On Jesus and Motherhood

I open the dining room curtains to a pink dawn and crisp pre-fall morning. Espresso simmers on the stove top—admittedly the only thing that gets me out of bed some mornings. Laptop and coffee in hand, I slip away into the guest room hoping to eek out a few minutes of writing before my babies wake up.

I think about Jesus, His twelve disciples, motherhood, and social media—a mixed bag of old and new, of timeless truths, and human nature.

The world we live in today begs for attention and thrives on the affirmation of virtual likes, comments, and shares. Likely, people have always looked for this sort of approval in one medium or another regardless of the day in which they lived. But this need for notice and approval seems so very quantifiable today with actual numbers of “followers” and thumbs up to tell you just how popular (or unpopular) and noticed (or unnoticed) you really are. IMG_20170716_093307_819I follow a lot of moms on Instagram and read many a word written by moms of littles just like me. But they aren’t really like me at all, are they? Most of them run their own creative business on the side, are publishing books, homeschool half a dozen children or more, pull the weight of a public ministry, or simply rock life as a domestic diva with a perfectly curated home and gourmet meals on the table. That’s not exactly where I’m at, no not really.

These women challenge and encourage me with their lives and words—that’s why I follow them. But who am I kidding if I don’t admit how small I feel in comparison as I just keep my head above water and am thrilled if I post a few words here each week.

The numbers tell me I’m not like them, that I’m not seen or heard, that in a world screaming for attention, I am silent and invisible, unseen and unheard.IMG_20170808_222639_248 This is where Jesus comes in.

I get stuck in my own head sometimes. Stuck filling my heart with lies instead of truth. I go to social media and try to quantify my purpose and meaning with little thumbs up and numbers of followers. But then I’m reminded, Jesus only had twelve. Twelve “followers”—the small group of men he invested in deeply with his time and words and the few he would send out to further the story he had to tell. Just twelve men.

I look at my life, my home, my husband and two children. It doesn’t seem like much sometimes, my impact in this life and world. What difference can I make when all I can do is keep four people (including myself) alive each day? If I were just one of those women who does it all and is followed by many, then I could make an impact and do something lasting. Then the numbers would tell me I have purpose and influence. The numbers would tell me I matter.

But Jesus…

He invested for a short time in a few, not many. He had twelve followers and that was enough for him. Jesus saw the impact deep investment in a few could make on many. Those twelve men went on to turn the world upside down and spread the gospel message to numbers unquantifiable.IMG_20170829_063413_632 My world is small but my people matter immensely. I’m learning to look beyond numbers and to invest deeply and completely in the people and work before me. This isn’t easy, feeling small and unseen in a world shouting for attention. But who I am and what I’m worth is defined by Christ and not my sphere of influence on social media. Social media is fine. Having tons of followers is fine. But numbers are only helpful when they point us to Christ and his work rather than our own fame and glory.

So help me, God, to see you in the people and work before me however small and invisible my life may sometimes feel.

Soli Dio gloria.

What My Children Will Remember

A newborn asleep in my arms. A three-year-old playing at my feet and talking, talking, talking endlessly as he does. I love my children but they aren’t always the best company. I crave conversation and connection—real words with actual grownups.

I feed my daughter with one hand and scroll ad infinitum through my phone with the other. Though I’m endlessly busy at home, I’m bored at the same time. My hands are busy but my heart and mind aren’t engaged in the tasks at hand—changing diapers, cleaning bottles, filling sippy cups, and stacking blocks. My phone becomes an outlet as my heart and mind seek connection with adults and stories beyond the day to day routine of raising a family.IMG_20170822_104305_617But already, little as they are, my children notice my distraction and lack of engagement with their own words and activities. I look away from my phone to find my daughter’s eyes locked on me and I wonder what I’ve missed during this first month of her life while my eyes lingered a little too long and longingly at pretty pictures on Instagram. My son asks a million questions and eventually gets frustrated at my obviously not listening grunts and mmm hmms to his words and stories. He wants me to look up at him. He wants me to get down on the floor and play. He wants me to see him and not just what’s happening on my phone.IMG_20170717_145445_984It’s hard, this busy boredom. This always having more to do and needs to meet than I can possibly manage and yet being lonely and mentally stagnant all the while my hands are full and my feet are moving.

