if i could

tree line

If I could find big enough words, I would tell you how grateful I am for the big-hearted, generous, and faithful loved ones who’ve walked with me, supported me, and strengthened me since I left African soil.

If I could find deep enough words, I would describe for you how unbelievably amazing it feels to be this settled after so many years of transitional limbo—and how good for my heart it has been.

If I could find strong enough words, I would explain my newfound understanding and awareness of grace.

If I could find clear enough words, I would recount for you my daily journey of learning to acknowledge and own that I am enough, and I have enough, because of the enoughness of Christ in me.

If I could find impactful enough words, I would articulate for you the ways I’m embracing a lack of plans, and my discovery that it really is okay.

If I could find weighty enough words, I would convey to you the matchless, anchoring, and freeing sense of home I’m discovering once again.

If I could... I would.

But I can’t...

ready or not...

Yep, I'm moving to Nashville with the Hodges!

Some of you already knew this, but Nash is where I was ultimately wanting to land. I decided months ago that while I may not know what's next for me, I do know that I want to chase down community. (Cue The Little Mermaid: "I wanna be where the people are...")

Nashville has an incredible church and some amazing people that have already felt like home to me. I just needed to detour to the left coast on my way south. Because again, in my heart to chase community, God knew I needed the Hodges. They have been such a refuge for me. I am beyond thankful for friends who've become family.

Brent is the new North Campus pastor for Cross Point Church. So we all get to make this move together. As a family of five. I am really excited to be able to embrace this new journey and season together.

We're leaving Friday, June 10th to drive from Oregon to Tennessee. That is gonna be one heck of a road trip! Make sure you're following all of us on Twitter so you can drive cross-country with us! I'm sure it'll be a wild ride!

Me Tam Brent Kass Kota

Ready or not, Nashville... Here we come!

crawling back onto the altar

"To live a life of prayer, of sacrifice, of surrender to God."

Twelve years ago I penned those words as my life mission statement. I wanted to be intentional about making my life count for something greater than me. I wanted to be deliberate about leveraging my life for His glory. And everything I could see myself doing boiled down to that simple statement.

I said simple, not easy. 'Cause it's been anything but easy.

Those words have been ringing in my ears this past week. Prayer, sacrifice, surrender to God. Do I still mean it?

I want to say I'm willing, even when I don't know what He's asking me to do. I want to follow Him even when I don't know which way He wants me to go. I want to serve Him even when it means giving up my own notions of how I can best do that. I want to honor and glorify Him with every breath, every word, every step.

The only problem with being a living sacrifice is my tendency to crawl off the altar. When I can't see what's next, when the flames of uncertainty seem too much for me to bear, sometimes I climb off. I choose to follow fear instead of faith. I long for the certainties of Egypt over the uncertainties of freedom.

But I'm done. Today I'm climbing back on the altar.

The Lord Himself goes before me and will be with me. Among all the unknowns and uncertainty, He is already there. He knows. He is certain. So if I remain in Him, I can have confidence and peace even when facing more uncertainties than ever before in my life.

As I've ruminated on it and wrestled through it, I know this much is true: I still want each moment of my life to be one of prayer, of sacrifice, of surrender to God.

Use me however You want, God. However You want.

confessions of an adulteress

I’ve been so unfaithful. He has loved me faithfully, yet I’ve turned my back on Him time and time again.

I’ve chased love when Perfect Love stands before me, holding me in His gaze. I’ve chased joy when it overflows nowhere but His presence. I’ve chased peace when my completeness comes only from Him.

All He’s ever wanted is my heart, and I’ve kept it tightly in my own hands as if I could care for it better.

He is jealous for me, and all I’ve been jealous for is everything I think I’m missing out on.

Even as I’ve pushed Him away, His everlasting arms have never stopped holding me.

He’s been nothing but faithful, despite my faithless heart and wandering ways.

Even amid the adultery of my heart, I hear His tender voice calling. Seek My face. I lift my eyes. I want to see Him, and be seen by Him. Unashamed of my nakedness and brokenness, I want to see and be seen. Know and be known. Understand and be understood. Love and be loved.





His compassion overwhelms me. His ever-faithful love consumes me. His mercy breaks up the unplowed ground of my heart’s back forty.

