Monthly Archives: December 2016

What it Really Means to be Blessed this Christmas

I use the word “blessed” to describe my needs being met, and more likely, my level of happiness with my current life circumstances. Which means I might feel blessed on Tuesday because Jim and I had a great conversation, but not so blessed on Friday when the kitchen is a giant mess. But this past weekend of advent, our church pastor gave a very different definition of blessed:

“Strengthened and repaired in every one of our human capacities, to be utterly transformed.”

Forgive me for not writing down his source, but it led me to check out dictionary definitions. Of course, descriptions ranged from “of or enjoying happiness” to “bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune.” But then others struck me: made holy, consecrated. Being blessed is a continual journey to reach out to Jesus in our good and bad times – all the times – every day, in an effort to grow to be more like Him.

Jeez. Talk about a slap in the face of this mama and wife who wants a candlelight Christmas eve service with the exact songs I want sung, in which we walk out into a beautiful, soft snow coming down. Then walk into a hot-and-ready dinner (where Owen doesn’t refuse to eat

potatoes), followed by all children quietly watching an old White Christmas movie with Bing Crosby (an old 2 hour musical) eating popcorn and drinking hot chocolate in their Christmas pajamas. My expectations are always incredibly unrealistic…and we haven’t even nestled the children all snug in their beds yet.

 

It was a dang good reminder to recognize our reason for celebrating at all: the birth of our Savior.

Perspective is a powerful thing, isn’t it?

So this Christmas, may you sincerely be blessed by Christ the Savior who came to this earth for our salvation. And to come help a recovering Martha who is always in need of being reminded this life’s struggle is less about making Christmas perfect and more about continuing to find ways to involve Jesus.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

How Am I Formed in the Image of God?

Ever try gardening with a toddler? I spend most of my time saying, “Over here!” “Not that!” “Don’t pick the peppers; they aren’t ready!” I’m feeling all flustered and slightly ragey, then lil O hands me something that he’s so proud of picking, and my frustration melts away because he just looks so darn beautiful and curious! And that is how God has likely felt about me the past 32 years. “Wow, you’re a real catastrophe, Kristin. But dang, I love how cute you are.”

Raspberry picking - most are eaten on the spot, with very few left for...anything else.

Raspberry picking – most are eaten on the spot, with very few left for…anything else.

Since becoming a parent, I feel a new bond with God. I knew how it felt to be a daughter, and as I read Bible verses about “Father,” it was easy to relate the relationship between an earthly parent to a Heavenly One. But I never totally understood how God felt as my Heavenly Father until I became a mother and had feelings of fear for everything in Owen’s life. Fear for his safety (kidnapping, dying, you name it), fear for his physical and mental growth (we are just a bit slow on the “talking” front but I know it will come), fear of completely screwing him up by imposing too much “time out”/not enough “time out” and by not spending time with him because we both work full time. (I asked Jim what he fears for Owen, and he was along the same lines, although he did throw in a curve ball: “I fear Owen will like dance.” You know, like ballet classes. Spoken like a true dad, honey.)

Does God feel this same fear for me? Does he worry about safety, my development, my ability to play nice with others? (Still working on that one…) God knows everything, right? But if he is all-knowing, how does my free will factor in with God’s nervousness that I’ll make the right decision? Does God get scared and worried over me? What characteristics of parenting stressors do we truly share, and which are distractions from the devil that draw me further from Him?

Genesis 1:27 tells us we were formed or created in the image of God. So if we’re made in His image, is fearfulness part of God’s personality? I really sat and pondered this for a while, y’all, and did my typical Millennial action to find an answer: I Googled it.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us we can’t add a single hour to our life by worrying. And there are numerous other verses that encourage us to stop worrying (a struggle of mine that will never cease, mind you, but at least God does give me permission to calm down). So God is a total chill guy that never worries? Whoa. Just let that sink in. That is intense! And awesome! And why am I not friends with this guy and learning his tactics?

