I’ve been nervously awaiting this week’s challenge for quite awhile, not entirely sure whether I’d be able to complete it. I instead found it to be surprisingly refreshing and liberating!

Challenge #23:

NO SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A WEEK!” – from Nadyne Hayden

Nadyne is one of the many delightful cousins I was blessed with on the Hayden side of the family. She is a few years younger than me, but we spent a lot of time together growing up. She is notorious for giving hugs and loves the entire world. She’s just one of those genuinely good people and I absolutely adore her. She also just recently made a career change and has entered the wonderful world of Brand Building with LPK! Congrats, babe!!


Her intentions with this challenge were to make me focus on more purposeful communication, more phone calls, more one-on-one interaction. During my time of unemployment, a lot of my outside interaction took place via social media. While all of you lovely people were working you little hearts out from nine to five, I was usually doing stuff by myself. That’s actually one of the reasons I started this whole blog in the first place. I came to depend a lot on social media for communication with the outside world.

1) I keep up with what people are doing. I have friends that are now spread all around the world and Facebook is one of those convenient little things that keeps me in touch with them. It has reconnected me with childhood camp friends, friends made on vacations and friends of friends met in passing whom I simply adore. It also provides me with the every day musings of one Ms. Haley Elkins who cracks me up on the regular. I need that.

2) Any important happenings in the world come to me via Facebook and Twitter.  (I don’t watch the news as I find it incredibly depressing. If it’s big enough and important enough, (or funny enough) it finds its way to me via social media.)

3) I keep track of pictures. – My iPhoto is a disaster and I can never find anything. On Facebook and Instagram, I always know right where they are.

4) When I encounter something I find amusing, important, celebratory, etc., I share it. In case you haven’t realized through this blog, I’m kind of an open book. I share a lot of things.

5) It entertains me. Specifically, I F*cking Love Science.  While it seems offensive, it teaches me so many fabulously amazing things. I smiled proudly when the world found out the mastermind behind this Facebook Page was a woman. Shock and Awe in nerdland.

6) Don’t act like you don’t use it more than you should…

The problem is I became too attached to these methods of communication. My iPhone became an additional appendage to my body. Nadyne, since she is so perceptive, noticed this and decided it was time for an intervention. So, with that, we decided that at 7:00 PM last Wednesday, I would cease to exist on the Good Book, Instagram, Pinterest, FourSquare, WordPress, etc. for 7 days. As I knew I could not be trusted, I gave her all of my passwords so that she could lock me out of the interwebs.

Day 1: I began with one last check-in to get my nails done with Megan at Nailtique.

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Ugggh this pains me because I just now noticed the typo.  (I cannot STAND typos. Which reminds me…I’m looking for an editor…email me if you’d like to apply. The gig pays in hugs and first glance at the blog before anyone else gets to see it…lucky dog.)

Between the hours of 7:00 PM and 11:45, I tried to pull up Facebook 19 times, by subconsciously clicking on the little blue icon in my Social Media folder on my phone. Only to be met with this lovely blue screen. I kept a tally to get a real evaluation of how addicted I really am to Social Media. Gaaaaaaah.


I also discovered how many things I have linked to my Facebook. Sorry Aunts Tessie, Debbie and Ann, as well as the many other Words With Friends game opponents that fell by the wayside this week… It wouldn’t let me play because it said my Facebook password was wrong and I couldn’t change it because Nadyne locked it. In retrospect, that was probably a form of social media, as well.

Day 2:

I usually start my day by turning off my alarm and browsing my news feed and my twitter feed to see what’s happening in the world. This was not possible. Instead, I watched the news. Mistake. Mistake. Mistake. Not only did I have NO idea what was happening, it ruined my good morning mood.

On Thursday, I would have normally checked in at several places I visited, specifically bookclub at The Banks, which is really just Wine Club when you haven’t read the book…sorry, Jenna. For those that are in book clubs, you may find this amusing. I was not permitted to pull it up on my phone, but was shown it via another person. That’s not cheating. I was helpless.

After book club, I practiced doing Jenna’s hair for a wedding on Saturday. This is normally something I’d have Instagrammed, because well, I know how you are all dyyyying to see what I do with my every waking moment.

Lovely retro waves!

Trial run on Jenna's retro waves! Gorge.

Trial run on Jenna’s retro waves! Gorge.

I tried to pull up Facebook 24 times today, Instagram 3 times and Twitter 4. Yikes.

Day 3:

I was greeted with an email along side my alarm. Cruel torture. Every morning for the rest of the week. Gaaah.

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This was the hardest day. I had a job interview. My 4th interview with this company to be exact. Two of my would-be teammates took me out to lunch to get to know one another on a non-interview level. I was informally offered the position and walking on cloud nine. And I couldn’t tell anyone.

A few members of the family and close friends received excited phone calls and text messages so I got to celebrate. However, this has been a relatively public job search for me and I wanted to tell all that have helped me of the exciting news. Megan and Nadyne offered to update their status with the news and tag me, but I decided that’d be cheating and resisted the urge. SO HORRRAAAAAAY!!!! I HAVE A JOB!!!!!!!!!

I am the new Director of Events for Prolanthropy, a for-profit company that manages the foundations for professional athletes. I start TOMORROW and my first event is in Philadelphia on the 3rd. I am beyond thrilled to be turning two of my greatest passions into a career – philanthropy and event planning. I’m finally getting paid to do something I feel I was born to do and have been doing pro bono for most of my life.  I cannot wait to see what kinds of things we can accomplish and where this company is headed. It’s relatively young and the potential for growth is endless.

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I will be traveling a lot, which will make some of these challenges impossible to complete, but I vow to stick with this to the very best of my abilities. It has become one of the most amazing adventures I’ve ever been on and giving it up would be very disheartening.

I had the pleasure of hearing an extremely impressive speech given by my cousin Tanner as he campaigned for Student Council President at Mercer Elementary. That kid never ceases to impress me. It was better then most speeches I’ve heard from actual US Presidential candidates. I then had a lovely celebratory dinner and headed down to the Moerlein Uberdrome for Oktoberfest Zinzinnati with the Pottschmidts. Another collection of items I’d have LOVED to have instagrammed…


Jenna’s lederhosen she worse as a 12 year old. Yes. That’s right. 12.


Tanner speaking so eloquently and purposefully. You deserved it, bud.


Me and Dirty Wally, Jenna’s dad at Oktoberfest!


JPo and Natalie in the Uberdrome!


I tried to pull up Facebook 11 times today.

Day 4:

Saturday. The rest of the world joins me in my permanent case of Saturdays. The temptation was there, but I actually did pretty well today. At this point, I’d seen the blue screen enough times to have almost broken the habit. I ran some errands and managed to almost completely detach myself from my phone until the late afternoon. I think the carpal tunnel is healing. I did Jenna’s hair for the wedding and sent her on her way. I did a better job on Thursday so I’m sorta bummed that wasn’t the day that counted, but she still looked beautiful!


We went out to Oktoberfest, El Coyote and Scene that night. I took far less pictures than I usually do. I also found that I was much more attentive. I wasn’t constantly reaching for my phone to look things up or figure out where people were. I actually found that I really enjoyed being disconnected from technology and enjoying the company of those around me. I must admit, it was pretty superb company!  Latergrams from the evening:

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And I only took one dumb picture of the sky. And I was immediately called out on it.


I tried to pull up Facebook 4 times today.

Day 5:

I had a baby shower in the morning for my friend Michelle that I used to work with. I hadn’t seen her in so long and it was great catching up! (I’M SO EXCITED FOR YOU GUYS!!!!)

Me and the happy Mama-to-Be!

Me and the happy Mama-to-Be!

Cleaned up in the prize department. Baby shower games are my jam.

Cleaned up in the prize department. Baby shower games are my jam.

I went home to spend some time with my parents and made dinner that night. Mom was having her final surgery on Monday so I wanted to give her “one last meal!” (haha kidding!!) I like cooking for them and have thoroughly enjoyed actually having them in town so much lately.

I only tried to look at Facebook ONCE today!!!!!

I spent the day listening to music and observing things around me I hadn’t noticed before. Several things amused me and normally I’d have taken a picture and shared it on the Good Book, but I didn’t even feel the need.  I did however take a picture of the dinner I made because it was yummy. Although, the eggplant tasted a little weird to me. Dad seemed to enjoy it. Must be old tastebuds…

Roasted Eggplant with fresh basil and sage, Honey-Ginger Pork Tenderloin, Lemon-garlic brocolini, and mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized shallots.

Roasted Eggplant with fresh basil and sage, Honey-Ginger Pork Tenderloin, Lemon-garlic brocolini, and mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized shallots.

