Sunday, December 14, 2014

28 acts {2014 edition}

Image taken from

Ever since the tragedy at Newtown two years ago today, (which I wrote about here), my family has completed random acts of kindness to honor the 26 lives lost that day.  I always complete 2 more acts in memory of the shooter and his mother, for we must force ourselves sometimes to have compassion and understanding for all people involved in unimaginable violence. 

(For a recap on our past random acts, go here and here.)

Each year, even with trimming the tree, decorating, and baking, this is the tradition that most puts me in the holiday spirit.  

Here's our list for this year:

1. Give away toys & DVDs to Habitat for Humanity Re-Store
2-3. Send Christmas cards to soldiers
4-7. Put quarters on gumball machines
8. Cookies to fire station
9-10. Cookies to garbage men
11. Cookies to mail carrier
12-13. Encouraging note to teachers 
14-16. Kind notes in library books 
17-19. Treat to grocery check out person 
20. Sit next to someone who looks lonely on the bus
21. Invite someone who looks lonely to play at recess
22. Donate food to our church's backpack ministry
23. Send a card to Kaitlen
24. Leave a positive comment on a blog
25. Leave a quarter in the shopping cart corral @ Aldi 
26-28. "Jingle" our friends and neighbors

Will you join us? Kindness is contagious! 

Friday, December 12, 2014


Let me start by saying this is not a post bashing my marriage, your marriage, or the institution of marriage. I'm not going to bad mouth my husband, your husband, or any husband. I'm not going to try to make men look bad to make myself feel better because, as you probably know, it's wrong and it doesn't work. This is not about me or my marriage. Every marriage is as unique as the two people who are in it. 

I just have a few thoughts about all the marriage tips that squeeze themselves into my newsfeed every. single. day.

Yes, seriously.  The headline alone made me face palm.

These "helpful tips" are almost always directed at women: how to adore/spoil/respect/seduce your husband in 5 easy steps!
As if one person can single handedly rescue or maintain a marriage.

A little self awareness and improvement goes a long way, but these articles assume that the woman is always unhappy or the "poor, long-suffering husband" is feeling unloved or lonely.  I don't know about you, but I think those are pretty big assumptions about our feelings.  If my husband is unhappy, I trust him to tell me, just as I'd tell him if I was struggling.  

These articles reinforce stereotypes.  Here's a good example: 4 Things You Can Do When You're Not in the Mood .
These types of posts assume the husband is always the initiator of sex and the woman is always trying to sidestep the issue. What if he's not?  What if the wife's sex-drive is higher than her husband's?  She's left feeling alone and confused and frustrated. And honestly, advising women to have sex with their husbands even if they don't want to sounds dangerously close to assault to me. That's when putting someone else's needs ahead of my own goes too far. It makes the man look incapable of respecting his wife's wishes, like he's a slave to his urges. 

This is one more way the world tries to tell women we're not enough. If we could just be more, do more, get out of our comfort zone more our husbands would love us more.  

It's a lie.

There was a time when I would read these kinds of articles looking for the solutions to my marriage problems. But absolutely nothing I've ever tried after reading one of those articles has ever made a lasting difference in my marriage.  I'd hope that's because my husband married me for who I am, not who I could be with some coaching from an online marriage guru. 

Not that there isn't some sound advice in these articles: live within your means, listen, communicate, consider your partner's needs in addition to your own, don't get so wrapped up in your kids that you forget you are more than just a parent. These are all behaviors that people who have strong marriages (and other relationships, too!) exhibit.

Marriage takes work. That is truth. It always has and it always will. But it takes TWO to make a marriage. And it seems awfully one-sided when the blame or responsibility for a struggling marriage falls on women. 

I guess what I'd love to see is an equal amount of these marriage articles directed at BOTH men and women. When I asked my husband if "5 tips to satisfy your wife" ever showed up in his newsfeed, he nearly choked on his coffee. The answer was no. 

When the literature is targeted at only women, it makes us feel inadequate and doesn't give enough credit to our men. It feeds stereotypes and dissatisfaction. And when the article states that it's biblically mandated that a woman behave a certain way to please her husband?  Well, my brain nearly explodes.

What ever happened to serving one another out of love? That marriage goes through seasons, especially during early parenting years? That it's hard work, but good work? That two imperfect people showing up every day for each other (and their children), even when it's hard, is about as spiritual as it gets?  That love can be messy, but it's far more beautiful than fake?

Does ANYONE else feel this way?  Have you read any truly good articles or books on the subject lately?  

Men, do you get any good direction (social media driven or otherwise) about improving yourself and your marriage?
Ladies, what kinds of sources do you find helpful (and less rage-y)?  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

(Un)Happy Holidays

It's the holidays! Time for friends and food and family and fun, right? For traditions and memories and warmth and love, too?

