On happiness and a hiatus

P1060563_2We’ve just returned from a fabulous 5 weeks with la familia in California — and we took Amtrak as our transportation both ways. It was amazing, refreshing, and filled with wonder & joy. (Along with being a great adventure, the train travel with 3 kids was a bit exhausting.) It was a time of rest, relaxation, exploration, laughter, love, and good eats. I got to cuddle my nieces and meet my valiant little nephew for the first time. And, ya know what? I did not write a single blog post or even think about this web site for an entire month. A choice of Sabbath, of rest, of quiet — of focusing on fully living my real life rather than holing away in my little digital corner on the crowded internet block.

So, for the next few weeks as life gets back to “normal” (hahahahahahahahhahahaHAHAHAHAH!!!), I’ll be taking a hiatus from posts here. And rather than writing more about Sabbath and rest and quiet and all the rest, I invite you to read some of the articles and conversations you’ll find already posted here. Just check out the tag cloud on the right hand margin to find some spiritual thoughts on these and other subjects. 

So, until August, cheers! Live and love well. –K–

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Be just and merciful. Be inspired.

be inspiredAs part of our month-long be inspired series, here’s one more conversation from the archives with Erina Ludwig, a Londoner now living in Indianapolis. Erina is  half of the musical duo The Yellow Kites (with her husband Kendall) and is the author of Unnoticed Neighbors: A Pilgrimage into the Social Justice Story. 

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1. Why are you passionate about biblical justice? www.bohemianredimages.com

When I hear the words biblical justice it conjures up images of divine wrath but also an unyielding desire to see every human being flourish.

I am in no way tied to rules for the sake of keeping up appearances. I don’t do things because they’re written down somewhere. I find compassion is written in my very core and I am moved to action because of it. I see us, human beings, as being capable of so much and yet bypassing it for other trinkets. And so biblical justice is remembering we’re all walking this earth together, to remember each other, to be kind, to feel anger but let it go and for the love of all that makes us human, to treat others with respect and dignity regardless of how different they are.

The few stories we have of Jesus’ dealings with people in the Bible best capture that desire. The woman caught in adultery and dragged to Jesus’s feet and his delicate but divisive response makes me cheer. He knew how to love others and what right to be done to them.

unnoticedneighbors2. Injustice in our world can seem so overwhelming and discouraging. Ever felt that way? And how can we overcome discouragement & inertia and move forward into hopeful action?

I have a quarterly crisis throughout the year as I try and work out how we get out of the mess we’ve made for ourselves here in life. I feel overwhelmed and simply weep. I used to think that was a pointless response, but I have since learned it means my heart is still soft and still feels — which is legions better than a calloused old beater! I think it’s best to pick one thing that hits you in the guts and makes you want to vomit. Grab a hold of that injustice and start working towards chipping away at it. Remember what we do won’t always be explosions in the sky, but every act of kindness counts and changes this world we live in. (Whether it wants to be changed or not.) Continue reading

Be Inspired — Faith in and through Tragedy

be inspiredNext in this month’s be inspired series is another great conversation from the archives — a 2011 interview with Christina Schofield. She’s an illustrator and a writer; her book, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes — An Unflinchingly Honest Journey of Faith, tells the story of how a tragic motorcycle accident radically changed the trajectory of her life and challenged her faith.

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Chris, I’m so glad to introduce you to my “friends.” Can you tell them a bit about yourself?

I was born the youngest of four to a gentle, humble Swedish preacher in a tiny Midwestern town. I doodled and passed notes all through my school days, so kind of stuck with it for a profession. The last fifteen years or so, I’ve illustrated and written stuff for mostly Christian publishing companies. I’m married to a campus minister (Allen) and we have a seven-year-old daughter, Lily. If my days were a pie chart, it would look like this: Taking care of the fam’ (including two cats that hate each other and a neglected beta fish): 30%, Driving people places—30%, Making sandwiches—30%, Work, house-cleaning, and pretty much everything else combined—10%.

I’m very excited about your book, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes, that is coming out this summer. For my readers who don’t know your story, can you tell us what your book is about?

Not quite four years ago, my husband and I were in a motorcycle accident. I was okay, but he broke his neck and was left paralyzed. The book is kind of a walk through that ugly-faith journey — picking up the pieces and saying that God is good even when my life is bad!

