Monday, January 15, 2018

New Beginnings

Ahh…2018, how we have longed to see you.  You are not offering us the welcome we wanted.  Bitter storms and mudslides instead of quiet winter days and solid ground to steady our feet.  The continued threat of war, the continued fear of those who are different from us, the continued bickering from the right and the left.  You may put on a show of gloom and doom, but we know the truth.  You are offering us a new beginning each day.  Every morning, every step, every breath is another chance to re-direct our perspective towards hope.  

We have come a long way from the day when Martin Luther King Jr. simply spoke the words of his dream for an America where "one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”  Some days the children seem to be kinder to one another than we are.  Other days, the children reveal the worst of our locker room conversations, degrading one another for things we didn’t know we taught them.  We still have a long way to go to reach the day when children "will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Disruptive Nature, Divisive News, and Distracting Networking block us from taking a break, pausing for a new breath, or resetting our course for hope.  We have met the challenges of our times with genuine perseverance, and we will continue to meet whatever you bring to us in 2018 with determination and a good sense of humor.  May we do so with hearts as courageous as Maya Angelo, who said, “Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time."  

One more time? I can do that.  I can trust and hope for another day, another new beginning, and from there, we’ll take a breath, reset, and trust again. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A New Year’s Blessing for our president

Dear President Trump,

This year has been a great challenge for all of us. We have all worked hard to make our communities, our country, and our world a better place.  We may have different methods and different perspectives, but I believe we are all doing the best that we can. So, in the spirit of peace and unity that so many Americans celebrate at this time of year, I send you blessings of goodwill, health and humility in the new year. May we all take time to listen and love. May we hold each other accountable for our wrongs and extend the un-earned hand of forgiveness. May we all come together to truly make our world a safer, healthier, welcoming, forgiving, helpful, and joyful place to live.

Grace and Peace to you and your family,

Rev. Kati Collins
Manhattan, Kansas


Saturday, December 09, 2017

#Thanks2017

Thank you, 2017, for teaching me to cherish the good things in my life. By staying in the present moment, I have learned to savor each bite, each conversation, each sunrise, each breath, and more.

Thank you, 2017, for illuminating the gaps in racism, sexism and hatred that have been lingering beneath our surface relationships with our neighbors. People didn’t just get more violent and hateful this year, they just finally felt the freedom to speak their minds. Now we can see clearly that there is a lot of work to do, if we want to build a nation and a world where every human is valued and given the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive.

Thank you, 2017, for teaching me about resiliency, as I saw people I respect and admire raise gracefully after living big and falling flat on their face. You inspired me to keep #risingstrong.

Thank you, 2017, for technology beyond our imagination.  The instant gratification I find in Amazon Prime, the smartest phones ever, and home videos in the palm of my hand forces me to find peace and beauty as I wait through the processes which cannot be manipulated, e.g. physical healing, emotional healing, and watercolor painting. 

Really, watercolor deserves it’s own thank you.

Thank you, 2017, for showing me so much ugliness that I returned to watercolor. I saw beauty in the luscious colors. I found hope in the life of the paint.  While waiting for the paint to dry, I soaked up the healing powers of beauty, silence and the passing of grief.

Thank you, 2017, for sending me through the fire. I’m coming out stronger and more beautiful than before.  So, 2018, let’s start with what we’ve learned.  Let’s work on healing those psychological and racial tensions in our world. Let’s keep painting and looking for beauty.  Let’s handle technology with care, and remember that what happens in the virtual world, still happens, so let’s spread some beauty, love and healing out there wherever that world exists.

Let’s welcome in the new year with #eyeswideopen.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Bounce in My Step


It happened. I bounced up the steps, got to the top, and kept going. Everyday I feel stronger, healthier, and more beautiful. This is not because I’m following our diet perfectly, sucking up the pain and forgetting about our loss. The growth has been from facing the loss, enjoying what’s in front of me, and being honest about how I feel inside. Sometimes that means crying when I “should be” happy. Sometimes that means more milk in my coffee and honey in my tea. Sometimes that means guarding my heart while caring for others.

A few weeks ago, I had an unwavering upswell of my grief. At first, I felt like something was wrong with me, “Why can’t I get past this? Shouldn’t I be better at controlling my emotions by now?” Then I started to question if I was actually physically sick or something. When I went to the clinic, the PA said, “Give yourself a break. You’ve been through a lot. Infertility is hard.” That’s when it hit me. My sadness wasn’t just coming from our onetime loss, it stemmed from our monthly loss, the reoccurring heartbreak in the disappointment of still not being pregnant.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about how facing our grief is like peeling an onion, you get through one layer and it starts to peel back another, and then there’s another, and more tears keep coming, until you get to the center, you let out all of your tears, take a big breath, wash your hands, and reach for the next challenge. (Robbie also suggested that the metaphor continues when we try to put the pieces back over that grief and tuck it away, but the tears still come.)

