Friday, January 28, 2011

Part III

If you missed parts I & II, you can click here - just scroll to the bottom to start.

I made the drive North with a girl on the Freshman retreat team. When we got there, I felt very torn that I couldn't stay to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I helped my team set up and was there just long enough to welcome the Freshman bus before it was time to head South. I had a long drive ahead of me yet, and it was already dark. Fortunately, my friend Megan would be meeting me just outside of Orange City. That was certain to help the time pass quickly, and I was more than anxious to finally be at my destination in Omaha – for several reasons.

First, I was eager to get to know the rest of the team. I felt a bit intimidated by being one of only a few sophomores (similar to the campus ministries team), and I was hoping to feel a bit more at ease after this weekend. Secondly, I was very excited about my upcoming summer overseas. I had just decided before Christmas that I would be spending it in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and I was anxious/nervous/excited to learn more about what to expect and how to prepare.

Finally (although it didn't really seem like the last point in my mind), Dan Johnston would be there. All weekend. And he said he'd be waiting for me when I arrived. I mulled over that last thought as the miles past, looking at it from every angle, over-analyzing until I could hardly remember what the original conversation had been. And while my mind spun in a million different directions, I was leery to make anything of it in reality – as in, to acknowledge the thoughts out loud. Besides, wasn't this weekend suppose to be about, you know, GOD?? Lord, please keep me from distractions, I prayed silently as I pulled in to pick up my friend.

Megan kept me laughing the whole time she was with me, as she had a tendency to do. I appreciated the distraction and decided to keep my illogical thoughts to myself. After I dropped her off, I still had about an hour to go before I made it to my destination, so I decided it was a good time to call my leader and let her know where I was at.

“Hello?” a man's voice answered on the other end.

My heart raced a little as I was totally caught off guard. “Umm, is this Jill's phone? I'm trying to get in touch with her.”

“Yep – hey, is this Kali?” came the male voice again. I tried frantically to search my brain for who it belonged to. I thought I knew...but it couldn't be.

“Uhh....yeah,” It was all I could muster, my heart turning into a drum-line in my ears. He didn't have to tell me who it was at this point.

“Well hey! It's Dan. I just heard Jill's phone ring and thought it might be you checking in; where are you at?”

Don't read into that...just concentrate. He asked you a question! “Uhhh...just south of Sioux City. I should be there in about an hour.” My conversation skills were obviously brilliant.

“Great! Well I'll see you when you get here! Do you need directions?”

“No, I think I'm good. I guess I'll see you after bit,” I said, ending yet another conversation much too abruptly. Why did I suddenly feel like a mute?

The next hour past quickly as I had even more food for thought now. He said I'll be waiting, didn't he? And was he waiting for my call? Why did he have Jill's phone if he wasn't? He's just trying to be a helpful leader – he knows Jill has a lot going on with everything and he's just trying to make sure I'm not an added burden. That must be it. He knows this is just one more thing for her to deal with and he's trying to be helpful. After all, I am the ONLY team member that didn't ride with everyone else. Argh...why did I have to make things complicated?

Before I knew it, I had arrived at the church where we would be staying. I gathered my things quickly, trying to avoid the frigid temps as much as possible, and quietly let myself in. There was no one waiting at the doors. I felt a twinge of disappointment, but brushed it off quickly. After all – no one was expected to come rushing out at midnight. And that phone call had just been an older, responsible leader checking on the young college girl driving all alone at night in an unfamiliar place. It was a nice gesture – and that was all. I put the thoughts out of my mind and headed down the hallway to find out where to plop my stuff.

It didn't take long to settle in. People were still up hanging out and playing games, so I joined in. I interjected questions amidst a few frantic games of nerts and gathered some details of what I had missed that night. I learned some new names and began to figure out who was going where for the summer. I talked and laughed and was glad to feel welcomed by the group, and I tried to keep my thoughts focused on those things rather than the guy that just kept popping up. As I watched him easily move from one group to the next, I couldn't help but be drawn to his outgoing personality that seemed to make it so natural for him to visit with anyone in the room. Everyone seemed to know Dan – and everyone seemed to enjoy his company. I decided right then and there to put the thoughts out of my mind completely. This was just a really nice guy who treated everyone this way. I had absolutely no reason to believe otherwise.

The weekend passed more quickly than I had anticipated, being packed full of different “cross-cultural” experiences, particularly for a small-town girl who found the city to be a bit overwhelming. We dined at an Indian restaurant and ate with our hands (because apparently that's how they do it in India), took part in a market-place experience where we actually had to barter for our supper, and were dropped off in pairs at various locations of the city with a scavenger-hunt type list of tasks that we had to accomplish before we could meet back up with everyone for an evening worship service. I was rather unprepared for that last experience.

