Friday, March 11, 2011

And I'm going there...

I’ve done a lot of work on myself. No, not plastic surgery or anything like that. I’ve done heart work, brain work, behavior work, and I’m pretty proud of myself. Through counseling, reading, reflection, prayer and conversation, my goal is to live this life in a way that is “aware.” Certainly, I am not at the end of any growth around this. Our lives are journeys. With God’s help, we each have the opportunity to always be growing, learning and becoming our better selves, our self that God intended.

The next step of growth has been thrust before me recently. Although, it had been gnawing at me for quite some time. This new truth came at the burning fire located just below my breast bone. Thanks to Zegrid the burning has gone away, but the truth remains. I have a terrible relationship with food.

My first indication around this was at the table with kindergartners during a brief stint at substitute teaching before I started seminary. I sat with the kids because I had no idea you didn’t have to do so. One of the kids blurted out: “Look how fast the teacher eats!” Now, this could have been influenced by the fact that I had just quit waiting tables. When you are waiting, you have to eat when you can and that usually means fast. The reality is that I still eat quickly. It’s been nearly 10 years since I waited tables. Seems to me I don’t have a really good reason for it anymore.

My first struggle with weight was in middle school. I contracted what the doctors finally decided was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. As a result, there was a week-long hospital stay followed by over a year of high doses of prednisone and other steroids. Steroids are notorious for their side effects. Mine were significantly worsened near-sightedness, weight gain, and curly hair. The last one is a special Kelli-only side effect. The other two are common. Weight gain doesn’t exactly explain what steroids do. They make you hungry all the time. Then, the food doesn’t really satisfy you. You are stuffed but the sensor in your brain doesn’t truly know it. You retain water and your face gets puffy. All this in middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Ever since then, I’ve hated my weight, whatever it was. When I weighed 120, I wanted to be 110. When I weighed 150, I wanted to be 130. And, last year when I reached my scale-number breaking point at 180, I went on a diet. I downloaded one of those apps where you count calories, adding your workouts to offset what you’ve eaten. It did really well, too. I lost 15 pounds and kept it off until some stress caused me to fall off the diet wagon and gain it back.

What I have managed to admit to myself this week is that even though I hate that number on the scale and the number on the tag of my pants, my problem is not so much a body image/weight issue as it is a food issue. When I look in the mirror, I feel confident. Thanks to an amazing husband, I know I am loved just as I am. God loves me and can do good things through me at any weight. When I look at a plate, I see problem solving (that isn’t real). I see food that makes me feel good because it tastes good. I see guilt at the bottom when the food is gone, especially when I’ve over eaten. For some reason I eat like someone is going to take it away from me. I have a dog who does that as a result of abuse. Through inference, maybe there’s something deeper I need to figure out.

My taking this deeper is this year’s Lenten journey. I’ve done the give up soda, give up alcohol, add a devotional thing. But, for the first time, this Lent is really going deeper for me and for my relationship with God. I use food for emotional reasons. When I’m stressed I over eat. When I’m happy I over eat. For some reasons my brain has been wired over time to seek calm or celebrate with a full plate that becomes a full belly.

In order to move forward on this journey, I’ve discovered MINDFUL EATING. It’s almost like learning to eat all over again. Here a few of my lessons learned and suggestions to follow. (All are from

First: Ask yourself, “What do I want this food to do?" before eating.

Second: Approach eating something as if you’ve never had it before.

Third: Eat with all 5 senses - smell, see, hear, touch (what does it feel like in your mouth), and of course taste.

Here we go, friends. Let’s see where this journey of mindful eating takes me through Lent. Maybe I’ll lose some weight, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to love food for the right reasons, and get the obstacles out of the way to being the better self that God has in store for me and each of us.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More than meets the eye or hand

My friend Amy and I are taking a pottery class together. For me, it’s a chance to get back into something I did in college. For her, it’s a mostly new adventure. Last night I had a super-preacher-dork moment realizing the lessons God was giving in the midst of working with clay. Here are a couple:

The clay has to start out where it is supposed to be. This is called centering. With a great deal of physical effort the potter makes sure the clay is centered on the wheel so that the creation process can begin. In the same way, we need to start our days (jobs/relationships/life) with intentional centering. We need to start anything with as much effort and purpose as we can muster. This is no easy feat. With all the distractions life can throw in our way, putting our full selves into anything can seem almost impossible. However, it is only when we are fully present and centered at what we are doing the formation of something special can begin.

