On Monday (August 26, 2019) I wrote that Change is Constant. Since then, even more change has happened in my everyday life. I’ve unearthed this post first written in August 2014 to remind myself of all the changes we’ve lived through and been changed by as a family — to remind myself that change brings the potential for transformation.
On December 21, 1989, when my husband proposed to me, he said, “Things are going to get busy for a while.” He wasn’t kidding.
In the last 25 years we have lived in eleven different homes, parented four children (giving birth to three within three years!), earned three Master’s degrees, taught hundreds of students, driven thousands of miles, and attended dozens of churches. Things have indeed been busy!
We have experienced lots of change–as individuals, and as a family. At first, I braced myself for change and tried to…
Shift happens. Change is constant. We live in a perpetual state of transition.
I don’t like it!
I mean, I do…I really do like things to change. I get bored with doing the same exact routine, seeing the same students, teaching the same lessons, making the same meals, doing the same exercises, day after day after day.
I like to mix things up.
And there it is — I like change when I am the one making the changes, but I don’t appreciate it so much when I am in a shifting situation that someone else has created. For example, in the past six months two of my supervisors have moved into new roles. Hooray for them! They both moved on to positions that better fit their lives, their aspirations, and their skill sets. However, their shift caused a residual shift — shift that affected me.
When my first supervisor left in April, I was shaken. I had been relying heavily on her–the one whose confidence in me exceeded my own; the one who had promoted me because she saw my potential when I couldn’t. When she announced her move to a different role in our company, I was a bit miffed — how could she leave me? I thought she was going to further develop me! However, my being miffed didn’t change the situation. She kept right on walking out the door, and honestly, I applauded her as she went, knowing that she was moving into a role that would better fit her life and multiply her impact among students.
When her replacement arrived, I squared my shoulders and had a conversation with myself that went something like this: “It’s going to be fine. The beginning may be bumpy — initial contact is rarely smooth — but hang in there! Chances are you will work just fine with this new person.” And it was all just fine — in fact, five months later, I remember few, if any bumps with that transition.
However, just a few weeks ago, that supervisor announced that he, too, would be moving on.
I responded in much the same way as I had the first time — “Good for you, but what about me?” He is moving on to a position that will better match his life and his professional desires; I get that. However, his gain is my loss, and I had an emotional response to the uncertainty that would surely come with another transition. I again anticipated some bumps in the road.
I tell myself, “Come on, Kristin, how many transitions have you navigated in your lifetime? Countless? I thought so. Pull yourself together.”
And I have, for the most part, pulled myself together. Our new supervisor has been in our office for one week. We’re getting accustomed to one another. We’re learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I don’t really like this getting to know you phase. I really just want to operate as a well-oiled machine, but as we know, every machine gets bogged down from time to time; it needs to be pulled apart, examined, reassembled, and oiled. We’re in that phase. And I’m trying to be at peace with it all.
To complicate matters, I feel a bit of obligation, being the most senior in age of all of my staff, to model an appropriate and mature approach to transition. (They don’t call me Momma K for nothing.) Yet my emotional responses have been real and sometimes raw. I am not one to front, so those closest to me have seen me struggle a bit. I don’t like that either. So, I’m doing my best to verbally process with them, as moms do when they are trying to walk their kids through difficulty. “Transitions can be bumpy,” I say. “I find myself feeling defensive, so I’m not doing the best at keeping a positive attitude,” I admit. “We’re doing fine. We’re all learning from each other here,” I cheer. “We’re a great team,” I chant.
And for the most part I believe myself, because I’ve been through change so many times. I know we are all going to be fine. I just wish I could get my emotions to believe me, too.
Emotions don’t always get the big picture. They cry out, “Danger! Unfamiliar territory! Proceed with caution! Bumps Ahead! I won’t let you hurt me! I was here first!”
So I climb out on the ledge where my emotions stand trembling, looking down at the rocks below. Together we take a good long look at where they are headed; I grab their hand and gently talk them back into the building. “I know you are scared. You are feeling a bit insecure. It’s going to be ok. You are ok. It’s going to get better. We’ve been through this before. Remember? It was ok then; it’s going to be ok now.”