I was paired up with a fun-loving, sweet upperclassmen who had just about as much experience with public transportation as myself...nada. After being dropped off at a mall, we finally figured out the bus schedule and made our way on a city bus. We somehow managed to accomplish the things on our list, but as the gray gloom of the winter day began to turn dark, we quickly began to realize that we were not in the best part of town, and furthermore, that we had absolutely no idea how to get to where we needed to be. Decked out in my purple marshmallow coat (complete with complimenting purple gloves, scarf and ear band), I stuck out like a sore thumb. One lady even stopped us to tell us we had no business being where we were and needed to get out of there before it got dark. Gee, thanks I wasn't already completely freaked out!

By the grace of God, we finally managed to find the University campus where we were supposed to be meeting the group at the chapel. We snuck in the back, doing our best to be completely silent, only to find the building empty. My heart sank once again. What were we going to do?!? By this time it was dark, and the campus felt overwhelmingly huge. I was trying to be brave for this girl I had just met, but my courage was quickly failing. And that's when we saw him. Dan, walking straight towards us, with no one else in sight.

I watched relief wash over his face. We relayed the story of the day to him, trying to make it humorous, as he led us to the correct building where everyone was waiting. Apparently we had already missed the chapel service. As our trio walked and talked, I realized that my fear had completely subsided and somehow, in the matter of a few brief, confusing moments, I suddenly felt completely and unequivocally safe.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Caroline just fell asleep in my arms.

Now I realize that may not seem like that craziest thing you've ever heard, but I'm still laughing about it. This NEVER.EVER happens. NEVER. Even when we rock at night, even when we occassionally have to get up with her in the night and rock some more, even when she's exhausted at the end of the day and we snuggle up on the couch to read books...even under the circumstances where a child would typically fall asleep in her mother's arms, it never happens for us.

But just now, I let Caroline have part of a cookie from Grandma to try and perk her up a little and buy a little more time before lunch (I know, I know...I was spoiling her lunch. It was just a special treat on a snowy day. And I wanted one). And as soon as the cookie was gone, she continued sitting on my lap, looking at pictures on the computer like she loves to do whilst listening to Wee Sing Bible Songs...and the poor little thing just couldn't keep her eyes open for one more second. Bless her heart. I guess nap time starts a little early today!
I can't really say that I blame her. It's the perfect day for an early/extra/extra long nap. I woke up to more snow this morning and a fire already glowing from my fire place. Caroline has enjoyed blowing on the fire periodically (to keep it stoked, of course), and warming up her hands (I know this picture is's the best I could get of our always-moving toddler).

We stayed in jammies for awhile, then put on comfy sweats to keep us snuggly and warm all day. I love days like this.

So anyway, here I sit with cookie crumbs surrounding my feet and "Father Abraham" still singing from my stereo. I should probably get up and do something with this time. I hope you all find something to make you smile today, wherever you are.

Also, Grandma Johnston...what exactly did you put in those cookies?? I think I need the recipe :)

**(Side note: For some reason, I can't seem to upload any pictures at all right now. Is anyone else having trouble with blogger? Not sure what's going on. I'll post new pictures as soon as I have this resolved - I know it's been awhile.)

***New side note:  I figured something out, but this is going to take awhile to get used to - yikes!

Part II: Making Plans

“Well I think he finally put that together,” Shelby interrupted my thoughts, allowing the blush to pass quickly. “Anyway, I have to run to Walmart, but I couldn't stand to be this close and not at least say hello to my roomie! But I guess we'll have to catch up when you get back tomorrow. Looks like people are clearing out, so I better do the same. See ya!”

My fun-loving roommate had become my one of my dearest friends over the course of the 3 previous semesters. We made a rather odd pair at times, her 6-foot frame towering over my stubby self, but we had become like sisters, knowing each others deepest thoughts and most annoying quirks. It was so good to see her after the long break, even for a quick moment, and since she didn't seem to make anything of the more-than-brief encounter that had just happened, I decided to likewise let it pass without giving it much more thought.

The rest of the retreat passed with the usual balance of “meetings” and social time (which always seemed to blur together in the best of ways). I was surprised to find myself sharing a booth with Dan and several others at the local ice cream parlor prior to one of our brainstorming sessions that evening. We all chattered on about our trips home, and I was intrigued by his tales from California. It was such a foreign place to me and seemed like a warm, tropical paradise compared to my cold, snowy Missouri home. He talked about trips to the beach with his little sisters, both of which he seemed to be missing dearly now that he was back in frozen farmland. I'm sure the others sitting at the table had plenty of conversation to contribute, but my head seemed a little foggy that night. Why did I find this guy so fascinating?

