Wednesday, December 11, 2013

26 Acts

The tragedy at Newtown was one year ago today.  Our country remains fractured around gun issues.  The families of the precious children lost that day are fractured, too.  So much hurt multiplied because one person's hurt turned to violence.

But we can multiply good, too.  Love is stronger than hate.  And it can start with me and my family.  

The Krosts will be completing 26 acts of kindness in the next two weeks until Christmas.  This time we are dividing the acts among our family members--the girls will each complete 4 acts of their choosing, Todd and I will complete the remaining 18.  

I've been so focused on shopping-wrapping-card addressing-elf moving-baking-decorating this month that I fear I've lost the Christmas spirit.  I'm taking this opportunity to fill my heart (and schedule) with something else, making room for Jesus.  

Here's what's on our list:
Maddie will complete:
1. Make Rainbow Loom bracelets and give away randomly
2. Make cards for nursing home residents 
3. Donate toys to local charity
4. Bake cookies and pass out to members of our congregation

Ava will complete:
5. Make holiday ornaments and give away randomly
6. Make cards for nursing home residents 
7. Donate toys to local charity
8. Leave quarters on gumball machines 

Todd will complete:
9. Donate items to a local food pantry 
10. Bring coffee/donuts to the construction workers across the street
11. Invite Ava's classmate, who's parents both work, on a play date
12. Go caroling to shut in members on the congregation 
13. Clean off a stranger's snowy car
14. Bring a treat to the lady at the post office
15. Send an encouraging note to a seminary student
16. Hide encouraging notes in books at the seminary library
17. Donate old towels to our local animal shelter

Christina will complete:
18. Buy a candy bar for the cashier @ Walmart
19. Hide kind notes in library books
20. Pay for a coffee for the person behind me at the coffee shop
21. Bring goodies to the fire station
22. Write encouraging notes to women at local domestic violence shelter
23. Send cards to service men/women
24. Let someone go ahead of me in the checkout line
25. Send an encouraging note to the girls' teachers and support staff
26. Leave treats for our garbage collectors

We will include these tags with our acts of kindness.  Who knows?  Maybe others will be inspired to join us in completing random acts of kindness.  Will you?

Tags taken from

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Adventures of Eleanor the Elf 2013

Our Elf on the Shelf is back!  Click on the link below to see what she's been up to:

Welcome back, Eleanor!  And feel free to stay as long as you'd like-- my kids never wake up for school as enthusiastically as they do in December, because they immediately start looking for you.  This plan backfires on weekends, but it's worth it.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I choose thankful

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice." 
-Meister Eckhart

Watch this:

Video from Worship House Media

I realize I'm still a touch hormonal, but this video nearly broke me.  While sitting in church.  Yes folks, I ugly cried in public.  While holding my baby.  Nice mental picture, no?

It really gets to the heart of what Thanksgiving is about: Thankfulness is a state of mind.  It sometimes takes effort to be thankful, especially when we're traveling through the valleys.  But thankfulness is a choice.  

We have become so busy, so consumed by our needs and wants and the responsibilities of jobs and family that we let the opportunities for gratitude pass us by.  

So the next time you see a sunset, or hear your child laugh, or share a meal with loved ones, or feel the heat kick on in your home, bow your head and whisper a prayer of thanks.  Don't be afraid if you're brought to tears, even ugly ones in public.  We are surrounded by blessings, all we really need to do is look.

Have a thankful holiday, friends.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013


For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13, 14 NIV)

Harper Jane Krost arrived at 9:02 on November 6, 2013 weighing 7 lbs. 6 oz. and 20 in. long. 

She is perfect.  She is calm and snuggly.  She looks right at you when you talk to her.  She understands the difference between night and day and behaves accordingly.  She tolerates her sisters' (and dog's) affections.  She does not make a peep when riding in the car. Which is good, because we're in the car a lot.  

The girls are doing so well.  Maddie transitioned into the role of biggest sister overnight.  She gets up for school by herself and helps her younger sister get started on breakfast.  She wants to hold Harper and is very quick to help mom change and dress her.

Ava has been feeling some feelings about not knowing how to be a big sister. She's been pushing boundaries and is seeking attention, even negative.  Call it "middle child syndrome."  But with extra snuggles and consistent discipline she's back on track.  She loves helping push the stroller and sitting next to Harper's seat in the car so she can keep an eye on her while mom or dad drives.

I am healing well from my c-section. It's hard to be still and rest when there's so much to do to keep our new family of 5 running smoothly.  My mom (aka Nana Judy) came to stay for the last 9 days and allowed me to focus on establishing a good breastfeeding relationship with baby Harper. Next week will be a real test as Todd will be back to school and I'll be on my own with all three girls for 48 hours.

We are so blessed to have three beautiful and healthy daughters. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you also for your calls, cards, and kind words.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Truly Scary

Halloween is my least favorite holiday.  This surprises no one who knows me, as I've never been a big fan of dress up, although I enjoy indulging my girls' love of glitter and tulle.  

