He never lets go of my hand...

"In my anguish I cried to the Lord,
and he answered by setting me free.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?"
Psalm 118:5-7
a wise man once told me: "God doesn't say that He'll make only good things happen, and that you'll never experince sad or upsetting things, but He does promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him. sad things, good things, bad things.... ALL things..."

i wrote an e-mail back near the end of october called "change is a positive thing....." hmmm.... if i had waited like four weeks to write that email it definitely would have said "change is a negative thing.... like, the worst thing imaginable..... i hate it..... however, life without change is a positive thing!!" back in late october, i thought i knew the meaning of change.... you know, a little movement every now and then, cooking a meal once a week or so, having a semi-clean room... i guess those are pretty huge changes, you know, considering... and those were definitely all positive things.... however, change, actual change, like the real thing.... NOT what i was expecting! and let me tell you, it pulled me so far down into a slump like i've never known before, i thought i'd never come out.... i started expecting it, i was like "what next? how can my life change anymore? i don't know... but i'm sure i'll find out in like 2 days..." my trust was dwindling and i dreaded every new day.... i was like "God what's going on? i know you're doin something here, but i'm not that strong, i can't handle all of this...."

Psalm 118:7a, a Psalm of David:
"...the Lord is with me; He is my helper."

i was at this devotion the other night at oakrise, one of the boys houses, and it was about God walking right next to us, and us being like completely oblivious to it... all the guys were talking about different times they realize now that God was right next to them, but at the time they were like "i can't handle all this!" i sat there in awe of the trust and strength in those guys... they've been through so much more than anyone should have to deal with ever, and there they were, giving God all the glory for keeping them safe, and for bringing them here... i was like "wow, i wish i had that kind of faith!" through all the changes... arissa... my house parents and my kids, etc. etc, i knew God was right next to me, helping me through all of that, and i couldn't have handled all of it if he hadn't been... yeah, i definitely knew He was there, but i was like "whatever, this is bad, this can only produce bad things now and forever... God, i trust you to get me through this, but i don't think i trust you to work this situation for any good... at all.... it's just bad, and i hate it..." hmmm.... it's just now sinking in that, wow, His hand really was in all of that, and He really has worked all these things together for the good of those who love Him.

look, i want to share with you a brief list of things that we at the ranch have experienced since november 27... we had a death, one kid choose to leave, two kids told to leave, one set of house parents choose to leave, one set of house parents asked to leave, one house shut down.... i think that's it... i don't know, but i'm pretty sure in the last three months we've seen like most of the staff and student changes that can happen at a place like this, besides a new kid coming.... after every single one of the changes, aside from arissa's relocation, i was angry! i was so mad, i was like "how can this be good?!" and on top of it all, my constant joy was gone... there was nobody there to jump in my arms and say "blu blu!," and make me feel better about anything and everything... i was in such a slump, so weighed down with negativity, i could barely get out of bed in the morning and walk through the day...

but God said "keep walking, anna kathryn, I am with you; I will help you." so i did, reluctantly, and for some reason, He never let go of my hand, and we got through it... i can see so clealy now how in every decision made at the ranch since arissa's death, while sad and upsetting at first, God truly has worked them all together to be beneficial for these kids, and for the staff here, and everybody involved, and i am so thankful for each and every one of those supposedly "hjorrible" situations...

