Moments, Day 14: Eyes Forward

So today I was out for a run, and was just jogging along and had turned off the country road where I begin my route. I was just chugging along on the sidewalk, coming up to the main part of town where there are several homes and businesses along the busy street. I’d been coming up this stretch of the main street for a while now, at least 4 or 5 minutes, when all of a sudden I was startled by movement right in front of me. It was a man, another runner, coming right toward me and passing on my right. I was actually so startled by him that I literally yelled out loud in surprise (okay, it was more like I yelped out loud  like one of those yappy little dogs no one can stand.) I probably scared that poor dude to death, but  it freaked me out. Not only was that guy running right toward me and I didn’t even notice him until he was about 3 feet in front of my face, but there was another guy about 6 feet away on my other side talking on his cell phone right outside of one of the businesses I was about to run by. Here I was running right toward two big strangers and had no clue until they were RIGHT there.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was running in broad daylight around noon, and I was on the busiest street in my town. I wasn’t in any particular danger, nor did these men seem like shady fellas. My point is that, although I tend to be pretty aware of my surroundings and even run with a good posture, my eyes were obviously not focused ahead of me like they should have been. I don’t even know where the heck I was looking, but I didn’t have my eyes forward, and because of it, I could have run into a difficult or even dangerous situation. What if I had tripped on something and gotten hurt? What if that wasn’t in the middle of the day…then I could have been in a tough spot. What if one of those men was a shady character and took advantage of the fact that I was oblivious? What if that had been a car coming at me instead of a person?? Lots of What Ifs ran through my mind about the fact that although I was plugging right along in my routine, seemingly doing everything just fine, I was not paying close attention to my situation, and therefore almost got myself in trouble.

Ain’t that like life?

How many times have we just been going through the motions of life, thinking that we’re just muddling along in our routines without anything to worry about, then all of a sudden we are blindsided by something that was right there in front of us? Maybe there was no real reason to be afraid, but we get too comfortable and stop paying attention to the things right in front of us…then before we know it, we’re shaken. We’re startled, and we stumble. Or we are going through the motions and we are missing things that could potentially be good in front of our eyes, and once we notice them, they’re already gone.

I want to keep my eyes focused on what’s around me. It’s great to have goals and in some cases even routines. But I don’t want to miss the things right in front of me…those things that could cause me to trip up, or the things that I need to see that could otherwise run right past me.


Moments, Day 13: A Good Woman is Hard to Find

Ladies, most of us are pretty familiar with Proverbs 31, right?  Many times we look at that and see an unattainable vision of wifely  perfection, a person that we will never be, so we give up on it altogether…

I challenge you to take a new look at Proverbs 31, a little chunk at a time. Consider this part, beginning in verse 10, quoted here from The Message:

“A good woman is hard to find,
   and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
   and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
   all her life long.”

(Did you like the upgrade from rubies to diamonds?) : ) It’s true that a good woman  is hard to find these days, especially with many of us growing up without anyone to show us what real love and respect looks and feels like in a marriage. So when a godly man finds a woman who truly is good to him, you better believe he thinks she’s the most valuable thing around. He reciprocates by treating her like the princess she is.

I can hear you now…Seriously, Krysten? You’re talkin’ fairy tales here…

No, ladies, I am not. We all want a man that feels that way toward us, and some of us are even blessed enough to have it. But those of us who have it know that it’s not because we’re lucky. It’s because we’ve purposed ourselves to take actions that help make sure the rest of the verses above are true of us. Think about your relationship. Can your husband trust you without reserve? Can he trust you not to frivilously overspend money and wreck the family budget or to not talk about intimate details of your love life with your mother (um, yeah..that’s not appropriate) or to pray for him on a daily basis or to encourage him in his passions? Believe me, I don’t hit all those marks perfectly either, but they are always in my sights. Does he ever have a reason to regret placing his trust in you? Have you betrayed his confidence or mocked one of his pursuits in front of your friends? Have you emasculated him with your words in an ettempt to prove how much better/smarter/more efficient at handling things you really are?  Hits hard sometimes, doesn’t it?

