Advent + Christmas Day: New Traditions, Same Celebration

Advent is my favorite season. A time of anticipation, expectation (read last year’s post HERE), longing, desire, and preparation for a new birth. I always look forward to advent, maybe even more so than Christmas. There’s something to be said about foregoing the instantly gratifying option and embracing the stillness of WAITING. In today’s world we can often get anything we want at the touch of a button (if it’s not already at our fingertips). Everyone rushes around getting ready for Christmas day, but what about stopping to rest in those sweet moments of advent? If we never stop to breathe in the STILLNESS, we miss why this season is so special. Advent invites us into the WAITING that so often gets overlooked. The majority of December is not yet about celebrating Christ’s birth, but rather the HOPE and LONGING of ANTICIPATING Christ’s birth. I definitely made this a priority this season. We got out our only decorations, our multiple nativity sets from around the world. We told the story over and over in a variety of ways, and answered a billion questions from our two boys, now 5 and 3. I lingered over (multiple) cups of tea and spent more time than usual reading books (for fun! not for my Master’s). I played and practiced my ukulele more for fun too instead of solely prepping for church music, and I savored time with my kids out in NZ’s beautiful Summer weather.

the boys loved this giant tree at a nearby mall

Advent leaves us longing for something more and greater, EXPECTANT of a new life just waiting to burst forth.
What many call “the Christmas season”, advent is not about preparing for one day of gifts and cookies, stressing over not having purchased “enough” gifts or having everything wrapped in time for the big day. It is about PREPARATION for the BIRTH of something new. Jesus’ birth in fact, which changed the whole course of history.

we’ve had a lot of extra reading time recently

I always look forward to advent, but this season was different from advents of years past. For one, I’m on a different hemisphere; it’s warm this advent, and that alone is a bit disorienting. Second, something about the slower pace of life in NZ has encouraged me to slow down even more. It’s summer break here in NZ so it seems everyone and their moms are out of town (literally!). Everything seems quieter than usual, all the regular activities are canceled for a couple months, many shops are closed, and the only busy areas are the touristy ones with people taking the holidays to visit from all over the world. And not having nearly as many friends or family nearby, we weren’t invited to many parties or end-of-year get togethers. Third, I participated in the #Dressember campaign this year, raising money for organizations that fight against modern day slavery and work to rescue victims from human trafficking. There’s a lot rolling around in my head and my heart about what it means to advocate for a cause like this. What help can I be? How can someone who’s never known oppression firsthand fight for the oppressed?

Moses always wanted to be in my pictures for Dressember 🙂

Advent was filled with patience, desire, and stillness which led to a wonderfully joyous Christmas morning.
It was our first time celebrating as a small family of 4 and we enjoyed attempting to create new traditions and craft new markers for these seasons that feel so foreign and so familiar at the same time.
This post-holiday downtime reminds us that we’re a bit isolated down here and that can sometimes feel a little sad. There’s nothing like calling family to see them all laughing together to make you smile and then sorely miss being with them. I miss Kansas City Christmas: watching the Christmas trains at union station, ice skating at crown center, endless (dairy free!) hot chocolates and coffees from my favorite coffee shops, Christmas lights, bundling up for fun in the snow, caroling at nursing homes, getting invited to far too many Christmas parties to realistically attend, and BAKING (healthy) treats! It is far too hot here to turn on the oven!

gifts from family arrived just before and just after Christmas day!

This advent season was marked by:
Christmas Music, all the time- especially the Hawaiian Ukulele Orchestra’s Christmas album! It sounds very Summery and is a nice change from all the winter-focused songs!
Frozen Hot Chocolate- all the right flavors with a different temperature 😉
Christmas Eve Enchiladas– Dec 24th was not super sunny so we took advantage of the cooler weather and baked enchiladas for dinner! Mexican food is an annual Christmas tradition on the Carr side of the family, so it was fun to continue this!
And, eating cherries on the beach, seeing “The Star” movie in theaters, eating our meals in the back garden, helping the boys pick out gifts for each other, and taking advantage of a rainy day to bake and decorate christmas cookies.
cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning (a paleo version!)

Nearby Fruit Foraging- We live within walking distance of the Red Zone, an area that used to be neighborhoods with houses and streets but was devastated by the earthquake. Now it is a grassy area with loads of trees often ripe with fruit this time of year! We picked some delicious yellow and red plums.

playing with Wilder provides cuddly entertainment!

sunny trampoline fun!