The revealing of each layer of grief brings the other layers up to the surface. Loss of one parent or grandparent, stirs up the old feelings of the loss of another to the point that the raw grief is intensified by the previous loss.  So, each month, our momentary loss stirs up the pains of our miscarriage, which stirs up the loss of our grandparents, and other past losses along the way.

My first memory of grief is standing a the garage sale, as we were preparing to move from West Virginia to North Carolina.  Someone was coming to take my dog, Koney. I didn’t want him to go, but I knew the new owners would take good care of him and we couldn’t take him with us.  I cried big tears as I let go of my best friend.  My second memory of grief was moving from Charlotte, North Carolina to Wilmington, Dela-“where?” as we called it. We had the best house with our best friends living across the street and a pool within walking distance and the best church I could ever imagine at the time. The last Sunday at our church, the choir sang Micheal W. Smith’s song, “Friends are Friends Forever,” and I cried big tears, again, and again, each time I heard that song.  My third memory of grief is still a big one for me, the loss of my Mama, Rosemary. I’ve written about my grandmothers before in A Thanksgiving for Motherhood and Learning from our Grandmothers.

As I remember the grief, I’m also reminded of the adventure. Each loss accompanied the beginning of a great adventure. Giving up my dog easily precedes the fun and exciting time we would have in Charlotte. Sadly enough, Mama’s death runs parallel with the beginning of my career as a flutist. I put my love for her into flute playing and even visualized her watching and listening to my concerts and recitals in years to come. This blog started with one of my favorite adventures, my journey to the Czech Republic, and yet it came only in my availability after a hand injury.

Somehow my stories of grief and loss have always bumped up against the stories of my greatest adventures. None of those adventures came to us by choice.  None of the losses caused my adventures. By the grace of God, my grief was transformed into beauty as I faced a new challenge with the energy I was holding for something else.  Like when you make a meal for one guest, and then the guest never shows, so you take the meal to someone who needs it and find a whole different experience.  

I wonder what I will look back and see as the great adventure that we are on right now? The adventure of changing the way we eat and think about food? The adventure of playing with watercolor? The adventure of starting our new worshiping community @thelightmhk? The adventure of marriage and cherishing life together? The adventure of telling my story and listening to others?

All of it. This outlook of adventure gives me a bounce in my step, knowing that with each step, fall and bounce our creator is “continuing the great work which has already begun inside” of me.  The holes and cracks in my heart open up space for new growth and life, this is the good news of the love Jesus talks about: 
Love + Grace = Life + Death + Resurrection.



Saturday, November 04, 2017

Forgiving God


Beloved, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for one’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
 James 1:19–20

I’ve been pretty cranky lately. Scientifically the Keto diet mimics the state of fasting where your body turns to burning fat instead of carbs. Who would want to always have that 24 hr fasting high all the time? A crazy person. Or maybe a sane person who had no pre-existent conflict, grief or pressure in their life.

Life is hard. Trying to change your eating habits while life is hard sucks. It sucks.

So, I eat one of Robbie’s 2 carb chocolates or my 5 carb nut mix or steak or ribs and try to re-create “comfort food”. Here’s the catch: Food has never brought lasting comfort, and true satisfaction in food, only opens the door for gratitude, it doesn’t get you there. 

My challenge is that my anger stage of grief is finally stepping up to the plate. 

I am not doubting God's power. I am angry at the use of that power. How am I supposed to trust what I can’t see, when God has already let me fall so hard? And (to borrow a phrase from "Rising Strong") this is "the story I’m making up": God was watching my baby suffer and let him die. God said, His life isn’t worth saving. Then I had to bear the physical and emotional ramifications of that decition. This is the story I’m making up, but it feels like real truth and I can’t get past it. 

So, today I decided to write a new chapter. I know scientifically and theologically that withholding forgiveness only hurts the offended. But who do you forgive when really no one is to blame? Way back to days after Bob’s death, I remember praying, saying I don’t know where to aim my anger because I don’t know who or what to blame. “Blame me,” Jesus said. “I can take it. I did take it. I suffered the punishment for this and every other horrible act on that cross. Let go of your anger and unleash it at me.” 

I have been incredibly “slow to anger”, until we started this new diet and suddenly all of the physical and mental challenges improved in my life to the point that only one struggle remained: why is God withholding a child from two people who would love and teach and nurture with such passion and mercy, with God’s image as their goal!?!