Day 6: NO FACEBOOK! Not even once!! I’m pretty proud of the progress I made. I can’t even remember what I did all day…but Beryl came over to watch the Suits finale and the New Girl premiere (talk about a let down…) that evening. Gus misses his friend. I made dinner and she brought dessert. Nice little Monday.


At this point, I think I have completely overcome my attachment to social media. I’ve had more person-to-person interaction this week than I have in a long time. I found myself seeking it out as I wasn’t being fulfilled by hearing everything from friends via FB/twitter/social media. It was glorious.

Day 7:

I had the opportunity to attend an incredible event, the Impact 100 Awards dinner, as the guest of the president, my friend Stacey’s mother-in-law, Sharon. For those of you that aren’t familiar, Impact 100 is a group of women that have come up with something super cool! Each member that joins contributes a $1000 membership fee. This is then pooled with all of the other members’ contributions and 100% of that dollar value is then divided up and given as grants to local nonprofits. There is an application process to be considered as a recipient of these grants and the five finalists spoke to the membership, who then voted and awarded the grants right there on the spot.  I immediately joined. I have never been a part of an organization where ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of your contribution goes directly to the agencies changing this community for the better. The grants were not awarded to the two agencies I would have appreciated, but they both went to worthy recipients.

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The finalists:

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I ran into my friend Tara who made an interesting comment, reminding me just how much I use Facebook. She said, “Ohhh! That’s right! You’re off social media this week! I was wondering why it felt like I hadn’t talked to you in forever…”

See!!! We all use it for updates on how people are doing! But this stuck out to me and I will use it as a little reminder to not let interpersonal connections go by the wayside just because someone’s news popped up in my news feed and I liked it!!


The day I get it all back. Last Wednesday I would have thought I’d be dying to log back in and update the world on all of these things that have happened to me this week. Right now I’m considering removing all of this because when I look back at it, none of it was really all that necessary to publicly share. This has given me a new found perspective on the kinds of things I update daily. I enjoy hearing about things my friends’ kids do, funny Buzzfeed links, interesting news articles, etc., but what quality information would my picture of the tree have brought to the recipients of my updates? Nothing. They can go outside and see how gorgeous it is for themselves. That being said, I do love taking pictures and will probably continue to do so, regardless of whether or not you like it.

I think to really test me I should have eliminated Google from my fingertips as well. As noted in my previous letter to Google, I use them dozens of times a day. I didn’t try to limit that at all, but because I was using my phone less, it in turn, limited itself. I did however play a loooooot of Candy Crush this week.

At 7:00, Nadyne informed me what my passwords were and I returned to the wonderful world of time-wasting…

When I finally logged back in I had 6 messages (which is fine because I really hate Facebook Chat…) and 173 notifications. Like um. WHAT!? How is that possible? I didn’t look at them all. If you said something important to me this week, I apologize. I also didn’t browse through what you had all been up to. Hope it was fun…

My return to social media post was this:

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I must admit, while the gauze was a little dramatic, I was by myself and I was grateful to share the misery of the moment with someone.  And I super love my newly reupholstered chairs and stools….

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Totally worth the injury…it does, however, put a damper on next week’s challenge. Looking for work arounds. Stay tuned!

Cheating Death

This week’s challenge is one I’ve been wanting to do for a VERY long time, but have never been able to force myself to do it. Finally, like many others, I’ve been given no choice. It’s go time.

Challenge #22:

SKYDIVING!!!!!!” – from Jamie Humes

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Jamie is a friend of the family that I met many, many years ago. Our fathers are both members of an organization called YPO and have our mothers were in Junior League together. They are great friends of the family. Jamie and I have grown close through our community involvement and many other activities. She’s a brilliant young woman that chases her dreams. This was numero uno on her bucket list so she went with me!

Jamie has tried to go skydiving multiple times, each time ending in cancellation due to weather. My first thought was, “Maybe this some sort of divine intervention and you’re not supposed to do it.” Her thought, this simply fueled the fire and made her want to do it more.

Let me preface this with a little story. When I was younger, maybe 8 or 9, my parents packed my family into a caravan and drove us around the country for 3 weeks in a big circle. We stopped at many popular tourist attractions, including the Cheyenne Rodeo, an Oregon Trail adventure and the St. Louis Arch. Upon arriving in St. Louis and being told we’d be riding in this little contraption (from my memory, much like the egg that Mork arrived in on Mork and Mindy) to take us to the top of the arch, I got a little excited. My family boarded our little carton and began the 630 foot climb to the top. And then we got stuck. For 2 hours. There were college kids singing songs either above or below us and my mother tried to entertain all of us with a crossword puzzle. This is the moment we discovered that I was claustrophobic. Eventually our little carton of hell started to move again and we finally made it to the top. Upon exiting the “elevator,” I ran out and took a look out the window looking down over the river, that had flooded everything in site. I immediately backed up to the exact center of the arch and refused to move until it was time to leave. This is when we discovered that I am afraid of heights. Big time.

So. Neither of these things make me a good candidate for riding up in a tiny airplane and launching myself into free-fall 13,000 feet from the ground. Regardless, I’ve always wanted to do this and test my fears. I expected more than one of these to end up on my challenge cards and was surprised, but delighted, when this was the only one I received.

We both talked with our parents about it and neither were particularly keen on the idea of us throwing ourselves out of a perfectly good airplane. I asked my parents if they’d like me to call them before or after the jump. They said both. Jamie and I scheduled our jump, accidentally, for Friday the 13th. We were filling out our paperwork upon arrival and I said “Jamie…do you know what day it is?” She replied, “The 13th!” and I said, “I know.” I’m pretty superstitious so this wasn’t exactly our brightest idea.

We went through the video and signed our life away. Do you have any idea what they have you sign at those places?! Basically, no matter what happens, plane failure, manufacturer defect in the suit/harness, what have you, you, your heirs, or anyone representing you is not permitted to sue under any circumstances. If you DO sue, you have to pay the court costs and all other fees endured of the company. That’s. Crazy.

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Signing my life away...

Signing my life away…


Jamie and I then headed over to the hanger where we proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. And then we waited some more. Turns out you’re not allowed to jump through clouds. This was devastating for me because, for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to know what it felt like to go through a cloud. Big, fluffy, cumulus clouds.  I wanted to know if the Care Bears were on to something spectacular. Can you bounce around on them like big pillows of cotton candy? I mean physics tells me that no, that is not in fact possible. Looks like I’ll never know…


So we sat on the tarmac of the airport for 6 hours waiting for the cloud cover to dissipate. One group went up in the plane finally, only to return back to ground, disheartened that they could not jump. Several people did what’s called a Hop and Pop. This is at 5,000 elevation and you pull your chute the second you jump out of the plane.  I was freaking out for the better part of the day. Repeating “OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod” and “Holy Sh*t!” and “WHAT ARE WE DOING THIS IS CRAZY?!” I spoke with many of the instructors, made new friends, and asked as many questions as I could. Many of them do it for a full-time job. It’s tough because they get paid per jump and if you don’t jump due to weather, you’ve made no money that day. We talked to a guy named Gila and a guy named Lonnie. Lonnie was very helpful and positive. I kind of wish I’d requested to jump with him since he knew how nervous I was the day before.

During a conversation with Gila I had mentioned how scared I was on Friday. He said “Being scared is perfectly acceptable. It’s the people that aren’t scared that really freak me out. If you think about it, humans weren’t meant to fly. There is nothing normal about this.”  Totally stuck with me.

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I think this was actually truly beneficial to me because of the way the rest of this adventure pans out. It came down to like 5:00 and Jamie and I gazed out at the sky. We realized these clouds weren’t going anywhere and had to make a decision. We scheduled ourselves to come back at 5:00 the following day to give it another shot. At this point, Jamie has been turned down 3 times because of weather. I’m not feeling good about this fact. Feeling a little let down, we headed back to Cincinnati.

I woke up Saturday morning incredibly excited. The feelings were totally different. I was surprisingly comfortable with the idea of skydiving. I picked Jamie up and we headed back to Middletown ( where we repeated many of the previous day’s steps. They called us just before we left to inform us they were running on a two-hour delay so we knew we weren’t in any real hurry.

I kept waiting to freak out. It never happened. My instructor’s name was Dave and my videographer’s name was Hannah. They were scheduled for a jump right before mine so they had to suit me up early. Jamie didn’t get pulled in for prep until at least 20 minutes after me. Thankfully, her videographer got some shots of us together. We both bought Rockstar packages to document every minute.

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As I sat there all suited up in my harness, I felt at peace. I kept telling Jamie that I was “cool as a cucumber,” waiting to freak out. It never happened. We sat and watched other jumpers deploy their chutes and float gracefully to the ground. It looked SO easy. I wished that my instructor had been there before the jump though. I would have liked to have gotten to know him a bit better and get comfortable with the fact that we would be strapped to one another while plummeting toward earth.  As most things go with me, this did not happen. It is so typical of this little adventure that I’m on.

