Wednesday, December 30, 2015

10 things I learned in 2015

My #2015bestnine Instagram photos. 

Before turning the calendar page to 2016, I'm taking a minute to reflect on what I learned in 2015. 
Here goes:

1. Even for a fairly unsentimental person, losing my wedding rings last Christmas hurt my heart. I'm still praying to St. Anthony and hoping for a miracle.

2. I am not good at reading weather maps, or maps in general. Up until this past winter, it was part of my charm. But driving through blizzard conditions with 3 precious kids in the backseat made me want to get better in this area. 

3. It's only hair. It will grow back. Just go for it, whether it's a dramatic cut or new color. And find a good stylist. 

4. Find a cause you believe in and support it. For me it's earth care, and I support this cause through my work at Faith in Place. Your cause and the manner in which you support it may look different from mine, but it is no less important. Sometimes this will terrify you. Do it anyway. Your actions make a difference. Along the same lines, your dollars make a difference, from the food you buy to the clothes you wear. Become an educated consumer and support fair trade and sustainable companies when possible. 

5. Everyone's a mess, some of us just hide it better than others. Don't compare your real life to someone's Instagram life. 

6. I need to add (and claim) "writer" to my resume. I've had several things published this year through a series of good connections/dumb luck. But if I want to continue, I need to make more time for my writing. That might mean saying no to other things. I need to be OK with that. 

7. I made an audacious (at least for me) goal this year: to find a way to go to MomCon in Indianapolis and meet Jen Hatmaker. Through some hard fundraising work, saving, and planning, I made it happen. It feels so good to check things off my bucket list. 

8. Something I heard from Margaret Feinberg at MomCon has stayed with me: "Remain suspicious that God is up to something good." Spending time in my busy day looking for the lovely breadcrumbs God keeps dropping just for me has brought pleasure to the mundane. 

9. I cannot take enough pictures of my kids. Every one is a gift. 

10. Wearing a dress for 31 days was not as hard as I thought. An unexpected takeaway: wear the nice stuff--the stuff you save for a special occasion--on ordinary days. People will wonder what you're up to. 

Your turn: what are your top 10 lessons this year?

Monday, December 28, 2015

What I learned by wearing a dress for a month

It's 30 degrees and sleeting on this late December day, but I'm wearing a knee-length floral dress. It's a slight inconvenience to keep adjusting my dress in the wind so as not to give the grocery store parking lot a glimpse of my rear, but my discomfort is a reminder that I have an embarrassment of warmer clothing options back home. But why torture myself? To make a point? And to whom? 

I've been participating in Dressember since Dec. 1. This project "uses fashion to advocate for women who've been exploited for their femininity. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women."

I'll admit, it took me a bit to connect the dots on how wearing a dress could help women trapped in slavery and oppression around the world, but at its core Dressember is an awareness-raising campaign. My wearing a dress is making a difference, sending ripples of awareness through my circles of influence. 

So what have I learned this month of Dressember? I've compiled both the good and bad into a top 10 list: 

1. It was a creative exercise for me to put together 31 outfits wearing only a handful of dresses that I owned, and I found I enjoyed the challenge. I tried to include an ethical/fair-trade item (like my Noonday Collection jewelry or Better Life Bag) each day. 

2. I learned a lot about layering and tights/leggings combos (thanks, Pinterest!). 

3. It turns out that wearing a jumper/skirt for grades K-12 didn't completely turn me off of wearing dresses as an adult like I previously thought. 

4. I don't like my legs. I'm short and curvy, so dresses aren't usually my go-to wardrobe choice. But I learned how to style each dress to play up my assets.

5. When in doubt, wear a maxi-dress--it's as close as you can get to yoga pants. 

6. Though this December was unseasonably warm in southeast Illinois, I was still cold most days if I had to spend any amount of time outside. Instead of throwing on pants under my dress to do outdoor activities, I just avoided such activities, which is a bummer. 

7. I don't like taking pictures of myself. Though taking a daily selfie is not a requirement of the project, it's certainly good for publicity and raising awareness, so I did my best. But it felt self-centered when this campaign was meant to bring attention to other women around the world. 

8. I found Dressember to be a great conversation starter. Any time my friends would ask if I was getting annoyed with wearing dresses yet, I'd redirect the topic to how other women don't have the power we have to choose our careers or life partners. 

9. My oldest two daughters were proud of my effort and occasionally choose to wear a dress in solidarity.

10. This year, Dressember has raised over $600,000! Funds raised during Dressember 2015 support the work of International Justice Mission, and A21, two incredible human rights organizations that work to rescue and restore victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and violent oppression. 85 cents of every dollar raised during Dressember will go to our partner organizations. 15 cents is retained for administrative, technological, marketing expenses, and credit card fees (It is standard for 501c3 nonprofit organizations to retain a percentage for overhead expenses). But I personally didn't raise much money. If you're interested in getting in a contribution, here's your chance

I think Dressember will become a yearly tradition. It helped connect me to the Christmas story, which, if you think about it, is that of a young mother in crisis. It reminded me that God can do wonders with an open heart. 

