when I remember to remember

I hated most of college. After a year of school, I was really discouraged and had no idea what I wanted to study. I wanted to take a semester off, but wasn’t sure my parents would support that, and was terrified that their fears that I would end up as a homeless person unable to support myself would surely come to fruition if I stepped off of the normal course and didn’t go to school for a bit. (Ok, those fears weren’t COMPLETELY voiced by them, but MOSTLY. They were scared.)

After failing class during my second semester of college and realizing my parents disappointment, I wandered in to my pastor’s office. I went because I wanted to schedule some time to talk with him, and as he asked me what I wanted to talk about, I broke down. I cried HARD and that is saying something. He motioned for me to come in, and told me he had time to talk with me right then. I poured out my heart, telling him how I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, how there was so much pressure for me to MAKE IT, and I just was so unmotivated to prove that I could make it. He told me that the best thing he did during his college years was to take a year off, and he encouraged me to just go for it. He assured me of God’s care for me, and encouraged me to begin keeping “Ebenezers” to remind me of God’s faithfulness.

Guess what? I have now have an Ebenezer Jar of stones that I write on with a sharpie marker (word and date), and I have a few other tokens of remembrance, but I so often forget to go back and tell the stories. But I did tonight. I picked up the a stone dated 11/3/12, and I remembered how I came to St. Louis, and what a good (in the truest sense of the word) thing it was for me to be in seminary classes for a year. In November of 2012, life was not easy. It’s not easy now. Gracious, does it ever get easy? But God is present, and he is good, and he is faithful.

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swinging barefoot

I have been really feeling things today, good things, good emotions. Sweet, bring you to tears emotions. At work, there was a woman who was putting together a gift with such focus and creativity you would have thought she was the only one in the room. She was certainly only focused on her gift. The focus wasn’t selfish. I made a comment about what she was doing, and she explained that she was putting together a gift for her daughter, who was going to be celebrating her 6th wedding anniversary tomorrow. She explained that her daughter had been trying to get pregnant, but that wasn’t working well, and that she wanted to do something really special for her. The woman’s love for her daughter was so apparent as she moved through the store and pieced things together to create a tray with oil lamps, bowls, dish towels, wine, salsa, and so on. She asked me about napkins, and as I pointed some out, she said, quickly but kindly, that was not her daughter’s style. I loved that she knew her daughter so well to be confident of what was and wasn’t her style.

As I walked away to let her continue to shop, I almost cried. I told a couple of my coworkers about what the lady was doing, and one of them said, “Oh Kiersten, you’re so funny.” I don’t think they understood. I wish all retail customers shopped the same way this woman did. She was so intentional and creative as she looked for her daughter’s gift, and so kind to us in her speech. So many people come into the store and just want us to pick something. They are impatient and in a hurry. I want to ask why they are giving a gift if they don’t care what it is. They may have a good reason, I just want to know why sometimes.

Then I got home and began to make dinner. I cooked pesto and pasta and added some tomatoes on top. After I cooked my pasta, as I sifted the spaghetti noodles through my fingers, feeling their stickiness, I thought about how I learned years ago from my grandmother that if you cook spaghetti noodles, the way to tell if they are ready is to throw one against the wall. If it sticks, it’s al denté. That made me think of my sweet grandmother, always giving and giving. She’s like the giving tree from the book. She used to cook for us when we came to visit her, and then when we moved into the same city, every Sunday she would have us over for lunch. And she cooked. Nothing fancy. She’d of course set the table (or ask one of us to do it), and either cook stew or spaghetti. And she’d have caesar salads, because she knew my dad and I liked the salad. She would make corn because she knew my brother loved corn on the cob. Now, as an adult, I look back and think how that must have meant so much to my grandmother, as a woman living by herself, to have people in her home and to give to us, to care for us. I wasn’t very grateful at the time. But it means so much to me now. I’m so glad she did that. And after she cooked, she’d just sit back and watch the chaos of my family’s conversations. She’d watch our teenage attitudes, hear our discouragements, watch our apathetic looks, listen to our laughter, love our hugs, love listening the talks. But after she cooked, she was a watcher. She would just sit back and enjoy us enjoying the food that she made, enjoying the sweetness of having everyone together. She enjoyed the environment that she had created. That is so HER. She just gives and gives, not expecting anything in return, but simply loves knowing that we are enjoying the gifts that she’s given. It is so sweet. Honey-for-the-soul sweet.  I get that now. So I called her. Age and sickness have made her no longer able to cook for us. But I called her tonight and told her about my spaghetti noodle memory, and she laughed and said that she did remember that. I’m so thankful for my grandmother.