I am His.

Always have been; always will be.

He is mine.

And by His grace, my heart will stay more faithful to Him today than it did yesterday.

ht: Hosea

birthday extravaganza

Niel and I spent both our birthdays with an ocean between us this year. I think that was a first for us.

My man turned 34 at the end of July, just days before he flew back to America. (He is so much older than I am!) Since I wasn't there for his party, I sent a birthday note for a friend to give him at his shindig. Niel and I chatted online as he read the note, which told him about some surprises I was saving for a week of summer birthday fun.

This is our first time together on Long Island in August, and I wanted Niel to experience some summery bliss. Tomorrow we're going to a water park; later this week, we're visiting the aquarium, picking fruit at a nearby farm, touring a local brewery, and kayaking in a state park. I've been letting Niel in on the surprises by revealing one a day since we reunited in DC.

The last one I revealed was the biggest. The best. The one I was most excited about. And his big birthday surprise took place today.

I sent Niel for a two-hour introductory flying lesson.

He loved it, and totally impressed the flight instructor with his "natural ability". (He's watched a lot of Discovery and History Channel!) When Niel came back into the office where I was waiting during his flight, he looked happier than I've seen him in a long time.

Happy birthday, Hombre! I love you!

happy birthday, mom

Dear Mom,

Months ago you emailed and asked me, "How do you know I love you?" Caught up in my crazy life, I never did send you a reply. I figured I'd take your birthday as the opportunity to finally answer you.

How do I know you love me? A sure sign is your steadfast love – tangibly expressed through hugs (even when I’m not cuddly), notes in my lunchbox, scavenger hunts through the house on Valentine’s Day, and just always being there for me. I know I was the "strong-willed child" that Dr. Dobson wrote an entire book about (you could’ve written the sequel). I know I wasn't always an easy daughter, and yet you always made me feel loved. Safe. Secure.

While I know you look back on my early years with some cringing and regrets, please know that I don't. I understand that you'd just gotten saved and didn’t have it all figured out yet (and we all still don’t!), but you did pretty darn good with the little bit that you knew. And your hunger to learn and grow continues to be an inspiration to me. I know you love me because you weren't content to stay as you were -- blaming it all on your personality or shrugging it off with, "that's just the way I am" -- but you ardently sought to increase God, and decrease you, in your life.

I know you love me because of the unbelievable way you not only released me to do what I felt God calling me to do, but also confirmed and supported that calling. When I wanted to go on my first mission trip, I didn't have to convince you. You readily got behind me. When I came back and said I wanted to do it every summer, you didn't sigh for all the things that would mean you'd lose (like spending our birthdays together) or all the hard work it would entail to raise the money. You said, "That's great! Go for it! Let's get started!" When I returned from Botswana and told you I felt called to Africa, you nodded in agreement. You already knew and it wasn't a surprise. When I decided to head off to South Africa for a year, you helped, pushed, and prodded, even though deep inside you knew it would probably be longer. And when I told you I loved Niel and wanted to spend my life with him in Africa, you said you'd known since you first met him. I know you love me because you put the call of God on my life ahead of your own desires for me.

I know you love me because I've heard you pray. You pray with more fervor and passion than anyone else I've ever met. Inside you is truly the heart of an intercessor. You wholeheartedly "stand in the gap" on my behalf, regardless of what is going on in your life, and I am forever grateful for it.

I know you love me because of the ways you've always sacrificed for me. Sacrificed yourself. Your dreams. Your wants. Your money. Your time. Your energy. For me...

Yes, I know you love me.

And I hope you know I love you, too.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

morning glory

Most mornings, Niel gets out of bed before I do. Usually he's already in the bathroom getting ready for the day by the time I make it out of the covers. I'm not a morning person. Never have been. Don't think I ever will be.

When I do finally pry myself out of bed, I wander into the bathroom in search of my husband. I make my way over to him and lean up against him, without saying a thing. Niel wraps his arms around me and hugs me tight, because he knows it is my sign language for, "Good morning. I love you. I need a hug."

For a non-morning person, that is one heck of a great way to start the day! Mornings aren't so bad after all...

a great day

Yesterday was a great day.

