Sunday Confessional- June 26, 2016

I confess that I used to hate Summer. I loved being out of school and frequenting the pool but other than that, I really didn’t like it. Ever since I was young, sunlight was really hard on my eyes. I was that kid with the multi-layer sunglasses walking grumpily alongside my parents in June. During junior high in July I was so fed up with my thighs rubbing together that I just wanted to stay inside. As a teenager in August I would hang out at the pool to pass the time until classes started again. For some reason I was just so sensitive to the summer heat. Maybe I was spoiled with too-cold air conditioning? Maybe I didn’t like to sweat? Something about the sun gave me headaches, made me feel lethargic and I felt bogged down by it.

In my 26 years, I’ve always experienced a hot summer… until last year when we were in Northern Ireland. I prided myself on loving the rainy breezy UK weather where our warmest summer day hit somewhere near 65 degrees Fahrenheit, (but we only had a few of those). Honestly, I was content to wear Fall/Spring clothing year round and it worked out well for me! I didn’t realize until I returned to Kansas City and the weather started to change that I actually missed the sun last year. 

I confess that, despite two and a half decades of dreading Summer, it’s my favorite season this year. A lot of it has to do with my little kids who enjoy the pool, park, farmer’s market, spraygrounds, popsicles, the backyard kiddie pool, watermelon, getting messy outside and giggling when I clean them off with the hose. But I think the real reason I love Summer this year is because of all the light. Yes, the sun provides me with much-needed vitamin D but also there’s just a lot of light in my life these days. My 3 year old has turned a corner with his behavior, my 1 year old is communicating better, I love what I do for work and I can see a time in the near future when I’ll be making an income, my husband is so happy leading a church as their pastor (and he’s good at it too!), my perspective and attitude as a mother are shifting, I have some of the best mom-friends in the world, and I have this overwhelming sense of peace and confidence in God’s purpose for my life.

But don’t read this as someone bragging about her life. Because please believe me when i say that I’ve been trapped in the valley, stuck in the darkness, with no light at the end of the tunnel. I still often find myself in those difficult spots where I feel overwhelmed with life, like God can’t hear my cry. I often forget that God has a purpose for me amidst all the frustration that comes with living how I feel like God has called me to live. And honestly, I received a phone call in the middle of this blog taking me right back to those dark places.

But you know what? You can’t rise up until you have SOMETHING TO RISE UP FROM. (And I know not to end a sentence with a preposition, but there it is.)

As a child, I couldn’t enjoy the sun because I had never experienced true absence of it.

All the darkness, the struggles, the grief, the anxiety… all that I have experienced and continue to experience helps me because now I can rise up and enjoy the light.

This summer, I’ve made a commitment to myself not to complain about the heat. Because even though it presses in from all sides, there is light.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday Confessional: May 29, 2016

I confess that when I moved back from Haiti four years ago, I didn’t really have the desire to go back ever again.

13245493_3990638883032_6557763790356576116_nYou may be saying, “What? I thought she loved Haiti!” And I do! But after being there for several months, I had started to focus on the difficult parts of living there. Being perpetually sweaty, covered in dirt, and working hard to communicate started to wear on me. And that’s not even including the little things… cold showers, intermittent electricity, and the same few meals (although delicious) left me begging for variety. It can be difficult to accomplish things in Haiti, and I found myself focusing on the end result of accomplishment rather than the journey of learning to get there. I am American after all! 😉

In January I could not shake this feeling that I should go back to Haiti to visit. When I dug deep, I remembered so many good things about living there! These positive memories had been shoved to the bottom as I let the negative memories of culture stress rise to the top. I so badly wanted to GET OVER culture shock, that I didn’t let myself deal with it properly and just be present on my journey. Turns out, there was a group going to Haiti in May that needed a trip leader. I gladly accepted this offer from Global Orphan Project (goproject.org) and we ended up having a great experience just last week.

13256468_3990600962084_3622407768891605660_nI witnessed so much goodness my heart could’ve burst! From the moment I stepped off the plane I felt like I was “home”. I’ve said this before, but the bad part of traveling is that your home is in pieces all over the globe. I hope my team didn’t get tired of me talking about Haiti, I tried to encourage them to create their own perceptions and be present in their own thoughts. But I had forgotten! By speaking out loud I was not only encouraging them to see the goodness, but REMINDING MYSELF of it too. 

