Sunday, December 31, 2006

Let Go, Then "Let's Go!"

Jazzy loves to "pretend-bury" treats for future enjoyment. She tucks her rawhide in the folds of her favorite blanket, and then pushes with her nose to "throw dirt" over the hole until she believes it is hidden from view. Other treats are "buried" in various corners of the house, waiting to be rediscovered by her at a later date. The best part is to watch her fuss over the burial process, and then to watch her retrieve the treat immediately, to be buried elsewhere or enjoyed in an instant gratification moment. With Jazzy, this process is all fun and games, but we humans practice a similar process that leads to our ruination.

We say we are burying the hatchet, the grudge, the hurt. We make a big ordeal out of the burial process, so the offense is hidden from view. But we hide it just about as long as Jazzy hides her treats. Even before the hurt fades from memory, we snatch it back up so we can ruminate on it some more. We lick our wounds and think about how pitiful our situation is. We think about how a person or event harmed us beyond repair, and we don't even think of asking Jesus to heal our broken hearts. How are we helping the healing process by reliving those things that bring us down? When we ask Jesus to help us really forgive, we can move forward and enjoy the clean slate of our future.

As we begin a New Year, we can lighten our load by putting away those things that hinder our journey. Goal setting can only help us with our future when we have successfully dealt with the past. This is the perfect time of year to take inventory of our burdens and let them go like helium balloons rather than hide them in the ground. That way, we can look up rather than bury our heads in the sand.

Let go, and then "let's go!"

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Blessings-Gratitude List

1. I'm grateful for my Savior first of all. I know He probably didn't come on December 25th, but I know He came, and that is the most important historical event to affect me in such a real way.

2. I'm grateful for my dear husband Russ. He is such an amazing man of integrity and honor. I am a woman most blessed!

3. I'm grateful for friends who are the real deal. Not phony fakers, but super sincere. I know I can trust my heart to them.

4. I'm grateful for my "lot in life." It may seem bad, with 3 minor surgeries and 1 major surgery in 2006 and one more minor surgery on January 8th, but I am so blessed compared to others in my life. My friend Betty fell down her concrete stairs out back, taking the trash out, and heard a loud crack. She crawled back to her house because no one could hear her cries for help, and made it to the E.R. She has a compression fracture of her back (L1 vertebra) and must be in a back brace for 8 weeks. Her pain is so unbearable that the morphine is just now starting to help, days later. A six year old "little friend" of mine received bad news recently, so we went out to McDonalds to talk about it. She found out her mother had abandoned her at her father's house, and no one has heard from her since before Thanksgiving. Her teacher wants to know why she acted out at school by dumping her juice on the table. She received detention, but she just wanted a little love! So, all things considered, I'll just keep my bag of trials, rather than trade them for someone else's.

6. I'm grateful for my Christmas gifts. I love them all! And the best part was giving gifts to others. It seemed like my budget was specially-blessed and I was able to buy a lot for very little. Some would call it luck, but I choose to believe my good bargains to be a gift from God above.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Plastic Joy-Limerick

I was the runner up for a Christmas Limerick contest sponsored by Humor Power. Here is the web address:


There once was a girl with a doll
That doll could pee-pee and then bawl
It made me feel glad
To know that her dad
GI Joe was just 12-inches tall!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Breath of Heaven for Me

Every year, around this time, one Christmas song stands out in my mind. I find myself humming along to it in the stores, and getting all teary-eyed when I hear it on the radio. It touches me in such a deep and meaningful way. Each year I desire to sing it in church, but talk myself out of it because of the lyrics. You see, the song I'm talking about is "Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant. The song is sung from Mary's perspective, as she carries the babe to be named Jesus — the very Son of God we worship to this day.

Even though the song means so much to me, I was unsure of singing it because I'm unable to have children. Some of the lyrics go:

"I have traveled many moonless nights,
Cold and weary with a babe inside,
And I wonder what I've done.
Holy Father you have come,
And chosen me now to carry your Son."

Would it be distracting for listeners to hear me sing the song, since they know I'm a barren woman? Would they say I have no idea what it would be like to carry a child?