Oh. Because I’m not in the Word. Because I struggle or choose to not pray with Him. Because I let the devil take hold in my life. But mostly, because I won’t let Him. I can choose to let God take control of my life by letting go of my control. Hard to say. Even harder and crappier to do. For me, that means letting the little things go. Balancing the list and relationships. Smiling more. Choosing happiness. And giving grace.

I didn’t fully understand “grace” until a few short years ago. I got a recommendation from a friend to read Christian author Francine Rivers’s novel, “Redeeming Love.” It is based on the Bible story of Gomer, a prostitute who continues to run away from a man, Hosea, who never stops loving and forgiving her. The analogy is obviously describing our running away from a gracious God. But while reading it, I always thought of how giving and forgiving my husband is.

My husband is the second best grace-giver I know (after Jesus, of course). He told me “no big deal” when I forgot to make potato salad tonight to accompany dinner tomorrow. Y’all, I’m a Type-A Martha. I don’t give myself a break when I forget to make potato salad. I talk down to myself and I twist my stomach in knots with worry that those boys will have a miserable dinner because I didn’t make potato salad. (I’m extreme; I know.) But Jim honestly could not care less that I didn’t make potato salad. He didn’t want me to start the process at 9:30 at night because He wanted to talk to me, spend time with me (and go to bed early because we are parents of a toddler! T-I-R-E-D is an understatement). I’m beating myself up about potato salad and he could honestly care less.

Since becoming a wife, I know God a little better. I better understand God’s affection for me because of the grace my husband gives. And I honestly believe my relationship with my Savior is stronger because of my husband’s love for me. Jim’s words and actions continually reminds me that he is made in God’s image, and therefore everyone has a little piece of God about them. And I don’t know about you, but that man praying or talking about anything spiritual gets me more hot and bothered than a menopausal scientist on a volcano. I never thought a man with a heart for God would be my “turn-on” (that as well as romantic comedies and wine. You’d think Jim would have figured all this out by now and be getting more action, but I think romantic comedies are pretty painful for him).

God creates all of us with a little bit of Him invested in our personalities, and we get to experience His true heart when we have a mindset to let go and give. My boys give me grace every single day, and that in turn allows me to feel like I’ve been given permission to not be “on point” in every moment. And in those moments, I think God and I are closest because our hearts are becoming more knit as one. And thank God, because I need all the help I can get – especially when gardening with a toddler.

Taking My Blog to the Next Level

The past several months, I’ve joined a writing group, where a group of five women post a piece they’re writing and receive feedback on it. Some are blogging, others are book-writing. But we all have a faith in Jesus Christ as a commonality.

This writing group is getting me feedback that I hadn’t ever considered. Carmella reminds me that I’m not crazy (we all have similar experiences!). Kate is great at asking what take-aways I can share with readers. Kerry wants to know my feelings! Deb finds Jesus in every scenario. They’re always forcing me to “up my game” and take my processing to a next level.

And sometimes the feedback comes across a bit harsh – and I love that. I’m a “tough love” girl myself and tend to not soften criticism – a problem in my marriage, but not in a writer’s group!

I’ve invested more time and energy in this endeavor and submitted blogs to be published to a couple blogging communities. After many rejections, I got my first “yes!” Her View From Home (a Nebraska-based blogging community) published this post that very few close to me know anything about: our first miscarriage. And I bragged about it to everyone. A story that only a handful of people knew was suddenly available to the world – or at least to my Facebooageton-fall-2016k friends and those that followed Her View From Home. I took a big risk, and received nothing but support from my own community.

The writing group has made me grateful for the ways I’ve been stretched. I’m grateful for the critical and loving eyes on my deepest thoughts. I’m grateful for the ways I’ve been encouraged to risk – and feel all the feels. And while I’m not sure we’ll ever meet in this world, I’m looking forward to seeing them at that big party in heaven. Where there will be lots more writing. And wine. Lots of wine.