Chase Fireflies


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Beautiful Here.

 Walking in lush fields of green.  Towards Light and we go together. 

 Discovering rocks of old.  Walls built up and crumbling down. 

God reflections in mirrored water and hushed woods and Tiger Lillies and each other.

And my soul is fed as with the richest of foods. 

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. 
~John Muir


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An Ocean of Grace

But God is the God of the waves and the billows
And they are still His when they come over us

And again and again we have proved
That the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm.

Once more by His interposition deliverance came.
We were cast down, but not destroyed.

-Amy Carmichael


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Days of Dirt and Drownings

It was an ordinary day of buying milk and eggs and cheese and using the tucked away coupons for cereal and yogurt.  Pushing the cart and getting a phone call; telling him she’ll be home soon. 

Carrying the bags of groceries in.  Hardly noticing the anguish in the eyes because the ice cream needs put away and the watermelon is too heavy for the tearing plastic bag. 

She sits down to news so heavy that the weight on her chest is tangible, suffocating, exhausting.  He speaks softly, “We lost Robbie today; at the river, with the current and the dam.” 

Robbie is 32.  He is an ox of a guy; strong like his dad, with piercing blue eyes like his grandfather, ours.  I barely know him; my own cousin.  Only that he is a good son and he makes people laugh and he loves Jesus.

And he is gone. 

I cannot keep from crying.  These tears fall scalding, one after the other.  Why Robbie?  I ask this, as if my other cousins are dispensable and I am ashamed. 

I want to contest.  Why must one mother’s heart reel with raw pain; hurts stacked in a teetering tower?   She fights with Down’s and debt, a failing health, a second son, and now death.  Yet she knows the ways of God much more than I.  This is purposed; God’s way.   

Perhaps this is why I cry. God’s goodness is here, but it’s so hard to see with tears in my own eyes.  I wonder what God will ask of me one day.  I hope I’ll be able to worship Him Who gives and takes away. 

From cradled infant on hospital gown to buried son in the dirt of the ground.  I have needed to be reminded that I have been born to die.  Learning to live along the way is richer life found. 

Dying daily to ourselves; living daily for Another. 

With dirt under his fingernails and in his hands;  With Love coursing through his veins, this cousin of mine lived. 

And in his drowning death, there is more life than even ever before. 

-Death has been swallowed up in victory. – 1 Corinthians 15:54

This much I know,
Kristin


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52 miles and why

Hey Guys.

In just over six weeks, ten of us will be running the Pittsburgh Marathon.  Now before you think we’re rockstars for running 26 crazy miles each, let me dispel that.  We’re running the race with two teams of five.  The legs run from 4.8 miles to 6.2 miles.  Collectively, we’ll run 52. 

Still, we’re training hard.  I’m running more than I’ve ever run.  My knees hurt more than they’ve ever hurt.  I look more ridiculous than I’ve ever looked finagling the weights in the gym and running with Paul’s wireless headphones like an orthodontic apparatus under my chin.  (It rests on the back of your neck, in case you’re confused too.  I knew something didn’t seem quite right.)  Ridiculous, I tell you. 

Anyway, I am thrilled about this race.  I am thrilled about our teams.  My brother is driving from Rhode Island to run in it.  (This means the world to me.) 

My sister in law Ashley is also running in it.  (She is the real runner in our family.  We train together on Sundays and that girl doesn’t fool around.  Sometimes she scares me.)  I’ve also coerced my good friend Kathleen to run.  (The second ask was the charm.)  Somehow, Kathleen will run faster than all of us without breaking a sweat, on no sleep, and with three kids in tow.  She makes me smile.

Rounding out the teams are friends from church – high school and college age students.   Admittedly, we’re a diverse collection of runners.  However, in six weeks and even now as we train, we’re running for one purpose. 

We’re running to raise money for International Justice Mission (IJM).  All of the proceeds from our run will go to meet the needs of IJM, a human rights organization that serves as a voice to those who have been silenced by modern day slavery. I’ve talked a lot about IJM on this blog.  Among many things, their work prevents the trafficking of men, women, and children, provides after care services for victims, and prosecutes offenders. 

I know this sounds crazy, but we’re hoping to raise a collective $2,600 towards this cause.  We figure that’s $100 a mile.  We would really love if you would support us, in whatever way you can.  You can visit here to support us financially.  You can feed us carbs, make big signs, throw water at us, or cheer along the way.  You can also pray.  We would be grateful for anything and everything.

Whenever I think about this run, I get giddy like our son catapulting off our bed into his beanbag chair.  I get all tangled up like spaghetti with fears that my knees just aren’t going to make it.  But mostly, there are these words that come to the forefront of every training session:

Jesus came. 