But this year I decided not to worry about what others think, and just sing the song from my heart to God's ears. You see, I do know what it is like to have Jesus living in me. I may not have carried Him to term, but I do know His indwelling Spirit. It would have been a miracle for me to have been with child. But wasn't it also a miracle for the virgin Mary to carry the Christ-child? And isn't it a miracle when each one of us receives the gift of His presence in our lives?

So now I sing the song with even more humility and more worship than before.

"I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now. Be with me now."

Who hasn't felt intense loneliness? Only the presence of Jesus strengthens us when we feel we journey through this life all alone.

The chorus is sung several times in the song. It says:

"Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me,
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.
Breath of heaven."

The final verse says:

"Do you wonder as you watch my face,
If a wiser one should have had my place,
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong.
Help me be.
Help me."

This Christmas, my prayer for you is that you have experienced the Breath of Heaven in your own lives. May the miracle of Christ living inside us draw us even closer to the Heavenly Father above.

Merry Christmas!
Kathy Carlton Willis
Living Out Loud Communications

Monday, December 18, 2006

Breath of Heaven

I am preparing to write an article about the song by Amy Grant, "Breath of Heaven." Sunday I'll be singing the song for church. Here are the lyrics:

They Say I'm Donder!

Which of Santa's Reindeer are you?

Which of Santa's Reindeer Are You


Like Donder you are sensible and a good leader. You know the right things to do at the right time and have people's respect

Find out which of Santa's Reindeer you are at

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Card Friendships

Today I worked on writing notes in Christmas cards for our Sunday School class. Each one gets a special note, so it takes a while. I took a break and went to the mailbox to look for season's greetings from my loved ones. If I'm being honest, I divide these greetings into 4 categories. One-cards with preprinted names. Two-cards with signed names. Three-a form letter looking back over the year. Four-a personal note from the sender. All of the cards and notes mean something to me because the person took the time to think of me. I don't have time every year to write the personal notes. Change that. I don't MAKE the time. It's all about choices.

Acquaintances and friendships develop in a similar pattern. Intimacy builds with transparency. Some friendships remain distant because conversations are shallow and walls of protection are up. As the walls come down and the conversations become more real, the potential for friendship grows. With some people, I know them in name only, just like the preprinted Christmas cards. Others I learn nuggets about them, but that's about it, as in the signed Christmas cards with little else written on the card. Most friendships get to the third level, where I know the facts about their calendar year, but I know less about matters of the heart. When a friendship enters the fourth level, hearts are shared and a bond is formed. Not many reach it to this level.

The Lord had similar friendship circles. He had those who followed from afar, the masses that knew OF Him, but didn't KNOW Him. The disciples made a greater commitment to follow Him. To them He shared many of life's lessons. But the 3 in his inner circle, Peter, James and John interacted with Jesus in the most intimate way.

Who do you have in your friendship circles? Do you have an open space in the circle for new relationships? Are you maintaining your existing friendships? Perhaps a note or phone call during this Christmas season would be the best gift you could give them.

John 3:16 a says, "For God so loved the world, that he GAVE..." What are you giving this Christmas season?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Going WAY Back

Tonight while looking for a certain size box, I dug up a boot box filled with items my Grandma Mary had saved through the years from our family. I smiled with delight as I saw childhood photos of my Dad and read letters he wrote Grandma while in the Army. She saved newspaper clippings whenever someone from my family made the paper. In a town of 4,000 there were plenty of slow news weeks, so we made the news a lot! I recalled events and occasions I had forgotten all about and learned new things that were not discussed in front of me as a child (or I was too busy to notice).

I always get nostalgic this time of year. I'll be turning another year older in a couple of days. That probably has something to do with the trips down memory lane. And the holidays inspire my most homesick feelings. Rather than try to ignore my feelings, I allow myself to become immersed in the quilt of love pieced from the scraps of childhood memories.

I'll try to type up some of the things I read, and if I get very creative (and plug in some extra smarts) I will try to scan in some photos to share as well. Come back for more!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Target on My Head

The last few weeks have been crazy-weird. I say that because, if I were to inventory some of the freaky facts, I would think I have a target on my head or something. Instead, I'm more worried about the target on my heart. Do my reactions and responses glorify my Creator and Savior, my Heavenly Father and Friend? Do I give in to parties of pity or do I celebrate small blessings? All of these answers determine my outlook and my UPlook.

