Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Another round of "What I'm Reading Wednesday"

Real talk: this post almost didn't happen today. Wanna know why? Because the second I got the boys to sleep I wanted to dive into a new book I am reading... but I forced myself to hold off so I could write about it!

Image result for everything i never told you

Currently Reading: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (pronounced "ing")
             This book has been recommended to me in several different ways, all from sources I respect. Guys, the first line of the book is: "Lydia is dead. But they don't know yet." Hooked! I am halfway through and only started it this morning. It's pretty suspenseful and an easy read. It's a good character study of different cultures within a family and is set in the 70s. 

So, I still haven't finished this book. I think I don't have the energy right now. It's a good book but not a quick read and I am prioritizing quick, mindless reads along with nonfiction that makes me a better human. I will try this book again later...

Image result for interrupted jen hatmaker

Re-read: Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
       I actually didn't realize I have already read this book until I got it from the library and started reading it... oops. It kind of just reinforces what I already am believing, but it is a good read for anyone that is kind of bored with the way the American church typically does Christianity. It challenges the norm.... as Jen Hatmaker is known for doing. I love her writing and she is so funny. You can check out her blog, too, and she has written several others books, as well.

Sorry to keep this short... but I must go read! Until next time...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Memoir Monday

In calling Mondays "Memoir Monday," I have given myself a lot of freedom to kind of just ramble on about lessons from my life. Recently, I have been listening to Jamie Ivey's podcast "The Happy Hour", and through that I have found her blog. On her blog, she has a section where she wrote letters to her younger self.

She says it was very cathartic and healing and that she thinks everyone should do it.

I thought I might try it out...

But as I think through what I would say to my former self... a lot of it can be summed up in a few statements...

Dear younger Kara (at varying ages),

People are not thinking about you as much as you think they are.

Don't spend so much time trying to make people like you that you neglect the people who love you.

Stop hurting people with your words. Your words matter.

You matter... no matter what other people say.

Stop talking so badly about yourself in your head. You're a jerk to yourself.

God is real. Jesus actually loves you just as you are. Stop trying to earn it.

OH, and, your natural hair will eventually be in style... just wait it out.


future Kara

Saturday, June 27, 2015

For Mothers Friday.... on Saturday

I find it fitting that I am posting this on a Saturday... such is life...

Guys, it had been a ROUGH morning.
By 7 AM, I had escaped to my hiding place… the garage… no less than ten times. I sat on the dirty floor, hugging my knees to my chest, still in my pajamas, blinking back tears and begging God for grace for my kids.

On the other side of the door, I could hear my 3-year-old screaming in the kitchen. He had asked for oatmeal and, once I had made it, had decided he had changed his mind, which resulted in sticky oatmeal all over his younger brother and the floor.

I had, through gritted teeth, thrown a towel at him and ordered him to, “Clean. Up. The. Oatmeal.” And strapped the younger son into his high chair with a banana for entertainment and stomped out to the garage. Because… I’m mature… and almost 29-years-old.

Somehow, the one –year-old escaped. I entered to the scene of the young boy triumphantly squatted on the table, dumping my freshly-made coffee over my opened Bible that I had yet to read.
So, you’re telling me I’m not getting caffeine OR Jesus this morning? Good luck, kiddos. Those were your lifelines.

It’s mornings like these that I wonder why the verse in Lamentations 3 doesn’t say God’s mercies are new every second as opposed to new every morning. We desperately needed a do-over. We needed to all climb back into our respective beds and start over. I needed some new mercies and, obviously, the tiny boys I had been entrusted with needed some new mercies, too.

I recently heard Gloria Furman say, in reference to that verse, that it’s always morning somewhere. So, I decided to take advantage of that and pretend we lived in California, since we only needed to rewind a couple of hours to start over. California morning. New mercies. Let’s go.

I wish I could say that day got easier but, in all honesty, it kind of went downhill from there. I did load up the kids and attempt the splash pad. When that backfired, we ran by Starbucks so I could get some iced coffee (this is the redemption story of the lost caffeine portion of my day). We came home and tried to have a nice lunch. Fail. Again. But by the time the kids were in their beds for naps and I was slurping on my watered-down coffee, I had some time to think about the story God is weaving through my life.

I think I’ve written before about my control issues. My need for things to go my way. This might be why I used to think I was Type A? Since my being blessed with two children, God has used them to throw up on my idol of control and comfort. Repeatedly. While screaming at me. And pooping on me.

