The Earth is His

Have you ever walked outside and felt your body relax in an involuntary sigh? Like something in the essence of your soul was reunited with a missing part?

Me too.

I have been privileged to have had the outdoors be a huge part of my life. I grew up in San Diego, California and relished the feel of the sun upon my skin pretty much year-round. We took annual trips to Colorado and would spend parts of the summer backpacking in the Rockies. Hiking in the pristine woods and sleeping in tents nestled in valleys at the base of mountains. In college, I spent a semester “abroad” in the Sierra Nevadas where part of our curriculum was to spend a week backpacking with friends; hiking miles and miles a day then sleeping out under the stars and swimming in crystal lakes. The rest of the semester was spent kayaking at midnight and studying the classics outside with the meadow as a classroom. My husband and I spent the first year of our marriage teaching English in China, which allowed us to explore the great outdoors in a different country. Floating down rivers accompanied by water buffalo and sleeping in huts with lizards as bunk mates. Grand explorations of the great outdoors.

However, now that I’ve lived in South Texas for almost 6 years, and have two littles of my own, we don’t go on grand adventures much anymore. We’ve tried to make it a habit to go on walks and hikes in nature (yes! There is some in South Texas!) since we’ve moved here, but I won’t lie, it takes a lot of effort. More effort than it ever did growing up, being in college, or being newlyweds without a care in the world.

Since mid-March, that has changed a bit. My husband and I both started working from home and the girls stopped going to daycare. We’ve stopped having other commitments and started having less places to go. We’ve started going on walks around our neighborhood every-day after our work day ends and have stopped spending hours on commutes/drop-off/pick-up routines. We’ve gotten out the water toys and beach towels and have started having to de-clutter the backyard at night. We’ve made Saturdays a day for hiking to the local hidden gem of a lake along the city greenway. Arms are tanning and hair is lightening.

And ya know? So are spirits and attitudes. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of screen time and whining and throwing of snacks to small children to stop said whining while conference calls have to happen for work. We’ve had bad days and stressful days and hard days and mad days because that’s life right now.

But we have been spending more time outside, and it is without a doubt, good for all of us.

Last week, after a particularly enthusiastic water fight in the backyard after work, the girls had gone to bed and my husband looked at me and said, “You’re in a really good mood. It was being outside, wasn’t it?” I guess after almost 8 years of marriage, he knows me pretty well.

“Yup.” I said, “I love the sun.”

It’s true too. Growing up, I used to go outside and just lay on our sidewalk in the sun. In college, when I had a sort of freak out and called home crying one day, my mom (also a sun lover) told me to “go outside in the sun for awhile.” And it worked. I have journal entries from my semester in England (where the sun did not shine practically the whole time I was there) that say, “the sun came out today. It was a good day.”

The sun. Being outside. It energizes me. I know the sun saps some people of energy, but for me, it gives me energy. Some of my best and most profound memories and moments have happened outside, either in the sun, or under the stars. Because for me, being outside… it’s life giving.

Vitamin D is good for humans. Fresh air is good for humans. We know this. You’ve heard it during this COVID-19 crisis – spend time outdoors while you are quarantined. We have all heard that being outside is good for us at some point in our lives. We have all probably encouraged someone else to go outside because we know it is good for the mind, body, and soul.

But I personally think it is more than just Vitamin D releasing neurotransmitters in our brain.

Nature, God’s first creation – is in a constant state of worship. God is the ultimate Creator, and His creation of the Earth was not a one-time event that happened and is now over. No, He continues to create – trees continue to grow, creatures continue to multiply, waters continue to writhe – all because of Him.

So is it any wonder that standing in the midst of creation; standing in the midst of all the trees of the fields clapping their hands, we should feel awe and a sense of peace?

When we go out into nature, we are standing in the masterpiece of our Maker.

We are standing in the middle of life being breathed into the Earth.

When we go and spend time in that sacred space, we are spending time with He who created, is presently creating, and will continue to create long after we are gone.

As we continue in this time where sickness is spreading and our contact with other humans is necessarily limited, let us not forget that we still have access to the active, and very much alive, creation by the hands of our Lord.

Let us not forget that no matter what, this Earth is His.

“The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” – Psalm 24:1

Breathe deep and take notice.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Do you take notice of the pauses happening?
Between each inhale and each exhale?

Breathe in. Breathe out.

