A Sacred Thin Place

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Have you ever been the outsider looking in?  

A place or time where everyone knew what to do or how to participate accept you.  Perhaps you felt uncertain or uncomfortable with not fitting into what was happening.  Or you might have been concerned about making a mistake or being seen as disrespectful.  We each have experienced that desire to be part of what is unfolding before us, yet we can’t for whatever reason ever really be an insider.

I experienced this last night as my fellow travelers and I from Central Baptist Theological Seminary made a pilgrimage to Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. (formerly Burma)  The sun was just setting when we arrived and the afternoon heat dissipated quickly to create a cool, breezy evening for us to take in this enormous holy Buddhist site.  The Shwe Dagon Pagoda has been here in Yangon for nearly two-thousand years.  It is a sacred, thin place where the Buddhist people can connect with Buddha individually and also collectively.  We saw hundreds, if not a thousands of people of all ages praying, giving offerings of water and money and spending quiet time gathered together while facing the pagoda.

Even though we see those main concepts of praying, giving offerings and spending time together in Christian churches in America, it was amazing to see the dedication of the people who gathered.  The dedication not only to Buddha, but each other.  Families came together holding hands, linking arms when walking and sitting together.  In America, we lose sight of how we can be more connected to others simply by touching.  Instead, we worry about who is invading our personal space or who is touching too much.  These people we observed extended themselves naturally to one another and you could feel the connection.  They didn’t come to the pagoda for a worship service that everyone sat and listened to on a Sunday morning.  It was a sharing of space where believers were cultivating their own worship and prayer.  No one was walked through an order of worship and there was no timeframe for the worship to end collectively.  Over the loud speaker, a monk was reading the works of Buddha while the people prayed, practiced their water or money offering and they shared space with one another.  

No one lead them, but themselves, which makes me wonder about how we feel lead to compare services and worship styles in America as it is more for entertaining us in the right space instead of individually being responsible for space we come to worship to pray, give offerings and share connection with other believers.

My experience has opened my eyes to new ways of practicing my individual faith and has created a desire in me to revel in not just Sunday morning worship being offered to me, but me being an offering when I worship at all times.  The challenge is to find a way to live into a thin, sacred space with God every day and not just weekly at a service, where I expect to be served instead of me only serving God.

I will be forever grateful for my time in Yangon and the chance to be on the outside observing an ancient world religion in it’s own setting and context.

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Faithful-Child Looking {In from the Outside} as a Lost Twenty-something – A Reflection

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Cars go past building after building — zipping toward their next destination.

A set schedule must be kept to succeed.

No time to take in all that is around them.

Can’t lose time or slow down.

The cars are not driving on their own.  The driver is making decisions on the route and pace.  There are places to be and things to do.  Life is a blur.  Only living on the surface and never stopping to see that life could be different.  Zipping and zooming – while weeks lead to months, than to years.  Calendars full of where they feel they must be with no time carved out for what was important in their youth.  They may deny nature, church and God, because they feel they are connected enough but by self-imposed limits and religion is complicated.  For a decade, I was this kind of driver.

Zipping & Zooming

But when I was a child; nature, church and God were my only focus.  I was constantly outside amazed by God’s design from the fuzz on caterpillars to the way my body could cartwheel.  I was blessed to be part of a community where children and adults always asked where people went to church and it was a sign of community and not exclusiveness.  God was the cornerstone of all my interactions.  Time was spent in prayer in communion with nature and community.

Then my twenties were a decade of independence.  I had grown-up and changed.  I wasn’t a little girl anymore twirling outside on the farm.  I didn’t know how to have a relationship with God.  I felt that I could not rely on God as if my life depended on it.  I felt that I had a lot of control in what happened in my life and I could decide if I wanted to succeed.  If I had the determination and worked hard, I could succeed at anything and be anyone I wanted.  I was one of those drivers who zipped and zoomed.  I rarely slowed down.  I was oblivious to the lessons of my youth.  I was in denial of how important my relationship with God needed to be. With that said I wasn’t searching for the rhythm of God that surrounded me and that was beating within me.  I even felt that nature would always be there.  I didn’t realize I needed nature to center myself to God.  If I wasn’t busy and plugged in to the greater world, I wasn’t making the right choices to succeed.  Yet I wasn’t happy.  I was left yearning for something that I couldn’t fulfill.