How do you mark the season of advent and christmas?

Ordinary Time: Settling In

As we’re coming to the end of this year’s season of ordinary time, I wanted to write a second installment. If you missed the first, read it here.

brothers having a chat

This past Sunday was the last one (for a bit) where we had the green cloth covering the communion table. Green: growth + life + cultivation + flourishing, all themes of ordinary time. On the northern hemisphere, ordinary time begins with Spring and ends a few weeks into Winter. It’s easy for us to think of metaphors of new life and growth when we’ve got SPRING in our gardens! This year on the southern hemisphere, it’s the opposite! We are ending ordinary time just a few days into Summer. Instead of starting out green, we’re ending it green. All the Spring blossoms have gone and given way to bold summer hues and a hot hot sun. This gives me a whole new set of metaphors as I think about growth. Do we grow more/stronger/faster/significantly at the beginning of our endeavors or at the end? Is it better to start out strong or finish strong? Hmmm… I’ll be rolling those around in my head for a wee while…

a beautiful Spring hike to a nearby waterfall

Ordinary time is a green growing time, and nothing about it has been “ordinary” for us per say, but we’ve seen growth in a variety of ways. This second half of ordinary time has found us settling into our home in a new country, a new city, and learning a new culture by jumping in head first. Part of the idea of “growth”, they say ordinary time is a season of discerning your vocation and shaping your ministry. That part is true. We are discerning what our role is as pastors in Christchurch, and shaping what the ministry of our church will look like. (Although we will be doing that for years! Constantly reevaluating what our role looks like.) One thing we’ve noticed is that people are longing for community.

Moses is so confident on his balance bike these days

How can our role at the church foster a connected community? How can we show people what a loving community of faith looks like? What does it mean to be part of an intimate community that spurs each other on in faith and love? And how can we guide our church congregation to do the same? These are all questions we’ve been asking ourselves these last four months as we seek to grow our community.

one of our local beaches (about 15 minutes away)

We are establishing rhythms and routines and getting a better feel for our city. We are making friends, joining various community groups, and putting ourselves out there every day (hard work for this introvert!). We are cultivating something new. We’re being “grown”, you could say 🙂
So, ordinary time, we’ll see you again. But now we continue our journey through the liturgical year. Next stop: Advent (my favorite)!!

Sunday Observation

I believe in the Holy universal church.

“I live a much more Christian lifestyle than those supposed Christians who meet at that church down the road.”

This sentence has been rolling around in my brain all weekend. I can’t seem to shake it. It was the beginning of a listening session that I was able to be on the receiving end of. The hurting woman told me about the horrible bitterness she had encountered at the church she was talking about (luckily it wasn’t the church I am pastoring), she told me that she didn’t have much respect for Christians, or for church politicking (me either).  She rounded off by telling me that she would never understand why people would waste the time going to church. And finally she looked at me and asked what I was doing in New Zealand. I kind of chuckled and told her I had come over for work, and I half hoped she wouldn’t ask what sort of work I was doing.

She did ask, and I then got to tell her about how I was so serious about being a Christian I had become a professional one. Just kidding. But really I told her that I was working at a church in the area. I told her that we believe that things like shame and guilt and hatred and pain don’t have to stick with you for your whole life and that we believe there is healing from that. But at this point in the conversation I could have told her she had won the lottery and she wouldn’t have heard me. She had checked out of the conversation.

So I find myself wondering about church today as I preached the sermon, and as we prayed the prayers, and as I listened to my wife lead us in singing on her ukulele, and as we recited the creeds, and as our small congregation gathered for tea and bickies afterward.

It is of course trendy right now to say that the church is not the building, but rather it is the people inside who make up the church. I can’t help but wonder if this sentence has lost its meaning to many people. What does it mean to be the church anyway? What does the church do? Why the church? The church has always been, and I believe always will be known for her habitus; our embodied disposition. Those things that we do. When we love our God and our neighbor in actuality it is love that we become known for. Maybe try giving a listening ear or a hug if it is welcome.  However if we simply meet together as a social club that is sometimes full of bitterness and church politics each week then chances are good we will become known for that disposition. If we gather and talk about all the things that Christians don’t do, then we will become known for that. If we gather and don’t talk, or don’t listen, or don’t celebrate, then I think you get the idea.

