Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Journey

With the snow as such, and a layer of ice beneath, I almost didn't make it out of my driveway a week ago Thursday.  With my car stuck, and wheels spinning, I cussed once or twice, damning the state of Michigan, and pointing out to God, I shouldn't even be here.  But more than hating my home state, I hated that I might miss the 6 PM showing of the Rich Mullins film at Spring Arbor University.

Finally, after 20 minutes of teaming with my parents, shovels, and a bucket of sand, my Corolla made it out of our private drive and onto Pentecost Hwy.  Thankfully, I wasn't more than five minutes late to the screening.  And following, I had the chance to say a quick hello to the guy I know who plays the role of Rich in the film. 

But in waiting to say hello to the movie star, I recognized another man I had met before - an all-star named Damon who has been working at the college for years.  I know this because I had a full day of interviews for an RD job at SAU nine winters ago, and one of the slotted interview times was with him.

I didn't get the job in 2005, but I did get a book recommendation.  Damon suggested I read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller - THE very book that prompted me to start writing a book of my own.  I think I had already heard of Blue Like Jazz, but it was Damon's encouragement that pushed me over the edge to finally pick up a copy.  Thank God for that job interview, regardless of not being offered the position.  Because reading the book eventually led to me submitting an excerpt of my writing to Don, that his buddy Jordan discovered, and insisted to Don, you need to write this girl.  And so Don wrote a kind e-mail to me stating, "First of all, be affirmed, you are a writer... "  I then knew, someday I would be.

Two summers ago I snuck out of NYC and drove out to the Hamptons to spend the 4th of July with some city friends and a few people I hadn't yet met.  At the beach, I noticed one of the girls I had just met reading Blue Like Jazz.  Alicia and I started chatting about the book, the author, and then I told her about the book I was writing, explaining to her that my style was somewhat similar.  Alicia told me she'd love to read my book once I finished.

This past fourth of July, I announced on facebook the completion of the initial manuscript of I Hate Books on Christian Dating - A Memoir Journey Towards a Mysterious God.  Alicia sent me a message, recalling how it had been exactly a year since we chatted about my book at the Hamptons.  She wanted to know how she could get a copy.  And I explained I had a ways yet to go with editing and such before the book would be ready, but that as soon as it was I would be sure to let her know.

I hadn't seen Alicia since that Hampton day, but in dropping by her facebook page, I learned after our exchange that she had a rather serious brain tumor.  (This happened to coincide with the time when my health was especially poor, and I thought I might be dieing.  Weeks later I would learn I had been unknowingly starving my body of oxygen.  I've often wondered, that as a marathon runner, if Alicia unknowingly did the same thing to her body.)  I was hopeful Alicia would be healed, but I noted I would try and send her pre-print copy of my book sometime that fall.  But I waited too long, and discovered the news of her passing before I had the chance to send her a copy. 

Today is Alicia's birthday - age 33, I believe. 

Happy Birthday Alicia!  I hope my book can somehow transcend time, and find its way into your hands in heaven.  I'm still working on finding funding for the book launch, but please know, I regret not sending you what I could have shared with you before you left.  I'm blessed in having had the opportunity to spend that 4th of July holiday with you two years ago.  One of your former BSF girls joined my small group this fall.  She spoke of you fondly; certainly, you're missed.  Both you and Rich Mullins died far too young; thanks for gracing us with the beautiful life of love that you lived.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Exactly a month ago - on December 20th - I said my good byes to my Harlem home and started my drive back to parents' lake house.
My Harlem Home - Fall 2013
One of the gals who had joined my small group in NYC, joined me for the trip back to Michigan.  She's originally from Novi - a city not too far from Detroit that got it's name because it was the number 6 train stop, or as the Romans who like special numerals write, No VI. 

On our drive she advised me not to date men who are too old (i.e. over 40), because I'm young-spirited, she explained, and she wouldn't want to see me with any men who might slow me down. 
She then asked, "Do any advice for me?  Knowing what you know now, what advice would give a 22 year old?"

I felt the weight of her question, and just like the guy on the A train, and the guy from Plenty of Fish, I knew whatever answer I gave, would be less than what I might say given days to reflect and pages of paper to write my response. 

But rather than requesting think time, I answered off-the-cuff, telling her, most importantly in life, be open.  Don't get set into thinking there's a certain linear path for your future.  But rather, be open for what God might have for you, and the unexpected opportunities He might throw your way as you continue to follow Him.  The more open you are, the more possibilities He can set before you.

Okay, so that's not verbatim, but close enough.   

Last week, as I chatted on the phone with a guy old enough to "slow me down," I shared with him some job possibilities I was exploring.  In response he stated, "You just seem to be really open.  That's great." 

Yes, it's true.  I am open - very open.  But great?  Hmmm...  I'm not so sure about great...

The reality is, I have no choice, but to not be open.  I need a job, and a place to call home.  And that could take me anywhere in the world, really.  Although, Southern California and New York - where I already have established community - are my top two choices.  But even earlier this month, I Skype interviewed for 2 1/2 hours for a position in Texas.  And today, I even went as far as thinking, perhaps I should go back to China and teach English - not that I really want to back to China, but I do have some friends there in the northern part, and well, why not?