How do we begin, then? It is different for each of us. My mornings start out with time with our dogs. In events where I feel like lots of energy will be used, my heart lifts up a prayer for guidance and calm. On days where difficulty is a given, I wear a bold lipstick. Yeah, it may seem silly, but it works for me. We each are responsible for finding those ways to put our hearts where they are supposed to be so that we can be who God needs us to be in the world. Now, there are those days where all our efforts aren’t enough. That brings me to lesson number two.

Know when to stop. When you are working the clay, there comes a point where it gets tired. Sometimes, we finish a work before the clay tires out. For beginners and those getting back into pottery, it is difficult to notice when the clay is done. If you keep working with it past that point, the clay will collapse. In our work with the clay, as your hands and eyes and body learn more, it is usually clear when the clay is tired. In life it takes experience as well to know when to stop. It takes the walls falling in on your pot-of-a-life to recognize all the signs that were there before but we couldn’t see. You and I must learn from those moments. We must teach ourselves when to stop, let go, and admit things about a situation.

Sometimes, the pot is perfect. We stop working the clay before it ever gets tired. As experience is gained, this happens more and more. Most of the time, though, with throwing pots and with life, the skill of noticing the little changes in the clay and seeing when to work a little more and when to stop is where we find ourselves. It takes the work of the Holy Spirit and our own open hearts to see how to live this lesson out. There have been times when it is obvious: a conversation takes a turn that is at best inappropriate or at worst outright sinful. More often than not it is more subtle. My failures at stopping at the right time are usually because I think if I work a little harder, everything will be alright. The reality is that my work alone is never going to make something better. It is listening to God’s Spirit and the cues of the “clay” that will move us forward into creating the Kingdom.

Thanks to Amy for being my partner in this adventure! Look soon for the next lesson. Chaos into creation. Oh, yeah, this clay thing is getting my God-thought (theology) juices flowing. (Oh, and Amy may have told me I need to write more!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Joy of Giving a Gift

Nick came home recently and the first thing I said to him was, “I think you should open one of your Christmas presents.” His response was something like this, “I just walked in the door. Can it wait until I take my shoes off and change out of my suit?” I wanted to say no, but I responded “of course” and the gift opening ended up later. The longer I waited, my heart beat faster until I suggested again that he should open one present early. As Nick went for the wrong package, I smiled and pointed to the one I really, really wanted him to open. His reaction was everything I hoped it would be! He was surprised and excited that I had gotten him the pea coat he had mentioned in passing that he wanted. We both were grinning ear to ear. Nick got his new coat and I got to see the sparkle in his eye of being surprised with something he wanted and needed!

It’s clear to me now that I am not the only person who gets so incredibly excited about giving a gift. Others have told me that they, too, love and encourage early present opening for exactly the same reason. As we dive deep into Advent and are almost to Christmas, I can’t help but imagine the emotions that God would have as we are readying to receive the gift of the Christ child.

What was it like for God on that first Christmas night? Was God giggling with excitement? Were the angels pacing back and forth wondering how the shepherds would react? What level of anticipation was heaven swimming in as the Word became flesh? All the excitement of giving a gift must still be there each time someone celebrates that God has reached them through the life-changing love of Jesus. God, the angels, and all of heaven smile from ear to ear.

At this Christmas, remember your baptism, your confirmation, or accepting Christ, and imagine a giggling God, overflowing with joy. Imagine angels singing and heaven filled with celebration. Each one of us, as we accept the gift of Christ, have given God another reason to ask the angels to sing!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'll take the first hwy to the Suburbs, please

I have been to 5 doctors appointments in the past 7 weeks. Two to my new primary care doctor and three to my new allergist. After 4 years of unsatisfactory experiences with doctors in Kansas City, I finally got a good recommendation for a primary care doctor and from there an allergist. In those 7 weeks I have gotten further along my medical care journey than I have in 4 years. My allergies will soon be better and my newly diagnosed tension headaches are starting to get under control. Wow. This is seriously exciting when you've had a headache (mild to terrible) almost everyday for 2 years. (You should see the smile on my face!)

My thankfulness was spewing forth like a gusher, even when I was told I am allergic to my dogs. I was so happy to have answers and solutions to follow. Then, my friend and co-worker Lara posted this article from NPR. It basically says we spend the most money on health care and gets the least return. I thought about the money I've been shelling out for co-pays and prescriptions and was glad I have the money to do that. Then, it hit me that besides spending the money on those, I have been driving way out to the suburbs to get that great care.