Let’s look at the rest of those verses…Are you spiteful toward your husband or do you treat him generously? Do you live on the quid pro quo system where you never do anything special for him unless he’s done something good for you? Are you withholding yourself from him physically because he didn’t put his dishes in the dishwasher last night for the 100th time? It’s time to rethink your motives and your approach.

Life isn’t perfect, and husbands and wives certainly aren’t either. We all fail each other in a thousand little ways…all I am saying is that it should be our goal not to. Your husband is THE most important person in your life, second only to Jesus Himself.  That’s right…your husband comes right after God and right before your kids. That’s before your kids. Many of you won’t agree with me or just can’t accept that for some reason. But think about it…what good is it to raise a child that can put away their toys and socks in an orderly manner, say please and thank you, read above grade-level, and perform well in several sports, if they grow up to live in dysfunctional, unloving relationships because they never saw one that worked?? What would you rather have for your child…the ability to be a good task-manager, or the ability to love and be loved well? The best way you can teach your kids to love is to be an example of unselfish, sacrificial love. And God has created marriage with that purpose in mind…for us to learn how to love and sacrificially serve another human being. Have you ever thought that marriages are meant to last a lifetime because it may very well take that long to become good at being a sacrificial, loving person? Just a thought.

How beautiful that God gives us infinite opportunites to serve, love, fail, forgive, and try again right along side another person we’ve promised to share this whole thing called life with! So ladies, take a moment to contemplate the verses above. Not so you can start to beat yourself up all over again for falling short  of this ideal, but rather to look at these as targets to keep in your sights on a daily basis. Choose one that you’ve had difficulty with and focus on it. For example, I struggle to be generous with Todd sometimes, specifically with my time. I have a lot of things I want to do (including write!) and when we are actually home together I know that my time would be best spent hanging out with him and talking face-to-face, asking how work is going for him, encouraging him in his newest pursuits, doing little things to show my love for him etc… (and by the way, in that same time he’s doing all those same things for me!) But usually I find myself  rushing off to work extra early in the morning instead of making him a little breakfast snack, reading countless books instead of engaging him in great conversation, and leaving giant piles of unfolded laundry around while I write, rather than taking 20 minutes to put everything away properly just because I know how he enjoys an uncluttered environment. I’m definitely not perfect at it, but I’m getting better. Realizing (maybe even admitting?) there’s something to work on is the first big step. Then taking a little measure toward the goal is one more step. .

After all, isn’t it worth it? Isn’t your man worth it? Isn’t your marriage worth it? Even if (and especially when!) it costs me a few minutes of my precious, hurried time, I want to treat my husband generously all my life long so he knows that he is most definitely worth it.

Moments, Day 12: Grab your crayons

Read this in Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel this week. No more excuses, peeps…

“Let us suppose you give your three-year-old daughter a coloring book and a box of crayons for her birthday. The following day, with the proud smile only a little one can muster, she presents her first pictures for inspection. She has colored the sun black, the grass purple, and the sky green. In the lower right-hand corner, she has added woozy wonders of floating slabs and hovering rings; on the left, a panoply of colorful, carefree squiggles, You marvel at her bold strokes and intuit that her psyche is railing against its own cosmic puniness in the face of a big, ugly world. Later at the office you share with your staff your daughter’s first artistic effort and you make veiled references to the early work of van Gogh. A little child cannot do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do a bad prayer.”

Wow. Time to get my crayons out.  Imagine our Father’s delight!

Moments, Day 11: And another interesting thing…

So if you don’t go to my church, then…

1. I am so sorry (haha)

2. It’s okay because you can still listen to our pastor’s awesome teaching by clicking here.

Between the article I talked about in yesterday’s post and last week’s sermon on Oct. 9th, I am still thinking of this whole interesting-vs-interested thing. The more I thought about it, the more the whole thing seems to go with what our pastor was teaching about. He basically said that Christianity is not the one true religion in the world. (Don’t freak out, keep reading…) As far as a religion goes, one is just about as true (and useless) as another, if all you’re looking for is a religion to affiliate yourself with. Heck, if that’s all I was after, I would go with the easiest one to follow. You know, just to make sure I could get all the stuff “right.”