Sometimes I wonder what my children will remember about me when they think back to childhood. What will stand out in their mind from our days together here at home? Will they remember me loving on them and the games we played? Will they hold onto climbing into my lap with a book and reading a story together or the sunny days outside playing in the yard and dirt? Or will they mostly remember me on my phone, looking down and muttering delayed and distracted responses to their words and questions?IMG_20170717_092642_395I think about the things I want my children to love—being outside, reading, exploring, imagining and telling stories. And then I wonder how well they’re learning such things from my living example. How often do I go outside or pick up a book instead of my phone? How often do I explore or tell them a story rather than turning on Netflix for some easy entertainment?

I hate the answer. I’m embarrassed by the truth.

My children are watching, learning, and becoming and there’s no going back on the time already spent. I know I can (and must) do better so I started setting my phone down and picking a book up instead. How I’ve forgotten the pleasure of reading. The words of C.S Lewis pour off the page and I’m mesmerized by his words. My son sees me reading and wants to know what the words say so I read out loud. He brings me story books and we sit and read together.IMG_20170717_145652_951Outside on the porch, I feel the breeze swirling around me, baby snuggled against my chest. My son digs in the dirt, still talking endlessly. I can hear the birds, feel the warmth of sunshine on my skin. Since when was my own backyard so magical, peaceful, and quiet? I’d forgotten how quiet life actually is when you turn off the noise—the phone notifications, the TV, the endless searching for entertainment.

It’s hard sometimes, spending most of my time with little people who can barely communicate when I long for meaningful conversation and connection. But I think I’m starting to realize my children long for those things too—the conversation and connection—and they long for it with me. My son has stories to tell, boy does he. My daughter studies my face, eyes locked on me regardless of whether my gaze is on her or my phone.

These are the days they’ll remember and how they remember them is very much up to me and the example I set.

The Moments Unseen

Tiny fingers laced through mine in the dark. A warm little body snuggled against me. Some of the most magical parts of motherhood go unnoticed and undocumented.

When my son comes to me, arms lifted, asking to “hold me” (really, he means for me to hold him)—I don’t pull out my phone and snap pictures of the moment; I simply pick him up. His arms wrap around my neck, head rests on my shoulder, and I tell him I love him, that I’m so thankful he’s my boy. It’s a quiet, unseen moment we share a thousand times amid a world marching on around us. And it’s the part of motherhood that fills my heart with new energy and devotion for the often far more public tantrums and tears that might make me wonder why I decided to be a mom in the first place.

IMG_20141029_114548In a world so photographed, documented, and publicly shared via social media, these quiet moments can at times feel less than simply because they weren’t seen or shared. It’s tempting to try to keep up with the flood of gorgeous images I see each day by trying to snap and document each of my own magical moments.

I want enchanting images of my own to share on Instagram or to punctuate my blog posts. But…

But

Sometimes the act of trying to document a moment destroys the very magic itself. Like a bird perched delicately on a branch in the morning light— you can stand quietly and admire or go closer and chase the moment out of existence.

We have to choose when to pull out our phones and cameras to capture our days and hours— and when to simply sit in the moment and let it be. This is not always an easy choice. Photos carry our memories when our busy minds would forget. But cameras and selfies may equally rob a moment of the very beauty we’re trying to store up and hold onto.

So sometimes when my son climbs into my lap and pulls my arms around him or asks me to lay beside him holding his hand until he falls asleep at night, I leave my phone alone. I soak up the memory in my heart and consciousness rather than my social media and try to remember some of the most magical parts of life and motherhood are the moments most unseen.