I encourage you to consider joining me. If you're trying to pare down your closet to a "capsule wardrobe", participating in this project might help you get started. It's not an exaggeration to say it's changed the way I think about getting dressed. 

What did you do this advent that drew you closer to the Christmas story? 

In what ways did you become more aware of the suffering or oppression of others this year? 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Making ripples

I get asked a lot of questions about what I do. It's a multi-faceted answer, but I'll try to nail it down for you: I'm a wife. I'm a mother. I'm a partner in my husband's ministry at Grace United Methodist Church in Neoga. And I'm an earth care advocate doing outreach support for Faith in Place, the Illinois affiliate of Interfaith Power and Light.

Each of these roles requires a certain percentage of my time and energy, and every week those percentages change it seems. But I'm 100% committed to all of them. And each role is intertwined with the next--it's as if one cannot exist with the other, which makes saying "no" sometimes difficult. But I'm learning.

As I've reflected on my word of the year for 2015--wonder--I've also been looking ahead to 2016. As I sat at the central Illinois fundraising event for Faith in Place two weeks ago, the word came to me: ripples. We watched the following video, which inspired me to wholeheartedly embrace how my actions create a ripple effect throughout my circles of influence: home, church, community, and beyond. This is such a freeing idea for me, that change doesn't rest on my shoulders alone, but it can start with me, and does extend out to those with which I interact.

Are you feeling led to make some ripples? Want to know where to start? Contact me at I can help start a conversation with you and your organization or congregation on how we can all take better care of the earth and each other.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A year of wonder

Last December, I chose a word for the year: wonder. I put my paper (from Thirty Handmade Days) where I would see it regularly--next to the mirror hanging inside the closet door--so every time I checked myself out I was faced with my goals for the year. It was a humbling experience.

This year has embodied my wondering spirit in many ways. I've become more mindful of my bad habits and have done more thinking about my parenting than ever before. I've kept up with blogging and writing, which has promoted introspection and reflection. I found employment with an amazing non-profit and am using my skills in ways I never thought possible outside a classroom setting. I've deepened my relationship with Jesus through reading and scripture study, and though I still have questions, I now have more trust in the answers.

So many things have gone right this year and after many years of struggle, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't begun to wonder if this kind of family, church, and career satisfaction would ever be possible for me.

But as 2015 draws to a close, I'm far from done wondering, though much of my wondering lately reaches outside of myself and my home and extends out into the hurting world. I wonder about my influence in my community and how my one small voice might be used for good. I wonder how my small act of wearing a dress every day in December might save a woman somewhere in the world from a life of slavery. I wonder how I might begin to have conversations with people of different religions, races, or sexual orientations so that I might better understand their perspectives. I wonder how I might inspire others to see the moral obligation we have to take better care of the earth. I wonder if anything I do for my kids even matters (though I know better).

What was your word for 2015? As  you reflect on this year, do you see your word's influence woven throughout your story?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hope. Peace. Joy. Love.

The advent season is upon us and like many Christian families, mine looks for ways to prepare for the coming of the Christ child. We have an advent devotional we follow--the Jesse Tree--which I've previously written about here. We look for opportunities to perform random acts of kindness, which I've written about here and here and here. We keep the gift-buying to a minimum and try to make purchases from companies that are making a difference in the world, like those listed here.

So why do we do all that?
For hope. And peace. And joy. And love.

These are the four words we focus on during advent, the ones written on our advent wreath, the ones we breathe in and out in anticipation of Jesus. In the brokenness of our world today, it's harder than ever to see hope, peace, joy, and love. But if you can't see them, you need to be them.

That's why I've added a new advent discipline this year: Dressember. Dressember "uses fashion to advocate for women who've been exploited for their femininity. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women."

So, I'm wearing a dress every day. In December. In the midwest.

I'm as prepared as I can be.

A photo posted by Christina Krost (@5matches) on

Here's what I'm afraid of: being cold, running out of outfit ideas, accidentally flashing the entire neighborhood bending over to pick up a child, and tights.

But here's what I am hoping will happen: I'll find some inspiration and creativity in my own closet, I'll be reminded of how much choice I have as a woman in the U.S, I'll enjoy wearing my "nice" things every day instead of saving them for some undefined special time in the future, and I'll show my girls that we can make a difference right where we are by performing small acts of love.

This idea seems to be catching on: On it's first day, Dressember has already raised $100K for A21 and IJM to rescue and restore women trapped in slavery internationally. If you'd like to contribute on this Giving Tuesday (or any day in December), click here to donate to my page.

Hope. Peace. Joy. Love.
It's coming. Prepare the way. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Greening up Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. I love it so much I invited 30-ish people to celebrate with us this year. But you know what I don't like? The excess--too much food, too much waste, too much noise, too much rushing, too many people, too many uncomfortable political or theological conversations...I'm an extrovert who loves to entertain, but even for me, it's a lot. 

