500 Words, Day 5 – A Day I’ll Never Forget

Last summer I went to Mozambique on a mission trip with my church. We arrived late in the afternoon on July 5 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport for an overnight flight to London’s Heathrow. It was my first time traveling outside the continental United States. And there in the Chicago airport is where the adventure began.

There were twelve of us traveling together: our leader, Todd, and his daughter, Kate; Jamie, Ryan, Tracy and her son, Evan, who had all been on the trip before; Jessica and Cory, a young  married couple; Megan and Grace, the college-aged girls; Monti, Todd’s friend from another church; and me.

When we checked in at the terminal, there was a problem with the computer system between London and Johannesburg, so we were only able to get our boarding passes for the first leg, and would have to check in again at Heathrow to get our boarding passes for the South Africa flight. No big deal, just a minor inconvenience. The real problem was that the airport said that the paperwork Todd had for traveling abroad with his minor daughter wasn’t properly notarized. As a result, Todd and Kate drove the three hours back to Indiana to get their forms straightened out. We were to go on ahead to London with Jamie in the lead, and they would get on a later flight. Since we had the day set aside for sightseeing this wouldn’t be a problem.

The flight was smooth, but excitement and tight quarters made it difficult to sleep. We had breakfast on the plane (I’m not sure I’d ever get used to cooked tomatoes with breakfast), landed in London early and took our malaria medication first thing. While in line for customs, one of the girls threw up. Whether it was excitement, blood sugar, or the meds, who knows, but she was not well. Consequently, Jamie and Monti decided to stay with her in the airport for the day. Aside from that, we got through customs relatively easily and, after checking in our bags, spent the day in London with Ryan in the lead of the remainder of the group.

We took the 15-minute trip on the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, had some coffee and light breakfast fare (it had been a few hours since our meal on the plane), and then, after consulting with a tour guide as to the timeliest course of action, boarded a double decker bus for a (ahem) three hour tour.

London is a very cool place, but it was a very busy place that day, because, well, Wimbledon. Regardless, we had a lovely bus tour, but had to cut it short and hop the tube at Waterloo station to get back to the airport on time. So we took that back to Paddington Station.

Once at Paddington, we discovered that the Heathrow Express was having signal problems, and was not operating. So we had to get a cab. Two actually, as there were seven of us. Given the congestion, it took us almost an hour to get from Paddington Station to Heathrow (with Ryan freaking out the whole time fearing we would be late), whereupon we had just barely enough time to collect our baggage from the counter, get through security, and get to our gate in time to board our flight.

It was an adventure, all right! And then… we went to Africa.

500 Words Day 4 – Quiet

I’m thinking a lot about quiet right now. It seems to keep popping up.

In the book Present Over Perfect, which I’m currently reading, Shauna Niequist talks a lot about how necessary it has become for her to find a quiet place away from the busy to relax and recharge. I think we all need a place like that. A place where we can connect with ourselves, with nature and with God.

I’m doing a reading plan in my Bible app by Rick Warren titled “Hearing the Voice of God” and my reading yesterday was called “Make Time to Be Quiet.” In it he talks about Susana Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley and many more children (I’ve seen different numbers – 18 or 19, I think). He says that according to her biography, she would sit in her favorite rocker and throw her apron over her head for an hour every day. That was the signal that mom was having quiet time with God and wasn’t to be disturbed.

A facebook friend shared a lifehack article in the last day or so about an experiment with mice in which those who had two hours of quiet time – silence, actually – in their day actually showed growth in the hippocampus, which is associated with emotions, memory, and learning. I was thinking about how it’s never really quiet in this world we live in. We have to seek it out. Except when there’s a power outage.

Have you ever noticed how quiet it is when the power goes out? Probably not until it comes back on and everything starts making noise again. My mother-in-law tells the story of she and one of the kids spending time together during a power outage – which, where she lived at the time in the north Georgia mountains, can be lengthy – and talking, reading by fire- and candlelight, enjoying something they’d cooked on the woodstove, just being together in the quiet. When the power came back on, with the lights and the radio and whatever else had been in use when it went out, it was jarring and he looked at her and asked if they could turn it all off again. Our world is so bright and noisy. Even just the hum of the electricity in the lines, which you don’t notice until it’s been off for a while.