Well, yes and no. 

In the last week, people close to me have experienced job loss, illness, uncertainty, disappointment, death, and injustice. It's enough to question the very existence of God. For some, this "most wonderful time of the year" doesn't feel so wonderful. This advent season of joyful anticipation and light is often as cold and dark as the weather outside for those dealing with difficult circumstances.  

When faithful people go through tough times, they often use Christian mantras like "God doesn't give us more than we can handle" or "It's all part of God's plan". These phrases indicate a hopefulness and faithfulness at their core, and in the past I have used them to comfort myself, friends, and family. But I try not to use them anymore.

Here's why: I don't think God causes bad things to happen. Bad things happen because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. We do not treat others as we wish to be treated. We are selfish and willful. That's not God, that's us.

God is not up in the clouds throwing thunderbolts to Earth to teach us lessons or punish our wickedness. That's not Immanuel, the God with Us, that we are promised by Isaiah.  

Image from

I do believe God is with us. In the hurt. In the uncertainty. In the loss. He is there. Like a good friend or parent, He is there. And He often uses our sad situations for His good, in His time. But not because we have passed some kind of test or prayed hard enough.  

So what can we do for those who are hurting during the holidays? The same things we should do for our people the rest of the year: show them love. Maybe that means bringing over a plate of cookies. Send a card. Call. Invite them to dinner. Have a cup of coffee together. Just listen. Say a prayer.  

If you are hurting right now, I hope you feel the warmth and light of the season very soon. And if you know someone who is hurting, be that warmth and light. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Root Collective

I love shopping companies with a conscience.  My Christmas list this year is comprised almost entirely of free/fair trade items from some of my favorite companies like Noonday Collection , Better Life Bags  , and fashionABLE .

This year I'm adding one more company to the list: The Root Collective

The Root Collective partners with small-scale artisan businesses in marginalized communities in Guatemala, Peru, and Kenya to promote change through dignified jobs. You can learn more about what they do here .  

The word partner is key to The Root Collective's mission.  Their relationship with their artisans is not charity, it is a business partnership.  The Root Collective is not helping, as that word connotes that they are saviors and the poor artisans are in need of rescue.  Not so: The artisans are capable, creative, and confident business owners.  All they lack us someone to believe in them...and that's where The Root Collective comes in.  

These mustard flats  and the Maasai necklace   are at the top of my Christmas list.  I've been very good this year...

Start cyber Monday off right with a 25% coupon code!  Just enter JOYTOTHEWORLD at checkout.  The code is valid until Tuesday, so get shopping!  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review: Bread & Wine

I recently wrote a book review for Brain, Child Magazine of Shauna Niequist's Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. 
Hope it helps put you in the holiday spirit!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Due date

My pastor (read: husband) has been preaching about being prepared lately. We've worked through the parable of the 10 virgins and the parable of the talents, both in Matthew 25. We're nearing the season of Advent, a time of joyful anticipation, so these lessons are timely.  

It reminds me of this time last year. As my due date approached I was preparing by organizing, cooking, cleaning, and washing. I was setting up babysitters and emailing teachers. This preparation made me feel like I had things under control, at least as much as one can when welcoming a new baby.

I was so wrapped up in the details of running the home and caring for my people that I nearly forgot to enjoy the last days of my pregnancy. It was kind of a blur of activity and excitement, and if I'm being really honest, relief at not having to be pregnant anymore. 

It makes me wonder: If tomorrow I was given 3 months to live, how would I prepare? 

This scenario has presented itself to a beloved member of our congregation. I am angry. I am stunned. I am deeply, deeply sad. I am prayerful, not for miraculous healing, but for more time and peace and no pain. 

What if we embraced death with the same expectancy as new birth?  As Christians, aren't we supposed to believe death is new life? Different life, but new life.  

I don't pretend to know how hard it would be to face this. But I know I wouldn't face it alone. Would I waste precious time feeling sad and sorry for myself and my family?  Probably. Would I spend some of my days angry at God?  Absolutely. Would I worry my remaining hours away?  Maybe. Those feelings are all allowed. But I know that at some point I'd go into planning mode.  

What do I want to see? Taste? Feel? With whom? I hope that once I answered those questions my people would surround me with grace and love and help me live out my final wishes. I hope that I could craft some really spectacular days, surrounded by the people, food, and places I love. I hope that I could stare death in the face and embrace the transition, because I did, saw, and said everything I wanted to see, say, and do.  

And when I take my final breaths, I hope I'd feel the same relief and excitement as I did on my due date.  Relief that my body was about to rest and heal. Excitement about meeting someone who up until now has been a mystery. 