After dinner I went for a walk. I talked on the phone as I walked to a park nearby, and found out some great news in response to a prayer and concerns. I got to the park, I sat for a bit on a bench overlooking a field (valley) surrounded by trees, watching the sunset, and I was just thankful. I have to take times to do things like that. To play outside, to walk barefooted to my neighbor’s house, to swing, to pick fresh herbs from the garden. Tactile, earthy, real things.

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my grandmother, 2 years ago

my grandmother, 2 years ago

 

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update: essential oils

I’ve recently been asked about how I practically use essential oils every day. (Clarification: I use Young Living’s therapeutic grade essential oils.) Here is some information that will hopefully be helpful to you!

On a day to day basis, I use the oils for skin issues (eczema & dry/sensitive skin), anxiety, as a sleep aid, and for back pain. What made me take the leap was that I was taking Advil every night for at least the last year for headaches and muscle tension in my back and neck that was really painful. I just couldn’t keep doing that to my liver, and honestly it wasn’t helping that much, so I wanted to see if the oils would help with relaxation and pain. They have..a lot. I’ve only used Advil about 4 times since getting the oils in March. The PanAway and Deep Relief have really helped with muscle stuff, Lavender & Peppermint help with headaches, and Lavender and Peace & Calming really help with anxiety. I rub Peace & Calming on my feet every night and sleep really deeply….I’ve had sleep issues for the last 4-5 years and have taken prescription meds. I haven’t been brave enough to give up the prescriptions yet, but I can already tell that the Peace & Calming helps me have complete REM cycles because I’m dreaming a lot more and remembering my dreams when I use it.
I also get nauseous when I’m anxious about something. I never throw up, but to help the nausea I have been rubbing peppermint oil on my stomach occasionally. I haven’t had to use it recently…probably because of the Peace & Calming and Stress Away that I use on a daily basis that help with the anxiety.
I diffuse the oils for different things using my diffuser. At night when I go to bed, I diffuse either Lavender or Peace & Calming. For just a general good smell, I diffuse the blend called Joy. Many of the oils can be diffused with great benefits. You have to be careful when diffusing them and also using them topically with infants and young children. There are certain oils that can be harmful to children because of their strength…so do your research before using them on your kids.
Also, certain Young Living oils are blends of different oils. You want to be sure to read the list of ingredients in the blend to see if you are allergic to anything. For instance, some oils blends are pre-diluted with Almond Oil, so if you are allergic to nuts, that could be a problem!
I hope this information helps! Young Living just came out with a line of oils blends just for kids. Also, the oils that I have just mentioned, including the diffuser, come in the Premium Starter Kit. So if you were to wanting to get into the oils, I would recommend getting the kit so that you can play around with it and see what you use the most before you buy the larger 15 ml bottles. The kit comes with 11 different 5 ml bottles. I went through Lavender and Peace & Calming pretty quickly, so those were the first ones that I bought bigger bottles of. But the good thing is, when you get the starter kit ($150-$160 depending on which diffuser you want) and sign up as a wholesale member, you get 24% off of any future oil buys. And then you can sell the oils if you want to, or you can just use them for your family. Your call, no penalties.

I would love to introduce you to Young Living! Sign up with me before July 15 and I will send you a free copy of the Essential Oils Pocket Reference (on amazon for $28). Email me with questions at Kiersteneh@gmail.com.

change and trust

Someone said to me today that they were happy for me with my recent job changes. I laughed and candidly said, “There has certainly been a lot of change. I sometimes wonder if my life will ever have a sense of normalcy.”

