Sacrifice. Can we, as Christians, find true satisfaction in life without sacrifice? I don’t think so. The entire foundation of our beliefs are based on the life of Jesus, who not only sacrificed his day-to-day living but eventually His life.
I’m learning this is so true as a mother. The more that I am willing to sacrifice my time, my dreams, my desires for myself and instead pour that same amount of energy into raising my girls and leading them to Jesus, the more fulfilled I feel as a mom. And I am deeply persuaded (as Paul Tripp says) that I will not regret this when my children are grown.
But it’s difficult.
It’s difficult because when I put them to bed I would much rather spend an hour or two doing things that I enjoy (pick 1 of my 234 hobbies and work on it :-) instead of washing the dishes that are in the sink, folding the laundry I didn’t get to during the day or even going to bed early to get the sleep I will so desperately need tomorrow.
It’s difficult because voices are in my head. “You deserve time for you, Kelley! You’ve been working all day, you need a break” or “You can’t forget about your own needs” or “Pamper yourself! You can’t forget to pamper yourself!”
A lot of these voices come from my culture.
There is some truth to the fact that if we neglect our physical and mental wellbeing we will not be able to minister to others as effectively. That is why I am sacrificing the most productive time of day for me, three times a week, and exercising with a group of ladies at the YMCA. As much as I love being with other ladies and sweating (and seeing my life flash before my eyes) I am continuing to do so because I know, I know that a mama who is in shape physically will be a better mom. I will feel better and I will have more energy and I will be modeling for my girls how to be healthy.
But we must not let the truth of neglecting our physical and mental wellbeing become an excuse for indulging ourselves. Or a reason to live in a state of self-pity. Or allowing it to lead us to sacrifice the best for the good.
Protecting my physical and mental health does not mean that I need hours to myself everyday. That is a very American mentality. The average mom in other countries doesn’t even know what it feels like to sit back and think “so, what shall I do now?” because her day is already planned out for her. It consists of finding food and water for her family that may or may not survive the coming weeks. No, she’s not worried about getting “me” time or pampering herself. She’s focused on mere survival.
And really that’s the thing about being American. We have so much to sacrifice. There is so much good to let go of, in order to find the best. We can oh-so-easily create a world for ourselves that is almost 100% comfortable and entertaining. We can oh-so-easily focus our minds on nothing but ourselves and our families.
I am working on a project. A very large project that is going to take up a lot of my “free time” (ha). Half of my time consumed in this project requires me to read about other countries. It just so happens that right now I am reading books about Uganda. I began my 3rd book about Uganda last night in the past month. It is called Slave Girl and it is a testimony about a girl from northern Uganda who was kidnapped by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army…if you’ve never heard of it I encourage you to look it up!) and survived years of torture under the army. I have only made it through the forwards, preface and introduction and you know what phrase I keep reading over and over?
"We can’t ignore."
"This really and truly is going on, we can’t ignore it."
Why did those individuals find it so necessary to plead with us not to ignore the suffering of others that we will encounter in the pages of this book?
Because they know. They know their audience will be mainly American. They know we are so good at ignoring. We sacrifice the well-being of others for our comfortable lifestyle. We sacrifice the time that we could be using to reach out to others, whether that be people in our neighborhood, our church, our city, our country or overseas. They know…we cope with difficult truths by ignoring. And so we sacrifice not only what is best for others but what is best for us as well.
I remember in one of K.P. Yohannan’s books he poses the questions (this is paraphrased, remember) “if you stepped outside your front door and found a child curled up on your door step who was obviously dying, would you step over her and continue on your way?” The reality is that no, we wouldn’t. We would scoop her up and rush her off to get the medical attention that she needs. We have the means to help her and with the immediate need in front of our eyes (where we can’t possibly ignore it) we will do what we have to do. But because we don’t have little girls dying on our doorstep we don’t have to sacrifice anything for them. Even though there are little girls curled up and dying on the ground. They just aren’t on my doorstep.
I hear more voices. “We can’t help everybody”. True. “We can only do so much”. True. But why, then, do we not do so much? If we can’t help everybody why don’t we help those that we can? Why don’t we go to the next starfish and throw that one in the ocean?
Because we don’t want to sacrifice. We don’t want to sacrifice our time. We don’t want to sacrifice our dreams. We don’t want to sacrifice our comfort. We simply don’t want to sacrifice.