I wonder sometimes, and would like someone to research (in case I don’t get around to it) whether the constant din wears on our psyches. I have to wonder, when the world is filled with constant artificial noise and we have to suppress our fight or flight instincts just to function in it, so we’re not always on high alert, if that suppression of those necessary reactions might be the reason for the extraordinary amount of depression and anxiety in our society. That we push down those reactions so much and so frequently as to not be able to feel other important things like joy, hope, peace. I wonder if maybe half the psychotropics that are so ubiquitously prescribed could be replaced with just a few minutes a day of intentional silence.

How about it? Do you make an effort to find peace in our noisy world? How do you do it? Feel free to leave a comment.

500 Words, Day 3 – On Habits

I have an interview tomorrow. I applied for a part-time receptionist position at my church. I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s interesting to think about. Who would have thought I might end up here?

I didn’t get as much done today as I would have liked to, as evidenced by the fact that I’m finally sitting down to write at 8:40 p.m. At least I’m doing it. And yes, you read that right. Doing it this late *doesn’t* mean my day was packed full and I didn’t have time, it means I wasn’t focused on what needed to be done and didn’t make time, because there wasn’t anything I HAD to do. Funny how that works. I was talking to Paul about it just this afternoon, as a matter of fact. We were talking about his sleep schedule and establishing a workout routine, now that he has a new job and will be working a bunch of hours to get established. I told him I tend to get much more of the little stuff done when there are things on a schedule that have to be done, things that I have to work around like work or school, than when my day is wide open like it is now. When I don’t have anything scheduled I can do the everyday tasks whenever, which frequently ends up meaning never. “Meh, I have time. I’ll get to it later.” This is how I usually end up starting to cook dinner at 7:45 instead of 5:00, or not wishing someone a happy birthday in spite of thinking about calling them thirty times throughout the day. Procrastination is habit just like any other and habits are what I have to work on, more even than scheduling or prioritizing.

The way I deal with this is my daily to-do list. It’s not a schedule, it’s a list of things I need to do every day, along with the weekly menu and plan, laminated, stuck on the fridge, so I can cross things off as I get them done. I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing everything, or even almost everything, crossed off on that list. And it’s simple stuff, but it often won’t get done otherwise. I need to revamp my list to include a few things that I usually do anyway, but sometimes let slide, like checking on the pets that don’t make any noise when they’re hungry (we have a veritable zoo), and watering the plants (I do better with caring for things I can’t ignore), and things I’ve just started doing (writing 500 words a day, for example) or am not currently doing, like exercise of any kind.  I also need to get better at doing the weekly things, like menu planning, dusting, and changing sheets, and add a list of monthly chores and seasonal jobs like cleaning windows and carpet, and washing curtains. It works well for me when I work it, but it’s time to reevaluate and freshen up the list, so I start working it again.

Would something like this help you? If so, drop me a line or tell me in the comments.

500 Words, Day 2

  1. What is my goal for this challenge? What do I want to accomplish?

My Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) as it pertains to this challenge is to be able to confidently call myself a blogger. The thing that has been standing in my way of that is consistency. So the actual goal, the measurable goal, the SMART goal, if you will, is to get in the habit of writing every day, so that I can be posting, if not every day, at least regularly. 500 words a day should be my minimum, and not just for 31 days.

  1. “How am I going to do this?” I’m supposed to ask myself. So, self, how are we going to do this? What will we write each day?

Here’s where the planning and outlining comes in. I stated yesterday that I’m pretty sure I can get a LOT of material just out of my reactions to Present Over Perfect  by Shauna Niequist. So that is a good starting place. I’ll write about that regularly. But what else? I have many and varied interests. After all this is a blog, right? It won’t be all book reviews, though I do love books and telling people what I think about stuff. So what else? How about a list:

  • I love thinking and talking and reading and writing about God, and especially about different people’s ideas about God. I think we will intersperse discussions about Bible verses and themes with Christian literature as well as that of other faiths. After all, when one believes there is only one God who created everything and everyone, one must reconcile other’s perspectives. After all, if that God created them too, perhaps they are simply telling a different part of His spectacularly grand and wonderful story. I already have a few posts that fit nicely under this topic.
  • Home and family. I am, after all, a homemaker, homebirther, homeschooler working from home, taking care of, repairing and restoring our current home, and planning for the purchase of our next home. Home is a pretty big part of my life. Of course, that will eventually spread out into home building, homesteading and home remedies. I do have other goals, you know.