13267865_3990578361519_4190440226937945782_n Whether they’re aware of it or not, the Haitian people I hung out with last week taught me many things. Where we see trash, they see treasure. Where we see brokenness, they see an opportunity for resourcefulness. Where we see a crowded church that “needs more seats”, they see a vibrant congregation ready to worship. Where we see boredom, they see a time for rest. But it’s not just about “them” and “us” is it? Because we’re really not that different. People are people, and we are all on our own unique journeys through life. So let me turn this around on myself. Where I once saw difficulty, I now see opportunity. Where I once saw frustration, I now see there is something for me to learn. Where I once hated the heat, I now can enjoy the times where the air conditioning is in fact working! Where I once saw a sound system that didn’t function properly, I now see the wonder of singing without the burden of equipment. And where I once experienced hopelessness, I now see peace and contentment. 13233058_3990607282242_7550166303212554831_n

The first thing I wrote in my journal was in kreyol, “anpil change” (so much has changed). I initially meant that a lot of things looked different than they had 4 years ago and was writing about the way dinner was served, the uneven step that got leveled, and the location of the drink fridge. But I think what really changed was me. You see, life keeps on going whether we’re ready or not. And I realized that I could let the frustrations of Haiti become my cry, or the joy of Haiti become my song.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Singing,

Abigail

 

Sunday Confessional: May 15, 2016

I confess that I think we have gone too far with technology.

“Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world.” This lyric from the 80’s hit “Don’t Stop Believing” stands to speak directly into the culture of today. Winston Churchill once said that we shape our buildings and then they begin to shape us. This is painstakingly obvious in the way we structure our communities. We build huge houses made for one family, and then we attach garages so we never need to go outside. We never have to see our neighbors.

The same is happening with technology. We have shaped our technology so well that we no longer have to sit in the same room as our family in order to have a conversation. Or when we are in the same room, we don’t need to use our voices. We now live in an age where we are “alone together”, which is the title of a book written by Sherry Turkle. She writes,

“Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere. In a surprising twist, relentless connection leads to a new solitude. We turn to new technology to fill the void, but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down.”

In 2002 Wilco wrote the lyrics, “Our stories fit into phones.” It is scary how true this has become.

So what do we do? Has the landscape of the world become so bleak? What can I do as a father to help my kids grow from children into adults who are not “alone together”? What do you do?

I don’t think that the outcome is necessarily so bleak. I think we can BE the church. A community of people that remembers they are part of the mission of God. As a father I am going to pray that my boys never know a moment in their lives apart from the people of God. I am going to pray that the church is woven into their tapestry of their lives. I’m going to work hard to model the church to my boys. I’m going to place my hope in a saving God, a creating God, a sustaining God.

I’ve made my confession, now go and make yours. And think about who you can reach out to this week (in person).

Sunday Confessional: Finding Balance

I confess that finding balance is hard. We’ve taken a (what was supposed to be brief) hiatus from our Sunday Confessional posts until we got back into the swing of things and created a routine for our new normal. We intentionally enjoyed the advent and Christmas seasons, not taking on any new responsibilities, simply spending time with family and getting over jet lag. Apparently we were still adjusting because our blogging hiatus lasted all the way through Lent and Easter!
We returned to Kansas City from Northern Ireland in December and it feels like we’ve been in a constant state of “finding balance” ever since we stepped foot on that first plane. So far John has already started and resigned from one job, and been hired for two others. I’ve started working as a postpartum doula and a yoga instructor, neither of which I had planned on doing 6 months ago. We were in a bit of a sweet spot when we returned to Kansas City, just because we had the chance to start over with our involvement. Responsibilities we had assumed we’d take on when we started our life back up in KC have either proved to be too much too soon, or they very clearly don’t fit in with the path God has set before us.
I’ve written things into my planner and crossed so many of them out
that it has become difficult to read. 
All that to say, our life looks totally different now than when we lived in Kansas City before. This process of finding a new “normal” has been challenging and emotionally taxing. I constantly ask myself, “What am I supposed to be doing?!”, which is probably not the right question. It seems like everyone else wants to know what we’re going to do next but this is a stressful question for me! I know what I am going to do today, and that’s about it. It’s important for me to remind myself who I’m supposed to be serving in this life. What is my ultimate goal? Knowing the answer to this helps me choose daily what is of greatest importance.
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I taught yoga twice this week and in both classes I ended with my students resting their hands on their knees, palms facing up, representing a willingness to receive whatever comes their way this week. This does not mean overloading our schedules, taking on too many responsibilities, overcommitting ourselves, and feeling swamped or exhausted. This is about taking time to decide how to best approach the upcoming week.
Which responsibilities can be let go?
What things are calling us to dig deeper?
How can we be more involved in the good things
and let the extra/unimportant things fall by the wayside?
Maintaining balance takes intentionality. This is true in yoga and in life. Find your “drishti”, your focal point, and set your intention on balance. Let’s not focus too much on ourselves, but on expressing our love in an outward manner.
(Thanks to Pastor Tim Suttle and his blog for inspiring us to make our own confessional posts every week. Check out his site here)

Breathe

My breath was becoming ragged. The combination of the wind lashing the semi-frozen rain into my face, and the amount of energy that my body was exerting from forcing my bicycle up the face of this mountain forced me to take a longer inhale with each passing second. I looked up and saw that I was falling behind my riding partners. I tried to push the bike harder, to pedal faster, but my body rebelled.

