Sunday, July 7, 2013

Too Late

This is how a mid-life crisis begins.  You wake up one morning and realize you already are what you are going to be when you grow up.  I had a morning like this. Yesterday, actually. We've had nothing but rain for days and days and days, which can turn any girl's mood blue, particularly if she's been stuck inside with lots of children who are bored out of their minds and whiny.  But my "blue mood" deteriorated into "crazy mood" pretty rapidly.  The thought occurred to me that by the time I have raised these kids, I will be too old to do anything else with my life. This is it. I'm a mom. And then a Granny (hopefully, but not too soon, you know, like 15 years from now...) Chances are, I won't get to "be" anything fabulous.  It is just too late. Too late.

Now, I know some of you (Grannies, in particular) are shaking your head at me.  You would tell me that my job is important, that nothing is better than being a Mom and then a Granny.  That it is important work with eternal value. And I agree. Totally. But there is still some spark in me that wants to do more. I don't want my gravestone to read "She did more loads of laundry than any other woman on planet Earth. Ever."

See, the problem is this age-old search for significance.  And I believe God designed us this way for a reason... But I feel like, at 37, I am still trying to find my reason. I have moved on from dreams of being a Pop Star (to the relief of my mother) or a princess (to the relief of my husband) and now I just have this dull ache that longs to do something meaningful with my days, not instead of mothering, but in addition to... And I have been praying about what that "something" is.  The frustrating part is for the last several months, the only answer that God whispers to me is "create margin in your life".  In other words, "Do Less".  What??I don't like that answer so much.

So I am doing less. I am saying no to stuff that I would normally say yes to. And it feels weird, and liberating... But I still don't know what I am creating all this margin for.  And to be painfully honest, I am bored out of my mind.  I don't do "waiting" very well, apparently.

My little kids start 5 day pre-k this fall.  And I keep having this disturbing vision of aimlessly wandering aisles at Target, killing time until car line.  And it scares me.  Almost as much as the thought of doing housework and watching daytime tv from 8 til 2. I cannot bear the thought.

The verses I read this morning were from Galatians 6..."Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life."

I love that. "Your creative best". But I have to look at the work I've already been given. And embrace it. Not keep looking for the next thing and the next thing... I have to do this work and do my creative best at it. And I might still get to do something else cool, only God knows... But this is what He has given me for now. If I am bored with this, then I am not doing my creative best. A friend posted this quote on Facebook yesterday and it resonates... "You'll find boredom where there is the absence of a good idea." So the responsibility is mine... The joy is there to be found... It just sometimes requires some creativity and ingenuity to uncover...

I share this because I know I can't be the only one feeling like a used up has-been. Or never-was.  Or whatever. And I think that word from Galatians was a much needed kick in the pants for me. And maybe for you, too...  Who are you? What have you already been given? What are you doing with that?  And if we do our creative best with that, won't He give us more to be creative with? I believe so.  I am counting on it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ask, Seek, Knock

I love it when stuff just sort of falls together in a way that you KNOW it is God working in your life.  And for me, it needs to be pretty obvious or I might not catch on. We had VBS last week and it was crazy chaos and really amazing.  But on the heels of my last blog post I was so encouraged by the Bible lessons. The ones intended for the children.  One of their verses for the week was actually the verse I quoted in my blog post, just days before.  "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." And then the same or similar passages have been repeatedly popping up in my reading, and even on Facebook, and I know God is speaking to me.  I have trust issues, apparently.  Imagine that.

Today's sermon was on prayer.  I pray.  Quite a bit actually... it is the breathing in and breathing out of my days, but most of my prayers are pretty surface and selfish.  Like "Please, God don't let me hurt these children." Or "Please God, provide the necessary funds for our upcoming vacation." (Inspiring, right?) I tell my Gracie she can pray about anything.  Even when she has what we like to refer to as "poop issues" because God cares about the little stuff too.  (And isn't that what most of our days are made up of?  Just an avalanche of "little stuff" that really doesn't seem so little at the time?)  So we pray about stuff.  All kinds of stuff.  I pray for God to hold my tongue (or fingers) when I am about to "give full vent to my anger" (it sounds more spiritual if you use scripture to say it, I think.) I pray for people I know are hurting, I even pray for people who don't like me (another vbs lesson-and likely future blog post- that I needed to hear) So I do a lot of praying.  But when it comes to praying for myself, at least on a deeper level, I have this suspicion that maybe He isn't going to grant my request, or maybe I just don't deserve it, and so maybe I'll just save myself the disappointment and not ask.  Because deep down, I still have this feeling like I'm the screw up that He graciously tolerates, not the daughter he passionately loves.