It all began when Niel came into my office and handed me a Snapple Peach Iced Tea! Apparently, our newly-expanded grocery store is now carrying Snapple...and now our fridge looks like this:

Just a few hours later, something even more amazing happened. We bought a personal car! Since we've been married, we've been trusting the Lord for our own car. We've always only had ministry vehicles, and while we've never been without transportation, there have been times that it's been challenging because of a shortage of cars. We are now the proud humble owners of a new-to-us car!

Then, as we climbed into bed last night, Niel leaned over and said, "Thanks for being my wife."

Yesterday really was a great day!

two weeks of singleness

Niel will be home tomorrow night. I'm getting excited about it and am so glad that we have a long weekend off work right after he gets back.

As much as I'm looking forward to having Niel back, I've enjoyed the past 2 weeks that I've been home alone. I often hesitate to say things like that as I can already hear people gasping. No, it doesn't mean I don't miss Niel. No, it doesn't mean I'm a cold, calloused person. No, it doesn't mean I'm glad he's far away. It simply means my life doesn't fall to pieces when he is.

In spite of the fact that I miss my husband, there is a joy in my time alone. I do things I normally can't do. Like work until 8:00 (or 10:00!) at night. And watch 7 Judging Amy episodes in a row. And not have to think about feeding someone other than myself (which doesn't take much thought besides, "Should I bother to make a sandwich, or should I just eat cereal?")

As always when I'm by myself, I create lists (some mental, some typed, some scribbled by hand) of the plethora of things I intend to get done by the time Niel returns. And, as always, my lists far outweigh my time available. Once again, I won't have finished everything I wanted to by tomorrow night. But I've gotten quite a bit done, and at this point I'm just eager to have my hombre home!

My two weeks of singleness is coming to an end, and I'm ready to be a married woman again!

the dweeb

"The Dweeb." That's how my Dad affectionately refers to Judging Amy, a TV show that my mom and I have come to really enjoy. They're running re-runs on TNT between 12:00 and 2:00 each afternoon. When I was home for a few months, part of my and my mom's routine was to break for lunch just in time to watch an episode (or sometimes two...) while we ate. Then I left to come back to South Africa...

Thankfully, I came home with the entire show on DVD!

Last night I popped a disc in, and ended up watching 7 episodes! It's not quite the same without my mom. Although, I must admit, it was much more enjoyable without all my dad's rude remarks about how stupid the show is. "The Dweeb?! You're watching the Dweeb?!" I can hear him now...

Granted, it actually would've been nice to hear his comments...

back in action

After such a long blogging break, it's a bit of a challenge to take up writing again. My creative juices seem to still be on vacation...

We got home on Wednesday night; we had such a great time! It was wonderful to get away and enjoy time with friends. Hawaii was definitely the highlight for me; it was absolutely gorgeous! And of course I cherished every minute we had in New York with my family. I am blessed!

Pictures will tell the rest of the story...

v for vacation

We leave tomorrow for vacation. "You just got back from America! Wasn't that a vacation?" you ask. Hmmm... 18-hour days, with sometimes 6 back-to-back meetings/speaking engagements, and a rigorous ministry schedule isn't what I call vacation.

This past trip was a ministry one, with us having a few days off to spend with family and friends. Tomorrow we leave for a month-long personal trip, with a few days off for ministry.

This is the first time we have ever done anything like this. It feels almost...weird. But exciting. Definitely exciting.

We are heading to the States with some South African friends of ours. We will be in New York, Florida, Michigan, Seattle, and...Hawaii. (Hence, my daydream...) I cannot wait!

When my friend Amy came to visit us in New York, she taught us her getaway-bound mantra, "V for Vacation!", which she excitedly pronounces with her fingers in the shape of the letter "V". We quickly picked up on this and have been declaring "V for Vacation" in excited anticipation of our departure!

I'm fairly confident I'll end up with a lot more "V for Vacation" pictures by the time this month is over!

perfect timing

Last week, on a day when I was feeling absolutely horrible, Niel's mom came by with a mail delivery. Amidst the stack of bank statements and junk mail, I saw a card envelope. I just knew it was a card from my mom. I grabbed for it, and saw her very-familiar, feel-like-home handwriting on the envelope. I opened it to read:

"Few things are worse than being in a hug position with no one to hug. Miss you!!!"