Camel Ride in Northern China (my camel is the 1st in the chain)

For now, I'm right back where I was exactly 10 years ago, substitute teaching for the same pay rate of $75 a day, praying that as I'm open, God will open the doors to something that will utilize my strengths, and pay off my Masters degree from Fuller Seminary. 

* All the while, the BIG dream is to launch my first book and perhaps tour to college campuses this fall, speaking in women's residence halls at Christian Colleges, and Cru and IV at state universities. But that dream is on hold until I can figure out how to finance the project without losing the rights to my material by going through a traditional publisher.  In the meantime, I've started working on a sequel...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Why? in Life

Over the past several months I've received several hundred messages from men who like my online profile on Plenty of Fish.  I really haven't done much with any of the messages except read them.  I rarely write back - mainly because I'm too tall and I'm too into Jesus - two significant obstacles to meeting a guy when you're a single woman in her thirties in the twenty-first century.

Often the messages are entertaining, as I recently highlighted on my top 10 list.  However, not too long ago I received a message far more serious in tone.  The message included one simple question and nothing more... 

"why did god kill my parents when i was 6?"

I received this message around the time my dad proudly presented to me a picture my aunt had given him and he had framed - a photo of the two of them with their mother when they were kids.  "I think this may have been the last picture I had taken with my mom." My dad explained.  He stared at his mom with fondness.  She died when he was in the 7th grade - when my Dad was 12, and my aunt was 8.

In my book I tell a similar story, of a boy and girl whose mother died  before either of them had even entered elementary school.  I'll never forget the little boy (age 3 1/3) asking me, just days after his mother's funeral, "Why did Mommy have to go be with God?" 

I told him the only answer I had at the time.  "I don't know sweetie.  I don't know."  And then picked him up in my arms.

But in trying to answer the question, "Why did god kill my parents when I was 6?"  I'm not sure it's the right question to be asking - valid, yes, but I tend to think it is the brokenness of this world that killed his parents, rather than God setting out to murder them.  Instead, the question I would ask is, "Why God?  Why didn't you protect this man's parents?"  To lose one parent is tragic enough - but to lose both of them at such a young age, no wonder he'd be hesitant to think anything good of God. 

And this is where I admit, I'm not going to be able to adequately answer this question in a short blog post.  Anything I attempt will fall short, and could potentially do more harm than be helpful. This is more of a conversation - a dialogue - that begins with me saying, "I'm sorry.  I'm so, so sorry that you lost your parents when you were in kindergarten."

I remember when the Minnesota bridge collapsed in 2007, thinking how odd it was to hear reports of how God protected this or that family from the tragedy, while other folks - who loved Jesus just as much - lost their lives as a result of the bridge collapsing.  While I received "praise" reports from one friend, I received news of death from another.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rich Mullins Movie

"Katrina, I may never see you again."  My friend Mike (Koch) acknowledged that our time together at summer camp was running short.  "I mean, sure, I know I'll see you in heaven.  But it's just weird to think that after this summer, that could be it.  Who knows if our paths will ever cross again?"

Mike spoke those words in 1999, two summers after we first met at camp and spent the summer of 1997 in the same friends group, saving seats for each other on Sunday mornings for summer staff worship.  I remember one Sunday, the speaker closed out his talk with a prayer, and in glancing up after the AMEN, I realized Mike had disappeared from the seat beside me.

But then the piano started to play, and Mike started to sing a song by Rich Mullins, and the chorus rang,

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
that you will pull me through
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace
that first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
who is longing for his home

Certainly, I had heard Mike play and sing along to both piano and guitar all that summer, but that moment - as he sang the words of Rich Mullins - felt different.  It was one of those moments that stuck with my spirit, and I knew I would never forget him singing that Sunday morning.

That was the summer of 1997.  By 1999, I had booked Mike to someday sing at my wedding. And in 2000, he gave me a CD labeled, "Demo for Kat."  But eventually Mike and I lost touch, and perhaps we would have never seen each other again - except we ended up on the same airplane in 2007.  Then, this past summer, a guy I had met through e-harmony, took me to the church where it just so happens that Mike plays music.  The e-harmony guy admitted to me he had been wanting the opportunity to meet Mike for quite some time; he was thrilled that I was able to introduce Mike to him.

But the reason I mention all of this, is that late, last night I discovered that my friend Mike Koch is in a movie called Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins.  In it, Mike plays the role of Rich Mullins - a singer/song writer whose most popular song even landed a spot in The African American Heritage Hymnal used by The Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York.  (Or so I noted one Sunday morning in taking a group of students up from midtown to experience this church that Dietrich Bonhoeffer also attended during his time as a student in New York.)

Ragamuffin premiered last night in Kansas, and is currently on tour nationwide.  And yes, I think you should go and see it - not necessarily because my friend Mike is in it, but rather because of the compelling life that Rich Mullins lived. 

You can watch the trailer here:

And Mike, I'll see you again.  See you on film tour.

*The name of the film is derived from a book called The Ragamuffin Gospel, written by the author whose funeral I attended in Jersey this past April.  I blogged some about Brennan Manning's passing and funeral here at Neptune and at Roses.