Friday, 23 December 2016

Birthdays, Christmas and being #blessed in the middle

Hi Friends!

So much to share these days and I'm not certain what order to say them in. Time is of the essence as I really should be packing and cleaning, but I don't want to. Is that a good reason not to do something? I'm not sure it is. But if I have anything, friends, it's honesty (and Jesus...well, that's where the honesty comes in here very probably) and that's just the truth.

I'll put first things first:

1. I have a for real life 12 year old now. Seriously people. His shoe size is as big as mine. For reals. Not even joking. It was a proud day for him. It won't be long until he catches that 14 year old of mine in height and she will never live it down (because she will be looking up at him....haaaaaaa). If I could describe him in one word it would be: tender. He has the most tender heart. This is a wonderfully, delicious big part of his soul. I pray fervently that it stays this way. That he doesn't become jaded and angry at a world filled with people who cannot for the life of themselves disagree with out defriending you on Facebook. I pray that he is so filled with love for the his Savior that he loves others well, especially those who disagree with him and call him all kinds of hateful names. I pray he is faithful and kind and has a hero's heart and a disgust for injustice and a longing to be in his for real home with his Father. That his eyes would be so focused on there that it effects what he is doing here on earth. I would say it is a joy to mother him, but that would not even touch the base of the mountain of joy that describes how much it is an honor just to know him. Such a daily grace (even when he leaves his socks on the dinning room table....even then.)




Moving on...

2.  This has been a weird Christmas. I'm not even sure how to process it other than: it's been weird, man. I so know that this season is supposed to be about the small and unnoticed things in our world but it's so busy and loud around me all the time. Really Loud. I wrote a couple years about giving Good Gifts. I know all of this enough to put it in writing. And very probably I know a lot less about it than I think that I do. And then there is all the "shoulding" that I do on myself all the time. Who really cares if a certain tradition doesn't get done. Is everyone alive? Is everyone fed? Did everyone put on clean undies this morning? Yes! Then it is a good day. Especially, if the undies part happens. Christ was still born and laid in a dirty, stinky manger and we are still fighting for our lives to honor Him during this time. And it's a fight isn't it? A fight not to compare. A fight to assume the best in others (especially family members) during this time of year. A fight not to get sucked into tit-for-tats that don't really matter to begin with. A fight to see Christ for who he really is as Lord who pulled on flesh only to die 30 or so years later and rise again. It is constant. It is heavy. It is a joy. Press on, Friends!



Lastly...

3.  I love to give Good Gifts. Really, there is nothing like it. There is nothing like giving a gift that points a person to the Person of Christ. Here is where I've been stuck this year: I like to give gifts period. I like to give my kids gifts that they will love. It makes me giddy to find that box of Star Wars figurines on sale and stick them in their stocking knowing they will freak out on Christmas morning because of it. And there is a big part of me that thinks that this is very shallow.  Or at least it feels that way as I scroll down and read about how dear friends give their kids one gift on Christmas and my insides do this flip-flop and I start comparing. Again. I am desperate to figure out how to live and be #blessed in the middle without feeling like I have to be ashamed or shallow at the very least. I want to give Good Gifts. I want my kids to see where their blessings come from and most of all I want to believe it and live it myself. I want to walk into a store, knowing that one kiddo doesn't need those $5 slippers but grab them anyway b/c she has been talking about them for a year now and when she sees them sticking out of their stocking, well she will want to sleep with them on her feet she will be so excited. And that makes me happy but isn't my happiness. Did you hear me? Or read that, I mean? I think that is the secret of being #blessed and in the middle. Or at least a part of the secret. Knowing that every good gift is from above and so that car, that house, that whatever you own (or rent or lease) is in fact a blessing, given only by God Himself. And to know this is not saying that others are not blessed because they may not have those things. The secret is: knowing that our happiness is not in the physical things that we are blessed with but rather we are blessed in the Person of Christ. It is ok to bless others with a gift that they probably don't need. It is not ok to gain our happiness as children of God because of it. That is the difference and the thin line I am considering in this ever so weird Christmas season this year.




Merry Christmas, friends.
From my very large, loud, silly family to yours.
And a Happy New Year too.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Finding Christ in the Middle

Ya'll I'm tired. Like the kind of tired where your body feels like a weight jacket that you are carrying around and the only way out of this tiredness is to go to sleep and never wake. I can walk around doing my own life and then WHAM! real life gets in the way: I actually read the news or log on to Facebook to see what my friends are walking through. That is no joke people. It's amazing what people will share on Facebook. I pick up a book about Sequoyah and read it to the kids on a whim  right after deciding to finally prime the devil red out of my bathroom for 4 hours all the while forgetting about a coffee date with a sweet soul sister. Call me crazy because that is exactly what I am. So here I am, really tired with so much to say and not really having the words to say it but I'm going to try anyway because I think it's something no one else is saying and you very probably need to hear it. I know I need to hear myself say it aloud.