The next day, we all headed back to campus, ready to begin a new semester. I was eager to make it back to the dorm to see Megan & Lori, two of my other dear friends that lived just across the hall from Shelby and me. The four of us were rather inseparable, and having friends like that was exactly why leaving home got a little easier each time.

Before we knew it, we had our first week of classes under our belts. As the weekend approached, I prepared for yet another busy one. Part of my role on the campus ministries team was to plan a Freshman retreat, which I had spent a good deal of time on. It would be taking place at a camp ground up in Spirit Lake, IA, a little over an hour from school. The problem was, I was required to be at another retreat about 3 hours south in Omaha, NE for my upcoming summer missions trip. The logistics were going to be tricky, but I had figured out a way to make it work.

So by Friday afternoon, I had packed my bags and my trunk. I headed over to the vans where the rest of the SOS team (Summer of Service – the missions team) was gathering to head south. I needed to talk to our leader one more time to make sure I had all the details and directions correct, but when I couldn't find Jill, I bumped into Dan once again. He was the student leader for SOS, having spent the summer before in Africa, and he wanted to make sure I had all the information. He double checked that I had the right phone number and address, and verified at least twice what time I thought I'd be arriving.

“I'm really sorry this is such a hassle for your guys,” I began to apologize. I hated making things complicated.

“It's really no big deal. I just wanted to make sure you feel good about everything. I know that's a long drive. Just be sure and check in when you're on your way. I'll be waiting for you when you get make sure you get in alright and everything.”

He'll be waiting for me?? I wondered to myself. That was awfully nice. But he was probably just trying to be a good leader. I'm sure if it was anyone else, he'd do the same thing. Right?

“Well we'll see you later! Hope everything goes well with your retreat, too,” he said, turning to head back towards the group. “And – be careful, okay?” he added.

“Yeah, of course. See you guys later,” I said, puzzling at his concern. And with that, the SOS team piled into the vans, and I fired up my trusty old car to head in the opposite direction.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Apologies & A New Venture

Okay, so I'm mostly going to skip over the fact that I have blogged about 2 whole times in the last month in a half. I just haven't been feeling it, you know? That, and I've tried to upload Christmas pictures FOUR TIMES (literally), spending far too much time each time, and each time Blogger has refused to cooperate. So at this point, I think I'm going to skip Christmas pictures...or post them sporadically throughout the next few weeks...and just move on with my blogging life. I do hope you'll understand. If I don't, I may never blog again.

Secondly, I have obviously been searching for some blogging inspiration as of late. The photo challenge just didn't get me quite as excited as I had hoped. So I'm moving on to something else.

This time of year always makes me a bit nostalgic for another January in a snowier place, back when the Caf was in charge of my meal-planning and someone else scrubbed my bathroom for me. The year was 2004, and I was a sophomore at a small Christian college in NW Iowa. Life was good, but that semester, it suddenly and surprisingly became even better.

Over the next "while" (because I don't know how long this will take), I will be posting my very own love story in numerous installments for your reading pleasure. I promise to still do "normal" posts with pictures of Caroline and everyday life here in TN, but meanwhile, find yourself a comfy spot and a good cup of coffee...because this could take awhile :)

Part I: Introductions...again

Gazing into the trunk of my 1990 Honda Accord, I carefully examined the contents my Dad had just helped load. Suitcase full of clean clothes – check. Newly acquired snow boots from Christmas – check. Extra blanket, coveralls, and emergency pop-out shovel – check. I was ready for my post-Christmas wintry trek back to Iowa.

Slamming the trunk closed, I turned back to the house for one last good-bye. Leaving home was still hard, even though I was entering my 4th semester of college. I hugged my sister, now a senior in high school, who lamented my pile of clothes leaving nearly as much as me. My Dad rattled off some more safety instructions for my 5 hour drive North as he squeezed me, and Mom's eyes glistened as she said again what a wonderful Christmas it had been. By the time I made it to the driver's seat, my car was toasty warm and ready to go. It was hard to leave home, but it would be good to get back to my friends and my dorm at college.

I loved college. Every last bit of it. I mean, what's not to love about living with your best friends with lots of freedom and very little responsibility? Okay so there was class to attend and papers to write, but being the nerd that I was, I actually liked that part, too. So the fact that I had to return a few days early for this semester was no big deal for me. I was part of the Campus Ministries Team that year and our winter planning retreat was scheduled for the weekend before classes resumed, so as soon as I made it back to my dorm room and unpacked my suitcase, I repacked a smaller duffel bag and headed right back out into the frozen tundra of Iowa. Little did I know that a simple weekend retreat was just about to change the course of my life entirely.

