Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jess and Mike

I had the huge honor of blessing my good friends Mike and Jessica at their wedding. This is what I wrote for them:

Mike and Jess, may you grow so deep in truth and love that your marriage has no choice but to grow and flourish into something beautiful.

And as your grow deeper and deeper into that love and truth, may your marriage become an actual living, breathing space.

And may that space that will be you marriage be so spacious, so secure, so inviting that those who are without either food or family or love be able to find both home and hope in you two.

May you perpetually be aware of the elaborate gifts God has given you and may that awareness spur both of you to live your lives with open hands with willingness to give back all that has been given to you with grace.

Jessica and Mike, may you fearlessly and uninhibitedly chase and grab a hold of the story God is waiting to tell with your life.

May you have a humble courage to live your story in a way that invites others who do not yet know God into a vibrant relationship with Him, the Living God.

May your story be irresistible to the community you’re apart of now and the communities you have yet to be apart of.

And may your children be raised in a story where the Kingdom of God present and actualized in their parents.

Finally, Jess and Mike, as you continue to work out your faith with fear and trembling both together and individually, may your marriage be the catalyst through which Christ’s character is formed for fully in you so that when people look at you they no longer see Jessica Michael Bernard, but rather God’s love manifest.


Michigan and Today

It has been quite the summer so far.

Since May, I have gone to Japan and Thailand, got a new apartment, got a new job, took a four credit class, took a couple weekend trips, been in a wedding, made the decision to go Thailand from September 2011 to May 2012, and started a month-long nanny gig in northwestern Michigan with my dear friend Miranda.

I took a four hour nap today. It was glorious.

As I write, I am sitting in the room designated for the nannies that come to live-in for the summer. It’s a nice little room with a huge window with a lake view, two twin beds and a stash of our nighttime treat: two buck chuck. It’s not bad. Miranda, my friend who was on the North Park team to Thailand is here with me for the month. Without a doubt, if she was not here, I would not be able to do this. It is a 24/7 job of watching four kids who have never been disciplined. Currently, she is playing with the kids outside with her fiancĂ©, Ryan.

Miranda got a call yesterday that her biological mother was killed in a car accident. Ryan drove up at three am to be with her. She has done amazingly well and is handling it far better than I know I would be. Having Ryan here for a couple days is good too. Life has a funny way of doing what it wants.

Being here, watching Miranda go through this, and, honestly, being convicted of my horrible attitude about this job, has got me thinking: am I ready for my world to be turned upside down?

Jesus told His disciples that life has little mercy and that things are going to happen that will feel like (and very well be!) a storm. He said the only way to actually withstand would be to be with Him. He said that when we build our lives on Him, we will be able to come out alive from the storms. And how do we be with Him? How do we build our lives on Him? Well, I guess it starts with living as He commands and ordering first lives and then eventually our hearts (feelings always seem to be last) around what He said. When we do that we are prepared for life in a certain way.

Example: If I got a call informing me my mom died, how would I feel? Devastated, of course. But what else? Two years ago I would have felt huge regret. I would have felt like there was unfinished business between my mom and I. Essentially, I didn’t love my mom or do life with my mom as Jesus commanded or as He would have wanted. Thus, there would have been huge, gaping wounds left unattended.

Now, I am not saying that if my mom died it would be okay or that I would even be okay. What I am saying is that my mom and I have healed quite a bit in the last two years. What’s changed? Well, for me I know I surrendered more to God and asked Him to teach me to love and seek forgiveness. I think it’s from doing that I feel like there is no longer unfinished business. If she died there would be regret, but regret about missed time, not missed love.

Being here in Michigan, I have struggled with being content. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. It’s really hard to be here with the four kids, live with them, be at the whim of their parents and not have any freedom at all. Given all this, it’s hard for me to be present. I find myself wanting to, well, not be here. And I also find myself counting down the hours until dinner time, then bath time and then bed time. The reality is that it’s beautiful here. The kids, when not with their parents, are not that bad and there is plenty to do. You see, I can’t see this when I am thinking about how much I hate it, how much I want a venti soy chai or how much I miss my friends and bed.

I miss what’s here. I miss what God is trying to give me right here, right now.