I'm sitting here in front of my big ol' screened TV, that my oldest son is watching, my bum is on my new carpet in the "play room" of our new to us home. My heart is weary and tired. I feel like I have fought a long battle and I am waving the white flag at the expectations of others. What I read on the blogosphere these days makes my heart sink in the oddest ways. Things that used to make it pitter patter now, I find, garner resentment, anger even. I'm sure in many ways, it's my own sin that is the problem. I am forever assuming things about others and being easily offended. This is the reason (and lack of time) that I don't spend a lot of time reading blogs. And yet, there seems to be this movement of women out there with a very large microphone proclaiming to all of us in the "middle" that Jesus is only found richly among the poor...when you are serving and living among them...when we choose to live physically among them.

And we just bought a big ol' house on the West Side.

Gulp.

My days are now filled with wifing, mothering, homeschooling, running errands, serving at church, volunteering, running children to different social events and sports, and fixing up said neglected big ol' house that had been a rental for many years. And my flag is flying high. In fact, if my HOA would allow it, I would fly it right outside my garage.

Every woman wants to feel like her life's work is important. That it means something. We want to know that whatever we are pouring our lives into is meaningful. We want to give life and be life to others. We do not for a moment, want to believe that all we have done is for not. And if there is "more Jesus" over there...then we want to desperately move there because as believers, we want more Jesus. This has been the struggle of a life time for me and very probably, for you also. I couldn't have been called to live a peaceable and quiet middle class life could I?  Or maybe I am.

Maybe, just maybe my neighbors are just as broken. Maybe they just have the financial means to cover it all up. Maybe they aren't buying drugs on street corners, they are just getting them in the form of prescriptions from their doctor. Maybe their husband is a drunk and abusive. Maybe said husband is an elder at a church. Maybe their sin just isn't on display because of their ability to cover it up with their money. And maybe, this is worse in some ways. And harder in other ways. And frightening to try to figure out because the people I live around are on their guard 100% of the time and will not, for a million years, let you in to see their very real selves. They hardly let you in to see their fake selves. And if they do, they make sure it's all nice and tidy and Pintrest worthy.

Sin is no respecter of people. We find it in all classes of people. It is the great equalizer. Every person walking the face of this earth, rich or poor or smack dab in the middle has what the Prophet Jerimiah calls a, "wicked" heart and will one day have to account for that heart. Sin manifests itself differently among the different classes and there life of the poor is incomparably harder in many ways than the life I now live but I'm here to tell you, fellow middle classers, that every person needs the Gospel. We all do. People from the jungles of South America to the middle classers living right beside you here in America. Jesus did not just spend his time with one class of people--he chose 12 from all walks of life. They were a sinful lot of men from every station. A few better off than others, but spiritually speaking they were all bankrupt. This should speak balms of encouragement to your soul.

Yes, you who wonders if you are "doing enough"
or
doing the right thing
or
 if there is "more" that you are missing out on because of all the stuff you are not doing
or
if the stuff that you are doing really isn't important at all because it doesn't have you in the throes of living among the poor.

See why we're exhausted?

If there is one thing I could tell my younger self it would be: "CHILL out girl!" I spent so much of my life worrying that I was not doing enough to save the world, that I was totally discontented with my life for many years and in fact missed out on enjoying parts of my older children's younger years because I was so distracted by "what I should be doing." It's a regret that lingers heavy still.

Yes, pray for open doors, for opportunities, about that soul of yours that seems to be restless where you are at and wanting for more and you don't know what to do about it. Yes, share the Gospel. Wives, talk to your husband. Many times they are the great equalizers and keep us in check. Have hard conversations with your spouse. Do that. Yes, read the Word because you know where "more" Jesus is found? Right there, in that living and breathing Book that you own. Open it up and turn to 1 Thessalonians. Read about the good life God has for you...a quiet and peaceable life no matter the neighborhood.



Thursday, 13 October 2016

Raising Pretenders

Meandering the choppy waters of parenting a teen is new and confounding at times. It humbles and shakes up my days. It is also a blessing. Yes! I just said blessing and teen together. I had hoped and hoped and prayed that our teens would know that we are on their side, that we are not their advisory. It is such a scary, scary time in parenting isn't it? These children figure out they have brains of their own and they want to use them to do things like think and have their own opinion. It's so very hard to know when to push and when to let it slide. It might be more like parenting a toddler than we would like to admit most of the time. And yet, there is something very sweet here.

