Monday, March 2, 2015

How to Be Humbled

Children were invented to keep adults humble, I am certain.

A few years ago I was waiting for the timer to go off so I could rinse the dye out of my hair. My oldest son was about 6 at the time and he asked me what I was doing. I showed him the picture on the box and said, "My hair is going got look like that when I'm done," pointing to the nice lady with chestnut colored hair. 25 minutes later when I had rinsed and dried my hair I went and found my boy to show him the finished result.

"See, it's all done,"  I said. He didn't seem convinced.

"What?"  I asked.

"You just don't look anything like the lady on the box," he replied. I think I heard disappointment in his tone.

Another time I had gone to the dentist to have a crown put on my tooth. Before leaving I said "The dentist is going to fix my teeth!"  I wanted my kids to feel that the dentist was a good person, not someone to be feared.

Upon arriving home my kids asked me to smile, so I did.

"The dentist didn't fix your teeth." my son surmised (yes, the same son).  "They're still yellow."

Geesh. Glad I wasn't having a low self-esteem day.

I did start drinking my coffee with a straw, though.

As your kids gets older the comments get less filtered.

"When the sun shines on you like that you can really see your mustache."

"Are you going out in that?"

"I think tank tops are meant for athletes, mom."

"Your butt isn't big, there's just a lot of it."

"Have your eyebrows always grown together like that?"

"I love how squishy you are."

I think it's God's plan to have children be as unfiltered as possible so that by the time they are teenagers you are so thick skinned that everything your kids say literally bounces off of you. You really become rubber and not just because of the aging process.

Kids can even help you embrace your shortcomings and learn to make them a special part of being you. My 5 year old is obsessed with the crown I have on one of my molars because it's gold. Every time he draws a picture of me he colors a big gold spot near my mouth, and says, "Look, there's your golden crown, my princess."

See the spot of gold on my cheek? That's my crown.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Choose Trust

I have a dirty secret.

I often read the last page(s) of a novel before I have even started it. Or sometimes after I'm a couple of chapters in. I just want to make certain that the commitment is going to be worth it. I don't want to become emotionally invested in characters who will just disappoint me. I absolutely do not want to think that I'm following a story line that is tired and overdone. So I just peek, make sure it's ending in a way that will feel resolved.

I so wish I could do that in real life.

I am a born-again Christian.  Jesus walked into my life 14 years ago when I said, "I do," and he has never left my side. I can recount time upon time when his love rescued me, sometimes from myself, sometimes from others who had left me wounded. He has never failed me. 

Yet, there are still times that I find it hard to trust him. There are times that I want to read the last page.

I mean, I know how THE story ends but I want to know how my story ends. I want to know what kinds of twists and turns it will take, I want to know that my commitment is worth it. I want to know that the characters I am emotionally invested will not disappoint me. I want to be certain that the storyline will be exciting (but not too exciting) and that it won't be tired and overdone. I want the assurance that my story will come to a peaceful close around my 100th birthday after a long day in my garden with my kin gathered around singing "I'll Fly Away".

God, though, in his infinite wisdom does not want me to know the end of the story. He desires that I live that story trusting in him. My God desires that I not know the twists and turns of my story or where it will take me. The God that I serve asks  that I embrace the characters he places in my life, that I accept the fact that I most certainly will be disappointed, and that I accept that I will do a fair amount of disappointing myself.

 Fortunately God never says that trusting him looks serene and holy.

The education of the Christian is not passive, it's not easy, and it's not neat and tidy. Point A rarely leads directly to Point B. The education of the Christian involves a healthy combination of work and failure - with an emphasis on the failure. Learning from mistakes is part of it,  but even more than that is learning to trust God in the midst of what looks like a  failure to to the world. For me, the heart of Christian education is learning that is not our happiness that God desires, but our holiness. He will do what needs to be done to get us to that place. 

It baffles my brain that I have struggled so much with trust because I have never been given any reason not to trust Jesus. I was been born in a country where freedom comes easily, in a family where love is in abundance, and in a life where hard work is a choice. I have met people from other countries where the best meal of the day is a piece of bread with a smear of peanut butter on it and yet they seem to have the whole trust thing down really well. 

