Thursday, May 2, 2013


Sometimes life goes in spurts.  At least, it often does for me.  I get thoroughly interested in one topic or activity, then find myself distracted by other pursuits.  This is particularly true when it comes to media outlets.  I'm such a face-to-face gal; virtual connections just don't fill my tank.  Thus, I have found myself largely AWOL from Facebook and blogging as of late.

Here are a few snippets from what's been on my mind lately...

  • Continuing to learn not to churn over my mistakes.  The other day friends came over for a playdate and got a kick out of the fact that my son had his pants turned around the wrong way. These were not sweat pants with a barely noticeable front and back pattern.  No, it was completely obvious he had his pants on backwards.  Mommy got busy during a potty break and neglected to check that his dressing skills were on target.  Of course, our guests included a mom with a three year old, 5 month old twins, and a demanding job.  Hmmm, you'd think one mom with one child and no position outside the home could manage to get her child dressed with the apparel facing the appropriate direction, correct?  Do not stew, do not brew, Kristen.  It gave us all a laugh.
  • Learning to plant a garden.  It's that time and I'm determined to get tomato plants in this year.  I simply cannot abide the mealy, tasteless choice of tomatoes available at the grocery stores.  Granted, the season of Midwest farmer's markets is nearly upon us which should offer up more appetizing options.  I'd like to try some tomatoes and cucumbers, possibly some carrots and another option.  Herbs are easy.  They grow like wildfire and I can rarely use the amount that I grow.  A favorite fresh summer dish of mine...Caprese salad.  The robust garden tomatoes, fresh mozzarella from the markets, the bite of the basil, all complemented with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Ah yes.  I love straight up sweet corn with dripping melted butter too.  That part of my rural upbringing has not left me yet.  I still remember stopping with my mom and brother at the roadside stands out by the neighboring farms to buy corn and tomatoes.
  •  Being 42.  This topic could be a post unto itself.   I often hear people moaning about their age once they get past their early 30's.  The strange part for me is that I don't necessarily feel older.  I still feel healthy and strong.  It isn't unusual to get carded for drinks.  It cracks me up when a young guy will hit on me as I'm out with my son, assuming I'm one of the many au pairs in our area.  (Not that this happens every day, mind you).  My brain--and the optimistic driver inside of me--seems to think I can still do everything just as I did ten or fifteen years ago.  Then it hits're middle aged!  You have a family!  It's time to think seriously about future financial responsibilities!   When a friend recently shared that she wanted to stay home with her children but was concerned that the years off would make her too old to re-enter the workplace, it occurred to me that it could mean me too.  I'm glad that I am fortunate enough not to feel slowed down by my age.  It just catches me off-guard sometimes.
  • Growing our family.  Yes?  No?  Are we past this point?  How far do we take it?  We're already older parents.  In this current society, it it more common to pursue parenthood at an older age.  But how long do we think about this before we close the door?
  • Trying new recipes.  Although this probably will not happen, my husband's company has offices in the UK and we've tossed around the idea of going.  In my research, I discovered a food blog called Farmette (of course, reading food blogs provides crucial information for a move!).  Imen is a fun writer and shares an engaging story of being a Midwest girl, meeting and marrying an Irish farmer, starting farm life after giving up her career and learning to cook.  Her recipes and blog are fun to check out and it's gotten me digging deep into the kitchen again.
  • Soaking in the spring-like weather!  We're eager to experience the welcome change of warmer temperatures here in the Chicagoland area.  After being absolutely soaked with rain and flooding--along with the rest of the Midwest--it's been a treat to enjoy the shift.  Cliche as it might sound, I still love to watch the flowers and leaves budding.   The annual blossoming signals the coming of summer and new life.  It never fails to invigorate and energize my spirit.

Enjoy this spring as May begins!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Grateful I

It's not November and the month with the attitude of gratitude lists has come and gone.  Christmas, with its constant reminders of family, friends and blessings, has faded into 2012.  I just need--and yes, want--to practice some gratitude today.

The big impact moments of life invoke gratitude.  They're hard to miss.  Most weeks in our lives are not made up of days when lightning strikes, the clouds part, and rays of light illuminate a dramatic twist with a chorus singing full volume.