I realize that this is not every ones experience. It will not be ours with every child. Of that I am almost certain. I'm not saying this to brag or put anyone else into what I like to call, "a fog of comparison."

It is not some formula like a chemistry experiment so please, PLEASE don't ask me how. I just want to share with you what I want for my kids and what I really, REALLY don't want.

I think, if you love the Lord Jesus as I do, then it will be a reflection of your own heart. I want you to know that there are mothers standing firm with you and pressing on hand in hand along side you. Right there. Together.

It is easy, on days that aren't so great, to lapse into despair. You know the those days. In the toddler years, I often think, "This child will NEVER be potty trained. NEVER<EVER<EVER<EVER!!" In the teen years it's more like, "Why does he/she think that EVERYTHING is my faultttt????!!!!" {insert crying emoji face here} And, "SERIOUSLY??!! Have you lost your ever loving mind with that tone and that eye roll and that....don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about...." And we so often let hope slip through our fingers and take the boat load of joy with it. BOOM! Gone.

L

We forget that what we want is for our kids to love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls and love their neighbor as themselves. We forget that we want them to know God and make Him be known. And we forget where we came from and who he has made us into because we are suffering through the same thing that Christ suffers through with each one of us daily. I mean really, if you can't tell me that you aren't exactly like at least 12 of the 12 disciples then you have lost your ever lovin' mind right alongside your teen. We forget that we don't want to raise a bunch of pretenders.

Yes, there I said it. Right there friend, read it again: we DO NOT want to raise a bunch of rule following, I know all the right Sunday School, Jesus Freak answers but can't for the life me sacrifice anything for anyone ever sort of kids. Yes, it is easy to get kids to follow the rules. And some how {but I think we know how} that our kids get this idea that Christianity is actually a rule book that looks a lot like this:

1. don't drink
2. don't smoke
3. don't do drugs
4. don't have sex before you're married {or even think about having sex before you're married for heaven sake!}
5. don't cuss. ever!
6. pick good friends.
7. don't pick friends that do ANY of the aforementioned don'ts.
8. listen to "good" music. read "good" books.
9. don't lie
10. don't steal
11. be modest
12. obey your parents. always.

There are a lot of others but I don't have the time....and neither do you, I'm guessing.

Pay attention friends to what I am not saying. I am not saying that any of these rules are bad. Rules and boundaries are a blessing. I know that. You know that. Obviously anarchy is never a good idea. Neither is socialism but that's another post that I will never write. At least I don't think I will. {insert silly face emoji and don't be so easily offended...ha!}

It's not the rules. It's the reason. Did you read that? Read it again! It's the reason behind the rules that is important. And WHO is the reason? We tend to use the rules as the driving force as the reason behind why we do what we do or have the rules that we have instead of making it about Christ don't we? I know I do.


One day folks, one day, sooner than you think, these kids are going to grow up and take their beautiful brains and bodies out of your house. They are going to be challenged in ways that we never were as young people and you know what: if they do not know why they are following those rules in the first place, they WILL NOT follow them. They will walk away because there was not a reason. There was no real grace. There was no Jesus.

Jesus is beautiful. Jesus is my all in all. He is everything. I love Him. I want to obey him. I want to serve and sacrifice. I see my sin, daily and I hate it. His yoke is light but it would not be if I didn't actually know him. The weight of the law and all the rules is a burden that cannot be kept and will only produce despair or pride in our children. The law...the rules are merely to point our children towards Christ. They cannot obey the rules perfectly and we do not want them to pretend that they can. And as a side, we do not want them to believe that we can obey them perfectly either.

I looked at my teen today and said this exact thing: "I will love you no matter what kind of music you choose to listen to. I may think it unwise. I may even have to ban a certain song, though I hope it wouldn't come to that, but I want to know what you are listening to and why you like it." I do not want her to not like a song, because she thinks I will disapprove. Part of growing in her relationship with the Lord is her realization that what she listens to is what she puts directly into her heart. That has to be important to her, not just to me. I don't want a show. I don't want pretenders. I pray for the real deal: children that know the Lord and want to make Him known to the world. I know you do too.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Post with a Cute Picture but Really No Depth. At all.

Hi my name is Kari Jo. Well, really it's Karrie Jo. But since it's pronounced the same way either way it's spelt, I won't bore you with that silly story.

Wait, yes I will.

On my birth certificate my dear mother spelt my name Karrie. Then she taught me to spell it Kari. She says it's b/c she wanted me to be called Kari Jo and well, Karrie Jo was just too long. I say it's b/c she thought it was too long for me to learn to spell. Silly, I know.