I have to wonder if it is all of the choices that I have at my disposal that muddle my mind and make difficult the most important decision: to trust Jesus. 

That's just it, though, isn't it? Trust is our choice, every time, every day. 

So maybe that's the secret.

Give yourself no other choice.

It's totally worth the commitment of not knowing the end of the story. 

Choose trust.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

No One's Friend

I recently went to the doctor with some complaints such as nigh sweat and moodiness.  The good doctor felt that most of my problems stemmed from having two teenage daughters. Well, duh.  Anyway, her theory is that my girls are throwing off hormones. It seems  my 40 something body is the perfect catcher's mitt. She also said something about peri-menopause and I quit listening. I was hung up on teenagers being my problem.

See, it's not my teenagers that bother me. It's their hormones.

Basically, once a month I feel like a 15 year old girl.

I want to slam doors and can barely stop myself from rolling my eyes when people, even strangers, annoy me. If I remember to shave my legs I also think about how fun it would be to shave the bottom half of my hair off. I think, "That would just feel right." Honestly I have to stop myself from shaving off an eyebrow or two. That's the kind of ridiculousness that spurs teenage fads I tel you - hormones!

Once a month I feel that a butterfly tattoo on my foot would be the cutest thing in the world. I paint my nails teal blue. I stop myself before applying the electric blue eyeliner I was so fond of at 15. Once a month I want to listen to Taylor Swift and Katy Perry (okay, I always like to listen Taylor and Katy, but only Katy's clean stuff). Sometimes you just have to Shake It Off.

I remember being a teenager. I also remember feeling that my actions were perfectly rational. Never mind that I broke into tears and/or a rage when I couldn't find my favorite pair of jeans. People expect that kind of behavior from 13-17 year olds. It's a little more difficult to explain when you're 41 and supposed to be in charge of people.

I told my husband, "Listen, I don't understand it, I fight it as much as I can, but it is in your best interest to let me do what I need to do for about 48 hours."

Typically what I need to do for 48 hours is watch Pride and Prejudice while being fed a steady diet of dark chocolate and hot tea. I settle for being alone in the van with a McDonald's coffee and my daughter's iPod.

My sons and husband just hunker down together. One morning my son asked me what was wrong since I was crying while I did the dishes. I turned slowly while thinking of the best answer, "Well, son, once a month a woman sheds the inner lining of her uterus."

"Spencer, get out of there!" my husband yelled.

Spencer backed slowly out of the kitchen while throwing a trail of dark chocolate on the floor.

Hormones are no one's friend.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Well, I'm probably in the minority here, but I love the snow. We don't get a lot of snow here, so the 10 or 12 inches that we've gotten have shut us down pretty good.

Frankly, I love an excuse not to leave the house.  We've got food, fire, and movies. The kids can play outside til they're so cold they can't stand it. Plus, it'll make spring seem that much more miraculous. We'll be tired of each other and ready for company in March. I think winter is God's perfect plan to remind his people of the fact that they need each other. The snow insulates us from the world. News is less newsworthy and nothing matters quite as much as what we're doing inside our four walls.

It's funny how three days of snow has altered our routine so much. I don't feel the urgency to wake everyone up and get things going. We make breakfast, while we eat we watch the birds at the feeders. Some of us go outside to play in the snow, some start on their school work. Mom and Dad hang out at the dining room table reading comics aloud to each other. Boys come in, clothes are thrown in dryer. Every day school gets done, laundry gets done, people get fed, and rooms are tidied.

It seems that my mind relaxes when I cannot think of a million things I could or should be doing. Each day I focus on what we need first then what we want.

I can become so enamored with shiny things - other curriculum to choose from, Pinterest projects, recipes from across the web, blogs that are polished and amazing and have the best photos, that I forget that what I've got is what I've got. 

As I watch the birds in the snow I think. I think about where they go when they're not at the feeder, I wonder if they're cold, I wonder if they're happy to have the feeders full every day. I wonder if they care that I broke the suet up and sprinkled it on the ground so that they can have some extra energy. I wonder if they know that tomorrow the temperatures are going to be dangerously low. I wonder if they are worried about how they will prepare for the impending drought in 2050.