So I've gathered some tips (inspired by this post) to make the holiday more manageable (but watch this for help with the uncomfortable conversations thing). If you desire to make your Thanksgiving a seasonal feast that reflects on all that you're thankful for, here are a few ways to tread a bit lighter on Mother Earth and make your Thanksgiving meal meaningful:

1. Eat less meat.

The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined.  Take a minute to let that sink in. And we know that whole-food, plant-based diets are better for us. So here's your chance to help your body and our planet! Does every dish need to have meat? Are there substitutions you can make? There are countless online resources for vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes. Here's a good start from the folks at Food Network

2. Eat seasonal and locally-sourced foods:

For the past two years, we've bought our turkey from a local Amish farmer. We know the animals were humanely treated and what they were fed. I also plan to make persimmon pudding from pulp harvested by a member of our congregation. Find a local farmer's market to buy your potatoes or green beans if you can. has some great suggestions for creating a local Thanksgiving menu. There's even a movement from Sustainable America to have a 100 mile Thanksgiving to use less fuel and support local farms. 

3. Be aware of packaging waste:

Buying local can help reduce packaging waste. When I'm buying produce, I skip the plastic bags found at the grocery store and use a small sized reusable bag instead. We recycle all cardboard and as many plastic bags as we can. Glass jars and tin cans are re-purposed or recycled. If I have a choice between buying a product using styrofoam packaging and one without, I always opt for the product with less packaging. 

4. Wash the dishes:

Though much depends on the detergent you use and the efficiency of your dishwasher, it's almost always better to wash your dishes than to use disposable plates, silverware, and cups. This article from The Sierra Club helps weigh the benefits of using porcelain over paper. 

5. Waste less food:

Did you know that almost half of all food in the United States is thrown away before it's consumed? Few things make me feel worse than wasting food. But who doesn't love Thanksgiving leftovers? In my opinion, they're even better than the first time around. Here's a roundup of recipes to use up the leftovers that might be even better than the original. Just in case you don't, you know, eat them straight out of the container while watching football games on the couch.

6. Have an attitude of gratitude:

It's Thanksgiving, after all! When you list off what you're thankful for, where does the Earth rank? Heighten your awareness of how God's creation inspires and cares for you on a daily basis like in the foods you eat or in a beautiful sunset. This awareness can lead to a greater appreciation for the earth, and in turn, more intentional care for creation.

Want to know more? Go to for more about the food, faith, and climate connection. You can also visit Interfaith Power and Light's page. And of course, consider inviting me to your congregation or small group to talk about Faith in Place.

What do you do to green your Thanksgiving? I'd love to share recipes and hear your tips!  
Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Where does it hurt?

Deep breath, everyone. 
It's been a rough few days. Are you OK? Are your loved ones accounted for? I've seen through various social media sources (not always 100% reliable, I know) that we've lost over 115,000 souls combined in earthquakes in Mexico and Japan, suicide bombings in Beirut and Baghdad, and terrorist attacks in Paris since Friday, November 13. The hashtag #prayfortheworld has gained momentum in the last 48 hours. Lord, hear our prayer. 

As I read the news reports and President Obama's remarks about the Paris attacks, I held my breath and remembered my travels to Paris in high school. I tried to imagine how I'd feel if this had happened in my town, shattering my sense of safety. Or if I was a tourist or student studying abroad and didn't know how to get help or speak the language. What could I do, other than rely on the kindness of strangers? 

But as I watched my Facebook feed turn the red, white, and blue of the French Tricolour, I couldn't help but notice something was missing. Where are the flags for Beirut?
Where were they in April for Kenya? Or Japan? Or Mexico? 

I think most people identify with the French because they're white. We imagine they're most like us. We struggle to identify with those in the Middle East or Africa or Japan or Mexico. But that doesn't mean they deserve less of our prayers, attention, or air time. They are hurting, and we should both recognize and help to heal that pain. 

The evil we've seen in recent days is like an illness in the body. When healing illness, we often employ multiple remedies: rest, medicine, and therapy. I know we'd like to get to the root of all the things making our world ill, and there will be time for that in the days and years to come. But for now, we need to rest and heal. And that starts right here in our own homes and communities. I've learned that evil is contagious, but so is love. 

There is hurt everywhere. When people in far away countries hurt, we hurt, too. So let's be small and deliberate and weed out that hurt right here. Bake those cupcakes for your neighbor undergoing chemo. Encourage your coworker. Invite that new family in town to dinner. Pray. Hold space for both the hurting and those who feel the need to hurt others.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere. Let's be healers. Let's start right here. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Set out, Pilgrim

There are two types of people: those who like yard sales and those who don't. I put myself in the latter category. I tend to sort through and discard my junk all year long instead of waiting to purge all at once. It's too overwhelming for me to let it pile up.  

And with rare exception, I'm not all that interested in pawing through and/or purchasing someone else's junk. I want to hide in my house during the two weekends each year when Neoga holds their city-wide yard sales. I have collected some things over the years--knick knacks, glassware from my deceased relatives, gently used kids' clothing, etc. But I try to only add things that bring me joy or serve a purpose.

This yard sale attitude has served me well as an adult. I handle issues as they come up instead of stuffing them somewhere inconspicuous to be dealt with at a later date or when I stumble upon them again, whichever comes last. 

When I met my husband I was a practicing Catholic taking a break from church during college. He was a Methodist who figured he would eventually find his way back to church once he settled down. We had a lot of stuff between us when we married and had to sort through it all, mostly things from our childhoods like old sports trophies and porcelain clown collections. Some things I discarded with glee, others were harder to part with.