Now you know where I get it.

Seriously. Weirdness runs in the family.

And I like to stay up late. Right now it's exactly 11:43 and by the time I'm done rereading this post for the gajillionth (I may also be a bit of a drama queen) time, it will be close to midnight. I really do heart staying up late. It's a problem.

'Specially since I have 8 kids.

Yes, 8.

Don't worry, it's not a competition. But if it was....

kidding, it's Soooo not.

There are so many things I want to write about at the moment but I'm not going to just yet. Mostly because of the aforementioned 8 children who will want to do things like eat breakfast at 7 am promptly and I will want to roll over and pretend I am still kidless (wait, was I ever kidless?) in the morning if I don't go to bed really, very soon.

 I just wanted to share this picture with you because it captures my heart.


And that is all. 

My Love and my littlest love. 

Together.

My heart might burst open.



Friday, 26 August 2016

Gotcha Day 2016

This is how my day ended. 
It was 11 and she waited up for me to come home from a meeting. 
Of course she did.



I used to be, sadly, frustrated by this sort of thing.
And sadly, sometimes I still am.
Because days around here can be very long.
And yesterday was one of those long days....
but in a good way.


It was Gotcha day. 
Very probably my favorite day of the year.
Even more so than Christmas.
And if you know me that's saying something big


This girl.
She has my heart all twisted sometimes.
She's so beautiful.
And kind.
Which matters most, I think.


And she totally rocks the Chucks.
Rocks them. 


Pretty boy.
It's a good thing too.
Thats all all I'll say about that.


No really, it's a love worth fighting for.
A love given to me from the Lord.
Never easy.
As with some, it will never be.



I mean really?
Can a little person be any cuter?
Or more terrific?
She did just throw a MAJOR tantrum before this....
something about having to share her Bahama Bucks. 
The shirt is a good reminder for me. :)


These two.
Best friends.
Melt my heart.


They all do, really.


This was a massive photobomb fail on Koen's part.
So funny.


Being the oldest brother of this crazy train isn't always easy.
He wears it well though, I think.


 

They've been best buds since three years ago.
Having your best friend become your brother.
Only God can do that.
Amazing.


I think this pix sums up our day and my reality on a daily basis.
Prayers appreciated
.
Ha!
Kidding...
 well sort of.





Monday, 8 August 2016

Learning and Relearning

It's been so long that I've written about schooling that perhaps many of you thought that we don't teach at home anymore. I'm not sure why this is. It takes up much of my time and energy, but maybe it's just not my platform. Or something like that.

Anyhoot, (I totally stole this from another gal in the blogosphere...she says it all the time and I heart it) we are actually doing a really fun study right now on the Olympics. Amanda Bennett has these fabulous unit studies that she has put together and really sister, all I have to do is click and read. My kind of study! My kids heart these. She offers a Monday Wonder each week and you can get a whole unit study for $6. Yes, for almost less than that latte that you just bought from the coffee store that is taking over the world. The world, I say!

Anyhoot, (sorry...well, not really) maybe on Monday it was the lack of structure we've been having since our move (yes, we moved again. That's another story for another day. Maybe not ever. I digress. Sigh...) or the very loud yelling I heard downstairs that propelled me to my computer desk to purchase my copy. I was sure the kids would be excited.

And they were. Oh! Yes! They were. This was the kind of yelling I like to hear. Not the kind that was going on downstairs earlier. I do not, I do not, I do not like green eggs and yelling in my kitchen. Ever!

And like most other things I make my kids do with school, even when they're excited and hoot and hollar about it, when we reached the middle on that first day there were those same yells that I don't like so much coming from children about correct spelling and me catching the 4th grader really, REALLY having to think about just which way the letter "b" goes. Let me just tell you how much a homeschooling mom llloooovvveeess to see that. Not so much. Maybe this is why we're doing this now. So I don't pull my hair out when school does officially start in Sept. I don't think patchy bald is my look.

But what I do looooovvvveeee about school is that I actually get to relearn all the things I should have learned the first time around when I was just a snot of a girl writing notes to friends and doodling in my notebook instead of actually caring about what I was learning in school. And I get to learn them with my kids. And make them care. Or at least try very, very hard to make them care. And pray that they do by the time they're old enough to not be under my tutelage. Wait, is there an official age for that? Let me know if you're a mom and you know. Ok? Ok.

Because this week subjects came up that I was not initially thinking would. Subjects like slavery, share cropping, Jim Crow laws, and one man that rose above the terrible sin against him with grace and humility.