And for a while we are ok. I smile. I do my job. I encourage my students and coworkers. And then something happens that triggers my emotions to walk back toward the exit, and we start the cycle all over again.
I’m at my mom’s right now; we’ve spent several hours over the last couple of days looking through hundreds of photos. We’ve seen photos of my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, nieces, and children from every stage of life. I have seen the innocent smiles of childhood, the strained poses from difficult times, and the sparkling eyes of age. Some photos take me right back to a moment — I remember the circumstances surrounding the occasion, the call to “say cheese”, and the click of the camera. Some are from times way before my years.
In all of them, today, I see traces of transition.
I saw my grandmother transition from an innocent child making a card for her mother to a young bride unaware of the difficulties life would hold to a mother meticulously caring for her children to a grandmother sitting among those she cherished.
I saw my toddler mother smiling sweetly for a professional photo in a perfectly pressed frock, my adolescent mother in her confirmation dress, my young adult mother in her wedding gown, and my beaming mother in her mother-of-the bride dress.
I saw myself in white blond ponytails for a school photo, in brunette hot curler-ed waves for my college graduation, and in a super short cropped ‘do buried in small children.
All of life is transitioning from one stage to the other. Each stage is full of transitions –in relationships, in school or work, in our bodies. Each year is transition from spring to summer to fall to winter. Each day changes from morning to noon to night.
We’ve all lived through thousands of transitions. So why do I get my shorts in a knot? Why do I wring my hands and pace the floors? Surely this is just one transition among many more that I will face in my life.
Surely as soon as this transition has run its course another will begin.
Change is a given, so as I continue to ride the wave, I will look to the one who stays the same. I will cling to the one who is constant.
Today is Move-in Day at this place we call home. Thirty-four years ago, I was moving in as a student; just over five years ago, I moved in as the wife of the Dean of Students. Both times I’m shown up on this campus, I’ve been just a bit broken, and both times this space has provided the time, the resources, and the community in which I find healing. I wrote this post in on August 3, 2014, when I thought my biggest problem was my health. As I revisit it today, I wonder at God’s ability to see the bigger issues and provide a space for me to held through difficulties yet unknown to me.
Nestled beside the Huron River is a small school — Concordia University. (You can see the chapel amid the trees in the photo.) The school was started in the 1960s by the Lutheran Church…
Early in this blog, much of my content was about my ongoing journey through chronic illness — pain, fatigue, and issues with my eyes and skin. I don’t write about it much any more, because most of my symptoms have leveled out; I don’t often have a crisis. Sure, pain is still present every day; yes, my eyes can give me challenges from time to time; and, of course, my skin continues to be my first alert system. However, for the most part, I have found a new rhythm that sustains my health and has even allowed me to work full-time and enjoy life outside of work. (Read my latest health update from March here.)
In fact, I’ve been in this rhythm so long, that I can forget how miserable I was just a few years ago — when I had to limit myself to 1-2 activities a day, when I frequently found myself doubled over in pain or lying on the bathroom floor waiting to throw up, when I had to lie down for a while in the morning and in the afternoon due to extreme fatigue. Yeah, it was really that bad, so now when I work 40 hour weeks for months in a row, occasionally meet friends for dinner after work, or travel two weekends in a row, and suffer no consequences, I can get a little amnesia — the kind of amnesia that leads me to push the limits.
For the past month, I have been pushing the limits. We have had out of town visitors at least four times and have attended two family reunions, one wedding, one dance lesson, and at least two dinner dates with friends. No problem. I was feeling fine. Yes, I had to go to bed early a couple times, but I recovered quickly. I was able to keep writing most mornings, do yoga, go for walks, and still manage my regular household tasks like groceries, laundry, and cooking. I didn’t miss work or cancel any plans.
But this past week, I kicked it up a notch — I threw all caution to the wind.
After church last Sunday, my husband and I shopped for a few hours while we waited for new tires to be installed on our car. Monday, we met after work to grab a quick bite before cheering on our son in a local 5k; we even hung out with him for a while afterward. Tuesday, I attended my end-of-summer staff party complete with Chipotle and trivia. Wednesday, I met an old friend from high school for a quick reunion. Thursday, I ate out, played, and laughed with my son and godson. What a fun week!
