Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A Burden

Dearest Readers,

This post stems from a burden deep inside my soul. It is a burden for those of us who call ourselves sisters-in-Christ. For those of us that aknowledge that there is nothing in us that is really good even in our best efforts...that we need a Savior and have found one in the Lord Jesus. It is a burden that has been awakened recently through conversations that I've had with beautiful friends. All of whom come from different backgrounds but love the Lord and have been found in Him. Please keep this in mind as you read. My intention is always to encourage. Always. There are things about the Christian faith that can not be unwound from each other because if we do that then we have unwound it all and have nothing to call Christian. Those things, I do not wish to address here. Those foundational truths aren't up for debate. This, all of it that I have written, is something I struggle with and have for years. It is not something I am proud of and want to be free of. Lets just say I'm done. I am so over it. Done! And yet, it's still a struggle...and perhaps as you read you'll find yourself here with me too...

I know there is a lot to complain about when it comes to church. I mean really, people, if we could just get our act together and stop being so hypocritical people just might get saved. That's what I read and hear all the time anyway.

 Except, that we can't.

That's kinda the point isn't though isn't it? That we just can't get our act together. That we have this superb need inside our very selves that just can't do it all alone...a need that is so much greater than the act of going to church or trying to be good. Say it with me: We. Need. Jesus.

There's no hiding it. Oh, I know we try. We try and try and try. Just like the little engine that could. "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can," we say to ourselves as if we can just think ourselves out of that big hill in front of us. I know it's trendy to talk about how messy we are and how much we need Jesus. I'm not trendy (ask my friends) or hip or anything associated with cool (ask my kids). It's more than messiness. But messiness is not my point here (well, not in this post anyway.)

Here's my point: the church is made up of broken, hypocritical people (and if you're going to church and don't know you're broken you've got a big problem... only broken people need fixin'...just sayin'). I'm the first to raise my hand to agree to this. BUT and this is a huge BUT (thus the capitol letters) these people are beautiful because Jesus has taken these broken, desperate people and made them beautiful.

Like my friend Gab. who writes over at Dishes and Dreams. She's a wife (like me), a mom (like me), writer (like me), Jesus lover (like me), struggler (like me) and sends her kids to public school (not so much like me). And I love her for it.

And here is why: she is a kindred spirit. She is my sister in Christ. She is my family. I look at her and I see someone who Christ bloodied himself on a cross for. I see a woman who wants, above else, to love Him with her whole heart. And I've known her all of 8 months. If nothing else we have Christ in common. As broken and messed up as church can be, there is an unseen beauty here. Can you see it?

Many days I miss that.

I don't see a soul who Jesus died for. I see someone to put myself up against and to compare myself to. I don't see that she is "fearfully and wonderfully made." And then my faith becomes about what I think others are doing or not doing and what I "should" be doing in light of what others are doing or not doing. And I go around shoulding (yes, shoulding it's a new word my friend Louise made up for just this reason...add it to your vocabulary and don't do it to yourself, please) all over myself and forgetting Jesus in the process.

And then there pride right? The kind that assumes that if I'm doing well because I'm doing all the "right" things the "right" way and if everyone (especially that woman in the checkout with the screaming kid) would just do what I am doing then all would be right in the world.

Ok right about now I feel I must include a disclaimer...again. Ya'll know where I stand or at least if you've read anything round these here parts, I think I've made it clear. There are things that are black and white. There are things central to the Gospel message that cannot and should never be cast aside for the sake of post modernism's favorite quotes: "well, whatever works for you is best for you." That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about things like: cloth diapering, using essential oils, gluten free eating, clean eating, shopping at Wal-Mart, feeding your kids things that have dye in it, bedtimes (like when you put your kids to bed and where they sleep), playing sports and how much time to put into these activities, public school or homeschool (yup, I said it), how clean my house is, how much time do my kids watch TV or do we even have at TV, can a mom work, if a mom works should she work only from home....seriously, the list could go on...and on....and on...and on but I won't do that to you b/c I KNOW you have your own list.

This list of things that you're passionate about. These things that the Lord has lead you to. You have taken the steps and the Lord has directed your path toward. And in no way do I mean to diminish the important value in some of the things on my list. Certainly, they are valuable things (well, mostly) to be talked about and above all, prayed over between you and your husband and/or church family. I know you are like me, doing your best to "work out your own salvation" as Christ works in you. I love that word own used in Phil. 2:12 by the way. Own, as in yours...not any one else's. Like leave theirs alone and work out your own!