This month we’re looking at the discipline of life-change. I imagine that the extreme difficulties you and your husband have lived through recently have been a catalyst for some serious self-examination. What has God revealed to you about yourself through this challenging season?

Initially, came the question, “WHAT? How could you let this happen, God? I thought we were friends!” There was instant perspective — a lot of things I had desired goal-wise  I immediately realized didn’t really matter compared to the pursuit of God and getting my family well. The next challenge was coming to terms with the fact that God still loves me even when I have nothing to offer him in return. I’ve spent most of my life struggling to “perform” for him, do my best stuff to win his approval and/or impress people. There is a sort of peace that comes when you hit rock bottom and realize, “Wow. He loves me still.”

What else has God revealed to you about himself through this painful journey?

His love of broken things. We avoid brokenness at all cost, but God views it differently than we do. Psalm 52 says a broken spirit is what He actually desires. Psalm 34 says he is near to the broken-hearted, and I’ve found that to be totally true! He is much closer than I ever realized! If you let that get in you good, if you let God open your mind to what he thinks is a big deal I mean, it helps you see people through new eyes.

Scripture tells us that God’s grace is sufficient. Of course this doesn’t mean the difficulties in our lives go away if we trust God! How have you experienced this promise?

Allen was in hospitals for about two months. Shortly after we got back, I had a phone call on the answering machine from an old friend who had been struggling with addictions and family problems and spiritual problems. I had really kind of been overwhelmed with our friendship before Allen’s accident because I didn’t know how to help her. I put off returning her call and she died shortly after of a drug overdose! I felt terrible! I confessed to God, “How do I do this? How can I help others when I feel so burdened myself?” I felt like He was urging me to “do it broken.” To let His strength pour through my smallness, weariness, brokeness (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). He has done that in some really cool ways!

 How can we be praying for you and your family?

Please continue to pray for Allen’s healing, strength, rest, and peace! For wisdom in raising Lils, that she will grow up to love and worship God. Lately, I’ve been praying that God will get all the stuff out of us that keeps us from being completely his. I pray it with hesitation because I know that can be painful! (But necessary.) Thanks! We love getting prayed for!

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Check in each week this month for more stories from women whose faith, ideas, and love will inspire you! 

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Be Missional, Hospitable . . . and Inspired!

be inspiredThis june, be inspired by some amazing women. Women of faith who are thinking deeply, living abundantly, loving fully. This week, I’m excited to repost an interview I did with Helen Lee back in 2011. Helen is the author of  The Missional Mom and here she shares her thoughts about missional living and hospitality.

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helenlee-07b-1024x682-150x150Helen, so glad to introduce you to my “friends.” Can you tell them a bit about yourself?

Kelli, I’m honored to be interviewed on your blog! As for an introduction, I am a homeschooling mom of three boys 9 years old and under; wife to classical pianist Brian Lee, and co-founder  Best Christian Workplaces Institute. Not all at the same time, of course. =)

You’ve written a book called The Missional Mom. Where did the idea for this book begin for you?

To understand my motivation for writing the book, we have to go back nine years, back to when I was a new mom with the first of my three boys. When I became a mother, as much as I loved and treasured my new baby boy, I have to confess that I found the transition to motherhood very challenging. It wasn’t just the physical changes that you go through as a mother, but it was also an internal struggle for me. I found myself wrestling with so many questions about what my life was supposed to be like now that I was a mom. Such as:

• Was motherhood supposed to be my only calling in life?

• What was I supposed to do with my experiences and education that God had given me before I was a mom?

• Why did the idea that I was supposed to completely immerse myself in motherhood and nothing else feel uncomfortable to me?

And the very process of asking these questions brought feelings of guilt, that I was a bad mother to be even asking these questions! So it was a very confusing time. As a writer I knew that to work through these questions, I’d need to write about it.

How would you define the term “missional”? What does it mean to live with a missional mind-set?

There has been so much written about this word that it’s daunting to try to encapsulate it into a few sentences! But for me, being missional means to embrace your calling as God’s missionary in whatever context he has placed you, and embracing his mission for you as your primary calling in life. For the Christian mother, who often mistakenly assumes that once she becomes a mom that motherhood is supposed to be her primary calling in life, I feel as though the missional perspective offers a great corrective.