Finally, at about 7:10, it was time to board the plane. We started to walk toward it and my stomach started doing flips. We hopped on and Dave was pretty quiet. I kept asking him questions and we discovered that his GoPro did not have an SD card in it. In retrospect, after having seen the footage, I wish we hadn’t located one. No one told me to “smile as big as you can otherwise your face flaps in the wind.” Lesson learned. I also didn’t know that you could remove your goggles after the free-fall. Bummed about that one.

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So Dave went through his safety checks and reminded me of what I was supposed to do. Left knee up, right knee down, hands on harness, head back, hold on until the double tap and let him do all the work. We reached our cruising altitude and scooted our way down the bench. The clear plastic door on our plane opened and I had my footing all wrong, per usual. I’m incredibly uncoordinated. I was so worried about being in the proper position that I forgot to look down. I’m sort of glad I did because moments later we were barrel rolling through the sky, flipping and turning at over 120 miles per hour. A slew of profanities flew out of my mouth and I edited them out of the video. I do apologize, but it didn’t feel right to show them.

The chute opened and honest to goodness it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life. Like a child, I pointed at the sun and gasped “Look at that!” The frustration we experienced the day before resulted in us jumping at sunset. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. You all know how I feel about photography. I wish I’d had a camera up there. I could see for miles and the sky was filled with pinks, oranges, yellows, blues and purples with a bright golden sun in the center of it all. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Speaking of breathtaking, humans, as a second nature, tend to hold their breath in situations of stress or panic. I’m not sure I breathed at all during the 40 second free fall. It looks like I did in the video, but I can’t confirm.

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Dave had me control the chute at one point, and I wish I’d known that part was coming. I would have been better prepared and more eager to take the reigns. In Jamie’s video you see her steering it and I’m jealous I didn’t get to experience that feeling. I held myself back from it. I didn’t want a gust of wind to come knock the air out of my chute and send me straight to the ground. Next time. Dave steered us in a few little spirals and tilted us back and forth. I was content with that. The fact that we hadn’t conversed much made it difficult for me to fully trust him and put my life in his hands. Again, next time.

We landed and I have never been so full of OHMYGOD in my life. That’s the only way I can describe it. I was proud of myself for doing it. I was proud of myself for being so calm. I was shocked with myself for that, as well.  It was absolutely, without a doubt, the craziest experience I have ever had in my life. And I highly recommend it to everyone.  They asked me if I’d do it again. I said I would. Maybe not right away, but I would.

Jamie landed and we ran to each other across the field. After a big hug and shared excitement we marched back into the hanger, adrenaline rushing. I decided it’d be a good idea to call my parents and let them know I had landed.  It was cool to recap all of the feelings and emotions that I had just experienced. I’m so glad we didn’t get to go on Friday because there is no way I’d have traded that jump for anything in the world. Sadly, I fear the next time I go skydiving will never compare. Funny how things work out for you…

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So I edited mine and Jamie’s videos together so you could see both of our experiences. Without further ado: Katie and Jamie Rule the Sky.

Jamie, thank you for extending this adventure my way. It pushed me in ways I didn’t expect it to, conquered a huge fear of mine, checked off a huge goal of mine and you made the experience that much more enjoyable. I know it wasn’t as “smooth sailing” as we’d hoped it would be, but I’m glad we did it together! And I’m so very glad you finally got to go skydiving!!!!!!! You rock!!!

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My very first Bible Study…

This was quite possibly the hardest challenge I’ll go through on this entire adventure. I’ve been both dreading and looking forward to it since I opened the envelope. I knew that it would force me to take a look at some things I have pushed down for quite some time and I also knew that it might open my eyes to something I hadn’t previously realized. I had a feeling Claire would send something like this my way when I mailed out her card, I just didn’t know it would affect me this much. This was a deeply personal experience for me and I’ve struggled with how much of it to share. I am omitting some of my own reflection from this post, but as I vowed to do when I started this whole thing, I will be as open as I can.

(Warning: Christy, there aren’t a whole lot of pictures this week.)

Challenge #21:

…I had a really hard time coming up with a unique challenge. Then, yesterday, I was reading and it came to me! I would love to take this opportunity to share with you the place where I’ve found the most encouragement and inspiration. Ephesians is my favorite book of the Bible and I would like to challenge you to read one chapter from this book every day. But what’s the challenge in simply reading? 

When you are ready to do this challenge, shoot me a text or an email and I will send you related questions to consider/journal about and devotions to make it apply to your day. Think of it as intentional reading for inspiration! 

You’ll notice there are only 6 chapters in Ephesians…Well God rested on the 7th day for a reason. On day 7, take some time to rest and reflect on your week. If you feel so inclined, check out a church or join me at Crossroads. I’d love to go together.” – from Claire Hayden (I will refer to her as CB – Claire Bear- throughout the post).

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Claire is one of the many cousins I have on the Hayden side of my family. She is the baby of the family, but has proven to perhaps be more mature than any of us. (Though we don’t set the bar real high…) We have been through a lot together and, as I mentioned in previous posts, are incredibly close. Claire has lived her life through faith unlike anyone I’ve ever known so closely. She lives “through Him, with Him, in Him” all the time. It’s very admirable, though I’m not sure I’d ever be able to commit myself as fully as she has. She takes it into consideration in every aspect of her life and I’m very proud of her. Claire is also one of the funniest people I know. Her timing and wit are so finely tuned that she sits quiet through most of what we joke around about and at just the right moment, hits you with a zinger. I greatly enjoy being around her whenever I can.

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On my first challenge, I mentioned that I have a general aversion to religious preferences. In order to fully understand why this challenge was so tough for me and why that is the case, I have to go back, 12 years ago, to the time when everything I thought I ever knew started to change. I find it extremely coincidental that I’m writing this on 9/11 as that is when much of this aversion to faith began. I grew up attending St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Anderson. We went to church most Sundays, unless one of our various sporting events got in the way, and attended Sunday School through much of our childhood. I always kind of went along with what they said and enjoyed the projects we worked on, never really understanding what it was we were doing. I was a kid. I didn’t know the difference. As I grew up, I began to question things. You see, I am scientifically oriented. I like to know why things work the way they do when they do.  I like to have proof of existence of things. That being said, I also habitually make wishes on shooting stars, eyelashes and every day at 11:11 when I catch it. I can’t explain it…


I went to public school through elementary school when I switched to St. Ursula Villa, a private Catholic school, for Junior High. I then went on to St. Ursula Academy, an all-girls Private Catholic School, for High School. I had to attend religion class. In my formative years where I began to develop my own (strong) opinions on things, I began to question everything I had ever been told about God. I had a fundamental issue with the fact that everyone says the same things during mass and reads the same things, sings the same songs, etc. because half of the people surrounding me had absolutely no idea what any of it meant. They were simply reciting words they’d been told to say.  What’s the difference between that and a cult? And then on top of that, because I’m not Catholic, I was not permitted to take communion. But then they tell me that God loves everyone, no matter who they are? So you love me, but I cannot worship you in the same way others do? K. Cool.

I have always believed in some sort of higher power that makes things work.  I also have a very difficult time believing all the walking-on-water, dying and rising, water into wine mumbo-jumbo.  And I spent much of those 6 years of religion class challenging my teachers to provide evidence that these things they were telling me were real. They would say I just had to believe it. Well. No I don’t. That’s why I am asked the questions. All I know is that I can’t explain it. No one can prove it, it seems unfathomable and I cannot suspend my disbelief long enough to fully comprehend it.  I’m not sure what my higher power is that I believe in, but I know that when I say something or do something I shouldn’t, I silently apologize to the sky and whatever might be watching from above.

So, 12 years ago…

September 11, 2001. I remember sitting in my art class in the Fine Arts Building my senior year of high school when the news came over the speaker that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Our teacher then turned on the TV and we sat there, mesmerized, eyes glued to the screen, speechless. We had these tall wooden desks with cold, black laminate desktops. Girls crowded around, sitting in chairs, on top of the desks and I myself was crouched underneath, arms wrapped around my knees tucking them in close to me. Curled up in my little ball, I sat there and thought, “How in the world could this happen? If God exists, how could He possibly let this happen?”  I wanted my family. And I was full of questions. What faith I had left came into serious jeopardy.

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A little over month later, October 17, 2001, I headed home from school early because I was not feeling well. I was driving up Salem, a road that winds through the woods with a pretty serious S curve, and there were wet leaves scattered everywhere. My car skidded and I went off the road, through a fire hydrant, ricocheted off of seven or eight trees, then spun around and slammed into one at the bottom of a ravine. My car was completely smashed on all sides except for where I was sitting. The driver’s seat was completely unaffected. I walked away without a scratch. I climbed to the top of the ravine and the firemen informed me that there “is no way in hell I should have made it out of that alive, let alone unharmed.” I began to consider the idea of guardian angels. Maybe, just maybe, there is a small possibility, that God exists. There is simply no other explanation.  I asked fewer questions in religion class and began to accept that they could be onto something, though still not fully convinced.

