Monday, November 28, 2005

tra la la la la la bah humbug...

Yep - I'm still in this stupid mood. Not that I wanna be, but I just am. Traditionally we always decorate the house for Christmas the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Needless to say it was not on my priority list this year. In fact it wasn't even on the bottom of the "to do if I get everything else done" list. Pathetic, I know. So my sixteen year old decides we have to decorate the house. Now. No way, I say. I can't, I won't. I don't feel well. Which only made her dig her heels in more and express just how rotten of a mom I am these days. Probably true - it's been a long month. But that just gets me upset, and now I feel even less like decorating. So I go off to my room to have a good sulk and wallow in my misery.
Life goes on. As always. Moms are not indispensable ya know. She apparently talked her father into taking her to the store to get lights for the exterior of our house. In the six years we've lived here we have never decorated the outside of our house. For a different reason each year. This year she is having none of it, and wants to see lights out there. Period. So they go get lights. When I come down several hours later I find Carissa and her three friends (cuz she's not about to do it all herself, Tom Sawyer that she is...) just finishing up decorating the Christmas tree. My living room was decorated, the tree was up, and all the lights outside were up, the latter courtesy of my hubby, and Brad and Merrick, two of those friends she manipulated into helping her. The Christmas music was playing merrily, and they were laughing and having a really good time.
I don't feel any better, but at least my house looks like my children expect it to for the holidays. And it sure helps cover the fact that I feel like a grinch. None of my neighbors will know, will they? Uh, maybe when they don't get a Christmas card this year? I think I'm boycotting that tradition too.......

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Yes! That's what I mean.....

Next week I am going to see Casting Crowns in concert. So this morning I popped their new album in the CD player. I hadn't really listened to it yet - I just got it. In light of my post yesterday there was a song that really jumped out at me - so yes, I know, I'm gonna post lyrics yet again. But after what I was writing about, when I found this I had to say - yes that's what I mean!

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that fails
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small

'Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover that I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open to every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who's been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who's traded in the alter for a stage

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person that you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay

And, yes, the whole album is equally as good. So much good stuff this group can feel they really understand hurting people and country club Christianity. I'm really looking forward to the concert....

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I’ve been ruminating tonight on why we as Christians feel the need to come across as always being in control of situations, always right, as well as never looking bad to non-believers. Why we pretend our life is perfect, and we have a handle on living sin-free. Sometimes Christians make me crazy. They are not authentic. They are fake, false, always trying to look as though they have no problems. Why? Do we think if we don’t portray the Christian life as some perfect, sin free, problem-free existence that people (both believers and unbelievers) will either A) not see the point of choosing that life, or B) will judge us for not being a “good” Christian? I think the true hypocrisy here is this lack of honesty. I don't think it so much bothers the world that we sin, rather it bothers them that we act like we don't! If we were honest to the core, I think people would respect us more. Why is it so hard to let our mask slip? Are we afraid to let unbelievers see that down deep we are just the same as they are? That we have the same problems, the same faults, the same temptations, we make the same mistakes. Being a Christ-follower is not a magic pill that suddenly makes us perfect, sinless, and without problems! We are still real people, in a real world, facing the same challenges as everybody else. The difference is, we have a goal, a purpose, we have a desire to change and transform our lives. We want to be more like Christ, and let him shine through us. But it’s not easy. It’s pretty messy. So, non-believers aside for a minute. Why do we as Christians feel the need to pretend with other Christians? That is insane. We all ought to know exactly how this life is! It’s a struggle for all of us. I know I haven’t spoken about a lot of my struggles because I fear others judgment and/or condemnation. And I fear the questioning look in their eyes - are you truly a Christ follower? The thing is, we need each other. A single stick is easily broken. A tightly bound bundle of those same sticks is impossible to break. That is why we need community. For support, encouragement, understanding. We need others to stand by us, and pray with us and for us. By being fake, not letting others see us for who we truly are, we not only alienate others, we hurt ourselves. We are easily broken. God made us to be relational. With each other and with him. Why do we try to do it on our own? What fools are we? We need to exist within a group who knows us, and loves us anyway. A group who will help carry our burdens, and whose troubles touch us in ways that make it impossible not to reach out to them with grace and compassion. We need less judgment, more compassion. Less self-righteousness, more grace. We need to accept each other where we are, and hold out a helping hand in encouragement and friendship. We need to see Christ in each other, and be Christ to each other. We are all wounded - we all have times when we need someone else to paddle the boat. Some days it’s all we can do to get in the boat! Other times we need to be willing to carry those who hurt until they can walk again. The more people working on the problem, the less daunting it seems. Even to share your heart with one person is so very freeing. Just to know they are there for you, they have your back, and they are praying for you - that is the most encouraging and comforting thing I know. It’s also encouraging to know that we don’t struggle alone, and that others have gone through similar struggles. If they haven’t isolated themselves behind a mask, and we haven’t built a protective wall, then we can truly connect and begin to find ways to deal with situations, and begin to heal. We so desperately need this sense of community. To live with each other, be invested in each others lives, sharing everything - joy, pain, good times, bad times, work, play, food, sorrow, crisis-whatever comes our way. We need to grow as one, each with our own part to play in the whole. And we need to treat each other with as much forgiveness, grace and compassion as we ourselves would want to be treated. I don’t know where I’m going here. I just know it’s something I have really been thinking about. And I’m gonna keep wrestling with it. Now I have to figure out how to begin to find that community, or to build that community. I guess it will be done one person at a time. I need to stop limiting myself by dwelling on how others will see me, and be willing to become even more vulnerable. In doing so, I may be surprised by what I find - other broken people who also desire to be real and incarnational.
Anyone wanna join me?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