Once you become a mom, your mission does not change! You are still primarily called to be God’s witness (locally and globally) and disciple-maker, and of course your home is a big context in which that happens. But by no means is it intended to be the only one. Embracing a missional perspective as a mother means that you understand your primary calling as God’s ambassador in this world, and you integrate motherhood into that calling.

And, as Scot McKnight explains so succinctly in the book, being missional is about asking a simple question: “How can I help you?” Mothers have so many opportunities to ask that question in their daily walks of life. In their neighborhoods, in their children’s school, in their workplaces–asking the question means you are taking a proactive posture and initiating in people’s lives rather than retreating into one’s own home life and ignoring the needs around you. Being a missional mom means the opposite of only focusing on one’s family; it means embracing God’s call to have an impact on the world around us, and helping our families to also be a vehicle God uses to help, serve, and love others.

Who’s somebody (or more than one person) who’s a “hero” to you when it comes to missional living? How or why does this person’s example inspire you?

My book is a collection of the stories of so many “heroes” who inspire me towards missional living. Women such as Arloa Sutter, founder and executive director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries, who started the ministry out of a desire to be obedient to God’s call to love those who are poor, and whose obedience God used to build a ministry that now touches thousands of people in Chicago. The thing is, Arloa did not know when she first began that her initial steps of reaching out to others would result in a ministry the size and scope that Breakthrough is today. But she embraced the calling that God had given her, step by step, day by day, and now she can look back and see how God has used her offerings of time, talent, and treasure in tremendous ways.

I’m not just inspired by women like Arloa who have built a tangible ministry, however; any time I hear about a mom in particular who demonstrates an obedience to the call of God to be His witness and disciplemaker, I feel a sense of awe and wonder.

In your own experience, how does missional living relate to hospitality?

Hospitality is clearly a missional value, in my mind. However, by “hospitality” I don’t just mean that we have pristine, guest-ready houses offering gourmet meals. Hospitality in the missional sense means that you are taking initiative in other people’s lives, that you are willingly embracing discomfort to build relationships with those who are different from you, that you are recognizing that all our possessions are not ours in the end, but the Lord’s to be used for the purpose of connecting with others. Hospitality ultimately means welcoming the stranger, and even bringing them into your family, such as in adoption. I think it is very difficult to live missional lives without reflecting hospitality in some way in and through our families.

 How can a woman, whether or not she’s a mom, begin to see each day differently — through a “missional” lens?

In my mind, living missionally is all about having an outward orientation in our lives, as opposed to continually being focused on our own lives, homes and families. As Rick Warren so famously says in The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” And how right he is. But we so easily get caught up in the fallacy that it is about us, or our kids, or our spouses. Christians, however, are a called people, called to God and to his mission in the world. Living a missional life is all about claiming–or reclaiming–the basic essence of who God has made us to be.

Thanks, Helen! You can learn more about Helen at her site www.themissionalmom.com and you can join in the conversation at the Missional Mom facebook page.

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Stay tuned, readers, for more in the be inspired series!

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Be Inspired! Conversation with Julia Roller (part 2)

Be inspired! I’m excited to launch a special focus in June featuring interviews with Christian women whose stories, thoughts, ideas, and choices inspire me—and will inspire you—to love more deeply, to seek God more passionately, and to live more abundantly.

be inspired
To kick things off, we’re continuing the conversation with Julia Roller about motherhood and the spiritual life. (Click here to read part 1 – you’ll love it!). Julia’s new book Mom Seeks God honestly depicts the ups and downs—and the hidden beauties—of her journey as a mom toward experiencing God in new and different ways.

At the end of this post, read how you can easily enter a drawing to win a free signed copy of Mom Seeks God as well as a free, signed copy of my Bible study guide Awaken Your Soul!

Here’s part 2 of our conversation.

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Your book Mom Seeks God chronicles your experiences with different spiritual disciplines & practices and how they fit (or sometimes don’t) with the reality of motherhood. How has your faith-life (practices, etc.) grown and changed as a result of being a mom? What practices or disciplines seem to “work” best for you in this stage of life?

Julia Roller lowres

My faith life has changed in many ways, most of them for the better. I find that I see God more easily these days, in my children as they grow and learn, in my husband, in those around me. I feel less pressure to get everything right and more of a feeling of confidence that God can make beautiful things out of my broken and imperfect efforts.