Here's a look back, recorded here for a laugh later on:

• I've been having lots of sinus and lung problems, and I was back for my third visit to the doctor. Only one problem. The wrong doctor walked in to take care of me. She didn't know my case and she missed the mark with her assistance. I asked the office what the policy was on swapping doctors like that-because I saw my own doctor in the hall. I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone episode! The office manager called me and apologized-asked me to come back in to see the right doctor. It was office error.

• Dr. "Right" ordered a high resolution CT scan of my lungs. Of course, the technician had trouble getting the dye into my veins, but eventually I guess something more than my glowing personality lit up the screen!

• Dr. Right's nurse called to say my test results were in, and to confirm I would be at such-and-such phone number so the doctor could call. I'm sure I'm not dying. I never get the "dying" kind of illnesses because that would be too quick. I get the long drawn-out-over-a-lifetime kind of diseases. But you know what? I've quit praying for God to heal me. I've seen Him use my health problems to minister to others and to point others to Him. God showed me the scripture that talks of Paul praying 3 times for his thorn to be removed, and God told him to quit praying for healing, and instead accept the sufficient grace He offers. This taught me that I might not be "all better" until Heaven, but I can have something even better than health right now-God's grace! And I really HAVE found it to be sufficient for my needs.

• Of course-since nothing is simple this month-the doctor didn't call. Instead, her scheduler called to schedule more tests. She didn't know the results of my CT scan. So, I had to wait until a week after my test to get the results. The doctor's assistant called last night. She said the doctor told her to tell me my scan was normal. I asked her if it still showed the autoimmune lung disease that the last one showed-and said that those sorts of things don't normally go away. Then she admitted the report showed some things, but she didn't know how to read the report and was told to say it was normal and that I was to wait and go to the pulmonary function tests. I told her these weren't until the end of the year. So now I'm wondering what the CT report actually said. I've had doctors say a test is normal because they don't know what to look for with my rare things-so if it isn't something that they were looking for, or if it doesn't just glare at them on the page, they say "normal." Then I take the same scan or report elsewhere, and they think something big/bad is brewing in there.

So, I guess I should be glad it is "normal" but there is a part of me scratching my head thinking-how did that happen? I also know that some calcified granulomas (little rocks of old infection or inflammation which aren't harmful, but are usually noted as a finding) should have shown up-those don't disappear either.

I'm beginning to think the comedienne was right when she said that NORMAL is just a setting on the washing machine. No one is normal. I'm used to MY normal. It works for me, but I'm sure it would be quite ABnormal to someone else!

I know not to borrow trouble from tomorrow. That is why I stay in the Word and also stay busy. Keeps my mind occupied with the good stuff. So I don't mean to sound like a faithless woman when I say I wonder what the report REALLY said. It's just that with my history, it seems like normal is a foreign word. I've learned not to trust it. I've learned to trust my gut instead. Especially since this assistant has twice acted like there is something on the report, but she isn't authorized to tell me anything other than what the doctor tells her to say. (I realize that is policy-but she did indicate the report had "something.")

•And of course, not to be outdone, other parts of my body have been getting jealous of all the attention. Part of my nerve-damage work-up this year has been regarding my bladder issues. Of course, the doctor couldn't find just one thing wrong. He found three things wrong-all different. So, I'm looking at more surgery (suburethral sling). It might as well happen this year while the deductibles are met-if they can clear me for surgery. I might as well get all the yucky stuff over in 2006, so that 2007 can be over-the-top amazing without these little inconveniences to weigh me down. After surgery they can address the other two bladder issues.

• My sugar levels decided to go high last weekend, thanks to the tapered prednisone steroid dose. 274 high! Numbers that high do not do a body good (to borrow the milk slogan). This is the second time this has happened with prednisone-so now we know this form of steroid does not work well with my system. Prednisone out-and numbers went down. But I had another "episode" making me think my sugar was high and I checked it. It was at 202 with no steroids, and my fasting blood glucose today was 186. Not good! Especially considering I was careful with my diet this week.