Maybe you’ve asked the same: “Why church?” It is a legitimate question. One that doesn’t always have an easy answer but I think novelist Flannery O’Connor speaks to it,

“I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed”

Sometimes, when a person in my congregation will come to me and tell me they are frustrated and tired and about ready to give up on God, I won’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say a lot of the time, and I don’t know why frustrating, and horrible and hurtful things happen. I don’t know the answers to these things, but I do know how to hug, and I try my best to listen, and I try to be the body of Christ.

Maybe you’ve decided that you don’t need the church, and maybe you’re right. But I think its only because the church you’ve encountered isn’t the church that God has envisioned for God’s people. 

Maybe you are hurting today, and frustrated, and ready to give up. If this is you, please know you’re not alone. Please let me (or someone near you) listen to you and hurt with you and be the body of Christ.

Our First Six Weeks: 6 Things We Love About NZ!

Hello! Long time, no blog post! Moving to a new country is hard, hey?! We often find ourselves exhausted and overwhelmed (<<thanks to culture stress) but that’s par for the course. We’ve noticed though, that much of the conversation in our home revolves around our excitement for NZ life! We are still so new to this country but at first “glance”, here is what we LOVE about living in New Zealand so far:

1. Eco-Friendliness

It seems that everyone and their mom cares about the environment here in NZ. And they don’t just SAY they care, they actually DO things to care for the environment. For example, at coffee shops you have to request a takeaway (to-go) cup when ordering. Otherwise, they just automatically put your drink into a mug for you to drink there. Generally, takeaway containers and grocery sacks cost extra to encourage you to use/bring your own! At every cafe I’ve visited, I’ve seen people bring in their own cups. It seems like everyone recycles and composts (the “trash trucks” pick up food scraps and compost it for you!) and I’ve overheard many conversations about being more green. Obviously, there are definite areas where we can all improve, but this is something that has stood out to me since arriving!

2. Opportunities for Nature Exploration

If you didn’t know, New Zealand is breathtakingly beautiful and a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for spectacular views and amazing hikes. The South Island, where we live, is home to the Southern Alps and we get to drive by them all the time! We’ve taken advantage of nearby nature reserves, parks, ponds, and forests, spending time hiking, walking, and picnicking. We love to admire God’s creation, knowing full well God delights in our enjoyment of it. Our adventures out and about have helped us meet people, learn a bit about NZ’s history by reading strategically-placed signage, and simply explore our new area. Also, it’s free!

3. Cultural Diversity

One thing I noticed right away was the diversity in Christchurch. People who know NZ are probably laughing because Christchurch is actually one of the least diverse cities here! But even still, there is a great international presence here. We’ve met people who’ve moved to NZ from Germany, Ukraine, the U.S.A, India, Fiji, England, Canada, Colombia, and Chile. We’ve also been able to learn a bit about Maori culture, NZ’s indigenous Polynesian culture. The Maori language is popular in schools and is on various signage throughout the country. There are a few Maori songs and many words that get used in daily conversation that everyone seems to know. For example, “Kia Ora” = “Hi/Welcome” (Literally means “Be Well”), and “kai” = food.

4. Slow Pace of Life = Kind Citizens

We all know that Americans love to be productive, efficient, and busy. I’ve noticed a big change in my lifestyle since moving to NZ, surrounded by people who actually take vacation days and often have nothing on their schedule. This allows for time to explore this beautiful country and enjoy family and friends! People obviously go to work and participate in extracurricular activities, but it does seem like there is a slower pace of life here. It’s been good for all of us! For example, one thing I’ve noticed is the ability to wait for various fruits/veg to be in season. There’s no rush to have avocados in the Winter, they’ll just wait for Spring and Summer when they don’t cost an arm and a leg! Also more often than not, random strangers seem to enjoy taking the time to say hi and ask how my day is going. Everyone has been kind and welcoming to us.

5. Accommodating to Dietary Restrictions

Overall we’ve noticed that almost every restaurant/cafe has vegetarian/gluten free/dairy free options. I’ve met more vegetarians and vegans here than I’ve ever met in my life! Everyone has their own reasons for eating the way they do, and I love the intentionality behind it. Some do it for health reasons and some do it out of concern for the environment, but no one bats an eye at our family’s odd mix of restrictions. And better yet, there are loads of choices for us if we get the chance to eat outside our house (a rare occurrence, but still…)!