I told someone else last week, as I waited to hear about whether I would get the job that I was applying for, that I was just so scared to take a part time job and not know where the rest of my income would come from. We talked through the fact that the only thing I can really be sure of in the future is that God will be there, and he will never leave me or forsake me because I am his child. I could sign a contract for a full time teaching position, or become doctor with a full time salary, and God would still be the only thing that would be certain. That job could fall to pieces or I could get sick or injured at any moment. I keep trying to type the words “I’m learning to trust my Father” but I don’t know if I fully understand what I’m saying. I’m learning to trust him in a completely new way, and it’s terrifying.

I’ve been handed an incredible part time job. It’s so me. I get to teach preschool 4 days/week and teach art on the off day. I mean, the preschool part was the dream job. The art addition is like beyond my wildest dreams. The art job is lagniappe. And they ASKED me to do it. I love art, and I’ve always wished that I had gone through some sort of formal art study, but I’ve just played with it, really. And now I’m getting to learn from the school’s full time art teacher who will supply me with her lesson plans and let me have fun with facilitating them. YES! Learning to trust…terrifying and exciting at the same time.

With all of this goodness, there’s still fear. My neighbor’s little boy is 3, and he’s one of my favorite people. We were on the playground a couple of weeks ago, and he told me he was a little bit scared to climb up a ladder. I told him that it is okay to be scared, and that he can be scared and brave at the same time. Being brave doesn’t mean to suck it up and pretend you’ve got it all together. Bravery is when sometimes you are terrified and you do it anyway. That’s incredible courage. Sometimes bravery is when you are terrified and you decide not to do it. Because sometimes it takes a LOT of courage to look at everyone around you and their expectations and say, “Nope, that’s not what I want. That’s not who I am. That’s not what I’m doing and that’s not what I’m going to do.” For me, that takes a lot of courage.

Earlier this spring, when I left my job as a nanny and began applying for other jobs, my prayer was that God would not let me leave me behind when I went to the figurative “tables” in these situations. I prayed that he would remind me that he wants ME at the table, and that I would not get so caught up in what I thought others wanted or expected me to be that I would somehow morph into that and leave me behind. And he’s doing that. Slowly I’m learning to not sneak into rooms and try to go unnoticed, to remember who I am when I walk up to a group of people instead of thinking about what they think of me, to close doors with a normal amount of noise and let people know I’m there, to not be so caught up in what I think I look like in the other person’s eyes that I can’t even realize what I am seeing out of my eyes. Oh, God, let my brain register what my eyes are seeing. Let me take that in.

KK

 

dancing

I just saw the caption that a friend wrote next to a photo of her with her 2 year old daughter. The caption says, “She’s too busy dancing to look at the camera. I’m okay with that.” That sentence is POW.ER.FUL.

This week I have to do something hard. I am applying for teaching jobs and am teaching for observation this week. I’ll be observed teaching for the first time in 4 years…and I’ll be teaching a classroom of kids that I don’t know. I’ve been nervous about it, excited, and unsure of what to expect. That quote, though…it’s inspirational. I want to live my life too busy dancing to look at the camera. If you look at the camera, you automatically try to think about how the camera sees you. If you are too busy dancing, the camera sees you in your element. It captures real life. When I teach, I want to be so present with the kids that I don’t notice the observers in the room, that I don’t notice the camera. I want to be that present in life.

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daring greatly.

If you come into Crate & Barrel and I end up helping you, you are going to get a conversation. Most likely. Unless I can tell that you really don’t want to talk. Like if you keep your sunglasses on the whole time that you are in the store and remain on your cell phone. But I LOVE talking to customers who are willing to talk. I’m so curious about their stories.