Minute blessings are too easy for me to miss.  Gratitude is an act, at least for me, of being present in the moment to truly experience and enjoy what is in front of me.  With the ever-racing tornado of thoughts and ideas typically blowing around in my brain, it's no wonder that being present is difficult.  It requires being still.

A little collection of small, being-present-in-the-moment clips from this week for some gratitude...

1.  Insurance!  Some ongoing health-related issues have caused me to appreciate insurance, even with all of its aches and pains.  We also had a fender bender incident.  Ugh, but glad for insurance.

2.  My son learning (and loving) to tell jokes.  Even the really goofy ones, and let's face it, they're all pretty goofy when you're three years old.

3.  A warm house, well-heated through the bitter cold.

4.  Watching my son laughing wildly while running and launching himself into the ball pit.  Never gets old.

5.  Warm blankets on the sofa in front of a fire. So glad for a fireplace.

6.  Apple Cinnamon tea with a touch of honey.

7.  Foot rub trade-off with my husband before bed.

8.  Sweet Clementines.  Mmmm.  We like the Cuties around here.

9.  Fresh Farms International Market.  Unbeatable selection and quality for the burbs of the Midwest.  Looking around at the piles of amazing fresh food will whet your desire to cook while causing you to shake your head at the abundance we enjoy at the same time.  I love seeing the colors and shapes of all the produce, fresh cheeses and other artisan ingredients.  You cannot possibly want chicken nuggets and boxed mac-n-cheese after grocery shopping here!

Practicing gratitude and presence in the moment today.
Will keep adding to this list!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Listen and Imagine, Part Two

For me, this past post about the word Listen and this present post about the word Imagine are linked.  Not just because they are quite obviously in two parts, not because they are words for me to focus on this year, but because I need one to fuel the other.

I mentioned here that I wanted to learn to listen with a new level of trust in God's desire to teach me, to trust that He personally speaks to me with His Truth.  I shared that I have an insecurity in believing that God really wants to work within me and that He is probably more interested in others.

The second verse that popped out at me as I was reading and studying recently was from Ephesians 3:20.

Now to him that is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever!  Amen.

 All we imagine?  I was captured by that word usage for a while as I lay in my bed reflecting, bible open and head propped on the pillows.  I can imagine quite a few things.  I have a fairly active imagination, actually.  It opened a pasture of new possibilities...what does God in His Omnipotence imagine for us?  For me?  It's mind-bending to think of how billions of people on this planet have wild imaginations, yet God has life for each one of us beyond what any of those imaginations could summon in our minds.

Consider this phrase from the 21st Century King James Version,

Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think...

The exceeding's, the abundant's, the above all's, for me!  It's true according to His power that is at work within me, for His glory.

Somehow it's so hard for me to connect all of those fabulous adjectives to me and my life.  Do I really believe God is beyond my imagination?

I want to say yes, because it sounds Sunday School good.  The truth is that I often stay within my own imagination.  Since that is fueled by me, it's significantly limited and, well, often sidetracked onto thoughts which essentially feed my own glory.

There is a great gift in attending church at a young age.   I heard the Bible stories and heard the gospel.  I memorized Awana verses that still come back to me and sang songs that I now sing to my own son.  But somehow, sadly, I wasn't really amazed by God.  I accepted His miracles and His power as commonplace stories, forgetting how uncommon God's nature is in this world.

Along the road, whether it was my apathy to God's Word or the pain that broke into my life with jagged wounds, I never gained a deep trust, a belief in God's recognition of Kristen.

When I consider it, it's a little intimidating to pray those kinds of prayers and think those thoughts.  Maybe I have wanted to feel safe, to stay tucked inside the warm and cozy covers of my apathy.  You know, God's work outside of my comfort zone might surprise me with a blast of icy cold air and leave me wanting to dive under the covers again.  Unfortunately, staying in bed doesn't leave a lot of room for growth, much less unimaginable wonders for God to show me.

But what would it be like if I truly asked God to plant His dreams and His imagination within me?  What if I believed that His power is working in me to bring the abundant work to fruition?  I wonder how my own heart might be transformed by believing and trusting in a fresh way, fully acknowledging and embracing who God says He is in His Word?

Time to get a little risky...beyond my own imagination.