Fast forward to May 8th, 2002. My mom and I had been driving to soccer practice and noticed that Beechmont Levy was abnormally crowded with traffic. We had determined that there must have been an accident somewhere and traffic was diverted. Thinking nothing of it, I went to soccer. My mom picked me up and asked me to quickly get in the car because she had something to tell me.  I, instead, stood there and demanded that she tell me immediately because I could tell that something was wrong. She informed me that there was in fact a car accident and that my cousin, Page, had been killed. My knees buckled and I fell to the ground in tears.  My siblings didn’t know yet so we had to get home quickly to tell them. We sat in our old family room, crying, and hugging one another. Same question came to mind again. “How could this happen. If God really does exist, how could He let this happen?” She was 22 and just starting to really live her life.  My family was shaken and so was my faith.

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I immediately decided that I was done with religion. I was done with God. I was done with believing in something bigger than myself. Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. And in my mind, we were the best people. Our family grew incredibly close – closer than we already were, if you can believe that. I spent as much time as I could with them. Every single phone call, goodbye at family gatherings, email, etc. ends with “I love you” and always will. I carry this into relationships with many of my friends, and though they don’t always say it back or use the phrase as comfortably as I do, I will continue to say it every time I speak to them. Deal with it. Should something happen, my last words to you will always be “I love you.”

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I spent the next few years hating Him. Constantly struggling with the fact that my parents wanted us to go to church on major holidays, though they didn’t force us to go in between.  I would go and listen, just to appease my family, but I didn’t make the slightest inclination of an effort to participate. Then some things happened and I had this revelation. If I don’t believe in God, then Page is just gone. If you don’t believe in God, then there is no Heaven and that means she’s just. gone. Not willing to accept this fact, I started to explore my options in faith again. I went to some nondenominational churches and had extensive conversations with people about my faith, their faith and what it means to them.  My dad is strong in his faith and, at his request, I considered the idea of letting it become a part of my life again.

Fast forward again. April 27, 2012. I was at the airport getting ready to board a plane to Minneapolis for a final visit with John and Becky before Belle arrived. My cousin Terri called right as they announced that my zone could board. I picked up and she asked where I was. I informed her I was at the aiprot and she said she needed to call me back. Something was wrong. I’d had this feeling before and my gut said don’t get on the plane. I begged the gate agents to give me a minute and wait for Terri to call back. They graciously obliged and I sat there for what felt like an eternity, though was only about 3 minutes. Finally, she called back and, just as I suspected, something was wrong. She informed me that my Uncle Bill, Page’s father, had died in a plane crash. Again, knees buckled. I fell to the ground, right there at gate B16, in uncontrollable tears. The same question, only this time it was less confusion and more rage. And followed by an “ARE YOU *$&@!?* KIDDING ME!?” I gathered myself and my belongings, asked them to remove my luggage from the plane, and headed to baggage claim. When I got there, I kid you not, there was a group of 8 South American nuns standing at the counter, dressed like Mother Theresa.  One reached out with a tissue and assured me that whatever I was going through, it would be alright and that He would see me through it. This infuriated me.  To have something so tragic happen to the same family TWICE is incomprehensible to me.  I feel for my cousins and my aunt as they continue to live their lives without two of the most important people they’ve ever known. I feel for my father who lost a niece and a brother, for his parents who lost a child and a granddaughter, for the rest of my family for having to lose an uncle, a brother, a niece, a cousin.

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At this point, I’m done. I know that people all over the world experience terrible loss and stay steadfastly devoted to their faith. I’m not one of them. It shook me to the core and I’m over it. I have since had more conversations with people in regards to their faith. My dad and I have discussed this many times and he truly wishes that I can find some way to let faith back into my life. When my Mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer this past February I felt helpless. Then suddenly, I found myself praying. I was literally laying there in bed, thinking about my mom, our family, what would happen and all of a sudden I realized I was praying.  I had asked others to pray for my mom for me because I didn’t know who to pray to and I didn’t know what else to do. And there I was. Praying.

My friend Megan, among others, shared with me that they focus on all of the blessings and are grateful for the wonderful things in their life as opposed to blaming Him and hating Him for the bad. (BTW, I hate that I’m capitalizing these H’s right now. But I’m trying to get past that. I also just silently apologized to the sky.) They also don’t see that He has caused them, but that He provides them the strength to get through them.  Well if He brought you the good things then why isn’t He responsible for the bad? This is all so inconsistent.

This past May, John and Becky asked me to be my niece Belle’s Godmother.  The first thing I said was, “Are you sure? I’m not a very Godly person.” They informed me that they hoped I would explore my faith with this newly appointed responsibility. So I placed my hand on their shoulders at her baptism and agreed to the things I thought I could live up to, remained silent during the parts I fundamentally could not comprehend, but in the end I vowed to guide her through her spiritual journey as she grows up.  If anything, she can come to me and ask questions because Lord knows I’ve asked plenty myself.


So here we go. I’m keeping an open mind. Claire, I read the Bible this week. Not because I wanted to, but because when I started this project I told myself I had to complete each and every challenge extended to me, no exceptions.  Alongside these passages, I worked through the questions and reflections you sent my way.  I’m going to say right now that I did not agree with some of what I read, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I woke up each morning to an email from Claire. They included the following:

  • an amusing opening greeting/video/picture/quote
  • a link to that day’s chapter of Ephesians
  • a breakdown of all of the “Christianese/Biblical Mumbo-Jumbo”
  • a series of “Light bulb questions” to help me reflect on the reading
  • a “So What” section with a variety of thoughts and correlations between the passage and Claire’s reflections
  • and CB’s response to the reading that day

Claire, forgive me if I get any of this wrong. It was a lot to process.

Day 1:


Woohoo, today you begin your challenge from me! First of all, let me say I’m really honored to get to contribute to this awesome journey you’re on this year, and it has been such a pleasure reading along! Also, I want you to know that this week, you actually aren’t doing this challenge alone. Everyday, I will be reading Ephesians, journaling about it, and taking the passage into my life, right with you. So, maybe you’ll be getting a text from me one of these days about some sort of funny “coincidence” God sends my way….feel free to do the same to me 🙂 Oh! And, you said that with your impending (yes, “impending” should make you think of doom) challenge coming up it “may be good to have God on your side”…But my hope is that if you get anything from this challenge, it’s realizing that God is always on your side–always has been and always will be!

Alright, since this is one of my favorite books to read through, I have gathered a lot of notes and such on it. So, I thought I would share the information and questions I like to journal about as I read through Ephesians. The resources will be included in every email, and–of course–it’s up to you if/how to use them. I tried to come up with a unique application to daily life for each day/chapter; I hope it helps draw a connection to what you’re reading. And hey, you’re a Hayden…I know I don’t have to tell you this, but don’t be afraid to challenge what you read and be honest with your thoughts/convictions, but be open-minded too. I really think discernment is a great gift God’s given our family 🙂


Ephesians, Chapter 1.;MSG&interface=print

So. Paul’s first letter to the people of Ephesus essentially breaks down the blessings that Paul has for God, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He also  says that God made an investment in us as a people because He had us in mind even before he created the earth or the universe or whatever.  Why we were picked over the other species is unbeknownst to me. It also includes his prayers for the people and for their enlightenment –  that they may seek to understand and know God more fully.

Lightbulb Questions:

  • Why does Paul begin his letter with praise to God?
  • Verses 4-6 say that God chose me before He even created the world. The Message translations says: “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”
  • God chose me and adopted me…What does it mean to be personally adopted by the Creator of the universe? (Think adoption…heirs/inheriting His purpose…Princess to the King)
  • What does this say about my self-worth and the value I have in God’s eyes?
  • Do I believe I could be worth a plan God had to watch His holy, righteous, and perfect Son brutally die on a cross, so that I can have the opportunity to be closer to my Father in Heaven?
  • According to verses 13-14, because of whom do we have salvation? How do we go on to receive this redemption?
  • Christ’s death was a “deposit,” an investment in the promised inheritance of our eternal life with God. What are you investing in (beyond finances…because Lord knows we have no idea how that works in our family) that’s significant to you? What comparisons/contrasts do you see in these investments?
  • Verse 18 talks about an eternal hope God offers us. What are some things you place your hope in?

Then the So What and her response:

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I thought about many of these things. It was hard for me to comprehend, but the question about the investment, (and she also tied it back to things like my relationship with Destiny through BBBS) really stuck with me. My investment of time, energy, care and concern for her. Why do I do it? Because I want to see her grow and flourish into a productive, happy, healthy member of society. I want to help her learn and become the person she’s capable of being. I guess, according to this chapter, that’s the same thing God did with us.

