21 Ways to Live Out Your Faith in 2017

2Jan2017 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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I’m really not a fan of New Year resolutions. I’m kind of more of a U2 kinda girl: nothing really changes on New Year’s Day.

Still…the world sees January as a clean slate, so why not make it a time to embrace new things? I just know, that for me, unless I seek God’s help, I can’t keep a promise to myself for anything.

So. This morning, one of our church elders gave the word during the service, and he basically read us several passages about what it means to be a real Christian. These verses from Romans 12 really stuck out to me as good things to work toward in 2017.

Note that it’s all from Romans 12: 9-21, in case you want to read it in a different translation. I’m sharing from The Message, because I sometimes prefer the way it sounds. I also separated some verses into two bullet points because I think they each deserve their own emphasis.

So with that disclaimer, here’s a list of 21 ways to be a genuine Christian this year:

  1. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.
  2. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
  3. Be good friends who love deeply.
  4. Practice playing second fiddle.
  5. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.
  6. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.
  7. Don’t quit in hard times. Pray all the harder.
  8. Help needy Christians.
  9. Be inventive in hospitality.
  10. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.
  11. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.
  12. Get along with each other.
  13. Don’t be stuck-up.
  14. Make friends with nobodies.
  15. Don’t be the “great somebody.”
  16. Don’t hit back.
  17. Discover beauty in everyone.
  18. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.
  19. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
  20. If you see your enemy hungry, buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness.
  21. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Love from Eli, Carrie Fisher

27Dec2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

As the Mom of a houseful of Star Wars fans, I was sad to hear that Carrie Fisher died today.

I know the Internet will be saturated with tributes to her, but I wanted to share our story, too. It meant a lot to me that she and her brother took the time to make a little boy smile.

When Eli was six, he had a major crush on Princess Leia. She was definitely his first love. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, so I suggested writing her a letter.

He couldn’t write much at six, so we wrote it together. He drew a picture, and I went online to find an address to send it all to.

Trouble was, I couldn’t find an address that I could verify as an official place to send fan mail. I did, however, manage to find an email address for her brother, Todd. So I figured, what the heck? Contact him and see what happens.

I just spent an hour digging through my computer to see if I’d saved those emails between me and Todd or if I took a picture of Eli’s letter. Sadly, I couldn’t find either.

I remember that I started off by apologizing for bothering him, but my little guy just really, really wanted Carrie to know how much he loved her and I was wondering if he could tell me the proper address to mail his letter. Todd Fisher wrote me back the nicest email ever and said to mail it directly to him, and he’d make sure she got it.

So, I did. And a few weeks later, this is what we got back:

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“Love to Eli, Carrie Fisher.”

I *love* that they printed a pic of the Lego Princess Leia! (I’d been trying to figure out how to explain to him that she was older than me, and no longer looked like the young girl he adored. And Lego ranked about one hairs’ width below Carrie on the list of things Eli loved.)

He was so, SO happy. (And good heavens, was he cute at six or what???)

I can’t even imagine the amount of fan mail someone like her received, although it did seem that there was a lull in her career around that time. I can’t be the only annoying fan who bypassed channels to get a message to her. But the fact that they responded, so kindly, showed what a class act she was. Especially when you read about her struggles with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues. I, and the majority of people I’m related to, have battled various mental health problems, so the fact that she managed to do so much is impressive to me.

I love what she said about her mental illness a dozen or so years ago, because I also can’t imagine making it through anything hard without a keeping a good sense of humor:

“I find it unappealing, but there is a part of this illness that is funny. I don’t understand the stigma. I understand funny. It is what I do. Because I have the sense of humor I have, things don’t prey on me long. And that’s why I have it. If I didn’t, I would be…in pain. If my life weren’t funny, it would just be true, and that would be unacceptable.”

Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. Thank you so much for all the ways you made my family smile.

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Why My Teens Can’t Get a Job

17Dec2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

I’m venting tonight because I can, and because I know that I am not the only parent who has dealt with this particular set of problems.

You know what makes my blood boil?

Teenagers who beg you to let them get a job somewhere, but then only halfway do their work around the house. (Don’t even get me started on slacker attitudes toward school work…)

Not only do they half-do the work, but they won’t take the initiative to notice that it needs doing. (Even though they know what tasks they’re assigned to each week.)

Spaghetti sauce splatters on the stovetop? Why, yes–cleaning them up is actually part of cleaning the kitchen! So don’t tell me you’re done when you clearly aren’t.

Boxes, bottles, and bags stacked beside the trashcan, ALL DAY LONG, and you just walked right by it a dozen times?

Fine. Then don’t get huffy with me when I make you go out in the dark at 10:00pm to carry out what you should’ve done on your own at noon.

Then, when you remind them that the act of working responsibly is simply a “Life 101″ lesson, (because a boss isn’t going to let them ignore or half-do their jobs) they have the audacity to reply:

“Well, they’ll be paying me, and I’m not getting paid to do this.”

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Did you eat today? How many times? How much of that food did you pay for?

Were you warm? Where did that heat and those clothes come from?

Where are you sleeping tonight? Oh, yeah– in that bed that belongs to me.