And it might have been ok, if I hadn’t missed my last PT appointment or skipped my chiropractor for three weeks running, if I hadn’t been up later than usual every single night, if I hadn’t omitted yoga four days in a row, if I hadn’t had the corn chips with my Chipotle, if I hadn’t had two slices of pizza (all that gluten and dairy) at work on Wednesday, or if I hadn’t said, “sure Ethiopian food will be fine.”
People often ask me, “What do you notice when you avoid gluten and dairy?” or “Does yoga really help you?” or “Really, a chiropractor makes a big difference?” or “That PT sounds weird, are you sure it works?”
I typically say something like, “I’m not sure what does what, but I know that when I do all the things, I feel good enough to live my life. When I don’t do the things, I’m on the couch or in the bed.”
After a month of rich living, I abandoned my good practices for a week, and when I woke up Friday morning, I felt rough — my head hurt, my eyes were begging to be closed, I was nauseous, and I really thought I wouldn’t make it through my work day. I allowed myself an extra 30 minutes in bed, then begged the hot shower for transformation.
I dragged myself to work, mentally marking the four-hour countdown to lunch hour when I would finally see the chiropractor. It was a particularly challenging morning at work — complete with schedule changes, atypical student behavior, and two parent meetings –but I did my best and made it to lunch time.
I willed myself to drive to the chiropractor, rubbing my aching neck and fight back nausea. I was miserable. “Please, Jesus, let this adjustment at least alleviate this headache.” The chiropractor may have said, “wow” a couple of times as he moved up and down my spine putting each piece back in its assigned location, and he may have said, “well, that should make a difference” as we heard the pop of my sacroiliac joint jumping back into place. I can’t remember exactly what happened, because he then applied acupressure to two spots right below my eyes and then two spots on my forehead and the pain of my headache was instantly cut in half. I was astounded and relieved.
I walked to my car promising the doctor (and myself) that I’d return on my regular schedule. I drove back to work, where my office manager met me with a Whole Foods delivery — warm goodness without gluten or dairy or corn. I sat at my laptop with an ice cold Coke and my roasted chicken and vegetables and began to feel well again.
It was a quick turnaround — unlike the systemic flares from just a few years ago that would take 24 to 48 hours, this one lasted only about six hours. Just long enough to scare me straight.
All during those six hours I was picturing the tile of the bathroom floor and imagining myself packed in ice on the couch. I had forgotten those realities, but they showed up to remind me to return to my best practices.
I made a home-cooked meal on Friday night — roasted pork cutlets with rice and sautéed fresh vegetables and then slept for nine hours. I started Saturday with writing, yoga, and oatmeal before heading to a 90-minute structural medicine appointment where the practitioner moved all the muscles and ligaments to support the chiropractor’s work. I spent the afternoon doing food prep — making Kristin-friendly muffins and cutting up veggies and melon– and organizing my office. I finished the evening with three episodes of Queer Eye because it’s wholesome and friendly and hopeful.
I’m writing this on Sunday morning, and I’ve already journaled, done yoga, and am writing now to remember — that the full life that I enjoy is a gift. In a little while, I will head to church where I will give thanks for this gift– this physical restoration that is a mere shadow of the more complete restoration that has been happening inside. I will give thanks for both, and I will continue to return to all of my best practices.
Addendum: It’s now Monday morning. Yesterday on our drive to church, my husband and I started filling our day with visits and errands, and chores. We had quite a list, so we both agreed to “see how it goes.” By the end of church and a congregational meeting, I had decided I needed to see a doctor; I had symptoms that suggested an infection. So, we drove to our practice’s walk-in clinic to have me checked out. No infection, just more evidence of inflammation–I needed more than twenty-four hours to recover, apparently.
So, we scrapped our plans, came home to nutritious leftovers, an hour at the puzzle, a nap, and two episodes of The Great British Baking Show — yes, we’ve pulled out all the stops! In a little while, I will start my week with a trip to the physical therapist for the final “laying on of hands” in this series.
I am so thankful for my current health and this journey I’ve been on — a journey that tangibly shows me the value of self-care, a journey that allows me to do my best and gives me grace to recover when I’ve gone off the rails, a journey that reminds me to return to my best practices.