We don't do the scary/gory/occult stuff in my house.  I try to steer the girls toward literary or TV character-related costumes (within reason, of course).  Maddie was going to be Pippi Longstocking but instead opted to be Saige, the American Girl of the Year.  Ava started October wanting to be Rapunzel but switched to Doc McStuffins (a female doctor from Disney Junior) instead. No problems there.

But costume choices for little girls are getting worse every year.  Pick up a costume catalog or party store flyer and try to find something appropriate for your 8 year-old daughter. Here's what I'm talking about. 

Image taken from

Scary stuff. When did Halloween become such a sexualized holiday?  Dressing up is a fun and creative activity.  So why all the sex?  

I grew up in a Catholic home, so Halloween often included putting together a costume of our favorite saint for the feast of All Saints Day on November 1. I dare you to try to be sexy while dressed as the Blessed Mother or St. Joseph.  

Halloween has somehow become about "good girls gone bad" for one night each year.  For college girls or the occasional mom's night out, I suppose I understand the draw (but I don't support it). Trouble is, I'm not sure why my 4 year-old needs to "go wild" for a night.  She's 4, wild is her default setting.  

But the deeper question is this: Why is my child's sexuality such a commodity?  Why would we choose to put her body in the spotlight, when God created her to be so much more? 

Can't I just get my peanut butter cups and Kit Kats without having to be half naked (and probably freezing)?!

Oh yeah, about that chocolate...

Here's my other problem with Halloween.
Child labor chocolate.  Read about it here:

I like chocolate.  But a few years ago when Ava was diagnosed with a tree nut allergy, I began being more ingredient- and label-conscious.  That's when I discovered chocolate's dirty little secret.  

As the above article explains, Hershey, Mars, and Nestle--which account for nearly all the Halloween chocolate in your child's trick-or-treat bag--get their cocoa beans from farms in West Africa which employ many children, some of which have been sold into slavery, in terrible working conditions.  Hershey, Mars, and Nestle do not own the farms and therefore do not assume any responsibility for the conditions there.  They are only concerned with getting their beans at the lowest possible price so they can make a profit on you, dear consumer.  

So this year we went with non-candy treats to pass out at home.  They are little coloring book packets with crayons and stickers. Best of all, they cost exactly what I would have spent on candy.  

If this speaks to you, here's a link to an article with tips about how to have an ethical Halloween:

I don't mean to take away from anyone's Halloween fun (too late?).  But I've learned that my desire to have a good time shouldn't oppress someone else's rights, either.  

How does your family handle the sexy costume problem?  And what treats will you be handing out this year?  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Summer and Fall Bucket Lists

Yeah, we're a bit behind, I know.  But here's our completed summer bucket list:
Pretend that the "go to the farmer's market" box is checked off.  We never got around to reading a book under a tree, although it sounds lovely, doesn't it?

Here's what we've got planned for the fall.
Much of this will probably be completed before baby #3 arrives in early November.    But we can't wait to start making memories as a family of 5!

What's on your fall bucket list?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

33 things I've learned

I turned 33 this week. I know, I'm old.  I prefer "experienced" or "wise". So I decided to compile some of the "wisdom" I've gained over the years.  It was a short list, but an important one.  Much of it has come since becoming a mother.  You just see the world differently when you're responsible for someone other than yourself.  

So, here we go. 33 things I've learned:

1. God loves us.  We don't deserve it and we could never earn it, but His love is there just the same.
2. Love always wins, even in the darkest moments.  
3. Kids' laughter is the best sound in the world.  
4. Fair is not equal. 
5. Someone out there would be happy with much less than you have.  
6. The public library is a remarkable resource.  Use it.  
7. Lower your expectations.  Sometimes just keeping yourself and your family alive is enough.  
8. The world can be a scary place.  Bad things will happen. Be brave.  
9. Sometimes a walk around Target with a Starbucks drink and no kids is all you need to feel like yourself again.  
10. Cloth diapering isn't that hard or gross. 
11. Minivans are a necessary evil.  Just go with it.  
12. Invest in a good diaper bag and decent bras.
13. Look people in the eye when you speak to them.  When someone is speaking to you, do the same.
14. Drink more water.
15. Read.  
16. Turn off the technology for a little while each day.
17. You cannot do it all by yourself.  This is not a sign of weakness or defect in your character, it is just a fact.
18. Education is never a bad investment, no matter what your bank account says.
19. People judge you far less than you think they do.  
20. Give grace, even when you don't want to.
21. Sometimes all you can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best.  
22. "The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice." --Peggy O'Mara
23. The most growth happens outside your comfort zone.
24. Don't only hang out with people who agree with you.  It's important to interact with people who have differing opinions.
25. Travel as much as possible.  There's a big wide world out there.  
26.  You do not know what people's lives are like behind closed doors.  Be kind and gentle.
27. There's not a lot you can control in this world except how you react to things.  
28. There is beauty everywhere.
29. Spend some time each day in prayer/meditation/Bible study.  
30. When everything feels like it's falling apart, start counting your blessings.  
31. Eat more vegetables.
32. Do not measure your worth in things.  
33. Marry someone who makes you laugh.  