Chapter Two: It’s Just a Blog

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this space over the last few months–what it is, why I’m here, do I continue, etc.

When I look back to what this blog was about in the beginning (intended to be a nature journal, essentially), I realize a lot has changed since those very first days of sharing my words and pictures.

There have been times when I had lots of readers and visitors and felt quite connected to people through blogging. And there have been times with hardly any visits, reads, or interactions. A lot of this has come down to me and my own investment in this space, I know.

After quite a long absence when my son was born, I’ve had trouble knowing how and when to pick back up over here—how to connect what this space was and now is into a coherent whole.

And as is often the case when I’m pondering and without answers, I pull in and keep quiet until I’m ready and know what I want to say. Thus the intermittent months of silence on all my social media.

I vacillate between being someone who startles people with my honesty about hard things on one hand and being deeply introverted and private on the other. I realize this sometimes leaves people not knowing where they stand with me—and leaves me not knowing what and how to share in a space like this.

So you want to know what my conclusion is after all these deep thoughts and said ponderings?

It’s just a blog. You should probably chill out.

I tend to over-think things sometimes and this blog is probably one of those cases—I’ve just been taking the whole thing way too seriously. It’s hard, because words matter to me. My words matter to me. And putting your heart and life on the page with written words can scare the fire out of you.

But…

Again, it’s just a blog. These are just blog posts and pretty pictures from one little person in one little corner of the world.

So I’ve decided to calm down and stop worrying. And instead, I’m just going to write and share pictures to my heart’s content without all the anxiety that comes with over-thinking and over-valuing every last word that comes out of my mouth.

That being said, you can expect to see me around here a lot more—like my goal is 3x a week a lot more. You may not like that, I know. You may get sick and tired of reading my words and seeing my face. And if you do, though I’d hate to see you leave, I understand if you decide to go. Kari Ann ain’t for everyone, that’s for dang sure…and that’s okay.

I’ve decided to view this space as a record and an online journal. It’s a place to hash out and write down what I’m thinking about and learning. It’s a place to rant a little and be silly. A place to share what I love and the pictures I’m taking along the way.

I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.

And in closing, I realize many of the readers I had before are now gone and there are lots of new faces around here as well, so on Friday I’m going to re-introduce myself a little bit. This makes me feel profoundly silly, just so you know. It’s like taking selfies…not my thing looking at my own face close up. But I thought it might be helpful as we kick off with a bit of a fresh start.

And if you come back Friday and see nothing, it’s because I chickened out. So there’s that.

Until then, thanks for reading along ❤

—Kari

Tis the Season…of Consumerism

When Thoreau was living at Walden Pond and writing his work of the same name he said that “men have become the tools of their tools.” He wrote that in the mid 1800s so I imagine he might have had a mental break had he ever met the internet.

Just imagine Thoreau with an iPhone for a minute; it makes me smile.

I went to Walden Pond once. I drove out with a friend and together we sat by the water’s edge with journals in hand and wrote about the beautiful, quiet place we found ourselves in.

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walden journal

We walked in the replica of the tiny cabin Thoreau built for himself and I snapped a few pictures of Mr. Thoreau reading my very own copy of Walden Pond :]

walden house

walden book

I like Thoreau. I like what he stood for and what he did by example. But I’m not very good at following that example. I’m much better at online shopping and Angry Birds, truth be told.

It seems like simple living should be, you know, simple. But the world we live in is awfully glittery and I choose consumerism and material things far more than I would like you to know.

walden birch

I think about this a lot this time of year. Not only because of Christmas shopping but also because my birthday is a month before Christmas and Darren’s is a month after. So for three months straight we are thinking about buying and getting things. I have nothing against birthday and Christmas presents; I think both can be thoughtful demonstrations of love for the other person and that is certainly what we hope to accomplish by giving each other these gifts. Still though, it’s easy to get carried away by it all, by all these shiny, glittery, latest and greatest things that we convince ourselves we simply must have and give each other.

