In the here and now…

A few weeks away from my fortieth birthday and…

I am here.

Here being my quiet corner of the office typing while my family finishes supper. There are open books scattered over my desk. Here is the good land, where all my kids are old enough to wipe their own bums, adventure stories and National Geographics litter open surfaces, everyone wants to paint rainbow streaks in their hair, but no one is bringing home boyfriends. Here is letting go of perfectionism and growing comfortable as a human being, with no super human traits. Here is the place where I sin, repent, repeat, and give others permission to do the same. Where I am joyful, and angry, and sad, and sometimes oh so anxious. Here is a place of habits and routines, of counting calories and taking walks, of intentionally seeking mundane regularity. Here sometimes I see glimpses of heaven, but I still got 2 inches of mud on my shoes. Here is a wet basement and plumbers and salt for the water softener and a drain to unclog, pots and pans to wash,

and now

In a present moment, almost. Seeing how much can I get done in the three hours before I send the kids to bed, pour myself a glass of wine, cuddle next to my dearest, and put on a favorite show (Being Erica is my current kryptonite, I’m halfway through season three and should finish right as Hulu starts airing the current season of This is Us).

These days pass quickly. Annie is reading, Gracie starts high school next year. We signed adoption paperwork for Belle. Emmy is in college. I am loving my classes. Waiting to see how a professor responds to a strong stance I took in my most recent paper. Devouring material in my first counseling class. At the rate I am going, it will take me another two years to finish my undergraduate degree, but I am in no rush. It’s another strand I braid into an already vibrant tapestry.

I stopped seeing how colorful it all was, once. I’d run out of dreams to dream and things to look forward to, and the dishes seemed like mountains and I got lost in the mazes of my mind.


I want to take classes related to Spiritual Direction or Pastoral Counseling. I want to always practice hospitality. I want to adopt again. When the children are grown, I’d like to take in adults who need care. But that is a someday I think about in the Here and the Now,with my hands in soapy water and feet tracking mud…


My Father’s World

“Babygirl!” “Babygirl!”” “That don’t go in there! What you trying to do?” The man’s name was James, he is a retired army mp who now works at 7-11, and two weeks ago he stopped me from putting oil in my radiator. He got the oil where oil goes and diagnosed the cause of my car overheating, a broken water pump. This kind stranger worked with my overheated car for a good while and got it running well enough to get to a relative’s house. They in turn patched it up enough to get it to the shop.

Got my car back from the shop just in time for my kids to go on a church youth group trip to Lake Anna. Last time we went to the lake, a kind stranger named Marty opened his shop for an afternoon to repair my wipers on a rainy day. No adventures going down this time. We enjoyed the sweet hospitality of church family. The kids swam and boated and tubed and water skiied. We ate amazing food. I couldn’t have given them a weekend like that on my “saving for a new vehicle” budget, but thanks to the kindness of others, their summer ended on a definite high note, with stories they are still bubbling to tell.

The car started running a little funny on our way home from the lake. Enough so that we decided to take 11 rather than 81, knowing that we were more likely to get help, if we needed it, in one of the small towns we were passing through than on the side of 81. Somewhere after Buchanan, the road forked and we took the wrong side, winding up on 81 despite our best intentions. We hadn’t gone very far before the engine seized, leaving us in a ditch at the side of the highway.

We called a tow truck and my husband to come meet us. For future reference, a call to #77 will bring a state trooper to wherever you break down. They will call the nearest tow truck and wait with you until they arrive. I did not know about that, so a half hour later, it was dark, I couldn’t get the car started, and the battery was running low. My headlights and flashers began to dim, and the children became increasingly frightened as 18 wheelers whizzed by on the highway.

Before the lights went out completely, our tow truck arrived. It wasn’t the one we called. This shop owner had switched jobs with the guy we called, because he overshot the exit he was supposed to find his tow on. This was the first providence, as this particular tow truck had a large enough cab to fit all of the kids. The next providence was that this man’s shop was 20 miles closer to home, which was helpful as Shane was meeting us.

The final providence was this: that Wayne was a father of four who loved Jesus and understood kids. He got the car functioning well enough to drive out of the ditch and the kids safely situated in his cab in no time. He chatted with us over the course of the ride to his shop, listening to the kids’ stories from their weekend and sharing with us a miraculous testimony of God’s faithfulness in his own life, and in the lives of his children.

As I think about the beauty of nature that I saw this weekend, the wonderful rest, and the kindness of Christ reflected in human forms, that old children’s hymn about it being “My Father’s World” comes to mind. Despite the impression we get on the evening news, as long as His own children remain in the earth, it is a place of beauty and even kindness.


Ministry in the Margins

Several trains of thought collided for me a few days ago.