I have been re-reading Paul Miller’s “A Praying Life” and he encourages us to consider what God might be teaching us in the moment as we go to him in prayer. So, that’s my challenge to myself… and to anyone who might be reading. It’s a rough day. There will be another. Are there idols in your heart that God, in his mercy, is trying to rid you of? Is he trying to draw you closer to him? Is he trying to teach you to be more dependent on him? Throw yourself at his feet and beg him to show you what he is teaching you. 

For me, recently, I have grown increasingly aware of my desire to complain and grumble, rather than operate out of a spirit of thankfulness. And, since I tend to learn in the hardest way imaginable, I have found God giving me a million opportunities to complain… to help me see the silver lining. I am by no means good at this and am still being sanctified second by second… but had I not had these difficult moments, perhaps I would have gone on as the grumbler… growing more and more calloused and ungrateful. Less like Jesus. Less reliant on God.

Be encouraged, sweet mamas (and those of you who aren’t mothers), his mercies truly ARE new every morning. And, it’s always morning somewhere.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday... first edition.

This is the first EVER "What I'm Reading Wednesday." I know you've all been anxiously awaiting this post since I revealed a mere 24 hours ago that I would be reserving Wednesdays to discuss book I've read, am reading, plan to read...

Just read: 
Image result for goldfinch book

 I finished "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt last week. I had read mixed reviews of this book, but it has popped up on several lists of "Books You Should Read" so I decided to give it a go...

The story itself is fascinating. The author does a great job of keeping you interested. Her description of the grieving process is spot on. I felt uncomfortable reading some parts because of how closely it reminded me of my own history with grieving. 

I did NOT love the characters, which is a pretty big deal for me. I love, love, love character development- which she accomplished. But out of the entire cast of characters, and there were many, I really only liked about 4 of them. The main character was a major disappointment to me. He made really poor life choices and never really seemed to have any kind of redemption.

So, in my opinion... I didn't love it. I would give it a B-.

Currently reading:

Admittedly, I am not far into this book. I have read a couple chapters. The writing is fantastic and it came highly recommended by a friend. It is a glimpse into life in India's caste system. I am thoroughly enjoying the characters. 

Currently reading:
                                             Image result for everyday mission book bob
Our missional family (what our church calls our small groups) is currently working through this devotional. One of the authors is a pastor in Fort Worth and is currently leading a church planting training program my husband is a part of... so we have met him. He (Ben Connelly) is the real deal. This book is very inspiring as well as practical. It gives the theological reasons for loving your neighbors as well as suggests ways to take the first step in getting to know your neighbors. I highly recommend it. It is a 30-day devotional. Each day takes about ten minutes to read. It is thought-provoking and good for conversation.

I give it an A!

A re-read:
I so do NOT re-read books. In my mind, there are so many books I want to read, that a re-read is a waste of time. However, I recently heard a podcast where Jeff Vanderstelt said he reads this book once a year. I read it about five years ago, so I thought I would read it again.

It is an excellent resource on prayer... very practical. Very convicting. The theology is sound. Miller fills the book with stories of his autistic daughter as well as his other family members, so it's also extremely easy to relate. I, once again, found myself believing more in the power of prayer and was challenged to pray more for those I love.

A definite A.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My attempt to make a plan...

Ok, so I want to be intentional with this little space of mine... I also want to create a little bit of accountability for myself to keep it up better than I have been.

I used to think I was a Type A personality. I think because I was typically in charge of groups when I was in school, was self-motivated, made good grades, leader of a lot of the campus organizations I was in, etc. I can follow a schedule well and exceed within boundaries.

However, since graduating college and working in various jobs and especially since becoming a stay-at-home Mom, I am starting to think I am more Type B. I really prefer a loose schedule and spontaneity (something my toddler does NOT enjoy... as evidenced by a meltdown this morning when I tried to change plans at the last minute for a fun trip to Chickfila for a free breakfast promotion they were doing). I still am fairly self-motivated... but without accountability I tend to flounder. The exception to this has been exercising, but I think my own self-image issues have held me accountable in that area.
All that to say, I am bucking my own trend and going to attempt to set up a "schedule" for this blog in efforts to hold me accountable.

I've been trying to think about- realistically- what I enjoy talking about and what my life is really defined by at the moment. Obviously my relationship with Jesus... but I don't know that it necessarily needs to be on the schedule, as it (hopefully) will pop up in my writing. I love to read and am a FAST reader, so I find myself naturally recommending books to people and begging others to read books I have read so I have someone to discuss them with. I also really just enjoy writing memoir-type essays over things I have learned in my life. Lastly, but not because it is of lesser value, I am a mom. And, y'all, being a mom can be hard. I often wonder, as I sit in the garage (it's where I escape to) while my toddler tantrums, what hard thing in me is God trying to correct, by allowing me to experience so much mayhem with my kids. And, seriously, they are only 3 and 1. It's not like the challenges will get easier. So, I definitely want to dedicate some time to writing about my life as a mom.