But I wasn’t looking for a religion when I stumbled into what resembled one. I wasn’t looking for something or someone interesting. I had already found that many times over. One of my many majors in college  (told you I was ADD!) was comparative religion. I found all religions interesting, and their leaders and gurus the most interesting of all. I mean seriously…the Buddha? Interesting dude. A prince who had everything and had been kept from ever seeing any suffering or negative anything? Then one day he sees some unsavory stuff and renounces the whole bit just to sit under a tree for many days in order to figure out the meaning of life? That’s a pretty cool story, don’t you think? Very interesting. And Jainism? Man, that one really interests me. The fact that the “do no harm” motto really goes the distance in that religion just puts me in awe. A Jain is charged with doing no harm to life. Any life. Can you imagine going through life never killing a spider or a mosquito? I couldn’t make it one stinkin’ day on that program. But…it’s very interesting. I have always been interested, and maybe perhaps even a bit fascinated by people who seemed like they really could devote their lives to something outside of what they could see. I thought they were all a bunch of wackos, too, but hey…they were interesting.

Although I had enjoyed studying and learning all kinds of details about the world’s religions, I knew I could never actually be one of those wackos.  I mean, seriously…that stuff was interesting, but a bunch of rituals and chants and stuff?? That’s nothing to write home about. Besides, I was much too rational for all that nonsense.

Enter Jesus. I wasn’t looking for Him. I wasn’t out to become a Christian, that’s for dang sure. In fact, I thought of all the religions in the world, that was the last one I would ever be caught dead associating with. Truly. But I was looking to prove that Jesus was a myth. I was looking for proof that my friend, who had said some hard words to me about this Jesus, was actually being brainwashed into some weirdo Christian cult. Seriously, that’s how my journey started…before I started to get it…I slowly saw that my friend was not even involved in a religion. He had a strange and beautiful relationship with something…with Someone that I couldn’t see. I started to see that other people had this relationship with Jesus too…and it was different than the religious stuff I had seen before. In fact, the two seemed to have little to do with each other.

Now I had always thought Jesus was pretty interesting, as much as any other religious figure, just not interesting enough to sit for three hours in a dress on Sunday mornings when I’d rather be sleeping in. But what I came to find out was that He was the only one of these “religious” folks who was interested in people. In fact, it seemed He was rather interested in me. And I was way, way cool with that. I fell in love with a quickness, and in very small ways every year since then, I’ve realized that He is still interested in me and in everything I do, say, think… After all, He created me. He created plans for me…things that only I can do. He is crazy about me and can’t get enough of me and can’t wait to get back to me! And guess what?? He doesn’t even care for religion! He loves His people and hates to see them all twisted up in religion to the point where they don’t notice how interested He is in their lives and they don’t have time to be interested in Him. He rejects the ideas that some “religious” folks have that say you have to do more, be more, act perfect in order to be on the A List. Not at all. He’s interested in theives. He’s interested in people who sell their bodies to make a living. He’s interested in people who sleep with their friend’s wife then murder to cover it up. He’s interested in people who cheat on their taxes. And people who don’t. Jesus is interested in YOU and in me. That’s the difference between Christianity as a religion and as a beautiful expression of God’s great love for us. We have to let everyone know that while Jesus may be interesting, He is interested in every last detail of the lives of every last one of us.


Moments, Day 10: Rethinking “Interesting”

I’m not sure at what age I began to have this thought, but I clearly recall thinking that whatever career I landed on, I wanted to be able to say “I am a _________” rather than having to say “I work at _________.” I didn’t even really have a clue what I would even fill in that blank with, but I was fixed on the idea that when someone asked the obligatory polite, just-met-you type of questions like “So, what do you do?” I knew I wanted to be able to respond by saying “I’m a teacher/a photographer/ a chef/ a writer/ an artist/ a secretary” or whatever the situation was. I just hated when someone asked that and I heard someone else reply by saying “I work at…a bank/ Macy’s/ Giant Eagle/ the BMV” etc…. Not that I had or do have anything against any of those places (except maybe the BMV…I mean, seriously!) or any of the people who actually do work there or the thousands of places like those. I just felt like if I grew up to “just” work at a fill-in-the-blank place, then I would never have really found my place in the world. I would never have found what I was  supposed to be. I wanted to be something. I wanted my life to be meaningful. I wanted it to be interesting. Let’s be real…I wanted to be interesting.