A woman came in to Crate & Barrel this past week to buy some new placemats and napkins, and I struck up a conversation with her as I rang up her items. She had an accent that I could not place. I found out she was having a dinner party but did not know what she was cooking yet. I asked her if she liked to cook, and she said, “Oh yes!” That told me that I did not need to give her any recipe suggestions…she clearly has more experience with these things than I do. I kept talking, telling her that I used to like to cook, but just haven’t lately. She at me quizzically and asked me why. I told her I was just so tired of cooking for myself, that it was so much easier to stand at the counter and eat chips and salsa and maybe some cheese than to sit down. I asked her if she cooked and sat down at the table even if it was just her. She very emphatically said, “Oh yes! I am French! It is a time of rest!” I told her that I had loved learning about French culture in high school and college…how they took time out of their days to really linger over the table. She took the opportunity to advise me…and told me that I needed to start small…but with a big plate. She said to get some fresh lettuce and a few vegetables and make a beautiful salad. To sprinkle on some cheese and add some meat. And be sure to put it on a big plate. Even if you use smaller portions, put them on a big plate. The plates are part of the beauty. Get a placemat and sit down at the table, she said. She’s going to be coming back to give me more tidbits of advice every once in a while. At least that’s what I suggested she do.

So, today, I began. This is me daring greatly. I cooked my own steak for the very first time ever.

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May first?! on young living essential oils

I knew it was late, so I checked my phone and realized that it is almost 1 a.m. Then I saw on my phone’s calendar that it is May 1. I have no idea how that happened. May 1?! I’m really thankful but I think I’m getting old because I’m starting to feel like time is flying.

Life for me over the past 6 weeks has been One Huge Adjustment. I got a retail job, jumped back into substitute teaching (which I LOVE), started thrifting and eBay selling, and became what my friend [affectionately] calls an “Oily Person.” I joined Young Living Essential Oils.

After hearing a few people talk a lot about how they were integrating essential oil use into their daily lives, I decided to look into it a little bit more, really out of curiosity. What piqued my interest initially was how one friend has begun making her own shampoo, conditioner, and lotion and has added the essential oils to the mix. I have always had really sensitive skin, and only the gentlest products work, and if I try something new, it is really always a bust. My scalp will get irritated and suddenly I’ll have dandruff, my face will get red and splotchy and the eczema that I’ve kept at bay for so long will pop up. I’ve recently been using Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil body wash (as my shampoo) and their conditioner. It has worked, but my hair has still been pretty dry.

So I’ve been putting off the desire to make my own shampoo & conditioner, but ordered some oils and did it. My scalp has been nearly flakeless, and my hair is growing faster. It has a natural softness to it that it hasn’t had with any shampoos that I can remember.

Now. The face lotion is a BIG deal. I’ve used Burt’s Bees lotion for a while on my face, but every time I buy a new bottle of it, I cringe because they’ve changed the ingredients before and I’m scared that they’ve done it again. Also, every bottle of the face lotion is almost $20. And I hate the thought that I’m putting a lotion on my face that has a huge list of ingredients that I don’t recognize. So, with my Young Living oils, I have been using a drop of Lavender and a drop of Peace & Calming mixed in my palm with 8 drops of olive oil (I bought cold pressed olive oil and a dropper from Whole Foods), rubbing my palms together to mix it up, and putting that on my face. It has worked incredibly, and calmed down a recent eczema outbreak. The olive oil does not make my skin too oily. I think the right pH balance with the oil actually keeps my skin from getting dry or oily. It’s a strange balance.

I have also been using PanAway mixed with olive oil to soothe muscle aches on my shoulders and neck, and sometimes I diffuse Lavender and Peace & Calming at night. Even if nothing was working cosmetically or medicinally, the pro would be that my body and house smell REALLY good…without toxic chemicals that can be found in candles and cleaning products.

I would love to tell YOU about essential oils. Becoming a member means that you have the opportunity to buy products at a discounted price, and also sell products to others. But you never ever HAVE to sell. The selling part is only if you want to. And I want to. Because I believe that the products work and I’m in the midst of a career change. (Shameless plug.)

If you are interested in trying some of the oils, click here. You can click retail customer or wholesale customer, but I’d go with wholesale and get the discount if I were you. Or if you are interested in just trying a couple of the products, talk to me. Kiersteneh@gmail.com.

Carry on.