I am losing weight. I look great. So many awesome things are happening in our life, and yet the sadness and the anger remained.

So, this morning I decided to do the scientific and Christian thing, I am going to forgive God. God doesn’t need it, but I do.

This is how I can move to the next chapter, by first writing a chapter of forgiveness. Jesus, you said you want the blame, now I will do what is required of me: I will show you mercy and forgive you as you have forgiven me. 

Now I can face the day with joy. Alleluia, Amen.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Expedition Keto

Nourishment in the Flint Hills
I’ve always blogged about my experience on new adventures and our current adventure is food. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a chef. My friends will tell you I make great chocolate chip cookies, but my cooking is pretty average…and sometimes disastrous…kale pesto with flax seed was probably my worst experiment…trust me, it sounds like a great idea, but it will kill your blender.  

Everything I am eating on our version of the Keto diet is beautiful and delicious. When I look at my food, I typically respond, “Wow! I get to eat this and lose weight!” Even when I eat foods that have fiber like black or kidney beans, I limit myself to a number which fits within my daily average of 50-60 grams of carbohydrates.  Then I remind myself that the fiber his helping keep down my cholesterol and I get even more excited.

So far, Keto has made me a better cook and a more thankful eater.  I finish each meal satisfied and nourished. Eating has been a source of anxiety for me, ever since I started getting anxious about everything as a teenager.  More anxiety tends to exacerbate stomach problems, so I tended to “follow my gut” a lot and try to eat what my body seemed to be craving. I totally believed that helped, until now. Since, I’m choosing not to eat starchy and grainy meals, my blood sugar levels stay more stable and I have less “hangry” moments.  When I do reach that crazy hunger moment, I choose not to eat the first thing that comes to mind, and I end up making better choices about what foods to eat. My healthier snacks also keep me satisfied for a longer period of time.

You’ve already heard about my magic beans, but really, our saving grace on this diet has been our chicken pizza. I have literally had dreams about doughnuts and bagels, and when I start to fold, I find a new recipe and my thankful heart forgets about those cravings.  This recipe came from a combination of blogs I read, and I’m happy to say, you don’t have to be on the Keto diet to enjoy this meal! So give it a try and give thanks for the beauty of the food in front of you!

Chicken Cheddar Pizza Crust

Crust
1 lb Ground Chicken
1 Egg
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbs Oregano
Salt, Pepper and Garlic

Mix the crust ingredients and spread the mixture out like a pizza crust into a pan. Another blogger recommended using plastic wrap to spread the dough and that makes all the difference! Try it!

Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Then take out the crust and top it like you would any pizza! We use crushed tomatoes, mozzarella and ground sausage. Then bake for another 10-15 minutes. If you like basil or spinach, we’ve found it works well to put that on at the end.

Other recipes suggest mozzarella instead of cheddar, but we like the way the cheddar makes the crust crispy.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Magic Beans

Ok, so they aren’t really beans, but they do seem kind of magical.  My husband, Robbie, and I started a low carb diet a month ago, and I’m feeling so fantastic that I don’t even care that I haven’t had Dr. Pepper, bread or wheat pizza in four weeks.

Chocolate, I eat in small quantities. Sweet Potato fries taste as amazing as french fries. Diet Dr. Pepper really does taste more like Regular Dr. Pepper every day.  We are savoring my pizza dough made from ground up chicken and cheese and covered with ground up sausage and more cheese and crushed tomatoes.

Carb filled food still looks yummy, but then I reach into my pocket and take out my magic beans, and I am reminded how delicious our new diet turns out to be.

Who else gets to enjoy steak, bacon, eggs, cheese, sausage and heavy whipping cream on a diet!?!

We’ve been taking lessons from Adkins, Keto and other diets, and I’m aiming for around 60 carbs a day, consistently loosing weight and feeling awesome. The first couple of weeks made me very sleepy, but it turns out that this is very typical.

To fight the midmorning and afternoon cravings, I created some nut mixes that turn out to be around 5 carbs, giving me a burst of energy while stopping me from eating whatever is in our break room.

I LOVE my little baggies of magic beans so much that I wanted to share them with you!
Pistachios and Black Walnuts look expensive when you see the bag in the store, but when 1tbsp is a serving, the bag goes much further than the health bars I used to buy. And these snack bags are much more satisfying! 

No matter your diet or eating habits, these recipes will be a treat for the whole family!

Pistalmonds 

12 low sodium almonds (1 heaping tablespoon)
12 dark chocolate almonds (1 heaping tablespoon)
1tbs pistachio kernels 

Walnutty 

1 tbsp Black Walnuts
1 heaping tbsp Coconut Almonds
1 heaping tbsp Chocolate Almonds