If my world was thrown upside down while I was here, like something happened to me or one of the kids or even I had to go home, I would be devastated, and not just generally devastated because it ended. I would be devastated because I would have regret. Regret because I missed a million opportunities each day to be a part of something wonderful and bigger than myself and a million and half more opportunities to see and experience God.

I would be devastated because I wasn’t living the way God intended me to.

It’s almost as if I had cheapened life or something.

It’s pretty clear what God has for me in Michigan: to live well, as He intended.

Weather it’s something wonderful or tragic, I want no regrets or questions. And the beautiful thing is that I know that’s what God wants for me too.

I think I’ll take the kids swimming tomorrow. And make them hold a bug. They’re scared of bugs.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


it's been a long time.

There is no excuse, though I would love to make one.

So, moving on, Chicago has come back to life. Spring is amazing in this city because until maybe March, nobody moves. people huddle in tall brick buildings and complain about the city. Then, come sweet, glorious March, things change.

All of a sudden windows Restaurants put tables and chairs outside (including the local Starbucks). People go on walks, runs, rollerblades, bikes, strollers, horse and carriages, long boards, and scooters around the lake and city.

It's like the city comes back to life again and breathes a collective sigh of relief.

I am certainly breathing a sigh of relief. Spring brings about changes and my life is not immune to those changes, even though some days I long for the certainty of being in one place and not experiencing constant transitions.

The changes include: moving, again; starting seminary full time in the fall; saying goodbye to some wonderful undergrads; watching some close roommates go; finding a new family to nanny for; having my own room and not living in an overly-crowded space for the first time in five years and, finally, joining with other friends in celebrating lots of new marriages and babies.

Yes, there are plenty of changes. Not to mention I am heading to Thailand for the fifth time in about...six days. I am so excited to go. I don't remember the last time I was this excited to go on a trip, even though, for a lot of reasons, this has been the hardest trip for me to lead thus far. We are going to living with thai families in a village just north of Chiang Mia. We will be working on a fish farm with the missionaries, learning about how evangelism is done in the East through the efforts of contextualization and, ultimately, furthering through our presence and actions the witness of Christ that is already present in the village. After a week there, we will be traveling to the Burmese border to work in the nine refugee camps. In the camps we are going to be working in the orphanages, bringing school supplies and smiles and getting to spend some quality time with the kids. We also will be funding the building (and building) several toilets in the largest camp. Throughout the trip we will be hearing from missionaries working with women in the sex industry and learning about what advocacy in the States can and should look like. We are going with the very real awareness that we do not speak Thai or Kerrin, nor are going to be in the country long enough to stand in full solidarity with the people. However, we know that by going, we are opening ourselves to new experiences and are entering another story.

We are entering a story that needs advocacy, and, unfortunately, we know that most times people do not change their priorities until their story intersects with someone else's. That is why we are going.

Please, please, please pray for this trip. Pray as the Spirit leads. I am leading with Zach, and the students on the trip are Miranda, Matt, Sarah, Brad, Poe Clee, and Maren.

As we are getting ready to leave, I am clinging to the words in the book of Second Corinthians. The first chapter is about allowing God the room and authority to work in your life. Whenever we experience suffering, we are making room for God's comfort. When our perspective shifts, we are making room for a new one. When we allow God to break our boxes, through whatever means He uses, we are making tangible room for something new. The following chapters are filled with encouragement that in our weaknesses, God can be strong. Again with the theme of less of us and more of Him. The less we have, the more there is room for God to show us He is right, good and ABLE. Chapter six begins with a verse about not wasting the gift of kindness, love and salvation God has given us.

God wants room in our lives to show us He is big enough. He is more than enough. He does not want us to take for granted and waste the power of the Holy Spirit in us on our own fear.
I pray that we would believe God more.

As the trees have blossomed, and kids' chalk litters sidewalk, I have a felt a new wave of joy. There is something terrifying and liberating in change. There is space in my life that has not been there before. There are situations, opportunities and people in my life that have been there before.

I have not been here before.