By failing to exhale I was beginning to put my body into a downward cycle. By doing so I was leaving excess carbon dioxide in my lungs. My body noticed that there was an imbalance of carbon dioxide and screamed for my oxygen. But with every inhale coupled with a poor exhale, I was furthering this spiral of leaving more and more carbon dioxide in my body. If I had kept this up and not realized that I needed to even out my breathing, I would have run the risk of pushing my body into a state called “acidosis”.

Acidosis is an imbalance of the pH in our blood streams. A healthy person contains a blood pH of 7.4, while acidosis is usually diagnosed when the pH falls below 7.35. This might seem pretty minor, but it causes all of the bodies organs to work in a different way. Acidosis can cause some serious health risks, and it can even be life-threatening.

One of the healthiest models for Christian worship has a very similar rhythm and feel to it as does a persons breath. A person must inhale, and exhale, and so too must the church. We must gather together, which is the inhalation, and we must be sent out, which is the exhale. There is an increasing trend in American Christianity to put the majority of the focus on the gathering together part, and forget about the being sent out part. We are becoming dangerously insular. We have forgotten that Jesus, if he was walking the streets of a major city, would probably be more likely found in the apartments of a family of refugees, or maybe he would be talking with the muslim man who just came out of his mosque, or maybe he would be standing next to the man on the side of the street who is holding a sign (yes, the same man that you just drove by, pointedly ignoring him because it “isn’t sustainable” to give him money to use as he wishes). Regardless of where you would find Jesus, it would most definitely be with the disenfranchised of the world. It would probably not be in your church building (you know, the one with mauve carpet picked out in the 1970’s).

We are living in a time when the church is on the brink of blood poisoning, because we are a church gathered, and gathered, and gathered, and gathered, and STOP!! We have to breathe. We have to exhale. We must not only gather, but also be sent out. We must remember that God’s church does not have a mission, God’s mission has a church.

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

 

Church, let us go and do likewise. Let us be the healing balm to a hurting people. Let us be a breath of fresh air. Let us go in peace and serve the Lord.

Failure to Launch??

Failure to launch, a term made popular by the 2006 Matthew McConaughey film of the same name. Failure to launch is an increasingly popular way that Americans are describing the difficulties that young 20 somethings are having transitioning from one stage of development to the next.

The movie, Failure to Launch, serves to highlight some of the funnier aspects of this phenomenon. There are three main male roles, friends in their 30’s who all live with their parents. As the movie progresses we learn of the different reasons why. One is doing it for financial reasons, one because he is a crazy hippie, free spirit, who loves to travel, and one who had someone close to him die and he moved back in with his parents during the grieving process. One of the common themes in the movie is that all three sets of parents want their children out of the house.

Perhaps I am only saying this because Abigail, the boys, and I have elected to move in with her parents. Perhaps I am only writing this because I am in the throes of failing to launch. Nevermind the fact that I’m working full-time on my Master’s of Divinity, working as a Children’s Pastor, being a stay-at-home Dad, and I recently accepted a job to work at the Overland Park Farmer’s Market. Most cultures around the world have a structure in place for this stage of life. In many world areas, a couple gets married and then moves in with either his or her parents. This is the basic cultural structure for community. It actually creates a real community, not just the idea of one. Families live together and grow together. We are doing life with Abigail’s parents, and we are all growing together.

I know that it’s not an option for everyone to move in with their in-laws, or their parents. Nor am I suggesting that it would be healthy for everyone. But it is a possibility and it is healthy to build community with those with which you surround yourself. To intentionally dig into relationships is a key feature of life that many people miss out on. There is a profound implication that points toward worshiping God when you live in such close community, and have such intentional relationships with your neighbors that you are able to experience life together. What if it even went a step further than opening your house and inviting your neighbor for dinner? What if it became a lifestyle of worship? Remember this quote by Daniel Migliore as you go forward with an intentional heart to set up a community:

 

“To speak of God as triune is to set all of our prior understandings of what is divine in question. God is not a solitary monad but free, self-communicating love. God is not the supreme will-to-power over others but the supreme will-to-community in which power and life are shared. God consists not in dominating others but in sharing life with others.”