And one more for good luck:
34. Love is a daily choice.

What wisdom would go on your list?

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Beautiful Mess

This year's MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) theme is "A Beautiful Mess".  I am on the Bureau County MOPS steering team this year as the publicity chair, which means I've been out and about sharing the MOPS message and theme with lots of ladies in the past few weeks in preparation for our first meeting of the 2013-2014 year, which was held Tuesday night.  

The theme has been very well received. Most of us moms have been waiting to hear this simple truth: our mess is beautiful, because Jesus loves us and has plans for us. He is using our mess to refine us into the moms He wants us to be.  In fact, this year's Bible verse mirrors this message:
  (Image taken from

Anyone else needing to hear this lately?  

My proudest moment from our meeting on Tuesday was showing an iMovie we created of our "beautiful" messes. Each member of the steering committee submitted pictures of real messes of her house and kids. 

Beautiful Mess (2) from Christina Krost on Vimeo.

It is our goal this year to inspire our MOPS moms to live transparently and to give each other grace and encouragement.  And we do that by being real and honest. None of us ever really has it all together, no matter how much we try to make it look like we do.  We all struggle with something, though our struggles may differ. Having a support system of other moms can make those struggles easier, or at least less isolating.

I encourage any mom who has kids from birth through end-of-kindergarten to find a MOPS group.  Go to to find a group near you!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Building Cathedrals

Have you seen this piece?

It's about the sacrifices we make for motherhood and how we can sometimes feel invisible to the husbands and children we serve every. waking. moment.  

Here's my favorite part:
   ...In the book, there was the legend of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built. He saw a worker carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.” And the worker replied, “Because God sees.”
   After reading that, I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
   “No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no last minute errand is too small for Me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become. But I see.”
   When I choose to view myself as a great builder—instead of Invisible Mom—I keep the right perspective. 

I really needed to hear that message today.  After a summer of chasing children and feeling like what I do day in and day out doesn't matter to anyone, I am reminded that it matters to God.  And though I long to see some evidence that my children are learning the lessons I try to teach them, like a cathedral builder, I may never see the fruits of my labor here on earth.

Back to school time is especially hard for me, as I am longing to be on the other side of the classroom door.  But I am reminded that God, my husband, and my children need me here for now.  I will get back to teaching, but not quite yet.  

Keep building cathedrals, moms (and dads, too!).  God sees.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Small Voice

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV)

The following are not my words.  They are Glennon Melton's from Momastery.  I believe I've posted this before, but it bears posting again as a new school year begins here in Illinois next week.  Isn't this what we all really want for our kids?  Not just reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, but character education as well. The strength to listen to the still, small voice--God's voice--guiding us through our day.  The understanding that if one of us is hurting, we all hurt.  That we belong to each other.  

Read this to your son or daughter.  Feel free to change the names/grades to suit your family.  And send your child to school next Monday with more than just school supplies--send him/her with compassion and a heart for God.


Dear Chase,
Hey, baby.
Tomorrow is a big day. Third grade – wow.

Chase – When I was in third grade, there was a little boy in my class named Adam.
Adam looked a little different and he wore funny clothes and sometimes he even smelled a little bit. Adam didn’t smile. He hung his head low and he never looked at anyone at all. Adam never did his homework. I don’t think his parents reminded him like yours do. The other kids teased Adam a lot. Whenever they did, his head hung lower and lower and lower. I never teased him, but I never told the other kids to stop, either.

And I never talked to Adam, not once. I never invited him to sit next to me at lunch, or to play with me at recess. Instead, he sat and played by himself. He must have been very lonely.
I still think about Adam every day. I wonder if Adam remembers me? Probably not. I bet if I’d asked him to play, just once, he’d still remember me.
I think that God puts people in our lives as gifts to us. The children in your class this year, they are some of God’s gifts to you.

So please treat each one like a gift from God. Every single one.
Baby, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart- ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion – be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means He trusts you and needs you.

Sometimes the magic of compassion will make you step into the middle of a bad situation right away.
Compassion might lead you to tell a teaser to stop it and then ask the teased kid to play. You might invite a left-out kid to sit next to you at lunch. You might choose a kid for your team first who usually gets chosen last. These things will be hard to do, but you can do hard things.

Sometimes you will feel compassion but you won’t step in right away. That’s okay, too. You might choose instead to tell your teacher and then tell us. We are on your team – we are on your whole class’s team. Asking for help for someone who is hurting is not tattling, it is doing the right thing. If someone in your class needs help, please tell me, baby. We will make a plan to help together.

When God speaks to you by making your heart hurt for another, by giving you compassion, just do something. Please do not ignore God whispering to you. I so wish I had not ignored God when He spoke to me about Adam. I remember Him trying, I remember feeling compassion, but I chose fear over compassion. I wish I hadn’t. Adam could have used a friend and I could have, too.

Chase – We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight As. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or not. We don’t care if you have the best clothes or most Pokemon cards or coolest gadgets. We just don’t care.

We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.

We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
Kind people are brave people. Brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.