One train of thought goes something like this: “The fruit of the spirit is something that must be cultivated in our lives. Gifts are given freely, but fruit is grown. I have to choose gentleness, love, peace and patience, over my natural tendency to the opposite extreme, put off the old man and put on love. If I am choosing fruit in the moment by moment, and leave the rest up to God, things will pan out the way they are supposed to. My job is just to choose kind in any given situation”

Another train of thought flows from discussion board posts for my psychology class on helping kids and teens succeed. I had an opportunity to think about people and ministries who greatly impacted my life. Often times that impact was a side benefit from what that person or ministry was out to accomplish. Sometimes they never accomplished their goals. Yet, in each instance they greatly influenced my, and others. walk with the Lord.

A dear senior saint, a man named Geoff, immediately comes to mind. He had such a heart for evangelism, but none of his big ideas about it ever bore much fruit. When I met Geoff, my family was living in a homeless shelter. Geoff would show up on Sunday mornings and offer families a ride to church. We never ended up going to that church, but we did build a lasting friendship. Geoff was the person who filled my head with missionary stories at a time when my family situation was bleak. He helped me overcome the crippling shyness of my teenage years. not intentionally, but because he made passing out gospel tracts and talking to people a condition of him giving me rides to work. At a time when I really needed to know who Jesus was, he decided to edit the sentence structure of the gospel of John, and insisted I reread the entire gospel every time he moved a comma. I must have read that gospel over 100 times over the course of our friendship. Geoff was quirky, but God was able to use him in all of his humanity. Some of the most effective things that he did, were done incidentally, as an outflow of him just being who he was.

The last rain of thought comes from a book I am reading on “Missional Spirituality”. I have been chewing on this quote for the past few days “God calls the church to be a sent community of people who no longer live for themselves but instead live to participate with Him in His redemptive purposes. However, people will have neither passion or strength to live as a counter-cultural society for the sake of others if they are not transformed by the way of Jesus.” (Heland and Hjalmarson, 2011, p25)

So the trainwreck is this: We are called to occupy until Jesus returns. We should and must work. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few. God can and will meet us in the doing. Yet, unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. We are not bright enough to really know the end of the thing from the beginning. We may never know in this life what of our work has been pointless. The work, however, was never supposed to be the end. The end is a changed heart and life.

We seek to write soaring epics to the glory of God, but maybe the more important thing is the chicken scratch in the margins of the page.

Where Light Plays

There was a time in my life when I’d look at the idyllic scenes in the lives of others, I’d see their seeming peace, and I’d seek to copy the circumstances of that peace in my own life. If I had the same pitcher…If I baked the same bread…wore the same costume, then maybe, just maybe…

But therein lies the problem, when we try to get our marching orders by comparing our life to others instead of from the Captain of our Salvation. Besides the fact that each believer is a unique reflection of God’s glory with their own gifts and talents, we all also have our own race to run, and the places of our starting lines and finish lines vary.  There are scriptural principles that apply to everybody’s situation, but only One Spirit that knows how and when to apply them to the lives of individual believers. Sanctification is not instantaneous, and we run a risk of shipwrecking each other, or ourselves, when we expect uniformity.

The image I’ve added to this post is a painting by Vermeer. The other day I was looking at it and realized, the artist wasn’t particularly trying to capture the circumstances of the individual, but rather the play of the light. Vermeer was all about the light, and we should be to.

The play of the light is why it is said that Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, choose the better thing. A life of inner illumination is the basis, is the bedrock foundation, of biblical submission. For the monk, the wife, the priest, the miller, the miller’s daughter, for all christian children and ministers of the gospel in every place:the subject of the scene is the play of the light.

Contemplation is one way we can stop and see the play of light in our own life and circumstances. It may be as simple as taking a moment in nature to hear the testimony of sunshine. It could be  intentional moments  throughout the day meditating on the words of a favorite scripture passage, or writing a list of things we are thankful for. However we do it, we stop in the midst of whatever we are doing to acknowledge the ever present, all sustaining hand of God.

And suddenly, we don’t need to feel like it all relies on us, or one some other savior  we’ve put in the place of Christ. A person attuned to the voice of the Beloved can thrive in any place, in any circumstance. Without that inner acknowledgment of goodness and presence, even sweet things will seem sour.

In the moment, in every moment, this truth remains, and light plays in every place where it is acknowledged: the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.


Ora et Labora

The phrase comes from the old monastic practice of praying while working. Easier to do when you are washing dishes or gardening, a bit more challenging when the “work” is more people intensive. There is a reason Jesus pulled away from the crowds at times to pray. Throughout the gospels the tension shows up in his life again and again, this pull towards both the crowds of people and time away to pray.

“Work and pray, work and pray”. It’s the refrain running through my head as I drag myself out of bed for another marathon day (And who was the smartie who scheduled a bunch of kids ministry things and appointments for the same week. Yep. The fact that this week has been a marathon has been entirely my own doing. And yet, mercy even finds me here, where others make up for my lack.)