If you had 3 months left to live, how would you spend your time?  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

That time I Met Rachel Held Evans

I had the good fortune to attend the Imagine What's Next mini-conference at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL a few Saturdays ago.  I had seen it advertised back at annual conference in June, but with Harper still needing mama so much I just  didn't think I'd be able to go.  

But then this happened: 

I still almost stayed home.  I woke up late.  I didn't want to drag my stupid breast pump with me.  I was anxious about driving 2 hours by myself.  I didn't really know anyone going. But something made me go.  Call it the power of personal invitation. I'm so glad I did.

The morning started with worship music from My Anchor Holds, a married couple from Bloomington/Normal by way of Nashville.  I'm not usually a fan of contemporary worship music, but these guys were great.  Her voice was so pure and powerful. You could tell her heart was in each lyric.  

After the morning worship, Rachel Held Evans spoke about her A Year of Biblical Womanhood book (which I reviewed here).  I was reminded why I loved that book, and the author, so much. And it was encouraging to see many young male and female heads nodding in agreement as Rachel Held Evans spoke about living "biblically" and what the Proverbs 31 woman really means to us today. 

After Rachel Held Evans spoke, we broke into small groups to discuss how to better engage millennials in the church through interfaith engagement, worship, and authentic relationships. I missed a portion of my session due to doing my "mommy duty", but when I joined the group they were discussing worship experiences that were formative in their lives.  Like, ones that shook them up, challenged them, or strangely warmed their hearts.  

People were openly sharing their most moving worship experiences, and as the casual observer, I noted that authenticity and personal relationship combined with tradition and a feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit seemed to have the strongest effects on those who shared their experiences.  

After the session I wandered out of the Evelyn Chapel. It was time for lunch.  Because I came by myself, I was scanning the room for someone, anyone, that I knew or that would make eye contact with me.  I'm an extrovert, so eating lunch alone is not something I enjoy.  And because I was raised to believe that strangers are just friends you haven't met yet, I would rather take he opportunity to meet someone new than eat by myself.  

I found one of the women who had organized the conference.  She knew my husband from seminary at Garrett, so maybe, I thought, I could join her for lunch.  I walked over and sheepishly asked about her plans for lunch.  There was a small group of people my age-ish wearing Garrett shirts gathered near her.  She kindly said I could join her, so I moved to the side while she coordinated plans and found transportation. I look to my left and, I kid you not, I was standing next to Rachel Held Evans herself.  

Now, let me explain something to you.  I get stupid around smart people.  And famous smart author people?  Forget it.  I was frozen.  And I realized I had just set something into motion I couldn't easily stop. 

My inner voice went something like this:

Stupid brain voice 1: You moron!  You just invited yourself to lunch WITH THE AUTHOR.
Stupid brain voice 2: Wait, what?
SBV2: Um...if you run now, you could be back home in 2 hours.  Just for good measure, while you decide to fight-or-flight, I'm going to make your stomach lurch, face flush and palms sweat. 

And before I could run, a car pulled up to take us to lunch.  So I climbed in and sat next to Rachel Held Evans.  I could barely breathe.

We had a lovely lunch.  We had an adult conversation. I didn't have to cut anyone's food or clean up a spill. I listened. I spoke. We laughed. I could barely eat, but choked down my salad as best as I could with shaky hands.

We drove back to campus.  I helped the event organizers move some materials from one location to the next.  As soon as it was appropriate, I left the group and hid in the bathroom.  

In the excitement of the afternoon, somehow my bag of mommy milk had begun to leak.  So I went to the restroom to clean up the mess.  I deeply exhaled and tried to wrap my head around the past hour's events. 

I had been welcomed into a group of strangers.  I had eaten lunch with a writer I deeply admire.  I had a great time.  I could feel empty places filling up in a way I don't feel everyday.

Of course, though, shame began to creep in, too. I didn't deserve that experience.  I had been rude to inject myself into their group.  I did not belong there. 

As I sat through the next conference session about the future of the church, it hit me.  This is what newcomers to our churches feel like.  And it's not a good feeling.  

The people at lunch, including Rachel Held Evans, gave me absolutely no reason to believe I wasn't worthy.  I did that all by myself.  This experience makes me more compassionate to people who show up for the first time in a new place asking to belong.  It's such a brave thing to put yourself out there. 

Remember that combination of authenticity and personal relationship coupled with tradition and a feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit I mentioned earlier?  That's the key.  Those are all the things that kept me there that day.

I had met new people that I wanted to get to know further.  I wanted to hear more about Rachel Held Evans' new book, which was one of the presentations in the afternoon session.  And I knew in my heart that the Holy Spirit had put me there for a reason that day. So I stayed.  

And I think that's the key to keeping anyone, not just milennials, engaged in church.  