Looking back I wasn’t the only one zipping and zooming.  I was conditioned to be oblivious and it wasn’t just in my personal life.  When I was at work, God was off of the table.  Even though I know the sales force and leadership secretly prayed that the market would improve and deals would be made.  My work-life became segmented like my personal life.  This increased my need for control and being self-made.  No reliance on anyone, but me.  I didn’t let God in, because I avoided deeply trusting, building new relationships or expressing my faith openly.  I wanted to be enough on my own, but I craved more.

I kept God in the Sunday morning box I was used too.  Since I was on my own; church became optional.  I didn’t know God had created me to live fully within community.  I denied what I craved.  I didn’t know if a boxed-God was going to accept me anymore.  I felt I was calling, “Hello? Hello? Anybody there?”  I didn’t know if I could belong to a communal life where I could rely on God and others to teach, engage and love me.  Relying on God to find a faith community that could help me understand the world around me seemed overwhelming.  How could I be accepted?  Could I just decide to start over my own way with God?  Would God have me even if I didn’t fit in the box any longer?

I stopped zipping and zooming, when all my questions started in my late twenties.  By listening to the rhythm of my heart, I drew closer to God and continue to seek.  I started answering my heart’s true desires.  I slowed down and spent lots of time in prayer.  I would listen to anyone who would share their faith story and show me that God could accept me and the box was my own to destroy.  That helped me to start looking for my own faith community where I could challenge and celebrate my relationship with God.  I am no longer that child from my youth or that self-absorbed, success-oriented twenty-something.  And the world doesn’t look like the one I used to know so well.  It took some time, but I figured out that the risk was worth identifying myself as a Christian who is still an open-minded, free-thinker who wants to serve God by loving others.  The work hasn’t been easy and the struggles are still real.  I feel God has reassured me that I am here to love and lead.

I started to see the connectivity of God and all the creation around me.  Churches need to be a place where weary zippers and zoomers can seek comfort, love and community.  And that they can find their way back to God.  There is risk in slowing down and vulnerability in stepping outside what is considered normal.  It is counter-culture to  live fully in the dependence of God.  I feel that our role as God’s people is to create kind, loving and supportive communities that are an extension of what matters.  God’s people not the type of man made religion they practice.  I believe churches can flourish in the future, it the God they have boxed-in is able to be freed from the constraints placed by others so that true community can be extended.

Praying we all can find the community God calls us to create and live into even if it means slowing down.

Would love to hear if this piece resonates with you and your story.  Hoping it touches many.

{This piece was written as a response to the decline of the church for my course, Writing for Effect – - Central Baptist Theological Seminary – Spring 2013}

Free Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Clevedon_MMB_99_M5.jpg

JUST ONE WEEK… only 7 more days… (YIPPEE)

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Summer break is nearly over. 

Did you survive?

Did you thrive?

For our family it is a toss-up!  We had some fun travels, spent a month rotating the flu (which I never succumbed to… another sign that God designed mothers very well) and we had a whole lot of busyness.  Sure, we had sweet moments of playing together (and not fighting), swimming and seeing sights.

But now we are a week from school starting and we are at a fevered-pitch of burnout of all this togetherness, 3 kids (and a mom) full of nerves for a new year to begin and too much togetherness (YES – I mentioned that twice).  I know that this sounds like I am being way too personal or real, but I am just calling a spade a spade.  We are READY!  Well, we are READY or NOT to get this year moving along.

It has become so crazy at times that I can’t even spend 2 minutes alone without crimes against The Geneva Conventions being committed.  (That works for kids too, right?)  The injustice occurs when I am barely out of sight.  Then they have to follow protocol and report the crime against all humanity and especially themselves IMMEDIATELY.  No matter where we are from one another I hear my name called with a shrill and sometimes the overwhelming/choking/gagging tears.  This call sometimes happens when I am in sight.  But usually it is when I am in the bathroom.  (YES – I said it)  Then they proceed to talk to me through the door.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me lose it!!  The sounds of uncontrollable crying of one to three children, the yelling of enough circumstantial evidence that they could conduct an on-the-spot trial and I can’t forget the gnashing of teeth towards one another can make a mom go crazy.  And all I have to protect me is  a one-inch hollow door and a flimsy door knob lock.  It is enough to make my insides boil.  After a summer of requesting 2 minutes alone until I can come out and process the crime with my full attention, I have come up with a new policy in our home and I have posted it for all in the land to see.

 

If there is no...FIRE, or BLOOD loss, or ALIEN INVASION... IT CAN WAIT UNTIL  YOUR MOM IS OUT OF THE BATHROOM!!