So that’s a good list so far for focusing on the challenge, and should keep me busy for a while. And here’s what that looked like today:

I got up, saw my husband before he left for work, ate breakfast, did my Bible study, took care of my daily chores, and then told the little one that I was going to go write for a while. In order to do this every day, that’s going to have to be the pattern. I’ll start by feeding my body and spirit, taking care of the pets, getting my daily jobs taken care of around the house, getting everyone else fed and off to wherever they need to go, working on a project to advance the decluttering goals, making sure no one feels neglected, and then I can cocoon myself into my room with the laptop for as long as I need to in order to write at least 500 words.

Sounds like a plan. Let’s do this!

500 words 2018

Five hundred words a day. That’s the challenge I’ve accepted from Jeff Goins. We’ll see how this goes.

Today that sounds less daunting that on many other days. See, I’m reading the book Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I’m having so many reactions to this book and I need to vent them all, so I’ll be blogging about that for a bit, I’m sure. First of all, it’s interesting how I came to be reading it here and now.

I’ve gone to the Global Leadership Summit for the past few years and at the 2016 Summit, Bill Hybels talked about the wonderful book his daughter had written. At the time, I wasn’t working, just getting into the new normal of homeschooling my three kids, and looking for what I would be doing next. It had just become clear that I wouldn’t be attending the master’s program I had been accepted to due to funding, and I was feeling a little adrift. Certainly not like the busy, harried, successful woman Shauna presented herself to be as the catalyst for writing the book, so it didn’t really seem relevant to me at the time. It just didn’t really click as a must read in my mind.

Fast forward to this Christmas. Still homeschooling (technically unschooling, which is its own particular brand of busy-ness, but still not the kind to make me feel a connection to the book), still trying to figure out what’s next, re-evaluating even what “successful” looks like in my world, because it’s very different than how I thought it looked a few years ago when I graduated from college, different than I thought when I left my last job, different even than a year and a half ago when I started going back to church and God ignited this passion in my heart that made me want to envelop myself in his Word and world. I’m still trying to parse it all out.

Anyway, this Christmas, my husband took our six-year old daughter out to shop for a gift for me. She and I had gone shopping for everyone else and she said she wanted daddy to take her out so she could buy something for me. They went to Target, because it’s right down the road and much less crazy than the mall or any of the other shopping centers in town. After a while, I received a text from my husband saying “We have no idea what to get you. What was that book you wanted?” Well, I knew, because I’d bought the book I wanted for a friend for Christmas, that it was only available at the big book store at the mall, and I wasn’t sending my sweet husband to the mall on Christmas Eve. So I looked at the Target website to see if there were any other Christian books that sounded good and I saw Present Over Perfect. I sent Paul a picture of the cover, saying “this one will be fine, but really, anything she chooses will be fine. She just wanted to be able to pick something out for me.”

So he got me the book. And I’m LOVING this book. Elsie actually picked out a different book for me. It’s interesting to me how many things I think I’m “settling” for that turn out to be exactly the right thing for me. It’s even more interesting to me how many things are clearly God-breathed into my life through my kids. But that’s a different post.

How about you? Is there something that wasn’t exactly what you wanted but turned out to be the perfect thing, or a bigger blessing, or exactly what you needed? Did you immediately see God’s hand at work in that, or did it take some reflection? I’d love to hear from you.

Why do I believe

One question I often come across as a person of faith with a degree in anthropology is how I can reconcile the Biblical story of creation with an understanding of cosmology, geology, and evolution. That’s one of the easiest questions for me to answer, but my answer comes in the form of a question. First though, have you, if you are a scientifically minded person, ever actually read for yourself the creation story in Genesis chapter 1 and noticed how close it is to getting the evolutionary order right? Or, on the flip side of that, if you are committed to the purely Biblical perspective, do you know what science actually says about how the universe came to be? The similarities are pretty incredible. And regardless of your perspective, you must take into account that the Genesis story was almost certainly preserved through oral traditions passed down over probably thousands of years before ever being committed to writing. And that story was written down thousands of years before Lemaître came up with the Big Bang theory.

So my answer in the form of a question is, isn’t it possible?