I can get a little out of hand in my thinking.

What I know about those birds is this: they don't worry. Those little birdies that I love eat when they are hungry, sleep when they are tired, and fly when they want to go. That's a paraphrase of Matthew 6:24-35. Jesus is a little more eloquent than I am.

I'm going to try and keep this snow day rhythm I've got going even after the snow melts. I'll just let Jesus be my insulation from the world.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Please Follow Directions

I'd like to apologize in advance for this post, but sometimes poop stories are just good for the soul. Poop is the great equalizer, after all. Everybody does it?

Sixteen years ago when my first child was about one I went through a pretty serious health food kick. I really wanted to do a colon cleanse so I bought some pills by the same name. The directions said take 2-4 pills. I felt that might not be enough cleaning and so I took 6 right before I went to bed.

The next morning after breakfast my mom and I talked and decided to have an outing. Mom was treating me to lunch at a nice restaurant, too. Midway through our meal the cleanse kicked in.

I'm funny about public restrooms anyway, but I felt that no one should be subjected to what was getting ready to take place. READ: things were getting ready to get noisy if the sounds in my stomach were any indication.

I went back to our table and said, "We have to leave now. Grab the diaper bag, I'll get the baby, meet me in the car."

Mom just sat there looking at me like I was crazy. "What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Listen, I took a few more of these colon cleanse pills than the directions said. I think something bad is happening inside of me."

"Oh, good Lord, Kara. Just go to the bathroom here."

"Mom, I cannot do what needs to be done here. The bathrooms are so nice, and no unsuspecting person should walk into this situation."  I had begun dancing and sweating and I think she was starting to realize the exact nature of the circumstances in my bowels.

"Fine," she said while rolling her eyes.  "but we've got a 20 minute drive home and you'll never make it."

I whimpered a little at that point and hot footed it out to the parking lot.

After what felt like about ten hours mom made it out to the car and we were off. We had just pulled out of our parking space when I realized mom had been right - I wasn't going to make it home. I wasn't going to make it out of the car at the rate things were moving.

"Mom, I'm not going to make it!" I shouted.

"Oh for God's sake." my mom muttered.

"Seriously, what am I going to do?"  I was panting, still sweating, and gripping the door handle as if it that could help me.

"Get a diaper out. Just go in that."

I looked at my mom to make sure she wasn't kidding. She was serious. She caught my "you cannot be for real" look.  "Look, it's just poop. Just go, you'll feel better when it's over."

I realized this was the nurse in her talking, this wasn't my mom. I grabbed a diaper. Don't judge, I was  desperate and in a moving car.

I looked at the diaper. It was made for a one year old baby who weighed about 22 pounds.

"This is not going to be big enough mom."  Now I was crying and sweating. We were coming upon an intersection and I could see the sign of a gas station across six lanes of traffic. It was like an oasis beckoning to me.

"We'll just clean it up afterwards,"  now she was just toying with me.

"Listen, I'm going to make it to that gas station," I said. "I'm going to get out now and run over there and you make a u turn and meet me there."

"You'll never make it. Traffic is terrible. There's not even a walk way."

There was no more time for discussion. The moment of truth had come. I jumped out of the car when we came to the red light in the turn lane. I literally ran across 6 lanes of traffic and into the gas station. I got to the bathroom and it was locked!! I needed a key from the attendant. I politely asked for the key (still sweating, panting, and now groaning a little).

When I emerged a long number of minutes later the 5 or so people in the gas station just looked at me. I felt that they had heard everything that took place in that bathroom. Thank God it was a single and I could lock the door, but who knows how sound proof it was. I could see my mom in the car waiting for me and almost cried.  We had made it!

I buckled in and mom backed out. We were getting onto the highway heading home after an exciting day out.

"Well, that was ridiculous,"  mom said with no sympathy. She looked over and saw that I was still sweating.  "For Pete's sake, who does that? This is something your father would do. You have to follow the directions on these things. Prune juice would have worked just as well, anyway."

I closed my eyes and half listened unable to argue. She was right. I should have followed directions.

I started moaning again.

"What now?" she asked.

"The second wave," I replied, the sweat coming back.

"Oh, for Pete's sake. Get a diaper out."

