Weeds

“You are growing like a weed!” family used to tell me. Twice a year. I never really thought about it at that time, but now I’m a mom, and I start thinking about those things again. By the way, my kids? Totally growing like weeds.

As a kid, our house had three trees in the front yard. Two of them were my brothers’ pine trees because they brought them back from a Carlsbad Caverns school trip. The third was a mimosa tree. It started out as a weed, and then my parents decided to keep it. It was my tree. It’s no longer a weed! It is wanted. I, at last, had a tree. I say at last. I don’t know when they moved it to its home. After all, I was probably a baby. The weed grew up to become a tree.

Now, as a home owner and as a mom, I got to thinking about weeds. There’s a plant under our patio that likes to grow out and block the steps down. I’m pretty sure it was planted there, but to me, it’s a weed. I really want to burn it with fire. Several friends recently have had their third kids (or they are about to, at least). Some of them weren’t expecting it this soon in their family life. Some thought they’d only have their two kids until they found out about kid #3. But the interesting thing? None of these friends don’t want their kids. It’s just not on their timing, but those kids? So very loved.

And then I got to thinking about life because that’s what i do in the wee hours of the day when my son is awake, and my daughter happily is still asleep (or at least happily quiet in her room). Someone in a chat server I occasionally visited called himself “unimportant.” That struck a nerve, that someone wouldn’t feel important, and suddenly I wanted to teleport through electronics to his end of the computer or phone (I’ve been binging season 1 of Supergirl. I essentially want to be Indigo/Brainiac, just not as sadistic), give him a hug, and tell him, you are important you are valuable… you are loved…

Election season is upon us, and it’s tearing our nation further apart with the horrific name calling and blaming of each other. I hate it. I could tell you why I’m voting the way I am, but that’s not important. What’s important is after a tape was released of so called “locker room talk,” women who felt like they had been devalued through no fault of their own, started coming forward, speaking up against said “talk,” telling their stories… Stories of pain, betrayal, hurt, confusion… stories that break my heart. And yet people still shame the victim, asking about impertinent details. This still happens. There have been many moments I’ve wanted to, once again, Brainiac my way through my computer to give these people hugs. I want to remind them of their worth, which is independent of what has happened to them. I want to remind them they are loved. They are not alone.

A large part of my faith is placing my identity not in my flesh and who the world says I am, but in Christ and who the Bible says I am. I am His. I am loved. I have been bought with a very steep price… If I could, I would tell everyone about their worth not being a part of what the world says. “Beauty is fleeting…”

Dear Reader, if you are struggling with feeling loved, please reach out to me. Tell me your story. Know that you are loved just the way you are. You are not a weed to be tossed out, but to be transplanted, nursed, and grown into a beautiful tree.

-Karen


About that time I learned how to help with grief….

Two years ago, our family’s lives changed. My husband had been employed since he’d graduated university at a company in Texas when they went through yet another round of layoffs. This time, he wasn’t safe. This time, his number was picked.

It was a really rough time. I was a mostly stay at home mom who worked about ten hours a week at a local Mother’s Day Out. It was a minimum wage job. I did it because I was bored staying at home with my daughter.

At the time, I had an active Facebook account (which I deactivated, for the second time, almost a year ago). I’d posted something about my thoughts about how crappy it is to feel so secure in something and then to suddenly have it taken away. Well intending friends posted things along the lines of “God’s got this” and “you will be a ok” without pausing to think This is Grief. This sucks. I resented those friends. Many of them had at least one person working in their household in a secure position. They wouldn’t be getting laid off. They wouldn’t understand how basically the security we thought we had was gone. The platitudes, no matter how well intended they were, hurt.

I never doubted God had it or that he was in control. My husband did not particularly like his job, so I thought maybe God knew what he was doing, but at the time, I just needed to grieve. I needed people to be there beside us, telling us, “Damn, girl. This sucks.” I needed people to plot the company’s demise, but to keep me from actually doing anything, which honestly, plotting is more than I ever did, but i needed that kind of friend – the kind that gets in the muck and mire and goes through the hurt and pain with you.

I learned a lot about helping others with that kind of grief. It’s not just when someone you care about dies, but it’s when you lose anything that you held dear or felt you needed.

So next time you know someone who is grieving, lay off the platitudes. Get in the trenches with them. Mourn with them. They already know it’s probably going to be ok, but life for them has changed and helping them by being an ear, being a shoulder, being a “partner in crime” will do infinitely more for them than reminding them of what they probably already know. Grief is a bitch. And no one should go through it alone.


Advent is here!

It’s that time of year where you find out whether your friends are like this guy…

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Or this guy…

the grinch

And to be quite honest, I’m normally the latter until advent starts, or at least the first sunday after thanksgiving.

But now? it’s December 1. Advent is here and I am totally like Buddy the Elf. It means singing songs about Christmas, watching Love Actually and Elf and The Muppets Christmas Carol on repeat, and hanging up decorations and making paper snowflakes and applesauce christmas ornaments. It’s a time for binge drinking eggnog, baking, and looking for miracles all over the place. It’s a time of anticipation, a time of preparation, a time of enjoying family and serving others.

