Saturday, November 9, 2013



For the past 4.5 years, I've struggled with the concept of "home". I spent 18 beautiful years of my life in a little white house in Purcell, Oklahoma; going to Oklahoma is definitely home. But then I spent 4 years in Lawrence, Kansas, starting my own life and growing up with wonderful people surrounding me; in a way, Kansas is also home. Then there's that whole concept of "home is whenever I'm with you". Sometimes home is whenever I'm with Michael, or Alyssa, or Bethany, or Gretchen. Every summer when I hit that old dirt road and arrive at Rainbow and see the cabins in the quad, I also feel that sense of "home-ness", knowing that I belong at camp and that great quantities of camp aspects have my heart. 

All of these feelings of home are nurturing and life-giving. When I am in Purcell, I feel free to be me and loved unconditionally, even as I am fully known by all townspeople. When I am in Kansas, I feel free to be independent, free to grow and make mistakes and still be loved for my quirky self. When I am with my favorite non-family people, I feel joyful and part of relationships that will last no matter what, free to kick off my shoes and share a glass of tea (or watch tv shows on conspiracies without being judged). When I am at camp, I feel connected to God and others and grasp that greater sense of community and purpose that stirs my heart to want more.

Here in Iowa, I feel none of these things. Yes, I have a physical apartment with my name on the lease, but on nights like these where the plumbing in said apartment has somehow completely broken over night, I begin to live out of my car, driving around from place to place in order to occupy my time until I can finally fall asleep somewhere. This feeling of homelessness sinks into my heart, making me feel overwhelmingly lonely and helpless to take care of myself. 

But then I think of how millions of people around the globe are actually really truly homeless, and how awry plumbing would actually be a blessing, because it would mean that they actually had a shelter in which to sleep (even if there were no place to pee). True, I don't really have a place of my own at which I can stay tonight...but I have been blessed with a wonderful fellow intern who let me shower at her place this morning, made me a warm, home-cooked breakfast while I was using her facilities, and is letting me camp out on her couch later tonight. I have a supervisor who is letting me move into her empty two-story house to keep it occupied for the remainder of my internship (she even has a working heater and a fully-functioning oven!). Even better, I still have a tangible home in Oklahoma, a tangible home in Kansas, a spiritual home in my friends, and an annual weekly home at camp, all of which I can pretty much visit at anytime.

And when I put it into perspective, I see how incredibly blessed I am, and how selfish I can be to be throwing a pity party because I don't have plumbing. In this season of my life, I think God is showing me how He created me to need other people and to stop leaning on my own understanding. They say the average human only has 2 people whom they can truly trust; I can think of at least 10 such people in my own life. I am loved beyond my comprehension. I have people who truly care about me, and, on those occasions where I do find myself homeless, are willing to take care of me and to instill a small sense of home in my heart in whatever way they can. It's hard for me to tell people I need help, or that I need a place to sleep, but what I have found is that when I am vulnerable about my needs, it teaches me how to be strong AND dependent, and gives me a chance to receive blessings from the goodness of others. Since it's November, I keep seeing Facebook friends writing a post every day about what they are thankful for. I have nothing against that (and actually kept a thankfulness journal log for an entire year....if you are REALLY bored you can delve into blogs past to read that insanely long list....) but I think that we so often only think of what makes us grateful when it is the cool thing to do. As I am continuing to learn lessons about how great is God's love for me and how much He provides for me and wants me to accept love and care from others, I find my soul overflowing with thanks. I will continue learning to reach out to others and to admit my needs. In turn, I hope to also be able to give back to others even as I have received. I pray that a spirit of gratitude continues to be formed in me, and continues growing across my lifespan. Hopefully, this time of homelessness will not last long. Hopefully, the lessons that God is continuing to teach me in this season of life will continue for years to come, even after I once again have a place where I can pee. 

And so, tonight I will be somewhat homeless, and I will be okay. 