"Mom, we've been through this before."

That is the story of how I learned to follow directions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Change of Plans

Home is the place I have always counted on to remind me of who I am. Home is where life can take a pause, I can ignore the piles of laundry and clutter, and just regain my center.

By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures.
Proverbs 24:3-4

My parents still live in my childhood home. My family moved into the Cape Cod style home shortly before I was in kindergarten. I actually still remember running through the empty house when we came for a showing. I remember finding the phone numbers written on the attic walls; there must have been teenagers who pulled the phone into the attic for private conversations and used the foil paper on the insulation as a message board. I remember discovering a heart drawn into the concrete of the driveway, with the family's name and year in the center. Even as a very small child I loved the history of the house and the thought that we were adding ours on top.

Nine years ago we moved into a parsonage house and I loved the history there, too. The house was in bad shape but the 1960's style was darling. We have since lived in two other parsonage houses. We never intended to move so much. In fact, I thought that we would be like my parents and live in one house for 40 years. It was not so, though. Every time we have moved I have kept the curtains in an easy-to-access bag so that I can hang them quickly. Curtains just make it feel like home to me.

We've moved again, the third move in three years, and this time it is back to my childhood home. I have not lived in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky for 15 years and it has changed a lot. There is more traffic, more housing, more restaurants and more construction. Way more University of Kentucky students and campus. Still not enough parking. One thing that hasn't changed is my parents' house. It's kind of cool.

It is certainly not what we had planned, however.

Sometimes you find yourself at a crossroads you didn't see coming. Like you've been on a blind hill and you started pay attention to the scenery, and the kids were screaming, and Taylor Swift's 'Shake it Off' was playing really loud and you were thinking life couldn't get any better when you looked up at saw a STOP sign. Whew.

Anyway, at this crossroads you have three decisions. You can stay and hope that you get clearer directions from above (or a stranger passing by). You can just go straight because it seems logical. Or you can do the Shepherd thing and drive through the fields surrounding the crossroads. Really, since it's a cross roads I guess you technically have four choices, straight, reverse, left, or right, but we didn't think about that.

We chose the fields.

It was strange and complicated but basically my darling husband chose to resign from his position as pastor for the good of our family. Our decision had nothing to do with our church and everything to do with us, although we struggled with feeling that we were abandoning our church family. We had come to love our church, and our church loved on us. In three years we've been with amazing churches, met people I hope we always know, and learned about Jesus in deeper ways. We'd been on a ride, an amazing wonderful ride, but we felt like it was time to get off. More importantly, we felt God was guiding us to get off.

We find ourselves in new territory. It's been 15 years since we had to find a church, 13 years since Lee had to go to a job interview, and 10 years since we had to find our own house.

I have to say it's pretty exciting (and really scary). I'm so thankful to my parents who have allowed us to make this change and live with them for a little while. 

Making the decision at home was easy, going out into the world with it was different. Sharing the news with people was hard but we were encouraged by understanding and loving responses.

This is the true story of how 9 people decided to start living together and start being real. That's a 90's reference, yo. There is so much that I don't know right now. I don't know how this story will end, I don't know what's coming tomorrow, and I don't know why everything has happened the way that it has. What I do know, however, is that God has guided us every step of the way. I also know that for the first time in a long time my husband and I are dreaming again and that feels amazing.

What I love about all of this is that I have had very little fear and very few sleepless nights. I love knowing that we are allowing God to lead us in ways that we never have. I'm still keeping my eyes out for a burning bush, though. I like things crystal clear, you know?  I'd like a bill board that says: LEE AND KARA, DO THESE THREE THINGS.  Alas, God is a not a genie in a bottle, there are no bill boards (except for the creepy one that says God will not be mocked, which I know he won't but I don't like ominous bill boards. I really hope he did not intend that one for me).

So, there you have it: the story of how I made it back home. I have to say I love it here. I love the sounds, the smells, and the neighborhood. I think I live in the best neighborhood in Lexington. Mostly, though, I love the people in the house, and the little dogs, too.They are the rare and beautiful treasures. Some days are really hard and I want to  hide in my bedroom closet. Most days, though, are good and when I crawl into bed at the end of the day I think, "I feel like Dorothy after she clicked her heels three times." I've got my husband beside me, a dog at the foot of the bed, children scattered about (and at least one in between us).