Fortunately this year we are broke.

Not really, but we are building a house…in the woods…with a big garden beside it…with all the hope in the world that it will help lead us to simpler, more meaningful living. But even houses in the woods built with good intentions cost money so this year we have to really stop and think about every dollar we spend.

And you know what? It’s been super wonderful. Seriously. I like not worrying so much about what I’m giving and getting for birthdays and Christmas. I like that every single gift I bought for Darren this year was picked out based on what I know he’s good at and will love. I like that this year feels a little slower, a little less about things, and more about building dreams together. I like that on my birthday Darren gave me a remote-controlled monster truck because every time we end up in the toy aisle I drool over them. That’s a nutty thing to give a girl but he knew I would like it and it made me smile that he remembered and did something that felt hugely thoughtful to me.

I’ve read a lot of stuff lately about how hectic and frantic these last few weeks before Christmas are. About how people are stretched and stressed to the max by all the shopping and parties and decorating. And I think that’s really sad. Because the shopping and the parties and the decorating are not what this is about. I’m a Christian, so foremost I think this is all about Jesus. But even beyond that, this really should be about people and love and thoughtful, heartfelt giving–giving of gifts we picked out with something special and specific in mind, gifts of our time just to be with people and to enjoy each other….gifts that matter for more than the glitter.

Walden Pond

I’ve let the beauty of Christmas get away from me many times before by focusing on all the wrong things. But this year–this quiet, slower year–is teaching me something I hope I won’t forget.

Let’s not be the tools of our tools, okay? Okay :]

Our Real Lives

Sometimes, as much as I love blogging, the whole thing feels a little less than genuine to me. I obviously only share parts of myself here with you. I try to be open and honest in this space but you can only get so much of the whole picture from the occasional words and pictures I share.

I also try to be positive on my blog because honestly, who wants to read about someone else’s problems all day? I want this space to be beautiful and inspiring so I only share those things that I hope you will connect with and be inspired by. But in so doing I leave out a lot of the truth and always feel like a little bit of a fraud.

This is challenging because I find myself reading my favorite blogs and sometimes I get a little discouraged thinking other people have so much more going for them than I ever will. I look at all their pretty pictures and eat up stories of their adventures and I start to think I must be a complete loser compared to them.

But the truth is these people I admire are only sharing a part of themselves with me—just like I only share a part of myself with you. However beautiful anyone’s life may look, we all have problems, hurts, discouragements, and a whole world of history that has made us who we are.

I have to remind myself of that when I read about other people’s lives online.

I enjoy social media—Facebook, blogs, Pinterest… It’s all good in its place but it’s important to remember how much more there is behind all the pretty pictures and words. There is a lot more going on in my life than I can ever share with you here. But I still want to share with you what I can. I want to tell you my stories and show you my pictures—even if these stories and pictures only give you a glimpse and not the whole story.

There are lots of good things going on in my life right now. As I shared with you not long ago, Darren and I just bought an old house we are remodeling and we are so excited about moving out into the country.

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Earlier this week we planted a big vegetable garden and the other night we pulled an old piano bench outside and sat under the stars planning and dreaming of life in this new place. While we were sitting there the most incredible shooting star I have ever seen zipped by with a trail of flame behind it…I actually gasped out loud—it was that amazing.

In just a few days we leave for Europe. Europe! We have been saving for years and now we finally get to take off and see Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, and England! Holy moly kids…I can’t even tell you how excited I am.

I look forward to sharing all these little adventures with you here over the summer. But in doing so I just wanted to remind you (and myself) that these are just pieces of our lives. The rest of my life involves sitting at a desk doing paperwork, cleaning the house, cooking, grocery shopping, bill paying, blah blah blah. I don’t sit here and tell you about the day-to-day because that would bore me to tears and I don’t want to do the same to you. But the laundry and the paperwork…that is very much my real life whether I share it here or not.