What I need....

OK - so I saw this on Julie's blog and thought it looked fun. So I tried it. You google your name followed by the word "needs" and post the ten funniest things that come up. Didn't know which ten to choose, so ya got 13. :)

1. Karen Needs to Grow Up!
2. Karen needs money to buy the roller skates she desperately wants.
3. Karen Needs a New Blog.
4. Karen needs to be an efficient student.
5. Karen needs a rest.
6. Karen needs a new haircut to make her look glamorous.
7. Karen needs a truly portable, battery-powered, off-camera light.
8. Karen needs to lighten up.
9. Karen needs to make her day bright.
10. Karen needs to swallow her pride.
11. Karen needs to keep her mind busy in order to feel challenged.
12. Karen needs to learn the basics of spending and budgeting.
13. Karen needs a lobotomy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Shaken till my teeth rattle.....

My thoughts today.
And some thoughts they are. Spinning around and around - making me dizzy and frustrated. It's just that I have been dealing with yet another problem in my life. Yeah - I'm getting tired of 'em too. I swear it must just be a phase I'm going through. I dunno. It is what it is. And I'm not really gonna elaborate on the problem, because it's way too personal for this public forum. TMI and all that. But it's making me rebellious and hard. I don't like that side of me, but I feel it happening. Lately, despite my best efforts (and yeah that would be a red flag huh?) I just can't seem to hear God - I feel a gulf there that I am uncomfortable with, and wedge that makes my heart sad. But as this week progressed and all the little aggravations of the week snowballed and melded with all the other concerns in my life I started getting pulled under. And it made me mad. I don't wanna give thanks, be joyful, or hear the song "Blessed be your name" one more time. Yesterday after work I was sitting on my bed in a funk, trying to work it all out. And I heard a voice saying - "you know, the things you are thinking in your heart are the reality of who you are." Whoa - outta the blue that came. Well, not really but it seemed so. So I ignored it and went on thinking my angry thoughts, I kept on whining and complaining. No, more than that, I'm pretty much in a shouting match with God about the unfairness of life. (like he has to be fair - remember the story of the vineyard workers and the denarius in Matthew 20?) And the voice comes again with a more pointed message totally relevant to what I'm dealing with. By now I'm humming with my fingers in my ears. How ironic is this. For weeks I've been sad that I am not hearing God, that I can't connect, and now here he is and I'm blatantly ignoring him? I'm running like Jonah - as fast as I can. Not wanting to see the big picture, rather wanting to bend things to go the way I want them to go. Not wanting to see grace for others, but wanting huge doses for myself. Or maybe, I'm like Jacob, wrestling all through the night with God. Not only wrestling, but yelling, and fighting and complaining, yet still wanting to be blessed. The question becomes how wounded will I be when all is said and done, after all Jacob was left with physical consequences. And yet again I felt a voice beating in my heart "You are my child, I will not hurt you." Why am I fighting so? This is so silly. I am so stubborn!
I know better. Last night at choir ( pretty painful this was) we were working on all the thankful, grateful songs. How faithful God is - no matter what and no matter what the situation is. He alone is what will fill our needs - no matter what shape they come in. Good times and bad, he is there for me. Aaargh. I feel like God has taken me by the shoulders and is literally shaking me. Till my teeth rattle. Cuz right now, though I get it, and I know he is and will be faithful and meet every need, desire and hurt I have, I really want no part of it. I want what I want. I want to feel sorry for myself. I want to rant and yell about the unfairness of it all. Sure I'd love to run to him and let it all be better - let him fix it - but I just can't do it. Not this time. Not today.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Holding back the sea