There really  is no place like home.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Monday Observations on Tuesday

In case you didn't know, yesterday was Monday. It was Groundhog Day, but that really means nothing to me except that I did not print off any cute ground hog day activities for the kids to do. I did, however, let my boys watch the Wild Kratz and they talked about Groundhog Day so I'm considering my bases covered.

I don't know why but I like to sit in my van sometimes. It's quiet, I can pick my radio station without a lot of hassle and I can take naps. When I drop the kids off at lessons or meetings I often just bring a book and either read, or more often, take naps. The kids think it's completely weird that I just sleep in the car in front of piano teachers' houses, or during 4-H meetings, but I just feel so relaxed. I can adjust the lumbar thingy, I can recline as much as I need, the car is fairly well insulated against outside noise.

While I sat in the van I had some thoughts. Just a few, nothing profound, but thoughts nonetheless. The van really is my thinking place.

1. Mondays are just kind of blah days. It's not Monday's fault, really, but following Friday, Saturday, and Sunday it's just kind of a downer. I'd like to fix this for Monday's sake. I think Monday mornings are going to become board game or arts and crafts day. I'll let you know if this does anything to cure Monday of being crappy.

2. Speaking of crappy, lately I am fond of bad words. I don't mean words like 'crappy' but rather their more ugly counterparts. I'm going to work on this. I figure if I share this publicly it will make me more accountable. I'm not judging other people who enjoy using bad words, either. I'm just saying that in my life I'd rather be known for saying things like 'Oh, sauerkraut," rather than 'Oh, (fill in the blank with whatever bad word happens to be your favorite, and don't pretend you don't have one). I've just noticed that people frequently use bad words in their common, every day conversations rather than to indicate extreme emotion. This should not be the case I tell you. So, while I'm not saying that I'll never use bad words again I am saying that I will save them for absolute worse case scenarios.

3. Libraries have always been and will remain some of my favorite places on the planet. They have a reputation for being quiet and stuffy and if that is your impression then you simply must go and revisit a library. Pick a small neighborhood library first, because there certainly are stuffy, quiet libraries out there. Libraries are amazing because regardless of education or income all are welcome to check out books FOR FREE! Free, I tell you! I am sad that at my former library I was able to check out 100 books and at my current library I am only able to check out 35. After sitting in the van thinking for a little while, though, I think this may be for the best.

4. Buying new lipstick me feel like a million bucks. Until, that is, I look in the rear view mirror to admire said new lipstick and notice that the color seems to only accentuate my mustache. Why does no one in my life feel the need to tell me that I have an inch long (DARK) hair in my mustache region? Why? (p.s. I am buying tweezers just to keep in the van. Perhaps I will do all of my grooming in the rear view mirror because we all know it has the best light)

5. A blue sky and white, fluffy clouds can improve one's mood no matter what the temperature is outside.

6. A sock hat on a hipster under the age of 28 looks very cute. On a 40 something me it just looks like she's hiding crazy hair under there, or crazy something, like a chipmunk. My 14 year old daughter told me that my new lipstick pulled it all together so there's that.

7. Homeschooling is really hard but really worth it. I suppose that goes for anything really hard like running a marathon, which seems super dumb to me. So maybe homeschooling seems dumb to somebody else but they like running marathons. It doesn't make one right and one wrong, it just means they're both equally hard. Yes, I am absolutely equating running a marathon to homeschooling because I think it's that hard. But again, focusing on the 'worth it' part.

8. No matter how organized the moving process starts it will end in chaos. Every. Single. Time. I have found my day planner and feel that life can go on, but I cannot find my spelling curriculum and it is keeping me awake at night. Wah.

9. When my family starts to get kind of nutty and thinking about going what I call "After School Special" on me we look at the 5 year old and pull ourselves together for him. God certainly knew what he was doing when he gave my husband and I our little last hoorah. Right now I have to stop writing because he has set up a grocery store in the living room and I have a very special hamburger to buy for 400 billion bucks.

Happy Tuesday, people! Thank God it's not Monday any more!