The very thing we need to do to stay alive, to fill out lungs with life; now the very thing we fear.
Fear of filling our lungs with an unknown enemy.
Fear of releasing said enemy into the air for another to fill their lungs with.
Fear of filling our lungs with panic.
Fear of filling our lungs with hysteria.
Fear of exhaling chaos to join the general chaos surrounding us.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Yet, we keep breathing.
We keep drawing air deep into our lungs.
We keep sucking the life into our bodies.
We have to.

But do we take notice of the pause?

In this uncomfortable, surreal time to be an inhabitant of this Earth.
In this time where the very act of breathing causes anxieties to rise.
In this time of waiting for the inevitable to come, while still holding out hope that the inevitable will somehow not be so.
In this time of juxtaposition between forced external slowness and internal racing – of thoughts, of heart beats, of prayers.
In this time of unknowns and change.

Do we take notice of the pause?

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Because the pause is there, as it has always been.
The pause between the inhale and exhale.

We have to take notice.

The pause is there to calm and ground.
The pause is there to comfort and still.
The pause is there to ready and prepare.

We have to take notice.

Now, more than ever, we have to take notice of the pause.
The world is changing.
History is being made.
Life as we know it has shifted in ways yet to be seen and we cannot pretend otherwise.
Precautions have to be taken.
Warnings need to be heeded.

Still… and so… we need to take notice of the pause.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Because we humans, we will keep breathing in.
We will keep breathing out.
And that pause built into every breath?
That pause is ours to use… or ours to lose.

There is space here, in these tiny moments, in this tumultuous time.
Space to calm and quiet our souls within – even as the world turns uneasily on its axis.
Space in the pauses.
Space within each breath we breathe.

In. Out.

There is space here to choose.
Peace over panic.
Calm over chaos.
There is space.

But we have to take notice.

We have to take notice of the pauses.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.


Psalm 131:2
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

Take the blurry picture, from those moments come memories

When I think back on this season of motherhood, this season of my children’s childhood, I know I’m going to remember it like this.

Blurry. Unfiltered. Greasy Haired. Tired Eyed.

I could try to pose and pre-set, and maybe achieve a pretty feed, that thanks to technology will probably be there for me to look back at in a few years. But that wouldn’t match the memories that will be fighting to maintain real estate in my ever-filling brain.

My memories of that cheese crusted still-chubby-for-now cheek squished against mine in elated excitement to be taking a picture with Mama. My memories of that tiny arm reaching around my neck, sticky fingers tangling in my hair as the minuscule muscles flex, forcing my head up and my mouth to smile. Memories of a pure kind of joy that comes from being so unequivocally loved and adored by these little people that carry around such a big piece of my heart.

And why would I want to alter those memories? Why would I want to filter out the cheese and angle down the ferocity of the hug?

These are the little things that make this season of motherhood so messy- yes -but they are also the little things that make it so so special.

They are the things that make it memorable.

So, I’ll keep squishing the crusty cheeks and I’ll keep taking the blurry pictures.

I owe it to my future self to do my best to capture as much crust and joy as I can in both pictures and memories.

Because I know there will come a time, soon, when memories and pictures will be all I have left of this crusty, wonderful season.

Let us delight in our God like a toddler delights in her Mama

“Mama! Mama!” I got up from the kitchen table after dinner and asked my husband, “Did Brynn (our 4 year old) say “Mama” this much when she was this little?” I was wondering because our 18month old had been repeating “Mama” incessantly for the whole week of our Christmas trip to Colorado and wasn’t stopping now that we were home. He replied, “Yup, if not more.” “Huh,” I said, “I couldn’t remember.”

Of course, just because she’s four doesn’t mean I don’t still hear “Mama” out of her mouth at least 5 times every hour that we are together, but the constant repetition every time her eyes land on me doesn’t happen as much as it did when she was her little sister’s age. Now, she yells “Mama” when she needs something, wants me to be with her, or is mad about something. She will still call my name if she is hurt or sad, but she doesn’t just randomly look over at me and say “Mama!” like her little sis does with excitement and joy upon her face. She rarely cups my face with her hands and whispers “Mama,” with her eyes and attention nowhere else but my face, adoration pouring from the word into my soul. Oh, I still get some great cuddles from my 4-year old along with an impromptu, “I love you Mama, you are my best friend,” and sometimes she requests that I be the one to buckle her into her car seat, but the infatuation with her Mama just for the sake of me being Mama feels like it is diminishing a tad each year. Which is fine, that’s how growing up works, I know that. The older she gets, the more independent she gets, the more relationships outside of her Dad and me she develops, the more activities to occupy her mind she’ll be involved with, etc. I’ll always be there for her, and she’ll always need me, but the days of speaking my name just to show her affection for me are lessening.