6. 100% Kiwi

New Zealanders are humbly proud of their unique culture. You’ll see “100% Kiwi” on labels and in shops, stating that the ingredients and/or labor all originated in NZ. Websites like ebay, craigslist, amazon, and groupon don’t exist here because someone has created a kiwi equivalent. There are hardly any outside chains, because Kiwis just create their own awesome stuff!

the sunset over our house last week 🙂

There are so many more things we love about this place, but I wanted to keep this short. You can count on us writing more about our life here as we continue to get settled and find our footing. Thanks for stopping by! Give us a shout if you’re thinking about us. It really helps in those times where we miss our dear friends and family back home <3

On an Island in the Sea

Sunrise hike at Lanikai Pillbox

You may be wondering why we visited Hawaii on our way to New Zealand. Consider this excerpt from Esther de Waal’s book:

“There is a traditional saying of ancient wisdom: ‘A threshold is a sacred thing.’ . . . When I visited Japan I experienced the role of the threshold in a very simple daily experience. Before entering the house, the Japanese stand on the lintel in order to remove the shoes worn outside in the street. Upon entering the house, they put on slippers placed inside the door. This forces a very deliberate and conscious way of standing still, even if for only for a moment, in order to show respect for the difference between two spaces, the outer and the inner; the preparation for the encounter with another person, another household.

“This is very similar to the traditional monastic practice of statio, which also pays homage to the threshold moment, and shows reverence for the handling of space and time. The monk or nun enters the church for the saying of the daily offices, but always leaves him- or herself time to stand, to wait, to let go of all the demands of whatever the previous activity had been, with all its concurrent anxieties and expectations. That stillness permits each one to enter into that space kept empty in the heart for the Word of God. By rushing, whether through a sense of duty or obligation, or to save a few extra moments for the task at hand, they may gain something in terms of daily work. What is lost, however, is the attention, the awareness of crossing over into the time and place for opus Dei, the work of God.”

Sunset Beach on the North Shore

Shave ice w/ Aunt Vicki at The Local Hawaii in Kailua

Many years ago when missionaries left their home countries, they were on a ship for weeks (sometimes months!) before they arrived “on the field”. I’m grateful for the relatively quick trip that airplanes provide (and that we can avoid the seasickness), but I find myself craving that “space in between”. I needed a space to exhale before I could inhale again. Esther de Waal writes about this idea from Celtic Christianity in her book, To Pause at the Threshold.

We swam in the waterfall at Waimea on the North Shore

I was so excited to settle into our new home in New Zealand, but the 7 months we spent fundraising and preparing was hard work! My soul desired rest and rejuvenation for myself and for my family before jumping into this new work of growing a small church in the city of Christchurch.

Lanikai Beach in Kailua

We decided to visit the island of Oahu in Hawaii for a few reasons. It was the perfect threshold for us, it was a good halfway point, and my aunt/uncle/cousin’s family live there! We were able to overcome jet lag and barely experienced any once we arrived in NZ. We also had five days dedicated to connection with each other, with family, and with nature.

Lulumahu Falls at Nu’uanu

Part of our long hike up to Lulumahu Falls!

We slept a lot, ate some amazing food, swam in the gorgeous ocean waters, saw seals and turtles, and went on a few beautiful hikes! One fantastic part was getting to chat with my aunt, uncle, and cousin who’ve traveled and worked with the church all over Asia. I am so grateful for their wisdom and encouragement.

The boys found eels, crabs, and turtles in a lagoon at Ko’olina

Farmer’s Market visit w/ Uncle Rick

Our time in Hawaii was such a treasure and I will remember it fondly for years to come. I hope we can create a threshold-like space between all life’s major events!

Crashing waves at Halona blowhole

Ice cream from Lucy’s Lab w/ cousin Bodhi

Author Gerry Thompson agrees: thresholds are sacred. He says this is why the sunrise and sunset are spellbinding. This is why we ponder the meaning of life in doorways and why we come up with wonderful ideas on airplanes. This is why birds sing their hearts out at dawn and dusk.

Thai food on the beach while taking in the sunset

Acai bowls as big as our heads!