Life is good but it isn’t good every second of every day and it isn’t just pretty pictures and big adventures. Life is beautiful and messy and so much more than the individual parts we share. That’s it. That’s all. Love Kari :]

Why Do You Read the Blogs You Do?

What is it about a particular blog that draws you in and makes you want to read more? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately: Why do I read some blogs and skip over others?

For me it comes down to whether or not I’m interested in and inspired by the person behind the blog.

My favorite blog is by a girl named Aura and I can’t get enough of her writing and photography—but why? She’s just a person telling stories and sharing snap shots of her life so why do I care what this stranger does with her days?

I care because I’m fascinated and inspired by her. I’m inspired by all the beauty she creates in her life and fascinated by the way she lives. Watching her life through the stories and pictures shared on her blog inspire me to go out and do more with myself—and I like that.

Another one of my favorite bloggers/artists is Katie Daisy. Katie is my favorite artist because what she creates fascinates and inspires me—just like Aura’s words and photos do. I love the way Katie combines colors and textures into whimsical little paintings and her work makes me want to transform everything around me into something dripping with color and beauty.

I also read blogs that resonate with me and the way I live.

Blogs about nature and the outdoors, photography and art, faith and family—these are just a few of the things that speak deeply to me and draw me into the writing of others with similar interest.

Both Aura and Katie are Midwest girls who grew up in the prairies of Oklahoma and Illinois. The words they write and the art they create resound deeply with my love for the prairies. I feel connected to these artists in a way because we each share a deep love of this one common thing—the flatlands, the woods, the birds and trees…the places and things that speak to us about where we are from and who we have become.

Both of these artists inspire me to create more beauty in my life. They inspire me to live better, write better, and create from a place deep inside my soul that is genuine and true.

There are very few bloggers who reach me in this way but whenever I come across someone who does, I can’t get enough of their words and stories. I want to dive into their world and understand everything that makes them who they are. I want to go away from their words and pictures and create something just as beautiful and inspiring with my own words and stories.

What draws you into a blog? What determines who your favorite writers and artists are?

Find Yourself

The best of me comes from within not from without. My most inspired, creative work happens when I work from within myself rather than looking for inspiration from others. Other people do inspire me, but when I try to follow after them and do what they do, I always lose myself along the way and lose any authentic inspiration too. I admire people but that does not mean I need follow them. We are each our own and when we are not, we lose ourselves in each other.

I struggle with this in the realm of social media. There are so many beautiful blogs and pictures and ideas. There are so many ways to share ourselves with each other using Pinterest, Etsy, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., etc.

Social media isn’t necessarily a bad thing—I’m sharing these very thoughts with you right now using social media—but sometimes I find it eats me alive. Sometimes I lose my own inspiration in the inspiration of others and nothing I do rings true for a time.

My best work happens when I am quiet and alone, when I look within instead of without, when I walk away from the internet and into the woods, when I feel the world pulsing around me in all my senses—tasting, smelling, touching, hearing, feeling the world for myself in my own living senses.

I am never more inspired to garden and nurture life than when I go outside and feel the cool spring air on my skin, smell the dirt as it’s dug up and prepared for planting—nobody, however inspiring, can replace the inspiration that comes from living your own life in awareness of yourself and your own surroundings.

Sometimes I forget to be inspired in myself, outside of others. But I am finding the best way to live happily, peacefully, fully, is to live truly to myself and outside of others. To live within my senses and live out my own inspiration. Nothing is more inspiring than a person who has found themselves and is living authentically from within, not from without.

I don’t think being creative is so much about being original as it is about being authentic—being true to your own inspiration and living out of your own senses and awareness. Sometimes I have to step away from the people who inspire me to actually find any inspiration of my own.

“Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.” -Rumi