Monday, October 21, 2013


(A Heavenly Conversation as I Imagined It Might Occur While Driving)

Katie: God.....I don't really want to go back to Iowa.
God: Why is that?
Katie: Well, I guess it's just that being in Iowa kinda hurts.
God: Just 7 months ago, weren't you begging Me for the door to that exact internship to be opened?
Katie: Well, yes.....but Iowa was never in my original plan!
God:  I know, daughter. You were kicking against the goads when the seed of the idea of Iowa was planted in your mind. Eventually you started asking that My will be done, all the while hoping that My will correlated with your comfort and staying where you were. But as you prayed, I started replacing your dreams with My own plans for you. You may have wanted to remain comfortable, but My plan was for you to move and grow in ways you still can't fully see. Hasn't My faithfulness led you to places beyond your wildest imagination before? Haven't I remained faithful even now?
Katie: Well, yes. I guess You're right. Sorry for being so stubborn.
God: My grace is sufficient to cover you.
Katie: But....God...I mean, I get all that, but being in Iowa still hurts.
God: How so?
Katie: These past 3 weeks have been really emotionally tough. My apartment is in constant need of maintenance requests. I've had friends hurting and making poor life choices. The pastor of my Kansas church ran away. I had a patient die in my session. I'm working with babies in the NICU that, although they are receiving services now, probably won't be cared for when they leave the hospital. I feel like there are so many things wrong, and I'm too small to fix anything.
God: Daughter, it's not your job to fix anyone or anything. That's My job to bring redemption and to fix broken hearts. All you can do is show compassion to those you encounter, and to place your trust in Me.
Katie: But God.....I'm not always the most loving or gracious person to others.
God: My grace is sufficient to cover you. Let yourself allow Me to love others through you, because I loved you first.
Katie: I guess that makes sense. But God....another reason that Iowa hurts......I'm so alone.
God: Daughter, you have so many people who love and care for you. And on top of that, I am the Creator of the universe. Even though you are poor and weak, I think of you. I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; you are Mine. And I will never leave you nor forsake you. You may be lonely, but you are never alone.
Katie: Well, that is encouraging. But more thing. I mean....I am lonely. And I mainly miss Michael, and my friends from Kansas. It just doesn't seem fair that I have to leave them so often. Why did You send me to a place where I am so lonely?
God: I have called you in this season of life to solitude and learning more and more how to depend on Me. Basically this is a time where I am growing you to be more like Me, where I have pulled you out of your comfort zone for a purpose.
Katie: You know....I have been wanting more of You lately. And I have had a few times where I've woken up in the middle of the night with praise songs on my heart.
God: You wouldn't be calling to Me if I hadn't first called out to you. I love you, and I will do whatever it takes to shape you to be more like Me. Now, daughter....are you going to continue trying to lean on your own understanding? Or are you going to place your trust in Me and let Me guide and provide in this growing season of your life?

Oh Son of David, I want to see.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In His Grip

If I look back on the past year, I can see how there have definitely been times where I’ve been in deeper struggles with my faith and have had increased doubts and worries. Yet there have also been times where I have been so much more attuned to God, more in love with Him, than I have been in the last few months. I recognize that every relationship has highs and lows, and I can’t always be on the “I’m a Christian and life is awesome!” mountaintop. Still, I have been wondering what more I can do to regain the mountain and the view of clarity that comes from being closely in sync with the Creator of the universe. I have tried to stay a perfect Christian, but sometimes I find that I go through the entire day without really thinking, much less acknowledging God. The past few weeks I have had extreme difficulty in finding the focus to read my Bible and pray, feeling that, even as I have been reading about the grace of God and the things that His children should be exhibiting in their daily lives, I was failing miserably on all counts. I could read all that I was supposed to read, but within 10 seconds I would fail, sin, and feel bad. Things seemed like they were just a futile circle of never learning how to be good enough. I recognize that this sounds like I’ve been super depressed since I moved to Iowa. I can attest that I have not been depressed. There are levels of sadness that accompany being alone so much and having new things all around, but I’ve been doing ok. This faith struggle was more of apathy than anything else, and it’s hard to escape apathy when you are processing things all alone at the end of a long day of work.