This week I read this article by an author who is always inspiring to me. He mentioned that someone had shared this quote with him:

If you are interesting, people will like you, If you are interested, people will love you.

Did you catch that? Now I’m a little slow, so I had to read it a few times and really think about what it meant. The rest of the article definitely helps get the idea, so give it a read if you have a second.

Now, I have a career that allows me to say I am a teacher. I’ve been one now for over 5 years and I love it. It really is a meaningful career, I have fun at it, and it challenges me at every turn. I have lots of stories that I never would have had if that wasn’t my career. It sure is interesting, alright! When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to be something, And now I am that something that I always dreamed of being. It does feel nice, knowing that I have a career that has the potential to change the lives of the little ones I’m around every day. I am proud of what I do, even when I do it imperfectly (which is pretty much every day!) In addition to all that, I have a wonderful marriage, way more amazing friends than I can count on all 10 fingers (which kind of surprises me to tell the truth, because I think I’m pretty obnoxious!) and have varied hobbies and pursuits that never leave me with a lack of conversation topics. And to top it all off, I now have a relationship with the God of the universe that blows my mind on a daily basis. Pretty interesting life, I’d say. I

But I’m kinda starting to be over being interesting. I think  I would much rather like to be interested.  

The truth is, that wonderful career and wonderful husband and great friends and diverse list of pursuits sometimes leave me with little room to be too interested in others. I find myself most often doing a balancing act with the things I have allowed to be put on my plate rather than keeping just  the most essential things in order, and leaving lots of free time to invest in other people and really show them that I’m interested in their lives. I find myself forgetting people’s names too often and having rushed conversations rather than just being with them. Worst of all, I find myself talking about myself more than almost anything else…and that is a sure sign of feeling  interesting, and definitely not showing that I’m interested. I hate admitting that, but it’s there nonetheless.

So I’m rethinking being interesting. My interesting career has almost pushed being interested into a corner. Yes, it’s important. Yes, I’m good at it. But is it worth not having time to be interested and invested  in others??  


Moments, Day 9: Fighting Slavery, Anyone??

Yesterday I finished my post about visiting the Freedom Center in Cincinnati (amazing, by the way!) and I hit you pretty hard by giving you some tough facts. I laid out some sobering information about the nasty reality of the whole thing. Maybe I got you all riled up about wanting to be an abolitionist yourself. (I sure hope so!!) But I realized that what I didn’t give you was some fantastic suggestions on how to do something about it. Well, for that, please forgive me. I’m attempting to make that right in today’s post. Check this stuff out and if you’re interested in knowing more, contact me. We can figure this craziness out together, okay?

First Steps:

  • Memorize the National Human Trafficking hotline: 1-888-3737-888. That way you can call to report any suspicions you have of a potential victim
  • Not sure what signs to look for?? Click here for a good list to get you started. It’s not always what you’d think.

Some web sites to visit to find out about  human trafficking and a few of the organizations that fight it:

Some books to read on the topic:

  • The Slave Next Door  by Kevin Bales
  • A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery by E. Benjamin Skinner
  • Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone
  • The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick

So what are you waiting for?? Go kick some butt.

Moments, Day 8: [UN]Freedom

Yesterday was my first session of the long-awaited Abolition U class offered by Doma regarding human trafficking and modern-day slavery.  As an utterly brilliant introduction to the class, we took a field trip to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. What does the Underground-Railroad-era-of-slavery have to do with the sex-trafficking-and-forced-lobor-slavery you’ve been hearing so much recent buzz about in the movies and on CNN? Well, I was wondering the same thing. But after spending the day at the Freedom Center yesterday, I’m no longer asking that question.

To begin our tour, we went out on the balcony and looked over at the Ohio River. Our tour guide explained that this river was not just any old landform…but that because it was the border between the slave state of Kentucky and the free state of Ohio, the river became a symbol of freedom for many slaves who dared an escape attempt from the south into the north.  We learned how Ohio was historically such an important crossroads for many runaway slaves, and a hotbed of controversy because its existence as a centerpiece of the Underground Railroad. There were many more amazing details I wish I could share, but you really need to go visit for yourself. The experience certainly made me understand that Ohio has long had deep roots as a symbol of freedom for many.