I drafted my own responses every day, but have chosen to keep those private as this is, in fact, an exploration of my faith and it is a very personal journey. And Claire is also MUCH better at it.

Ephesians Chapter 2:;MSG&interface=print

I think this one was largely about the fact that God freed us from sin and made us alive in Christ. He also made it so the Gentiles and Jews could set aside their differences and worship together as one. Though, if I’m correct, I don’t think it continued that way…

Lightbulb Questions:
  • What are my “cravings of the flesh,” or the parts of me that don’t seem to align with God’s plan for me?
    • Why do these desires and giving into them anger God?
  • What are some ways in which I have personally experienced glimpses of the “incomparable riches of God’s grace?”
  • We live in a society that is all about “earning your way.”  How does the concept that God offers new and eternal life as a free gift (verses 8-9)–despite my work–challenge my typical perspective?
    • Can I ever “earn” what God is providing/offering?
  • How can the belief that God has already planned “good works” for me to do help calm my worries about determining my future and where I devote my time?
  • In comparing verse 3 with verse 10, I find we should be objects of God’s wrath (cue the lightning strike), but He sees us as his “handiwork” intended to fulfill a good–no, great–plan. What does this say about my identity/worth and the things to which I am intended to strive for?
  • In times when I feel aimless and alienated, how can I find hope in belonging to the “citizenship of Christ” (verse 12) fully accepted as I am, where I am?
  • How does the previous point unite me with others in such a divided society? 
    • How can this change the ways I judge others who are different?
  • How can I let Jesus be my cornerstone, and the foundation by which I live and evaluate my life?
So What?:
  • Think about things in your life that you worked your butt off for.  Obviously you earned bragging rights after all that hard work, correct? But what if it was God that gave you the strength, skill, perseverance, etc. to reach your reward? 
  • Today, every time you’re tempted to talk about a personal success or achievement, stop and consider what “natural” (perhaps God-given, or grown through the influences God put in your life) skills helped you reach this goal. Then, try giving the bragging rights to God…and instead of boasting in yourself, boast in what you’ve been given.
    • Boast about who/what you believe brought you to said achievement.
  • On the flip-side, think of something you’ve placed so much of yourself into, only for all of your efforts to result in no avail (not to rub in job/internship hunts…I know I can relate to that). What kind of peace can you find in the belief that God has a plan for you (verse 10) to do great things? 

I have a tough time with this one. If I worked my butt off for something it’s because I worked my butt off for something. I give thanks when thanks is due, but He didn’t sit down and write all of these cards that I sent out to you. He didn’t write this for me. I agree that I have been blessed with certain talents and skills. I’m grateful for those, but I always assumed they came from my parents and encouraging camps and classes they sent me to. I have a feeling my teachers might be a little upset if I don’t give them any credit for my sheer brilliance. As for the job thing. I found out last week that I didn’t get the job I’d been dying to have. I literally cannot think of a more perfect position for me. I’d really like to know what He has in store for me that’s better than that. I find peace in the fact that maybe, JUST MAYBE, He knows what he’s doing. But I’m still really bummed out.

Ephesians Chapter 3:;MSG&interface=print

Lightbulb Questions:
  • How would the world–or even our society–look different if we all truly received the message Paul shares in verse 6?
  • What is God’s plan, and what is the purpose of it?
    • How does this “promise through Jesus” impact me and my life?
  • Paul seems confident of his purpose in life, where is he finding this courage, despite his current troubles/sufferings?
    • Where do I find my courage/confidence, and how does that impact my response to struggles?
  • Paul offers a powerful prayer for us in verses 16-19, do I really desire to have this prayer answered in me? 
    • What does it mean for me to grasp the love of the God who created me? 
    • How do I respond to this extravagant love expressed in these verses? 
    • Do I believe that is the character of Jesus/God?
So What?:
  • Do you ever feel “less than the least of all the Lord’s people?” What are some ways God has equipped you to face life with the confidence of Paul and fulfill the purpose for your life? 
  • According to Paul, God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  Today, challenge this trust by asking God to reveal His true character to you, personally. 
    • Whether you go on a drive down an aimless road, or sit on the porch swing enjoying your yard, spend some time in silence to confront God with your doubts and ask Him what it would be like for Paul’s prayer to be answered in your life.
    • I come back to this chapter so often when I am struggling to let God in because I doubt His goodness, but these times of solitude (which often begin with a lot of pent-up rage) always result in reassurance and peace, in an acute awareness of God’s presence in my life.

This particular chapter stood out to me in a way that I didn’t expect it to. As you can tell, I doubt God’s goodness a lot. A lot. I can’t understand why so many things happen in this world. I get that people veer away from His path and that we are all our own person with the power and will to make our own decisions. I do not, however, understand why events completely out of the control of human beings happen. Like natural disasters. If God exists, why do people get hit by tornadoes? To me, that is easier explained by weather patterns and science. It can be proven. I am willing to accept that good things happen to good people and that the work that you put in produces the result you get out of it. There could be some sort of divine intervention that I’m not completely comprehending, but perhaps the part I’m missing is that it’s not meant to be understood. It is meant to be accepted. Believed. Followed. Trusted. I feel hypocritical when I say things like, “It’s in God’s hands now.” But then at the same time, how do you explain medical miracles? Every day people survive things that they truly just shouldn’t. There is no explanation for it. And this is why I’m so confused.

Ephesians Chapter 4:

From CB’s email:  
Nothing says “Get yo Jesus on” like a morning wakeup call from Friends, so Good Morning!”
Needed that one today 🙂
While I was researching this one, I came across a summary that says

"...they are to speak with truth and 
grace, work hard to help those in need, and be kind, tender-hearted, 
and forgiving just as God has forgiven them in Christ."
I can get behind that. Everyone should live that way.
Lightbulb Questions:
  • What are the three character traits listed in Verse 2, that Paul says we should possess? How would these help us to carry out Verse 3?
  • What is the purpose of the repetition of “one” in Verses 4-6? What does this consistency reveal?
    • How would churches be different if there were no more divisions/denominations, but we adhered to the unity of one hope?
  • While we are all God’s children, as a good parent desires healthy growth in his/her child, so does God seek to see us mature. Apparently, eating crayons and glue is no longer acceptable after a certain time…what does it look like to grow up in the ways God desires for us?
    • How does He help us mature?
    • How does it help to know we are not in it alone, but we are “built in love” together, as a body/church/family/community?
  • What are traits of my “Old Self” and what would it look like to be completely anew, allowing God to “reproduce His character in me” (Verses 20-24)?
    • The good news is that we are not on our own. The more we desire relationship with Him, the more we allow God to transform our hearts, which changes our attitudes and actions.
  • What does a Godly life look like according to Verses 25-32?
So What?:
  • Just as our parents expect us to live a certain way according to how they raised us, and we choose to live in that way out of our love for, and trust in, them; so does God expect us to live a certain way when we come to trust His faithfulness. Think back to values/lifestyle traits your parents instilled in you that continue to influence your life, how different would your life look if you neglected to live in the way they desired for you? How does this impact your understanding of God’s desires for your lifestyle?
    • For all the times you want to go against your parents’ will (hello adolescence!), how often do we find they were (once again) right? Yet, how did you benefit from their good parenting allowing you to make mistakes? 
    • Our parents always seem to know better, because their perspective/experience are broader than ours…What does this reveal about how/why God speaks in our lives when we may not agree with Him?
  • What does it mean to speak the truth in love“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34b).
    • What do my words say about my heart/beliefs?
    • Today, how can I be more thoughtful in the words I speak, and ensure my motives are genuine?
  • How often do we allow anger to get the best of us? How much more at peace would I be if I just forgave whoever my anger is directed against, and trusted God is in control?
    • How can I flick that devil off my shoulder and let go of any anger festering inside? Why would this be helpful?
    • How can remembering that God continually forgives me help me to forgive others in day-to-day life?

I understand “speaking truth in love”, but I struggle with some of this one, too.  I’m not sure I understand why He is continually forgiving people. I guess that’s why He’s God and I’m not. Now, I can let go of whatever it is that was done to me, but that doesn’t mean I have to forgive them. I don’t think everyone deserves forgiveness. I think there are things that happen and sometimes, you don’t get an “It’s ok, I forgive you.”

There are also things I’ll never forgive myself for. One of the last conversations I had with my cousin Page before she died was a stupid argument over a dumb ex boyfriend. She said he wasn’t good enough for me and I disagreed.  In retrospect, she could not have been more right!! But I can’t take back that conversation or even apologize for it. I can’t thank her for looking out for me. I can’t change any of it. And I’ll never, ever forgive myself for that.

