Me Right Now

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post just telling you where I'm at in the moment. That used to be all I ever wrote about, but being in full time ministry again has kind of put a heavy filter on my writing. I can't write as openly as I used to because my life revolves around church, so I just don't have that kind of freedom anymore. But it's early in the morning, my kids are playing quietly (WHAT) in their room, my chai is still hot, and I'm in the mood to be candid and rambly so whatever. 

I'll start with the not so great things. It's been six months since my last panic attack, but I haven't stopped feeling tremors. I get heart palpitations every day because I just haven't learned to manage my stress well. My kids are so intense and loud and they don't get along and it puts me on edge from the second they wake up everyday. I feel like I'm failing them, like I don't know how to parent them. Since pulling Jonah out of school and deciding to homeschool him, my stress has tripled. Not because of him, he's such a good kid, eager to learn and quick to pick up on things. It's just the pressure of having to be the one that makes sure he's learning what he needs to be learning. Is he learning enough? Am I pushing too hard? Am I not pushing enough? Zach loves the idea of homeschooling all of our kids until they graduate, but I'm really hoping we can get him into a magnet school. The public schools in our city are just not for us. They have wonderful teachers and staff, but Jonah was really not doing well and I have to remind myself of that every time I angry text Zach, "WHY DID WE TAKE HIM OUT OF SCHOOL!?". So the stress is real and I'm learning to manage it, and I must be doing a lot better than I was last year because not having panic attacks is seriously the best thing ever. It's nice to wake up everyday and not be surprised that I'm still alive.

Since postpartum depression has made an exit (for the most part - i still have sad days every now and then) and anxiety has become manageable, I've finally had some free space in my brain to want to do things again. I have goals again! I want to write again! I want to be in ministry again! All great things, but it's been frustrating trying to find my place. It's like my life hasn't caught up with my mind yet. I guess I just expected opportunities to fly at me because I'm amazing and have so much to offer (haha) but every time I put myself out there and tried to do something....rejection. I put that in bold because rejection feels like bold font. I was really discouraged for several months. I started feeling the familiar heavy dark cloud pulling me down again and telling me those familiar lies, "You can't do anything. Nobody wants you. You're pathetic." But then I heard someone say something, and I can't remember who said it, or what it was, or maybe I just dreamed it? But whoever it was said, "If you can't find a ministry in your local church to be a part of, create one. If your can't create one, go outside the church and find one." I had never, ever, considered finding a ministry outside of my church. Ever. I've been in ministry literally my entire life (pastor's kid problems) and have never thought to leave the church walls to serve. Sad, I know, but I'm conditioned, ok??

So anyway. I'll try to make this story shorter. I got sick sometime in December and stayed sick until a week ago (not kidding-it's been awful) but in one of those really intense sick weeks, I started watching the show "Lock Up" on Netflix. It's a documentary series about women in prison and I just went IN. I couldn't stop watching the show and somewhere around episode 6, I started feeling a heavy burden for incarcerated women. Years ago, I was asked several times to be a part of prison ministries and always gave a confident "no" because I just didn't feel like I could do anything for them. Their problems were too intense and I was too young, too peppy, too full of excuses, I guess. But watching that show stirred something in me and I started to think about our city. Zach and I are passionate about investing in our community and creating change in our city, on small levels,  and doing what we can to help people break cycles of abuse and addiction and, of course, to know how much Jesus loves them. Watching that show and thinking about our city and its drug and gang related problems made me realize that working with women in prison is exactly what I needed to be doing. It's the first time something that totally does not make sense for me really makes sense for me. If that makes sense. So I googled "how to teach writing to women in prison" because I thought that would be a natrual way for me to serve and I found an organization called Voices from Inside. It's a non-profit that teaches writing workshops to women who are incarcerated or in drug recovery programs. I emailed the director, had a phone interview, and  spent two eight hour days in training. Now I'm just waiting on my placement! So. Pumped.

The training was phenomenal. It confirmed that working with underprivileged and marginalized people in our city is exactly what God has called me to do right now and it ignited passions in me that I didn't even know were there. I sat in the room with 13 other women, some who were training with me, some that were facilitators already, and I was so inspired by them. I've spent so much time at home, raising my kids, with little connection to the outside except through Facebook and Instagram. All I see on my newsfeed are political opinions and people ranting about the left and the right, telling me why I should hate Donald Trump, or love him, or whatever, but I don't see anybody talking about what they're actually doing except marching or making phone calls. I naively (maybe pridefully) assumed I was the only that believed real change happens on smaller, local levels. You can march on Washington, but if you're not investing in your local community, I don't really put much stock in what you say. Put your work boots on where your heart is. Or something. But in that training room at Smith College, I was surrounded by women who were there to help marginalized women not for what they can get out of it, but for what they can offer. It's probably going to go down as one of the most eye opening and inspirational moments of my life. And I haven't even been inside the jail yet. 

That was not a short story. Sorry. I'm just excited about it.  

Anyhoo. So that's kind of where I'm at right now. I'm balancing this excitement about what I'm doing outside of my church with the disappointment and frustration of not being able to find my place inside it. I have felt like the walls are up on all sides and I don't blame my church for it. (Although I definitely have spent a lot of time doing that.) I think this is a God blocking my path to get me on the right one kind of thing. It's this awkward stretch of muscles that I haven't used in a long time and I'm not exactly sure what to do with them, but I'm just going to keep stretching. A few months ago I was talking to my mom about some of this stuff and she said, "God's not done with you yet, Kristen. Just be patient." I hate when moms say stuff like that, but she was right. (I hate that too!) I'm finally starting to believe that God's not done with me yet. I'm trying to stop taking rejection so personally and think of every "no" as a "not this".  It's hard, but I'm trusting that God has me, just like he always has. 