Trust me, baby, it is. It is more important.
Don’t try to be the best this year, honey.
Just be grateful and kind and brave. That’s all you ever need to be.

Take care of those classmates of yours, and your teacher, too. You Belong to Each Other. You are one lucky boy . . . with all of these new gifts to unwrap this year.
I love you so much that my heart might explode.

Enjoy and cherish your gifts.
And thank you for being my favorite gift of all time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fasting and feast

"Jesus, may there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom. I will reduce, so He can increase."

This is the basic premise of Jen Hatmaker's book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Hatmaker, her family, and "The Council", a group of close friends and advisors, embarked on a seven-month experiment against waste in their households.  Hatmaker chose seven areas in which to reduce:  food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.  

Hatmaker writes journal-style about her real struggles and successes giving up what we would consider common American comforts while working through her desire to follow Christ's teachings about possessions. For example, during the food month she and her family chose seven foods to eat.  That's it: chicken, eggs, whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and apples. During the clothing month she chose and wore only seven articles of clothing.  She gave away much of what remained in her closet.  The possessions month went the same way: she gave away seven items she owned each day

The media month shut down seven screens including TV, gaming, Facebook, Twitter, and radio with very limited access to cell phones for emergencies and only Internet use necessary for jobs/schoolwork. They learned to recycle, compost, and garden during waste month. They drove only one car and bought only local or thrifted goods.  Spending month had them funnel their money to only seven vendors like a gas station, farmer's market, online bill pay and Target (because DUH).  During stress month they kept a family sabbath and followed Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr, pausing to pray seven times a day.  

Take a moment to absorb all that. And this was all just to see what would happen to her heart, her family, and her close friends by living with less. This was not for a reality TV show, folks.   

Hatmaker asserts that the American Christian church is very good at preparing the feast: words, prayers, programs, sermons, Bible classes, seminars.  And she is thankful for such things, as they bring many closer to God and share Jesus' message of everlasting love and redemption.  But she worries that the partner to the feast, the fast, is not as equally represented.  Throughout the Bible many of our heroes, like Esther, David, John the Baptist, and Jesus, fasted to gain clarity and understand the plight of the poor.  The early church, followers of The Way, sold their possessions and lived communally.  They practiced radical generosity.  How would one of those followers, if she stumbled into 2013 America, reconcile Jesus' New Testament message with our actual lifestyle?

"If we ignored the current framework of the church and instead opened the Bible for a definition, we find Christ followers adopting the fast simultaneously with the feast. We don't see the New Testament church hoarding the feast, gorging, getting fatter and fatter and asking for more; more Bible studies, more sermons, more programs, classes, training, conferences, information, more feasting for us. At some point the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts. We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully disregarding the costly discipleship after consuming.  The feast is supposed to sustain the fast, but we go back for seconds and thirds and fourths, stuffed to the brim and fat with inactivity."

She quotes Gandhi as saying, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."  Ouch.  Hatmaker keeps going: "Would Jesus overindulge on garbage food while climbing out of a debt hole from buying things He couldn't afford to keep up with neighbors He couldn't impress? In so many ways I am the opposite of Jesus' lifestyle. This keeps me up at night. I can't have authentic communion with Him while mired in the trappings He begged me to avoid."

Preach it, girl. 

I suppose I was mentally ready to take on this book as I begin to prepare myself for the new baby.  It's nesting time, and I want to get rid of anything unnecessary to make way for the new stuff I'll need.  A large part of this preparation will be about "stuff", but it will also be about my heart and mind.  And who else out there couldn't use a little spiritual reorganization?  I  highly recommend this book.  It's funny, an easy read, and deeply meaningful.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hat trick

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. (Psalm 139:13-15 NIV)

On Friday, July 12 I had my 22 week anatomy scan.  The baby looks great.  We were also able to determine the sex of Baby Krost #3:
Another baby girl will be joining us in November!  It's a pink hat trick! 

I have to say I was very surprised when the ultrasound tech announced the sex, as I was convinced I was having a baby boy.  I am carrying this baby lower, my symptoms have been different from my first two pregnancies, and the baby's heart rate was in the 140s.  All old wives' tales, I know.  But still.

But as I allowed the news to settle in, I realized how fortunate we truly are.  We are having a healthy baby, and my pregnancy is progressing very normally and uneventfully. We have lots of girl "stuff" already, which certainly cuts down on the costs of raising a child. But most importantly, Baby Girl Krost is joining an established family who knows how to love and raise up strong, intelligent, God-loving girls.

So now I'm in full-out baby preparation mode.  It's a good thing Pinterest wasn't around during my first two pregnancies.  Baby names, nursery paint colors, and cloth diaper stashes are in the front of my  mind.  But a few times a day I am able to stop and pray over the ever-strengthening movements in my belly. I am trying to still and center myself and enjoy the last half of what will likely be my last pregnancy.  I am blessed to be part of a miracle.  