We don’t want to sacrifice and what we don’t see is that we actually suffer because of it. Christians in third-world countries see it. I was flabbergasted when I remember reading in Richard Wurmbrand’s books that the persecuted church prays for us. Yes, they pray for us! Because they see how shallow our faith remains as we live in affluence and comfort and they yearn for us to experience the spiritual depth that they do.
Please don’t get me wrong, having wealth does not make us any less spiritual. I know that. But when we grow up with wealth being the norm, it makes it very, very difficult to see the world as it is. With wealth and comfort being the norm and having the ability/power to choose our own destiny we inadvertently limit the opportunities God has to work and amaze us with his power and glory. We also miss opportunity after opportunity for Him to work through us and minister to others.
We walk out our front door step and feel normal, since all of our neighbors have nice houses with electricity and running water. We can feel normal getting into our air conditioned vehicles because everybody around us does the same. I simply don't think about the fact that right now, as I turn on my kitchen sink to wash some dishes that there is a malnourished, blind child who spends all day, everyday, retrieving buckets of water for other people in order to feed herself. If this child were in front of me I would naturally do all in my power to fill her needs. Even if it meant sacrifice on my part.
If we want to have an accurate picture of the world we have to choose to see it as it is. It has to be a choice on our part to step outside the common, American mentality and try to grasp what life is like for others around the world. It takes time and effort, two things of which we rarely have any extra of. It would mean sacrificing something on our part just to see.
I am convinced that if we do this, we will want to sacrifice. I am deeply persuaded (thanks Mr. Tripp, I love saying that) that if living outside of ourselves becomes the norm then the natural outflow will result in blessing others and finding blessings ourselves.
This project of mine may become a lifelong project, I don’t know. But if it doesn’t I keep telling myself that I must make it a lifelong habit to read about everyday life in other countries. It makes ignoring so much harder to do.
Thank you for letting me step up on a soap box. I will now step down…now that I feel even more convicted after proof-reading the above and remembering how much I struggle with all of this.
On a more encouraging note, it looks like The African Children's Choir will be coming to town in a little over a week! If only I can find a place for them to perform a concert. It is more difficult than one might think to find a building that will allow these beautiful Ugandan cuties to perform! I’m hoping to hear from a school today. If they say no that will be my third strike.
But the good news is that most likely, the team made up of 16 Ugandan children and their 9 chaperones may come to town even if they can’t perform, as they need a place to stay. And Karis and I are ecstatic at that prospect! Both of us talk about it throughout the day. And it encourages me that hopefully, my 6-year old will have an acurate understanding of the world and how other cultures live. I pray that as she grows she will have a keen understanding that her life of privilege is not the norm. I also pray that she won’t live her life wanting the norm. Of course I’m the mom and slightly biased, but so far it seems as if we are on the right track.
My desire for this post was simply to ponder, more than anything. But if you made it to the end and you have opinions or insight, please feel free to speak your mind in the comment section! I usually don’t leave comments myself but will try to do so in this post if others would like to dialogue about the above.
If you need a good book to read to help expand your view of the world, read Kisses from Katie or The Price of Stones…those will help :-)
Friday, February 17, 2012
Posted by Kelley at 10:27 AM
Monday, January 16, 2012
Posted by Kelley at 10:59 PM
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
I spent a good part of our Christmases in Brazil feeling rather sorry for myself as it just didn't FEEL like Christmas when it was 100 degrees outside (with green and tropical foliage all around me). And if that weren't horrible enough the Brazilians didn't decorate to my liking. As far as I was concerned, my life had just skipped right past 4 or 5 Christmas seasons. I was deprived of the opportunity to put on that extra 10 pounds I was entitled to. Deprived of the opportunity to overspend on stuff that friends and loved ones didn't need. Deprived of going outside into the crisp, cool air at night and watch my breath as I looked at the Christmas lights my neighbors strung up.
The thing is, I still enjoy the Christmas experience. I am enjoying that fact that it IS cold outside here in the hills of TN and that we can sit in front of a fire in our fireplace. I am enjoying having white elephant gift exchanges, singing Christmas carols on more than one occasion, etc, etc.
But this Christmas is different for me. Very different.
It began feeling different when I realized that part of having a husband out of work for 2 months means Christmas gifts will be limited. And though I hate to admit it I was kinda frustrated at the thought. I've always loved giving and receiving presents. Loved it. It's just so fun! And yet this Christmas...this Christmas, we will have to be oh-so-careful. Unless we want to miss a few days (or weeks) of eating we may have to really limit our gifts.