Who paid the for the electricity powering that Xbox you’re so eager to get back to?

How much did you contribute to the Internet bill that connects you with your friends?

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You get paid.

You get “paid” more than a student your age will be able to earn at some little part-time job.

You want to work somewhere outside the home? Fine. Bring your grades and your chore performance up to my (very realistic) standards, and we’ll talk seriously about it.

Until then, remember: you keep approaching work like a little kid, you’re going to be treated like one.

And little kids aren’t allowed to work retail.

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89 Cents of Kindness

14Dec2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

It was just 89 cents, that loaf of bread I plunked down on the counter at Kroger this morning.

I looked a hot mess, because like most at-home moms, I don’t get ready before driving Jonah to school. My morning routine consists of pants, ponytail, hoodie, keys–LET’S GO!

Some days, I even gamble and leave the house in my pajamas. If you could hear the engine in my ancient minivan, you’d know why that’s incredibly risky behavior. The poor ol’ thing sounds like a thousand Ritalin-addicted birds are trying to flap out from under the hood, and the radiator is leaking, and every time I sit behind the wheel, I wonder if I’ll make it back home that day in the van or in a tow truck.

But today, at least I was dressed. I didn’t have on a lick of makeup and “sloppy” is a far too generous word to describe the mop on top of my head, but I was up and at ‘em.

Anyway…

I dropped off Jonah, then drove across town to the store that has the best price on IAMS, but forgot to get bread. So I swung by Kroger on the way home.

(You’re thinking, “Wow–your life, Kari! It’s so fascinating. And I say, YES, every single day is like this! Aren’t you jealous?)

So I’m standing in the express lane, with my store-brand loaf of bread, fishing through my purse to try to find my blasted Kroger card, when the lady in front of me says, “Ma’am?”

And I look up into the sweetest round smiling face. She was a petite, older angel dressed in white scrubs.

“May I buy your bread for you?”

I didn’t know what to say.

What I stammered out sounded a lot like Charlie Brown on the phone when Peppermint Patty tells him she’s coming over for Thanksgiving dinner.

“Well, I, um, I mean…that’s very sweet of you, but that’s OK…I’ve got it.”

“No, really, I want to. Please let me buy that for you.”

So, what do you do then, except smile back and say, “Sure. OK. Thanks so much–that’s very kind of you.”

The cashier gave me the weirdest look, and for a moment I wondered if both of them thought I was destitute? I mean, I did look…shall we say…rather unrefined…and I had been digging vigorously through my purse, like someone looking for loose change.

The cashier handed me the loaf and the sweet lady who bought it stepped aside for me to pass. I lightly touched her shoulder, told her thanks again, and said that I hoped God returned her kindness back to her. She smiled and said, “I’ll receive that!”

When I climbed back into my old clunker, I had tears in my eyes. Because I’m kind of sappy and that was just a really sweet thing for a stranger to do.

I’ve heard of people paying for the person in line behind them at the drive-thru, but it’s never happened to me before. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever done that for anyone, either.

But I really kinda want to now.

It was just a gift of 89 cents. But through that simple act of selflessness, God reminded me again that He sees me.

In this world where it seems that discord rules, it’s good to be reminded that even the smallest acts of grace carry a lot of power. We tend to think that if we can’t do something big, we shouldn’t do anything at all. Nonsense! I can tell you for a fact: a mere 89 cents can buy someone a surprisingly long-lasting smile…and the inspiration to pay it forward.

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If you’ve never seen Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts, you’re missing out on one of my family’s favorite holiday traditions.

It just wouldn’t feel like Christmastime if we didn’t kick off December by getting our Rudolph on!

I learned something earlier this year when I accompanied my son’s class on a field trip to the center: they host a wide variety of artists and shows. If you’ve only ever seen one the smaller, less elaborate traveling shows, you might not realize why fans like me make such a big deal out of Rudolph.

Unlike the marionette show we saw on the field trip, Rudolph’s sets are larger than life, beautifully detailed, and highlighted with animation on the sheer screen that stands between the stage and the audience. It is a visually beautiful show that takes you straight into the classic TV tale with its on-point voice characterizations and festive songs.

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All of the puppets, sets and costumes are crafted at the Center, and all of the voices and songs are performed live at every show.

Sure, you could watch Rudolph on TV at home, and later on, take the kids out to see a movie this holiday season. But I implore you: don’t! Not when this amazing gem is just a short drive away, and you can enjoy kid-friendly live theater at the same cost as a movie and popcorn.

(Plus, you’re supporting the arts, which makes it a win-win for everyone! OH…and they have some of the coolest things in their gift shop, too!)

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Please click this link to see a complete list of show times and dates. Generally speaking, there are two daytime shows every weekday (except Mondays, when the Center is closed) and three every Saturday and Sunday through December 31. Also, kids can enjoy making a Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster™ Hand Puppet in a workshop following the show. There are a few extra weekday shows added closer to Christmas, so be sure to check the calendar for availability.

Finally, check out this really neat video and behind-the-scenes look at how they make Rudolph, courtesy of www.artsatl.com.