Anywhoo, these things, like the things on my list are important to us as well they should be, but they should never hinder us from seeing the person on the other side. We miss out on so much when we miss the person behind the position.  Because here's the thing: I would have missed Gab 7 years ago. I would have disagreed politely with her (in my mind) and her huband's decision to put their kiddos in public school and probably done my best not to get into a deep friendship with her. Not because of anything she had done but because I so wanted to be validated in all of my decisions in my life (hello, Facebook but that's a whole nother post). I didn't want to be challenged. I would have missed a kindred spirit. I would have also been easily offended at her most recent post on her sweet blog which is not at all offensive.

I know, I know, you might be thinking, "Goodness, kari should we all just hold hands and sing Kumbya?!" NO! That's not the point here. The point is grace. Grace, Grace God's grace...The point is that all of us have got to stop this craziness (I'm including myself in us here.) It is stealing our joy, leading us to despair or puffing us up in our pride. I realize there are going to be people we look up to...that we admire. Gab is one of those people for me. However, there is no cookie-cutter believer out there. No one-size-fits-all. Our lives will look similar in many ways but because God is so amazing, He didn't intend for us to be working out  all out the same way. Amen? Amen!

So go ahead and stick to your positions but remember the person. Chew over and be challenged by what Gab has to say over at Dishes and Dreams, but mostly seek the face of Jesus and lay your decisions that impact your life and dear ones at His feet, as you come to him begging for wisdom as if it is the gold you desperately need to survive another day. At the end of the day, that's what matters most anyway right?!

PS the lack of photos is depressing me too. just go check out Gab and her lovely photos and maybe pray that I'll dust off my DSLR and get around to taking some "real" ones sooner rather than later.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

A Birthday, Christmas and an Opportunity

I've got a son once 10, now 11. I know it seems silly to say once 10, but I can't get over how time just seems to sprint past while I'm trying to run the marathon that is called my life. I mean really! 11?!? A long time ago I asked him to stop growing up. I said pretty please. And I think that he actually would try, if he could because he just loves so much being a kid. And that makes my momma heart happy.

And then there was the blessed time of Christmas. At least we were on vacation and could slow down a bit and rest. It was an actual vacation for us. Thankfully, not the kind when you come home and feel like you need another vacation from the one you just had. Thanks to my mom and step-dad. They are some serious super-heros. I won't even mention the blizzard. And being snowed in for a day in a room the size of, well think of a very small room and then put 12 people in it (most of them under 5 ft.). And the suburban being covered totally.  All. Of. It. You've seen suburbans right? They're on the larger side of SUV's. Yes, covered with snow that Praise the Good Lord was pulled out by a very nice farmer/fireman/neighbor that just happened to be checking in.  Never have I EVER been so happy to see a tractor in my life. You should have seen me sprint to track him down in my mom's cute rain boots (because I couldn't fit my big-ol feet into her snow shoes). I think I may have just gone ahead and mentioned almost the whole story anyway, mostly because those two deserve a cape and a Christmas gift waaaaaay better than we got for them. Superheros, I tell ya! Also, just an FYI, if you get snow inside rain boots and it melts, you may spend a fair amount of time trying to wrangle them off like you would a python wrapped around your foot.


As I type, it's a New Year. Which means a lot of things, but mostly that I'm getting older and looking more and more like my momma. This year there is so much I want to do and be better at. Experience tells me, however, that growth usually comes over long periods of time not in just one year. Goals and planning are great as long as they not become our God and rule our lives with an iron fist. I would say of myself that I am kind of a "free-spirit, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-jeans" kinda gal. It makes life exciting...and fun...most of the time anyway. But in all honestly, as I grow older I worry more. And I don't like it. I don't want to worry more. I want to grow in grace.

That's what a New Year is isn't it? Heck, that's what a new day or a new 

moment is isn't it? An opportunity. An opportunity to grow in grace. I'll be here working it out here "with fear and trembling," fighting off the urge to worry about every. single. thing. Here's to a New Year with all it's new days and new moments. Here's to mercy every minute, friends!

Monday, 26 October 2015

And Then She Turned 13

I look at my littlest and wonder where it went. Time. It vanishes so quickly. A vapor, yes it's true. Time can be no friend of mine. My days are spent going and not slowing. Going and not slowing. We are in the middle of the "show" so to speak and our days are full. If I could go back and tell that young momma a thing or two I would tell her to enjoy the slow days. And to fill them up with laughter, hugs and messes. Don't worry so much about what it all looks like all the time or what others might think of you and just enjoy that baby girl. Fill it up and brimming over, not with things that others may be doing but things that you can enjoy doing together. And don't let her watch Sleeping Beauty (it gives her nightmares.) Lower your expectations, momma. She's little and learning and you can teach her with grace, not with just the fear of being punished. Fight for her heart!