Knowing that at the heart of things, gifts (at best) are a slight distraction to the true meaning of the season. So I prayed. I prayed for contentment. I prayed for a renewed outlook. I prayed that this year would be a new year and a new kind of Christmas in our home.
At least for me, that prayer was answered.
Not being able to buy tons of gifts turned out to be an incredibly freeing experience. It's always so hard to know where to draw the line when it comes to spending! Not only that but I began feeling a lot more motivated to be creative and do things as a family that will hopefully become yearly traditions. Things that will help fix our eyes on the gift that was given to us so long ago. A gift that can't be bought in stores decorated with lights and trees. Or in malls that play Christmas music and provide a Santa Clause from 12pm-7pm. A gift that won't be forgotten a month from now. A gift that lives inside of me each and everyday, and gives me and my family hope for the future.
Being freed from the opportunity (burden) to buy a lot of gifts was only step #1 in this process. Step #2 was hearing the best, most refreshing sermon on Christmas I've ever heard. The girls and I spent a week in FL while the hubs was out of the country (he did take pictures of the interesting Christmas decorations in Brazil that used to bother me, which made me chuckle). While there, we went to church and heard the aforementioned sermon. I can't even begin to paraphrase all that was said but what spoke to my heart were the facts that 1.) We can't experience Christmas the way that the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, etc, experienced the birth of Christ simply because we weren't there. Our experience will be limited. God had been silent for 400 years as His people were awaiting for the Messiah to come...we simply can't fathom the anticipation that was taking place before Jesus' birth took place! 2.) Though we can't experience it in the same way, we can look back and be amazed. But here's the good part, folks. Not only can we look back and worship but we can look forward (anticipate) the 2nd Noel! Did that hit you like it did me? The 2nd Noel! There's going to be a 2nd one, and we get to be a part of it! I just LOVE the sound of that...the 2nd Noel.
So I'm basking in the joy of looking back at the birth of my King and looking forward to His return. And enjoying the sights and the sounds but still trying to not be distracted by them. Easier said than done :-)
And we did decorate, just in case you were wondering!
Posted by Kelley at 5:37 PM
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Every parent believes their child is special. I am, without a doubt, no exception. However, I really, really think mine is special. She's just not your ordinary kid, I tell you! She's different. In a good way. There is so much personality crammed into one recnetly-turned-6-year old body...living with Karis is like unwrapping a wonderful gift at each new stage her life brings.
One aspect to Karis' personality that keeps us entertained is her creativity. It is also one of the more demanding aspects of parenting her as it means craft supplies EVERYWHERE. All the time. And many of these are gifts that she is making for someone. And though I'm not positive, I have a feeling that when she doesn't feel like putting away her latest creation she has discovered that the easiest solution is to give it to mom. And since I can't tell when she genuinely wants me to have something or when it's just a cop-out for cleaning up, I accept it with a smile. And perhaps a comment about how it's the most wonderful thing I've ever seen.
The fact that she is a hoarder also does not help.
But it's this creative side that adds so much life to our household. How many of you find....
Though Karis loves to creative with her hands, that in itself is merely an outlet for her creative mind. The things she says, the questions she asks and the things we find written in her oh-so-cute handwriting add even more to the atmosphere of our home. Jonathan noticed the sequence of leaves that she added to our Thanksgiving Tree this year. Notice "God's love" up top and then read them from left to right.
A few times I've found it frustrating (an extra 30 seconds of work added to my day) but I know that one day...one day, I will walk into the bathroom and will miss all the signs of Karis-life that surround me now. One day I will look at the fire place and think about how boring it looks without that pink tutu. I'll miss the average of 5 envelopes a day I receive from my little girl that are stuffed with stickers, notes and sometimes small items that originally were gifts I had given to her. I forget what life was like before scotch tape could be found on every flat surface of the house...and I already miss not having that as a part of my life. I can't imagine life in our home without Karis and the blessing that she brings. I hope I can savor every moment and fight the temptation to live life as if it will always be this way, for I know it won't.
This post could end up being 300 pages long. I love writing about my child as much as I love living with her! But I'll try to keep it readable to the outside world and want to share one more aspect of Karis' life that is making this world a better place.
It's her heart.