-KK

my valentine ebenezers

So it’s Valentine’s Week. And here are my ebenezers…a repost from a blog entry last year.

For 2 Valentine’s Days, these gentlemen gave me flowers:

This morning I woke up thinking about these children, how much they mean to me, and how much I miss them. I cried and watched videos of them before church. I miss…

Cooking and talking with this one.
One on one time with Mac.
This one’s grins and heart full of love.
Discovering things that Yates LOVES. I miss getting to love hearing his laugh.
I miss Mimi’s desire to always be held.
I miss silly lunch dates with Grey and the conversations that we would get to have.
I miss late afternoon snacks and playtime.
I miss seeing some of the funny things they did for the first time…like deciding to sit down in a line to eat a snack together instead of running around.
I miss this one’s curiosity and opinions.
I miss having the attention of all 4 at once….(almost).
I miss dates to the park.
I miss pushing this….
….and having this view. And knowing I could handle all that this picture entails.

I think the hardest thing for me about being a nanny was/is that I loved those children so much, and at the end of the day, I had to leave. I miss walking in every morning to grumpy children waking up and screams of “KK!” from the kitchen while they ate their breakfast. I miss hugs that almost knocked me over. I miss struggling to dress flailing arms and kicking legs every morning (and sometimes several other times each day), and taking them for walks, and playing outside, and working through temper tantrums, and getting shoes on and off of 10 feet, giving 50 kisses out each day, dance parties, making pumpkin play-dough with Grey, talking with Libby, walking to Honey’s house, swimming with 5 under 4, bath time, going to parks, telling them how much I love them, telling them Jesus loves them so much more. I miss praying for bumped elbows and scraped knees and begging God for patience. I miss praying with the babies before lunch sometimes and covering my face with my hands and begging God to show us his faithfulness and to give us patience and grace and help us make it to nap time. I miss going into their rooms when they woke up from their naps and seeing them standing at the part of their crib that was closest to the door and staring at the door and then grinning so big when they saw my face. I miss that a lot. I miss their mom. I miss how Libby was always kind to me. I miss seeing how much she loved me and loved her children and loved the Lord. I miss the way she made their home beautiful. I miss her dedication. I miss seeing the way McLean loved his family, seeing how much he adored his wife and how Grey was so excited every time he came home from work, and I miss how the babies would stand at the window or gate and wave good-bye as he went to work. I miss my friends.

So sometimes I buy flowers.

ebenezer sundays

Today, someone GAVE me an Ikea bed. In the words of my roommate, “I mean, you had a bed, but it was really more of a cot. Now you have a bed!” Before, with my cot, it was very hard to lie in bed and read or type because I did not have a headboard to prop my pillow against. Also, with my cot, it was very low to the ground and not cozy. If I scooted around in the middle of the night, the cot rolled a little bit. I had a regular mattress on said cot, a really nice mattress in fact, but the frame was still cot-like. And now I have a BED FRAME. A real, live, white, beautiful, wooden bed frame with a headboard and a footboard and side rails. And I got it for free.

This is an ebenezer. I just read this prayer of Henri Nouwen’s:

“Dear God,
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

My new bed, and the fact that God gave it to me, symbolizes a lot for me. For one, I have trouble resting. I get exhausted, but sometimes I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. For years I feared that sleep would one day be a problem for me because I watched others suffer from insomnia, and now it is. For years I have put so much stock in GOING AND GOING AND GOING and not letting myself take naps or sleep in because I thought I “should” do more, “should” get up and not be lazy. Lazy? Seriously? Since when is it lazy to enjoy the gift of sleep and rest that God has given? So in God giving me this bed, I see him affirming that it is good for me to rest, that HE values my sleep.

I also have been a little restless, a little unsure of where I am going, what I need to do next. For all of your life until your 20s, you have definite yearly goals: get through kindergarten, get through 4th grade, get through high school, apply to college, get a degree, get a job. Go to graduate school, get a job. But then what? You try to settle in to your little niche. Some settle down in marriage, or with kids. Some settle down in a great job with the potential for upward mobility. I am a nanny. I get raises, and the children grow, but there is some question of how long I will do this. And then what? What happens when this family doesn’t need a nanny anymore? Do I nanny for another family? Do I use my education degree and license and go teach? Do I go back to school? (I should state here that I do not like school.)