Man, I love spring.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

wisdom teeth.

well, i am wisdomteethless. and yes, that is a word.

i once had four teeth that spoke to deep wisdom of my evolution. i now do not. instead, i have a flappy gum that my dentist says is 'normal' and a bunch of stitches that should dissolve any minute now. and, because of all this, i spent the greater part of 72hours in my bed. thank goodness my parents had the good sense to buy me a full size bed and repaint my room, otherwise i'd be in a twin bed in a blood red room (i blame being 15 and thinking i was being 'artsy').

i've had a few faithful friends come with ice packs, passion fruit green tea smoothies creme popped and seasons of the office come and pay homage to the once molars. but, mostly, i've been asleep.

however, while i haven't been sleeping or making headbands (check ::create:: !!), i've been thinking. thinking a lot.

i've been thinking about an ethic of pain verses an ethic of happiness. i was lead down this path because around day three of drinking only fruit and missing hard, chewy, crunchy food, i realized how much of my happiness came from food. a lot. and i realized that if, for some reason, i was without a jaw (just go with it), i could potentially be miserable. i would be miserable because i would have to drink my fruit the rest of my life. the thought of drinking fruit naturally made me think of my vegetarian and even vegan friends. they did not eat steak, they did not eat burgers. yet, for most of those friends, not eating certain food was a choice. a very deliberate choice. i'm not saying that i eat only steak, because that is very far from true. but, i do love it. i love beef. i do. what i'm saying is this: some people choose what, to me, would be miserable and, more than that, some people are not even given that choice (ie: people without jaws or people in extreme poverty). yet, i almost panic at the thought of only eating fruit the rest of my life.

what does that say about me?

that i am greedy? yes.
that i am a glutton? yes.
that my relationship with food is not as healthy as it should be? yes.
that i am an over thinker? well, yes.

i cannot help but realize how many decisions i make each day that are out of an ethic of pleasure. if it pleases me, and hurts no one in the immediate future, that i do it. if it does not please me, that i do not do it. now, i like to think that i am more evolved than that, and i might be, but not by much.

i'm not saying that we all need to be vegetarians and read Food Life and raise awareness about the food industry. i'm not. what i am saying is that it wouldn't be horrible if we thought about our decisions a little more. i know that not all vegans and vegetarians are righteous and are subscribing to an ethic of pain v pleasure. no. but for me, katie, there is something going on when i realize that i do not even consider the 'other' when i make my food

i read Food Life while laid up. i also read The Omnivore's Dilemma. lots to think about.

i want to be a woman who is a woman of integrity. as christians, we must stop living our lives as if no one else is affected by the seemingly mundane daily decisions we make. we are connected, and as christians, it is our biblical mandate to care for the 'other'.

who are the 'other's you impact without knowing it? and better, can you name those others?

all just thoughts.

until later,


Tuesday, March 2, 2010


henry henry henry

everyday, generally all day, except tuesdays and thursdays when i have class, i am with a little boy named henry.

henry is amazing. and i'm, not just saying that because i love him a lot or because i have a ton of influence on him (though, let's be real...). i say that he is amazing because he is one of the smartest people i know. yes, people, not children.

somedays i expect him to look me in the eyes and, in perfect english, tell me that really he's a 30 year old in a three year old's body. sometimes i think he secretly knows how to read.

all this to say, he's smart. creepily smart sometimes. this little man teaches me more about myself than almost anyone ever has.

i see how lovable i really am. henry doesn't care about smudged mascara, that my leggings are brown and boots black or that i gained 20lbs. he cares that i laugh at his jokes and am willing to blow on his oatmeal. he loves my body because it's perfect for climbing on and comfy enough to sit through multiple books.

i see how simple life really is. there is no bullshit with henry. sometimes things are just black and white and when i say something that he doesn't understand, without hesitation, he simply asks 'why?'. when i'm sick or tired or even crying, he tells me all the reasons why i should feel better or more awake or stop crying. something is either good or bad, fun or boring, good for you or not.

so, on days like today, when i forget that being a nanny really matters and i loose sight of the reality that, in henry (or anyONE, especially children), i am getting a new, fresh, VIBRANT perspective on the character of God, i just need to pause and look at him. and wait. it will come to me.

looking at him now: he is feeding my roommate some of his cheese crackers. he's worried she didn't have any and needed some.

Monday, March 1, 2010


it's time for change

hello, hello. it's time for a new format for my blogs-and this is it.

this is escaping convenience- the blog for all my writing and connections to valuable resources. there is a link here for ::creating:: which is the blog that will feature my photog, craft and other endeavors.

there is a change in the air and something wonderful is on it's way.

stay tuned.