As we began to sort through our things, we had to sort through some deeply held beliefs, too. Where would we attend church? What makes us us? What belief systems do we keep and which do we discard? Is there anything we need to add to our pile?

I've been part of the launch team for Sarah Bessey's new book Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, which is being released tomorrow (November 3, 2015). Out of Sorts was written for those of us looking for answers to yard sale-like questions: what stays and what goes? What should I take with me on my journey to knowing Jesus? 

Some of our beliefs will need to be discarded as we go, and they will be hard to part with. We may feel like we're losing part of our identity with their subtraction. Other times we'll light a bonfire and watch those beliefs burn in joy and relief. And we'll likely collect some new ideas as we sort through it all.

It is said that the church goes through a kind of holy rummage sale every 500 years. It's part of our life cycle of death and resurrection; the death of some old ideas makes room for new life and new energy. We're on the cusp of a Great Emergence, an idea brought about by the late Phyllis Tickle. This shift will likely set us off in new paths and directions as pilgrims in search of answers, just like our Christian brothers and sisters of the past. You are not alone in your wandering.

Bessey covers a range of topics including grief and loss, family and parenting, the Bible, community and friendship, justice, and calling. It is directed at those who have always gone to church and those that are sorting out their feelings about church (I recently wrote about that here). This book has something for everyone.

My hopes for today's pilgrims are summed up in this quote, part of Bessey's final chapter titled "Benediction":

I pray you would embrace your place in the Body of Christ, your right to learn and test, your right to read and explore. I know that sometimes it seems as if there is more room for wonder and delight, beauty and mystery and grandeur in astrophysics than there is in religion. That's because religion tells us that it's all figured out, there is nothing left to learn, here are the answers, so learn them. But instead, I pray you would be an explorer, you would recover delight and wonder and curiosity about your faith, about God, and about the story with which you continue to wrestle.

So set out, pilgrim, on a great spiritual rummage sale. Discard what needs discarding, set aside some things to ponder later, and gather near to you that which sets you free. I hope to see you along the way.

If you have been holding onto church hurts or are seeking answers to questions and need to give yourself permission to ask them, please pick up a copy of Out of Sorts

Better yet, let me send you a copy! To enter the giveaway, comment below with your answer to the following questions (the more comments you leave the more entries you get): 

What is the best thing you found at a yard sale?
What do you wish you had never given away?
What is your ideal yard sale purchase? 

**Contest ends Monday, November 9 at midnight.**

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Remain Suspicious

I took this picture from underneath my neighbor's tree, which extends to my driveway. I like to think we share it since my actual property has no trees. The leaves were absolutely glowing in the sunlight, but I was more interested in how they looked against the sky. But you really can't see much of it in the photo; the leaves are blocking the view.


I've been feeling pretty meh this week. It's been a long few days and I'm feeling restless. Sometimes this time of year makes me feel a bit caged--the days are getting shorter but they seem impossibly longer, especially the hours after dinner but before bedtime. Can I get an amen, mamas?

I'm also feeling like I'm on the verge of something. I'm not sure what. But my dreams have been strange and my sleep interrupted and my mood is funky. I discovered my notebook from MomCon as I was angry-cleaning the office for the second time this week, so I took just a moment to flip through my notes. And of course I landed on exactly the page I needed to see.

I had the pleasure of hearing Margaret Feinberg speak on the first morning of MomCon. I'd heard of her most recent book Fight Back with Joy but was unfamiliar with her story. She was about to turn in her manuscript for Fight Back with Joy, capping a year of research about the concept of joy, when she found a lump in her breast. She vowed to use what she'd learned to carry her through her treatment, which she is still continuing today.

Margaret Feinberg had many brilliant things to say that September morning, but here's the one thing that keeps speaking to me: "Remain suspicious that God is up to something good." Even as she travels through the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis, Feinberg trusts in the goodness of God and God's fierce love for her.

I think my definition of joy is too narrow because I wouldn't describe myself as joyful very often, especially in the mundane moments of raising little people and keeping a home. I feel appreciative and tired and satisfied and curious and frustrated and content, but joyful just seems out of reach. I am good at being suspicious, though I'm usually worried that I'm one step away from disaster rather than looking forward to something lovely. And when I worry like that I'm not trusting in God's goodness or love for me. I'm choosing to see the leaves instead of the sky.

What are you suspicious of lately? Are you seeing the sky or the leaves?


Thursday, October 15, 2015

I used to think

If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would anyone notice? Would anyone care?

Church has been a constant presence in my life. I was raised Catholic and attended mass every Sunday with my family. I also went to church during the week as part of my Catholic school education. After I'd graduated college and taught in Catholic schools, I took my students to mass and sometimes was responsible for planning the service. If any of these churches ceased to exist, my life and livelihood would have been affected, and I would most definitely have noticed.

But for a long time I saw church as just a place to go. I used to think Church was a noun, not a verb. I was part of the Church as one is part of a social group--it was just a place I went because I always had, or because my parents had taken me. When it was up to me to find a church when I went away to college, I didn't. I replaced my need for socialization with campus organizations and my sorority. Because Church really wasn't about my relationship with God, I didn't feel like I was missing anything. I simply filled my time with other things.

