Friday, August 25, 2017

My Ninja Story




I am a big Ninja fan. Whether it’s historic Ninja folklore, Dark Knight Ninjas, American Ninja Warrior or Lego Ninjago, I love Ninjas.  I love the depth of their skill which requires strength in a variety of areas.  I love their sleek stealthy ways, somehow humble and peaceful and strong and frightening they seem, all at the same time.  Most of all, I love their resilience, flexibility and persistence. 

Some of the kids in our church (and adults) watch American Ninja Warrior religiously.  One of the parents dropped the comment, “Maybe we should have a Presby Ninja Warrior competition,” and I said, “Hold on, why don’t we? We can do this. Are you joking, because I need to know, before I get too excited about this.”  They all felt like it was a great idea, and believe it or not, we came through.  Our maintenance director, who is an awesome carpenter, helped me make the floating steps with our nursery workers, and he made a warped wall ramp.  I soon discovered that part of the training is in the building of your practice course.  Wood pallets are heavy.  Tires are heavy.  And Wood pallets covered in 3/4” plywood, attached to a couple of 2X4’s are extremely heavy.  When I built the course, I didn’t imagine myself doing it.  I would make it challenging for the kids and adults, but I didn’t expect to touch the top of our ramp, and I really didn’t expect to master the floating steps.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that we had a traumatic miscarriage, and I developed severe preeclampsia last January.  I expected to recover in a month or two, then I thought it would take me a few months, and then I gave myself till 6 months.  Now that it’s been seven months, I can tell you, some days have been good, some days bad, some days really bad, and still some days I don’t know what to do, and then I put one foot in front of the other and keep going.  I am learning to be kind to myself, and the waves of my grief are not quite as overwhelming as they once were.

When we finished constructing the Presby Ninja course, I asked one of my fit friends to try it.  She had never seen the show, so I had to show her how to do the floating steps…and I hopped from pallet to pallet…and I didn’t touch the floor.  I was shocked at my strength, and I felt incredibly empowered by the way my body was able to gracefully maneuver the obstacle.  After she ran the course, I had her video me doing the course. What a rush! I was able to do the obstacles with pride and confidence.  This little 5’1.5" Presby Ninja even reached to the top of our ramp at eight feet!


The next day our event was a huge success.  The kids were also empowered at their ability to handle this challenging course set before them.  Even the parents stepped up to the challenge. Two of them reached up to 12 feet on the ramp!

Over these last seven months, my healing has seemed to come along very slowly.  In fact, I feel like I’ve been struggling forever and sometimes I wonder if my full strength will ever return. 

From my ninja training, I am learning that each fall makes us stronger, not in the way that keeps us from falling. No, if you are living adventurously or, to use Theodore Roosevelt's phrase(renewed in popularity by Dr. Brené Brown), if you are “daring greatly”, falling, scraped knees, broken arms, concussions and loss will come.  Failure is inevitable at some point in experimentation. The strength we gain from these experiences is manifested in our ability to continue to put one foot in front of the other and “stay the course.” A friend recommended Dr. Brown’s book, Rising Strong, and while I’m reading it, I feel like underlining every word, because she is telling my story, and she is using the most amazing language and terms to make sense of it. Yesterday, I read this complete gem:  

Experience doesn’t create even a single spark of light in the darkness of the middle space.  It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark. The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.  Brené Brown, Rising Strong

Like ninjas we are called to keep “daring greatly” and taking great leaps in the dark. We do not rely on our perfection or our impeccable invulnerability, we rely, instead, on our ability to bend, to take a deep breath, and to rise with the strength to walk towards the mountain in front of us.

Blessings to you, my fellow ninja, in your current struggle or obstacle course.  May you remember to breathe and keep walking as you seek to navigate the dark.  The light still exists and will shine with greater brilliance when you reach your goal.  The Holy Spirit which breathed life into your bones continues to blow over you, within you, behind you and before you, to guide you on your way home.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

(Still) Learning to love my body


Myth: If I loose weight and workout hard enough, I will feel good and love my body.
Truth: Women and men of all shapes and sizes struggle with body image.

Myth: If I loose weight, my clothes will finally fit!
Truth: Mass produced clothing is based on measurements which make the design look great at some sizes and mis-shaped for others.

Myths are based on truth, they tell about a lesson to be learned, but they can be harmful when considered all around fact.  I know that when I exercise and loose weight, my mood rises. I know that a lot of my clothing was purchased at different parts of my story, so not everything fits my body all of the time. Remembering these truths can motivate and drive my actions and choices, but sometimes I let these practices disrupt my relationship with my body.  I start to look at my body as the culprit for all of my problems.

One hand: My body has (insert issue/disease)
Inner Critic: it's my fault or my body is faulty.
Other hand: My body did not cause my health problems.