I feel like there are certain times in one’s own life where everything around them is ready, is poised.

It’s like waking up early in the morning in Chicago.

There is a moment before everyone stirs, before the city wakes, before the busses are running and the mail gets distributed by men and women in all blue, before the line at Starbucks forms, and even before the suited business people hop in their shiny black expensive cars to beat the horrid traffic into the loop- before all the stretching and the communal rubbing of sleep from the city’s big, polluted eyes, every single thing is poised and waiting to begin again. To start the day.

Something speaks to me in those moments. Admittedly, I am rarely ever awake to see the poised-ness of this loud city, but, when I am, I soak it in. When I am up and observant (you can’t ask much more of me early in the morning than to simply register what’s going on, just ask my roommate. Or anyone who has ever, ever lived with me), I am so hopeful and excited and honestly, a little intimidated. You see, in those early moments, nothing has been done yet. Yes, things were done yesterday and the marks of them may still linger on the now, but they do not define what will yet come to be. There is intimidation because with the freedom of knowing anything can be created comes an almost obtuse form of paralyzation.

In my life, I feel as if everything is poised.

So much is left waiting, earning, crying out to be created.

And I, so often the coward, am paralyzed by the freedom and power that comes from newness.

Yes, in my entire life there are the marks from yesterday still lingering: mistakes I made in school, poor choices with money, personality traits used as defenses which now define me to some, lack of consideration when choosing how to spend my time. But none of those things stop the sun from rising and all my world to lean back on its haunches in preparation of springing forth once more. Nothing has stopped the things in my world to poise themselves all over again, nothing.

I have rediscovered my passion for honestly, vulnerability and transparency and I have simultaneously discovered that when I admit I am weak and confused and broken, no one is surprised. I am not above anything. Too bad I was the last one informed of this, but better late than never. I have also discovered, through peeling back layers of pride and fear, that it really is the cowardly thing not to be honest. You see, once I was honest and started getting really real with people, I realized that life was much easier. I move and fit alongside those closest to me in my life so much more naturally once I quit trying to be something I wasn’t. Whatever the hell that may have been. It is much easier to be happier, full and motivated when you know that one slip of one tiny little card on the bottom of the house will not cause the entire house to collapse in on itself.

There’s freedom.

There’s the freedom of knowing that I am just a little person. I am just one little girl whom God loves enough to cover. It gives all whole new meaning to the name I give Jesus: Savior. He saves me from myself. He saves me from perfection. He is my perfection.

I, Katie Jo Kuehn, am not perfect.

Shut up. It took like 23 years to figure that one out and I am willing to put money on the fact that in another 23, I will have to learn it all over again. There’s something like a cycle to my life and I don’t think this revelation, though strong and powerful it is, will out-due.

Why does any of this matter? Why? There are a six BILLION people in this world with probably just as many blogs out there talking about self-revelation and realization and getting better and being whole and having freedom and whatever else there may be.

This matters because I live with four other girls who are trying to get free too. It matters because, in community, what happens to one person happens to all. It matters because God spoke and God was clear when He said that “your freedom will set others free”. It matters because







I have found that Christ calls us into community with Himself and others not only for the redemption of the world and knowing Him better, but for own good. It’s almost selfish, really. As I said before, to me now, it is more cowardly to not choose to be honest. A good friend and soul sister, Lisa, shared this thought with me that I think captures it quite well: "Is living in community—whether within a single dwelling or a neighborhood, in a house church or as part of a small group within a larger body—risky? Absolutely. Is it worth the risk? Utterly, because the alternative is living inside one's own dark and deceptive head. While living transparently—our weaknesses, temptations, and failures in full view of others—is undeniably scary, it is immeasurably more frightening (not to mention dangerous) not to be known. When I hide myself from others, it is just a short step from there to hiding myself from myself. Allowed to remain in the windowless room of my own mind, I will sweep the most unsightly things into the corners until I no longer even see them myself. Fear, pain, sin—when kept from the healing light of day—quickly fester and corrupt and put us in mortal danger (Kristyn Komarnicki).”