Oh! But I can't. I cannot go back. If there was a do over button, I would push it. I really would. Not because I didn't enjoy the first time around, but because I want to fully enjoy it again. To breathe deep and laugh loud and long. I've joked that I pray often that my oldest would forget "a lot." Not because she was neglected or abused, but because I thought I knew what I was doing when really, I had no idea.

The difference now? I still don't really know. I just know, that I don't really know. You know?! I am fully aware (or at least mostly aware) of my need for Christ in my mothering. Even with one or two, a momma's job is H.A.R.D and we are in desperate need of the grace of God in our parenting. The grace that can only come through Jesus himself.

This isn't something that keeps me up at night. Many of you know my oldest, and are probably thinking, "What the heck, Kari...she is delightful, kind, caring and has a beautiful servant's heart." Yup! You're right about that. But all of that really is in spite of many shortcomings. Yes, I know, faithfulness...I want to be, but so many times I find myself lacking. So really, truly any results that are positive are the grace of Christ working through (and sometimes in-spite) of me as well as in her.

Our verse this year for school this year that I'm clinging to, yet again, comes from the short book of Philippians. It is about not looking back, but straining ahead, as if you are in the desperate race of your life and you have nothing left to give...the long, rocky road is hard to run on...but by the grace of God you or looking ahead to that forward call heavenward.

Awhile back, I quit reading many lovely blogs because I found myself comparing about, well everything. It seems that in the area of mothering, we do this all too well. I also feel that children and mothering can't ever be reduced to an equation that would equal good, God-fearing kids if we just would do ________ things. They are all (those kiddos) just too different for that. If you don't believe it try having 8 running around your house 24/7. They are each unique in their very own right and cannot be reduced to a desired outcome.

God has rescued me from the idea that I have to save my children. That if I mess up...then my kids will be messed up. I look at my beautiful 13 year old daughter and it's like he has given me another reason not to believe that lie because I have messed up. A lot. With them all.

I realize that many will read these words and shirk this idea because grace is a scary thing. Of course kids need stability, boundaries, faithful, God-fearing parents who are willing to discipline them when necessary. All of those attributes are necessary, of course! What I'm saying in no way negates any of that. But so much of mothering is not black and white: there are many grace-areas (as I so lovingly will call them...from now on) where we work out our OWN salvation with fear and trembling in this regard realizing that all children are made differently...and so are their mothers.

So here is to enjoying the next many years that we get to enjoy having this ever so sweet young lady around. I praise the Lord for his working in her heart and mine as we weave together this special relationship of mother and daughter. I find myself enjoying and loving her more with each year. Her desire to know what is true is evident and I see a discernment in her that is beyond most 13 year olds. I see growth in her relationships with her siblings and learning to love the unlovable. She is also learning to laugh more at herself. I love that. She is a joy...such a joy.

Friday, 11 September 2015

A Cupcake Kind of Friday

Some weeks deserve a cupcake kind of ending. Not because they are so great but because, "Yay! Praise the good Lord that we made it to Friday and this week is O-V-E-R" kind of cupcake. And so we did today. Ate cupcakes to finish our long week while celebrating some very smart kiddos reading through their Bible readers over the past year (holla!). But mostly, it's been one glorious battle this week and it's tempting to loose sight of things to be thankful for, things that get lost in the sometimes overwhelming neediness of smallish ones, appointments, various other exciting activities and schooling.

I was reminded today of that as I listened to the bell toll over the radio, remembering those who lost their lives on this very day inside (or just outside) the Twin Towers. And those rushed in to rescue; going inside when most were running out, knowing they would not, very probably, come out alive. They rushed in anyway. I just can't even. My heart was heavy about the unfolded week until I remembered that things could be worse. A lot worse.

So friends, join me today won't you in begging for grace.

Then eat a cupcake (a handful of chocolate chips will do) and be thankFULL. :)

One boy stuffed mouth...the other in process.

Thank you Father, for the gift of remembering even when my heart sometimes longs to forget. Thank you that your grace extends beyond the depths of the ocean and across the wide seas. Thank you that we are never alone when we trust in your own Son, Jesus. Thank you for doctors who are compassionate. And a husband who bends in service and for children who are learning to serve one another well. Thank you that there are people who are willing to rush into danger while everything inside tells them to run away. Thank you for our very freedom that we so often take for granted and the men and women that sacrifice much. Thank you for the courage and strength you give to your people. Thank you for friends who are so, very helpful. That you give us your Son and you also give us family in the church. Thank you for sunshine, hot days and for the rain.  It is easy to look around and only see darkness, but OH! to look up...to look to you, Father, is to see beyond what is before...to behold your glory and grace upon your redeemed people is an amazing thing and my heart is glad. in Jesus' name ~amen

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

It's Good to be 33!