Karis has such a genuine concern for other people. She was faithful to remind me that we needed to pray for my granddaddy every night for months this year. And though she hadn't seen him in close to a year and didn't have too close of a relationship with him (due to distance), when I told her one night that he had passed away, she cried. And she talked about him for several days. She talks about the orphans around the world and wants to share her leftovers with them. She was absolutely distraught that Operation Christmas Child wouldn't let her fill a copy-paper box full of goodies instead of a shoe box. In fact, something happened the day we were filling her box that reveals how generous of a heart my little girl has.
We were walking into Wal-Mart and were greeted by kids who were holding white buckets saying "help us help others." I looked at the table they had set up and noticed that they were going to be having a food drive for the homeless. So I gave Karis $1 and said "would you like to put this in their bucket?" She was glad to do so and came back smiling.
At the end of our wally-world shopping experience and as we were walking out the door she informed me that she would like to give some of her own money (from her little pink change purse). Usually she has some change in there and so I said sure and watched as she crossed the street back over to the kids. It took her longer then expected but she came back beaming. "Good job, kiddo" I said. She then said "I gave them my $5 mom!" "uh...you had paper money in there?" "yes, my $5 birthday money I put in the bucket." I was a bit surprised that 1) she had her birthday money in her purse and 2) she gave it away. But I was proud of her and I knew that the Lord would bless her for her generosity. So I said...
"well that was nice, they're going to help feed hungry people who don't have food." "They are?" she asked, rather surprised. "well, yeah" I said. "What did you think it was for?" And this, my friends, brought tears to my eyes. She explained "I thought they wanted to buy a toy, and that boy didn't have much in his bucket like the girl did so I gave mine to him."
I don't know if this astounds you like it does me. I mean, I'm very touched when Karis wants to give of her abundance to those who are obviously less fortunate than her (orphans in third world countries, etc). But honestly, many of us would give out of our abundance if the need were staring us smack in the face. But how many of us would look at somebody our equal, who was wanting (or so we thought) the same thing that we wanted and then give them the means to help them get it, even though that would mean we could no longer get it ourselves? Does that make sense? Karis gave her money to a kid she didn't know so that he could buy a toy he didn't need. And in so doing she forfeited her opportunity to buy herself a toy with that same money. I'm not suggesting that she be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but this is a reflection of my little girl's heart. And it's a generous heart. She's going to change the world.
I'd love to write more but it would make for a way too lengthy post and I am now being summoned by the baby of the house...she is hungry.
Here are just a few b-day pics taken on her special day....
Posted by Kelley at 10:55 PM
Saturday, October 29, 2011
If I've ever felt like I'm living in the fast lane, it's now. Hence, another 7 1/2 months since my last blog post...but I was determined...absolutely determined NOT to wait another 8 months to post. So go me. I could even put this off a few weeks if I really wanted to (I only kind of wanted to).
Ok folks, you need to meet our newest munchkin!
Tessa Faith Kroeker entered our lives on April 22nd.
The whole birth thing is a story in and of itself...yet not a bloggy kind of a story.
Tessa entered this world with an incredibly soft whine and wide open eyes. Our hearts melted, that's for sure! We enjoyed a very short night in the hospital before it felt like the rug was pulled out from under us.
Because our plans didn't include this.
Aw, my sweet baby girl. Apparently Tessa had a lung infection that required 3 days of antibiotics. And then 7. Looking back, that week in the NICU really wasn't so bad, but everything unexpected seems very, very bad to a mom who has recently given birth. Thank goodness for my hubby, who stayed that week in the hospital with me. Oh I cried. A lot. Enough crying to last me another 5 years or so, I think. But thankfully the crying came to an end and we got to take our new not-so-little bundle of joy (9 lbs 2 oz) home.
Karis was very ready to meet her new little sister! But not too excited to come back home. She stayed with J's parents that week and had quite a fun time. In fact, when my MIL told her "mommy is coming home today!" Karis responded "well, I don't want to go home!" She told Karis "Oh, mommy would be sad if she didn't get to see you." "well that's ok" Karis said, "I'll go visit her". Ha. My independent girl. Turns out home ended up becoming more appealing to her with the presence of a new baby...we convinced her to stay :-)
And I can't tell you what a wonderful big sister Karis is. This picture pretty much sums up how the two of them feel about each other.