Ever wonder why songs have “intros”? An intro acts as a threshold; separating two experiences as the space in between, it gets you ready and prepares you,  helping you anticipate what is to come. Hawaii was our threshold. And now, Welcome to New Zealand!

Moses holding a jabong (pomelo) at Foster Botanical Gardens

Peace <3
To ponder… What sort of threshold-style practices can you incorporate into your life?

Sunset at Pearl Harbor Marina

An Open Letter to Living Water Christian Church

Dearest Living Water Christian Church,
Before we walked through your doors in Parkville, Missouri, we weren’t planning on staying longer than a few months. We were excited to get to know everyone, and had no idea we’d love you all so much! After the interim position was over though, we couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of leaving you. And we are so glad we stayed!
 
You taught us love. And not just little love that gets forgotten or misplaced or miscommunicated, but BIG love that overflows and overwhelms and lights up the room.
You introduced us to our new Turkish friends and showed us how to be comfortable in unfamiliar situations. Many rounds of hokey pokey, BINGO, and bellies of baklava later, we are grateful for the laughter and memories shared.
You helped shape John as a Pastor (and laughed at his jokes!) and  taught us how to be creative in a worship service. Watching videos, reading poems & telling stories, participating in dramas, creating artwork to display up front, and even dancing down the aisles for communion on Pentecost Sunday! As Hosea says, “God is so createful!” And we are certain God delights in the “createful” worship at Living Water.
You are people of grace and hospitality, who welcomed us before we could say the word “hootenanny”. You showed us how to bless others and to receive blessings ourselves! Thank you for your generosity.
You strive to care for your community well, and are always working toward a more intimate relationship with Christ. Thank you for inviting us into your circle and making Living Water feel like home.
We cherish our time with you and miss you already!
May the Lord bless you, keep you, and make his face to shine upon you.
With love and thanks,
The Carrs

Not So Ordinary

I find myself in the middle of ordinary time, a season in the church calendar celebrated as a green, growing time. A time to cultivate new rhythms, establish rituals of growth, wholeness, and flourishing. It’s also a time of discipleship, attention, vocation, ministry, and creativity.

It’s not a season meant to be “ordinary” or “boring”, simply a season of everyday, presence, and intention. This year, ordinary time started at the beginning of June and will lead us all the way to the season of advent in November.It takes up half the year, and rightly so, as we are gifted this time and space to cultivate, create, and flourish. On the northern hemisphere, this season starts during Springtime, when we are anxious to close the door on Winter and watch new flowers blossom. We move through Summertime, when we cultivate gardens, harvest produce, and take vacations, creating space for rest and rejuvenation. It takes us through Autumn, when children begin school and we notice their growth, when we establish daily rhythms of “getting back into the swing of things”.
 
In just over a week we’ll be on the southern hemisphere, moving from Summer in the U.S. to Winter in New Zealand. Though these seasons will change, the seasons in the church calendar are the same. Summer and Winter are completely opposite each other, but it will be ordinary time in both the U.S. and New Zealand. This is encouraging to me during our huge transition!
This ordinary time has brought us new classes in our Master’s degrees, weekly playdates with friends, constant travel to different churches as we fundraise, and a vacation on the beach in Alabama. We’ve had three successful fundraising events, eaten countless meals with friends (old and new!), logged many hours in the car, spent much-needed time with familyand recently packed up 9+ bags for our move.
Nothing about this season has seemed “ordinary”, and I notice in my heart a craving for rhythm, routine, and daily rituals. Some themes for our family’s season of ordinary time are relationship, presence, and ministry. As excited as we are to officially ARRIVE and begin our ministry, we realize that this time of preparation is part of the ministry and we are striving to stay in the present moment and soak it all in. Intentionally staying present has made this season all the more enjoyable!
Stay tuned for more blog posts as we get settled <3

