and offered her my hand to hold.  Immediately she gripped it tight.  Even with the big man she knew well standing over her, somehow I knew that offering her my hand would provide this woman additional comfort, support, and reassurance that she is going to be alright.

I shared this anecdote with a city man last night, thanking him and explaining that is what he has been for me since my return to the Midwest.  I wrote, "Thank you for extending your hand for me to hold in my transition from New York back to Michigan - for providing that additional comfort, care, and support.  Even though I know God is in this with me, as I've stated before, you've been good medicine for me as my body continues to heal.  Thank you for the phone calls, the e-mails, and sharing your writing with me.  It has been good getting to know your heart, and I am thankful that I've had the opportunity."

A month or two ago a meme with the following message showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. "Dating Tip: Run as fast as you can towards God, and if someone keeps up, introduce yourself."  I was tempted to comment, "I must run too fast... or it could be that I'm jumping out of airplanes."  But I refrained from writing anything because I knew I'd be writing out of frustration.  You see, when I was a student at the University of Michigan - 15 years ago - my mentor shared a similar version of this approach to dating with me.  "Run as fast and hard as you can towards God, and as you do, glance to your left and to your right from time to time to see who is running with you."  She explained, the men running with me would be the best men for me to marry.  As a 20 year old, this sounded like the perfect dating strategy to ensure me a wedding by the age of 30.  (I write this post at the age of 35, knowing that running towards God - fast, slow, or not at all - has no correlation as to whether or not you find somebody to marry.)

Running path around Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

But being a runner, I liked that visual.  And actually, over the years, I've had a good number of men run with me, and be a source of strength and encouragement through challenging seasons in life.  Some of the men stuck by my side simply in friendship, while others ran with me in romance.  Regardless of romance or friendship, it feels different when male support is extended.  It does something to the psyche of a woman, just knowing she's not running alone, and that a man is beside her in the journey. 

But for some reason, it's like I'm stuck on this track, where men will come and run a few laps with me, but I have yet to meet someone who wants to sign up to run the marathon with me.  I know the stats are against me.  But I'm still hoping, someday, someone, will choose to run with me for the long haul.  In the meantime, I'm grateful for the many men who have come alongside of me, and ran with me for the time that they did.