 

The disciplines that are most dear to me right now are some of the disciplines of abstinence (of taking away rather than adding): simplicity, silence, fasting (from all kinds of things in addition to food). One of the overall things I realized after that year was that I was trying so hard to DO MORE. In order to be a better parent, to be a stronger Christian, I thought I had to add more stuff to my list—more activities, more books, more prayer, more time. No wonder I felt so exhausted all the time!

It surprised me how much I benefited from and felt close to God through the disciplines that involved doing less. As I was able to turn things off (in the practice of silence), give something up in order to increase my focus on God (fasting) and try to do one thing at a time (simplicity), I found that I was able to open up some space in my life to slow down and listen for God’s voice.

Mom Seeks God jacketWhat practices or disciplines might you recommend for other moms to try–especially those who may be new to the idea of spiritual disciplines?

Prayer is always a great place to begin. I think we often put prayer off—to a time when we have more time, when we have quiet, when we can really focus. For moms, that time may never come! I am a big fan of praying short prayers in the moment. When I tell someone I’m going to pray for them, I do it right then. When I find myself in a moment of frustration or anger, I try to take time out to pray right then. This gets easier with practice. I also encourage moms to look for that time of day that can be the best time for them to have a consistent daily time with God. For me it’s at night before bedtime; I know for many other moms, the early morning works best. I love the idea of coming before God when I am at my best and since I am a night owl, for me that time is at night, when I can reflect on my day and look forward to the next one.
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Giveaway!

Friends, check back in on Monday when I run part 2 of the great conversation with Julia Roller. It will include an opportunity to enter your name in a drawing to win a free, signed copy of her new book!Mom Seeks God jacket

 

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A Blessed Collision — Mom Seeks God (part 1)

Friends, to wrap up our “Be Mom” focus in May and to launch into our “Be Inspired” series for June, I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Julia Roller. She’s recently written a great new book looking at two of my very favorite topics: that blessed collision between motherhood and spiritual disciples. It’s called Mom Seeks God. Join me for a two-part conversation with Julia about the spiritual side of motherhood.

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Julia, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Julia Roller lowresMy husband, Ryan and I have two boys, ages 4 and 7, and live in San Diego, where we are often busy driving to (seemingly) every soccer and baseball practice and game in town. I love reading so much that I do it while I’m cooking (which is probably why I almost invariably burn the garlic bread). I often wish I were more crafty, but alas, I use Pinterest mainly to find quotes about reading and new ways to trick my children into eating vegetables.

I love the title of your new book, Mom Seeks God, because it sort of describes my everyday life. Can you tell readers more about your book? What motivated you to write it?

You receive a lot of warnings about life after becoming a mom—you’ll be so tired, so covered in spit-up that you won’t even care that you may never lose the baby weight, etc.—but no one ever warned me that becoming a mom might lead to a time of spiritual dryness. As much as the incredible love I felt for my new baby taught me about the inexhaustible nature of God’s love for us, I also struggled to feel connected with God after becoming a mom because my new life seemed to leave little time for prayer and Bible study the way I had practiced it before. Mom Seeks God is the story of my journey to figure out how to reconnect with God in the middle of the busy life of a mom with small children.Mom Seeks God jacket

Yes, I totally get that. The same experiences led me to write a book too! Like you, initially, as a new mom, I found my spiritual desires sort of colliding with the reality of motherhood. The practices I wanted to do didn’t seem to fit with my reality. What are some of the specific struggles or spiritual challenges you faced as a new mom? Continue reading

Your (intimidating, awesome) Mama-job

Hey, Mom! You’re doing a great job — do you know that? It can be SOOOOOO rewarding to be a mom at times. And it can also be SOOOOOO tiring and intimidating and guilt-inducing if we try to live up to some outrageously unrealistic standard and perpetually feel like we’re failing. So let me ask you: Do you love your kids? Are you doing your best? Did you answer yes and yes? Then you’re doing great!