Holy Yoga: One Year Later

“Am I doing this right?”, I asked cautiously and hopefully as I got into crow pose for the first time. “YES!”, my new friend encouraged excitedly. I only lasted a few seconds, maybe 1 or 2 breaths, but I was so thrilled.
One year ago today I had just returned from Holy Yoga retreat, a week spent in Williams Arizona at Lost Canyon campgrounds. That week held more for me than I ever imagined. I went excited to receive my 200hr Yoga Teacher Certification, but I left with far more. A greater physical and spiritual awareness, a sense of healing, a closeness to my Creator, deep and lasting friendships, a wealth of knowledge, tools to deepen my practice, and a supportive prayer community found me that week.
“You’re doing it right!” was a phrase I needed to hear repeatedly during my retreat week. I kept looking around at the other yogis, hoping my posture looked just like theirs, and quickly realizing it didn’t. I was reminded by the instructors that “if you’re engaging the right muscles, you’re doing it right.” Eventually I will gain the flexibility and strength so that the posture “looks right” but until then, I’m engaging the right muscles so, I’m  doing it right.
I’ve spent a year doing yoga regularly, having only before practiced while pregnant with my second baby. There were some limitations to my prenatal practice but there are no limitations now… except for the ones I set for myself. There are a lot of times where I just *think* I can’t do a posture but once I finally try it, it’s not so bad! There are plenty of muscles that still need developing so that I can work on more advanced postures but for now, I like where I’m at. I’m really enjoying the journey and I realize I can’t be in this to “master” certain postures. There will never be a day when I have finally “arrived”; it is a constant strengthening and improving of myself.
I love this physical journey of yoga because it is so akin to my spiritual journey and relationship with Christ. Walking with Jesus is literally that: a journey, a path. There will never be a day when I have “arrived” to a metaphorical destination. He meets me where I’m at and we just walk together. Following Christ is a development of my spiritual muscles, daily drawing closer to  my Creator, daily recognizing my brokenness, and daily following his example. I’m doing it right, because I’m seeking after him, listening for his voice, and saying YES when I feel called to something. (Lately, New Zealand and Creating Space.)
A year later, I can hold crow pose for a few more breaths but there is still plenty to work on. I’m not worried about it though, and I don’t compare my journey with anyone else’s. I’ve got my intention set on Christ, and I’m enjoying the journey, both physically and spiritually.
Think about a time when you have been most physically tested. What about a time when you were challenged spiritually and mentally? Looking back, how have you changed since then?

BOOM, space. (A Lenten Theme)

Lent has been over for a couple weeks now, and we’ve since moved into the glorious season of Easter. Because our blog was down during most of that time, I wanted to share a bit about my Lenten theme of creating space. Across the board, this is a pretty general theme and one I think we should all embrace during the season of Lent. As we’ve been preparing to move to New Zealand, this Lenten season seemed busier than ever. Full of our regular weekly/daily/monthly activities + trying to add coffee catch-ups or dinners with friends + speaking engagements at churches, slowing down didn’t seem feasible. I decided to put forth conscious and intentional effort to create space.
 …
1) First, I looked at my calendar to see where and how I spent most of my time. I noticed a large chunk of it was spent preparing for, teaching, and driving to and from yoga classes. I decided to continue teaching Holy Yoga twice a week, and quit the other three prenatal classes + breastfeeding support group I was leading. Being a part of this particular studio family has been such a blessing to me over the last couple years, but I felt like a new chapter was unfolding for me. As bittersweet as it was, I ended my time there. BOOM, space.
 …
2) Second, I examined how I was spending all those free minutes waiting in line somewhere, waiting for someone to text me back, or just killing five minutes before a meeting or event started. The result? I found I was spending a lot of time on social media. I’m certain I’m not the only one who has noticed what a time-sucker (“space-destroyer”, if you will) social media is! Five minutes several times a day can really add up, and instead of spending those minutes mindlessly scrolling through other people’s “news”, comparing myself to others, or just “checking out” of what I should be doing in that present moment, I decided to transform those minutes by reading through the daily office prayer app, or simply engaging with my dear children. BOOM, space.
 …
3) This third area where space was created was unintentional on my part. (Shoutout to my Creator for closing doors that need to be closed!) I had enrolled in another seminary course for the Spring quarter but as the first week began, I quickly realized I was enrolled in the on-campus version instead of online. On-campus classes are held in Pasadena, CA so there was no way I could continue in this class and, according to the registrar, there was no way to get switched over to the online version. No longer would I spend Monday afternoons doing homework and evenings reading textbooks. I will say this creation of space was harder for me to deal with because my husband was still spending long hours writing papers, responding to forum posts, and reading textbooks. Honestly, I haven’t found a great alternative for “homework time” and seem to have filled this time simply, by sitting on the couch and resting. What began as a disappointment has turned into a blessing. BOOM, space.
 …
4) My yoga practice always helps to make space in my body. Creating length in side bends, releasing the lower back in a forward fold, or opening the heart/chest in cow pose all help create space. Moving from teaching 5 classes per week to only 2 has made me be more intentional in my practice. BOOM, space. I’m reminded me of the importance of sequencing postures to open up the body; it helps give me an image of the Holy Spirit LITERALLY inhabiting the space I’ve created. Not inward-focused, but outward-oriented. Filled with the Spirit, so we can love others better.
 …
Here’s to moving forward through Eastertide with an openness for redemption, resurrection, celebration, renewal, and freedom.
 …
Peace,
Abigail