It might not be right in His eyes, but sometimes I hang on to anger for certain things because it reminds me of the lessons learned during those circumstances. I have a ridiculously good memory and for some reason, allow certain things to linger. In most situations, I forgive those that have done wrong to me, hurt me or whatever.  I don’t have feelings of rage or hatred toward people. That’s just a waste of time. But sometimes, I just keep my experiences as a reminder. I certainly don’t forgive them, but I have learned and grown to be a better person through those experiences.  And I’m ok with that.

Ephesians Chapter 5:
Lightbulb Questions:
  • Notice that Paul shows the reasoning for all of the holy conduct he goes on to describe is rooted in love. How can the belief that I am a beloved child lead me to want to demonstrate that same love in all my actions?
  • What does it mean to be a “Child of Light” vs. one in the dark?
  • What are some practical ways you can “live a life of love”? 
  • Verse 22-24 taken out of context can lead to some pretty angry women (even God doesn’t want to fuel the wrath of an ardent Feminist…or anyone on their period), but consider how we have seen this kind of healthy submission in marriages around us? How does submission lead to greater trust, commitment, and love when practiced appropriately?
  • How does Christ being the head of the church reflect a husband-wife relationship?
So What?:
  • Paul is adamant in this chapter about living intentionally. Today, think about ways that you can be more purposeful in your living.
  • Does anyone actually understand love? I sure as heck don’t, but I am extremely encouraged and humbled when Paul relates to this in Verse 32. Spend time with a married couple today, and observe/reflect on ways that you can better understand God’s intentions in marriage having specific roles but being mutually fulfilling.

I can support this perspective, as well. I totally get living with intention. Living with a purpose. I’ve been doing a lot of searching lately to figure out just what that purpose might be. I try to do things the way I think they should be done to and for others. I try to live with the ideals that I have set for myself and stay true to my value system. Every now and then I get off course, but I understand that.

I actually spent time with my friend Megan and her husband today. In observing their relationship, though as with any marriage, the give and take isn’t always the same, their mutual love for one another is beyond apparent. They are currently expecting their first child and the excitement within both of them is clearly evident.

I cannot however get behind the “obey your husband” bit. I know that’s not his direct message, but come on. It’s beyond dated. It’s anti-feminist. It’s degrading. I understand that husbands and wives should cherish one another, but in my perspective, it is an equal cherishing.  I went to a wedding once where this was the reading they did and I about fell out of my pew.  It did however make me think about a few things. Back when the Bible was written, did people really marry for love or were they marrying for other purposes? Efficiency? Property? Betrothals? Is the idea of loving the person you marry different from the original purpose of marrying? I hope not, though according to some of the scriptures I’ve read over the years, it is. Just a thought…

Ephesians Chapter 6:

In CB’s email…there was a video. About a very intense Hayden family discussion of Toilet Seat up vs. Toilet Seat down. I love being a Hayden. For the safety of Claire, I will not share this video with all of you.;MSG&interface=print

Lightbulb Questions:
  • What do you think is meant by Verse 3, in relation to obeying/honoring our parents? How can we do this as adult children?
  • After all we have read in Ephesians, what does it mean to be “strong in the Lord” (Verse 10)?
  • Who does Paul say in Verse 12 stands up against us?
  • What does Paul describe are the elements of the “armor of God” (see Verses 14-17)?
  • What do Verses 18-20 reveal as the strongest weapon God gives us?
    • What does Paul tell us about prayer?
  • Why do you think Paul said he should declare the gospel without fear?
  • In what ways can prayer be both a preparation for battle, as well as the battle itself?
So What?:
  • Verse 7 discusses serving wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord. How could this mindset help you through completing seemingly monotonous tasks in various settings? Next time you’re ready to pull your hair out over the work you’re doing, remember these verses and consider how your task can help serve a greater purpose. 
  • How can you grow to feel empowered by the “armor of God?”
    • Reflect on past struggles that have challenged your faith. How would your experience have been different or could you have found more peace/hope in those times if you were more firmly equipped with each of the elements of the armor of God?
  • Maybe you’ve been doing this already…but today, say what’s on your heart in your own words to God. Talk to Him, and consider sitting in silence a bit and listening to what He has to lie on your heart.
After having made it through all six chapters I had a lot of different thoughts. I understand the purpose with which we are supposed to live. I understand being kind to one another, honoring your parents and your family, forgiveness and so on. I would agree that had I had a better foundation of faith in my life I might have had an easier time dealing with and accepting some of the events that have occurred. I don’t know whether or not that’s accurate because it simply isn’t the case. Everyone feeds you the “Everything happens for a reason” line whenever something goes wrong. I hate that. I’d really like an explanation for some of these things because I’m lost. And it makes me really, really mad.

I think that the biggest realization for me throughout this week’s challenge is that I’ve been asking the wrong question in trying to process my thoughts about faith. I’ve been asking “how?” when I should have been asking “why?” How can people believe in God when bad things happen? How can people stand strong in their faith when adversity hits them left and right? I should be asking WHY they stand strong and WHY they believe. Without having to ask, CB filled me in. She left me with this note on my final day:

I hope that this has been a unique challenge for you and that you have benefitted in some way from this week. As your Challenge Card says, tomorrow is your day of rest.
Let tomorrow be a day of reflection and quiet entertainment with some of your favorite activities. Spend the day enjoying what you love to do and maybe thanking God for giving you those things. Perhaps journal a prayer or conversation with God to consider how you’re growing and what you’re learning. Normally my “Sabbath” day of rest falls on Sunday, so I’ll be attending Crossroads this weekend if you’d like to join me 🙂
I hope you don’t feel like I’m trying to shove some belief system on you. That was anything but my goal.  You asked for a challenge, and I chose to send you the thing that has challenged me in the toughest and most beautiful way over the years.  Katie, pardon my French, but our family has gone through some real shitty circumstances in the past (yeah, your little cousin finally cussed…you should see the prayer journal I keep and some of the things I’ve said to God in the height of those circumstances).  I’m not gonna tell you all that feel-good crap that everything happens for a reason and Jesus will give you all the warm-fuzzies you need…please punt anyone who tries to tell you it’s that easy. This life is hard, but I have to believe we’re given it for a reason and that there is a purpose in all we experience. 
God is a big and complex dude, but the good news is…what he calls us to is simple and freeing. All He asks of us is to get to know Him more and live a lifestyle that celebrates Him and the blessings He gives us. After MUCH contemplation, frustration, doubt, distrust, fear, and heartache…I have come to believe that we aren’t always going to know the “Hows” and “Whys” in life, but ultimately, it’s for our benefit. The only “Why” I have found that I need to know is that this world is broken, and it hurts God even more than it hurts us…death wasn’t a part of His plan in the beginning. 
But I believe God works all things out for good…I see that in my life…and I see that in your life. 
Would our family be half as close had we not experienced loss together? Did God have to use that means to bring us closer together? Maybe not, but we also don’t know the other circumstances that led to this event. God doesn’t create pain or death…He has to let it happen because of His nature. He is a good and loving God who desires relationship, but who gives every individual the power of choice.
When you really think about it, if I knew why Page and Uncle Bill died, what purpose would that really serve? But…I have a lot to celebrate (in all circumstances). I mean look at the family He’s given us; personally, I feel no logic or simple science could explain that bond.
What you’re doing with these challenges and getting outside your comfort zone is really inspiring.  Seriously, it’s an encouragement to me as I go into the field in my Social Work Internship and doubt myself. I love you and am so grateful for you, Katie. When it comes down to it, I hope maybe what you have gathered from this week is that you don’t have to have faith in God for Him to have faith in you.  But in receiving and leaning into the relationship He desires with each of us, we may actually learn to be grateful for each of life’s curveballs.
I love you, Claire Bear. Thank you for putting so much time and effort into this challenge. Your thoughtfulness, hard work and dedication are unparalleled. It helped me to know that you get mad at God sometimes. That surprised me because I didn’t expect that at all. Knowing that you were doing it right along side me helped me feel connected to you throughout this period of reflection and for that I am grateful.  I am so very, very proud of you.

I took some time to myself, took a drive and thought about all that I’ve read and considered this week. I have a new perspective on some of this faith stuff after reading through Ephesians. I’m not quite ready to say that I’m all for God yet, but I’m open to the idea and I want to learn more. This past Christmas Eve, my family and I went to church, as we always do for the holiday. Only this time, I was present. I knew that my uncle had passed away, but it didn’t really hit me until that night. Almost 8 months later. Til I was around my family for Christmas Eve. Til I was sitting in that pew seeing everyone with their loved ones.  Til I realized Christmas would never be the same again. Not the Jesus part of it (The reason for the season), but the family part of it.  And it hit me and I missed him. I was pissed sad and angry and full of disbelief.  And then I cried. I cried throughout the ENTIRE service. Not just quiet tears – like, legit sobbing for an hour.  Aside from a few weddings, I haven’t been to church since. Claire is taking me to Crossroads with her on Sunday and I’m hoping for a different outcome.