One hand: Daily habits contribute to bad health.
Inner Critic: it's my fault my body is faulty.
Other hand: My work ethic didn't cause all of the challenges my body is facing. People of all body types and health practices get cancer, have miscarriages, develop heart problems, have depression, (insert your struggle here).

So, Who is to blame? Society? Mass media? Men? Women? God? Me?

Blame won't get me to a smaller dress size.

Blame won't make my legs more agile.

Blame won't solve my health issues.

Truth: Learning to appreciate my body, will improve my mood and motivate me to care for my body.

So, can I choose to love my body like I hope God and my family love me? Could I choose to have a relationship with my body which is based on faithfulness and loyalty and not condition?

Myth: we don't choose who we love, love is not rational.
Truth: We choose to be in relationship with people apart from momentary feelings of love. Love is relational.

What would it look like to love my body because it belongs to me? What would it look like to cherish my own flesh and blood like a sister or child or parent?  What would it look like to revel, delight and indulge in "living" in this body?

I think this is one of the reasons I felt drawn to the movie "Muana", the story of a young clumsy girl who helps two mythical mighty warriors and a whole nation of people rediscover their true selves. This Myth reminds us of the truth that people of all abilities and sizes can help one another return to being "at home" in their bodies.

Maybe I can begin to learn by loving funny shaped delicious fruits and vegetables.

Maybe I can begin to learn by loving how my amazing ankles always catch me when I fall--I have a talent for falling, ask anyone who knows me.

Maybe I can begin to learn by choosing to trust my body has amazing abilities to warn me and heal.

Maybe I can begin to learn by choosing to love and be in relationship to my body, forgiving all blame and fault, learning to be faithful instead of perfect.

Yes. I think that's it. There's the truth of it all. Let's learn to be faithful to these treasures given to us by our maker.

Alleluia, Amen.





Monday, July 10, 2017

A Little Lady Named Abigail

A friend of mine asked me to do some drawings in the style of the "Book of Kells" for Music Camp, and, I will tell you, I had a lot of fun.  Celtic drawings have always fascinated me with the weaving patterns and ornamental lettering.  Some of my favorite hours spent drawing as a child were designing animal letters.  So, first I made my pinterest board, and I learned how to make lots of knots.

Then I played around with how to design their three stories: the parable of the good Samaritan, the friend who was lowered through the roof to Jesus, and the story of Abigail, David and Nabal.

Somehow when I learned this story about Abigail, probably two decades ago, I missed the fact that when she met David and his men, she was riding a donkey on a mountain pass.  What a powerful act of grace! This woman, most likely young and beautiful and married to Nabal as property, embraced an authority to speak on behalf of her husband and household. She spoke with boldness in the face of the great giant slayer and his band of men, bearing their swords and ready to fight.  She lead donkeys full of food through the mountains as an offering of peace. Wow. I am still in awe of her courage!

So, if it's been a while for you, enjoy a fresh reading here, and see what you can learn from this little lady with a big heart.

Then enjoy these worksheets.


Friday, July 07, 2017

The Beauty is in the Small Stuff


This Sunday I’m preaching with the two Hymns “In the Garden” and “Morning Has Broken” along with John 1, John 20 and Isaiah 43. So, I felt like this was a good time to visit the K-State Gardens and Insect Zoo.  Me, Kati, the one who screams at the sight of a spider, went to an insect..zoo.  Let me tell you, I learned a lot! It was also alarmingly refreshing to look at something so frightening in such a safe way. The biggest, hairiest, and most beautiful tarantulas relaxed in their habitats in front of me and I could admire their beauty on the other side of the glass.  I was even brave enough to go into the dark, cave-like room with the biggest spiders and the biggest beetles—they had chompers!  Afterwards I explored the pathways of the gardens, smelled the roses, took pictures with the Black Eyed Susans, and did a sketch of the fountain.

I’ve been mulling over the beauty of it all, and I’m struck by the beauty of the imperfection of the garden. From the stones to the lilies, everything showed it’s age and the weather that it has blossomed through.  The water in the fountain seemed so wild and strong and soft and balanced.  Creation danced before me as I enjoyed some recreation time, enjoying God’s constant re-creation of me and the world around me.  Lord as you care for these delicate and small creatures, care, renew and restore my soul. Alleluia, Amen.




Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Well-ness to come

I've been looking back through old sermons and articles and found this one from a Newsletter Article in February of 2014.  Perhaps the blessing for my readers can be passed on to this present Kati reading today and looking for "well"-ness.  May it be a soothing message for your soul as well.