Last Thursday, I had a meeting with my supervisor. She told me that I was doing great music-wise, but she felt a lack of confidence in the way I presented myself. She said that I gave off an air of being too concerned with what others thought of me without analyzing my own actions or thoughts for simply what they were. At first, I was really shocked by this estimation. After all, I have spent most of my life saying that I don’t care what other people think and that I am my own person without being swayed by the need to please others. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how I think others are watching me hundreds of times a day. I think that other people are constantly thinking of me and judging the times when I’m awkward around them or when I am unsure how to adequately express myself or when I accidentally insult them, when in reality, my perceptions that I am being awkward or insulting are generally not even recognized as such by the other party. I realized that even basic interactions get analyzed for a long time after the fact: When that nurse walked past me, did she get a bad impression of me from my awkwardly standing around? Did he think that I didn’t want to be friendly when I said “hello” and then moved on without conversation? Do they think I’m a freak because I believe in Bigfoot and adventures, and will that affect my standing with them and their ability to love me (guys, I’m serious about Bigfoot and seriously can’t get through a blog without mention of him. Anyways.)? The list could go on and on. And as I thought about this internal monologue of questions that flow through my mind on a daily basis, I realized the problem doesn’t lie in how other people perceive me, the problem lies in the assumptions I make as to how others perceive me and my own inability to forgive myself. I could write a whole list of reasons and excuses but the fact is, somewhere in my lifetime, I subconsciously decided that I had to be perfect to be accepted and loved and when perfection could not be achieved, I have looked to the responses of others instead of looking to myself and letting myself be forgiving about my inability to achieve perfection. Most of those people reading this blog know me well, and know how much I crave adventures, how obsessed I am with finding random, off-the-beaten-path things that are generally only visited by old retired couples on their cross-state RV trips. I’ve seen several “world’s largest” in my 22 years—largest concrete totem pole, largest pecan, largest ball of sisal twine, and largest goose are just a few examples. There’s a website and it lists all these off-beat attractions by state. I’ve already been pursuing some in Iowa, and I find that I am sometimes disappointed when attractions are not larger-than-life. I have this desire that in my quest to find an Easter Island head, the attraction will be 50-feet tall and utterly life-changing. But what I find instead is a statue as tall as me in the middle of a playground. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just not larger-than-life and awe-inspiring. Internally, I seem to think that my presence is larger-than-life, life-changing, and clearly important to those who see me, when in reality I’m more like the Easter Island head in the playground, and most of the people who I seem to want to impress or from whom I imagine a sense of judgment don’t even notice me or my awkwardness or feelings of insecurity. I impose judgment on myself and feel the weight of that judgment that I perceive from others as I go about the day. I am my own toughest, most judgmental critic.

It’s so foreign to be writing a blog such as this one. Part of my identity amongst peers has been the girl who is never afraid and who is not insecure. I’ve always known who I am and have been confident, or so I thought. I’m realizing these heart-problems are nothing new, though, and have been present for a very long time without being recognized as such, have actually been present for most of my life. All I can figure is that you learn the most about yourself when you are alone, and I am getting ample opportunities for self-reflection here in my tiny studio apartment.

Last Sunday, I went to church with all these ponderings about self-confidence and lack of forgiveness on my mind. I have been attending a mega-church here in Cedar Rapids, which is about as far from my roots as I can possibly go, having attended a church with a maximum of 50 people (on a very good holiday-type day) for the majority of my life. Despite the vast size of this church, I am very impressed with the pastor. He is incredibly laid back and preaches the Bible without seeking to please people with “feel good” lessons. His sermons are challenging and really relevant to life and growth as a Christian. This Sunday, he was speaking on the discipleship of new believers, and he gave an illustration of how many Christians perceive their relationship with Jesus to be. He had a guy come up and clasped hands with him, saying that we believe Jesus is holding onto us in that manner. The pastor counted off, and on his cue, the man who was demonstrating let go. Being only grasped by the fingers, he fell backwards and away from the pastor. Even though we know about grace, we seem to feel that our relationship with God is contingent on how tightly we can hold on. When we fail, as we inevitably do, we think we will fall away and God will have to scramble to re-grab us as we fight and work our way back to that reach of grace. The pastor then asked the man to hold his hand again. This time, the pastor reached out with his other hand and grabbed the man’s forearm even as the same hold as before was occurring in the other hand. On the count, the man let go, and neither man moved, connected tightly by the grip the pastor had on the other man’s forearm. His point was that this was in actuality a better depiction of how our relationship with God is as His children. We can grasp to His promises, but our ability to hold on is not what determines our relationship. Even when we let go and do not hold onto the promises, love, and grace of God, He still has us tightly in His grip, and we cannot be shaken. A girl I know from an old Bible study always signed things with the phrase “In His Grip”, and I never thought much about it before. Now I am realizing how powerful that statement is, and how beautifully descriptive of grace it is to say that I, as a Christian, am eternally in that place of being gripped.
Through that illustration of being in His grip, I realized that my lack of self-forgiveness and my distance in my relationship with God were not opposite events, they both stemmed from the same heart-problem, the problem that whispers to my soul that I can never be perfect or good enough. Instead of reveling in the love that God wants to freely give me, I have been looking instead to my own strength to be good enough in the eyes of God. I have been trying to make it through my days without grace. I am re-reading the book “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller, and coincidentally the chapter that I read last night was all about grace and how difficult it is sometimes to accept grace when we try so hard to work our way into being good enough, into being perfect. One of the quotes knocked the breath out of me and seemed to describe my current heart-problem pretty well: “I love to give charity, but I don’t want to be charity. This is why I have so much trouble with grace.” It’s easy for me to do work. It’s hard for me to just accept unconditional love, especially when I see myself failing in so many ways and realize I am so unworthy of that love. But as a daughter of the King, my role in my relationship with God is to humbly receive that unconditional love, nothing more and nothing less.