To give good news to the poor.
To bind up the brokenhearted.
To proclaim freedom for the captives. 

To release prisoners from their darkness.
To provide justice.
To comfort all who mourn.
To provide for those who grieve.

To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes;
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61)

Jesus came for that purpose.  To restore what has been lost. 
And like a newborn puppy awkwardly finding its feet, I’m scampering along. 

Would love for you to run along with me. 
Much Love (and Thanks),

Kristin


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Made Alive

I tiptoe down the stairs as our home is cloaked in darkness.  Fumbling for the kitchen light, I make a scalding cup of coffee and rub my eyes.  It’s a new morning and I am made alive. 

These are my favorite kind of days.  Waking up before the kids, sneaking down for perspective; a dawn wakened with promise.  I can’t sleep any longer, mostly because I am too excited to begin a brand new day.  Most mornings look like covers pulled over my head; this one has hope written all over it.

Some people draw energy and life from being around others.  Regrettably, I am not one of those people.  I draw my strength from the silence, from being alone, from listening to God’s word quiet my own endless talking.  Those who know me best know this much about me.  I am a talker.  I need desperately to listen. 

I find my usual spot on the worn out floor, legs crossed as a pretzel, and open what is life to me. 

I read that wisdom lives in homes, built pillar by pillar.  It bestows wealth on those who love it.  Wisdom makes treasuries abundant.  Rooms within are filled with rare and beautiful riches.  Riches like kindness and laughter and sacrifice and knowledge live here.  I want a home out of a Pottery Barn catalogue.  I need the kind of home that looks like wisdom.

I read about life and death and hostility destroyed with the cross.   I love that God loves without condition or premise.  He gives peace to those who are near and peace to those who are far.  Grace holds no regard for where it finds you.  We have all been without God and without hope in this world.  Yet He welcomes us with joy and peace and arms that take us off the floor to dance.

I read about the complacency of fools and it strikes a nerve.  Their complacency is their destruction.  Lacking wisdom, they find contentment in lesser things.  This American life has arrested them, unaware.  I realize that I am complacent about most everything that does not directly affect me.  The command to love my neighbor as myself mostly stops short at loving me. 

Almost done with my coffee now, I close the Bible and feel as though parts of me are dying, as they should.  This is certainly not what I intended to compliment the energy of the morning.  But this morning was never supposed to be about me anyway.  This morning, this afternoon, this evening is about Him.  Christ in me, the hope of glory. 

In each little death, I am made more alive; alive to Life itself.  I think I just may be able to tackle this day with these words of life to me.  Well, these words and maybe another cup of coffee.


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The Story of Linda

Sometimes, God shows up as you never expected.  He does something that you would not believe, even if you were told.  When the tears come, He counts them and holds them in heaven.  In exchange, He fills our mouths with laughter; our tongues with songs of joy. 

This is the story of Linda.

Linda was a missionary to Korea.  Actually, she always said that she was a missionary to her own family first, so I suppose Korea was second.  She had three girls and a boy and a husband who adored her.  She made her home in a foreign land.  Her home was simple and cramped for six, but as rich as rich could be. 

I remember a lot of things about Linda.  Like how she could whip up the best chocolate chip cookies ever.  Always perfect and melt in your mouth.   And then she introduced me to this cherry dump cake stuff.  Oh my word.  For three years, I lived on kimchee and rice and cherry dump cake.  It was that good.

Linda loved Jesus, marriage, and babies.  And she was not quiet about loving any of those things.  She lived out her passion for God where He called her.  Sometimes God had her stay at home and raise her family.  Sometimes God had her on a street lined with bars and strip clubs.  We loved going there on Friday nights to invite others to church.  I’ll never forget those Friday nights. 

Eleven years ago, I introduced her to Paul, when he flew to Korea.  She was almost as happy as I was to have met him.  Her joy for my joy was unmatched.   At my wedding shower her words of wisdom included, “Kristin, have lots of beautiful babies.”  She would have been so proud with our two. 

God placed Linda in my life for three short years.  She welcomed me into her home, her life, her faith.  Through her, I got to see what devotion looked like.  She was my friend and my mentor. A few steps ahead of me in life, she encouraged me to run consistently and set a good pace.  I loved her.  We all did. 

Last week, in the midst of a special breakfast with the kids, I got the devastating news.  While speaking to eleventh graders about Christ, Linda suffered a massive brain aneurysm.  She was 52. Tears fell as raindrops from a deeper place within me and I couldn’t make them stop.  Her death sent a family, a school, a church, and a community into a swift unexpected grief. 