Jesse Owens was his name. The moment I said his name, I had one son say, "Oh, yeah! I know ALL about him from Vacation Bible School this year." Well, I did not know ALL about him so we looked him up online (ahem, clicked the link) and found out about his incredible story.

Jesse Owens was the grandson of a slave and the son of a sharecropper. My kids know about slavery but did not know what share cropping was, nor did they remember what Jim Crow laws were and how not very long ago they existed. Jessie was his mother and father's 7th child. By the time he was in high school he had made a very big name for himself in the area of track and field. In the 1936 Olympics that was held in Nazi Germany, Owens was the first man to win four gold metals in a single Olympiad. More than that Jesse Owens' character spoke volumes to the entire world that was watching.


"Although others have gone on to win more gold medals than Jesse, he remains the best remembered Olympic athlete because he achieved what no Olympian before or since has accomplished. During a time of deep-rooted segregation, he not only discredited Hitler's master race theory, but also affirmed that individual excellence, rather than race or national origin, distinguishes one man from another." (www.jessieowens.com, about, para. 5)

Individual excellence.

 Amen. 

I could preach here at you, but I'm afraid there are too many loud and proud voices out there and I don't want to add to the volume that keeps amplifying. I am so thankful though, that God ordains my days in such a way that I am able to have these important conversations with our children about loving others well and seeing people for the individuals that the Lord has created in His very own image especially during a very, very hard time in America.  


And can I just add a PS while I'm plunking? If you're like me, shaken and aching for black people and feel helpless about what to do or how to gain perspective... if you are looking for any encouraging voice in the crowd, I encourage you to head on over to Benjamin Watson's blog Truth in the Game. He's written and continues to write passionately about race in America. And while your at it read all about Jessie Owens and watch the video below. 


Remarkable. 
Truly, truly remarkable.



Thursday, 21 July 2016

He Calls me Mom.

Him: What did I call Ms. Cari when I lived with them?
Me: Mom
Him: What did I call the Strucks when I lived with them?
Me: Mom and Dad
Him: And, of course, I called Audrey mom when I lived with her.
Me: of course.
Him: WEIRD. That is SO weird, Mom!!!
Me: Not really, because they were acting like moms to you and you called them as much.
Him: But it would be so weird to call someone else mom now. 
You're my mom.
Me: *smiles, teary eyed*



These are the moments that I want to cling to as an adoptive mother. So many moments around here are hard and feel a bit lonely. If you knew how hard it is for a foster child who has had lived through multiple placements before being adopted, to look at me and really call me mother (as in NO ONE else is my mother), you would agree that this is no small miracle of the heart.  If you knew how hard is is for a mother to look at a son, not born of her womb, and to truly call him her son, you would nod and amen that this is no small miracle in her heart either.

It feels a little like the mountain in front of us is not Everest anymore...maybe just a daily walk up Sugarloaf. There was a time that I was sure he wouldn't see every birthday as a year older but a year closer to finding his "real parents." And I was ok with that. Most of the time anyway.


There will be days that he won't know where he belongs. There will be days where the last name that is now his, may not to seem to fit just right. There will be questions that we just cannot answer and feelings that we have not felt. We will have to see through his eyes. There will be hurt, and some anger. We will walk closely with him and all the others of the same last name as ours on their quest to find out who exactly they are and answer the question, "who am I?"

But no matter what I will forever be his mother. His mom. I am ever so humbled that, just like the children I have born of my womb, God, in is great grace granted my Love and I the privilege of calling him son. From the foundations of the earth, from the beginning of time he was ours. They all were. Amazing isn't it?

Amazing how God has given us three children with a completely different background, biological parents, genetics and made them ours. Their identity is not in what they used to be, what biological family they are from but who they are now. We are not being really nice folk that try to raise other people's children for awhile as a favor. No, they are ours. 

Adoption.


 What a beautiful testimony of the grace of God in our own lives. We do not have to be defined by who we used to be, but who he has made us to be through the Cross of Christ. 

I realize this is a lot easier to figure out in our heads than our hearts. It's a lot easier to say that we are seen by God as he sees his very own son, Jesus. But for me our walk as an adoptive family, is a walk in this truth: I am nothing in myself. I am only the daughter of the one true king. I can try to find my identity in other things: money, motherhood, other's opinions of me, being a good wife, writing, what car I drive, how many people I think I help, the "good" that I might do, how clean my house is etc. but nothing can satisfy the weighty question of who exactly I am, like my Jesus and being His daughter. Nothing can define me more than he has already done.

Come, he says, all you are weary and heavy laden 
and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28) 
Come, he says, and I will quench your thirst such that 
you will never thirst again. (John 4:14)