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Monday’s post, Do Something, was meant to be an encouragement to take a step — any small step — toward making a difference. This post, written in November 2014 and cleaned up in August 2019, reminds me thatwhatever I do is best when it comes from a place of love.
Last night at dinner sat a student, a teacher, a pastor, a cardiologist, and a soldier…It sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? It’s not a joke. They were all at our table last night. The soldier asked the cardiologist, “so what exactly do you do?” The cardiologist answered, “the sexy answer is that I stop heart attacks and save lives, but the reality is that I take a lot of measurements and do a lot of diagnostics.” The soldier answered, “well, my sexy answer is that I jump out of planes and blow things up, but…
I wrote this piece last year, with no idea of what 2020 would bring. It seems even more relevant today in the midst of a global pandemic and worldwide protests over racial injustice. Will you join me? Will you do something?
On Sunday August 4, 2019, Ohio Governor Mark DeWine addressed a crowd on the same day that a mass shooting killed 9 and left 27 injured. He had just barely begun to speak when someone shouted, “Do something!” Before long, many had joined the chant, “Do something! Do something!”
DeWine was moved to action. Within 48 hours, he had proposed several changes to gun laws including a red flag law and universal background checks; his initiatives also included measures related to education and mental health. He announced his actions saying, “We must do something.”
Now that is what I’m talking about.
The people in that Dayton crowd, along with many others, are done with hand-wringing and weeping. They are tired of excuses and finger-pointing. They have seen enough bloodshed, and they are demanding change.
“Do Something!” they yell, and I find myself joining their cries, “Do Something! Do Something!”
Last week I wrote about prayer — the lifting up of our burdens to the One who is able to change everything.
I’m not taking that back.
Pray. Keep praying. Never stop praying.
But here’s the thing, we can pray with our breath and our movements at that same time that we are doing something.
Yes, we can have dedicated times of solitude, where we go in our prayer closets or lie on our beds and cry out to God. Do that! However, you can also put your prayers into motion. Much like you talk to a friend as you go for a run, drive down the road, or cook a meal, you can continue in conversation with God as you do something about the things you are lifting up to Him.
You can cry, “Do you see this, God? Two hundred forty-six people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States this year,” while you are demonstrating in front of a governor, or writing a letter to your congressman, or donating money for mental health resources in your community or educational services at your local school.
You can say, “Lord, I’m really worried about the environment, I beg for your mercy and the renewal of our planet,” as you ride on public transportation, use cloth shopping bags, or carry your compost outside.
You can sob, “I’m begging you to heal my broken relationships,” as you encourage the people you encounter every day, as you go to therapy to process your regrets and learn healthier strategies, as you do your best to rebuild relationships.
We can be people of prayer and still do something. We can do more than put on sackcloth and ashes, grieving the loss of a life we once knew. We can speak out and fight for change. We can defend the defenseless, call out the unjust, and offer solutions.
We can engage in conversations about politics — ask the hard questions, admit that we don’t have all the answers, and even change our minds.
We can volunteer in our communities — working with the homeless, tutoring public school kids, or leading clean-up projects.
We can support the people in our neighborhoods — being available, providing resources, dropping off flowers or meals.
I don’t know what your gifts are, but even while you are praying, you can do something.
Why should you? Why should you expend any effort? What difference is one person going to make any way? The problems we face are big — almost insurmountable — rampant gun violence, a drug epidemic, a decaying environment, a world-wide sex trafficking network, an immigration crisis, our dysfunctional families, and our own broken hearts.
We could crawl into our beds, cover our heads with blankets, and weep as we cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”
But, friends, while we wait for His return, He is inviting us to do something.
I am not suggesting that you strap on your gear and go about butt-kicking and name-taking. Instead, I am suggesting a mindful, prayerful approach to action.
You and I can consider the items we are continually lifting up in prayer: a family member with health concerns, a strained relationship, personal debt, the environment, racial disparity, and violence against women, for example.