Thank you for your prayers.  Keep them coming.  I've done the math, and there will be at least one teenage girl in my house for over a decade.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I'm famous

Totally kidding.  But I recently answered a questionnaire about what it's like to be a pastor's wife  which was published on the Pastoral Care and Counseling page of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Summer Bucket List

We completed our spring bucket list a few weeks ago and immediately started in on our summer list.  Here's the completed spring list:

And here's the summer list:

Please note: We are fancy now and put our bucket list in a frame.  

How's your summer going?

Monday, June 17, 2013

I'm an awesome mom on Sunday night

Maybe this happens in your house, too.  Sunday night is strategy night.  Maybe you make up your to do list for the week or go over your grocery list.  You think about the previous week's failures and vow to do better this week.  Perhaps you read a devotional or talk to a friend.  You get your game face on.

Then Monday morning rolls around.  You are ready.  But the kids, well, they behave like kids.  And before lunch is served you are counting the hours until bedtime and daydreaming about some quality time with the couch and DVR.  Sound familiar?

I read two blog posts last week by one of my favorite bloggers, Jen Hatmaker.  She shares some summer survival tips and oh my lands are they good (and funny).  Be prepared to snort and/or chortle.  And here are her 10 things to do with your kids this summer.  The girls and I are working on cooking together, but that's another blog post for another day...

So ladies (and daddies), what are your top tips for surviving summer?  Feel free to brag.  Post your tips in the comments and let's see how many tips we can get!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer "school"

School's out, so it's time to get to work!  Maddie and I sat down earlier this week to determine our summer learning goals and plan out how to meet them.  Here's what we decided on:

This year Maddie wrote her goals herself, and in cursive!  

Here's the weekly breakdown of how we'll accomplish our goals:

The plan is to pick 1-2 activities per day so that each week we'll complete everything on this list at least once.  

Ava will be doing work, too, but will mostly focus on "reading" books and letter and sound identification.  We'll use some apps on my iPad, specifically Starfall.  

What are your kids doing this summer to stay sharp?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Beauty in the corn rows

It's our first spring in the Illinois valley.  It's beautiful down here: lush green, black soil, blue sky.  Last week the farmers finally got a chance to plant their corn.  Ava, Maddie, and I got to watch their progress on our way in and out of Tiskilwa each day. Most of the corn is already up. I snapped this picture this morning coming back from dropping Maddie off:
It's not much at first glance.  You can see the tiny corn sprouts growing.  From this angle, it looks rather messy and random.

Here's what happens when you turn 45 degrees, though:
Perfect rows.  Simple, neat, beautiful.  You can tell the skilled farmer took care to plant his seeds.  

Isn't life kind of like that?  Our lives can seem weedy and random.  We struggle to find beauty in the mess. But sometimes if we change our perspective, we can see the outlines of a bigger, more complete picture.  

What unexpected places are you finding beauty lately?  Could changing your angle change your outlook?

Friday, May 17, 2013

So Much Stuff

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NLT)

Nearly 1200 dead or missing.  Countless injuries, both emotional and physical.  Families broken.  Lives turned upside down. All from going to work.  

As I watched and read coverage about the Bangladesh factory collapse, I began to feel convicted about my "American consumerism".  I have a small clothing budget for myself and my family, therefore I frequently hunt through clearance racks at Old Navy and Target.  In truth, I rarely give a thought to the many hands that have touched my garment during its production.  But my desire for cheap clothes helps fuel the trade that oppresses so many--often women and children--around the world.  This NPR article sums it up nicely.

Todd and I try to practice "ethical consumerism" as much as possible.  We tend to favor purchasing things from companies using fair trade and socially responsible practices.  

One of our favorites is Paper Culture.  We have ordered our Christmas cards from them in the past.  They use recycled materials and plant a tree for every order.  

I have not personally purchased from FashionABLE or Sseko Designs, but I believe in their mission to improve the lives of African women through fair trade. If anyone wanted to buy or send me some of their goods for research purposes, I'd be fine with that :-).  

I also use Good Guide when making decisions about future purchases.  Good Guide helps me find "safe, healthy, green, and ethical" companies and their products.  It breaks goods down into categories, such as food, personal and baby care, electronics, etc. and rates them on a 10 point scale on health, environmental impact, and social responsibility as a company. 

But we're not perfect.  We live in the middle of nowhere and rely on less than ideal companies such as WalMart for our day-to-day grocery needs.  In the summer months we prefer to purchase as much produce as possible from our local farmer's market. But all this consideration about my goods and where they come from doesn't get at what's really bothering me: Why do I need so much stuff?  

I began reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker this week.  I've found myself getting wrapped up in all the "stuff" I need to prepare for this new baby.  Of course, it goes deeper than that.  Acquiring stuff sometimes fills other voids in our lives.  So I wanted to get another Christian woman's perspective on saying no to consumerism.  I invite you to read along with me!  