If there is no…FIRE,
or BLOOD loss, or
ALIEN INVASION…
IT CAN WAIT UNTIL
YOUR MOM IS OUT
OF THE BATHROOM!!

It has been up one week and it is definitely helping.  I am praying it will continue to lessen as school is in session and our time for togetherness is a little less.  This is what it has come down to in our home.  How about you??

Please tell me what you think or if you have any ideas for 3 children to allow for 2 minutes of privacy I am all ears!

Feel free to print our your own copy for your bathroom door(s).  Yes – you see a plural on that… I have two posted and both help!

If you can relate and feel others can too as we head into this last stretch to school, please share this along.

We all deserve a good laugh and for some reasons as moms we want others to understand us, but we have a real hard time being the real us to others.  This is me today with one week to go.  And yes, 2.5 months ago at the beginning of summer I wrote a sweet piece about not wanting summer to go too quickly.  I still feel that way… but again summer break has proven that all good things come to an end… AND WE ARE READY!

We are in this together – - let’s claim back our 2 minutes!!

Praying for your 2 minutes and mine without ceasing!

Kristin

The PROUD mom of a 5th grader, 2nd grader and 4 year old preschooler

amazing grace…

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I usually don’t get interrupted during the singing part of bedtime.  It seems to be my kids favorite part.  After we pray for everyone in our family, including pets by name and a list of emergency responders, plus Kaylee added years ago anyone who needed a hug and a kiss, I sing.  For ten years, I have sung each child “their” song two times through.  I have sung Amazing Grace to Kaylee almost every night of her life and even on nights when Daddy put her to bed.  It is her song and I picked it to be her song, because it was her Grandma Ruby’s favorite.  When Ruby passed away ten years ago this November, we found countless versions on CD’s and cassettes and even played two different versions at her funeral. When Kaylee was just a little newborn, I mourned that she wouldn’t know the adoration and affection of her Grandma Ruby.  I wanted her to have a connection even if it was only a song.

Two nights ago at bedtime, my sweet eight-year old daughter stopped me during our nightly singing ritual.  She had reached out and touched my arm as I sang to her.  She said, “Momma, I sure hope that Chad is found, since he is lost.”  My throat closed up, my heart raced and my tears welled up instantly.  She made such a deep connection while I was singing “her song”… Amazing Grace.  Earlier that day, I had shared with her some high-level details about how our community was gathering to find a lost runner.  Our conversation had ended with little discussion, but she had continued to process being lost.

When she heard the line, “I once was lost, but now I am found,” it struck like a gong and impacted her heart greatly.  She showed me how she understands our connection with those in our family and in God’s greater family.  Her tenderness as she asked to pray with me that God would be with Chad until he was found was pure love.  I have witnessed pure love, self-sacrifice and unrelenting spirit this week.  I have been so impressed by the many Spirit-led posts and offerings on the Bring Chad Rogers Home Facebook the past five days.  I think our town of 29,000 (and something) realized how blessed and gifted we are collectively when the Holy Spirit leads us to one another.  No one wanted this ending for the search.  We hoped and prayed for happy news.  Some will question why God would do this, but instead of question I hope they seek stillness and prayer.  To search for their own Amazing Grace with God.

Like Chad Rogers, Ruby left us much too soon with a hole in our family.   And not a day goes by that her name isn’t spoken from my lips with my children.  She would have continued to go bananas for the 4 grandsons she had before she passed and she would have gone ape-wild for her one granddaughter and five more grandsons.  Even with the hole, I find that I can keep her alive to my children.  I mention how she would call Ian “Butch” as  baby or how Rhett and Kaylee have her nail beds or how as a retired junior-high math teacher she would have been delighted to see my children love math.  The hole seems smaller then, but even after ten years I can still remember so many details of her and I want so badly for my kids to grow up knowing their Grandma Ruby loves them all the way from heaven.

I hope and pray for Amazing Grace for Chad’s family that now has a hole like ours, when someone you love leaves too soon.  I hope our community shows the same level of rallying and support the trust fund in Chad’s name to help his family. Please consider donating to the Chad Rogers Memorial Fund c/o US Bank, 1909 W Kansas St. Liberty MO. 64068

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In Search of Chad Rogers… here’s what I have found…

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Liberty is the town I visited for Dairy Queen ice cream, while I was growing up near Smithville Lake.  Liberty is where my Dad introduced me to his alma mater on the hill.  Liberty is where I fell in love with William Jewell College and my husband on that very hill. And when it came time to settle down and raise our children, we came back to Liberty.  Liberty is where we live, shop, worship and find community.