Go engage God, experience God with others, and enjoy God!

Forward Motion

It’s hard to believe it was just a month ago that we left Northern Ireland. 4 weeks have passed since we dined regularly with our friends, volunteered alongside fellow church-goers, and felt rain on our faces daily. 29 days have gone by where we haven’t driven on the left side of the road, hung our clothes to dry on the radiator, or taken a trip to ASDA.

Oh, Northern Ireland! I’m forgetting the sound of your accents, the lilt of your voices as you sing, banter, or share with me. Already I’ve forgotten which shop had the cheapest butter, or when they restocked the fresh produce, and the name of the cashier we saw there EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Sometimes people ask about you, sometimes they don’t. They ask about the weather, the food, the clothes, the church-life. They ask how the boys did, what they thought of the whole thing, and how they adjusted to the culture. They ask what we did every day, and what was the point of us going there anyway? These are all great questions but honestly, they are hard to answer. I know IN MY HEAD the answers to all these questions but one response leads to another question and another explanation and more and more chatting and conversation and after it’s all over, I am “feeling all the feels” (internet-speak for, a lot of emotions have been stirred up in me). I love talking about my time in Northern Ireland and am so honored when people take time out of their day to ask but, if I’m being truthful, how can I sum up a year in a short conversation?! Would it take me a whole year to talk about it? Or longer because a lot happened that requires even more explanation? I’m not sure of the answers to these yet but I’ll keep you posted. I do know one thing: we just keep taking steps forward. But like my tween self’s favorite band says, “We all struggle with forward motion, ’cause forward motion is harder than it sounds.” (Reliant K) But alas, we keep moving forward, although difficult at times.

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Sometimes, Northern Ireland, I think of you like a lightbulb. We “plugged you in” to our lives for eleven months but now that we’ve moved away, a new lightbulb called Kansas City has taken your place. But oh, thank heavens, that is not how it works! The places we’ve lived are not just household items we throw away once we’ve moved on. They are like chapters in a book. Chapters that hold information you cannot continue reading without knowing. Chapters that contain stories of people, changed hearts, new perspectives, tears, laughter, skills obtained, and lessons learned. My life journey is like a book and Northern Ireland, you hold a chapter. A chapter that I refer back to every single day.

…a chapter that impressed so much upon me that it has changed the trajectory of every subsequent chapter in my story.

A month ago we boarded a plane and instructed our 3 year old to “wave goodbye to Northern Ireland!” like we were going to be back in a few days or something. Unfortunately, it’ll be a few more days before we go back. This has probably been one of the most difficult things about coming “home” to Kansas City… Hosea thinks we’re going back soon. Every time we get in the car he asks if we’re going “home” to Northern Ireland and it’s almost like living with someone who has memory loss. He keeps asking and we keep telling him but for now, that’s just how it is. Forward motion is taking place and we’re reintegrating ourselves into this community, but we are different than we were before. “Home” is where the heart is, and our hearts are spread across the globe.

An Open Letter to Millbrook Church

Dear Millbrook Church of the Nazarene,

As our season with you has now drawn to a close, we just want to say thank you. I said this a couple weeks ago while blubbering at the front of the church, but now that I’m safe and sound in Kansas City, I want to say it again. The year of 2015 has been absolutely wonderful because of your presence in our lives. We would not have been able to adjust to life in Millbrook, Larne without the support of you, our church family.

From the moment we stepped out of the airport that cold February day, we felt your arms wrapping around us (although not physically of course, some of you Northern Irish people aren’t the most touchy bunch!) From you we learned more than I could ever write in a blog post. What constitutes a good Ulster Fry, how to bowl and play snooker, how to drive on the left side of the road, where the mums & tots groups were located, how to keep warm in our house, how to play the ukulele, banter etiquette, and where to find the best charity shops. We got to witness a growing church plant, new families being welcomed, the start of a youth group and a toddler group, and lives being changed in and out of the church. We experienced unmatched generosity, heartfelt hospitality, genuine character, honest friendships, a dedicated faith, and deep conversation. You jumped right into our lives and fit so perfectly. It’s like you’d been there all along and, now that we’re apart, I wonder how we’ll survive without you.

But like the song says, la la la la life goes on. Our paths converged for eleven months and now they’re parting. You’ve left imprints on us that changed us and will last a lifetime.