What ways do you and your family practice ethical consumerism?  What companies do you hold up as examples of fair trade and social responsibility?  Are there any companies you stay away from?  Let me hear from you in the comments!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bucket Lists

So, winter has come and gone and spring is upon us. Here's what the Krosts were up to this winter:

We had a pretty outside-centered list which is unusual for my girls, who (like their mother) would rather be curled up inside with a book and hot cocoa. We accomplished several of the outside items rather spontaneously, like making snowmen and having snowball fights. Skiing and ice skating didn't happen, mostly because of the shocking lack of typical winter weather here in central Illinois. We did take the girls snow tubing in northern Michigan with some friends, though. That kind of counts as skiing, right?

Here's what's on the agenda for spring:

Again, most of our items are outside activities. But with the beautiful spring weather we've had this week, I'm not complaining. And I'm starting to feel much better as I approach the end of my first trimester, so hopefully I'll be able to keep up with the girls as we work through our list.

What things have you checked off your to-do list lately?

 You can print your own bucket lists here from Funky Polkadot Giraffe.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

No more perfect moms

Image taken from

I attended the Hearts at Home conference at Illinois State University this past Friday. Any day that begins before 5 AM makes me automatically grumpy, but driving over the prairie to Normal, IL while watching the sun come up made it a bit easier. And it didn't hurt that I was in a car full of fun ladies from my MOPS group.

This was my first time at the conference, so I had few expectations. Just getting away for the day was enough for me. But the keynote and breakout session speakers were outstanding. My mom cup was filled back up. I received words of encouragement that I am doing many things well and received practical suggestions to improve my weak areas.

The focus of this year's conference was No More Perfect Moms. This also happens to be a recent book title by Jill Savage, the founder of this event. She and the other speakers shared short anecdotes about embarrassing and funny things that have happened to them--the kinds of stories we only tell our closest girlfriends for fear of judgment. Stories about forgetting to pick up a child from practice, or absent-mindedly wearing a child's macaroni necklace out of the house, or getting dressed to run errands only to be asked by your kids, "why do you look so fancy?"

We all have those "funny" stories about how we were "one of those moms". And that's the point. What if we stopped judging ourselves and others about their worthiness as moms, wives, and women? What if we cut each other a little slack and instead gave grace? Motherhood is lonely enough without fearing judgment from our friends.

It's true that we're all just doing the best we can. But sometimes it's hard to admit it to ourselves and extend the same understanding to other moms. But we don't work for others. We don't work for our spouse, either. The only person we need to please is God.  As Jesus challenged the establishment, he also challenges us: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV)

If we can do as Jesus says, the rest will take care of itself.

So the next time your child lands in the ER for sticking a quarter up his nose, or your daughter walks out of the bathroom with a pantiliner on her forehead because she "needed a bigger Band-Aid", remember this: there are no perfect moms.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Just say yes

I read this blog entry this week. And it got me thinking.

So I began to count the number of times that I say no on an average day.  My friends, I give you an infographic:

Wednesday's no grand total: 23.

Let me break those 23 nos down.

3 were for reasons of general safety/avoidance of great bodily harm, as in "No, you may not climb on top of the dishwasher to reach the top shelf of the pantry", or, "No, the dog is not a small horse", or my personal favorite, "No thank you, I can put the sharp kitchen knives away myself."

3 were related to acts that were destined to make a mess, such as pulling out the glitter glue, a 50 piece puzzle, or "helping" mommy roll out pastry dough.

2 were for instructional purposes, such as "No, it's not polite to pick one's nose in public"' or "No, we should not comment on a stranger's appearance, even if it does look like he/she got struck by lightening".

One was just because I'm the mom, that's why.

14 were because I was busy and couldn't be bothered with one. more. demand. right. this. minute.

Can you guess which category bothers me most?

Sometimes I say no because I'm texting/reading/blogging/emailing and need a few minutes to focus.  I know, it's important for kids to learn to wait until a parent is finished with a task before asking for something, but when I really look at the numbers, I see a bigger problem.  Telling my kids 14 times a day that I don't have time for them is not OK.

And really, what's the worst thing that can happen with glitter glue?

I was reminded about my earlier post about French parenting.  French parents rarely say no.  That's because they set up some general guidelines but give their kids autonomy within those guidelines.  French children don't get to do anything they want, but they get to do things provided they can do it independently, as in getting the materials, completing the activity, and cleaning up after themselves.

It's my goal to raise smart, independent, lifelong learners.  But how can I do that if I don't let them get a little dirty every now and again?  How will they learn to pick up after themselves if I don't teach them?  How will they learn how fun it is to make homemade pop tarts if I don't let them help roll out the dough and get covered in flour?  I want to girls to learn natural consequences now, when the stakes are low, so that we can avoid bigger problems as they mature.

I want to say yes more.  I want to enjoy time with my kids.  I need to stop taking myself so seriously.

Are you a no, or a yes?  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Worship is not fellowship

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord. (Psalms 89:15 NLT)

Todd and I recently attended a conference for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. It was a great opportunity to fellowship with pastors from our area, hear a great praise band (made up of pastors!), and receive some encouragement from a gifted speaker. Getting away for an entire day with my hubby was nice, too.

Dr. Ben Witherington III  spoke on a variety of topics including a biblical view about work and rest, but his words about worship resonated with me.