This is where God shows up.  Granted, He’s been there all along, but His presence becomes undeniable now. 

Linda made a decision, years ago, to donate her organs.  Because of that one small decision, three people’s lives were saved in Korea. Her liver and kidneys were perfect matches to people who had been given a death sentence.  In addition, her skin was donated to burn victims. Her corneas were given that others might see. 

It was a small decision on her part at the time.  Consistent with her life, she gave even in death. 

What no one would have ever imagined was that Linda was the first foreigner ever in Korea to have donated her organs.  Organ donation in Korea is extremely rare, with only one in a million Koreans even doing it.  This simple act of love was unprecedented for a foreigner.  News agencies stirred.

In a matter of a couple days, numerous articles have been penned about Linda.  Three of Korea’s biggest news channels covered her memorial service.  The good news about Christ has been aired for a nation to see.  Reporters have said that she gave her life and her death to a people that were not her own.  Countless have come to grips with their own humanity and with a Savior’s love. 

And this, all because of the faith of a woman named Linda. 
Who taught me how to live and who taught me how to die. 

“But your dead will live, their bodies will rise.”  – Isaiah 26:19

”I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”           -Psalm 27:13-14


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One Foot in Front of the Other

Somewhere in between the lace tying and the desperate gasps for breath, I am learning what it means to worship. 

Hit the track; one foot in front of the other.  Round the bend; measure the pace.  Breathe.

I run because I can.  These legs, though awkward and painfully slow, go forward. I run because I need firmness beneath my feet.  Running grounds me.  I need God because I can’t do it on my own.

On a good day, I get out all of the junk within my heart.  Every impatience and criticism falls as sweat beneath my feet.  I feel less burdened then, more like how I was meant to be all along.  I run faster, lighter, and sing.  There is purpose in each step. 

On a typical day, I don’t feel like running at all.  I conjure up any number of excuses.  Mostly too busy and too tired masquerade for too lazy.  If I hit the track regardless, I’ve won.  Stretch and put one foot in front of the other.

Not a mile and a half in, my legs are as dead weight.  There are others who run faster.  I care too much about where everyone else is on the track.   In watching the others, I forget that I’m there to worship.  I don’t want to ever forget.

I focus, listen, pray.  Defeat wants to creep  in. I have to remember that it was never meant to be easy.  I’ve got to learn to praise anyway.  At its heart, worship is praising in the pain and in the pleasure. 

Hebrews says to run with perseverance with your eyes fixed on Him who bore our sin.  Run towards the cross.  Follow His steps, follow His suffering.  I learn this as I run; one foot in front of the other.

Yet Jesus endured the cross not for pain, but for the joy set before Him; for the end of the run; the redemption of our souls.   He didn’t focus on the pain, staring at the joy.  There’s nothing better than the end of a good run: the exhilaration, the relief, the accomplishment. 

Somewhere in between the lace tying and the desperate gasps for breath, I am learning what it means to worship.  There are so many more miles to go.


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Beggars and Thieves

There were beggars.

Relegating themselves to weathered skin on the cold stone ground.  Holding out mangled hands; rasping unintelligible words; lining the cathedral of God. 

There were thieves. 

Glancing furtively; attacking quietly.  Plain clothed people.  Regarding others as pawn and pawn as riches for the squander; interspersed in the cathedral of God.

We were warned of them, as inherent in the architecture.  “Notre Dame boasts its flying buttresses and clustered pillars, but you will also find its beggars and thieves.”    

Walking in, we found that stone after stone grasped for the heavens.  Vaulting shafts conspired to tell of a Grandeur whom the architects had to have known.  Every window and portal painted God’s story.

Notre Dame has this fascinating history of prayer and music; of pillage, of plunder; of saints and sinners.  In 1768, geographers decided that all distances in France would be measured from its spires. It would serve as a tool of reference; of distance to and from.

Revolution found war here.  Victor Hugo found inspiration.  I found an identity of sorts.

There was a certain desperation in the eyes of the beggars I met that day:  a poverty of externals; a poverty of the soul.   I have looked into these eyes before, serving potato soup and browned beans.  I wondered how poverty seemed at home in a homeless shelter and yet so out of place here. 

My best conclusion is that Notre Dame is a cathedral, immense and rich, constructed to weave the goodness of the God-man into the fabric of humanity’s sin.  Creating a stunning work of art that rings out redemption with its bells.  Yet redemption wasn’t ringing.  I could see it in their eyes. 

What could they see in my own?

Would they see me begging for mercy and yet so quickly robbing others of its riches?  Would they see me craving for more than my daily bread and finding a gnawing hunger in my soul for more?  Would they see me crying for God’s will to be done and stealing that will into my own hands? 