I’ve been wanting to buy a house, but don’t have the money for a down payment, and it’s a little bit daunting to buy a house by myself. I LONG to be settling in to life in St. Louis. And so today, my bed is also a gift of stability from the Lord. I may not own a house, but I own a very sturdy bed.

“Here I raise my ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come.” -come thou fount

KK's bed

the best days

I’m a lover of the little years. I know there’s a book about that already, which is sort of a shame because I wish I could have written that, but I promise I’m not stealing the title; I’m just making a general statement about me.

A snippet of my life, in a day:

I get to work, and as I walk in the door I hear from the next room, “Hi!! Hi!!!” And I sometimes have to kick myself into gear (pep talks are normal) to say, “Hi, E!” Sometimes I fix breakfast, sometimes breakfast has already been had, sometimes she’s in the middle of it. I’m usually handed an infant. And I sit down and get the low-down on how the night was, and then begin the day with the kiddos. E (age 2) and I have conversations at the beginning of our day that go a lot like this:

E: KK, muk

me: You want some milk?

E: uh huh

(I poor the milk.)

E: Baby? Eat?

me: Yes, Baby wants to eat. I’m going to feed her, I just have to get her bottle ready.

E: Muk? Boob?

me: Yeah, Baby eats milk from Mommy’s boob.

E: (holding a bite of egg out on a fork, towards me and Baby) “Baby! Eat?”

me: No, Baby only drinks Mommy’s milk. But E eats eggs, right? Because you’re a big girl and you have teeth!

It’s really entertaining. Moving on through the morning…I change some diapers, I wash a bottle. E wants to help wash the bottles so she pulls a chair up and I give her a cup and a plate and a fork to wash. I sit down to have a cup of tea (made by E, served in her pretend tea set). I put Baby on the floor for some tummy time; E says, “Tum tie?” And I say, “Yes, Baby’s going to have some tummy time.” She says, “Me?” And I say, “Sure, you can have some tummy time, too.” And she lies down next to Baby. I put Baby down for a nap, I get E dressed, we paint. We read books, I do some laundry. E puts the wet clothes in the dryer for me. We listen to music. We play with beads. We have temper tantrums. E tries to use the big girl potty. I slump against the bathroom door as I wait for her to actually GO. I practice holding in my gag reflex as I dump the training potty’s contents into the big potty to be flushed.

Here’s why the little years are the best days: You have the admiration and love of a toddler, who depends greatly on you for survival, and loves you with her whole heart. You have the opportunity to tell her about life. What is fun to you? Share it with her. Really she just wants to see you be happy. She loves joining in on things that are fun to you. And it’s hard. There are days where I just say out loud, “Lord, help us!!!” And I am literally begging God to give me patience and grace for the moment. There are times when I’m tired and look at the closed eyes and the wide open, screaming mouth of a newborn and I can’t think straight. There are lots of times when I get home and wish that I could go exercise because I know that is what my body needed 6 hours ago, but I’ve missed the window and I’m already energy-deficient and can’t even get off the couch to put my tennis shoes on. There are times when I grieve the fact that I am like a single parent…no life partner to love these kids with me. And then I feel weird because THESE AREN’T EVEN MY KIDS. They aren’t my full responsibility. They already have a mom and dad, and grandparents and family and I am part of a village. But for hours and hours its me and them.

I love the moments when I get to sing “Jesus Loves Me” to E before nap time because I am reminded that Jesus loves ME. Jesus doesn’t just love E and Baby, Jesus loves KK. This last year of living has been life-changing for me. I’ve struggled, I’ve been hurt, I’ve transitioned, I’ve lost and grieved, and I’ve been so thankful for how I’ve seen my Heavenly Father care for me, how I’ve seen Him rescue me. And part of the way he has shown that to me is through the respect and trust of these little ones, and the conversations that I get to have with them about trust and obedience, and love in action.