And then I met a boy. That boy took me to his United Methodist church, and I met Jesus there. Church changed for me not because I needed it to but because I was ready to see it with new eyes. I began to see the Church as a social change agent. I didn't feel oppressed by rules or doctrine. I saw strong women and men who led worship and children's ministries. I saw broken people showing up every Sunday to hear scripture and sing hymns and drink coffee. These people fed the hungry and housed the homeless. They stretched my thinking about what loving my neighbor actually meant. I was challenged each week to live out a faith I'd held since childhood but had only just started questioning.

I used to think Church was just for good people. Now I think I'm not so sure.

I know so many good people who have been hurt by Church, and each person can retell a particular moment that changed Church for them. Each story is evidence of how imperfect people of faith get it wrong sometimes, often in the name of God. Hurt feelings and exclusion and ruined reputations should not have a place among faithful people, and yet I hear stories every day of the same scenario being played out--our narrow understanding of God's love causes us to close off that which should remain open.

If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would anyone notice? Would anyone care?

There wasn't an emotionally charged fight or embarrassing moment that drove me from the Catholic Church, but I, too, was hurt. While I was teaching at a Catholic school in Michigan, Todd was discerning his call to ministry in the United Methodist Church. I knew it would be difficult to straddle two worlds as a Catholic school teacher and the wife of a United Methodist seminary student, but I didn't realize it would eventually sever my ties with the Church. I was told during a training session by a church employee that taking communion in a non-Catholic church was "a deliberate turning away from Jesus", and that I was not welcome to be a Eucharistic Minister during school masses. This did not fit in with my idea that the Lord's table was open to all. I began to worry that my job might be in jeopardy if it was discovered that I wasn't attending a Catholic church on Sundays. So although my paperwork was in order--I'd been baptized, confirmed, married and trained as a certified catechist in the Catholic Church--I didn't feel safe. It seemed that it would have been better for me not to attend church at all than to attend a non-Catholic church.  I don't loathe the time I spent there, and I'm not running from it. I'm still awed by the beauty of tradition and liturgy I find there. The Pope is pretty cool, too. But it's just not where I feel comfortable today.

I used to think I was a perfect church girl, until someone decided I wasn't. And I didn't like how it felt to be outside of the rules. 

We are a ministry family now. Church is our life. Church means more to me now than it did when I was a child. Church is a place, but more than that, it is people. I want the churches we minister to to be safe places for everyone. Places where you can ask questions and wrestle with the answers. Places where you can find physical and spiritual food if you are hungry. I want the people there to be open and welcoming and loving and funny and compassionate and messy and a little bit different.

I used to think that I needed the Church, but now I think that Church needs me. 

But even though I'm pretty intimately tied to my church, I'm not sure I can always answer these question affirmatively: If my church closed its doors tomorrow, would anyone notice? Would anyone care? I know some people have a painful history with my church, and might not feel that bad to see it fail. But many are fed, literally and figuratively, by our programs and presence in the community. How do we balance the pain and comfort church can bring? How can these coexist? 

Because life is full of paradox. Beauty and pain, sorrow and joy, life and death circle around one another, intertwined, every day. And they always will. Church helps me see and embrace the mystery of these things in my daily life.

Have you been hurt by Church structures or by her people? I encourage you to get your hands on a copy of Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey. I've been reading and advanced copy and there is so much inside it's pages for church lovers and church avoiders alike. It's a love letter to those trying to sort out their feelings about faith and the faithful. You can find my full review here

I'd love to start a conversation with you, dear reader, about what you think about Church and how your feelings have evolved over time. I welcome your comments here on the blog, and I want you to know this is a safe place. But even more I hope you have conversations about Church around your dinner tables and Sunday school classes with friends and family. Let's begin!

Saturday, October 10, 2015


This is probably going to shock anyone who knew me as a child or adolescent, but I'm purposely wearing a dress for 31 straight days--the entire month of December. And I'm doing it for a cause, but it's bigger than just wearing a dress.

The movement is called Dressember and it began in 2009 as a quirky style challenge. It turned into much more and in 2013 it aligned with International Justice Mission (IJM)  to raise funds to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. Since 2013 well over a half-million dollars have been raised, and 100% of the funds go directly to IJM. 

"Dressember uses fashion to advocate for women who've been exploited for their femininity. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women."

So, I'm going through my closet, thrift stores, and Thred Up to find enough dresses and skirts to last between laundry days. It gets coooold here on the prairie in December, so I'm stockpiling tights and leggings, too. 

If you feel so inclined, you can donate to my page here.  Want to join in? Sign up here.

Got any good winter-dress-wearing tips? Send 'em my way. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Eyes to see

My Dad taught me at a young age to give a firm handshake and look people in the eyes when speaking to them. It's perhaps the most important thing he ever taught me. People want connection. They want to be seen and known. Giving someone your attention by looking them full in the face, whether a good friend or someone you've just met, shows them that you care for them. But it's hard to care for someone if you never actually see them. 