Dr. Witherington pointed out the origin of the word worship. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, worship comes from the Old English "weorthscipe", which means worthiness. The word worship can be used as a noun or a verb.

How many times have you heard (or said), "I'm not going to church because I just don't get anything out of it"? Are you treating worship as just a place, or as an action?

If worship is really about worthiness, than it's about humbling ourselves in order to encounter God. It's about giving rather than receiving. Can we focus one good hour on God, with love, wonder, and praise of God our goal?

Are we more concerned with what happens at coffee hour, or with asking God to reach in to fill the empty spaces in our lives?

The season of Lent is a good time to work on our hearts. But we can't do it alone. Reach out for God. He will always reach back.

That's why this Lent, I chose not to "give something up" as much as do something extra. I've been intentional each day about giving time to God. I try to start each day following a devotional or in prayer. I suppose this means giving up distractions in the morning: demanding kids, Facebook and email, endless chores. All of it can wait five minutes for me to center myself and give thanks to my creator.

How do you give worship?

Image taken from

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jesus Tree

If you're anything like me, you completely freaked out last week when you flipped to the February calendar page and realized how quickly Ash Wednesday is upon us. I feel like I just packed away the last of the Christmas decorations. I've been in a Googling frenzy ever since trying to come up with some ideas for a family Lent devotional. Good thing I didn't bury the Jesse Tree stuff too deep in the attic..

The branch I used for our Jesse Tree Advent devotional is about to become a Jesus Tree. I found these paper ornaments from St. Brigid's Academy. Each ornament has a picture, description, and Bible verse to look up. We will add an ornament each day of Lent (excluding Sundays) and will discuss what the Bible verse has to do with the themes of Lent: repentance, forgiveness, self-denial, discipline, prayer, charity, simplicity, and spiritual growth. The girls enjoyed our Jesse Tree, so it is my hope that they'll be similarly invested in our 40 days of Lent study.

Here are some other family-friendly Lenten resources I found:

Printable Lent countdown calendar:

Intentionally celebrating Lent as a family:

Making a Jesus Tree (from the same author of the Jesse Tree devotional):

What are you and your family doing to celebrate Lent?

Friday, February 1, 2013

I love you because

You can never say "I love you" enough. But do you?

For the next 14 days of February, I'm writing love notes to Todd, Madeline, and Ava. It's easy, only takes a few minutes, and best of of all, it's free!

I took this idea from Pinterest. Big surprise.

I got out some scrapbook paper I had on hand (you could use construction paper or anything you have available), a pen, and some scissors. It took me several tries (and some not-very-Christian mumbling), but I finally got a perfectly-sized heart template. I traced the heart outline on the scrapbooking paper. I made 42 hearts total (3 people x 14 days). Cutting out the hearts took the most time, but I had a sharp pair of scissors and good tunes on my iPhone, so I daresay it was a pleasant experience. On each heart I'll write one reason why I love the recipient. To avoid confusion, I'm numbering and labeling each heart with the recipient's name.

Before you all ask: No, I did not make hearts for myself. As much as I would love 14 days of positive affirmations, it seemed a bit forced to have Todd or the girls to write me notes every day. I'm doing this project so I can show my love for all of them. If they want to do sometime for me in a different way, that's great. I'm not doing this for what I'll get back, but for what it will add to my family.

The biggest challenge of this project was where to put all the hearts. I wanted them to be somewhere we'd all see them multiple times a day, so hiding them away on the girls' bedroom door (like the pin from Pinterest) wasn't my first choice. I decided to put them in the blank wall space in the stairway. It will be one of the first things we see when we come downstairs in the morning, and one of the last things we'll see before going to bed.

We all show our families love in different ways: cooking special meals, keeping the household running smoothly, working hard at our jobs, snuggling on the couch, reading together, and on and on. But how often do we tell our loved ones why we love them? Give it a try!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mission Accomplished

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
--Maya Angelou

We completed all 28 acts of kindness! It took over a month, but we finally did what we set out to do: to make our community a better place through kindness.

Here's a final list of what we did:
-Left 6 encouraging notes in random library books and magazines
-Gave up my "free coffee" punch card to the barista to pay forward to a random customer
-Put 3 encouraging notes in random rest stop stalls on our way to Michigan
-Gave $1 to the library circulation desk to randomly cover someone's library fines
-Wrote encouraging notes to the girls' teachers
-Left a McDonald's toy at a local restaurant's kids' area (Maddie's idea!)
-Purchased Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed to add to the girls' classroom libraries
-Made muffins for the girls' teachers and aides
-Gave away 4 goodie bags to 3 random people and our cashier at Wal Mart
-Made 4 snowflakes and sent them to Sandy Hook Elementary

Sometimes people's reactions to our acts of kindness were surprise or shock. Mostly, people didn't know how to respond. But after a moment, if you looked him/her in the eye, you could see love, kindness, and genuine gratitude.

Our actions wield so much power. Imagine if our intentions were always to show love, like Christ's unending love for us.

What acts of kindness have you done lately? What was the response?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Two things you should never blog about...