My quiet times are rushed. I’ve skipped my morning walk, and the time to think all the thinks. I haven’t taken the time to read insightful books, to journal, to pray quietly.  (and o gosh, I really should be cutting out crafts right now). And yes, as I write this I recognize that I could have followed Jesus’s example and dragged my butt out of bed an hour earlier.

I feel it, the darkness and overwhelm scrunching in around the edges. The regret for everything I’m not doing well this week. The hypersensitivity that clues me in that I’m functioning in a weird, wired place. The need to come home, sit, and just have a good cry. (Did you know that tears are how we excrete stress hormones from our bodies? Tears are good. Very good. Literally healing. The problem comes when we don’t cry.)

So this week, besides taking to heart a lesson about not over scheduling, it is time to add a few new disciplines.  A singing discipline. A not judging discipline. A remembering discipline.

Instead of trying to control things, showing up with compassion.

Instead of worrying about all I cannot do,doing  what I can with a song in my heart and trust God for the rest (and the Rest).

Remembering Jesus, the Beloved, on whom God’s favor rests. Remembering that He has called me His own, and that in Christ I live in that same favor with God. Remembering that this is true for us all. That we are all the Beloved and favored by God, through the work of Christ.

Ora et Labora.

A Child’s Incantation


the meadow is alive

and calls, but will not



the gaudy clothes of

make believe.

and I’ve forgotten what lies beneath



the coat of many colors

(it’s cloud castles blush in the presence of a simple flower)


the baton from my cleaving fists

and take this clever angled hat



these silly slippers.

Oh! but my feathers are gone!

Those flashy flirts fly right off!



but I AM


Pregnant with a Self

Bursting at unseemly seams


What I have done to this humble shift?



and twisted



what was, what is, what is to come


a meadow child again



Life Further Up and Further In

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”- Acts 1:8

A lot has changed in the past year.

This time last year, I was working on a home study as we contemplated  taking another placement, considering returning to school, and overwhelmed with planning the details of our church’s summer literacy program.

All of this was always part of this dream we’d had. Part of the vision for our lives, our little piece of the commission to “Go into all the world…”. That we’d raise children, home school, foster, work with families, be involved in bringing the light of the gospel to our community. We’d gotten away from it. Gotten overwhelmed. Stopped fostering, became inwardly focused. My world shrank, and the smaller it got, the more overwhelmed I was. I would go through the motions each day, but my heart and mind and strength were not engaged.

Although it seemed crazy, we felt like the Lord was leading us to move forward with all of these different things. Let me tell you, He supernaturally met us this year and made a lot of things possible, more than I could ever ask or imagine.

We took another kid. There was an adjustment period. There always is. I grew up in a family that was involved in foster care, and looking back, I am truly thankful for those formative experiences, and for the mission mindset it instilled in me.

I went back to school, and found the classes I am taking to be healing, restorative, and challenging to my faith. It also gave my mind something to engage with, other than this endless loop of worry. Engaging my mind in this way helped me to become more connected to my reality, and to taking necessary steps to deal with the things I struggled with, rather than just glossing them over.

Thanks to an amazing, mission minded church family, the summer literacy program happened well. With the additional perspectives on how to do this better, it is becoming a well oiled machine, and not something I spend all spring worrying about.

I worried that the kids school would suffer with how busy we’ve been. We’ve continued to home school five of our six our kids. We are involved in a homeschooling cooperative and part of a vibrant homes school community. We did standardized testing a couple of weeks ago, and it went well. They are all at or well above where they should be in every subject area.

Today, piano music plays as I write. We have lessened our school load as we work with helping my Mom transition to her own new and good things. We have lots to plan and prepare for in our extended family this month, graduations and weddings and all sorts of lovely May things.

This is a good land, but we must keep going. This is only our Jerusalem. Further up and further in!

Psalm 61

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.[b]
For you, God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Increase the days of the king’s life,
    his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
    appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
    and fulfill my vows day after day.

A Crash Course in Contemplative Prayer for Busy, Twitchy Protestants

I struggle with anxiety. Less today than I did one year ago, or five years ago, but I still have my days. I struggle in spite of the truth that I know: that God’s Presence is all around me. That the Holy Spirit is a person who will never leave  or forsake me. His comfort is available to me at every moment of every day, if I will only hear Him.

Years ago, I was selected to lead a group of teens overseas on a mission trip and head up their evangelism efforts. A wise friend knew how far above my pay grade this was and gave me some good advice. “Kimmy,” he said, “you are going to get overwhelmed. It’s going to happen. When it does, I want to go to you room, close the door, put your head in your pillow and pray. You stay and pray until you are not overwhelmed anymore”.

It was good advice. Prayer automatically disciplines our minds toward peace, and brings us to a place of recognition of the Presence of God. The Catholic mystics were on to something, as are our Pentecostal brothers and sisters who “tarry” in prayer.