Isn’t it possible that God spoke this world into existence (what went “bang” and what caused it to go “bang”) in the manner of an evolutionary masterpiece, unfolding and flourishing over eons, and then decided it was beautiful, but lonely without someone else there to name everything, to write it all down, to go on creating, to appreciate it as only a human created in the image of a creator could… and so he created us? To be co-creators. To be the storytellers.

Art is a form of communication and before humans there was no one to whom to communicate all of the beauty, drama, passion and splendor of the sunrise, the stars and planets, the clouds, the color and smell of the changing leaves and the blooming spring, the sounds, the textures, the uniqueness of each perfect snowflake, the magnificence of a thunderstorm… and eventually those things too far away, or too small to see without special instruments, created by creative beings created in the image of their creator as if he gently nudged them to say, but wait… There’s more.

This world is far too extraordinary to the senses not to have creatures with minds that can perceive the magic of it all, whose perception of all this majesty goes beyond fight, flee, and procreate, and asks the questions why… how… where did it all come from.

That’s why I believe.

Beginnings and middles

Jon Acuff says: Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

We do that a lot, don’t we? Compare ourselves, where we are now, to other people’s outcomes? To our own past or future self. Even to inanimate objects. How many women are actually the shape of an hourglass? Not me, that’s for sure. Who uses an hourglass anymore anyway? I saw a commercial for a whitening toothpaste or a tooth whitening system in which a young woman used “the tissue test” to answer the question of whether her teeth were yellow. No, sweetie, they might be a shade or two off white, but most people’s are and yours, Miss Commercial Actress, are certainly not yellow. And the tissue had to be bleached to get to that shade of white, too, for the record.

I was on my way home from a friend’s house one day, feeling a lovely ache in my thighs from the six mile bike ride I took with my son that morning, wondering whether they still make the Thighmaster. That got me thinking about how many creams and pieces of equipment were marketed when I was young to take care of “ugly cellulite.” Thigh gaps. Whiter teeth. Man, what advertising dupes us into thinking about ourselves.

And it will change in a couple years; it always does. The ideal of beauty used to be voluptuous, then hourglass, then twiggy, then curvy, then heroin chic, now more athletic. Bleach your skin, tan your skin, get highlights, lowlights, cover your gray, gray is the new hot look. It’s always changing, and half the pinnacles of beauty don’t actually look like that in real life, without all the makeup and airbrushing, or even feel beautiful in their own skin.

Here’s the thing. You are beautiful. You may not be perfect, whatever that means for the next five minutes, but you are beautiful. You have something to share with the world that is uniquely yours. You have a soul that can light up the darkest places in some person’s life, just by sharing your journey. Laugh, cry, smile, use your voice, open your mouth or hands and use your gifts in some way to let that light out.

Be you. Start now. If you don’t know who YOU are on the inside, begin now to find out. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or end.

Keep seeking Him

Dear Son,

The other night in the car you said that, while you don’t necessarily deny the existence of God, in order to believe to the point of commitment, you’re going to need some kind of undeniable sign. That you couldn’t take secondhand testimony. You need proof. I get it—I do. We all wish we had a burning bush.

I shared with you that I finally came to the conclusion a few years ago that I was grateful God never had to get my attention in some profound way. That I could be okay with other people’s testimony, if for no other reason than others’ testimony often involves seeing God in action through pain or tragedy as the wakeup call.

Darling son, I pray you get what you need, in whatever way you need it, so you may develop a relationship with the amazing God who created us. I pray it doesn’t hurt you or require a sacrifice you’ll wish you hadn’t had to make. I pray that I may show you His love and His grace and His interest in you through my own life and service and example. I pray your father will join me in that.

In the meantime, keep seeking Him, my love. Keep looking for that evidence. I promise you if you seek it you will find it. In fact, He has promised that to us all.

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Deuteronomy 4:29

“…for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you…”
1 Chronicles 28:9b

“’The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.’ … They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side”
2 Chronicles 15:2, 15

“The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.”
Psalm 14:2

“’You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord…”
Jeremiah 29:13-14

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10


Big rocks and living water

Once upon a time, in the Thursday morning Bible study at my home church, we did a study called Living Your Life as a Beautiful Offering by Angela Thomas (now Angela Thomas Pharr). One of the lessons in that study was about filling up your cup so that it can run over, because, of course, it’s pretty hard for a cup to run over if it isn’t full to begin with. The bucket or love tank analogy works equally well, and for purposes of the illustration, I want you to imagine a metal bucket.