So….my goal for this week is to not listen to the lies. When I walk about doing my various jobs in internship, I will dismiss the thoughts that I am being judged by or inconvenient to others. I am going to stop trying to be good enough. I am going to refuse any attempts to be perfect, to change myself to please others. I am going to focus solely on God’s love for me, and the fact that I am perpetually under a sea of grace and unconditional love that has absolutely nothing to do with my own merit or lack thereof. I am going to cling to the promises given in the Bible, and I am going to let God work at healing my brokenness. I’m not sure if this blog was cohesive, and I know that I am still a work in progress, but to quote some Switchfoot, kinda, “God gave His own Son to put motion inside of my soul”. This is the motion that is happening within me and throughout my life right now, and it is important to me to express these critical and sometimes difficult revelations in my life journey with those of you who truly care about and stay invested in my life. To end, I would like to quote another portion of the “Blue Like Jazz” chapter that spoke so deeply to my thirsty spirit last night:

“If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bride that the groom does not love her. God woos us with kindness, He changes our character with the passion of His love.”

In His Grip,

Monday, September 30, 2013

I'm the hero of this story?

Dependence versus Independence

This past weekend, I went back to Kansas. I don't think I can really accurately describe how needed that trip was, and how good it was for my heart. I stopped to see Michael and his family first, and I had to keep making sure he was real and I was actually there in their house. I spent time with Bethany and we shared so many soul-talks. Today I visited with both Gretchen and Kristy, both of whom are so good for my heart. With all of the people whom I visited, I kept mentally repeating Keats: "I almost wish we were butterflies that lived but three summer days. Three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain." It was a butterfly weekend, and I was sad to leave, even as I felt excited to return to the internship aspect of Iowa. But the love that was showered on me made me feel empowered and able to conquer the world.

But then I got back and my bathroom ceiling was leaking and the floor was flooded. 

I didn't freak out or feel that I couldn't handle the situation, but I still called my parents immediately while texting Michael and emailing my landlord. Then I started feeling mope-y about my circumstances and not feeling like I could do much. I want my song to be "I'm the hero of this story, don't me to be saved", but I feel like I'm more often singing "I hope he will be someone to watch over me". 

Life is full of paradoxes lately. I hate being in Iowa but I love being at UIHC. I call Oklahoma home but I'm homesick for Kansas. I want to be independent and strong but I feel like I'm weak and oh so needy. I trust that this is all a lesson in growing in grace, and I will trust even when I feel like I cannot see, or when I feel like I am doing a terrible job at being an adult and being ok with when and where I am. Over time I will learn, and beauty will come from the growing pains.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Jonah Weekend

Last night at 10 p.m. I reached my breaking point when, during my time of washing dirty dishes in my too-small sink, a spider the size of a silver dollar crawled across my kitchen counter. I have never been afraid of spiders before, but I found myself screaming several choice words while spraying a bottle of bleach on the vile creature, begging it to die. It started squirming and then fell down the tiny crack between the sink and the oven to the sounds of me being hysterical as I continued to spray everything in my line of vision with bleach (later my Dad's words of wisdom were "Kate? Did you forget that spiders are squishable? Cause they are.") I then spent the rest of my evening sitting on my bed feeling really freaked out and really vulnerable.