Fast-forward to modern-day–to my own very brief history as a fledgling abolitionist. In the past couple of years, the phrase human trafficking has come up more than once around my dinner table. It might seem to be a strange topic for table-talk, but you know that feeling when something pops up on your radar and your heart aches over it and you’re not altogether even sure why? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. We all have that thing. I started wondering if this issue of human trafficking was my thing. So I’ve watched movies. I’ve read books. I’ve reviewed countless articles and blogs and done research about organizations that try to rid the world of this sick enterprise. My heart has been stretched and seared and torn to pieces ever since the first time I really put together the statistics and stories, and understood that human trafficking (in all its hideous forms) is in fact modern-day slavery. The thing is, Ohio still plays a big role in slavery today. Unfortunately, our coin has flipped to the other side, and I’m sad to say that we can no longer really be called a free state. Why? We hold some interesting records here when it comes to modern-day slavery. Ohio has been mentioned as “a destination place for foreign-born trafficking victims” and I’ve discovered over and over how central the city of Toledo has become in the recruitment and transport of sex trafficking victims.

I really expected the Invisible exhibit, which focuses specifically on modern-day slavery, to just be a little more in-depth information about what I already knew about human trafficking. But there were so many things I heard for the very first time…things that have my head spinning about how I could potentially even be contributing to modern-day slavery. For example, I found out that a large network of slave labor in India has to do with children being forced to work in carpet mills.  I’ve been looking at every inch of carpet I step on differently. I learned how certain countries in the world are known for multiple and consistent constant reports of verified slave labor associated with common products like cotton. I checked the tags in some of my shirts. Wouldn’t you know it?? My cotton came from the #1 offender. What do you think is the likelihood that I just happened to purchase a slave-free tee shirt? Hmmmm…

I’m looking at the world differently, and there’s no doubt that this is just the beginning of adjusting my lenses around this topic.  My question to you is…whose right is it to be free? I don’t think there are many folks out there who wouldn’t agree that it is the right of every human being to be free. But if we are aware of so many out there whose freedom is taken from them in a multitude of ways every day and we do nothing about it, haven’t we, in effect, become slave owners, as we’ve silently kept someone’s freedom from them?

Moments, Day 7: Love & Bread

Okay so I am miserably behind on this here writing series, but hey, I’m not going to sweat it too badly. I am sure my faithful readers (all 3 of you, ha ha!) will probably forgive me, and besides, I was busy making lots of moments this weekend so I’m pretty sure I get a free pass just because of that!

Friday, as I was leaving school and wrapping up my very first ever workaholism-free week, I reviewed the 4,356,821 cards, pictures, and notes of all kinds from my students which had been shoved in my mailbox throughout the week. Now, you’ll probably not like hearing this, but I do not keep every single piece of paper on which a child has scribbled in my honor. When I first became a teacher I started to. I swore I would because every one of them is special and made just for me, so I was bound and determined to keep them all out of principle. Well, when I had filled up 2 copy-paper-ream cases in the first few months of my career, I knew that I’d have to camp on a more important principle. So I weed through them. I do read/look at every one, and I keep a few that are really, really special to me. The rest go in a recycling bin very far away from my classroom so no poor little child will ever be scarred by seeing that I, in effect, disposed of their gift. Call me a terrible person, but that’s how I roll.

But on Friday, I came across a keeper. It was buried under a million other crumpled pieces of paper with various degrees of writing and artistry on them, but this one made my week. Here is a partial picture:

 Although recess is still #1 in the hearts of all elementary school kids, I’m plenty satisfied knowing that learning came in a close second, and this child’s “very very buitifull, nice, and confident” teacher showed up as third on her list. How in the world could I not smile at that? And how the heck does she already know how to spell “confident” when she’s only 7!? Anyway, I digress…what a cool moment!