That being said, I still believe in The Big Bang and Evolution. I often wonder if there are other planets in the universe thriving, just as we are. In the grand scheme of things, we’re just a mess of tiny atoms that happened to hang out close enough to one another to take on the form of human beings. That has been proven. I can support that. However, maybe God knew that’s how he wanted to make us. Though according to the Old Testament, I came from a rib bone. Or something. I dunno. I feel like I’m starting all over again and maybe that’s the best way to look at it. Maybe I need to forget everything I already know about religion and start over. I should also let you know that I realized when I pray, I don’t pray to God. I pray to Page and Uncle Bill. If there is a God, then they are angels and they are watching over me and they’ll deliver my message safely.
If anyone else would like to discuss this with me, share their thoughts and feelings about their faith or learn with me, I welcome the conversation and the company.  
I will close this by saying that I am incredibly grateful for the family with which I have been blessed.  Even if some were taken too soon, I’m so lucky that I had to opportunity to know them. They are the single greatest thing in my life and if God did that, then I owe Him a really big, huge thank you.  This one is for you, Page and Uncle Bill. I love you very much and there isn’t a single day that passes that I don’t think of you. xo.

Ms. Cake, Influencing Bright Young Minds

Shortly after I lost my job last August I began toying around with the idea of going back to school to become a teacher. My sister-in-law, Becky, is a teacher and thought that maybe I should give substitute teaching a try, to see if I like it, before I invest my time and energy into a degree. Naturally, I put it off until she gave me no choice! And just as I expected to, I really, REALLY loved this week!!

Challenge #20:

Volunteer at an inner city elementary school for a day.  Shadow a teacher for an entire school day. Choose a school, not in the burbs, where 1 day of service can mean the world to those kids. Who knows, you may like it enough to eventually go in once a week :)” –  from John and Becky Hayden (And my sweet little niece, Belle.)


I have written about my big brother, John, in previous posts so I will focus mainly on Becky’s intro.  Becky became a part of the family long before she and John actually got married in 2010. My whole family has been vacationing at my grandparents’ house in Boca Grande, Florida since before I was born and because of these trips, our family is incredibly close. We also all grew up in the same neighborhood, so that helped. Our cousins are really more like siblings.  Like new additions to any family, one must experience the “first impression” to see if they “fit in.” I have seen my cousins mercilessly ridicule “outsiders” on their first (and sometimes many, many more) introduction and I was quite nervous for Becky as she joined us on our first family vaca to Boca.  Much to my delight, she fit in immediately! She cracked jokes, was perhaps a little surprised by some of our activities, but nonetheless, fired back whatever was thrown her way and was a welcome addition to our motley crew.  I often joke that Becky reminds me of a Disney Princess and that I was waiting for woodland creatures to appear and make her a dress on her wedding day. This is partially because she sings and dances, but mainly because she’s just so sweet and legitimately looks like one.

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Becky is also one of the best mothers I’ve ever known. She and my brother have done an incredible job raising Belle. She is independent, brilliant and super cute and I think much of that can be attributed to the fact that Becky is a teacher. I’ve never seen her in the classroom, but I’d imagine she’s just as patient, understanding and caring as she is with everyone else.

John and Becky know that I’m trying to figure out what I want to be “when I grow up” so giving me this challenge is perfect for what I’m going through. It’s a trial run of one of the many, many ideas I’ve been tossing around.

I put out a feeler message on Facebook a couple of months ago to see if anyone had any connections to the Cincinnati Public School district and could help me out with a future challenge. My friend Sarajane, whom I met in college, immediately replied, eager to help in any way she could.

Sarajane is a preschool teacher to 3 and 4 year olds at Woodford Piedia Elementary School in Kennedy Heights. This is, coincidentally, the age I was interested in teaching so it worked out perfectly.  Rather than just do it for a day, (and since I have so much free time these days…) I opted to do an entire week.  I wanted to give this a real run through to see if it was worth pursing for a career.


In order to volunteer in the CPS district you have to pass a background check, get approval from a residing principal and get a badge. I went to meet the principal at Sarajane’s school, get my form signed, visited the Hamilton County Justice Center for my $5 background check and off to the district offices I went for my badge.



We decided I would volunteer from Thursday to Thursday as this week was the Labor Day holiday and a special visitor was scheduled for Thursday that would be beneficial for me to experience.

I woke up Thursday morning and could not have been more excited. I seriously felt like a little kid on my first day of school. I even made my roommate take my picture before I left for the day. I walked into the classroom and met Ms. Campbell, Sarajane’s Paraprofessional, or teaching assistant. They showed me the lay of the land and a few moments later the children started to arrive.

First day of school!!!

First day of school!!!

Pete the Cat. You'll hear more about this later...

Pete the Cat. You’ll hear more about this later…

Sarajane's classroom just so happens to be my favorite number :)

Sarajane’s classroom just so happens to be my favorite number 🙂

Breakfast is all set up!

Breakfast is all set up!

Sarajane MADE all of these little seats for her students! Cushions and all!

Sarajane MADE all of these little seats for her students! Cushions and all!

A typical day in the classroom follows a pretty consistent routine. Weather and guests can sometimes rearrange Ms. S’s schedule, but for the most part, it’s as follows:

The children enter the classroom at 9 and go through health check. This is to see if there are any physical symptoms of illness, new cuts/bruises/etc. and confirm that overall appearance is good. This also ensures that both teachers and parents are aware of the physical state of the child and are on the same page before school starts each day.

Breakfast: All of the children are provided with breakfast upon arrival.

Pledge of Allegiance and School song. The children all stand for the pledge, any announcements and the song. I love this part because the kids know all the words and the message behind the song.

Woodford Spirit Song

My life is what I make it, who I become depends on me.

Every morning is a blessing filled with possibilities.

Every morning when I wake up I see the bright sunshine

I’m so glad to be at Woodford. I’m so glad to be alive.

Then Ms. S gives out jobs and each child gets one every other day.

  • Attendance
  • Door holder
  • Calendar
  • Weather
  • Breakfast Helper
  • Lights
  • Lunch Helper
  • Caboose
  • Line Leader

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The kids get really excited and enjoy the responsibility that comes along with their job. They also have the opportunity to “clip up” or “clip down.” This is a method of evaluating their behavior. If you clip up, you’re doing something good, and vice versa if you do something bad.

Then attendance is delivered to the cafeteria and front office before the kids head outside or to the gym to play.

After play time, Ms. S teaches the lesson and the kids have centers. If there is a daily project the kids will take turns completing it and playing on either the computers or in the kitchenette, reading or doing something else inside the classroom.


Ms. S teaching the kids about weather!

Reading Pete the Cat with Erriana, Jade and Zuri.

Reading Pete the Cat with Erianna, Jade and Zuri.

Circled up for their lesson.

Circled up for their lesson.

Playing with baby dolls is a favorite class past time for both boys and girls. That was quite refreshing. DakAra loves his babies!

Playing with baby dolls is a favorite class past time for both boys and girls. That was quite refreshing. DakAra loves his babies!

They also have 4 computers in the classroom. They visit a website ( that has educational games for all grade levels.

They also have 4 computers in the classroom. They visit a website ( that has educational games for all grade levels.

There is usually a bathroom break and a trip to wash hands at some point between play time and lunch. They have to go as a group as the regulations for teaching have deemed it necessary to have at least one teacher for every 10 kids.

Lunch is brought in and they dine, family style, together at the tables. This is to ensure that the children eat and get to experience what it is like to have a family meal. This is not to say they don’t have it at home, but to make sure that if they don’t, they’ll know what it’s like at school. It’s also easier to feed a bunch of 3 and 4 year olds in your classroom than to let them carry their own tray…

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After lunch they play outside and go down for nap.

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Nap time!! The best time...I wanted to take a nap, too...

Nap time!! The best time…I wanted to take a nap, too…

After nap is a snack and then their parents come to pick them up.

Each child must be signed in and out every day so they meet the parents on the playground for dismissal. For the most part, this is the daily routine.

Now, I LOVE kids so I began interacting with them the moment they started to enter the classroom. Day 1 was different than pretty much every other day.  At this point, I was still caught up in how adorable they all were and how I just wanted to pick them up and play with them.  I let them read to me and was completely blown away by how much they knew!  I later discovered reading simply meant reciting the words they had memorized as a result of hearing them so many times.

Elizabeth, MiNaya and Erriana reading to me.

Elizabeth, MiNaya and Erianna reading to me.