I went to the city with my friend Saturday. I just needed to be somewhere where things were bigger than me and my problems. Where energy pulsed around me and I could plug in to the vibrancy. I didn't care if it was day or night, sunny or rainy - or even where we went. I just needed to feel I was part of something bigger. I know I wasn't being still and listening. That's probably what I should have been doing. But instead I ran the other way. I circumvented what in the long run would have helped the most because I wanted instant gratification. I wanted to feel better quickly, never mind that it wouldn't last more than a day and I would need another fix. It was like plugging the hole in the dike with my finger. I held the flood at bay by filling the hole in me with movement, excitement, energy, passion, delight, exuberance, joie de vivre. It worked. I felt good from head to toe. Until my finger couldn't stem the flow any longer and it burst through the dam as it was bound to do because of the way I tried to make things better. I need to quit running and listen. Even if it takes time to hear that still small voice again. Even if I don't like what I hear. I need to fix it the way God intends. I need to fill the hole with his finger - not mine.

Twyla reminded me of this song....Petula Clark's great escape to the city.... Yep, that was me all right! Check it out.....

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I think I can, I think I can.....

Did you ever work for days on a jigsaw puzzle only to find when you got to the end that a piece was missing? How frustrating is that? There's a hole in the picture, a place that only a piece that is a specific size and shape and color will fill. I've been thinking about that lately. How each of us is made by God to fit into his story. His big picture. Sometimes we think we have to be like everybody else. On maybe just like someone else. When we are asked to do something we demur, saying I can't. I am not able. I am not a good speaker like_________ or I'm not creative at all like_____ Or, maybe I could do it if I was more like___________. Hmmm, somehow I don't think that's what God had in mind when he made me. He made me, well, me. Unique. With my own strengths and weaknesses. My own abilities, or lack of them. He gave me the exact characteristics he wanted me to have. The right shape and size and color to fit an exact hole in the big picture. Wow! That's pretty cool, and conversely, pretty scary. I need to quit saying I can't and start saying I can. I need to quit whining about what I am not, and figure out who I am and how God wants to use me in his plan. I gotta quit looking at things with myopia and start seeing the big picture. I'm sure it's astonishingly beautiful. Wilder than I ever could imagine it to be. And to be complete, this picture needs me to be there. To show up. To be willing to be molded into that shape God needs to fit the spot he has decided I will fill. I'm sure it's not gonna be comfortable to be pounded into shape by God, but it will probably be more comfortable than if I force my self into a spot intended for another. Realizing that God truly has a place for me, and is molding me to fit it helps alleviate a bit of the fear. If he intends me to do a specific thing he will enable me to do it! Like he did with Moses - who by the way thought he was totally incapable of doing what God asked him to do. I wonder how frustrated God gets with us when we question what he wants us to do, as well as our ability to do it? When Moses got with the plan it worked beautifully. And Aaron, who Moses thought was better qualified to carry out the plan ended up missing the point entirely and built a golden calf to satisfy the peoples perception of what they needed. He let them force him into a shape he was not called to fill. Which just proves the point that we can't let others dictate to us who we should be, and how we should be living our lives. There's a lot of wrong thinking out there. Everywhere out there. Including in our churches. So what I need to do is to be still. And listen. I need to hear and do. My job. Not yours, or what you perceive mine might be. I need to seek out God's will, his big picture and let him use me to fit the spot I was meant to fill. Yeah, I'm sure he can finish the puzzle with out me - it just won't be the perfect picture he envisioned.
On a more practical level, how does this get played out right now, today? I've been trying to come up with a concrete example. Possibly this:(and the implications are scary)the fact that I need to be brave, and vulnerable, and just ME. No matter what the consequences. God has been specifically working on me regarding empathy, compassion and love. No matter what. Being a peace maker, seeing the good in people and situations even if it is not the popular opinion. And to speak up in love and in defense of those being spoken badly of. To let my compassion show no matter how angry others get with me. Because that is honest. You don't need me to be you - just being a rubber stamp friend, to be liked or accepted or approved of. To agree with you so you'll be my friend. I need to stand for what I see as right and compassionate. That is one example. I can not make myself be what others want me to be, or see me as being. I need to be authentic as much as I know how even if it makes me painfully vulnerable and alone. I don't want you to like me for who you think I am, I want to be liked and accepted for just being me. And this is so hard for me, who all my life has been a great chameleon! You don't need a clone of you, you need a unique me to be a friend, have an opinion, give honest thoughts and impressions. That's the best I can do.....
And I'm terrified of speaking up in a group. Especially if it goes against the popular opinion. I'm learning to be brave here also. To test my wings. If God wants me to speak, who am I to question Him? It is hard, very hard. If you knew me you would so get that. But no matter what the challenge that God has in mind for me, I need to remember if he asks, he will enable. Wow! How cool is that?