I always felt that Liberty was special for its small-town charm, americana and overall friendliness. But when one of our own went missing this week during a routine run, I realize now how special Liberty really is. Now, I know for certain that it is filled with generous, determined, kind and sacrificial citizens, leaders, churches and businesses.

The outpour of volunteers to search has been remarkable.  This is our typical hot July in Missouri, where most of us hide inside and yet the volunteers keep coming.  The volunteers have had long stretches of waiting to search, yet so many people keep gathering at LCF (Liberty Christian Fellowship) to do what they can.  Some know Chad and need to be there, because he would do the same for them.  And then there are the ones who want to respond even if they don’t know Chad. Because really Chad is not a stranger to us.  We have Chads in our families – - we have brothers, uncles, nephews, husbands, sons, grandsons, cousins and fathers.  We are all connected to Chad and each other.

While Chad is lost, so many are probably rediscovering how important their “Chads” are to them.  Some are making sure others know where family members are going when they head out to blaze a trail.  And personally, it has made my husband and I establish a better plan for tracking each other as a result of Chad’s disappearance.  Some are taking care of the volunteers with donating food, drinks and air conditioning.  It has been amazing to hear of the response from local businesses. (You can follow along with 12,000+ others praying, supporting and reporting what is happening with the search  - Bring Chad Rogers Home – https://www.facebook.com/BringChadRogersHome)

Also, the response of local churches being a place to gather and provide help is exactly what God wants.  LCF is command central for volunteers, support and prayer.  And today, Second Baptist Church opened up to offer childcare for anyone who wanted to go be part of the search.  Games were played, songs were sang and community was offered and received. Today, I rocked a sweet 18-month old and sang to her like she was my own.  I would hope that my children would have gotten the same love, affection and tenderness in a stranger’s care.

So, in search of Chad here is what I have found…

1 – That Liberty is a place that rallies for it’s own.

2 – That the CERT Team, Emergency Responders and local government are for the citizens.

3 – That not knowing Chad personally, doesn’t keep you from wanting to help.

4 – That a community in prayer and response is holy.

5 – That the “Chads” in our lives need us.

6 – That waiting to hear updates is excruciating.

7 – That showing up to help how I could was good and a great teaching moment for my children.

8 – That if this happened to my family I would feel cared for deeply by my community.

9 – That I am praying without ceasing that Chad is safe.

I am praying that Chad Rogers is found soon and that God’s protection has kept him safe.  I am praying for Chad’s family and friends as they wait in the unknown and unthinkable.  And I am praying for Liberty as we support, gather, search, pray and come together as a community.

Hoping and Praying in Liberty,

Kristin

Recent News Link::   http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/region_missouri/liberty/search-for-missing-liberty-runner-chad-rogers-to-resume-wednesday

Summer Pep Talk for You and Me

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There is a saying that floats around Facebook.  You may have heard it from well-meaning women in grocery store check-out lines while your tribe is begging for all the impulse candy.  I know I hear it often in my head. 

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Oh! This saying creates a sense of panic in me.  What about you?  I start questioning my involvement, my intentions and my priorities.  Am I too caught up in the moment-to-moment emotions, homework and conflicts to see the good stuff in front of me?  Am I wishing my days would either smooth out or go by faster instead of soaking up that our house is great when it is noisy and crazy?  I know I have done both over the past 10.5 years of my mothering journey.  (I still can’t believe my first-born is 10.5 years old… how did that happen? I bet I blinked.  My Mom warned me not to!)

Mothering has changed me in ways I didn’t know it would.  It has built me up and broke me apart.  Being a mom has brought me closer to what truly matters to me.  I have gained a deeper relationship with my God, my self and my family.  It has granted me the sweetest moments of love, pure and true.  Each time one of my children holds my face in their sweaty little grip to kiss me gently or they give me eskimo kisses I feel that love.  And I have seen God in their love for each other.  Sure, they can fight to the death at times, but those fights are few compared to the countless times I have caught them doing right by one another.  They help one another, they stick up for one another and they go on great-caped adventures around our home together.  I have also seen God in their love of all creation.  During the times we slow down, we become grass-stained, freckle-faced and sun-kissed together.  Those days make mothering feel long in a good, carefree way.