Stress can affect it, as can obesity. I am the poster child for both! And from what I understand, even when you attempt to manage the stress well (venting, meditation, Bible reading, praying, bubble baths, journaling, etc) that the things that are stress inducers can still cause the levels to be high. So, unless I can heal myself and create a hassle-free ministry for Russ and have only perfect relationships and...and...and...I will have stress for a while! I still need to deal well with the stress (helps my blood pressure) but it doesn't always help sugar levels (because they are affected more from the adrenaline response that is triggered by the stressor itself).

I hate this! I told my doctor last week that I was sick of doctors and I just don't want to go anymore. But I know it would not be smart to ignore this. God expects me to be a good steward of my health-it is part of what He entrusted to me. But if it weren't for that, I'd love to go on a doctor strike. Maybe by the time Lent rolls around I can claim "no doctors" for what I'm giving up for Lent (that's funny since most Baptists don't participate in Lent). haha!

• There are non-health related "freaky findings" too. Jazzy's losing her hair. Russ is pulling his hair out with ministry stress. Our car developed a HOLE in the battery, and wouldn't start when Russ needed to be to church early last Sunday morning. I was hurt by a friend who disrespected and rejected me rather than communicate. Christmas cantata is coming and I'm married to the "music man."

But I learned a long time ago that it isn't the trials in my life that define me or defy me. Only my reactions to the trials can do that. I haven't arrived, but I'm working on it!

Sunday, December 03, 2006


(An Interview with Kim Stuart)

Take one twenty-nine-year-old woman, add a career, add a husband, add a home, toss in a best friend, and you have a great life.

Add a baby. Not a problem. Still can do.

Add a seductive ex-boyfriend moving a few houses over. Hmmm, a little more complicated, but managing.

Add a blonde twenty-something ski bunny flirting with your husband. Uh-oh. Did we mention the postpartum body? Somebody press the panic button.

Pile on returning to work after maternity leave, and sprinkle in a nosey Mommies Group . . .

And you've got a Balancing Act--a hilarious look at the challenges faced by modern women as they juggle careers, marriage, and children.

+ What inspired you to write Balancing Act?

I was neck-deep in the throes of motherhood and found it could make me laugh until I made unfortunate snorting noises, cry until I needed to breathe into a paper bag, and hang my outgrown roots in forced humility, and all before nine a.m.

+ I wanted to write a story that would acknowledge both the chaos and the blessing, the euphoria and the nagging doubts involved in mothering a child.

More than anything, I wanted to write a story with authentic, achingly real characters who struggled with faith and morality as well as sleep schedules and diaper rash. I figured if I could imagine my friends becoming engaged with the story, I was on the right track.

+ Is it true you wrote this novel while pregnant? What was that like?

I was four months pregnant when I attended a writers’ conference and received some very positive feedback from an editor at NavPress. She encouraged me to send my manuscript to Nav’s fiction line when I got a chance.

My “manuscript” at that time was around three thousand words, the very rough beginning of Balancing Act. I found an expanding uterus to be like my own private motivational speech. It was a fixed deadline, so to speak, and I like deadlines. So each afternoon, while my two-year-old napped, I’d waddle over to my laptop and crank out my thousand words. God is good, I finished the book, and my water broke, in that order.

+ Experiencing mommy-hood for the second time, did you go back and make revisions?

My son, who just turned one, is very different from my daughter, who is now four. Mitchell wants me with him, wants to cuddle, and thinks I’m a rock star even with morning breath. Ana, however, is very independent, cuddles only when feverish, and minces no words regarding morning breath. So I feel like I’m revising all the time, trying to keep up with their very different needs and personalities. My most major revision, however, has been throwing out Neurotic Kim and going for a more laid-back approach out of necessity. Funny how four years of parenting does that to a girl.

+ Did you use true-life stories in your novel? Can you give us an example?

While Balancing Act is absolutely a work of fiction, there are threads of my own experience woven throughout. Nora, the baby in the book, is loosely patterned after my daughter, Ana. She gets to talking in the sequel, Bottom Line, set to release in May. I see a lot of Ana in that part of Nora’s story.