Back in college I did a short internship in a correctional facility in Jackson, MI. I was taking an abnormal psychology course my senior year at Albion College and the professor worked at the prison. He was looking for brave souls to help tutor inmates. He offered extra credit. Ever the overachiever (but not really in need of the extra points) I raised my hand eagerly to participate, then looked around the room. The room was full of men (like, big football player dudes) with a small scattering of women. One other female had her hand up, too. I recognized her from the education program. I was in the elementary cohort and she was in the secondary group, so we didn't have many classes together, but I'd seen her around. None of the men volunteered. After class was over we got the details from the professor and prepared for our first experience in prison. We were instructed to wear professional but non-revealing clothing, no ponytails, and no jewelry.

My classmate and I drove up to the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility on a beautiful fall day. We were told to wait in the family waiting room and that the professor would come to get us. I remember scanning the room and feeling eyes on us. Everyone kept to themselves, no small talk or chit-chat, just silence and shifting on squeaky plastic chairs. There were young women, mothers with small children, and grandmotherly-types sitting against the cinder block walls. My classmate and I heard the click-clack of the professor's wing tips on the tile and moved with purpose to meet him.

We were ushered through the metal detectors and patted down. We were outfitted with personal protection devices (PPDs)--they're like a pager with a pull-cord. If you're in danger, you pull the cord and a guard comes to get you. Why the device? Because we would be in a large classroom with many inmates at once, and the guards stay outside. It's a law in Michigan that inmates must earn their GED before being eligible for parole, and because many inmates do not have appropriate education to find jobs once released, my classmate and I would be assisting them in preparing for their GED test. These men were highly motivated to complete their work so they could take another step towards release, so they weren't considered dangerous. 

I remember entering the empty classroom after taking a rather humiliating walk through the yard where my classmate and I were relentlessly catcalled. Our professor shrugged and told us to just keep walking. We met the instructor--a woman--and were given a run down of what we needed to do that day. The inmates filed in a few minutes later.

I remember trying to make eye contact, but I was largely unsuccessful. The men kept their heads down. The room was a mix of guys in their late teens through what I guessed was mid-forties. What was most notable to me was the number of vision and hearing impaired men in the room. They got their materials and took their seats. They raised their hands if they needed help. Most preferred to work alone. Some could barely sit still. Many could not read their materials. 

I remember helping a man who was probably near my father's age. He attempted to make small talk and wanted to know about my family. Having been instructed to not say anything about my personal life, I redirected the conversation to the inmate's life outside of prison. He had two teenage kids whom he adored and couldn't wait to get back home to. I soon realized that the small talk was an attempt to divert him from his work for the day: a workbook page on Roman numerals. He couldn't do it. It took every elementary teaching trick in my repertoire to help him through it, and I'm not sure he fully understood it once the page was complete. Roman numerals. Not advanced chemistry or Shakespeare--decoding and adding numbers. 

Age has faded many of the memories of my short time at the Cotton Facility, though I do remember that I got a 4.0 in the class. But I've never forgotten the lessons I learned there: the stakes are high for missing a child's learning difficulties, there are many reasons people end up in jail, and everyone deserves to be seen. 

All of this is to say that before my brief experience volunteering in the prison system I would have written these men off. I would not have looked in their general direction, let alone into their eyes. They were not real people to me. And I'm fairly certain most people would feel the same way. 

This week the question of whether or not states should be allowed to execute criminals came front and center. Kelly Gissendaner, a woman who did not pull the trigger in the case she was sentenced to death for, was executed in Georgia. Alfredo Prieto, a man who's IQ was 66, was executed in Virginia despite open appeals filed by his lawyers. Richard Glossip was granted a last-minute stay in Oklahoma due to a mix-up with the drugs used in the lethal injection. He is scheduled to die in November.

The crimes these three were convicted of were heinous, even evil. And there is no doubt that there should be consequences for the perpetrators of these crimes. That's what our legal system is for. But how can you look someone in the eyes and tell them their life is not worth anything? That an eye for an eye is the only way to right a wrong? Most victims' families will tell you that the execution of the perpetrator does not help them heal. And there is still no proof that the death penalty deter criminals. 

Can Christians who proclaim to be pro-life still be pro-death penalty? And in the wake of yet another school shooting this week can we be pro-guns, too? The culture of violence in this country takes my breath away.

Jesus himself stopped an execution (John 8: 1-11). And I imagine Jesus bent over, drawing in the dirt, as the Pharisees tried to justify her stoning and catch Jesus in a theological trap at the same time. Jesus recognized the woman's sin and did not soften that her actions had consequences. But he would not allow the religious establishment to take her life. And then I imagine that Jesus straightened up, wiped his hands on his robes, looked her in the eyes, and released her to sin no more.

I have intellect and experience. I am capable of grace and compassion. I don't have all the answers. But I do have scripture, ears to listen, and eyes to see. It's time to have some serious conversations in this country. We need to start seeing each other. And maybe we should start by looking inside ourselves. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It ain't easy being green

I wrote the cover story for the October issue of The Current, the news magazine for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was a great honor to be able to share the message of creation care to such a large audience of people of faith. You can read the article online here.

I've had some great conversations since the article was published, and I'm sure I have many yet to come. But the conversations so far fit into one of three categories: "I'm good", "thank you!", or "you're crazy". 