I know what you're thinking.  Kari, you should really know better than that.  And intellectually I do.  Theologically I do.  So when Pastor Mark opened his mouth this morning, I felt like God was whispering right to my heart... "You give up on Me so easily.  Ask, and don't stop asking... Seek, and don't stop seeking...Knock, and don't stop knocking. Don't walk away empty handed because you are afraid to ask!"
I just forget sometimes that He doesn't see me as I used to be, or even as I presently am, really... He sees what He created me to be, clothed in the righteousness of Christ and washed clean in His blood.  I am the one who still sees the screw-up. The mess. The choices and the failures. The unworthiness.  So I shrink back from praying for good things-blessings, if you will-because I assume I don't rate them.  As I type the words it makes me sad and even ashamed that I would discount what Jesus did for me in such a self-focused manner.  Like I am somehow the one nut He can't crack.

And then the realization that I have been, well, wrong about the whole thing is quite a relief. I think I need to start a prayer journal again.  It is hard to forget that He does indeed answer prayers when the proof is right there in black and white.... My memory is short-lived and cannot be trusted.

I do not believe that God is a genie in a bottle, or that He is always going to answer in the way that we set out thinking is best...But I do believe, because it has been true in my experience, that when we pray persistently for anything, He aligns our will with His so that we eventually (not usually immediately, for me) just want what He wants.  That it is in the persistence, the continual asking, seeking and knocking that we come to know His heart and trust His plan.  And then we can rest assured that whatever the answer is, whether it be yes, no, or simply "not now", we can be confident that He is for us and wants to give us only good.  Because He is only good.  And that is good news.

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:9-13

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Take Heart

I might have forgotten how to do this.  I am giving it a shot tonight.

I am scared.  There.  I said it.

The last few days and weeks have wrecked my mommy-heart and stirred up a fear in me that I did not know I was capable of.

We watched babies be buried in a pile of rubble while they were at school.  Mothers stripped of their children by a violent act of nature that no one could have prevented...

We witnessed a horrific traffic accident nearly in our own backyard that took a child from her mommy and altered the lives of others for as long as they live in this world in another freakishly nightmarish event.

And I have this near crippling fear of letting any of my kids out of my sight. It is absurd, really.  Because rationally, I know I can't really prevent a tornado, or a freakish accident from happening, but all of a sudden I just have this realization of how fragile life really is... Even for one who has their whole life ahead of them.  And I am so afraid of losing them. Isn't that every mother's greatest fear, after all?  That by some cruel turn of events we might outlive our children?  And then I feel guilty, because my babies sleep soundly tonight while another Mommy is crying for hers.  And it isn't fair.  It. Is. Not. Fair.

I guess this is one of the countless reasons God tells us over and over again in scripture to "not be afraid" and to "take courage" because honestly, this world, this life, is so scary.  I cling to the words of Jesus "In this world you will have trouble... But take heart! I have overcome the world."  And also, I think He has a soft spot for mothers.  He watched His own mother as she grieved for Him at the foot of the cross... So even though I make no claims to know how to pray for these sweet mommies, I do know that Jesus loves them so much.  So my prayer has been simply this:  "Just be there... Jesus, be so close.  Be with them in a way that they KNOW it and FEEL it." And I have prayed it so many times in these last days.  And strangely, when I pray for them, I can feel the fear subside.  Because I really do believe it... That He loves us.  That He sees us... That He sees them.

I have slowed a little... I have noticed some things I have been taking for granted. And I wish I could say that I have learned to cherish every moment, but who really learns that until the moments are gone? Oh how I want to learn to just be Here. Now.

The scariest job in the world? Motherhood. We have to stick together.  Share our fears, our failures, our shortcomings... Pray for each other. HELP each other.

This is the end of my thought processing for tonight.

Don't be afraid. Take heart. He is with us and for us.

He is for you.

Friday, April 5, 2013


I married at 19.  Had a baby at 20.  Another at 23, and another at 25, and I was sure my path, my life's course was set in stone.  A good baptist girl who mostly followed the rules. I did not see myself being one of "those" women who crash and burn.  But I did.  My marriage ended after 12 years, and I found myself confused, ashamed of my choices, and broken.  I felt hopeless... Like I had thrown away (by choice) my chance at a happy and peaceful life.

That is exactly where I found Jesus.  I thought I knew him.... But I did not really know Him until He met me in that place.  That place that everyone else seemed to think would be the end of me.  He came there.  And He stayed.

The labels were hard... Divorced, home-wrecker, adulterer, mistress...  I thought those were the names I would carry the rest of my life.  And maybe in the minds of some, I still wear them... But not in my own heart.

After the brokenness came healing.  After the labels came restoration.  After the painful consequences came redemption.  And I can't despise a past that brought me those things.  I am thankful I am not who I was.  And I am thankful to belong to the God of the "after".