What makes you go to church?  What keeps you going?
If you don't attend church but are thinking of finding a church home, what are you looking for?  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Being generous, being enough

I'm planning our November Neoga MOPS meeting. I've been watching the theme videos, and one about being generous captures my attention. After all, the holidays are quickly approaching and our desires to be generous with our money, time, and our very selves are about to come to a crescendo.The holidays are also a time where our biggest doubts as moms can get the better of us. I think I know why.

We constantly compare. And our conclusion is always the same: we aren't enough. Someone else is always thinner, richer, more put together, more patient, better at that thing than we are. And it's true.  But no one is as uniquely gifted as you are. You are God's creation, and you are awesome.  

Perfect, no. But awesome? Yes.

If we stepped back just a little we'd see that no one else compares us the way we compare ourselves to others. To the people we love we are everything. Imperfect, but unselfish.

We focus on the scarcity in our lives and forget about the abundance. If we're feeling tired, we focus on our lack of sleep instead of the abundance of health and energy from our kids. 

I say this even as a consistently sleep-deprived mom. At nearly 12 months-old, Harper is still struggling with both day and nighttime sleep. But she's healthy, passing new milestones every day, and becoming her own little person. Instead of focusing on the scarcity of sleep, I could try and be thankful for an otherwise normal and healthy baby. Some days I grumpily snap at her or anyone else nearby. And I need to learn to take better care of myself to avoid that, it's true. But when I'm able to wrap my hands around a warm cup of coffee, sit down for a hot minute, say a quick prayer and adjust my attitude, I am usually able to smile, breathe, and try again.

I have a scarcity of space in my house. But when guests come to stay or we have people over for dinner, there is no shortage of laughs, stories, or warmth. I hope what we lack in space we make up for in heart and hospitality.  

We can turn the scarcity, which is sometimes just in our own heads, into abundance when we bravely decide to offer ourselves--no more, no less, just us. We are enough. We are worthy.  

Being generous is just giving of yourself. Imperfect, messy, but from the heart. It's not always wrapped up neatly with a bow. No one can give what we can give in the way we can give it. Being generous is brave.  

What is one thing you can do this week to be generous with your money, time, or talent?  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fifty shades of brave

As I've blogged about before, the MOPS theme this year is "Be you, Bravely. 

In preparation for our first Neoga MOPS meeting this Thursday, I asked my leadership team to tell me the bravest thing they've ever done.  Tough question, I know, because there are so many shades of bravery.

Brave is defined as, "ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage."  What I find most compelling about this definition is that bravery is just the willingness to face the fear, it has nothing to do with the outcome or follow through.  It's what Glennon Melton from calls "showing up". 

Bravery might be showing up every day to a job you dislike because you need the income. Bravery doesn't make you like the job any more; bravery gives you the wherewithal to do what needs to be done.

Brave is hearing the word cancer for the second time and still showing up for your treatments, even though you know exactly what you're in for.  

Brave is holding your child's hand through that scary doctor's appointment he is dreading, even though you're dreading it, too.

Brave is hopping in the car with the kids and setting off for a secret adventure.  

Brave is reading out loud to your kids even though you aren't a strong reader and you are afraid you'll mess up. 

Brave is dropping your child off at a babysitter's house for the first time so you can have some space to work on yourself or your marriage. 

Any of these scenarios could end in hurt, heartache, loss, disappointment, or vulnerability. But the brave among us are willing to take a risk for even the slight hope that something awesome might happen. 

Brave is not reserved just for the biggest and strongest.  Someone climbing a mountain is no more brave than someone initiating a difficult conversation with their elderly parent.

There are so many more than 50 shades of brave.  And maybe if we began to recognize those shades in our lives and the lives of others we might be more compassionate towards people different from ourselves.  Like that mom at school pick up that's still in her pjs.  Or the guy at work that keeps to himself.  Or the neighbor with an opposing candidate's yard sign on his lawn.  

What is the bravest thing you've ever done?

What's the bravest thing you've done today?  

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Today I am...
Praying: for a couple at our church involved in a serious car accident this week.
For a end to violence around the world, especially violence done in the name of God. 
For my girls to learn how to forgive and extend grace to those who have hurt them. 
Looking forward to: A trip to Michigan in a few weeks!
Preparing: for my MOPS leadership team meeting this week.
Watching: Harper walk around the coffee table.
Eating/drinking: cold coffee.  
Wishing: I could think of something to do with the girls on this beautiful fall day.
Enjoying: watching the change of the seasons in our new home.  
Listening to: Maddie and Ava playing American Girl dolls.
Blessed by: the excitement and enthusiasm of the women who attended the Neoga MOPS info meeting on Thursday night.
Thankful for: a husband who was just as excited as his girls to attend the Daddy-Daughter Dance last evening.
Waiting for: my Noonday Collection items to arrive!  
Thinking about: how to improve the chore situation in my house.  
Avoiding: cleaning bathrooms.
Finishing: decorating the house for fall.
Starting: thinking about Harper's first Halloween costume.
Wanting: More coffee. And a pair of these.
Reviewing: the Be You Bravely theme videos...making big plans for this year's meetings!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ask a pastor 's wife: My answers

Here was the one and only question I received from last week's blog post:

"I'm sure you were proud and excited when your husband stepped up and...realized it was his calling and decided to be a full time pastor how did it make you feel? What were the initial thoughts versus current?