While now physically far away, you will never be far from us. We hold you forever in our hearts and minds and find ourselves thinking of you constantly. For the life of me, I can’t quit saying “half ten” instead of ten thirty. I can’t bring myself to say “pants”, “sweater”, or “diapers” yet, because “trousers”, “jumper”, and “nappies” still linger in my vocabulary. I laugh to myself when I order “tomato basil soup” because I know you all would say “tomaaahhhhto” and rhyme basil with apple.

When we arrived in Northern Ireland, you helped us live without our family. You became our family. Now that we are back in Kansas City, we find ourselves asking the same question as before, “How do we live without our (Millbrook) family?”

We miss you so much already and we are lifting up your families in prayer. Keep fighting the good fight and living like Jesus lives. You are a bright light.

With love stateside,

The Carr Family

“You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” -Frederick Buechner

Sunday Confessional, 15 November 2015

I confess that I started celebrating Christmas early this year.

I can hear you now, “What about Thanksgiving?”

I know most Americans have a (turkey) bone to pick with people who start Christmas festivities before (they’ve eaten their weight in mashed potatoes at) Thanksgiving, but THERE’S NO THANKSGIVING here in Northern Ireland, so hooray! The Christmas season is upon us!

Advent officially starts on the 29th of November this year, but I’ve already simmered our first batch of chai tea on the stovetop so that means winter is coming. In our house we’ve been listening to Christmas music, making extra treats (healthy of course!), and beginning conversations about advent with our 3 year old. John has even been making little nativity scene people out of empty toilet paper rolls. I think we’ve got a few shepherds so far.

Surprisingly deep questions have surfaced from our 3 year old. I shouldn’t be surprised though; every intelligent and thoughtful human being can ask good questions.

“Is Jesus God? Where is God? Who are the magi? Are they magic? Why are the magi wise? Did Jesus like his presents? Was Jesus a baby like my baby brother? Why was he a baby?”

I love talking about this kind of stuff with Hosea. Sometimes (okay, many times), he drives me bonkers with all the questions he asks. But there is really something wonderful about watching him sort things out in his head and try to understand complex ideas.

I love this “extended” Christmas season as I’ve decided to call it. There is so much expectation in the period leading up to the 25th of December. The feeling of anticipation bubbles up; a baby will be born and he is the Savior of the world! So much joy. So much hope.

I personally know the joy that a baby can bring. I also personally know the joy that Jesus can bring. I hope you’re ready for this advent season to begin in a couple weeks. I know I am.

<3

Peace, love, and chai.

Sunday Confessional November 8th

I confess that my story is often told in one way, but there are usually two versions.

The Facebook version

This week I had the opportunity to be a loving husband and allow Abigail to take a couple days to retreat. She spent five luxurious nights, and six beautiful days on her retreat while the boys and I got to enjoy some quality time in Northern Ireland. Every day the boys and I would wake up to see the sun rise and take our time getting dressed before going about our daily activities. On Saturday we got to go to a friend’s birthday party. On Sunday we went to church, and then the boys helped me set up for the marriage course. Later on, my youngest helped me serve tea and coffee to all of our attendees. On Monday we went shopping for our week’s groceries, and then decided to go again Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday because my boys just love fruit! I think they’ve turned into precious little “fruitarians”. My oldest voiced how much he loved me and how much he wanted to stay home with me and Moses instead of going to school. After the boys went to sleep on Thursday, their mama returned home from her time away. What a week!

A Different Version

Saturday morning at 4:30 am found our boys wide awake as we took Abigail to the airport for a conference. She was gone for six days! Every day while she was gone, the boys woke up well before the sun rose, and getting them dressed made me realize why God led me to become a wrestler in high school. After the airport we went to a birthday party where my boys ate their weight in sugar. On Sunday we made our way to church and the boys went to creche while I got some much coveted alone time. Later that day we went back to church to set up for the marriage course. Hosea ran around moving the tables into a giant ‘A’ and Moses clung to me. My youngest then cried his way out of creche and insisted on me wearing him while I served tea and coffee. On Monday, even though I felt crazy, I went to the grocery store on my own with two boys and we tried to get everything we would need for the week. The boys ate MY weight in fruit that day, requiring us to brave the store again the next day. And the next. And the next. My oldest refused flat out to go to school, and it took twenty minutes of negotiating to get him into his uniform and out the door, all while holding Moses. My youngest finally fell asleep about an hour before mummy got home and woke back up in time to see her. What a week!

We rarely let people see our struggles, but it’s important to know that struggles are real, and common. For everyone’s Facebook story, there’s another story that goes along with it. It is important to note that neither version of this story holds the full truth, but when they are put together they show a more realistic picture than when separate.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.