He asks me if I feel old and I say nope. All these 33 years and really, that's quite young don't you think? Tired, I say. I feel tired a lot but not old. It's a heart heavy for my children, I say... that can weary my soul when I forget I am not the one who really saves them anyway. That no matter how faithful Christ helps me to be...they are their own little people with their own ever growing brains and hearts. And thinking that I have to fix it all...have an answer for everything, for every situation...yes, that makes me very tired friends and I forget to have fun...to enjoy them all.

  And so, I wake this morning on this very day that turns my age to 33 and see two handsome boys with silly smiles and a giggling little girl. One hands me a sheet of paper and says with a wry smile, "Happy birthday mom. What are we going to do today?" The temptation is there to just grind it out and make them do school since we've missed a couple days and I want to perform...them to perform to other's standards. I swallow hard and ask, "What do you want to do bud?" "Laser tag. I wanna go play laser tag again, Mom...the real place," is his hopeful answer.

Right there I have an idea. We all put our choices of what fun thing to do today in a hat, including this 33 year old Momma. All our hopes for that day in that brown hat with the deer from Michigan. They are all giggles, and silly grins. I ask that same boy if there will be tears if his isn't picked. He says no, probably because he is certain his hope will be chosen for that day. It's not. He holds the tears, but they brim. Disappointment centers and his attitude changes and it's hard to extend grace.

The rest of us, we get ready to go. We make sandwiches. I wait for an attitude adjustment. And pray that mine will adjust toward him...and ask him to change it too ask him to go pray in his room and come back down with a different one. Disappointment is hard isn't it?

 It's PB & Js and water bottles and chips and some soda for a special treat and we are off to the zoo. The bus is loaded. It's full with mostly happy, excited children. And the mostly unhappy boy helps this 33 year old Momma by remembering that I put my lost some where that I usually don't. His grin is back. It's better.

The day is hot and heavy with humidly, but fun is what is had. And despite impatient looks from adults who tend to forget that children are slow and sometimes cranky from being hot and having blisters from new crocks, it is full, overflowing with fun and so is my heart.

I see that tall girl standing next to me. It's a joy to be near her. She piggy backs kids and pushes the stroller all in stride, smile wide. "That was fun she says," quiet-happy on the way home. My heart almost bursts wide open. The growth I have seen in her is amazing. That boy carrying around the smallest so she can "see!" He is a wonder and a joy. Those three, the triplets we call them, all wide eyed over all the animals and wonder of it all. One boy happy go lucky about snakes and lizards and hippos and one big crock. And that kid with the blister, the one who can crank the loudest also smiles the biggest. He loves new, exciting adventures.

And that man that has worked so hard for all of us, my Love, he turns and says one night, "I know people don't get it and it's hard sometimes...well, a lot of times...but this life we have together...I wouldn't change it...any of it." "Neither would, I babe...Neither would I," is my happy answer.


Saturday, 1 August 2015

A Full Few Months

It's been a full few months here after our big move. We've celebrated two birthdays.

And the very first for the littlest Pope girl.

Who is now walking.
And talking.
Who loves to be outside.
To draw with chalk.
And give kisses.
We can't imagine life with out her.
Or any of them for that matter.
This life of moving around, and yet I've never felt more settled.
Maybe, I'm just getting older.
Perhaps, it's being closer to family.
Or just knowing that we are just where we are supposed to be.
At the pool.

Eating lots of ice-cream.

Dragging out every. single. Imaginext toy owned.

Pretending to be super heroes.
At the library.
Yes, the one with the park.

Making up for time far away.

Playing with the best cousins ever.

Almost killing each other while hitting at a piƱata.

Breathing deep in the wide open spaces.

Snuggling close.

Being silly.

And sillier.

Learning about the old.

Did I say silly?

Helping each other to see.

Admiring those old things.

Taking naps...very short naps.

Tie-dying shirts.

And some more silly.

And one handsome boy.

Trying to lotion ourselves.

Oh, and napping in the high chair. B/c who needs a bed people?!