The children are probably too young but did the girls have any thoughts or questions about it? Do u you think their opinions will change when they are teenagers?"
-from Exception2theRule

I love this question.  It's funny, my opinions on how I feel about my husband being a minister are rarely solicited. 

Had you told me over twelve years ago that the man I married at age 21 would not have a career in politics/public service/public policy like he was persuing at Albion and beyond, I would have called you a liar.  But politics and ministry share a remarkably and disturbingly similar skill set.

When Todd decided to persue the ministry full time, I was not shocked.  The United Methodist Church had been a formative influence in his life, and I figured he would serve in a lay capacity at some point in his life, just like his father (hi, Opa!). It wasn't too big of a stretch to see him as a pastor.

But at the time we were discussing his future plans for ministry, I probably would have agreed to literally ANYTHING that made him happy, or at least less unhappy. He had been unemployed for nearly two years.  I was working full time to support my family on a Catholic school teacher's salary. I had been watching him try, and fail, to get a job, any job, for most of that time.  He was miserable and lost.  I was stressed and overextended.  But we both had such a peace about this career path, it was clear we were making the right decision.  We knew it wouldn't be easy, that finances would remain tight, that sometimes the only interaction we'd have in a 24 hour period would be a high five in the driveway on my way home from work and on his way out to class. We had no way of knowing that he'd be appointed as a pastor and I'd leave my job (and my support system in MI) to be the at-home parent, something I'd always desired, halfway through seminary.  But that's another story.  

My current feelings are mostly pride at what Todd has managed to accomplish in the last 4 years and gratitude that I've been able to be a part of it.  I also know that it was not just Todd that was called into ministry, but the children and I as well.  I hope that I support him well, serve others by using my God-given gifts, and raise my family the best I can.  

Which brings me to the second part of the question.  The girls were young when Todd entered seminary and ministry.  Maddie remembers her daddy doing jobs other than being a pastor, but Ava and Harper will have no memory of Todd other than being a seminary student and pastor. 

But it isn't always easy to be a PK (Pastor's Kid).  Sometimes people place unrealistic expectations on PK's behavior (and mom and dad's parenting abilities!). Todd and I have gathered a little group of ministry families around us, so that the girls can have friends like themselves.  We are active in the UMC connection and are always meeting new people.  But we are a normal family.  We love hard, we fight hard, we play hard, we fail hard, but we emphasize forgiveness and new starts, just like Jesus would want.  

As we approach the teenage years, we expect some measure of rebellion like every other parent.  But our focus will be on our kids' hearts and minds, not hair color, clothing choices, or other means of self-expression and identity.

One of Todd's seminary friends recently told a story that stuck with and inspired  me. She retold that she had dyed her hair for the first time, a lovely shade of blue.  One of the older ladies at her church was shocked and asked her mother, the pastor, what she was going to do about it.  Her mother asked, "Was my daughter rude or disrespectful to you?"  The older woman replied that she was not.  So the wise pastor said, "Then we don't have a problem here.  Her appearance is not her behavior."  

Todd and I know that our kids will make mistakes.  Unfortunately for them, their failures may be more public than those of their friends.  We always hope they make good choices, but we know they will occasionally fall short.  We try not to "sweat the small stuff".  We are most focused on creating kind, compassionate, justice-seeking, hard-working, service-focused women.  What they wear and the color of their hair, while important, is not more important to us than having a heart for Jesus. 

The hardest part of ministry so far for them has been itinerancy.  Our last appointment lasted two years.  Our current appointment will likely last between 4-8.  No one knows for sure. Leaving homes, schools, friends, and familiarity behind is hard for everyone.  It never gets easier.  We've been warmly welcomed wherever we've been, but it always takes awhile to feel like home. 

Will they grow up resenting the church?  Maybe.  But I am OK with that as long as they still love, serve, and seek Jesus.  And if they reject church altogether?  Well, we all have seasons of our faith, don't we?  God's love for us is wide, Jesus' reach is far, and the Spirt is ever present.  They will always be able to come home.  

So, I hope that answered your question, Exception2theRule! 