One is the loneliest number....

So, yeah, life has been a struggle lately. In lots of ways. Somedays I really feel discouraged and not sure how to keep going. A few weeks ago I was reading Rob Bell's book, Velvet Elvis. Today as I was sitting here contemplating my situation - and yeah, feeling a little sorry for myself - as I was asking "why me?", and "why can't it be easier?" I remembered a section from the book. It was talking about a time when Bell was starting his church, and the way he knew it was the right time. His insights gave me a real application to my life that I can hold on to - a way to look at this struggle and come through it. Probably slowly, cuz it's been really discouraging and difficult. Bell said he knew it was time to start a church when he no longer cared if it was successful. And he said, and this is what really impacted me... "When I realized that if thirteen people joined up with us, and that was all it ever was, that would be ok.” What I’ve been realizing is – I have to follow Jesus. Period. Live a kingdom life. Period. Live within a new belief construct. Period. Even if NO ONE ever gets it, or my decision, and even if no one ever joins me, I have to do it. Now. No excuses. No matter what other people think. And no matter what anyone else does or doesn’t do, sees or doesn’t see, believes, or doesn’t believe – I still have to follow that path, possibly alone, or at the very least in a minority. I may not find a perfect community either – but that’s ok. I have to do it regardless. Be true to the call. This section gave me perspective and was immensely helpful as I struggle with “am I right?’ or ”why am I doing this?”
And beyond this, I should change what I say from “I have to”, to “I get to.” I get to follow Jesus. I get to find my place in God’s story. I get to learn and grow. I get to experience God in a whole new and wonderfully fulfilling way. I get to celebrate. I desire, I thirst, I am excited….And moving into this way of thinking changes a struggle to anticipation of a wonderful, but controversial journey. A journey of limitless blessing where I can look to others and say join me.
It's still a struggle. It's still not easy. I still lose sight of where I'm going some days. I lose my perspective. Especially when things become overwhelming. But I need to remember God will see me through the storm, and He alone is all I really need.
I know I've posted a lot of lyrics lately, but really, these two songs have been playing in my head this morning. The words are how I feel - and what I need to remember. So I thought I'd share them. The first is a section from Jeremy Camp's I Still Believe and if you know his story at all you can see why these words are incredible.

"The only place I can go is into your arms
Where I throw to you my feeble prayers in brokeness
I can see that this is your will for me
Help me to know you are near
Even when I don't see I still believe. I still believe."

And this one is from Mark Schultz, and is one I pull out on my bad days. It makes me feel better... just the reminder that no matter what, no matter how alone or misunderstood I feel, He is always there.

I call, You hear me
I've lost it all
And it's more than I can bear
I feel so empty

You're strong, I'm weary
I'm holding on
But I feel like giving in
But still You're with me

I know I'm broken
But You alone
Can mend this heart of mine
You're always with me

And even though I feel so lonely
Like I have never been before
You never said it would be easy
But You said You'd see me through the storm

And even though I'm walking
Through the valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I've been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me

BTW - if this post shows up weird, apparantly my blog has a mind of it's own today. Sorry - hopefully all will be back to normal tomorrow! :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Keeping perspective....