So the night just kept getting better when I left early(!!!) to meet my delicious husband for a Friday night date. We went to the Italian Festival, where we ate about 6 days worth of calories, I’m sure. We walked around holding hands and people-watching, and I fell in love with him for about the 7 zillionth time. I also fell in love with some beautiful artwork of the crust & crumb kind…

Oh, did these ever smell wonderful. I think I may have embarrassed Todd with the way I fondled and sniffed these artisan loaves (a common practice for me in an open-air bread market!) but…the big, Brooklyn-type baker selling his bread told Todd that it was okay, because “it’s bread…we’re messin’ with emotions here!” That dude totally gets it. 🙂

Moments, Day 6: Love My Peeps

Just a quick (really quick—I’m super tired and I get up in 5 hours!) couple of thoughts about today’s moments:

We had our home group tonight (sometimes home groups are referred to as life groups, small groups, cell groups, whatever…it’s just a group of folks from our church who get together in someone’s home a couple of times each month to share our life, see what God is up to, and encourage each other, not to mention have a great time enjoying each other’s company!) and I left there with yet another way of knowing how incredibly blessed I am to have such awesome people to share this life with. Fantastically real people who are just as awe-struck and confused and appreciative in regards to God as I am. We had some great conversation about where we all are in our current steps alongside of God and His plans…much of our talk was wondering and reaching….isn’t that where God wants to meet us anyway? Words were spoken about trusting God with our kids, our lives, our everything. We talked about making space and time for God no matter what, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. We related our relationship with Him to our marriages, how we have to carve out 1 on 1 time for the other in order to thrive in this life together. And we all probably left with just as many questions as answers (or maybe even a few more!)

After all that, there was one thing on my mind that I was not questioning, though… the fact that I’m utterly appalled that I get the chance to spend my life with such genuinely good people. They know so many details of my bedraggled  life, yet they love me anyway. They are living examples of all the things that it means to be Christlike to me, all in their own individual and very important ways. Who am I that I should get to live and learn to love alongside these people!?? Thank you, Jesus!

Moments, Day 5: The Forgotten Moment

Today I’ve been trying to think of a moment that stood out to me as fantastic and worth sharing with you sweet people, and I gotta tell you, folks, it didn’t come to me.

But there’s a moment that I’ve been thinking about this week that I just simply can’t seem to remember…and that’s a good thing.

You see, this month marks the 10th anniversary of the worst day of my life. In fact, it’s been a gloomy anniversary every year for a decade, it’s been preceded by weeks of depression and self-hatred, and followed by several more weeks of depression and deep regret. Yes, people, even with my perky smile and happy face, I’d been carrying around a sick, dark cloud with me each October. I guess I’m a pretty good faker, huh? Forgive me.  

The dark mood that has been married to that dark day in early October for so long has actually shifted from completely black to lighter shades of grey over the past several years. But this week, for the billionth time, something made me think of that day,  and all of a sudden I couldn’t remember the exact date. I even thought pretty hard about it, thinking that I really should remember something so important and life-altering. I thought and I thought, and though I know it was in early October, I simply could not recall the number on the calendar.

“…I will forgive their wickedness  and will remember their sins no more.”

The God who created me and everything, the one who sees my thoughts from afar and knows when I sit and rise and when I come and go…who knows the very words I will say before they are ever resting on my tongue…the God who knit me and every other human being together in our mothers’ wombs, the God who knows the number of hairs on my head…THIS God is the one who has chosen to forget this day in my history, and has allowed me to begin to forget the details which no longer matter to Him, and therefore should not matter to me either.

What love. What incredible mercy that I am being shown with this sprinkle of amnesia. Thank you, God, for doing everything to show me that I am new. Thank you for blotting out my sins….for pushing them as far away from You as the east is from the west….Thank you  for shoving every one of my sins down to the ocean floor.  And as if that wasn’t good enough, thank you for telling me that there will one day not even be an ocean that contains them!

God has made it very clear to me that He is bringing to life the words of Joel 2:25 in every corner of my life. He’s made it clear that He will repay the years that the locusts have eaten, and this is just one more way that He is keeping that promise to me. I am a loved woman. A very well-loved woman. By my husband, by my dear friends. But none of that comes close to the way I am loved by this incredible God, who pursues me and in fact has always been pursuing me…I am so loved by Him that He’s helping me blot out even my own transgressions.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure