Kris Mares

Just a woman trying to love Jesus and others a little bit more…

Bookends of Life April 13, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 1:05 pm
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In the era of e-books and e-readers, I wonder how many of us remember bookends. You know, they are the items used at either side of a row of books to hold the books up and keep them from falling/sliding down. You can have really fancy ones that are sculptural or plain-Jane ones that are nothing more that a piece of plastic in a L-shape. Whichever the case – fancy, plain or somewhere in between – they serve the same purpose. Bookends tell us where the start and the stop of the row of books are, defining that section and keeping what’s in the middle from falling down.

13015462_468607336661551_1518488740345887161_nYesterday, I got to see the bookends of life. I snuggled an infant and hugged an elderly woman. Each person, fully formed and unique and valuable and worthy of love and needing grace. Each person, in very different seasons of life, to be celebrated and loved.

You see, babies remind us of life that is still yet to be lived. Of hope that goodness and love and redemption is still out there. Babies remind us that even though we will one day die, we can leave a legacy behind in the ones that we love.

But the elderly, they remind us that life on earth is not the end. That there is something more to what we are doing here on earth than simply accumulating stuff and punching the clock and going through the motions. The elderly remind us that even though we will one day die, we still have the chance to leave a legacy behind in the ones that we love.

Babies. Elderly. The bookends of life, holding us up to a greater standard. Holding together the chapters of our lives, reminding us that there is more to life than the beginning and the end. There is purpose beyond flesh and earth. There is something eternal, that lives before us, through us and beyond us.

And that Eternal calls us into life together, with others and with our Creator.  That Eternal gives us purpose beyond doing good unto others. The bookends of life remind us that the chapters in between birth and death tell a story that is greater than any one of us alone and we get to be a part of that story, living it and preserving it and telling it to future generations.

Today, I invite you to live into that eternal story.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and was and is coming, the Almighty. Revelation 1:8

 

The Funny Thing About God October 21, 2015

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 1:02 pm
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When God calls you to something, a funny thing happens. Not funny haha, more like funny interesting/odd. You see, for sometime, I have felt God’s nudging in a particular ministry area. Since I’m not really sure how to go about it, I’m not doing anything about it. Yet time and time again I feel God’s nudging in this particular area. Recently I was at a leadership development training and I felt the nudge again.

As a part of the training, we were to list what we felt God calling us to do, the things that stand in the way of us doing it, and then a few small steps that we could take to move forward. So I did. One of those steps was to lessen the times I spend with like-minded friends and to increase the times I spend with people who are different from me. So, I committed to joining my like-minded clergy group lunch twice a month and to try to meet with people – some who are clergy – who are different from me. They may be different because of their religious association, because of their income level, because of their skin color, because of their sexual orientation, because of their _______ (you fill in the blank). In an effort to build relationships, listen to experiences and be present in the world, I need to spend time with the “other,” those different from me.

So, this was my first week to try to schedule that. Last week, I made some contacts and nothing came to fruition. Instead of meeting with the “other,” I visited some church folk and went to the library to catch up on some note writing and study reading.

And then a funny thing happened.

I had conversations with two people who are different from me. Both were African-American men – one older, one younger. They came up to me separately and for different reasons. At first, I’ll admit, I was annoyed that my “work” was being interrupted. But we chatted about school, about fast food work, about how rude people can be, about God’s goodness and doing everything in service to the Lord.

As I left the library, it hit me. As I got in my car, I realized what had just happened during that time slot I had planned for “other” conversations but didn’t get anything scheduled so I tried to do some other work instead.

That’s the funny thing about God. When God calls us to something, God will help us make it happen. Even when our efforts fail, if it is God ordained, God will provide a way.

So that thing you feel you need to do but don’t know how? That change you need to make but it seems too scary? That leap you need to make but you don’t want to fail? Say yes, do your part and see how all things work together for the Glory of God.

And pray. I will be in prayer for this thing God is calling me into. I will be in prayer for the men I met. Will you pray for them too? Mr. V’s education and Mr. J’s employment.

And will you pray for me? God may just be up to something funny and I want you to be a part of it too.

 

More than Happy August 18, 2015

Filed under: Book Reviews,Motherhood — Kris @ 1:41 pm
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Even though I’ve been parenting for over 13 years, I still have lots to learn. During those 13 years, I’ve read many books and articles on parenting, some were good, some were really good and some I didn’t finish. I just finished, by far the best parenting book I have ever read.

What I loved about this book was that it didn’t give a list of “do this” or “don’t do that” kind of advice. It spoke more broadly about life concepts and principles that are important in the Amish way of life that have led to children feeling secure and loved, yet a small part of something bigger than themselves. I may not be Amish, but so much of their life philosophy is what I hope to be. The importance of family, community, discipline, work ethic, healthy use of technology and of course faith are vital to raising children who “grow up to be people of value” (p. 156).

The point is not so much that children are happy, but that they grow up to be adults with integrity and who place their own needs in perspective with the needs of the family and the community. Happiness is an emotion that can come and go based on circumstance. The values of family, community, discipline, work ethic and faith are values that last a lifetime, bond people together and create a life in which children know what to expect, know they are loved and know they have value to the greater good.

Together, Serena Miller and Paul Stutzman weave stories of Amish parenting and Amish life together with experiences of “Englisch” living. In showing how the “to dos” of parenting may look different in various family contexts, they show how the overarching principles that guide the Amish way of life can also guide other families. How they can guide my family.

While I was reading, I didn’t feel bad about my failures in mothering, only inspired to be more than we already are. I was encouraged to be more intentional about how I teach my children by modeling life. I thought about my own ways of mothering and how I can shift some of the functioning of our family to create a home where the children have important roles in our home, where we play more together and where we are more open and intentional about some of the “whys” of how we do things.

We’re headed in the right direction. Many families are and most want to be. I think the key is that we must all be more intentional about speaking and modeling and teaching the values that we want to instill in our children. And as the Amish term gelassenheit teaches us “We are not alone in this. God has a plan and He is in control” (p. 323).

 

5 years ago… August 1, 2015

Filed under: Me — Kris @ 8:15 am
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It was 5 years ago that we left our home in Kentucky and drove to North Carolina to make a new home.

You can read memories of that time HERE and HERE.

You can read my letter to a friend making a similar journey HERE.

But let me tell you what I learned in the last 5 years.

I learned that God is indeed real.

I knew it before. I had a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ before. I knew God’s love for me before. But the last 5 years has helped me see in a new way that God is indeed real.

I’ve seen specific needs met (while still in KY we got an unexpected check from a friend for $250 just as Racer was here in NC buying a refrigerator for $250).

I’ve seen provision for housing when we wouldn’t have been able to pay the rent (rental house was in forclosure so the landlord wouldn’t take our money since the bank wouldn’t take his – for 10 months).

I’ve experienced a local seminary education – debt free – when I’d been called to seminary twice in my past with no “logistical” way to make that happen.

I’ve seen my eldest daughter make healthy choices for her life that changed the early trajectory life placed her on.

I’ve watched a community of people come around my family to become our family of support when ours are so far away.

I’ve seen  work experience from my past come to use here as a friend was in great need.

I’ve seen each member of my family have a kingdom impact on the people around them.

I’ve seen provision, answered prayer (big ones and little ones), protection and growth.

In the last 5 years, I’ve seen the reality of God in the life of our family in ways I never dreamed. On this day, I choose to remember. I choose to tell the story. I choose to proclaim:

GOD IS REAL!

How is God real to YOU?

 

How DO I do it? February 18, 2012

Filed under: Me — Kris @ 2:06 pm
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As a mom of many, I often get this comment “I don’t know how you do it!” or asked this question “How do you do it?” I always struggle with a response. Most of the time I want to say “I just do.” Sometimes I do say that. Sometimes I give some other short answer about organization, letting stuff go, etc. Sometimes I get a little snarky and reply with something like “ignore my kids, yell at my husband and live in filth.” Now, while all of the above responses are true to some extent, it’s not really the whole picture.

So how DO I do it? I have five children, 2 dogs, a variety of fish/bugs/critters depending on the time of year and a hubby that travels 4 days out of the week for work. I take 3 graduate level classes, teach a Sunday School class at church, volunteer in a management position for a local mom’s group and occasionally babysit. And I don’t have any family around to help – they all live far away.

So how DO I do it? There are a variety of answers I could give. And some days I do it all much better than others. There are few tips of the trade, learned in the trenches, that I think are useful for most any family.

  1. I don’t do it alone. Even though I don’t have family around, I still don’t do it all alone. I rely on teachers, neighbors, church family and a REALLY GREAT babysitter. I give each person in my child’s life the freedom and the authority to do their “job” with my child. If s/he’s acted up in class/church/scouts/lessons/playtime, I expect the adult in charge to discipline as they see fit. I trust people. (I know there are people who have difficulty with that, but I’m a go with your gut kind of gal. If my tummy flips when I meet someone, I keep my kids an arm’s length away. And I choose activities carefully. And I ask my kids questions to learn more about what goes on when I’m not there.)
  2. I let things slide. I’m not a meticulous housekeeper. There is dog hair and crumbs on the floor, there are almost always dishes in the sink. Clothes sit clean and unfolded in baskets for a couple of days. Toys scatter the house. Our home is lived in. It’s not a showplace, its home. We do life here. We bring dirt in (along with various nature collections) and we make messes. It’s really okay. Most everything will clean up. I don’t do every chapter of reading for school either. I do need sleep and I can’t get everything done all the time. Sometimes doing something half-way is better than not doing anything at all.
  3. I focus on relationships. Yes, I can be a task-master. My kids do have chores that they are expected to do, but in the end, we really try to be more about the relationship than the task. But always, always, I remember, I am their parent and not their friend. My goal is bigger than getting my feelings hurt over being called “mean.” My friendships are more important than TV shows or books. Loving and helping others is more important than organizing my pantry.
  4. I guard our schedule. My kids do one activity at a time. We don’t run about every night of the week. I fiercely protect family dinner time. I try to maintain bedtimes. Even though I try to be flexible (I’m still working on that part), I find it incredibly important for my wellbeing – and the predictability of life for my children – to stick to a fairly consistent routine. We rise early and go to bed early.
  5. I live with grace. I mess up – a lot! My spouse messes up. My kids mess up. We are all human. In the end, for us, it’s about living with the grace given to us by God through Jesus Christ. We are a family of faith and living in the grace and love of that faith is the biggest key to keeping us grounded and sane. When we mess up, we know that we can be forgiven – by God and our imperfect family members as well. There are many times a month when I ask my family for forgiveness. The kisses and hugs I get tell me that maybe, just maybe, something is working well.

So how DO I do it? I’m continually trying to fully embrace the woman, wife and mother that I was designed to be. I know my gifts and talents and use them. Am I organized? I’ve been told that many times. Am I efficient? I try to be. Those are gifts that I have been designed with, so I use them to the maximum capacity I can.

How can YOU do it? That’s hard for me to answer. I don’t know what your gifts are. That’s a first step. Sure the things I talked about above will work for most people. If you are creative, be a creative parent. If you are adventurous, be an adventurous parent. Know who YOU are and go with it. Guard your relationships and your time. Live within your financial means, but be generous with your love. And most of all, live in grace.

 

On Solid Rock August 24, 2011

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 6:51 am
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Did you hear? There was an earthquake on the east coast. Apparently it was felt all the way into the midwest. My house, didn’t feel it. Racer felt it at work, but I did not feel it.

Our house is near a rock quarry and much of the area around us is very solid rock. Houses around us have huge boulders in their yards. So, I figure that our house must sit on some pretty solid rock.

Then I though about THE Solid Rock that Racer and I try to build our home upon. No matter what happens in our life (and we’ve had some stuff happen), our foundation, Jesus Christ, is something that will not shake. Natural disasters may come, life mistakes may happen, circumstances may seem all wrong, unexpected winds of change blow, but still our Foundation stands firm.

Makes me think about the children’s song…

Makes me think about the hymn…

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24,25 NIV

 

Without a doubt… August 15, 2011

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 10:26 pm
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I know I am supposed to be in ministry. Tonight was the first night of my church’s Vacation Bible School. VBS is a big undertaking for most churches. There is a lot of planning, prepping and praying that goes into it. It’s hard work. It’s necessary work. It’s important work. It’s tiring work.

This year, I’m helping lead opening and closing worship time. I get to get the kids excited about the night and then send them home with even more excitement. I get to help them learn to love Jesus out loud and I love it. I feel with purpose and with meaning and with energy that is not normal for me. I feel alive and energized and right.

I know that full-time ministry is my calling. I’m gifted in teaching and I love to challenge people in how they think about their faith. I love that God can use my flawed self – full of all the mistakes I’ve made and will continue to make – to somehow help usher in His Kingdom here on earth. Not just that He can, but that he wants to. He wants to use me.

I’m in awe of it, grateful for it and yet not understanding of it all at the same time. But yet I know it, in the depth of who I am, I know that this is my purpose. I feel most alive when I’m fulfilling my purpose. Yeah I mess up. I’ve done it plenty of times. I’ve asked forgiveness from God and many of the people I messed up with. That’s not easy. But I’m learning. I’m learning more about who I am and how to best use my spiritual gifts to glorify my Creator.

As I type, I’m feeding the baby and I also remember that my first place of ministry is at home. I’ll be honest. I struggle with that. In the daily grind of running a family of seven, do I really live out Jesus to my husband and my kids? Do I really show who God is through my actions? Sometimes I don’t think I do a great job there, but in the end, I hope that our family is about love and grace and giving and gratitude. And if that’s the best Racer and I can do, that’s not too bad.

As I get ready to start my seminary career, I’m excited to grow and go deeper in this journey of faith. I look forward to better understanding the nature and nurture of God. The academic nerd in me is excited just to be in a classroom again. (I’ll admit, I love school.) In the end, though, it’s not really about all that. It’s not about the church I hope to have, the understanding I hope to share, the baptisms I hope to perform, the lives I hope to see changed. It’s not about all that and it’s certainly NOT about me.

It’s only about one thing.

It’s about a deeper relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

I want that more each day.

Without a doubt.

 

Lately August 14, 2011

Filed under: Me — Kris @ 9:04 pm
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Lately I’ve not been blogging.

Lately, I’ve been busy.

Lately, I’ve been trying to enjoy a summer that has slipped away all too fast.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about emergency preparedness – do you have a plan?

Lately, I haven’t been eating like I should.

Lately, I’ve started to actually enjoy going to the gym and exercising.

Lately, I’ve figured out that I might actually miss Racer when he’s at the track.

Lately, I’ve been anxious about starting seminary.

Lately, I’ve been trying to raise money for books.

Lately, I’ve spent too much time on the computer and not enough time reading books.

Lately, I’ve been teaching Gorilla how to pee in the potty.

Lately, I’ve realized that I’ve actually started to put roots down in my new community.

Lately, I’ve been taking on leadership roles.

Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about writing a book.

Lately, I’ve felt like writing again.

Lately, I’ve been tired, but filled.

Lately, I’ve been sensing God and His presence through the Holy Spirit.

Lately, I’ve realized that the dents in my fender and the rips in my jeans are simply talking points in my journey of faith.

Lately, I’ve tried to figure out how to make it all work and realized that I can’t, but God can.

Lately, I’ve cut myself some slack.

Lately, I’ve tried to be a better mom, but failed and then tried again and then failed and then realized that I’ll never stop trying.

Lately, the word family is morphing again and taking on new meanings.

Lately, I’ve had to let go and pray.

 

What have you been doing lately?

 

I Have a Friend Who… May 20, 2011

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 5:44 pm
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How many times have you heard someone start a story and you think “yeah, right.” Well in this case it’s true.

This is not my story.

The story you are about to read is from a dear friend of mine. She tells it (and has given me permission to share it) so that God’s love and His plans for her life can be glorified. She tells it to encourage life.

It was 1967 and two people who had been in love since childhood made a decision to have unprotected sex. Why? They were 17 and 18 and put themselves in a compromising situation where they were…alone. Their parents trusted them but they did not give them the boundaries they desperately needed!