Coming soon to the blog: a new look and layout, and maybe even a new name.  Keep following!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ask a pastor ' s wife

One of the benefits of being the wife of an itinerant United Methodist pastor is getting to meet new people everywhere I go.  Seriously, everywhere.  Grocery stores, outlet malls, coffee husband and I strike up conversations, or respond to others' questions, almost anywhere. It's so humbling to be an ambassador for Christ and his church.

So, here's your chance.  Any burning questions you want to ask a pastor's wife?  I'm not shy (you probably already knew that) but keep'em clean and appropriate, of course.  

Post your questions in the comments.  I'll respond to them next week in my blog post.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gandhi was right.

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

I hate that I need this book in my life. But I love that I found it.  

Jen Hatmaker is one of my favorite authors.  I follow and share her blog posts regularly.  She is relatable and funny and cute and convicting.  She's the kind of gal I could have over for coffee and chat with for hours.  If she weren't all the way in Texas, that is.  

Jen is an accomplished writer, speaker, and mother of 5.  Together with her pastor husband, Brandon, they started Austin New Church in Austin, Texas.  Interrupted follows Jen and Brandon as they go through the process of leaving a lucrative position at another church in Austin to tread the uncertain path of planting a new church with very little direction other than the following verses from the Bible: Matthew 25 and Isaiah 58.  

Go ahead, look them up.  Start with Matthew 25:34:40.  Then read Isaiah 58:6-9.  I use The Message translation quite often, but you know what?  No real need to clarify Greek or Latin word roots here, friends.  In any translation the meaning is clear: Care for each other as you would care for yourself.  Give special attention to the least among you.  It's pretty much all Jesus ever talked about.  

But is your church doing that?  Do you feel it at Sunday morning worship?  In your weekly Bible study?  In your private prayers?  Are you truly serving the needy, or serving the already saved?  

Yes, our churches do good in our communities.  No doubt, no argument. We might even baptize new members from time to time or welcome visitors.  But in a postmodern world where more and more people grew up unchurched or are suspicious of organized religion, I  don't think our church model is winning hearts and minds for Christ like we think we are.  

And I think it all goes back to Gandhi's quote: "Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Because, friends, we are not living the mission Christ set out for us.  We all too often stay in our little bubbles, among people just like us, watching the suffering around us and feeling overwhelmed into inaction. We put all our hope in our Sunday worship service (or Bible study, or women's group, or prayer team meeting...) to fill us up, but it doesn't. And it won't, until the served start serving others.

I know this because I live this. And it's time for a change.  The people who truly need us and our church? They may never walk through our doors.  We need to go to them.

Jen Hatmaker writes in Intertupted, "Love has won infinitely more converts than theology...your pastor or your church can never reach your coworker like you can.  They do not have the sway over your neighbor who has been entrusted to you.  No one better than you can love your wayward brother.  One decent sermon cannot influence a disoriented person in the same way your consistent presence in her life can."

But how do we do this?  Hatmaker has years of experience to share:

"We can continue to invite unbelievers to church, but we must first invite them into our lives.  Have them over, go to dinner, welcome them in. Create a safe place for them to belong without agenda; they needn't worry about following our Christian rules yet (or pretending in front of us).  We must become their advocates, embracing them as dear friends so they might one day feel comfortable belonging with us.  This is not a strategy for rapid church growth, but the patient hard work of love is the way of Christ.  It is the subversive path into the kingdom." 

And it's exactly what Jesus did.  He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes.  He hung out with smelly fishermen.  He became their friend first.  

Can we Christians be more like Christ?  Let's prove Gandhi wrong.  

This book is especially convicting for me because of our family ministry.  I'm happy to try to be an example for the members of my congregation and community.  And I'd love to sit down with anyone who will listen and talk about this book.   I'm even willing to spot you the book.  

It's my first giveaway! I'm giving away a copy of the newly revised and expanded Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. To enter, comment below (not on Facebook, please comment directly on the blog).  Tell me about the best thing your church does to reach out to your community, not just your members.  Or tell me about something you do personally to reach out to people outside your church.  I'll randomly choose a winner from the posted comments on Wednesday, August 20.  

Good luck, and happy commenting!  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

One month later

We've been in Neoga for a month now. The boxes are emptied, pictures are hanging on walls, paint colors are being discussed, landscaping is trimmed.  We're back to sharing meals around the table.  The house is becoming a home.

The girls are adjusting well. If you follow me on Facebook, you know that Harper's sleep patterns were seriously disrupted in the move, so I've been worn a bit thin trying to get things done with a very grumpy, teething baby (and on very little sleep myself). But I've found support with the other mamas at church. 