Under normal circumstances, I doubt I would have had such a huge overreaction to finding a spider. But this begins my 3rd week living alone in Iowa, and I find that I am overwhelmingly lonely and feeling powerless as to how to fix or take care of basic things. My sink has been burbling up with foul smelling water sporadically throughout the day. I thought it would be a good idea to wash my laundry in the bathtub to avoid having to find quarters for the laundromat, which has resulted in my bathroom being crowded with all my clothes hanging around, still nowhere near being dry enough to out back in the closet. Whenever I need to use Internet, I have to travel to the library or Starbucks, and I feel like there simply are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done. I absolutely adore internship, but when I go home after work each day, I feel overwhelmingly lost and lonely. Today I was driving and my tire pressure light came on--I had a lot of problems with that last year, and had to pretty much go use my tire gauge in the rain to see what my car's status was. It was just another frustration on top of it all, and I was less than happy.

This morning I tried a new church. It was very different than my normal places of worship, with 1500 people attending each service, on average. They had a full orchestra playing hymns, and I sat in my seat and simply cried, unable to sing or do anything else. I feel as though I have been really far from where I need to be in my walk with God, mainly because I have not yet gotten used to my schedule and need to figure out how to adjust quiet time on top of everything else. I still don't have a lot of answers as to how I am going to balance everything, or even how I will manage to be alone for the next 5.5 months. I am vowing to take it all one day at a time, trusting Jesus to provide for me and be my heart healer on the days when I will inevitably feel overwhelmed. For today, I am grateful for grace, and the knowledge that I am where I am supposed to be, even though living here alone in Iowa may seem like an impossible task on this Jonah weekend. Mainly I am grateful that I have a Savior who also acts as high priest, and who will intercede for me and meet me where I am, even on my most complain-y, graceless days such as today. I know that growth happens most during the challenges, and I know that God is not through with me yet. The end result will be worth it, and when I look back I will see the ways in which He will have carried me through the experiences of this period in my life, spider panic included.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


For starters, let's just get one thing straight: as far as people and personality types go, I'm pretty low-maintenance. I'm easily entertained and have so many hobbies that I am usually really good at being alone without needing a ton of affirmation or attention from others. Don't get me wrong, those things have a time and place, but I personally don't require a ton of spotlight time.

That being said, I have pretty much been a basketcase throughout the second half of this summer.

To the casual observer, I have been perfectly fine. But to those closest to me, I have been ridiculously vulnerable and panicky about this season of my life. I've been needing a continual flow of affirmation or distractions from others. The phrase "I have no idea what I'm doing with my life" has left my lips hundreds of times, and as I face a new season in my life, I realize that I am, frankly, scared to death. 

Scared that I won't have a job when I finish internship. Scared of student debt. Scared of losing previous friends when I move even farther away to Iowa. Scared that I will be a complete failure at this whole intern thing. Scared of how my story is going to play out. Scared of living a mediocre life. Scared that my life as I know it is now going to be over as I have to become a real, full-time adult. 

I think the last fear is the one that is hitting hardest. Everywhere I go, nostalgia overtakes me. When I went home a few weeks ago, my Dad and I returned to his hometown and I was overcome with emotion the whole day, missing my grandparents and wanting desperately to go back in time and spend more time with them, and spend more time as a little kid running through the pasture with my cousin, Kyle. At church, nostalgia struck again, making me remember how every member of that 
sweet church adopted me as I grew and loved me thoroughly and became my family (and somehow, as I've aged, they've all gotten older, too, which rips at my heart). Several sweet friends are going back to college this week, reminding me of 18-year-old Katie, and how scared and insecure she was, thinking that her life was over because she was moving from Oklahoma to Kansas where she knew nobody (and yes, I realize that in 4 years I will look back at 22-year-old Katie and scoff at her naivety as well). As things are changing so quickly and drastically around me, I find that I just want to go back. I want to relive past things and be little again. 

For the past few weeks as all these things have circled in my mind and emotions, I have felt like a huge failure as a follower of Christ. If my trust is in Jesus, why am I so scared? Why wasn't my faith in Him coming easily? I had several friends who kept me grounded, constantly reminding me how I was going to be ok, and how God did have His hand over my life. And even though I knew that in my head, I didn't feel it in my heart, and that lack of feeling made me feel like a really apathetic and bad representation of Christ. I was still having quiet time and trying to focus on God, but I was just too distracted by....everything. I still was having awesome days, but at the end of the day when I went to sleep, I felt as though I had accomplished nothing meaningful. Surely there was more I had to do in order to get out of my funk so that I could go embrace a faith-filled life with brilliant fervor.