I was introduced to this concept of Advent Conspiracy last year and I’m sorta in love with it. The concept is instead of spending a ton of money on unnecessary stuff and expensive gifts, keep it simple, and the money you save you donate to make the world better, whether it’s to a charity you admire, or to help the millions without clean water come one step closer by building new wells and providing education for them to keep the water clean. It’s brilliant. It’s helping the world be more awesome.

I also love it because it helps me recenter on the whole reason for the season (sorry for the cliche! I really hate using them…)

Confession time: I deactivated facebook… again. I find myself stressing over stupid stuff and playing the comparison game. It just wasn’t a good situation for me, so I deleted it. For Advent.

Q: Wait… Aren’t you supposed to be giving/getting things for Advent and giving up for lent? Are you confused about your seasons?

A: Traditionally, the answer is yes. But sometimes I like to buck tradition. Also, I think I’m gaining more by being off Facebook that I would be staying on. I’m investing more in intentional relationships, actively seeking to contact those whom I care about and following less about those who I only know peripherally. I’m investing in presence, not presents. It’s a good trade off.

Another confession: I love Advent songs. Songs like “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” and “Oh Come, O Come, Emanuel!” fill my heart with joy and anticipation. Not only am I anticipating the celebration of Christ’s birth, but also the anticipation of His return (which I waffle on whether i want it today… or way off in the future… Either way, I anticipate the event with excitement and, to be completely honest, a little bit of timidity.)

My Grinchy days are behind me fore this year. And at least until January 6, I’ll stay in the Christmas spirit, and will continue to find ways to spend less on presents and more on presence. Will you join me? Will you turn aside from the mass chaos of Christmas shopping and invest in people?

In Him,
Karen


My heart hurts. It’s that deep, soul clenching pain of grief and anger. It’s a lot for me.

Come to me, all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest.

It all started Friday. Paris, Beirut, Iraq, Japan, Mexico… Pain. Suffering. Death. Immediately my heart turned to the family for whom I spent most of three years working. They are Muslim. They are peaceful. They now, once again, represent the “enemy” despite the fact they’ve lived here for years and work so hard to make sure their kids have long healthy lives. They grieve with us. They are ashamed of people using a bastardization of their beautiful religion to massacre hundreds. They are my family.

My Facebook feed became cluttered with opinions and facts and hatred and fear and love… It is just too much for me. I don’t blame the refugees. They have no home. Their country forced them out while others, acting out of fear or an inability to handle the massive influx of population, shut them out. They are the orphans.

On my birthday, a day I should be proud to celebrate in the freedom of this nation, all over governors started saying, “No. We will not take refugees into our states. We cannot guarantee safety of our citizens.” It was as if these people who claim to follow Christ suddenly shut the door on his people, people made in God’s image, people loved by him. Suddenly we worship a “safe” God when he didn’t promise us that safety.

Whatever you do (or don’t do), you do(or don’t do) to me.

Jesus was a refugee kid. The ruler of his home decided he was a threat and decided to massacre the infant boys… Like Pharaoh did in Egypt so many years earlier. Did he stay in his humble home? No. His parents fled to Egypt (oh the irony) until that ruler died. 

Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.

I’m not a politician. I don’t know all the inner workings of the government. But today saddens me further as our government shut the borders down, allowing no one seeking refuge from ISIS/Daesh a safe haven. Many are pointing to history from 80 years ago when the Jewish on the brink of one of the worst genocides in the world were refused to enter the U.S. 

It’s time for the church to wake up. It’s time for us to utilize our resources in a way that affects change globally. It is time for us to recognize the God we serve is the same God who says the last will be first and the first will be last. His kingdom is upside down from what the rest of the world thinks it should be. It’s time for us to step up and not only take care of the beggars on the street and the veterans who’ve been through so much, but to also exhibit Christ’s love to every one.

Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.

It’s going to take time for this hurt in my heart to heal. Sometimes I loathe how tender it is, but I don’t want it to harden, to become calloused. But I’ve learned to be content in all things, and I’ve also learned to dig deep when the pain is too much. He is my rock, my shield, my ever present help in times of trouble. He also holds my heart in his hand and guards it. This pain is probably minute to the pain he feels for his creation, but I feel honored that he has let me feel a little bit of it. It’s an upside down kingdom, remember?

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19 months 1 day

19 months 1 day. That’s how old my daughter is today. It’s also how old I was in 1987 when my world would be forever changed.

My family, at the time of my birth, was Mom, Dad, and two teenager brothers. I lived in this dynamic for 19 months and 1 day. Then my oldest brother was in a car accident with the youth minister he was helping move to the country outside small town Texas. Neither of them made it. The other driver, however, did.

So here I am reminiscing about that day that forever changed my family.

A toddler doesn’t understand much. I imagine that my daughter is a lot like I was on that day almost 28 years ago… inquisitive, kind, rough and tumble, really good sleeper… but I didn’t understand death then. I wanted to go with Trey.

I’d love to say I understand it now. I don’t.