Contemplative prayer is generally silent prayer, focused mostly on God Himself and becoming aware of His Presence. Definitely something that is still trial and error for me, but in case it wasn’t a big part of the faith tradition you grew up in, here are a few things to try:



There are a few songs and psalms that instantly set my mind straight. The first strains just put me in  a place mentally where I can experience God’s presence and love for me. I was walking in the grocery store today and walked past a man humming an old gospel favorite. My heart was instantly uplifted, and I spent the rest of the morning humming that same song.


Getting out into nature often bring me to a place of awareness. I am learning to immerse myself in the moment: feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, hearing the river, differentiating the birdcalls, noticing the play of light on the leaves. My breathing slows. I become aware of His Goodness all around me.


This is a newer one, for me. The idea is to totally immerse oneself in a story or passage of scripture, noticing your responses and reactions with curiosity. Why does the story of the money changers make me uncomfortable? What is God teaching me in this? What can I learn from my response?

One of the books I am reading now is a book of spiritual exercises by Ignatius of Loyola. It’s intense. The dude spends an entire week encouraging one to meditate on the foulness of their own sin. Not something most American Protestants do a lot of, but surprisingly, if done in the presence of a loving Heavenly Father, capable of turning the heart towards love and gratitude.


Speaking of gratitude…there was this one season of overwhelm when, every time I’d complain to God about how HARD my life was, the song “Count Your Blessings” would come on the radio. EVERY. STINKING. TIME.I didn’t really see what one thing had to do with the other, but over time my prayers changed a little. Psalm 100 says to “enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise”. When I start to list the things I am thankful for, I often become more aware of God’s work in my life and more aware of Him.


Expressing the unutterable back to God. Not everyone has this gift, but it is an option for some. It’s in the Bible. MRI Studies have shown that the practice directly accesses the limbic (emotional) part of the brain, in a similar way that dreams access the subconscious. A study done in England also reported that clergy who practice this tend to have lower levels of depression.

Quiet and Stillness

“You will keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you”(Isaiah 26:3)I know one or two mature Christians who excel at this. They are peaceful just to be around, and they bring a sense of God’s presence wherever they go. Maybe someday when I grow up…and become less of a frenetic ball of giddy spasticity…

Anyway, these few practices are just the tip of the iceberg, and I’ve got to run…



The story is familiar. Two men, who have seen and heard of the great deeds of Christ, encounter Him after His Resurrection, but don’t recognize Him. He walks with them a ways on the road, explaining the significance of what they have seen and heard. Jesus breaks bread with them, and their eyes are opened. They have encountered the Risen Christ, the Savior of the world!

The story is familiar. She grew up in church, and was a faithful Sunday school attendee. Faith grew over time, conforming her to the image of Christ. Still she wonders, could there be something more?

The story is familiar. She didn’t grow up in church, but had an encounter with God that radically changed her life. She jumped with both feet, or maybe she didn’t. Maybe life just happened, and somewhere along the way, those flames of first love became a smoldering ember. She asks herself: is this all there is?

I read a story in scripture today about a fig tree that stopped bearing fruit. It was the season for fig trees to bear fruit, but this stubborn tree just produced copious amounts of leaves. Jesus cursed the tree, and it died.

We were made for encounter with God. Not just one time, but a daily, faith filled walk with Jesus Christ. We are called to bear fruit, both in our own character and in how we reflect God’s glory to the world. Every Christian is called to bear faithful witness to a Risen Savior of the world both in word and in deed. The result of this witness bearing should be growing churches, acts of mercy and justice, and an increase in the rule and influence of Christ throughout the land. Our own might and power cannot bring these things about, but only a work of the Holy Spirit.

If this is not the case in our lives, if this is not the case in our churches, then the question we need to ask is this: when did we last walk the road to Emmaus? When did we last encounter the Risen Christ? Could we grow closer to Him, and learn to hear his voice even better?

On a practical level: How much time are we spending in bible study and in prayer? Are we growing in our faith? Are we responding in repentance when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin? Are we fully trusting in Christ every hour of every day?

Faith is not a one time commitment or a habit of performing certain acts. In the words of a very old hymn:

Faith is a living pow’r from Heav’n
That grasps the promise God hath giv’n,
A trust that cannot be o’erthrown,
Fixed heartily on Christ alone.

Faith finds in Christ whate’er we need
To save or strengthen us indeed,
Receives the grace He sends us down,
And makes us share His cross and crown.

Faith in the conscience worketh peace,
And bids the mourner’s weeping cease;
By faith the children’s right we claim,
And call upon our Father’s name.

Faith feels the Spirit’s kindling breath
In love and hope that conquer death;
Faith worketh hourly joy in God,
And trusts and blesses e’en the rod.