I am accustomed to living in this world of faded glory, under the heavens.  Mine is a dim understanding, like squinting to see text in the dark.  Glory will be met one day, and held close in my arms, and worshipped.  For now I see only faint traces, even as I am fully known. 

These faint traces of Glory may look like the laughter of our kids, the bent knee of humility, the hushed white of snow blanketing the hardened ground.  Yet without Glory giving me eyes to see, I bypass it all.  I am the beggar in the cathedral who doesn’t know for Whom the grandeur was made; who hardly sees grandeur at all. 

Despite the suffering in this world; even in the midst of that very pain, Glory is alive and well.  This side of heaven, Hope surrounds me, ascends beyond the clouds, and stands firm beneath my wandering feet. 

His story is the One I must know, grasp, and tell, for by it I am made fully whole.

Above all, I am a beggar and a thief redeemed to love.  If there be any desperation and craving in me, may it be the plea to be cured of this world’s blindness.  I so need the vision of Christ above my own.  

“Son of David, have mercy on me…  Lord, I want to see.”


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Under the Breakers

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
   All your waves and breakers have swept over me.

wave

There is something about the Atlantic that centers me. 

Its waves are wild and unmanageable and welcoming.  One cannot sneak into their grasp.
You tackle them in full sprint or you get out of the water cause its just not worth the cold.

I grew up on this coast.  Searching for shells.  Buried in the sand, with salty air in my lungs.
I grew up under the breakers, carried by an unleashed power beyond my ability to control.

If you were to ask me what I love about my Jesus, I would say…

I adore how He swept me into redemption
And how He frees me to live under the crashing surf 
With energy, danger, and purpose here;  hope as I’ve never seen.

Thoreau said, “You must live in the present and launch yourself on every wave.”
Looking back, I can see that those breakers were never haphazard after all. 

By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me… for I will yet praise Him, 
My Savior and my God.  (Ps 42)


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Another Story Told

He was a scrappy little guy.  Hair disheveled, quick with his fists, faster with that mouth of his.  Teachers branded him grades before he ran into my class.  I always hated those heads-ups.  Give the kid a fighting chance. 

So I practiced a little rebellion of my own with cards in his desk, over the top soccer game cheering, prayer, and dreaded gerbil care.   For the record, our class gerbils (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) never died while in his care.  That doesn’t say much for me.  

I want to tell you that he changed throughout the course of that year, because that would make for a good story.  But he didn’t all that much.  He still used those fists of his and that tongue.  And he also threw in some gasoline with lighter fluid for good measure.  You should have seen his eyes that night in the burn unit.  Seared with pain, they seared right through me.   I couldn’t fight the tears.

I loved that little kid.  Still do, wherever he is.  It wasn’t a love based on performance or merit or anything earned.  He might have passed with D’s and he got in more trouble than I knew what to do with.  He drove me berserk, but I loved him. 

Someday we’ll meet in the cereal aisle in Wal-Mart and laugh about the snake he lost in our reading nook.  I’ll hear about his dreams for the future and we’ll remember his grandma with great love.  I always told her that God would do great things in his life.  I look forward to that day. 

Maybe it was crazy to champion one child so much, but I don’t think so.  If we ever lose sight of what God can do for one person, we lose sight of everything.  And the truth is, I saw myself in my student’s fights, his tousled hair, his reckless decisions.  I’ve scarred myself and others, more than anyone cares to know.  I’ve scarred my Jesus.

I love that Jesus still has nail marks in His hands, cause every scar tells a story.  His is incredible, though slightly absurd.  I still don’t understand.  There’s no act of love like it.  Innocent Splendor paid my debt.  His death purchased my freedom.   I am alive and running today because of this incomparable love.  It has made me whole. 

Everyone has a story written on their hearts, spoken in the fabric of their days.  Christ’s story tells my story.  My story is a part of my student’s story.  His story will write another’s.  And the pages continue to be written, turned, and read. 

I want to learn how to write a good story.  To listen better, notice more, craft the words, honor the voices behind the text, point to God.  There are stories to be told, but I’m at a loss for the elements. 

Tonight was the first time I’ve ever heard of the She Speaks Conference in Lysa TerKeurst’s blog.  In reading about it, I knew it was something that I wanted to pursue.  It provides effective training for speakers, writers, and women’s ministry leaders.  You’ll have to check out their website for more information.  This blog post is an attempt to win the Cecil Murphy Scholarship, which would allow me to attend the Conference for free. 

Winning it would mean a whole lot.  And plenty more stories told.