Lots of people think they already do enough for the Earth. Recycling is usually the thing people reference as their main conservation activity. And recycling is GREAT, but I'd argue that it's a starting point, not the finish line. Others in the "I'm good" category think that creation care simply doesn't apply to them--they're too old, too young, too poor, too rural, not good at that kind of thing, etc. To that I'd say that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Start small, start with something that matters to you, and go from there.

Then there are those that think I'm absolutely crazy, part of the "left-wing liberal agenda". They argue that humans couldn't possibly affect the big wide world we live in, or that God would never allow the Earth to be destroyed, or that government regulation is the real enemy here. I understand the disbelief, but I don't agree. But even if we don't agree on the mechanics of what is causing our climate to change, I think we can find middle ground here: we can take better care of God's creation without placing blame or living in guilt. Psalms 24:1 gives us a good starting point (using KJV today, feeling fancy): The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. The Earth is God's, we are God's, we all belong to each other. We should care for one another and our Earth as God cares for us. The end.

Most people I've spoken to have thanked me for my article and for my work with Faith in Place. But it's a guarded thanks--its the acknowledgement of the message with the fear of accountability. I promise you this--if you and I talk about creation care, I will follow up with you to see if I can be of service to you or your congregation, but I'm not keeping score. I'm not judging you. I'm not perfect at creation care, either. I'm simply a resource gatherer and message deliverer.

It ain't easy being green. So start small, with something that matters to your congregation or your community. Not everyone can start a community garden, but many of us could do a water audit and retrofit. Solar panels are awesome, but they aren't suitable for every building. Maybe you could look at better lighting options (LED's, CFLs) instead. Divestment from fossil fuels is a strong political statement, but it's not for everyone for a variety of reasons. 

There have been a number of issues in recent decades that have challenged the thinking of people of faith. When confronted with information that stretches you, where do you fall on the conversation spectrum? Are you all good? Do you think the new information is too "out there" to spend any time thinking about? Or are you thankful that the message is being discussed? 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

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 the hands and feet and ears of Christ. 

One of my most popular blog posts was last year when I opened the blog to your questions.
So I'm doing it again! I'm not shy (you probably already knew that) so don't be afraid to ask!
Post your questions in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter and I'll answer them next week.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Be still

To celebrate my 35th birthday yesterday, I did this:

This particular idea for a tattoo has been on my mind for some time. One of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Melton, has the same two words inked on her wrist as well, but larger and in a different script. You can read about the story of her tattoo here

Some time went by, and then I read this by Lauren Warner at Sipping Lemonade. It's about Benedictine monks and how they take a distinctive vow when joining the religious order. Along with obedience and conversion of life, they also take the unique vow of stabilityStability is derived from the Latin word stare, which means “to stand,” “to stand up” or “to be still.”

The vow is described this way:
We vow to remain all our life with our local community. We live together, pray together, work together, relax together. We give up the temptation to move from place to place in search of an ideal situation. Ultimately there is no escape from oneself, and the idea that things would be better someplace else is usually an illusion. And when interpersonal conflicts arise, we have a great incentive to work things out and restore peace. This means learning the practices of love: acknowledging one’s own offensive behavior, giving up one’s preferences, and forgiving.
Wow. So much to unpack there. But amen to all of it. The part that really gets me is "ultimately there is no escape from oneself." I don't know about you, dear reader, but the older I get, the more I find this to be true. So I suppose I better start learning to be still with myself. 

A quick search of my Bible app She Reads Truth revealed the following verses containing the phrase "be still":

There are so many themes running through these verses. The ones that speak most to me are those that assure me of God's love and plan for me. 

I've been experiencing some anxiety lately, which is a very new thing for me. It started with having some car trouble a few weeks back and spiraled from there to full-blown headaches, stomach aches, shaking, sweaty palms, and racing heartbeat every time I needed to get in a car. I've realized the need to control my thoughts and learn how to still my racing mind. And a permanent, visible reminder seemed like a solid idea. 

So all of this is to say that yesterday, for $50 plus tip, I let a man who's life's ambition was to "cover the world in tattoos" ink these sacred words onto my wrist where they will stay until the day I die. I wonder if it will take that long for me to take the words truly to heart. 

What words do you need to tattoo on your heart (or your wrist)?

Friday, September 11, 2015


I'm turning 35 next week. I realize not everyone is fortunate enough to celebrate this many birthdays, and I'm grateful. Just by virtue of being born in the United States, I will likely enjoy a longer and healthier life than women in most of the world. In fact, according to information I found on World Bank most of the world's female life expectancy doesn't much exceed age 70. Which makes me... middle-aged. At my peak. It's all downhill after this.

As I age, I grow more concerned with making a difference with the time I have left. I want to be remembered as a woman of grace by my friends. I want to leave my children as intact, effective, compassionate adults who get along with each other. Things I focused on in my youth aren't on my radar anymore; I care far less about what people think of me. Maybe that's what Paul was feeling when he wrote to the Corinthians: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me."

(Image taken from
Look, I have as hard a time as anyone "adulting" some days. But I'm learning to shed some of the guilt and shame over not being the thinnest or the prettiest or the most put together or the best housekeeper or cook in favor of building better relationships with my husband, my kids, my family, and my friends.