In other news, Jonah turned 6, Anna turned 2, and Zach bought me Nikes for Valentine's Day. Well, really Christmas, but it took him a while to find the right pair, so I got them on Valentine's Day. We're romantic like that. I'm still learning Spanish, so hablame, por favor! Necesito practicar.  

And now my kids are demanding cereal, which we're out of, and juice, which we never have, so I'm going to deal with that. Here's a photo of me and three of my long time friends after our Women in the Church chat a few weeks ago because this is the first picture taken of me in a long time where there is life behind my eyes. Also my friends are gorgeous, so that makes me look better. Happy Tuesday, friends!  

So About That Book ...

Last year, several people messaged me and asked me to write a devotional for moms. At the time, I wasn't really in a place where I felt comfortable writing a book about faith when my own faith was being challenged so deeply. I hung the idea up and decided to go back to it when I wasn't so frustrated with God. 

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When You're Waiting

For almost two years, we lived in the question mark. We always had a question on our lips. Will Zach find a job? Did we make the right decision? How are we going to pay that bill? Will we be able to buy groceries this week? Will we ever get out of the basement? What is our purpose? Have I missed my calling? Every day it was something else to question and worry about. We were lonely, a little bit lost, a lot apprehensive, and just so done. There were days when I was so frustrated, I just yelled all day. I cried. I punched the shower wall a few times. It was exhausting. Nobody enjoys the waiting room. Especially when you don't even know what you're waiting for. Your head and your heart are full of questions and fear snuggles in and makes itself at home. You're surrounded by voices. Well meaning family members, trusted friends, random strangers, blog posts, podcast preachers, and books. Everyone has something to say. Everyone has an opinion. And yet, there you are in the waiting room, trying to drown out all of the noise, full of questions and absolutely no idea what to do. I've been there. And what happens next is exciting.

Soon you'll move from the question mark to the ellipses. You'll stop asking "Why?" and "How?" and start asking, "What's next?". Excitement will replace your fear. Peace will replace your worry. You may not have all the answers yet, but you'll start to sense things shifting. Purpose will hang in the air and you'll know that God is doing something. You won't know what or when or how, but those questions won't matter anymore.

There is rest in the ellipses.

God is not in the business of leaving his children hanging. I know it might seem like he's forgotten you. Abandoned you, even. You're probably angry, and with good reason. You're worried about your family, your future, and your finances. Nothing seems to be working out and you're not sure you can make it another day. But you can and you will. Not just because you have to, but because God is faithful.

For two years, we struggled and we strived and we didn't get any answers. Zach and I all but walked away from our faith because we just couldn't understand why God was being so distant and silent. We ran from our callings and blocked out any and all wisdom that came our way because it didn't fit our idea of what we wanted for our lives. We spent way too much time in the question mark. And then all of a sudden, almost out of nowhere, things became clear. We were wrong. We needed to repent. God wanted to do something and we weren't letting him. It took a few weeks for us to let it all sink in, but once it did, we chose to step into the ellipses. We chose to believe that God was good and that he had something bigger for us than what we wanted. We chose to sit. And wait. And listen. And rest. No more striving and seeking out our own will.

And that's when things started happening.

Less than three months after we moved from questioning to resting, we were on our way to Massachusetts. Zach took a job in full time ministry after we swore we would never be in full time ministry again. Funny how things work out. Our season of questioning and waiting is over and what is happening now is bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. Whatever season you're in, whether you're full of questions in the waiting room, or you're resting in the ellipses, I hope you'll find comfort knowing that God has not forgotten you. Rest in the knowledge that his love for you is irrational and that he only wants good things for his children.

And for goodness sakes, get out of that waiting room and REST.

*****

Hey everyone! This is a little glimpse at the type of content that will be in my upcoming, real, hold in your hands DEVOTIONAL BOOK. I'm so excited about it. If you want to keep up to date with the project, sign up below.

So. I'm Writing a Book.

At the beginning of the year, I told you all it was one of my goals to get a book deal this year. Shortly after determining that, I felt more and more like this just wasn't my time to pursue that goal. I wrote my book proposal and started looking at publishers and agents and then I realized even if I DID get a book deal, it would be another year or longer before my book was released. Not that what I have is so important that it can't wait, but I just don't want to. The notoriety of being a published author is something that I've always dreamed of, but I think for this particular project, I'm just going to go for it and self publish. Which is a whole thing. BUT. I'm doing it. For two years now, some of you have been asking me to write a devotional that isn't cheesy, deals with real life motherhood stuff, and digs into the scripture in an educational and exegetical way. So that's what I've been working on for the past few months. I'll be tackling motherhood, marriage, and scripture in the only way I know how - raw and unapologetic. I'm really excited about it. I probably should've waited until I have a title and made a big announcement and really worked the social media promotion game, but I want you guys in on this and I want your feedback.

I'm still in the beginning stages of writing, so there's room for input and changes. I want this to be exactly what you're looking for. Here's a post that I wrote on my other blog that is a really good example of what's going to be in the book. Now I need your input.

When you read devotionals, do you enjoy them having a journaling/reflection aspect? Based on what you see on the Proverbs 31 post, do you think this could be a book you would want to read with your moms group, bible study, women's ministry, etc.? What are some things about books like this that you don't like?

Ok. I think that's it for now. If you're interested at all in this project and want to be kept in the loop, sign up at the end of this post. Handing over your e-mail address means you'll receive the occasional book writing update, maybe I'll ask for more input, hand out a few discounts, let you know FIRST when the book is ready for pre-order and you know...whatever else goes along with self publishing a book.

I don't have a timeline yet, but as soon as I have even the slightest idea of when this thing will be finished, I'll let you know. Thank you all so much for your support and encouragement to take this huge project on. I hope you'll love it!