I am struggling with my next career move, though. Teaching jobs are in very short supply here.  I've checked into teaching in the elementary education programs at the local community college and Eastern Illinois University, but enrollment is down and vacancies are few.  So it looks like I'll be home again full time this year.  But with Maddie and Ava in school full time and only Harper at home, I'll be able to get more involved in church and the girls' schools. That is, if I can get Harper to separate from me for more than 15 minutes at a time.  

The big girls are making friends.  Maddie went to a 5 day sleep-away camp with the girls from church a week after we arrived in town. Despite my worries that she'd struggle while away from her mama, she more than exceeded my expectations and came home fired up and ready to go.  She's been able to keep up with one of her friends back in Princeton through FaceTime, which has been a blessing when she's feeling lonely or left out.   

We're gearing up for the girls' return to school August 18.  They've both met children from church their ages that they'll likely see in class.  And both the elementary and middle school principals are members of our church. It does this mama's heart good to know that there will be extra sets of loving eyes on my girls during the school day.

We're settling in to our new church, too.  The welcome we've received is amazing. Meals, gift cards, play date invitations, listening ears, warm smiles--it's times like this that we feel affirmed and encouraged in our ministry.  We're just getting started!

Thank you, dear readers, for your prayers and support during our transition.  I'll be back next week with a new book review and my very first giveaway!  Stay tuned!  

Friday, June 27, 2014

For the Last Time, till the Next Time

(To the tune of "For the First Time in Forever")

The boxes are stacked up on the floor
I don't want to pack stuff anymore
Who knew we owned so much worthless stuff?

For days I've walked these empty halls
Sad without pictures on the walls
Finally, we're packing up the truck!

There'll be actual real life movers
It will be totally great!
Now I think we're ready for this change

For the last time, till the next time
There'll be tension, there'll be fights 
For the last time, till the next time
We'll be working through the night

Don't know if we're more nervous or happy
But we're somewhere in that zone
Cause for the last time, till the next time
We're making a new home

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Another year in ministry

Remember last year's recap?  

Well, if you can believe it, another year has flown by. Here are this year's highlights:

Here it is as a collage:

But wait!  There's one more:

We are in the process of packing.  My parents are (bravely) bringing the big girls home to Michigan for the next two weeks so Todd and I can focus on the move with only Harper to entertain.  The movers come next weekend and we'll drive down to Neoga Monday, June 30. So the blog will likely be silent for a bit as we transition. 

Thank you in advance for your prayers and patience!  We are excited, nervous, a bit sad and maybe apprehensive.  But we know God is in all of it.  See you in a few weeks!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Surviving Summer Vacation

I usually greet summer vacation with much anticipation, planning, and energy.  It lasts about a week and a half.  But this year I SWEAR I will be consistent.  This is mostly out of necessity, because two of my little people will need to entertain themselves for some amount of time while I pack boxes for the big move. 

I have 4 main goals for summer: 
1. Keep the girls sharp for school.
2. Get the girls to entertain themselves with little intervention/preparation from me.
3. Make and keep reasonable limitations on TV/device time.
4. Get the girls to pitch in with chores.

I saw this free eBook advertised in my newsfeed on Facebook the other day and downloaded it.  It was a quick read full of practical advice for surviving summer.  Check it out!  

Surviving Summer Vacation (Ebook Shorts): Plans and Prayers for a Mom's Sanity

As in years past, I created a summer contract for Maddie.  This year, I'm making one for Ava, too, as I try to prepare her for Kindergarten in the fall.  In addition to making our own learning goals, I added a section to remind the girls about their daily responsibilities.  There is also a weekly checklist for keeping track of schoolwork that's been completed.  I'll probably laminate the sheets so I don't have to print a new one each week. I plan on taking the girls to to pick out a brand new spiral notebook to use to complete their work.  The girls share my (geeky) love of school supplies, so this by itself will help get them excited for summer.

Here are the links to their summer contracts:

What are you and your family doing to prepare for summer?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How we celebrate Earth Day everyday

Happy Earth Day!
It ain't easy being green, but the Krost family sure tries.  
Here are three ways we try to shrink our footprint on the planet:

1. Cloth diapers
This one's a biggie.  It takes a lot of commitment, but once you find a system that works for you, your baby, and your washing machine, it's no big deal.  These are the three types of diapers we use in heavy rotation:
gDiapers (
We like these because they can be used with flushable/compostable/disposable liners or cloth inserts.
We use the one-size pocket diapers with snaps.  These diapers will work from birth until potty training!
We use the size 2 duo covers with aplix with cloth inserts or prefolds.

Honestly, if I can handle this, you can handle this. If you are interested in cloth diapering, contact me! I am happy to share our testimonial.  And honestly, is there anything cuter than a cloth diapered bottom?