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matthew 5:11 NIV)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Religion and politics.

Nothing shuts down (or fires up) a conversation quicker than mention of government, guns, or God. But when you are in a ministry family, it's hard to avoid speaking about religion in casual conversation. It's a part of who you are.

I pride myself on being open-minded. I have the ability to disagree with someone without changing my personal opinion of him/her. But I've learned the hard way this week that not everyone has the same capacity. Trying to have an judgment-free, intelligent conversation about an emotionally-charged subject isn't always possible with everyone.

Social media can be a wonderful tool. But it can also be destructive. An innocent inquiry or comment can become a firestorm. Assumptions are made. Sides are taken. Names called. Trouble stirred. Anger stoked. And in the end, the conversation goes nowhere.

It's hard to remain silent when you or people you care about are being attacked. But that is exactly what Jesus asks of us, as evidenced in the above verse from Matthew.

I was tempted to let some very unwholesome talk fly on Facebook (sorry, Saint Paul). But instead, I waited. I prayed. I sought wise council. I remembered that it is more important to build up the Kingdom of God than it is to be "right". It is not my job to judge. My actions are a reflection on Christians everywhere. In the end, I tried to reach out to the person with whom I was disagreeing. I invited this person to meet for coffee.

A year ago I would not have been able to do that: reach out to someone who had hurt me. But since my focus this year is to EMBRACE my daily situations and struggles, I felt called to be compassionate in the face of anger. God is working on me!

I'm not sure how Jesus would handle a discussion of current events at a dinner party or PTA meeting, but I do know this: He would answer with love and without judgment. And He wouldn't plaster it on Facebook.

How is God working on you today?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fair isn't equal

...Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. (1 Corinthians 13:3-7 MSG)

I've been subbing a lot lately, mostly at Ava's preschool and the 4th-5th grade building here in town. Its awesome to observe how kids are mostly the same whether in public school, private school, city, or country. They want to learn, they care for others, and they fight for fairness.

This was evident last week when I subbed for a fourth-grade class. I'm learning the routines and the students at Reagan, but sometimes it's hard to keep up with what kids go where at what time. Some students get pulled out of class for instrument practice. Others go in and out of class to receive special assistance in math, reading, or speech. I could barely keep up! The kids knew just what was going on, but they were a bit misinformed. They thought the kids with special needs were getting something "extra". And that wasn't sitting well with them. So I pulled out my all-time favorite example of equality versus equity.

Suppose I were to offer to buy an entire classroom a pair of shoes (generous, I know). If I were treating everyone equally, I'd buy everyone the same style, color, and size of shoes. But if I'm being equitable, I'd buy everyone the style, color, and size that fits their needs. So, which is more fair: equality or equity?

It's absolutely essential that teachers and parents teach their children that equal isn't necessarily fair. In schools and in our families, not everyone will need the same attention or assistance. We are all created to be different, with different likes and abilities. We need to acknowledge our differences and understand that our schools and teachers will do their best for each of us. Even if we don't get the same attention, we're (hopefully) still getting what we need.

This idea of equity and equality carries over into marriage, too. I am thinking especially about division of labor and household duties.

Todd will be coming home tonight from an eight day seminary-related field trip. He was able to complete an entire course in eight days. This was a good choice for him, and I'm glad it worked out. I was not glad, however, to be facing eight days and nights by myself with the girls and Ollie.

We managed through a temperamental pilot light, missing car keys, an overnight stay at my sister-in-law's house, a big presentation, two subbing calls, my normal tutoring routine, cooking, cleaning, laundry, the stomach flu, and more laundry. It would have been a challenging week even with Todd home.

I'll be grateful and relieved when he arrives home tonight. But I'm just a bit worried about how to fit Todd back into the mix. I don't like interruption to my routine (and my authority). And my feelings of parenting/housekeeping inequality might cause some tension. You know that explosive feeling in your head when your husband asks what you've done all day?

My favorite verse from 1 Corinthians tells us that love doesn't fly off the handle or keep score. It doesn't put "me" first and can put up with anything. When I start feeling put-upon, I need to step back and evaluate my heart. Am I giving and receiving the love I need? If not, what do I need right now to feel more loved?

It's hard to ask for what we need. Sometimes we feel like our spouse should already know. But what I've learned from 10 years of marriage is that we are both terrible mind readers.

Although God's love is perfect and all-encompassing, our love here on Earth isn't always equal or equitable. All of us go through seasons where we need more or less attention and support depending on our situation. But hopefully we can learn to give and receive love equitably: exactly what our spouse needs when he or she needs it. I pray we can learn how to talk about these feelings openly with our spouse. And find comfort that God will raise us up and love us in the low times.

How do you handle equity and equality in your home?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Photographic Year in Review

I'd rather show you than tell you about 2012. Here's a photo recap. Click the link below for a larger version of the photo collage (made using the iPhoto app).

Have a blessed New Year! Bring it on, 2013!;CAEQARoQWVI_3T8Z2EsGYPLeLYpNmA;B29E854D-03FB-463C-8D11-71D7E75D85D7