In the 4 years before, I have focused on medical care near me, in the core of the city and was disappointed every time. (I even received the wrong shot once from a nurse. Thankfully I wasn't allergic.) This time, I went out to the burbs and have found excellent doctors with excellent staff. It occurred to me that even if someone has insurance and has the money to pay co-pays, how can they find great care in the core of the city? I can make it out the suburbs to go to the doctor because I have a car and a flexible work environment. If you rely only on public transit, you can only go where it goes. And it does not go out to 435 and Nall where my doctors are located.

I am not saying there aren't great doctors out there who practice in the core, but my experiences say they have overworked staffs, overloaded patient rosters and little time to get to know their patients. My new doctors and their offices are staffed well, take time to get to know me and my medical history, and pay attention to the little things. Everyone deserves that kind of care. Everyone. That is my prayer today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Into the Mystery or Chaos, Schmaos

I've been an avid LOST watcher since it first came on and watched the finale Sunday with joy and sadness. It's ending was beautiful and perfect. I've read lots of comments and blogs that want answers to things like: "were they in purgatory?"; "were they really dead in the first place?"; "would the world end if Jack hadn't put the stone back?" My answers are no, no, and yes. The most important thing about this show for me is that those are my answers. Those are my interpretations of what happened based on my experience of watching the show and reading each week a great blog by a friend of mine. Do my answers matter? NO. No one's answers matter. And, there is part of the truth and mystery I am living into lately. We don't have to have a label and structure for everything. Sometimes there is just chaos, or what we see/label as chaos. Admitting we lack the ability to give label and structure to everything if freeing! If we don't, we drive ourselves crazy trying to do so. It's not the structure that matters. Like on LOST, it is those deep relationships and true purposes that we discover that matter, not our ability to control things. I watched the pre-show Sunday and saw the writers and actors relaying that knowledge in their description of the experience of making LOST.

This week, I step into the mystery of officially searching for my next call. The process in the denomination is beyond broken, but it's what we have. (And, I have ideas for a new one, but that's another post.) I step into the chaos not to find the next place I will label and structure, but the next place where deep relationships with God's people will develop and we will work together to further know our purpose(s) in this world that God has created and asked us to love.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

So Bad. So Good.

I am a minister and sometimes I think also the worst at praying and bible study. I started a prayer blog for Hillside and it is genuinely helping me get better at that praying part. Everyday, there is a new post of one of these: scripture, global prayer emphasis, art, music, community prayer emphasis, or a short reflection. In preparing these entries I find myself praying for those who will use the blog, praying for my own stuff, and praying through the suggestions I place on the blog. In creating the blog for others, I have given myself a spiritual discipline. What a gift it is to serve others. It's nice that it usually helps us too.

If you would like to check out the blog, you can view it here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Just call us Abraham and Sarah

Ok, so maybe we'll stick with Nick and Kelli. But, I realized yesterday who should be our current Biblical models: Abraham and Sarah. (See Genesis 12) Their journey from place to place in the desert connects with our story as a couple and today's younger adults in general. Movement between jobs and cities is more than commonplace. It is almost the story of my generation.

Nick and I realized recently that since we met at the end November 2006, that one or both of us have been unemployed, underemployed and/or seeking a place. Nick was in law school, graduated, searched for employment then worked a government job that was terrible, worked an attorney doc review job (which if you know anything about that...ugh!), and finally found stable employment as an attorney with a firm that does employment law and insurance defense. (His two year mark there is this summer.) I, on the other hand, was working at Community Christian as a part of a two-year program, left there with intentions to start a church, worked last season for the IRS, did some temp work, and finally was offered a wonderful part-time position with Hillside Christian Church doing mostly administrative stuff.

In that time, counting my move from Texas, we have moved 6 times between the two of us, just in Kansas City! (I personally have lived in 3 places: Louisiana, Texas and Missouri. Nick has lived in 6: Oklahoma, Kansas, Scotland, Australia, South Carolina, and Missouri.) Movement and flux seems to be part of our identity. Our place or home became each other. And, that, my friends has been my constant and my truth since we first fell in love.

Although I am the one of us who was given a "call" to serve in ministry. We are in this journey of life and living faith together. We've certainly seen the desert and known moving from place to place. I also know that we have left altars to what God has given us in each of the places we have been. The friendships, experiences, and journeys we have made together and before we met each hold a spiritual ebenezer (altar, it's just a way more fun word to use), lifted up to God in thankfulness. I look forward to where we will next build up those stones of hope.

So, call us Abraham and Sarah if you like. But, I am pretty sure you won't find Nick pretending I'm his sister. : )