As we lift us these concerns, we can be asking, “What difference can I make? What is one thing that I can do? How can I help?” And we will begin to see opportunities: we can make a phone call to encourage that family member, we can respect the requests of the one who just needs some time and space, we can pay off some bills and move toward financial freedom, we can decide to buy fewer products packaged with plastic, we can vote for proposals that promote equity, or volunteer at a local women’s shelter. We can do something.
We don’t have to do everything, but we can each do something.
Imagine the impact of 10 people consistently choosing to do one thing toward improving a neighborhood, of 100 people dedicated to just one action to decrease homelessness, of 1000 people committed to improving the lives of children living in poverty.
You could be the start of transformational change, if you just decide that you are going to do something.
For the past few years I’ve been looking for something big to do. As I’ve been sorting through the broken pieces of my life, I keep trying to put them together into one redemptive action that will somehow turn my tears into wine. I want to end poverty and violence and heal all the broken hearts. I want a project, a mission, a cause.
And as I lift the broken pieces up in prayer, I hear a still small voice saying, “you don’t need to single-handedly change the world, Kristin, but you cando something. How about you just start with one small thing?”
But there is so much that needs changing!
“Behold, I am making all things new.”
I want to help!
“Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.”
Ok. I hear you. I’ll start small, but I’ll dream big.
I’m praying that others will pick their one small thing and join me.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
Since I posted on Monday about prayer and my habit of trying to work everything out on my own before I consider lifting my requests to God, I’ve woken several times in the middle of the night. From that supine position of near-sleep, I find I’m less likely to jump into action mode and more likely to grumble a prayer, “Lord, I’d really like to get back to sleep, would you mind holding on to this worry for me? Would you please guide me toward a decision? Would you care for this person I’m worried about?”
I’ve not been a consistent pray-er over the years, but I am continually provided with opportunities to improve — like waking in the middle of the night. I first posted this piece in December of 2014; I repost it here in August of 2019.Whether you choose to read it or not, I pray…
Our pastors started a seven-week series on prayer two Sundays ago, at the beginning of Lent. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this Lent, more than any time I can remember, has me turning to prayer — for our country during this election cycle, for the world during this coronavirus pandemic, and for my family as they weather transitions, health struggles, and other life challenges. On Monday, I wrote about the power of prayer to turn us From Fear to Peace; today, I re-visit a post from August that further explores the power of prayer.
Over the weekend I talked with my 90-year old godmother, who has now lived for over a year in her home alone — ever since her husband, my godfather, fell and broke his hip. She is so sad and lonely; her load is heavy — managing a home, driving to and from the facility where he lives, and dragging herself out of bed every morning. One thing sustains her — prayer.
I saw my mother this weekend, too. She has chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and severe joint pain throughout her body. Each day for her, too, is a struggle — getting out of bed, managing her symptoms and the side effects of the medication she takes, and completing the tasks that give her life meaning: preparing meals, sending care packages, and praying for her grandchildren.
Life has taught these women the power and solace that can be found in prayer. They have learned that, more than anything else, prayer has the ability to affect change — on the grand scale and in their every day lives.
I’m no expert at prayer. I’m a novice — I have good intentions and I love to dabble, but I haven’t developed the discipline nor done the due diligence that lead to excellence.
My first reaction to any problem is to strap on my gear and get busy finding solutions. It’s muscle memory from years of survival in the trenches. See problem? Find solution.
In fact, just last night I was watching news reports about two mass shootings over the weekend — one in El Paso and one in Dayton. From my tired Sunday afternoon haze I practically jumped to my feet, incredulous: Why is this still happening? Why haven’t we done something? These are real people with real families! We need an immediate buy-back program, followed by a targeted approach to identifying people at risk, and an extensive program for eliminating hate speech and bias and building strong relationships among the diverse people of our country!
I was on a roll. And we do need to act. Immediately. But all my sputtering in my living room on a Sunday evening won’t likely make a difference. I might play a role in ending gun violence in our country, but my frantic single-handed strategies don’t usually get me anywhere.
Eventually I run out of steam, and I begin to hear a faint sound calling me to prayer.
Someone recently said to me, “Don’t talk to me about prayer. That helps you; it doesn’t help me.” That’s not entirely wrong.