Sharing here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Listen and Imagine, Part One

Have you ever tried to locate a radio station when you're driving through unfamiliar territory?  In this current age of CD players and iPods and other tech gadgets, we usually have preferred music of choice right at our fingertips.

However, I can recall various road trips and visits when I drove around the area, tinkering with the station dial in the hopes of finding something to listen to as I went on my way. I usually found that I had to move to a different location, often driving in and out of good reception when in motion.  The station dial sometimes needed adjusting to get the most clear sound possible.

Listening to God's voice can be a similar concept for me.  At times I move around too much, going so fast and being so focused on my own agenda that I have poor "reception."  In other seasons of life, I talk to God with many requests and concerns, neglecting to simply listen.  I've learned that I need to stay in a place that allows me to hear God.   That place usually represents regular time of quiet with God's word, a journal, and a listening heart.  It is also a place where, although I'm always a sinner in need of grace, I know that I am not caught and convicted in a sin pattern which needs attention.  Just like the radio station, God is always there working His plan, but our relationship requires me to tune in to His voice.

If I look at Jesus' example, He often found time alone to commune with His Father.  Sometimes it entailed early mornings, late nights, lonely places and gardens.  But He faithfully tuned in to hear God's voice.

A friend gave me Jesus Calling by Sarah Young for a New Year's present.  I love the author's practice of listening and recording what the Spirit encourages, instructs, and guides.  I have been reading her devotional as well as reading my own passages, then recording what God lays on my heart.

I've made journaling a fairly regular activity over the years, but I've discovered that I tend to do it with some unbelief in my heart.  Could God really be talking to me?  There's no way that I'm getting this right.  Past journal entries outline a searching heart, sometimes high and sometimes low, but a bit distant from truly trusting God.  There's a reticence that belies my skepticism that God would truly lead and guide Kristen.

I have two words this year.  One of them is LISTEN.  I am listening, more specifically, listening with a heart that truly believes God is speaking and acting in my--yes, MY--life.  This definition of listening is one that reveals an evolution of trust in process.  When I listen with prayer and a request for God to teach me, I study the thoughts that come to me and test them against scripture.  I'm believing that God does speak to me, yearning to be closer and to shape me into the woman He created me to be. 

Oddly enough, the passage that has jumped out at me is one that I have read and/or heard a million times, found in Luke 10:41-42.

[Kristen] You are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary...

One thing.  Listening to His voice with belief and sincerity.  Listening with trust, rather than dismissing myself as not good enough or wise enough to be personally led by God.  It feels a tad awkward right now, sort of like flexing a weak muscle or leaning into a new balance pose.  There's wobbling and shaking because it's foreign, the main and supporting muscles still in need of much practice.

Listen...and imagine.  Will be sharing about the second word soon!

Other books I'm reading to partner with Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:
Beyond Ourselves:  A Woman's Pilgrimage in Faith by Catherine Marshall
God Calling edited by A.J. Russell
Escape from Reason, The God Who Is There, and He is There and He Is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 and Narnia

The other night I was watching Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  I love these books and have enjoyed the movies too, though I much prefer reading. 

Today I chatted with an individual who has been and still is a wise mentor in my life.  I was sharing some new life lessons I am learning for myself, some other lessons that I'm learning along with my husband in our marriage, and the many lessons I'm learning with my son.  I noted how things seemed to be shifting significantly, but I also hoped I was up to the task, so to speak.

This woman just happened to be watching the same movie the previous evening and mentioned how I reminded her of one of the characters, Lucy.  In one scene, Lucy is walking with Aslan in the forest.  Thinking of the events to come (and those past, perhaps), she says to Aslan, "Oh, I wish I was braver."  Aslan responds, "If you were any braver, Lucy, you would be a lioness."  My friend and mentor said, "If you were any braver, Kristen, you would be a lioness!"  We laughed together and a smile is still on my face now as I send these words across the screen.  Her enduring encouragement and fierce belief in me, rooted in her own seven-plus decades of life and learning, always lift and inspire me.

She then went on to say, "God is moving in your life.  He is moving and His plan is being worked out.  Aslan is on the move this year, Kristen." 

I love it.  Aslan is on the move.  God is on the move in my life, in your life.  As He always is.

