Life is a journey we’re all traveling. And like any worthwhile adventure, it’s filled with valleys and peaks, detours and shortcuts, ho-hum highway and jaw-dropping scenery.
Marriage. Family. Adoption. Faith. Writing.
These are some of the roads I navigate on this grand expedition. I hope you enjoy learning more about them below.
My Writing Journey
Even though the love affair began in elementary school, when my third grade teacher read my story about Mr. and Mrs. Leaf out loud to the class, the journey didn’t start until I traveled to Kenya to do HIV/AIDS outreach in 2006. The places and people I encountered haunted me. They would not leave, even after I came home. My only relief came through the keys of my computer. So over the summer, I sat at my desk and wrote my first full-length novel.
When I finished, I thought I’d see about publication. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. After doing a very small amount of research, I sent out queries, received one request for the full manuscript and a quick rejection. Still in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and newly married, I put the novel in a drawer. I graduated with a teaching degree, moved to Iowa, got a wonderful job teaching 5th graders, and let life have its way. Until 2008, Valentine’s Day in New York City, when my husband and I found out we were expecting.
While pregnant, my stomach wasn’t the only thing expanding. The writing itch returned. Stronger this time. So I wrote my second novel and decided not to stop. This writing thing felt like more than a hobby. I dove into the world of publishing, researching agents and editors and filling my bookshelves with books about writing. I revised my first two novels and wrote two more. I paid for some professional critiques, joined the American Christian Fiction Writers Association, found some critique partners, and attended my first writing conference in September of 2009.
It was there, in Denver, that I pitched my third novel to my dream agent, Rachelle Gardner. Two months later, I got a phone call I’ll never forget. It was Rachelle, calling to offer representation (to read more about this exciting and slightly chaotic evening, check out my post about getting the call).
My book went on submission in January. While I waited (and waited and waited) I wrote two more books and continued to immerse myself in the industry. Then, on October 29th, 2010, one of my biggest dreams came true. Rachelle called and said, “Katie, this is the phone call you’ve been waiting for.”
My book had passed the frightening land of Pub Board. And Waterbrook Multnomah, a division of Random House, offered me a two-book deal (to read more about this exciting and slightly chaotic day, check out this post).
I signed the lovely contract three months later.
Since then, I’ve published seven full-length novels and several works of shorter fiction. I’ve won some awards. I’ve met the most amazing people. There are days I’ve wanted to sprint with joy, and days I’ve wanted to stop altogether. Mostly, I keep putting one foot in front of the other, curious to see what God has around the next bend.
My Faith Journey
“If I find in myself a desire in which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” -C.S. Lewis
I may have surrendered my life to Christ as a freshman in college, but God was nowhere (and is nowhere) close to finishing the good work he started that day in my dorm room.
I grew up in a semi-religious home. We went to church on Sundays. My brother and I went to religion class on Wednesdays. I used to think that as long as my good outweighed the bad, I was pretty much fine. And as far as the Bible? It was just a bunch of rules and disjointed stories and tips for moral living that pastors and priests and reverends would read to help them teach on Sundays.
Then my parents got divorced and we stopped going to church. A couple years later, my dad gave his life to Christ. My mom got baptized into the Mormon church. And I pretty much stayed out of it. Religion was something I could get later, when I was an adult and life would turn boring.
I had no idea a major and amazing twist in the road was quickly approaching.
Freshman year of college. Madison, WI. Witte Hall. Tenth floor. I opened the bible my dad gave me for my graduation and read the book of Matthew. I’d never opened the bible for myself before. At the time, I wasn’t sure what prompted it. Looking back, of course I know. The Great Pursuer was pursuing me—little old average me. When I finished, I got down on my knees and told God I didn’t want to do this life-thing on my own anymore.
It was the first time I realized Christianity is not about religion. It’s not some man-made effort to reach a far-away God. It’s not about a list of rules. It’s not about being good. And the Bible is so much more than a bunch of old, disjointed stories that pastors and priests and reverends read to help them teach on Sundays.
It was the first time I realized Christianity is about a relationship. It’s about a merciful Father reaching down into a broken world to rescue His beloved creation. It’s about freedom and joy and restoring all that’s been lost. It’s about undeserved, amazing grace. And despite having sixty-six books, forty-something authors, and a time span that reaches past a thousand years, the Bible weaves itself together to form one single metanarrative. One single overarching story. And that story is one of redemption.
Since that moment on my dorm room floor, God continues to woo me, to draw me in, to lovingly peel my fingers away from the things I hold so tightly and whisper, “Let go, Katie. I’ve got this.”
Since that moment on my dorm room floor, I’ve discovered that God’s love language is obedience and when I step out in faith, He shows up in amazing, amazing ways.
Since that moment on my dorm room floor, I’ve seen a world that is hurting. A world that is broken. And people are digging through the mire of that hurt and brokenness, hoping to find satisfaction for a longing this place was never meant to satisfy.
Which is ultimately why I write the kind of contemporary fiction that I do. I want my words to point to the hope we’re all searching for. I want my words to point to the truth.
