So three times means it’s happening, right?

So I got challenged. Several times. Since Saturday.

Saturday night, I went to a friend’s to celebrate her completion of classes. “Karen, you’re a really good writer,” she said. “I read what you write on Facebook and it’s more like a blog than a typical Facebook post.” uhhh…. ok? Ok, God. What’s going on here? You trying to tell me something?

Today, I mentioned this dream that I’ve had off and on for years of being a writer. I mean, it’s only right that someone who reads voraciously should write? When I mentioned this, the ladies in my group all said, essentially, “Do it!!” Immediately, do you know what I did? Make excuses. I made so many excuses. “I don’t know what to write. My train of thought is anything but coherent.” Their response, “Do it anyway.” Seriously. SERIOUSLY! So I don’t know what to write, and yet, i’ve been challenged to write by some of my tribe, my people. “Karen, I love the footnotes you bring to Bible studies. You add so much to it!” But how do I write things that i forget about because they only come up only in conversations. “Do it!”

And then, to add to the challenges, a friend posted on Instagram, basically, “Be brave! Do it anyway!” Three times usually means something, right? I mean… doesn’t it?

God, what the heck is happening?

I want you to write.

Write what?

You’ll know.

I still don’t know. So here I am, taking a leap of faith, hoping to write more. That may mean more blog posts, but who knows?

Until next time,
Karen


Last week I spoke of my broken heart and how many were being rejected the freedom they so desperately wanted, and even some had thought they’d had until that point. Broken. Hearted.

The executive order is still breaking my heart, and I can’t get past the fear that it seems to perpetuated.

In 2001, I was a sophomore in small town Texas. I knew about other places but my school was pretty much all white, Hispanic, and African American. I don’t think I really knew much about Islam unless I read something about it in a book, which, let’s be real, is probably true for all non Baptist denominations and religions. I grew up Southern Baptist.

So September 11 happened, and I, in all my maturity of a 15 year old, was singing, “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine,” not realizing at that point how true it was. I didn’t understand the importance of the acts of a select few terrorists at that time. I had no idea what was really happening. People at Christian universities will say they live in a “bubble.” The same can be said for small towns, or at least my small town.

Yet somehow, even in that moment when fear started creeping more and more into our culture, I knew I couldn’t blame one religion for the actions of a few extremists. I wanted to learn more about Islam. I wanted to talk to women who wore hijab, or men who wore a yarmulke (by the way, i learned YEARS later there was a synagogue about an hour away. AND even more recently did I learn about a mosque in that same town.) I longed for a class that would teach “cultural sensitivity,” as my mom put it. Perhaps, at this point in time, God, in His infinite wisdom, was preparing me for college, and, eventually, my job with the Prince and his family. Eventually, I did get to take classes in which I learned more about Islam and Judaism, about Daoism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. When I learned about Zoroastrianism and the influence that it had on the Bible and Judaism, I was amazed. My heart leaped with joy.

While I understand the fear many have toward refugees and immigrants from countries that don’t seem to line up with our very Western ideology, the best way to combat that fear is not with bans and walls and refusal to let them in, but rather knowledge. Learning what they believe, learning why they believe it, learning why they want to leave their homeland, learning their culture. This knowledge, this desire to learn, will only open more doors. It takes time. It’s not an easy solution. But it stops fear.

The world is filled with immigrants, even here.

-Karen, the descendant of German, Irish, Scottish, and English Immigrants. Also the descendant of Tennessean immigrants to Texas. Currently a transplant from Texas to Colorado. See? Immigrants, yo.

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heartbroken

My heart breaks. My heart breaks for the Prince’s family, for my Afghani American neighbors, for the men and women who are fleeing from major crises and rejected from entering because of an executive order. My heart breaks because in his first week, the President has made a mockery of my home country, and I cannot let this stand.

In my studies of the Bible, one thing becomes evident. God has a soft spot for the immigrants and the refugees, for the men and women who have no place to call “home.” I believe it started in Genesis when God told Adam and Eve they could no longer stay in the Garden. I believe it broke His heart to see His creation, His friends, separate themselves from Him because of a damn serpent and a choice that had consequences… of death, of exile, of shame. He didn’t want that for us.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable of the goats and sheep, when someday, he will separate humanity by their deeds. Whatever we do to the least of these, the immigrants, the orphans, the widows, the hurt, the broken, our neighbors, we do to him. We either feed and clothe them and otherwise take care of them, or we don’t. And we will be judged on that. I’m not perfect. I’ve done my fair share of ignoring, of passing by. In Exodus, God exhorts his people to make allowances for the strangers in their land, to give them food and provide for them. And here we are thousands of years later, looking at these words, and ignoring them.