I have already mentioned I exercise pretty regularly, but I have a feeling that the topic of exercise, much like my spirituality, will pop up in my writing naturally.

So, here is my thinking... and I am hoping the four of you will hold me accountable to this...

Memoir Monday- on Mondays I plan to post essays I have written. There won't really be a particular theme... they may be on any topic. This is kind of all I have been posting lately.

What I'm Reading Wednesday- (are you seeing my love for all things alliteration?) I will discuss books. And I read a wide variety, so it won't be like I am just picking apart heavy theological tomes.

For Mothers Friday- this won't always be serious. Sometimes I will keep it light.

As you can see, I have left myself a lot of room to venture out in this "schedule." So, though it is technically a "schedule", it's a schedule in the loosest sense... "shed-yool" like they say it on Mary Poppins.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The post in which I tell one of my many recovery stories

Oh, for the love of gossip.

Guys, my name is Kara and I am a recovering gossip… a recovering, dare I say, mean girl.

I started gossiping sometime around the age of 8... give or take a few months. It was in third grade, Ms. Moncada’s class, when I realized that sharing secrets or talking negatively about someone else can get you a lot of ears and wide eyes. I remember being surrounded by freckle-faced girls with bony knees and Little Mermaid shirts… all staring. Hanging on to my  words. Treating me like I mattered. Like I had something to say.

Me, the ESFJ, loving to be the center of it all, had found my drug of choice… attention. And my way to get attention? Be a provider of information.

I was by no means wealthy… so I didn’t have the best clothes. I had some fairly messed-up teeth (thank you to my orthodontist for correcting this issue with 3 years of braces and to my parents for footing the bill) so I couldn’t be the pretty one. I was fast, but a little on the short side, so I couldn’t be the best athlete. We are all clamoring to find our niche. Our thing. A way to be known. An identity to cling to.

So, once I realized that talking about people got me the feeling of being the center… being important… I took it and ran with it.

This continued through middle school, junior high, high school… the painful years. I so desperately needed to be the one with the information… the one to share it to those who did not yet have the information. I needed to be Katie Couric. But with Abercrombie shirts and boot cut jeans. It’s interesting looking back how I never caught on that people don’t particularly like sharing their secrets with the person sharing everyone else’s.

It was a hard role to fill. Because you can’t ever really keep up… and the role isn’t one that garners you a ton of friends. It’s difficult to be likeable and also be a gossip. I was constantly torn between the desire to stop and the desire to be known… and this was the only way I knew how to be known. It was my comfort zone. A true addiction.

The thing with this addiction, is there isn’t really ever a moment of sobriety. I don’t think you take a hard turn from gossip and never  look back. There isn’t a “last secret shared” or “last lie about someone to make yourself look better.” You just slowly stop seeing the value in it. You slowly stop desiring the attention of people who seek the information. You slowly stop needing others to listen to second-hand information. You want to have your own thoughts, opinions, values… and to be loved for those things, not for what you heard by the water cooler (or outside of civics class).

This morning I was on a walk with my kids, and I remembered so vividly a moment when I had emailed (AOL days) someone (we’ll call her Ann) making fun of a mutual friend (we’ll call her Melinda). I remember the exact words I used. I wrote Ann, criticizing Melinda for a party she was planning to which she had invited some of the more popular kids at our school .I said something about Melinda thinking she was better than she was and how none of those kids would come anyway. The bad thing was, I was right. The “popular kids” did not, in fact, attend Melinda’s party. I think part of me wanted to lash out in jealousy… that Melinda felt like she could invite those people and put herself out there, risking them not showing up to her party. Part of me wanted to predict what would happen and then later have evidence I was right and justify my mean words. Part of me wanted to be in on some kind of inside joke, that happened to be at the expense of a friend.

Thankfully, Ann didn’t forward the email on to Melinda (she was definitely more considerate of others’ feelings than I was) but as I remembered this poor quality of my former self and how careless I was with my words as I was out walking this morning made me cringe. I felt pangs of embarrassment. So ashamed of the person I was. Tears brimming in my eyes over the immeasurable hurt I have caused. Wishing I could go back and change it all. Wishing I could go back to little 8-year-old me and beg that poor girl to choose another way. Begging that poor girl to just be content with who she was… a little too loud, a little awkward, a little too goofy, but all in all, an okay kid. Maybe even likable.  