Some say, the girl was being rebellious toward her father because he had made it clear that her boyfriend was not accepted.

It was the 60’s and free sex was “in.” However, these two people were charismatic christians! The girl played the piano in her church youth group, was a straight A student, and had scores of friends and a very bright future ahead of her. The boy was athletic, strong, very intelligent and loved the Lord! He had big goals for his future. In fact he had already made money at a number of childhood “jobs.”

Everything was about to change at a rapid pace. You know that feeling you have when something is about to happen? Well, this couple’s world came to a crashing halt with the discovery that she was pregnant!

At the time, this thing called abortion was explained as simply another form of birth control. No.big.deal. The procedure could be done in one day and you could go back to the life you once knew. So, naturally, several people encouraged this girl to choose abortion. NO WAY! Because in this girl’s heart was the absolute truth. That a loving Father God in heaven chooses to give life and only HE can take it away. She knew in her gut that this was a life that needed to be nurtured and loved and she knew who she would parent this child with. Her sweet-loving boyfriend.

Due to extreme morning sickness, she had to finish school at an alternative place and graduate with a G.E.D. instead.

And, at about 6-7 wks. pregnant, she got married with just a few people as witnesses.

I KNOW BECAUSE I WAS AT THE WEDDING!  The little baby growing inside this girl, was me! I was a little person with a heart and soul developing into what I would become today, praise God…

SHE CHOSE LIFE!

By, a Wife of 25 yrs. and homeschooling mom, blessed friend, sister, daughter and child of God.

 

Budding March 14, 2011

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 12:17 pm
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Last June as I left a job I loved, I was given a hydrangea bush as a gift. I cried and cried when I got it. I love hydrangeas. Because I knew our family would be moving, I did not plant the hydrangea. Instead, I left it in the pot, waiting in transition between when it was given (in full bloom) and when it could finally be planted firmly in the ground. During that wait (a LONG 6 weeks), I thought the hydrangea was going to die before it was planted. On really hot days, that plant withered badly and needed constant watering. It’s pot was too small, the roots already growing out of the bottom. The beautiful blooms began to drop off.

When we finally moved, I planted that hydrangea right next to my deck. It was early August – not a great time for transplanting – and I wasn’t sure if the hydrangea would make it. I made sure it had lots of water. The rest of the blooms and the leaves dropped off much earlier than any other plant around us. It’s odds weren’t looking good at survival into the next year. I felt sad because I know that the hydrangea was given with much love and prayer and reminded me of so many people I loved (and still do). It reminded me of “my old Kentucky home.” All winter, I kept wondering what that plant would do come spring.

A week or so ago, I decided to get the rest of the fall leaves out of the yard. I raked around the hydrangea, a little sad thinking about it. But then I looked closer. Wouldn’t you know it – I saw buds! The smallest green knobs growing. I used my hand to get the leaves out of the base of the bush and there were actual leaves coming up! My hydrangea made it!! After all that it has been through, the hydrangea survived and I just know it will have beautiful blooms this year. Can you tell how happy I am about it?

Then I really got to thinking… I think I was a little like that hydrangea. Leaving a community of faith, friends that were like family, a community that I loved was totally stressful for me. I wilted some, but it always seemed like I got that refreshing Living Water just as I needed it. Even after the move, it still looked like things were not good. On the outside, the withering was still happening.

Like the hydrangea, though, the real work couldn’t be seen from the outside. The real work was happening underground and within. After that hydrangea was transplanted, all the energy went into growing deep roots and getting solidly established. After moving, God worked hard on me – growing a deep faith and trust that will keep me from withering in the future. On the outside, things looked grim, but on the inside, God was doing some amazing things.

And just like the hydrangea, I too feel like I’m finally beginning to have outward signs of the inner work that’s been going on over the last 8 months. I’m budding. I’m excited to begin serving my Jesus again through our “new church.” God knew I needed rest. He knew that I needed time to grow deep roots. Now, with a foundation more firmly established, it is time to let God’s love in me bloom so that other’s can also enjoy its beauty.

I can’t wait until this amazing God story is fully bloomed for all to see and marvel at the wonder that is His Plan!

 

 
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