And that sunset while painting our old kitchen table.
It's the best place to be.
It's messy.
And loud usually.
But beautiful.
And certainly amazingly grace filled.
PS: If your baby still has cradle cap after the first year of life and she puts a whole handful of lotion in her hair, do not despair, this is a good thing (for the cradle cap, I mean) b/c it will shortly dissipate. Well, after a few days of looking like you put bacon grease in her hair. Just an FYI. ;)

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Mother's Day Post that's closer to Father's Day

Dearest Mothers of all stripes.

Yes, you. All of you. The ones who have it all together. And those of you that think you don't. You, who long to be the best but fall short so many times. The ones who think that well, "if I was just more organized..." And the ones that already are. You, who look at your kid(s) and wonder if ever they'll get it "right" and do I have to explain that to you again for 1.1 millionth time? The one with little(s). To the one with big(s). And you, who might just have both and everything in between. You who struggle. You who pray. You who want the very best for those big brown eyes looking, staring right into the heart of you. Mom! That's you. That is me.

Mom, you, my dear are amazing. Yes, I know that kid threw a big ol' Texas size fit at church and people were giving you that look while you tried and fought and gave him "the look." But you didn't give in. You stayed your ground. You gave firm grace.  And the other one who wants to control every single aspect of his life and everyone elses life and seems bent on being unhappy unless he is getting your way. (Maybe you have a few of those.) The girl who gets in trouble to get attention. Will that ever end? Seriously. Seriously? Seriously!!

You, mom are fearfully and wonderfully made for this task. This wonderfully, awfully-hard, most joyous job. I see you. I see that really the only other people that really get it are those of us walking through it and frankly many times we are just so bent on "fixing" each other (or each other's kids) and judging each other so much that we miss out on extending a hand. Because, really we are all just doing our best aren't we? Aren't we just doing what we think is best for those kids...that kid...that we have borrowed for such a time as this? Even that mom in the grocery store with the 8 kids running amuck. She's doing her best. I mean, she didn't wake up this morning and say, "Hey, I think for today, I'm just really going to stink at this mothering thing."

You (and she) need grace, tired Momma. And it starts at the cross. You know that don't you? You know that those kids...that kid...he didn't have to learn to lie or cheat or disobey or for heaven' sake say "no" first did he? That sweet baby girl, she's just 2 weeks away going on a year and she's already throwing her head back screaming like her hair's on fire and flailing around on the floor when she doesn't get her way.

So mom, these kids they don't need to feel better about themselves (though I know that would be the popular argument). No, these kids need you to show them to Jesus. They need the cross, mom. They need to know that when they fail...and fail they will...a lot, that the answer is not to look to themselves (or to you really) but to look to the One who bled and died for those lies, cheats, times of disobedience and all those "nos" that he gave you first.

Because here's the thing mom that I am so over: Pretending to be something that I am not. I don't have to be a super organized, Pintrest perfect kind of mom. I just have to be me. God does not want you and me to be a "successful" parent. Yes, go you read that right. He wants our SOULS...our very hearts. I don't have to look around all the time and compare. You and I don't have to have it all together. We don't have to read every article...every book...every blog post about "how to be a good and faithful parent" we need just what our kids need. Yup, you and me? We need Jesus too! We need that cross...that risen Savior!

And mom, please hear me mom...if we miss this, if we miss Jesus in our kid's lives...if our homes are organized and they take every art class and succeed in sports and have 1,000 Facebook friends and graduate with straight As and go on to college at Harvard or Stanford (or Texas Tech for that matter) and we miss Jesus then the rest is not going to matter much really. Oh, it will on this side of heaven, but it won't for eternity.

You, sweet momma, can no more save your children than I can make you believe in Him. We are NOT responsible for their salvation. Never! That is not our job...it was finished on the cross. Oh, but my heart aches at how distracted I can be by everything else and how wrapped up I can be in the "outside of my cup" and forget about what really matters...about WHO really matters.

Mom, you live with little lives in process...at least 18 years process (and honestly, some are going to require more than that...a lot more). Your house will be messy (especially if they are in it with you.) They are going to mess things up. You will never be organized enough. You cannot possibly meet every single need. You can not make every thing fair. That project you wanted to do will not get done. For several years, maybe. That book will go unread. You will invest in leather couches not antiques.  You will try to teach them to be responsible by helping to clean and wonder why you do this because, for the time being, it kind of creates more of a mess. You will want to give up and just give them everything and give into everything. You will struggle with what hill you are willing to "die" on (and with some of them..that is every. single. hill.) It's exhausting. It's exhilarating. It's the only job I have ever really wanted to do. And the hardest.

Don't miss it.

Don't miss it, Momma.

 The mess can wait, but their little hearts can't. 
Win their hearts with grace and point them to the One who matters most.
 Point them to Jesus.

in HIM,

kari jo