1 John talks a lot about love. A lot. Beloved is used throughout the book. John got it. “Beloved, let us love one another. Love is from God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God… Perfect love casts out fear.” But fear rules American Christianity today… and that breaks my heart. The God that we claim is love, and that love is CRAZY! It’s the kind of love that hides Jews when their lives are threatened. It’s the kind of love that is on the grounds, within miles of the front lines, making sure that the refugees are not forgotten and have food, water, shelter regardless their faith. It’s the kind of love that forgives an entire native tribe for a massacre of fathers in the Amazonian rain forest. It’s the kind of love that takes families away from their jobs, their homes, and places them in Africa to help a community with self sustainability. It is not a safe love. God is not a safe God.

Where did we go wrong? When did we start worshiping safety? When did we start placing our needs above another’s? When did we forget that our God asks us to care for others, like the refugees? When did we forget that He is not a “safe” God and that “safety” and wealth isn’t necessarily what He desires for us? This cannot stand.

May I have the courage to speak up, to stand up, to seek justice, because this past week has been difficult. May I continue to seek Him and His truth. May I always remember that no matter what, His Kingdom is my home, and He wants everyone there, because that rift that started in the Garden is closed… because He shed His blood for me, for you, and for that Syrian refugee wanting to escape. Because He is not fear, but He is Love. And may I continue to have His Love in my life.


And so I wait.

 

I began a new journey this year. Actually, it’s not that new. I’ve attempted it numerous times before and failed, but I’m determined to keep going. It’s hard to explain the why of this journey, but it’s been beautiful so far. I hope that I can continue it and send you little snapshots along the way.

So what is this journey?

Reading the Bible, cover to cover, in a year.

It’s been a beautiful journey. I’ve read of creation again. I’ve read the stories of the great patriarchs of my faith. I’ve read of the exile of Ishmael (and my heart breaks so much for Hagar! Her son was just playing with his half-brother!) and the salvation of Israel through Joseph, who has a complete attitude shift between being sold and helping others. Right now, I’m smack dab in the middle of the Exodus story. Oh, Israel. I relate to you a little to well.

A week or so ago, as I prayed, I felt God gave me a word for this year, or at least for this season. Wait. And can I tell you? I hate waiting. I hate being still (unless I’m tired, but man, put me on prescribed bed rest? I’ll be fidgeting and ready to be outside in five minutes!). But I feel like it’s a word God has given me. And it’s been good and hard. And He still hasn’t told me for what I’m waiting… Just to wait.

Since I’ve received that word, the waiting hasn’t really changed the way I do life much. I have made some intentional slow downs by not going out every morning and attempting to grocery shop with both kids one day a week (usually Monday) so that we can stay at home and relax and wait and play and wait and try not to go stir crazy while we wait. And because I’m not going out to shop and buy things every day (which, even though my kids do well shopping, I’m so happy not to be tempted to spend more money because I got bored), I find myself wanting to better myself. I want to exercise and go to the park with my kids. I want  to eat healthier and encourage my kids to do the same. I want to be the best at Overwatch… (Ok, that’s a little bit of a stretch but i find my afternoons are so much less stressful and I can play Overwatch if I want to).

And today, I’m waiting. A new President. New promises. New Congress. I’m waiting because I can do little else. I’m waiting, and praying, and clinging to the Truth of the Cross. He is still in control. He is still on the throne. And despite my fears and uncertainty of what’s going to happen, He still has me.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Yesterday, I read this verse for the millionth time. I read it and sat and let the truth seep into my deepest being. Before this verse (Exodus 14:14), Israel had a lot of uncertainty as well. They had just been released from captivity but Pharaoh regretted it. He was in hot pursuit. And God told Moses exactly what needed to be done and what to tell his people. God knows our struggles. And He fights for us. We only need to be still.

Shortly after this, Israel crosses the Red Sea, and all of Pharaoh’s horses and men were drowned while the Hebrews crossed on dry land with walls of water beside them. He freed them, as He frees us.

be still.

wait.

He’s got this.

Until next time,
–Karen


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