But then this Sunday at church, the pastor made a comment that hit me: faith never really comes naturally. Because if it did, it wouldn't really be faith. And with that comment, I realized that I am going to be ok. Others had told me this, but I needed to acknowledge to myself that God sees, God knows. My questions are already answered, even if I cannot see the answers at this point in time. My weakness of faith is seen, and yet I am still covered by the blood of Jesus (and honestly, in my weakness, my need to depend on God grows and grows). There will be times in my life where things are absolutely certain, and times in my life like now, where things will be insanely ambiguous. That's just a part of being human. I. don't need to know all the answers, I just have to trust. And no matter what befalls....I will be ok.

And so I am trusting again. I am waking up singing, embracing the grace that is being freely given to someone as weak and clumsy as me. I don't really know how everything turned around, other than by the Spirit's work, but I am grateful for the change. I believe that God is doing a good work in me, and that that work is nowhere near completion. Tonight the unknown doesn't seem scary, it seems like an adventure waiting to unfold.

To end this post, here's a song by my favorite band, Elephant Revival. Not sure how to add videos to my blog since I practically live in the 1880's in my understanding of technology, but I figured I'd give it a try. It has nothing to do with my blogpost except for the shared title, so....enjoy! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Twisted Perspective, Inaccurate Expectations

Update, June 21, 2013

Hello again, everybody! Here's yet another update from Russia. 

Yesterday was really rough. I was incredibly frustrated with many things: the fact that I feel like I haven't changed in my relationship with God even as I am on this trip, the fact that our schedule has us so busy that I barely have time to even breathe, and mainly, the fact that our team really feels like a group of individuals co-existing in Russia rather than as a unified front. Do I sound cynical? Maybe. But it has definitely been a struggle.

After somehow getting through the day yesterday, I went up on the roof and spent a long time with Jesus. In regards to our relationship, I asked Him to help me to trust that His word is truth, even when I don't feel anything. I asked Him to take away my fears and frustrations and to fill me with His Spirit so that I could fight fear and apathy, looking to Him instead of to myself. I sang the song "As the Deer" at least 20 times and changed the lyrics to prayers and sang out over the view of St. Petersburg. Thankfully, God is faithful, and I felt much better on the spiritual front this morning.

Then on the way to breakfast, I was talking to my team leader and realized one reason why I am so frustrated with the lack of team unity. When I was preparing for this trip, I honestly had no expectations about connecting with any Russian students. My main expectation was that I would find a new family in the form of my American team. Yet here I am in Russia, and at our graduation ceremony tonight, I realized just how many of the students I have connected with and grown to love. At least 5 come to mind as being really close, and multiple others have occupied soft places in my heart. And it's amazing that these Russian students love me, an awkward 22-year-old from Oklansas (OK/KS; its a new word I'm trying out for size) who doesn't speak any Russian, and that I do love them and connect with them in return. Yet while they were loving me, I wasn't noticing because I was so frustrated with the fact that my expectations for the team were not being met. But really? I didn't come to Russia to love more Americans. I came to Russia to love Russians. My viewpoint yesterday was backwards, and hence frustration occurred. 

So what's next? Next week will be full of time to do things privately with the students with whom I have most connected. Now that I have remembered how important this is, I am really excited for the opportunity. The times when I feel most loved and used and obedient here in Russia are those when I am with the students God has brought to me. I look forward to the experiences we will share and I hope that I can continue to find ways to uniquely love them with the love of my Father. As for the team? I'm working on forgiving when people don't meet my expectations. All the people on this trip are genuinely amazing people, we just have a lot of differences. It makes the day easier when I can just accept that people are complex, and that I don't have to hold it against them when things go unexpectedly.  Maybe I'm a cynic, but I don't know how much team bonding can occur in just the 8 days remaining. My prayer is that we will make the most of our time, and that we will part without a bitter taste and an appreciation for each other. 

Well, that's all I got for now. Fun Russia fact of the evening: it's 11 p.m. and the sun looks like it would at 6 p.m. in Oklansas (see what I did there? The word is growing on you!). This whole "being really far north" thing is kinda growing on me, but I look forward to seeing night time again soon!