And, guys, I had to preach the gospel to myself this morning. Out loud. Like a crazy person. I had to tell myself that Kara the Gossip was crucified with Christ and no longer lives. It’s true, I am still very capable of gossip. It’s not like God swooped in and gave me only positive thoughts about all the people all the time. But can I tell you, by the grace of Christ, I really don’t gossip anymore. The temptation is alive and well, trust me. I can feel it welling up at times, the urge to share a secret or a joke at the expense of someone else.  Because people still do enjoy being in the know. But God, thankfully, uses his Spirit to gently prod me in another direction. To keep it to myself. To thank him for the slow change he is making in me. That Christ died for all of the unkind words I had sent out into the world over the last 29 years. That he died for the unkind words and thoughts I will undoubtedly have in the next 29 years.

It’s okay to be known as someone who can be trusted to keep secrets. It’s okay to keep that sarcastic comment to myself… because funny at the expense of someone else really isn’t worth the funny. It’s okay to rest in who Jesus made me to be and not have to draw attention to myself.  It’s okay to give God the glory and not try and hog it all for myself.  And it’s okay to just be okay.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

On the value of the creative process...

Here I was again… standing over some sort of receptacle. Staring down at the results of yet another purge. A familiar place. This time it wasn’t ice cream or pasta, but rather a little bit of myself that I had allowed, for a small moment, to exist in the world. Not food. I had made something. A creation. Amateur art. And now, it was forever gone. Torn into small slivers of unrecognizable garbage. What once was art, could be described, at best, as  potential mulch. I breathed a small sigh of relief and then, using both hands, forcefully shoved the created thing further into the trash. No evidence could be left.

The overarching theme of my life can be summed up in one word: destroy.  I realize that destroy is not a synonym for "conceal" or "hide"... but in my life it has been. Destroying evidence of me trying to exert myself into the world. Destroying evidence of me trying to take up space I did not earn.

The opposite would be to create, yes? To take something that does not yet exist and release it into the world. I legitimately enjoy creating things and always have… working with my hands. Something about holding a pencil or marker and applying it to paper, unsure of exactly what will happen, fills my soul.

For the bulk of my life I have feared admitting that I am creative. I imagined telling others I had made something and then instantly allowed myself to picture the results... it always ended with others having expectations I could never meet. As a child I can remember filling notebooks with stories… holed up in my room, writing furiously, illustrating the pages. I wish now I had kept all of the stories I wrote throughout elementary school.  I even had a sweet teacher who would read them and edit them for me. Each story eventually found its way into the trash can. I remember the panic and anxiety I would feel just imagining someone finding one of these stories and reading them. What would they think of me? I had no business writing? Who did I think I was? Or worse… that they were good? That I had talent?

This has carried on for most of my life. Create. Destroy. Create. Destroy. So much art ripped to pieces in the name of shame and embarrassment. Cutting stories, song lyrics, poems and drawings into tiny strips of paper, just in case someone wanted to glue them back together.  The sense of security I felt watching the tiny strips fall into the wastebasket. It was almost cathartic to pour the mug of grease from the stove over the trash. Is it a good time admit maybe I went a little overboard?
Shouldn’t I have felt some sense of mourning? Some sense of loss? Instead, I felt relief. Thanking God I would never be found out. Thanking God that no one would ever know that I thought I was worth creating content to put out into the void.

I think maybe that’s why this space has been a secret for 3 years. I have almost deleted it several times… but what stopped me, is the blogs I have deleted in the past and the regret I now feel. I wish so deeply I could go back and read what I wrote… and try to do so objectively.

What I am wrestling with, now, is the question of creating for an audience. If there is no audience, is something worth performing? I always thought that something had to be approved of by an outsider, one with justified opinion, in order for it to be worthy of being created, of existing. Now, I am realizing, there are countless other benefits to creating, outside of having someone else approve of it. We have all heard or read stories of acclaimed writers receiving endless rejection letters before finally finding someone who believed in their story enough to let it be published. Or musicians, painters, dancers…

So much of my feelings about my art and its worthiness are tied to my own feelings about myself and my own worthiness and value. I have spent a lot of years relying on others to tell me I was okay… to tell me I was worthy and valuable. Rather than believing that worthiness and value are birthrights. I exist, therefore I am valuable. I exist, therefore I am worthy. The same is true of art. It is created, therefore it is valuable and worthy. Maybe not to everyone. But the process of creating was valuable and worthy.