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Less of Me

Some days I long for bedtime like I haven't slept in weeks.  Days like today.  Today, when I cleaned up dog poop, kid poop, gave baths, and all the other daily mom-stuff and was then too pooped to sit down and eat with my family.  Too tired to eat.  That may be a first.  Nobody tells you how hard you will work as a mom.  Or maybe they do, and we are just too starry-eyed and day-dreamy to hear it.

The house is finally quiet now for the first time since early morning, and when the house gets quiet, my mind gets loud.  I have been drowning out this internal noise by reading.  Which was working just fine until I started reading "Interrupted" by Jen Hatmaker.  Not the best choice for quieting one's mind. Great choice if you want your whole world view and value system completely undone.  But I'll write more on that sometime when I am not soooooo tired.

I also started memorizing the Sermon on the Mount.  Yes. The whole thing.  That is three whole chapters (5, 6, and 7) of Matthew.  (If you are interested in joining me, you can find the plan here.)  Now, before you start to be impressed with my lofty goal, you should know that I am only on verse 3 of chapter 5.  So far, so good. But I got to verse 3, which says "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" and I realized I had no clue what that meant.  I mean, if I am going to memorize scripture, shouldn't I understand what it is I am memorizing, at least a little?  I grew up in church, so this is a very familiar passage, but I had never really "unpacked" it to see what Jesus meant.  Since I am no Greek scholar, I did what most any non-seminary, non-scholarly person would do.  I Googled it. Google led me to a sermon by John Piper where he broke it down like this:

What Then Is Poverty of Spirit?

  • It is a sense of powerlessness in ourselves.
  • It is a sense of spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness before God.
  • It is a sense of moral uncleanness before God.
  • It is a sense of personal unworthiness before God.
  • It is a sense that if there is to be any life or joy or usefulness, it will have to be all of God and all of grace.

Ahhh, the "H" word again.  Humility.  We always wind up here.  But this time, it is a different kind of humility... I have struggled and battled, lost and won, and lost some more in the area of humility... at least in regard to my relationships with people... But this is not the same. This is humility before God.  Recognizing that I have nothing of value to bring to the table except for total dependence on Him.  No gifts, no power, no wisdom... Nothing at all that I can boast in.  Seeing that He doesn't "need" me or anyone else to do His kingdom work.  That He isn't "lucky" to have me on His team (I laugh even as I type those words).  The words that are just stuck in my head are these: "If there is to be any life or joy or usefulness, it will have to be all of God and all of grace."  And that is helping to put my restless mind at ease.  If it is all Him, and not me, then I can't mess it up.  

Less of me, more of Him.  My only goal for 2013.  (Well, the only important one.  I wouldn't be a woman if I weren't trying to lose 10 lbs, you know. That would still fall under the "less of me" category.)

Happy New Year, my friends.  You are loved.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Simple Plan for a Simple Christmas

I have such a dysfunctional relationship with this season.  I mean, I really love the holidays... The decorating, the music, the memories we make each year... But I really do not like the "busy".  For most of this year I have been working hard to simplify my life.  You know, prioritize.  Some things have been easy to let go of, others harder to walk away from.  BUT, I've done it, and I've really grown accustomed to the slower pace.  And then December.  If you were to look at the calendar on my fridge, you would not think "simple".  You would, however, understand my anxiety-driven urge to shut down and hide for the next 30 days. Or 31.

Hiding isn't an option.  And truly, I want to go to the band concerts, the parties, the programs, the services, the dinners and other festivities.  And I don't even mind the shopping.  I just wish it weren't all crammed into the next three weeks!  I get tired just thinking about it all.

If less is truly more, then I have to find a way to simplify this busy season, right?  A way to cut out some unnecessary stuff, some "fluff"... So here's my plan:

1. Embrace the "white space".  Those few remaining empty boxes on my December calendar will be protected and enjoyed with some easy, relaxing family time.

2.  Let go of the "perfect Christmas".  We all do it.  You know, we want the perfect pictures with the perfect matchy pj's and the perfect decorating and the perfect menu.  Not this year.  We'll just call it a "Candid Christmas".  The real us, in our real un-matching pajamas, and normal recipes that don't have 25 ingredients.

(on a side note, here is a picture of my "simple" wreath... Those of you who know me know that I am NOT crafty, so I was pretty proud of myself for even attempting this.)

3.  Don't budge on the budget.  We have spent the same amount per kid for the last several years.  I was soooo tempted to increase that amount this year, since my hubby has worked super hard to provide well for our family.  But I know that if we stick to what we have always done, it will leave us more room to give to those who are truly in need.  Our kids' character will not be improved one bit by getting an extra gift.  I'd much rather teach them to give one away.