my old laurel ridge girls are doing so well in their new homes! arissa is doing amazing with Jesus... next wednesday, the 23rd, she will have been in Heaven with Him for as long as she was here at the ranch with us! it's pretty hard to believe that she was here for such a short time, especially considering the impact she made on all of us! it seems like we knew her for so much longer than she's been gone... 88 days..... i still see her face everytime i close my eyes, but i have healed so much, and she continues to impact my life everytime i think about her! please pray for us next wednesday... probably nobody will even realize that but me, but please pray anyways for continued healing in all of us! laura and lensa were baptised 2 sundays ago! i cried!!! i've been so upset lately because i'm gonna miss their graduation, but i told them yesterday how much more it means to me that i was at their baptism and got to see them publically declare their faith and their love for Jesus Christ! it was pretty great... camile and elizabeth are doing incredibly well too, and they're so happy! I love walking into the dining hall for devotions and lunch and the first thing i hear is a squeal and all of the suddenly camile is giving me the hugest hug ever, and elizabeth is not-so-subtly motioning me towards whichever male intern she wants me to marry that day... nothing has changed with those two really, just that we don't live together... my relationship with lensa has grown so much since i've been teaching her classes! we have so much fun, whether we're laughing at the baby monkey stuffed animal we use as our stand in "baby" for child development, or at whatever ridiculus story i'm telling by drawing it out extremely detailed (cause i do that like at least 3 times a day)... she means so much to me, and i know, even after she leaves here, we'll have a strong friendship... she and laura both are looking into their options for after graduation, and i want to ask you guys to please pray for them as they both seek God's will for their lives after may 7th... it's gonna be a hard transition for both of them, but they're amazing girls, and i know they're gonna do wonderfully wherever God calls them...

i'm still struggling with several things, personally, but i have learned a lot about change recently, and even more about trusting God through the changes... and before the changes, and after the changes... and trusting Him to change me through all of it! i have grown tremendously since i've been here, and i pray daily that God continues to change me! i get some outside disappoval of "changing" sometimes... not the big things, just some random personality things that people are used to, but i'm better off without... and i've even questioned the "changes" at times because of it... but i praise God every day for molding me into the person He wants me to be, which so far is in some ways the same and in many ways different from the person i was prior to my coming here... there's still a long way to go, but i want to ask you guys to support me and pray for me, and i encourage you to pray for change in yourselves, cause it's so incredible when you realize that you're becoming who God wants you to be, and so beneficial to your life and walk with Him! i also want to ask y'all to pray for me while i'm job hunting for life after wears valley ranch... i can hardly even think about leaving here without getting really sad, but God is calling me elsewhere, so i'm trusting Him to show me where and to get me there sometime after august 16... if that is His will...

i love y'all and am so thankful that God has so blessed my life with each of you! you're all in my prayers everyday!

Anna Kathryn

"I thank my God everytime I remember you.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy."
Philippians 1:3-4
this is exciting! i made an online picture album with most of my pictures from since i've been here!! so i won't fill up y'all's inboxes with such huge picture files anymore!! so here is the webpage:
it's not really in complete order yet.... it was just taking entirely too long and i wanted to get this email out... but hopefully you can make some kind of sense out of it!!
and here's the link to the new newsletter if you're interested... i'm in it!!! haha:

"I was tellin my friend yesterday that you're really cool... and that's a lot coming from me, cause i don't usually like the interns..."

"miss anna kathryn... i'm just so thankful that i have you..."

me complaining to margaret in front of elizabeth wood (12):
"i don't think i want to turn 22 in 2 months... 21's been a really great year...."
elizabeth (in a great ukrainian accent): "miss anna kathryn! put your childish ways behind you and act like a woman!"
then she giggles... i was like "wow! she told me!!" haha

ryan, at christopher house devotions tonight: "do you guys believe that, even with all the love and candy and suger and pink and red hearts, some people actually hate valentines day? can you think of some reasons why?"
the guys: "cause they don't got a pretty woman to look at!!" "cause they don't love Jesus!!" "cause they're poor and they don't have a lot of money to buy their girlfriend something!!"
hahaha there were so many answers! those were just a few that stuck out!!

my beta, named after michaelangelo (the turtle), turns two today!!!
happy birthday, mikey!!!
i think we just had the greatest birthday party imaginable!! the king was there... the new couple living here with me and abby baked a cake and put 2 candles on it and surprised me when i got back from christopher house at nine!! it was probably the best day of mikey's life so far, except for the first day he met me, two short years ago!!! (andrew... haha i just said that to you! that was used material...)

people in and around my age, we're accepting applications for summer and/or year round interns for this coming summer and next school year! i would, obviously, highly recommend applying if you're looking for something and/or want to meet some really incredible kids and grow closer to God while He uses you to make a true and visible difference in their lives!!