Like this.

The crux of the lesson was that no one else can fill your cup (or bucket) for you, you have to do it by staying connected to the source, i.e. God. (Or, if you prefer, Love.) That is to say, a full bucket doesn’t come from other people (and certainly not from just one other person – how exhausting would that job be!), it comes from God. It comes from study, prayer, and meditation; from making time on a regular basis to tap into the source.

I was explaining this to a friend once and told this person that other people can sure as heck dent up your bucket and some can even poke holes in it. Fortunately, others can help you hammer out the dents or patch the holes, but no one person can fill it for you; only Love can fill your love tank.

Now I want to switch gears for just a sec. Hopefully you’re familiar with the ‘big rocks’ analogy about time management and prioritization. Stephen Covey references it in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (If you don’t know it, you can check out a succinct rendition of it here, or a lengthy demonstration here before you go any further.) In the illustration, a jar represents your life, or the time in your day. You have to fill this jar with big rocks, pebbles, and sand. The big rocks symbolize the important things – relationships, career, community involvement, church, etc. The pebbles are the less important stuff like car, house, meetings, appointments, and the sand represents trivial things that take up time but aren’t important – video games, TV, social media, housekeeping… Okay, maybe not that last one. Point being, if you fill up the jar with little, unimportant stuff, there’s not enough room for the big rocks. But if you put the big rocks in first, all the other stuff will sift down into the cracks and spaces between them.

There are variations on this. Depending on who is doing the demonstration, and in what context, God is one of the big rocks, maybe even a bigger rock than the other big rocks. Sometimes people will take it a step further and, after all the big rocks and pebbles and sand are in the jar, they will pour in water to show that there is still room in the jar. Here’s the kicker. I don’t think that God/Love is one of the rocks at all; I think it’s the water. As in, living water. And here’s where it all comes together.

Filling your cup or bucket or love tank with God or Love or living water changes EVERYTHING about the illustration: If you put the water in first — which is to say, if your love tank is full — then every rock you add – family, friends, home, job, school – the things that are MOST important in your life, whatever they are for you – each one you add not only gets wet itself, but also makes some of that water overflow onto everything around it. Then adding the pebbles makes more of that water splash out. Then adding the sand makes more of that water splash out. The key is staying tapped into the source. But do you see what happens then? Everything starts from a place of Love and you always have enough love to share, because you’re always tapped into the Source of love and every single thing you do starts with a full tank that splashes Love onto everything else around you!

And here’s the other cool part: even if this hasn’t been the way you’ve operated thus far, you can add the water any time. The water still soaks into everything and fills up all the empty space as soon as you pour it in, so really, you can fill your love tank any time and still get the same effect! So, first things first: Do you know how to tap into the source, whatever you call it? Do you stay tapped in – meaning do you know to pay attention to your love tank and take time out to fill up when you start to feel depleted? Do you know what your big rocks are and how everything else measures up?

Fill ‘er up! *splishy splashy*

Sell it all?

I’m seriously considering selling everything we own.

You see, we’ve found our land. At least I think it is. If it isn’t, it’s an awfully good imitation. It’s 31 acres with a dilapidated house and several outbuildings, and the price certainly seems to be right. But is the time?

The funny thing is, I’m ready to do it. Sell everything, that is. All signs point to minimalism. I keep finding fantastic posts and pins about it. Mis-shelved books practically jump off the shelves at me. Bible verses about possessions and attachments leap off the page when I’m doing studies that have nothing to do with those topics. A dear friend is an expert at it and another dear friend hired me to help her with it. I think it’s time. The big question is…


There are lots of other questions, of course, and I’m trying very hard not to focus on them, but still things like, “Kara, you’re raising money for a mission trip; is this okay to do with that going on?” “Should I just get a job? What will that do to the kids?” “Is this really the one? If it’s not, how long do I have to wait and how many more disappointments will I have to face?”

So, I pray. If you feel so inclined to do the same, I would appreciate it. Eventually this blog will be all about our homestead. I’m so excited to get there. I promise to take you along for the ride.