This week they were learning colors. They have a book called Pete the Cat that all of the children absolutely love. I have now grown tired of this book as I think I heard it at least 23 times this week. I get it. He loves his white shoes, red shoes, blue shoes, brown shoes and wet shoes. That’s fantastic. On a more serious note, the message from the book is that no matter what he steps in, he doesn’t let it rattle him. It’s a great way to deliver some important lessons. But I never need to hear it again.

They went down for naps that afternoon and a woman named Jackie comes in to help during this time. This gives the teachers an opportunity to take break or get some work done. I began tucking the kids in like little burritos and Jackie asked if I would be coming back every day to do that because her back cannot do it. I laughed, but am pretty sure this was her way of saying please stop.  Lesson learned the next 3 days when all of the kids begged “to be made into tacos for nap time.” It gave me a chuckle.

There are several kids in the class that tend to throw temper tantrums, disobey the rules and have a bad attitude. At first, I handled this by coddling them. Being that I have no professional training on handling these types of situations, I tried to calm them down by speaking to them calmly and trying to reason with them. Sarajane has had several of them in her classroom before and knows that this is repetitive behavior. I quickly learned that this not only validates their tantrum, but it teaches them to use them as manipulation for attention. In short, I now understand why the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. It was very difficult for me to hold back and not pick them up to figure out why they were so upset. Sometimes a stern voice and a confirmation that their behavior will not be tolerated are all that are necessary. There is also the threat of being taken to see Ms. Pierce, the disciplinarian of the school, if they do not clean up their act.  By day two, I was on board with this plan. Hands on my hips, staring down at the little monsters in the midst of their outburst. I also took to reasoning with them. Metaphors, such as three strikes and you’re out, came in handy, and threats of missing out on special activities go a long way.


We celebrated Steffon's 4th birthday with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Cake.

We celebrated Steffon’s 4th birthday with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Cake.

Donte reallllly liked it.

Donte reallllly liked it.

Then there are the hugs. SO many hugs. They would get up in the middle of what they were doing and come give you a hug, for no reason. So many hugs that at one point, Ms. S had to say “Ok, kids I love the hugs, but let’s save them for later.” A lot of these challenges have been, and will continue to be, child-related. I can confirm that there is no better feeling in the world than when a small person throws their arms around you and looks up at you and says “I love you.” Their sweet innocence and ability to care about everyone they meet is unparalleled in the adult world. I think that, as adults, we are too absorbed with our own lives that we don’t tell the people closest to us just how much we care about them. Now, obviously, these kids only knew me for a week and I wouldn’t go up to every stranger on the side walk to tell them I loved them. But you get my point. People should give more hugs. (Right, Nadyne Hayden?)


Hugs from Erianna. I got lots of those 🙂

I’m truly amazed by how much these kids retain. Sarajane has a way of relating to the children that I have not quite comprehended. She gets through to them and they remember what she tells them. We did projects to help the kids learn their colors, like coloring rainbows and gluing the appropriately colored Fruit Loops in place.  We also used watercolors to show what happens when you mix colors. Sarajane instructed me that some of these projects are multi-purpose. While learning what the colors do when they mix, we also learn whether or not they can properly hold a paint brush or comprehend shapes and follow directions.

Fruit Loop Rainbows

Fruit Loop Rainbows

When they are walking through the halls they do what is called “holding their bubble.” This means acting like they are holding an air bubble in their mouths. It’s a way of teaching them to be quiet and not interact with other students. They also hold their elbows with their hands so that they don’t touch things in the hallway. If another teacher or administrator of the school compliments the class on their hallway behavior, the entire class clips up. There is an elevator in the hall that they walk past all the time. Every trip to the cafeteria, to the bathrooms, to go outside – they go past this elevator. The kids always reach out and touch it. One of the trips past the elevator Ms. S stopped in front of it and explained to the kids that elevators go up and down and we have no need to go up or down. She also explained that only people with badges can open the elevator. After some repetition and extensive explanation, the kids understood not to touch the elevator. It was incredibly effective.

Sarajane gave me the chance to plan and teach my own lesson on Wednesday. She generally reads a book and then creates a project based on the book. I selected A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni. This is a book about a chameleon that gets upset because he changes colors every time he moves and he wants his own color like all of the other animals. He tries out lots of colors and eventually comes across another chameleon experiencing the same thing. The two decide to go everywhere together so that no matter where they are, they will always be the same color together. It teaches a variety of colors as well as  the fact that companionship is more important than having his own color. Basically I just picked it for the color lesson.


I searched pinterest and found a way to dye rigatoni noodles with rubbing alcohol and food coloring. I dyed 6 different colors and had the children create noodle necklaces, naming all of the colors as they put them on their strand of yarn. In addition to this, I thought of something one of my teachers had done for me when I was little. I was an advanced reader in preschool and my teacher, Mrs. Sieber (who just so happens to be my best friend Megan’s mom…who know that would happen years down the road!?) created a key ring of note cards with words on each of them for me to learn. This was my first set of flash cards. I used that as inspiration to create color books for the kids. I made one for each child to take home and practice. They loved them!!

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While teaching I realized that it’s a lot more complicated than I thought. I tried to stick to the routine that Sarajane goes through with the kids, but found that I was more focused on remembering the way she did it than really delivering the lesson. I also think I read the book too fast. Commanding the attention of 20 three and four year olds is tough, but I got through it.

On Thursday, a group called Books in Action came into the classroom. They are a program funded by United Way that sends actors and actresses into the CPS classrooms to read a book, act it out, engage the children and create a learning experience unlike many others. It was a very entertaining afternoon and the kids seemed to really like it.

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Now, from some observations I’ve made myself throughout the week I have determined that teaching can often be a thankless job. Some parents don’t appreciate all that teachers do for their children.  They can blame the teacher if they’re child misbehaves. I have also realized Sarajane has to pay out of pocket for much of what decorates her classroom. She is given a small (read: very small) budget, to work with, but it really doesn’t cover much. This comes through an Early Childhood grant and from Crayons to Computers. The higher grade levels are not given the same stipend.  There is also a SIGNIFICANT amount of paperwork that comes with EACH child. Most important of these forms is the ASQ. This evaluates whether or not children need an IEP or Individual Education Plan. She must also track if anything is given to the families to fulfill a need that she notices, which is also helping them out of her own pocket. There are monthly and quarterly evaluations, conferences and benchmarks for every single child.
One of the best things I learned that Woodford teachers are told to do is encourage the students to make “good choices.” If a student is misbehaving, Ms. S says things like “I don’t like the choices you’re making right now. Make better choices.” or “It makes me very sad to see the bad choices we’re making right now” instead of saying that they’re behaving badly. She also encourages children when she sees them behaving nicely. “DakAra is making great choices right now, boys and girls” or “friends making good choices will be asked to line up first.”  It was one of the first things that stood out to me and I think it is an excellent way to redeliver the message of the school song “My life is what I make it, who I become depends on me.” I also love how when kids answer a question correctly, Ms. S says, “Kiss your brain!” Then the kids kiss their hand and pat themselves on the head. They grin from ear to ear and that is exactly the kind of positive reinforcement preschoolers, and students of all ages, need.  When Sarajane must be stern with a student, she always makes sure to pull them aside later and remind them how special they are, how important they are and how much she cares about them.


They’re so creative! They have all these baskets that they pretend are steering wheels and the Oven/Stovetop is the car. They all seem to know this game! Shortly after this Jalien said “No texting and driving.”

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I hate to say it, but I definitely had my favorites in the classroom. I tried not to, but I know I interacted more frequently with some of the kids than others. There was one child in particular that really stood out to me and I really connected with him and that had a tremendous impact on my experience as a teacher. I will miss seeing them every day, but am grateful for the lessons they have had on me. I am having a difficult time processing the fact that you cannot get attached to the kids. They have their own parents and will move on to different teachers as they continue to learn. I was very impressed with the amount of patience Sarajane and Ms. Campbell have for these children.  I have a new found respect for every teacher I ever had.  And I apologize immensely for misbehaving. Ever. You all are saints.

Erianna, my little shadow :)

Erianna, my little shadow 🙂

I have since filled out an application to become a substitute teacher for the Early Childhood division of the Cincinnati Public School District. Should I decide to pursue my teaching degree, which is sounding more and more likely by the day, I hope to be half the teacher that Sarajane is. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to come into her classroom, observe her and interact with her students. Thank you also to the parents for allowing their children to participate in Learning to Hit the Curve. I had such an incredible time this week and hope to go back and visit my new little friends in the future.

I had a picture where most of us were actually looking at the camera, but felt this was much more descriptive of our time spent together!

I had a picture where most of us were actually looking at the camera, but felt this was much more descriptive of our time spent together!

I found out on the last day that half of the class thought my name was Miss Cake, not Miss Katie. I thought I was hearing them wrong all week, but it turns out I was correct. I had to inform them that I was not, in fact, named after dessert. I also wish I’d kept track of how many shoes I tied this week…