4.  Keep Thanksgiving going-  right through Christmas, and every day after that! We have enough. We are abundantly blessed.  I want to spend everyday being grateful for what I already have.  It is a choice to be grateful, it is not a feeling.  I sometimes need to be reminded of that. (Especially when I see the sale prices at some of my favorite stores...."I have enough" will be my mantra!)

5.  Focus on Jesus.  I guess it may sound almost cliched... "The Reason for the Season" and all that.... But really, if we are more focused on how many presents we place under our tree, or how many lights we put on our house, or whether we have the right thing to wear to all the parties, or even how busy our calendar looks... Aren't we missing the whole point?  Ouch. This one hurts me to type because here it is, staring me in the face.  I get so distracted by insignificant things.  There is only One thing.  And when we focus on Him, everything else tends to fall right in its proper place.

Since this is one of those "brainstorming" kind of posts, I'd really love to hear how YOU keep Christmas from becoming something it was never meant to be... I think we all have to make a conscious effort not to be swept away with the culture on this one.

Simple is our goal.  This is the hardest time of year to be simple.  We can do it! Who's with me??

Much love, til I'm up late enough to blog once more,


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Obsessing, Blessing, and a Little Insanity

Hello blog-world.  I have missed you!  Life gets a little nuts, I get a little nuts, and I sometimes want to disappear for a little while.  This holiday season has kicked off with a bang, beginning with a trip to see my husband's family in Mississippi.  It really did feel like I was disappearing... There is not a whole lot to look at in the Mississippi Delta.  Well, except for fields.  Lots and lots of fields.

I like all kinds of people.  Really, I genuinely appreciate almost any personality type, even if it is very different from my own. The challenge is learning to appreciate them all at the same time, like when you go to your in-laws for Thanksgiving and there are about 40 people there, most of whom you have never met.  In these situations, I tend to get a little self conscious, and then I either put on the sugary-sweet-beauty-walk smile and do my best to present myself as adorable, or I don't say a whole lot and find stuff to do to keep busy.  I wasn't feeling too terribly adorable this past weekend, so I kept to myself a little more than I probably should have.

Some people have told me I am a natural with people, and I believe they are assuming that means I am comfortable in a crowd, when in fact, quite the opposite is true.  While I do consider myself a "people-person", I am not comfortable in a crowd at all.  I'm always worried I might come across the wrong way, or say something stupid, or just say the wrong thing... So I will typically find a quiet place and a book to drown out the nagging fear that I have somehow blown any chances of being really liked or accepted.  (I always take a book to family get-togethers.  My planned escape route, if necessary.)  Or I find someone that I am comfortable with and hover close to them so I don't look as out-of-place as I feel.

Getting ready for the trip, I was worrying (more like obsessing) over all the things that could go wrong and mentally preparing myself for every worst-case scenario.  Don't get me wrong... I absolutely love my in-laws. At least the ones I already know.  They are affectionate, generous and fun.  But you see, there were a lot of "unknowns" this trip.  First of all, we were staying in their brand new home.  And I worried about things like kitchen utensils, bath towels, and whether the twins would sleep.  Then there was the fact that the whole extended family was joining us on Thursday, and I worried about things like what I should wear to blend in with the crowd (which I found amusing later, since we saw a little bit of every style you could possibly imagine), what I should talk about, or whether I made enough mac and cheese and chocolate cake.  (The answer to that last part, by the way, is NO.)  I could keep going with this list of worries, but you probably already get a picture of my insanity, here.

On Wednesday morning, getting ready to leave, I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18- "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." followed by a friend's Facebook comment, "Be blessed today, but most importantly, be a blessing." Ouch.  I was not gonna bless anybody with my neurotic attitude.  And I knew it.  So I started thanking God for the blessing of getting to travel to see our family.  And for our abundance of food and supplies.  And for a lovely home to spend the weekend in, and so on and so forth.  Counting blessings is a miraculous cure for crazy.  Try it.  I then started praying that God would help me to be a blessing to those around me.  Now, I have no way of knowing if I was or if I wasn't, but the mantra in my head "Be a blessing... Be a blessing... Be a blessing...." carried me through the weekend without a single meltdown.  So I guess that was at least a blessing to me! And to my dear husband.  Bless him.

We enjoyed our time in Mississippi (especially the outlet shopping in Tunica) and were a little sad to leave everyone behind.  But we brought our thankfulness home with us, and I am doing my best to maintain that same goal of being a blessing as we race through the rest of the holiday season.  I know it won't be easy all the time.  But nothing good is ever easy, right?

So, Happy Thanksgiving, and may you each be blessed AND be a blessing to those around you.  It is, after all, why God blesses us in the first place.