Am I listening?  Is my ear tuned to hear His whispers in the wind?  Do I sit still in the forest to hear His footsteps to follow?  Am I focused to sense His guiding hand upon my shoulder as I traverse the land where He has placed me?  Do I trust Him?  Do I anticipate His presence with joy, as Lucy does with Aslan?

Lucy and Aslan.  Kristen and God.  What a picture.  I like it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Faux Holiday Chandelier

Renting poses all sorts of dilemmas when it comes to decorating.  One of the issues in our current house is the light fixtures.  The dated light fixtures, which are not particularly effective, can be a creative and functional challenge.  I have always decorated my dining room chandeliers for Christmas, and I decided to create my own faux chandelier since we do not have one right now.

Project Stats
Time to complete:  1-2 hours, not including the quick spray paint coat I gave the ceiling medallion
Cost:  $9 for ceiling medallion at Home Depot (had all other supplies needed already)

Spray paint
Ceiling medallion
Craft paper
Glue gun, glue sticks
Scissors, hole punch
Tape - Scotch tape and Gorilla tape
Split ring key tags

1.  Spray paint medallion.  I used black for mine.

2.  Make paper medallions.  Fold strips of craft paper into an accordion fold, and then fold in half.  Glue pieces together.  You can choose to decorate the paper medallions with paper shapes and embellishments.

3.  Punch a hole in top for tying ribbon.  Tie ribbon using hole, leaving a long length for attachment to ceiling medallion.

4.  Glue mirrors or other embellishments onto key tags.  Tie a ribbon onto the split key rings.

5.  Begin using tape and ribbon to attach decorative ribbon lengths to the ceiling medallion.  I had to experiment a little with this step.  I threaded some through the center hole and attached some to the outside of the medallion.  I alternated the paper medallion lengths with the mirror/key tag lengths of ribbon.

6.  Using ribbon and gorilla tape for extra strength, I attached ribbon lengths to hold my chandelier and hook it (using floral wire) with a knob on our old light fixture.  I have one tiny knob to work with so it's a bit tricky.  It was important to keep the whole project light so I could safely hang it!

This is the finished product!  Not bad for a faux chandelier made on a rainy afternoon.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent and Lent

I'm not sure why this most obvious connection did not occur to me before...but I've been thinking about the similarities of Advent and Lent; the rhythms of preparation, fasting, reflection and celebration.

Photo from
Growing up, I wasn't quite sure what either term meant. I heard Advent and Lent mentioned by Catholic friends, so I thought they were "Catholic."  During Advent, I remember colorful cardboard 3D calendars with doors, each containing a foil-wrapped chocolate.  During Lent, I remember friends missing their favorite guilty pleasures and showing up at school with mysterious ash crosses on their foreheads. 

It wasn't until my thirties that I actually began to integrate Advent practices, and even later until I embraced an observation of Lent. Initially, I decided to investigate both seasons to find out more.  It started with daily readings and prayer, a kind of academic exercise, more head-oriented than heartfelt realization of meaning.  

During Advent, my reflection meant imagining Jesus' entry into this world--the sights, sounds, emotions, and thoughts of those involved.  I reread the story several times.  But what is Advent for me beyond that classic manger moment?  How did I come to believe this miraculous, most supernatural of events?  How would my life be different if it had never happened?  Do I allow the power of His birth to affect my life in months outside of late November thru December?  How?

Advent is a time of reflection and preparation, as is Lent.  I've been using this season to incorporate similar practices of Lent--such as fasting--to help me focus.  Particularly with the emphasis on Christmas shopping and special events, it's easy to make this a season of more, more, more.  However, it is easier for me to truly prepare my thoughts when I have less.  I've never fasted during Advent before, but it has brought new meaning to this Christmas holiday.  It's become deeper, its significance reaching beyond a single day.

I'm still going to enjoy the lights, music, decorations, and exchange of presents.  These gifts remind me of the gifts that come from Christ’s birth and the joy that Mary, Joseph, the angels and the shepherds experienced on that night so long ago.

Advent is here, Christmas is coming. We’re waiting in both seasons of Advent and Lent.  Lent culminates in darkness of grief followed by the Easter light of resurrection joy.  Advent will soon culminate in Christmas Day, a celebration for Jesus' birth.  In both Advent and Lent, we experience the rhythms of waiting and hoping, then rejoicing in beautiful fulfillment. 

How have you found your faith traditions evolving over the years?