That while we were battered, bruised, and broken. Marred with scars. Covered in filth. Jesus laid down His life to rescue us. Writing these stories reminds me that He is the answer to our longing. I hope it reminds others too.
My Romance Journey
As much as I adore fictional love stories, there’s nothing quite like the real deal. I love hearing how couples first met, wooed, and fell in love. And even more than that, I love hearing how they keep that love alive, long past the happily-ever-after.
My own personal love story is all kinds of wonderfully clichéd. In fact, when I tell people how Ryan and I met, they always laugh in that, “Are you serious?” kind of way.
Because I was the receptionist. And he was the tall, dark, and handsome delivery guy.
I went off to college in Madison, with every intention of majoring in psychology, moving onto graduate school, and becoming a therapist. The problem was, I was paying a fortune in out-of-state tuition (I’m an Iowa gal). I decided to take the next year off in order to gain residency in Wisconsin. This meant I needed a job. Full-time gainful employment.
Enter, Grub & Ellis Oakbrook, Oakbrook Corporation.
Try saying that five times fast.
I became the real-estate company’s receptionist, and would spend my days repeating that tongue-twister every time I answered the phones.
I also signed for packages, and there happened to be one particular delivery man that made my heart flutter. Cue the giddiness, every time he walked in the door.
Then one day, as he was walking into the office as I was heading out for lunch, he turned around and started walking with me to the elevator.
Much to my shock, he asked me out.
And what was my suave response? “Do you even know my name?”
“Of course,” he said. “You sign for the packages. Your name’s Kate.”
Here’s the thing about me.
Before that moment in time, nobody had ever called me Kate. It was always Katie. But my signature was awful and I was too tongue-tied to correct him. So I wrote Kate along with my number on a gum wrapper and gave it to him. He still has the gum wrapper (aw!). His entire family calls me Kate. And for the first year of our relationship, all my friends referred to him as the UPS guy. Even though he never worked for UPS.
We got married a couple years later, and here we are. Husband and wife. And also? Mom and Dad.
My Family Journey
If ten years ago, I were to see a picture of my family now, I think I’d be floored.
Ryan and I always talked about adoption. We always loved the idea of it, but we’re idea people. We have a lot of them, and very rarely do we see those ideas through.
I grew up in the Quad Cities—specifically, a town called Bettendorf, which is right on the eastern border of Iowa—in a middleclass family with a big brother named … Ryan. Yep, my husband and brother share the same name.
Both of my parents are Irish Catholic and come from gigantic families, wherein they have enough siblings to form their own baseball team, with one extra on the bench.
I was a child of the 80s and 90s, which means I spent my childhood playing with Heman and Cabbage Patch dolls. My brother and I had a collection of Popples and Pound Puppies. I owned a t-shirt that said “See Ya Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya” in neon print. We had a drawer full of VHS tapes by our boxed television. Facebook was not a thing until I went off to college, and even then, it was only for college students.
I always imagined growing up, getting married, and having children. And that’s what I did.
After my husband and I got married in 2004, we planned to enjoy life kid-free for five years. We were still young. I was still finishing up college. There was no rush.
We lasted for four of those five years before the itch got too strong to resist. February of 2008, I discovered I was pregnant. We were in New York City at the time and I will never forget walking through the airport, blown away by that positive pregnancy test.
We met our firstborn on October 23, 2008. This sweet little baby that surprised everyone with his red hair.
I took on the role of mother, on top of wife and teacher and writer. Eventually, I resigned from the role of teacher and became a full time writer. That’s also when we started trying for baby #2, with no idea a major traffic jam waited for us up ahead.
I couldn’t get pregnant.
My doctor recommended fertility drugs, but see, I had visited this country back in 2006. Africa was in my heart, and so, too, were the faces of the orphans I met while there.
Ryan and I felt like we could sit in the traffic jam, or we could take another route—one that would lead us to our daughter. Our idea became a reality. We dove into the world of research and paperwork, home studies and background checks.
Finally, in February of 2013, I received a picture in my inbox of a little girl named Salima. That May, I traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and held her in my arms for the first time. We thought we’d have her home by Christmas.
But Christmas came and went. So did the one after. I visited her two more times, and had to leave her two more times.
This was a whole new brand of waiting.
Finally, in March of 2015, after the fight of our lives, we were able to bring our daughter home. We thought our journey was done. But it was really just beginning. We entered into a different kind of fight. A fight for her, and her heart, and our family—because adoption is the opposite of easy. Adopting a child with special needs (Salima has cerebral palsy and speech apraxia), even more so. It’s a journey born from loss and brokenness—one we probably wouldn’t have said yes to had we known how hard it would be.
But God knows. We aren’t meant to see the road ahead. And there is so much beauty we would have missed had we skipped the hard road.
This is my family. A handsome husband who is my favorite traveling partner in all the world. A kind-hearted son with an imagination as big as the sky. A resilient daughter determined to take on the world. I can’t wait to see where their journeys take them.
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