There is no greater skill than to love well. And I have found, in wanting to take seriously the call of Christ in life by loving Him and my neighbors more than I love myself, that in order to love well, one must know the Way to being well. I’m NOT saying that one needs to be perfect and whole and right to be well. One needs to know the Way to become well. The Way is Jesus. He is all we are not. There is no way, with our small, black, decrepit and damaged hearts, that we can love well without Him.

We are to give away all we receive. To give away insane, freeing love, we must first receive it. We must put ourselves in the Way (in Jesus) and allow Him to wash us, slowly making us well with fresh air, light and space to roam about while we know that we are never too much or too messy for Him. Then, from that space, we love well.

The paradox is that the sickest love the best. Ironic. The Kingdom of Heaven is not one made up of templates, grids and standards of this world.

I am sick, but the Healer works in me. And, eventually, will work through me.


He has poised everything for this day, this season, this moment. All so that we may come to Him and go then to others. All to be well in an unwell world. All to love well in a void place.

And all of it happens simply by being in the Way.



Just be honest.

When trying to think about what to write for this blog, those three words came to mind over and over again, just be honest. I have found that when starting to blog and put my thoughts, musing and feelings ambiguously out here into cyber space, I have a hard time knowing exactly who I am writing for. I know some friends and family who read, but other than that, who?

Well, if being honest is the now the theme, that it is clear whom I am writing for: myself. I believe that all I can offer and all I can give in any cause or to anyone is simply my honesty. I believe that it is through transparent, open, communal living that God speaks sometime most profoundly. It is also through lives lived that God speaks most profoundly. I will say with confidence that people look to one another’s lives first and their words second. This is not new to anyone though, right?

Being honest, I have been humbled. You see, I want God to use me. I want to be, as Mother Teresa put it, a pencil in His hands. I have always felt such a clear sense of purpose and direction but have so often failed to live into it. To be honest, yet again, I have been fearful of living into what I have felt my purpose to be. I have avoided, for so long, the truth. To be specific, I know that I am no one through whom God should chose to speak. I am sinful, weak, cowardly, dishonest and lazy. I have a knack for procrastination and for trying to use the correct words and actions to make myself look good. However, as I have proven to God, my closest friends and, most importantly, myself, that is empty and very shallow, false way of living. I may have a sense of call, yes. And I may even be able to clearly articulate my purpose and giftings, yes again. However, the very basic, authentic, deep stages are the ones I have yet to go through entirely. I guess I have just been scared that perhaps, in the process of being vulnerable and truly allowing God to form His characteristics and principles in me, I will find that my idea of my purpose and calling (which I can see so clearly and articulate so well now) are not actually what will come to be…or what God has for me. Fear, yes I do believe, is what holds me captive.

Thus far, living at 5128 N Kimball has taught me that I can float by oh so easily, as I have nearly my entire life, without being pushed and without needing to articulate the just plain honesty within my heart. Why? Because I am able to word and articulate everything perfectly and I am, by nature, a leader. However, to be honest, I feel empty. I want to be touched, not untouchable and above everyone. I want to be known, I want to be vulnerable, I want to be real. I want what I dream and what I hope and what I thought I knew for so long to become a reality. In order for this to happen, I must be honest.

It will never matter if I have all the correct words and can lead others into the correct ideas and matching activities while making it all look so wonderful if my life, if my soul, cannot be seen. I want the actual power of God to be in me, and I know that until I allow Him every part of me, even the parts I think no one will ever see (the unglamorous, nameless parts), the outside, the end product, if you will, will never be whole. It, me, my life, will never actually be. I will have been a great idea that was never put into action.

So, I want to just be honest.

Honestly, I am scared shitless. And I think this is going to be damn hard. Honestly, I feel like this is all basic conversion stuff that I never had the balls to do. So, there. How’s that for a good attitude?

As I write all this, I do know that life is about becoming someone of consequence, not doing things of consequence. And I know that in the beautiful order that God does things, through simply pursuing Him, I will become and out of that being, doing will happen. I know. However, I do not want to be passive about it. Living in this house has opened my eyes to the simple truths I have written about, talked about, and even preached out that I am failing to live out. I am failing to live them out because I have failed to allow God to mold me into being them. What truths am I speaking of, saying that I have been so convicted of before? Here’s one: loving my neighbor more than I love myself. Not judging before looking at myself. Becoming the least before seeking to be the greatest. Not to mention being truly convinced that Jesus lives in each of His followers and that God’s love is enough to perpetuate justice and healing for everyone.