The long and short of it is that someday we will swear all the carefree and stress-filled days went faster than we ever thought possible.  If only God would let us push pause, I know we all would.  Here is a glimpse of my paused world maybe you feel the same.  

~ I would pause to have the table full of clanking silverware, dropped napkins, spilled milk that floods everywhere to feel bliss.

~ I would pause to have full beds of the ones we love under the same roof each night to feel peace.

~ I would pause to be the one our children turn to no matter if it is a fly they know for sure is a “bee” or a scary dream that they need to be comforted from.

~ I would pause to be the short order cook/nutritionist who wants to raise healthy people.

~ I would pause to be the one that hugs when they bubble over for no good reason when hormones have started to wreck their bodies, minds and spirits.

~ I would pause to be the one that teaches them to find God in everything around them and in everyone they meet.

In the long and the short of our days, I am praying for you and I to fully sit in the brevity and choose to honor the moments we have been given.  God has chosen us to be a guide in our children’s lives. We point out the path and then let them lead the way.  They are to be our guide as well to bring us back to what truly matters.

Let your children guide you this summer and let’s all enjoy the days we are blessed with.

Remember – try not to blink!

Blessings and Peace to your families and YOU.

Kristin

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(This was originally shared with MOPS@2BC in May 2013.  I re-read it today, because after a crazy week with 2 rounds of antibiotics for major spider bite infections/pain/illness for Rhett and I, a small bathroom renovation, boys traveling for the week, usual wild week stuff plus Kaylee getting sick with the flu early today – - I really needed to be reminded that the days are long and the years are short… share on if you think others might need a reminder too.  Let’s be honest we all do.)

A Reflection in my Rearview Mirror of Blogging

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You and I are Boldly Blessed!

 

 

Eighteen months ago it all started with the following 171-word blog post.

Why boldlyblessed? (My First boldyblessed Blog Post August 10, 2011)

I have spent the last few days taking time to pray on what this verse means to me.

2 Timothy 1:7 God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.

This is the 2011 MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) theme verse. It is the first one in 7 years to shake me by the shoulders and demand my attention. Sound violent? Well, just think how I am feeling.

It is violent in a good way! It is one of those perfect storm kind of moments where life experience, leadership possibilities and personality meet. I feel like this one is just me. Hopefully it strikes the same chord with the entire MOPS population.

For me it is giving me permission to be ME. To use my gifts of leadership, experience and ease with others. For years I have unconsciously thought, “oh now Kristin don’t do this or that”. Well that voice needs to be stopped. I am ready to live boldly and help other women to do the same.

 

I had just returned exhausted and exhilarated from the 2011 MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Convention.  It always is a great weekend break from my mothering reality.  In 2011, I left my three kids for not just a break.  I was in search of a holy time for restoration, retooling and affirmation.

A MOPS Convention is packed with nationally known speakers and authors at general sessions, popular music acts that inspire the crowd with their passion, and small workshops so I can tailor my experience to my needs as a leader, mother and woman.  I have only missed one year.  I still regret not making the choice to invest in myself.  I had thought I was selfish if I went, but it has been years since I missed.  Now I encourage others to not limit themselves.

During this particular convention, I felt an overwhelming desire to be more bold and stop the negative self-talk.  I had mindless conversations playing in my head of why I could or couldn’t do something. The idea of being bold to me made me feel free and empowered.  Each year MOPS has a theme verse and I couldn’t have missed it if I had tried.  The verse for the was shared in many different ways from posters, powerpoint and speakers from the general session stage.  God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible. (2 Timothy 1:7)  It was a turning point for me.  I deeply felt I had a mission statement for my life.  It still speaks clearly for me to boldly love others with my God-given gifts.

When I got home, my normal life rocked me back into reality.  August is time for back-to-school, MOPS kicking into high gear, and all the routines crashing back into our family calendar.  At that time, I was focused on everyone else.  I still burned with the need to share and encourage others to be bold with me.  I decided to blog, because it is a platform that I could share myself and inspire others.

My first post was 171 words of vulnerability and exhilaration.  My thoughts started living outside my journals and I prayed they would help someone else.  It has been wonderful to have  developed some supporters and I have posted 75 times since I started.  I feel like I have stayed true to my mission statement.  I want to am no longer focused on who reads the posts or how many readers I reach.  I want to continue living in my awareness of being boldly blessed by God and I will blog to reach others who search insight, humor and a woman who is the real deal.