The protagonist, Heidi Elliott, certainly has my sense of humor. Like Heidi, I taught high school Spanish. Like Heidi, I identify with the tightrope walk of a woman living in this century. I know the chaos of working, mothering, wife-ing, and trying to be plain old me, for crying out loud. And like Heidi, I’ve had a certain amount of distrust for church-run women’s groups, always fearing they’ll make me quilt or something.

But I’ve assured my family that unlike what occurs in the book, there are no skanky dealings in my marriage, that I don’t know any well-endowed heiresses, and that none of my relatives are represented in the characters. Well, that last part isn’t entirely true, but you’ll have to wait to read my posthumous memoirs to get the full scoop.

+ How do you balance motherhood and writing?

It isn’t pretty, I’ll tell you that much. Far easier to make up a story about the balancing act than to actually do it well oneself. I’ve been known to type while my son drools on my big toe and my daughter screams the soundtrack to “Little Mermaid” in the background. This system does not seem to reap the most productive writing moments. So I have help. God has always turned out to be sufficient when I let Him. My mother, bless her, and my babysitter, Ashley, bless her too, help me out for a couple hours each day so I can write. My husband is a fantastic human being who assumes I can conquer the world and should. My friendships keep me above the surface just when I think I’ll sink.

And on grace-drenched days, there’s always naptime.

Author Bio: After teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language, Kimberly Stuart took a huge increase in pay to stay at home full time with her daughter, Ana. She lives in Des Moines, IA. While writing Balancing Act, Kimberly was pregnant with her second child.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Indulge Me?

Usually when I say "indulge me" it means I hope you will read my opinion on something that might be a little bit outside of the box. But today I'm actually discussing why women need to indulge themselves every so often. Why? Because we tend to (on the whole) put ourselves last as we serve those around us (husband, children, extended family, neighbors, parent groups at school, church family, etc.).

So, if we don't recharge our batteries every so often, we will be no good to anyone else. It is the same concept as when they tell us on the airplane in case of an emergency to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we assist others.

Three times a year I host 3 larger ladies events for our church. One is a Mother-Daughter Tea, another is a Friendship Tea with special pampering, and the third is a Spa Retreat with seminars and spa treatments. Total pampering! Why? Not because we deserve it because, as Christians I don't see that we are "good enough" to deserve anything-we have no rights, and are just blessed because of Jesus in our lives. But we do NEED to be pampered. And I'm all about filling needs.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Spa/Beauty school in Cincinnati with a friend and had a spa manicure. Totally different than my home manicures. I received a hot stone massage of the hands and arms and a variety of other spa treats for the hands. For $17 (and no tips allowed) I felt like queen for the day.

Today I went to a tea room with some friends to celebrate our December birthdays. The 45-minute drive to the tea room was a nice time to escape into my thoughts and enjoy the radio. The meal was nice, but having someone else serve me was even nicer! I tend to overdo it during the holiday season, so by setting aside time to be pampered, I'm preserving my sanity, and passing on that stable mental health to those I'm around. Stress relievers at their best!

For those who love to hear about tea rooms, this one is called Country Manor. The owner converted her 2 car garage into the tea room. She cleverly disguised the garage doors and tracks with lattice and wrapped decorative cloth around the garage door openers. She has 4 tables set for 8. The walls are filled with shelves of tea themed gifts. Two tables were playing cards before eating-perhaps cribbage. We had a 10 year old at our table, and she was given a scrunchy, fluffy teddy bear by the owner. The rest of us were given Victorian Style calendars for 2006.

The menu: Butternut Squash Bisque with a dollop of sour cream; chicken/cranberry salad served over a bed of lettuce, with a menu cheese muffin; cranberry scone with variety of 3 spreads; some sort of yellow layer cake with raspberry filling. Deejarling tea was served in a tea pot with tea cozy, served with white and brown sugar cubes.

Sometimes, my pampering time is a bubble bath or curling up with a good book. Other times it is lighting a candle in my favorite scent and listening to good music.

What is your pamper of choice? Indulge. It just might be the best gift you can give those around you. When you are calm and at peace, it has a beneficial effect on others, as well as you.