Praying does help me. When I pray, it’s often because I can no longer keep trudging along under the weight of the overloaded backpack of worry, concern, hope, and expectation that I find myself lugging around. I collapse under its weight, drag it into my lap, and pull out some of the weightiest pieces.
I take a good long look at each one and then hold it up for examination. I see a pair of hands extended toward me, waiting to accept each burden.
I lift each concern, each person, each hope as I say, “Please…..would you? I trust you. You’ve got the power… the wisdom…the patience…to manage this. I do not. You have the perfect answer. I do not. I’m so tired of carrying it… Please…do your best… heal… restore… redeem… renew… forgive… support… please.”
And this does help me. It does. When I lift my burdens to the hands that are strong enough to carry them, I’m lighter, and hopeful, and relieved, because the God who created all things is able to do what I cannot do. He is able to take those items from my backpack and transform them into beautiful treasures — reminders of once-worries, once-pains, once-griefs.
But that is not all.
My prayers, your prayers, our prayers combined don’t just help us — no. They transform the world. They call upon the Almighty, the One who owns all the might, and they enlist His power, all the power, and He, our great Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer takes JOY in answering.
But, sadly, prayer is not the first place I turn. No, I’m pretty strong, so I can lug that backpack around for quite a while as I climb rocky trails of possibility, moving boulders and downed branches out of my way. I am confident that I can solve each dilemma, rewrite each tragedy, and heal every hurt.
I’ve got stamina, too. I can wake up in the morning with a plan for how to restore a broken relationship and rehearse reunion scenarios in my mind all day long, alternating settings, dialogues, and supporting characters. By the time I fall into bed, I have imagined countless scenes and accumulated unfulfilled hopes by the dozen, but I haven’t brought two people back together again.
But I’m resilient. I can get up the next day and try again on another issue, perhaps the upcoming election, the educational crisis in public schools, or the unconscionable prevalence of mass shootings. I can toss around solutions in my head all day long — examining candidates, exploring school reform, and designing gun legislation. You’d be amazed at what goes on in this mind as I’m driving to work, walking at lunch, cutting up vegetables, or folding laundry. I expend all kinds of energy in my attempts to solve the world’s problems.
But all my scene-writing and strategy-planning is not making a difference. It’s merely my futile attempt at managing the items in my overloaded backpack. It’s my way of coping — my way of not sinking under the weight.
And, to be honest, it’s not even soldiering. Soldiers don’t strategize or rewrite history. They obey orders. They execute strategies. They complete missions. They report back.
My writing of scenes and brainstorming of strategies is not an attempt at soldiering, it’s worse –it’s an attempt at commanding. I not only want to carry the backpack, I want to give the orders.
I believe that’s called insubordination.
So much energy expended and none of it is necessary.
In fact, I don’t even need to carry the backpack.
I’m lugging it around trying to find my own answers and solutions, when I’ve been invited (some might say commanded) to turn it over, to lift it up, to surrender it.
And when I surrender it, change happens.
Change in me.
Change in others.
Change in the world.
Because those hands that are reaching out to receive the items I’m lifting up, are able (unlike mine) to heal, restore, redeem, renew, forgive, and support. Sometimes I am invited into the process, and sometimes I’m invited to stand still and behold the work of the Lord.
And that does, in fact, really help me. It changes me. It renews me. It gives me hope and strength.
I know that tomorrow when I wake up, I am very likely to forget all this, strap on my backpack, and start lifting up boulders in search of answers, but I pray that I tire quickly and remember to sit down and surrender my load into more capable hands.
The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.”
I come back to this piece I wrote almost exactly a year ago, on August 8, 2018, because once again, I’ve gotten out of my routine, and I’m trying to get back — away from the grumpiness and back to the rhythms that sustain my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
I’m such a creature of habit. Once I find a groove, I like to stay there. I like to wake at the same time, eat the same foods, listen to the same podcasts, drive the same roads, and watch the same shows.
Lately, I’ve been getting up at 6am, doing a little yoga, showering, fixing some kind of breakfast egg scramble, listening to my daily Bible reading followed by a favorite podcast, and driving to work. At lunchtime, I take a walk and finish my podcast. Then, on the drive home, I listen to music, make a phone call, or simply drive…