Today a couple of songs have been running through my mind - over and over
and over. So I thought I'd share them with you, since I haven't really felt
like blogging. The first is
I Left Everything to Follow You by Michael Card. It is
from his 2003 album entitled
A Fragile Stone. The whole album is excellent,
with songs like
I'm not supposed to be here, Mourning the Death of a Dream,
Not that Kind of King. The album explores the character of the apostle
Simon Peter, his faith and failings.

I Left Everything to Follow You

Though sometimes I grow weary when the road's getting long
At each point of my weakness You make me strong
And when doubt takes over I remember it's true
I left everything to follow you
To stay safe or to follow you.. ask me to choose
But how could I fail when I've got nothing left to lose?
Without your call I couldn't make it
It'd be impossible to do
To leave everything and follow you.

But what is my petty offering
to Your sacrifice?
I gave up my home
But you gave up Paradise
What You called me to offer
Has really set me free
Cause you left everything to be with me
So with joy I embrace a faith that calls me from home
And I will cling to Your Promise that I am never alone
And with each passing moment I'll keep hoping it's true
I left everything to follow you.

The second is a song by Brother's Keeper. The chorus kept drumming in
my head today. I needed it to.

Rain on

Saw an old man with a cane, his hair was silver-grey
Used to have good friends, now he misses them
Winter comes to every life, ‘cause springtimes have to fade
Seasons have to change, it is nature’s way
No one promises us a lifetime without pain
Heard the old man say, "It’s just a rainy day"
He knows this too will pass and joy will come again
Let the whole world know, let the cold wind blow

Rain on, I will not drown
I’m standing firm on higher ground
Rain on, I will not drown
I’m standing firm on higher ground

Saw a man with a dream of wealth and everything it brings
He heard the Shepherd call, so he left it all
Sometimes a careless work can leave a hollow ring
But he follows on, soon the doubt is gone


No one has promised a lifetime without pain
Heard the old man say, "It’s just a rainy day"
He knows this too will pass and joy will come again
Let the whole world know, let the cold wind blow


Friday, November 04, 2005

postcards from God....

I took Cairo for a walk this morning. The beauty was almost more than I could bear. Trees dressed in vermilion, crimson and goldenrod stretched towards the brilliant blue sky. No clouds in sight. A gentle breeze ruffled the leaves, spinning them toward the gravel path I was walking on. Birds skittered and sang, squirrels hopped, yellow jackets buzzed and the dog tripped lazily along beside me. No signs of frost anywhere – it’s too warm. What a perfect fall day! Truly a gift from God to encourage a hurting heart. A brilliant, breath-taking string-around-the-finger prompt that he made the world and everything in it. A reminder that he is here now, surrounding me with his love, inviting me to share in his goodness. That he gives and takes as he sees fit, and the taking is not done to hurt me, but to drawn me closer. That he is in control of everything. Everything. I just need to trust. And listen for his voice calling out to me as I become still before him. And wait. I have not been doing so well at waiting, and listening. Today’s gift of beauty is my postcard from God inviting me back into his presence to rest and commune with him.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I prefer the word eccentric!

Actually, I think I'd be more disappointed if I weren't sorta weird. Status quo makes me nervous. I like being a bit off the is much more interesting that way! Whadda ya think?
You Are 40% Weird

Normal enough to know that you're weird...
But too damn weird to do anything about it!

Um, Mom.....about the car.....

Well, apparently my 19 year old decided we needed a new car yesterday. What other reason could she have had for turning in front of a speeding Honda Civic? He hit her so hard she spun off the road and into the ditch... Neither she, nor the other driver were hurt seriously - thank God!
She was however very (understandably) upset. A very kind man called me and stayed with her until he knew I was on my way. He told me she was ok - just couldn't stop crying. The driver of the other car was very kind too - gave her his sweatshirt to sit on to keep her off the wet ground. She is very bruised, and very sore. The airbag did a number on her chin. I'm sure that was better than the alternative.... I took my friend Dana with me to get her, cuz she (Kelsey) was a half hour away and I was shaking. Her calmness kept me focused as I drove to Downers Grove. Her eyes found the accident before I saw it. Dana's a perfect friend to take to the scene of an accident - she used to be an EMT. So even tho no one on the scene called an ambulance Kelsey got a pretty good going over by Dana. So, looks like this weekend we need to find a replacement car for Kim (it was his car) - not that I'm looking forward to two car payments, but such is life. Cars are things and can be replaced, unlike lives. I am so thankful God was watching out for Kelsey!