Although I burst into tears, I was so glad. So glad to have a mom who loves me and misses me. So glad I have a God who navigated the mail system to get the card to me right when I needed it!

Thanks, Mom! Thanks, God!

squeeze squeeze squeeze

I squeezed her hand anyway. Every time I sat down in that chair, I squeezed her hand three times. That meant "I love you". Maggs knew that. Throughout our dating and married life, three squeezes of any kind always meant "I love you". And the person getting squeezed squeezed back either two or four times. Two squeezes meant "Me too" and four, "I love you too".

I smiled as I read this in a novel I recently finished; Niel and I do this exact thing with each other. And it seemed the perfect description of our silent love gestures.

Do you and your certain someone do the "three squeeze hand hug", too? Or have any other special things like that?

Don't forget to squeeze your loved one today...


iJust got home from a full week of travels and fun. And a little "work". After a week away, iFind it difficult to blog. Not because it was a boring time, but because it was filled with so much. iFind it hard to nail down a story or two to share.

Since iArrived in the States in August, iHave been blessed to see many friends along the way. iFinally got to see my dear friend Amers Kitty while we were in Michigan. While the days went by quickly (especially with one being entirely filled with a board meeting), we enjoyed a great appetizer of conversations (and even a memorable hot tub soak!). iAm looking forward to the official Kitty Reunion here in New York -- and to continuing that conversation smörgåsbord.

Torch Lake, Michigan

After an extra night in Detroit due to canceled flights, iFlew into NYC (with Niel, of course), for a fun visit with our friend Laura. Mom and Dad even joined us for a night, which was a blast. There truly is nothing like Manhattan at Christmastime. iLove the lights, the sounds, the smells... iGot to take in two Broadway shows, which was an incredible experience that iHope to be able to partake in again down the road.

iTook a boat ride out to see the Statue of Liberty up close and personal (she really is beautiful), and to visit Ellis Island. My grandma emigrated to America from Sicily when she was 13; we were able to track down some of the records from her family's arrival into New York. iWas moved -- and thrilled -- to retrace a portion of our history.

New York City

iCame home tired; we enjoyed a slow nothing-day today to "recover". iRealize how quickly my time in the States -- at home -- is coming to a close. iWant to take in each moment. This past week was filled (overflowing) with so many memories that iWill hold in my heart forever.

iAm blessed with an unbeatable husband, an incredible family, and wonderful friends. iCouldn't ask for anything more.

an orange county christmas

For some reason I simply cannot fathom, Niel hates Christmas music. Always has. Probably always will. (Gasp!) Yet he endured an evening of Christmas carols and cold-weather cheer with my mom and I at our town's tree-lighting ceremony. Two cups of hot chocolate made the repetitious rendition of "Here Comes Santa Claus" more bearable for him.

Christmas-carol-disdain aside, Niel seems to love Christmastime. Not quite as much as I do, but close. His favorite thing is opening his "Christmas sock" (stocking). Well, Christmas came early for Niel. Or at least one of his gifts did.

We took a trip upstate New York yesterday for a chopper unveiling at Orange County Choppers. Niel loves watching their show (as do I), mostly for their ongoing family drama but also for their unique and detailed creations. Getting to visit their store, see some of their bikes, and watch a bike unveiling was an incredible experience. Getting to do all of that with my husband? Priceless.

It was a fun and memorable trip, complete with brief conversations with Vinny and Rick, and a good glimpse of Senior as he drove up on the new bike. The whole thing was taped by Discovery for an upcoming episode (next Monday night, in fact). Be sure to watch -- maybe you'll see us!

waiting to exhale

I'm holding my breath.

Niel will be back with me in less than 12 hours, and I can't wait! Even though our "40 Days of Partition" seemed to go by extremely fast, I am anxious to hug my Hombre again.

I am married to my perfectly-suited match. God, indeed, knows what He is doing!

I am so proud of my husband; he is a wonderful man of God, with a boundless passion and a drive that pushes him to work even harder than I do! He has spent the last few months going at an exhausting pace; we are both looking forward to the upcoming month of rest...