Karis is a huge help! Too much of a help, sometimes. Like today, after I set Tessa in the high chair (because she is 6 months old now) I turned around to get her some food and there sitting in front of her face were ALL of her baby toys out of her toy basket, stacked on top of her tray. Every. Single. One. I don't think she even knew what to do but big sister was standing by her side, beaming, knowing she saved Tessa from 30 seconds of boredom while mom mashed up some avocado. I love my girls. And I'm so glad that they love each other.
A few more pics....
A more recent pic of the two....
And a more recent pic of Tessa-lou....
So yes, life has changed. A lot. I wake up in the morning feeling like I just finished off a bottle of Nyquil and I go to bed feeling like I just finished off a bottle of Nyquil (and I wake up several times a night feeling the same). But other than that, my cup overflows. Sometimes I struggle with the fact that I often go to bed with a sink full of dishes, or wake up to a little more clutter than I would like, or the fact that I feel like a blob (exercise? what's that?) but overall I know this is only temporary. And I'm soaking it all in! I can't tell you how much I enjoy hearing two different voices giggling in our home. Or getting to snuggle with a baby in my lap and a little girl snuggled up to my side. Or reading books to Karis at night before she goes to bed and seeing two little hands reach up, grab the book and attempt to insert it into her mouth (followed by a Karis giggle). I am so, so blessed.
Posted by Kelley at 10:30 PM
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I have not posted since July. How in the world do you try to catch up on a blog when you've been gone for 8 months? Surely there is no easy way. But surely it doesn't matter as nobody has enough patience to continue visiting a blog that has been abandoned for 8 months. Or 240 days to be almost exact. But since I claim to really blog for myself (in order to be able to look back and remember a few things about my life) I guess it shouldn't matter. ha.
So here are the highlights that have occurred since July, 8 months ago. Or 240 days ago.....
* My sister-in-law and her family (with the two boys pictured above) came to reside in the area off and on for a year. It is great to have them here and Karis loves having two cousins to play and fight with. Usually there isn't much fighting involved. Hallelujah.
And now for the big news that nobody out there is waiting for.....
* Another 8-month project is getting ready to join us...hopefully in less than 6 weeks! This picture was from an ultrasound I had yesterday. The baby is already so big (since I'm almost 35 weeks along) that it was difficult to see anything of detail. The technician finally got a good shot of the face, for which I am very grateful. After seeing the face it really began to sink in. I mean, this little life inside of me...it has a face! Wow. I think Jonathan and I said something about it "sinking in" more than once on the way home yesterday. And each time we kind of looked at each other and just giggled. It still doesn't seem real but we know that all too soon it will be. And we are so blessed and excited and nervous and excited. And Karis seems excited and unsure of the changes taking place and excited. She will be my incredible helper, I know. With almost 5 1/2 years difference between these two I think adding child #2 to the family will be easier in some ways. When I sit down to feed the baby and realize how incredibly thirsty I am there will be a set of little legs to run and go get me a drink of water. ha.
I am truly a blessed woman.
Posted by Kelley at 12:07 PM
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Sometimes I think about how much I look forward to playing games with Karis that are slightly mind stimulating. But I know that all too soon I will miss the days of Queen Frostine and Granma Nut. Just like I miss the days of sleep deprivation because it meant I got to hold a chubby baby on a daily basis. And I miss the days of cleaning up tupperwar. And then the days of Baby Einstein and The Donut Man. And then the days of...well, you get the point.
There are phone calls to make, laundry to do and work to be done at "the other" house yet here I sit, posting on my blog.
So I must find something, anything to write about today.
Oh, I know.
We got to hold a baby skunk! Really...he was so cute.
That really is a baby skunk. My friend found him abandoned on the side of the road (dying?) and cared for him for the weekend 'til an animal rescue opened up on Monday. They took him to raise and release back into the wild. I learned quite a bit about skunks. Like, they actually make great pets if you invest enough time when they're little to train them.
Oh. Yeah. We got out countertops installed (is that not one word? There is a red squiggly line underneath it but I really feel it should be one word and so leave it I shall). We ended up going with solid surface since we got a great deal through a company that a friend used to work for. I am oh-so-excited!
So you have to check out one of my new favorite pictures. At some point I am going to enlarge this one and frame it!
Alright, so it's been about 15 minutes of procrastination and I can't handle it anymore. I must get something done! And I keep hearing a little voice say "let's play Candy Land....let's play Chutes and Ladders".....
Posted by Kelley at 10:40 AM