But…

Even though I’ve experienced my share of loss, I understand the questions that come with it. Every loss, every instance of grief, is different. Different questions arise each time. I’d be lying if I said I never seriously doubted or question God’s goodness. I’ve asked many times “Is God good?” after tragedies and losses. How can God be good when the Twin Towers fell killing almost three thousand? How can God be good if hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes destroy, displace, kill? How is cancer, AIDS, diseases of any kind God’s goodness?

I’ve struggled through this. I don’t have a lot of answers. I understand a little better how Job who lost everything is able to say “The Lord gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I understand how a great sinner like King David (adulterer, murderer, liar) can dance (naked in the streets) praising God.  I understand that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. I understand living in seasons of doubts and unanswered questions about God’s goodness and glory. I understand the thorn in the flesh that Paul experiences.

But I still find myself wondering at times is God really, truly good?

There is always going to be crap in this world. It’s a part of life. But just thinking about that, I realize, God knew that when He sent His only Son to die a gruesome, brutal death on a cross on a holy weekend those many many years ago. He also knew that Jesus wouldn’t stay dead. God was able to take dead, decaying flesh, make it new, just so you and I could have a chance to experience the fullness of His goodness, even though that means the crap isn’t gonna stop. He gave us all a chance to become perfect because He can’t/won’t commune with anything not perfect. The blood of Jesus makes us white as snow, our sins are forever erased and we get the chance to commune with God.

So while my daughter will only be this age for one day, I’m amazed at God’s goodness. One day, we will see my brother again. One day she’ll meet her grandma Debbie. One day, she too will know God is Good… even when we don’t understand, when we have no idea how… even then God is Good. He is Sovereign and He is Good.


Dat promise doe!

With news of ISIL (ISIS or IS, or whatever. Basically, violent terrorists desecrating the beauty of Islam.) filling the news, my *relatively* conservative news feed on Facebook is blowing up with hatred toward all Islam, stating that all Muslims are terrorists and violent and, in general, evil.

Over thirteen years ago, the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon were in ruins as people claiming the way of Mohammad crashed planes into them. I had no clue what the ramifications of this would mean. I was only a fifteen year old immature high school student who thought hitting myself over the head with a water bottle saying “Jesus is my Valentine” was the greatest thing I could do for myself, but I do remember thinking, “There is no way these terrorists represent the entire Arab nation, or the followers of Islam. I want to know more about those people.”

Christians claim the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 12:1-3 along side the Jews, but often neglect that the promise was to Abraham before he had Isaac. At this point of his life, I’m sure Abraham was probably thinking, My wife can’t have kids, so I think you’re crazy, God, but I guess I ought to trust you. Think of Sarah as not only being older, but essentially past menopause. Her baby maker was shut down, so it would take a miracle for her to have kids, and I honestly don’t blame Abraham for trying to make this promise, this covenant, work the best way he could. I mean, God moved Abraham from a polytheistic culture to a monotheistic belief. He probably thought that he had to work to make God’s promise valid, so he went his slave and had Ishmael through her. You know what the cool thing about this is? Even though God intended the promise for Abraham and Sarah, he tells Abraham after his older son is cast aside after the birth of Isaac (Hello, sibling rivalry brought on because of the mother…), “And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring…” (Genesis 21:13). God keeps His promises. Do you get that? God loves us. He wants a relationship with us. And when we try and take control of things ourselves, God is faithful.

Even though the promise was intended to be passed down through Abraham, Isaac, and eventually Jacob (AKA Israel), Ishmael is also included because God made the promise to Abraham. Nations are blessed through the Arabs, through the descendants of Ishmael. How? Our numbers are Arabic. They gave us algebra (even though, sorry, my Muslim friends, I loathe math…), contributed greatly to astronomy, navigation and geography, architecture and arts, horticulture, and those majestic Arabian horses! Yet many of us shy away from acknowledging their contributions and go straight toward hatred, toward biases and prejudices because that’s what we know and we cease trying to understand.

I challenge you, dear friends, to first seek to understand. Meet people of all nations, cultures, religions that you can so that you can diversify your life and understand another’s actions or beliefs a little better. The world need love and truth, but in order to do that, we can’t hide in our shells.

And may all those promises you haven’t seen fulfilled yet keep you on your toes. God isn’t slow, at least, not like we think. He’s rather like Gandalf and arrives precisely when he means to.

-Karen


I just did something silly.

Our church here is partnering with an organization to shelter homeless families as they seek to transition out of homelessness. During the day the kids are at school, the parents/guardians are working or actively seeking employment, and we, as a congregation, take care of their needs from about 5:30 pm to 7am the next day.

I just volunteered to “coordinate meals.” What that looks like, I have no clue. But I know I can cook decently. I have a fairly good comprehension of what healthy looks like… and I’m aware of how to cook for special needs (whether it’s because of religion or allergies, which, when you think about it, should be treated similarly). Plus, I have a Costco card. Did i cut off more than I can chew? Who knows….

It’s silly.

But I’m reminded that God uses the foolish to shame the wise. Why should I cook for people I’ll really only know for one week? Because I told God I’d say yes. This is my yes. For now.

Tomorrow is a new day with new yeses to be said. AMEN!