After observing God's love for the little hazelnut, Julian of Norwich reflects on the similar care of the creator for humankind: 
If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.
― Julian of Norwich

As we enter this month of love, we are surrounded by images of "perfect love" which transports us above the troubles in life into perfect bliss. Just as love between humans is not always "perfect" in this way, God's love for us isn't always filled with chocolate and diamonds. Julian of Norwhich lived as a Benedictine nun in the late 1300's in England, and her book "The Revelations of Divine Love" is believed to be the oldest surviving manuscript of literature written by a woman in English. She is well remembered because she wrote about God's love in a way that was different than other theologians. Many spoke of the evil nature of humans, who God could only love because of Christ's sacrifice.  She spoke of a romantic and extravagant love from a creator for the created, and she explained suffering as a fact of life and not a punishment for falling out of this love with God. She had survived a terrible sickness and had seen many, most likely her entire family, suffer from the Bubonic Plaugue which had spread all across Europe. The church had diagnosed this sickness as punishment for wicked living, but she spoke about suffering as a pathway of union with Christ, through whom God connects with us in our pain. 

Many people know her famous quote which says that, "All manner of things shall be well." A better translation reveals a message she received from God, where she heard a voice say this: "I may make all things well, I can make all thing well, and I will make all thing well, and I shall make all things well, and you shall see yourself that all manner of things shall be well". God's love is so powerful that we can't imagine the ways that all things will be made well, but we believe through faith, that they shall be. 

I write this as a young wife-to-be, who is entering into marriage with an open and joyful heart. I love Robbie with my whole being, and the more we get to know each other, the more we love each other. Even though we have our "love to keep us warm", we know there will be storms of life ahead as there are for all of us. Just as Julian described, I look forward to the troubles not as trials to pass or fail, but opportunities to grow closer to each other and to God. Whatever season you find yourself in, winter, spring, summer or fall, I pray that you will discover the relentless love of our creator and redeemer, who wants to make all things well in our lives. I pray that you too will see it in your life!





Thursday, June 22, 2017

Living in the In-Between


According to Facebook, we’ve been having an awesome summer.  Last weekend we went to the Lavender Festival in Bennington, the weekend before we were in Salina for the Smokey Hill River Festival, before that we were in Kansas City for an awesome Royals WIN with stellar outfield seats right in the Gordon/Cain Fan section.  I’ve been running and jamming out to awesome music in our beautiful Kansas weather.

Inside my heart, I’ve been living in the the In-Between, remembering our loss, stuck waiting for what is to come, trusting that God’s call on my life is leading me forward.  But it’s hard.  Every day I have to choose which present I dwell in.  Do I dwell in the world of loss, stuck staring at my empty arms? Or do I dwell in the world of promise with the beautiful sun that keeps on shining, the nourishing rain that keeps on flowing, the colorful flower that keeps on blooming?

Sometimes the sadness is overwhelming. I am learning to trust my body again.  I am learning to trust myself again.  I am learning to trust God again.  People love to tell me stories about this person who experienced lost and then God provided this gain.  The stories are endless of God’s providence, but what about the stories of those of us stuck in-between?  My faith is still getting stronger every day, and I am still waiting for that promise, and at the same time, I know that God doesn’t promise to fill my heart when I have a baby or when this or that finally turns out right.  God promises to fill my heart, now.  Now.  Every morning, every middle of the night.  Not when I wish my life was different, but when I see that my life is actually awesome, and I actually choose to LIVE in the In-Between, like Job, Jacob, David, Esther, Mary, they all had to have faith in what was to come by choosing to live each day based on the future, not the past.

What if we told our own stories this way? Instead of our testimonies being based on the amazing miracles that God has already done in our lives, what if we told our stories with the hope and passion of Mary’s song, which tells about the promises of what God would do in her life as if it already happened.

God is bringing life to all of the people around us, and we can choose to live in the world where God is at work, or the deceptive one where God is powerless.  I will choose to live in the world where Jesus is up to something.  Come and work your stuff, Jesus.  Make my day;) This is the day that the Lord has made. Alleluia, Amen.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Top Ten and Thanksgiving for Dads



The two most influential men in my life have been my dad and papa(mom's dad). Today I've been reflecting on all that I have learned from them, and I realized how thankful I am for how they have shaped the way that I see the world. Earl and Bill set a standard for what I feel it means to be a good man, husband, Christian, American, and father. I know they influenced my choice for the man with whom I make decisions and confront challenges in my daily life, and I am grateful for how my husband Robbie lives by these same ideals.  May we all seek to follow in their footsteps, and laugh along the way.

1) Make friends with everyone. 

2) Sometimes you have to get lost to find your way.

3) Sometimes it's better to lose than to win.

4) A quick nap does more than a cup of coffee.

5) A quick nap and then a cup of coffee is even better.

6) Sometimes you have to take something apart to get it to work right.

7) Laughter goes further than a strong word.

8) American flag shirts and ties are cool.

9) Always remember to change your oil and check your tires.

10) Bacon and/or Ice Cream can turn an ordinary day into a special one.