My friends and I chatted easily as we made our way to the hotel, catching up on Christmas break. There were a couple other sophomore girls on the Campus Ministries Team, and we tended to stick together for these events. Most of the team was comprised of upperclassmen, and I was still prone to a little intimidation in such company. Once we checked in and found our room, we quickly changed to join the rest of the group in the pool. I loved to swim, but I was not exactly looking forward to donning a bathing suit in January with my pasty-white, not-so-in-shape body.

As we walked into the pool room, I surveyed the group to see who was there and who wasn't. It looked like it was mostly guys at the moment. Great. The other girls must have felt the same way I did about the bathing suit situation. Then I realized the hot-tub was filled with girls, so I started making my way over. Except...oh, there was one guy in there.

“Hey, is that Dan Johnston in the hot tub? What's he doing here? I don't remember him being on the team last semester,” my friend questioned as we continued that direction.

“Oh yeah, I forgot he was joining at semester. I think he had to wait until football season was over or something. My roommate had mentioned that to me. He seems like a nice guy.”

My roommate, Shelby, had mentioned that to me, among other things about this guy. They were both biology majors and had spent a lot of time together in the fall as study partners. She was convinced I needed to meet him, he was so great, blah blah blah. I mean, it wasn't that I didn't believe her – in fact, I totally believed every word she said. He seemed to be every bit as wonderful as she made him out to be. But he also seemed a bit (or a lot, depending on the day) “out of my league” so to speak.

It was also the fact that I had spent the Fall semester in a Sunday school class with him every week, and he had introduced himself – several times – never remembering me from the time before. “Hey, I'm Dan. I don't think we've met – what was your name?” “Kali. I'm Shelby's roommate – she's mentioned that you guys study together,” and so it went each time. Maybe the guy just wasn't good with names. Whatever the case, I didn't give it much thought after that. Or at least I tried not to.

By the time we made it to the hot tub, Dan had jumped out to join the rest of the guys in the pool. The girls seemed disappointed he left, but I was glad at least this small piece of the room was not co-ed at the moment. I slipped out of my towel and into the warm water. Pretty soon, there was a knock at the outdoor entrance to the pool room. I glanced up and realized with surprise that it was Shelby (who was not in Campus Ministries) and quickly grabbed my towel. I ran over to let her in and was nearly knocked over when Dan beat me to the door.

“I'm so sorry!” he turned to me after he had let Shelby in. “What are you doing here, Shelb? And how do you two know each other?” he said with confusion on his face.

“We're roommates” we said in unison, I with a bit of exasperation in my voice I'm sure. Hadn't we been over this before?

“And I just got into town and wanted to say hello since I knew you guys would be here. Most people won't get back to campus until tomorrow-” Shelby continued until Dan cut in again.

“Oooooh. You're Shelby's roommate,” he interrupted, with sudden understanding registering on his face. “You're on the summer mission team, too, aren't you?”

I gave a sideways glance to Shelby, wondering what all she had told this guy and why it was just now clicking for him. “Yep, that's me. I'm headed to Bosnia in May.”

“Gotcha! Well, it's nice to officially meet you. Shelb, it's great to see you girl! See you in Advanced Chem!” and with that, he ran back towards the pool and jumped in, making sure to splash as many of the surrounding guys as possible.

I considered my dripping-wet self for a second, and felt my cheeks flush. Of all the times for Dan Johnston to actually take notice of me, did this really have to be it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wiggle Wiggle

Okay, so I've been working on a REAL LIVE POST all day today - seriously, for hours - and for some reason blogger is not cooperating. Do you think it's been so long since I last posted that it's trying to get back at me or something? It feels that way. Anyway, enough complaining. While I attempt to figure out what the problem is and why it won't upload my pictures, I will share with you a new video.

Caroline has just recently become interested in the television for brief periods of time and with the appropriate programming. Basically, she has one video that she has fallen in LOVE with. It's called "Miss Patty Cake's Wiggle Giggle Sing a long Songs," and let's just say it lives up to its name. Mommy gets about 20 minutes to get something done without litte feet underneath my own, and Caroline gets some time to get funky. I caught her in action a few days ago and thought you might enjoy seeing some of her new moves.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Birthday Dan!

I'm so glad you were born :-)

Thanks for being generous enough to share your family even on your birthday. I hate being away from you today, but I am so thankful for another opportunity to be with my family. Caroline misses you and talks about "Dadden" all the time! See you in two short days.

And I promise we'll celebrate your birthday again when we get home!