Perhaps the most important thing I'm learning is this, which comes just a bit later in the same chapter of Paul's letter to the Corinthians: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." If we get this wrong, nothing we do will have lasting effect. There is no lasting legacy without love. But if we get it right, people will smile merely at the mention of our name. 

Maya Angelou said, “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.” So that's what I'm working on--letting people know that they are loved and cared for above all else. 

I get this wrong so often, mostly with my kids and my husband. Sometimes I want them to know how inconvenienced I've been because of them, or how tired I am because of their constant needs.  I need to work on that. That's not how I feel in my heart about them, but it's often what is reflected at them. So, as I approach the middle years of my life, I'm coveting love and relationships and legacy, not cars and boys and makeup. Maybe I have this adulting thing figured out after all. 

What are you focusing on more as you age?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fiercely Flourish

My leadership team and I are gearing up for our new year of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), which begins on Sept. 10 @ Neoga Grace UMC 

This year's theme is A Fierce Flourishing. I loved last year's theme so much  
and I was initially confused by the new one. "Fierce" isn't typically a character trait encouraged in women, right? "Flourish" made more sense, but what in what areas are we trying to flourish here?
MOPS has done a great job of explaining their intentions but I think the theme means different things to different people. A theme is a starting point, a discussion starter. This is one of the things I love most about MOPS--it's not a Bible study or denominational curriculum, it's designed to engage all moms from all different backgrounds and faith expressions in a conversation about how and where they find intersections of faith and family in their lives.

Anyway, there are 3 content areas this year: embrace rest, notice goodness, and celebrate lavishly. These speak to me. Who among us doesn't struggle with at least one of these things? I'm personally the worst at embracing rest, preferring instead to drown myself in busyness without actually making any measurable progress. I'm good at celebrating lavishly and noticing goodness, but often in and for others, not for myself.

If you are interested in learning how to fiercely flourish with a MOPS group in your area, use this tool to find a group near you. 

In what areas do you wish you could flourish this year? 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dear Governor Rauner

Dear Governor Rauner,

Since taking office in January 2015 you have faced many challenges. Governing a state as large and diverse as Illinois cannot be easy. You don't make decisions alone--that's not how government works--but you've tried to get things done. Though I don't consider myself a Republican, I appreciate you using your administrative gifts to help turn around Illinois.

I was born and raised in Michigan, but I've lived in Illinois for most of my married life. I've lived in the western suburbs of Chicago where I was an elementary teacher in Cicero. I've lived in central Illinois, within reach of the city while enjoying a slower and quieter pace. And I currently reside in rural southern Illinois with my husband and three daughters as we serve two United Methodist churches. There is much beauty here, but also struggle. My work in ministry has opened my eyes to how decisions made in Springfield affect real people.  

Fiscal responsibility is important, and let's face it, Illinois is in no position to waste precious money or time right now. I get that. But I'm concerned that the budget crisis, particularly cuts to higher education and social services , are beyond troubling--they're dangerous.

Take, for example, the school system in my small town of Neoga. Because of a property tax issue that occurred several years back, the school system was forced to refund money to Reliant Energy, being promised by the state that the district would be reimbursed. That money never came, and coupled with a decrease in state funding, the school system fell into dire financial straits. An attempt at a referendum failed last spring. The school board was forced to make dramatic cuts to remain open. The deepest of those cuts are devastating: no more elementary physical education teacher, no more art teacher, decreased bus service, and school dismissal at 2PM instead of 3PM.

The most serious of those cuts is the shortened school day. Most working families, which make up the majority of our town, cannot be home to welcome a child off the school bus at 2PM. This leads families to make tough decisions--who will care for my child when I'm not there? Can I leave my child home alone for a few hours until I get home from work? There are very few child care options in our town, an no latch-key program to speak of.

That's where church steps in, as it should. The church my husband and I serve partnered with another church in our town and began a low cost after school program to serve the needs of our community's families, and I'm happy to report that it's thriving. It's a large undertaking and requires enormous volunteer support. The children are fed, helped with homework, and given recreation time by church members who have been background checked. But not all families can afford it, and many parents work far later than the program is available. That means many children are still unattended at home, and it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt, or worse.

That brings me to the decision made recently to freeze funding for the Child Care Assistance Program.This program benefits many families in our community, as they are working to find and hold low wage jobs while also struggling to find quality child care. Freezing this subsidy makes it difficult for families to place their children with safe caregivers. The consequence is that many hard-working families rely on neighbors, family, or friends to care for their children.

This week in Neoga, a one year-old child died in one of these unlicensed and unregulated child care situations. Two families are devastated, casualties in the war against "entitlements" that you and those in your party are so quick to cut. As Maria Whelan, director of Illinois Action for Children said in a recent Chicago Tribune article: "We have literally pulled the rug out from under these parents, who are doing exactly what we told them to do — go to work."

Governor Rauner, please reconsider your cuts to programs that help to raise up low-income working families. These cuts keep women out of the workforce and create dangerous conditions for children. Lives are being lost. Hope is wearing thin. Time is running out.

Christina Krost