OK… glad to get that out of the way. I needed to hear that and to say that and I hope you took it to heart. Now on to this week’s topic . . . which can, unfortunately, actually BE a source of said frustration and sense of failure. Let’s talk about the faith we impart to our kids.

b.w. girls playing bike

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 charges us with the weightiest of responsibilities and the most amazing of opportunities: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

So, let’s be candid. Do I literally do all this? No. If we understand this as an exact literal directive, it’s impossible to achieve. (And, to be honest, it would make my kids very annoyed. We don’t want our non-stop God-talk to end up sounding like Charlie-Brown adults, bwah-bwah-bwah, bwah-bwah-bwah…) But if we understand it as casting a vision for us — making plain a principle — it’s so inviting and exciting and invigorating. It’s about weaving discussions of faith in and through everyday life. It’s pulling God-talk out of the van-on-the-way-home-from-church box and sprinkling it into all those other moments of living. It’s turning plain-moments into God-moments with a bit of intentionality. And one crucial ingredient to cultivating such moments? Adding FUN!

And so, without further ado, here are 12 ideas for you of ways you can transform fun experiences with your kids into meaningful faith-metaphors: Continue reading

Envision Your Family Culture

 

I love this little picture of tiny homes. Can’t you just imagine the birds at work, feathering their nests? Busy, busy awaiting spring and eggs and chicks? Or sheltering in these vibrant little boxes during storms? It reminds me of homes and of all that we do, as moms, to make them homes and not just houses. Of what we can do that’s a deeper, a more lasting, type of feathering.colorful birdhouses

“Some people have an instinctive knack for interior decorating. Like an artist with a blank canvas, they can walk into a room and envision it in a new way. They can see the room afresh, select and place pieces and colors, and somehow create an entirely new space: a space that communicates something, that feels a certain way, that embodies the designer’s vision,” I wrote in Cherish Your Family (part of the Flourishing Faith series.)

(Confession: I wrote that paragraph a tinge of envy. Interior decorating is so not my thing. Trust me, you do not want my advice on colors, styles, etc. But my little sister? She rocks at this sort of thing. It just comes naturally to her. She has an artist’s vision for how a space can look, can feel, can be. I had her in mind when I wrote the above paragraph. OK, now back to Cherish Your Family . . .)

“Imagine your ‘family culture’ for a moment—the environment of your family life: the way you speak and interact, the habits and traditions you share, the stuff you regularly do, the identity you create together. Take the role of ‘interior decorator’ and imagine that culture as a room you can envision and design.”

See, our family culture — the way we treat each other, the environment we create within our relationships, our time together, our interactions, our silences — it can either “just happen” or we can be intentional about it. I don’t know about your experience, but for me? When it “just happens” it’s . . . not so good. The decor of our family culture ends up looking like a hoarder’s collection of  crabby, selfish, moody, grumpy, bitter, resentful, angry, self-absorbed, unkind, and so on.    

But we moms? We have a privileged role of being intentional about envisioning and cultivating a different family culture. A culture of affirmation and encouragement. Of listening and support. Of warmth and laughter. Of learning and discovery. Of hard work and satisfaction. Of humility and service. Of apology and forgiveness. Of grace and of love.  Continue reading

Be Mom Series

Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!!!!!!!!

This is a sound I often hear. Let me be honest: My gut-instinct response is often irritation  because whoever is yelling my name is probably in trouble (danger), creating trouble (messes, experiments, etc.) , or is about to get in trouble (for summoning me as if I were a maid or butler).

But the truth is, I’m deeply grateful to have this moniker. And, behind all the exhaustion and stress and work and irritation of motherhood, I need this reminder of my gratitude. This job, this privilege, this name is a blessing.

be mom seriesAnd so, this month, I’m excited to invite you to join me for a new series: be mom.

We’ll look together at how we can be more proactive as parents in taking on this great privilege of momhood.

We’ll consider how parenting both challenges and enriches our spiritual lives.

We’ll think about how we have the power to foster an environment within our homes that can profoundly shape our kids and strengthen our relationships.

AND we’ll have fun sharing great, creative ideas.

Join me . . . be mom.

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An important caveat. I hesitated in choosing this topic because I know some of you, dear readers, are not mothers. You may, in fact, long to be a mom — and this may be a painful topic for you. So please know that you, too, are welcome in this conversation. You, too, are a mother to the younger people you know and love — nieces, nephews, students, neighbor kids. I hope that this series still feels welcoming and inviting to you — a place where you can engage with ideas and find encouragement. 

While the theme this month is on motherhood, the broader focus of this blog is spiritual encouragement for all readers. We are each more than the roles and labels that attempt to define us. My hope is that we all can find nourishment here as we each, on our own journey, draw closer to being — being ourselves, being with God, being true and whole and loved.

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