I have never become a doer of these things because I have never become a believer, a be-er, of these things. And this has been made painfully clear in my judgment of my roommates, my impatience, my unwillingness to serve and my seeking my own advancement and gain before pursuing the best for others. I breeze in, offer words of encouragement and share a meal, talking about things which I am familiar and can add something intelligent, go to bed, wake up and do it all again.

And no one would ever stop me. No one would ever know. I am not expecting anyone to know or to be the one to have to prod and push me, as it is a choice we all make to allow others in. I am merely confessing how I have set myself up for emptiness in community.

I am no better than anyone else, and I need help. I am broken and have more sin in me than anyone I know. I am scared to not have it all together though. I am scared of being real. I am scared of letting people in, because, in order to let someone else in, I myself will need to acknowledge and come to terms with both who I am and who I am not. Perhaps closing myself off so has saved me from needing to deal with who I am and my own unhappiness with myself. Perhaps allowing air and light into my soul will allow God to transform me into a true woman. Into a be-er. Into someone whose life speaks.

So, here’s to the nitty-gritty. To not coasting through. To wholeness. To being scared shitless and excited. To fully living. To fresh air. To being honest with my roommates. To confessing this all to them. To confessing my sin in the moment when I am choosing words over being, when I am choosing appearance over being – not matter how scared I am. To allowing myself to be humble, real, messy, no better, wiser or figured out than anyone. To actual authenticity, not just the word. To being.

To being honest.



5128 N Kimball:

The Sankofa Experiment

Well, here we are. Five girls embarking on, well, God-only-knows-what (literally). We all have at least two things in common: we love Jesus and believe in our bones that the manifested Kingdom of God can somehow better be illustrated through reconciled communal living. This is the foundation that is providing a launching pad for the rest of the year.

It’s our sankofa.

Sankofa is an African term that means “to move forward while looking back” or “to go back and take”. The five of us have all, at different times or instances in our individual journeys, recognized that we (again, as an individual and as a society or community) should move forward. Scratch that; the more appropriate term would be need. It is a dire necessity that we move forward toward living reconciled lives and being reconciled people. Individually, we have seen the necessity to walk and work out our faith in Christ “in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13), learning what it means to live as fully reconciled women to God through the cross of Jesus. Communally, we have seen the ache of society for Jesus-followers to live full into the call of being reconciled to each other as children of God. The existence of insane, irrational and volatile racial tension that exists between people is one of the most apparent places where reconciliation is needed.

And I’m talking about within the Church.

Moving forward is one thing, but the term sankofa means to look back simultaneously. The two terms are inextricably wound together; one cannot exist without the other. There is no moving forward without looking back. In order to grasp or even have an idea of where one needs to move forward, a person or a community need to come to terms with where they have been. One does not exist in an isolated moment in time, and our culture does not wake up and start itself over again each day. We are a product of our past and a product of our culture. In order to move forward, we need to take a sober look at where we have been. We need to know what we are coming out of in order to clearly picture what we are walking toward.

To understand why an entire culture and community ache for liberation, those of us who are free must grasp the experience of oppression and bondage to identify fully.

To know what it feels like to yearn for equality, those of us who have never been overlooked because of our skin tone must begin to comprehend a consistent feeling of inferiority.

To know where to go, we must look back.

We must begin to understand what has been done so that we, as a community, can make changes to the assumed standards and traditions which have been laid in place.

This year, the ladies of 5128 N Kimball desire to exactly this. Through daily devotional time together, sharing resources and meals and committing to being honest and vulnerable with each other, we are seeking to live into the term sankofa more fully.

We want to know what it would look like to take loving our neighbor as a serious, non-optional commandment. We want to know what creating a new culture, a third culture, of love and acceptance that transcends all but soul, would look like.

We want to try.

We are going to experiment.

When God brought His people out of captivity and back into Zion, the Psalms say that the people were “like those who dreamed (Psalm 126 TNIV)”.

We are seeking freedom from our captivity and, much like the Israelites who found themselves held captive, we are aware that many of the chains that hold us down are a direct result of our choices.


We Want To Dream.

With that, we are entering this year with fear and trembling, anticipation and hope, and a whole lot of prayer.

This is our sankofa.