2. Safe, non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning and personal products
We use a lot of detergent because of the cloth diapers.  Have you looked at the ingredient list of your detergents, cleaning, and personal care supplies lately?  Yuck!  Scary!

We use a vinegar and water (with a little tea tree oil and lavender) solution for everyday cleaning.  We use washable microfiber cloths as well.  

To clean our diapers and the rest of our laundry we use Charlie's Soap ( and Biokleen Bac Out ( 

We try to use Acure (, Ava Anderson (, and natural homemade alternatives on our hair and skin.  We avoid products with anything on this list:

Very little in my cleaning closet, laundry room, or bathroom would hurt my kids or pet if it was ingested. Most of it is inexpensive or comparably priced to what you might find in your local grocery store. And none of these products has hormone disrupters or toxic/carcinogenic chemicals which could cause long-term harm to the people I love, or the plants and animals that come into contact with our waste water. 

3. Reusable lunch wraps and grocery bags
I purchased two sets of these Earth Swag sandwich wraps and snack baggies ( a few years ago and they're still going strong!  Use them, shake out the crumbs, and toss them in the wash.  The sandwich wraps double as a placemat, which helps contain messes (and germs!).  

I have a stash of reusable grocery bags in my trunk at all times, and they're great for many, many reasons.  I use them on my weekly grocery shopping runs.  I've even started using small reusable sacks for produce, so I don't have to use the store's plastic bags for each item.  Just don't forget to throw them in the wash occasionally.  

Every little bit helps! What does your family do to help save the planet? 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why Weepest Thou?

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. (John 20:15, 16 KJV)

I went all King James on you today.  But I just find this particular language to be a bit more flowery than other translations, which typically read, "Why are you crying?"

I find myself asking this question multiple times a day to multiple small people.  Fun fact: it isn't Harper nearly as much as one would think.

But this question, "why weepest thou?", spoken by Jesus to Mary Magdalen outside the empty tomb reveals a care and concern for her.  Although she does not recognize Jesus immediately, she can feel his love.  

Why weepest thou?

For lent I kept a gratitude journal.  Each night before bed I wrote 3 things that I was thankful for from the day. Some days were harder than others. But looking back through my journal, I realize how much God is in the tiny details of my day-to-day. 

So, why weepest thou?  We are blessed beyond measure!  He is risen!  Nothing to cry about.

I'll leave you with some cute this Easter morning:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Mess I Can Live With--My Messy Beautiful

People tell me things.  I think maybe it's my superpower. I suppose it comes with the "pastor's wife" territory. 

I hear about sick loved ones, broken marriages, unruly kids/grandkids and family disputes.  And I am honored that these women (and sometimes men) trust me with their hurts and ask me for prayers.  I am always happy to listen and pray. 

Everyone has a mess. It's beautiful to be a part of it.

But there's another level of telling that I experience. Women fall all over themselves to explain their dirty kitchen, fussy children, or disorderly car.  Like when they look at me they see a person who cares about such things and maybe I'll judge them.  Because, obviously, I have it so pulled together.  

I mean, just look at me and my family:

Pulled together, right?


In the 24 hours after that picture was taken, my oldest was diagnosed with pneumonia likely stemming from an illness she had nearly 6 months ago, my middle child's black eye finally started to look better, I left my screaming baby in her crib for a solid 20 mins while I took a shower, and my husband and I traded verbal barbs over who was supposed to pick up the preschooler.

Messy, yes. But beautiful?

My kids don't always listen.  I can be super mean to my husband.  I yell at the dog for coming in with muddy paws.  I want to hide when the baby starts crying.  I never have enough hands or time. Seeing clothes or toys on the floor makes. me. nuts. 

I don't like messes in general, or activities that might lead to a mess. But these surface messes are proof that life is happening. The messes make life beautiful.

Even with my self-doubt, loneliness, selfishness, and anxiety about the future, it's all a beautiful mess.  My kids are a blessing.  My dog is a comfort. My marriage is a work in progress.  All this mess gives me purpose.  

I am learning to embrace it.  To slow down and watch.  To put down the d&@$ phone. To ask myself: Is it better to be right or to be kind?  I am following Mother Theresa's mantra to "do small things with great love". 

I am a mess, but I'm God's mess.  And my messiness is proof that he's not done with me yet.  That's a mess I can live with.

This post and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, click here:

And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, click here:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Winter 2014 Bucket List

This winter was rough.  Like, I-don't-want-to-talk-about-it rough.  So, I present to you our winter bucket list.  We had high expectations, especially for having a newborn in the house.  The whole polar vortex thing didn't help.  Whatever, winter.

And now we shall never speak of this winter again.  

Anyone else feeling this way?  I've never been so excited for 45 degrees and partly cloudy skies in all my life.