In Retrospect: My Word for 2016

Aside

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I never have, but thought this year might be a good time to start because I’m really good at adding things to my already full plate. When I was trying to come up with a resolution for 2017 I just kept thinking of things that were more fitting for a bucket list. Visit a new country and continent (New Zealand in July, check!), master a new song on the ukulele, eat leafy greens with every meal, and visit all our favorite Kansas City places before we move. These things also remind me of my to-do lists where I write down things that I’m already planning on doing so that I can check them off. I’ve already decided we’re moving to New Zealand, so does that count?! And we’ll already be visiting all our favorite KC places before moving, so that probably doesn’t count either… Another thing I thought of was inspired by a fellow Holy Yoga instructor that I follow on instagram. She is committing to doing ten sun salutations every day in 2017. Wow! “That is a great workout”, I thought. Doing ten sun salutations would tone my arms, my abs, get my heart rate up, and would be amazing!

But then I thought, “Hmm… would I actually do that?!” Or would it just be another thing on my list that I never accomplish so it gets moved to the following week? Would I forget for a whole week and then start the next Monday with the burden of completing 70 sun salutations to make up for what I missed?
I’ve already confessed that I expect a lot from myself and so I’m thinking I have a couple choices here:
1) Commit to ten daily sun salutations and fail.
2) Not commit to ten daily sun salutations.
Maybe I could do it every day in January, maybe even February too. But I also know we’ll be traveling several weekends to speak at different churches and staying in other people’s homes. I know we’ll be MOVING TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD in July and our days will be messed up for a bit. I know that parenting is hard, and there’s often no time “on my own” to complete ten sun salutations. I know that challenging myself is good, but I’ve found it’s also wise to have realistic expectations. When would I do these sun salutations? After a long day of momming and teaching where I DREAD this commitment? Or setting my alarm early so that I wake up angry about missing an extra half hour of sleep? No. As much as I want to see myself commit to this and succeed, I just can’t do it. Not this year at least! As yoga has taught me, I’m learning to LISTEN to my body and not force it to do something that would eventually cause damage.
Almost everyone I know chooses a word instead of a resolution for the new year. Some call it a phrase, a mantra, or an intention, but it’s basically something that you focus on and it can encompass many things. The end of 2015 was hard for me (and I’ve talked about that in a different post), but I was not prepared to select a word for 2016.
Retrospectively, my word for 2016 was “renewal”. My emotional and physical health has been renewed and because of that, my relationships are stronger, my marriage is better, I can offer myself grace, and I can extend more grace to others. My expectations for myself are becoming more realistic, I’m getting better at letting go of things that are unimportant, and also at focusing on things that are truly important to me and my family. This renewal didn’t occur in one simple moment, but has been an ongoing transformation that will continue throughout my life.
We will see what 2017 brings and what word I find myself holding once December rolls around, but for now I feel myself moving from “renewal” to “embrace”. 2017 will involve SO MUCH CHANGE that may make me feel compelled to go hide in my introvert’s corner, but I want to be an active participant in this change and truly embrace it. I don’t know the extent of what my family will be embracing in 2017 but i know it will include a new home, a new country, maximizing time with old friends and meeting new ones, getting rid of meaningless stuff and acquiring new things, creating fresh routines, and finding what’s normal for us. It will require a boldness to move forward when things are difficult, a humility to lean on each other and those who have offered their support, and a faith to continue trusting God with our lives.
(photo cred: Hannah Beers at harperrosephoto.com)
Happy New Year!
Embracing 2017,
The Carr Family