And you know, I can’t help but wonder… Jesus says in Mark 10:14-16, “ When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.’”

Now, I have several people in my life (in my family even) who have legitimately gone to school to study scripture and become pastors, and I have not. I’m not even great at reading my Bible daily, but when I read that verse and I think of my kids, I wonder. Was Jesus calling us to become like my sweet 18month old who not only cries out for her Mama whenever she needs something, or is scared, but just because she is delighted to be with her Mama? Was Jesus telling us that He knew that adults have such a sense of independence and busyness that we tend to slip into only calling upon Him when we are asking for something or in immense pain? That we only turn to our Heavenly Father when it’s been a few months and we realize we haven’t “picked up the phone” to talk to Him?

Guys, when I am away on a work trip and my husband FaceTimes me at night, my little one is all smiles and “Mama! Mama!” while my 4-yr old is running around the house like the Energizer Bunny, occasionally poking her face into the camera to say a quick hello. She’s only 4 and already her sense of missing me when I’m gone has dissipated compared to her sister’s (also, she just has a whole lot more energy 😂). I can’t help but think about my own less-than-frequent texts and calls to my parents, whom I love very much, and cringe when I think about that compared to the doting 18month old I have following me around the house babbling, “Mama! Hugs!”

And I think, that even though this is probably not what Jesus was specifically talking about in those verses about children and the kingdom of God, that He desperately wants us to delight in Him like a sweet 18month old delights in her Mama. He wants us to be in constant communication with Him, for the ups and downs and all arounds, but also to just enjoy being in His presence. He wants us to call out to him when we are distraught and elated, yes, and unabashedly so (also just like our children)! But He also longs for us to stop, cup His face with our hands and whisper, “Abba” with all of our attention and adoration upon Him – for the sole reason that we are His children and He is our God.

Human Mary, Being a Human Mom

My grandfather made us a wooden nativity ornament set the first year my husband and I got married and I’ve put the pieces hodge podge on our tree every year since that first year 7 Christmases ago.  Maybe I’d pause to make sure the Baby Jesus piece was somewhere it could be seen instead of hidden in the back, but maybe not. I definitely didn’t give the other pieces a second thought as I found places for them all over the tree.  This year, however, when I pulled Mary out of the box, with my 4-year-old unwrapping ornaments next to me and my 18mo old pulling the ornaments off the tree just as fast as they were going up, I paused.  I saw that figure kneeling in her nondescript robes and pictured Mary as a mom.  Yes, I’ve always known Mary was the mother of Jesus, and I’ve marveled at the obedience of her words, “let it be,” but not often have I stopped to picture, really picture, her as a mom.  Not the Holy Mother, but “mom.”  As I pulled that little Mary out of the box and found a place for her on the tree, I started thinking. I started picturing. I started picturing Mary as the human Mom that she was.  Jesus was fully human and fully God, but Mary? She was fully human. An extraordinary human, no doubt, but human nonetheless.

The verses in Luke that are read every year state quickly, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” As I have had the extreme privilege of being pregnant and given birth two times myself, I began to think about those verses and what they actually mean as a human woman, and I started picturing Mary.

I pictured that human Mary gazing at the stretch marks adorning her growing belly, tracing them with her fingers as she pictured the tiny nose she would soon be tracing.  I pictured Mary tossing and turning at night, wadding up extra linens to support her sore back as she tried to sleep.  I pictured Mary giggling like the girl she was, when the baby in her belly kicked and rolled, causing her skin to ripple like the dessert sand on a windy day.  I pictured Mary, large and uncomfortable asking Joseph to help her strap the sandals around her swollen feet as they got ready to make the 90mile trek to Bethlehem. I pictured Mary telling Joseph they had to stop so she could pee…again.  I pictured Mary feeling the first contractions, knowing it would soon be time.  I pictured Mary, slightly panicked as the pain intensified and the alarms in her brain started going off, her voice tense and choppy between contractions, pleading with Joseph to find a place, any place, they could stop.  I pictured Mary telling Joseph the stable was fine, telling him to hurry, telling him it hurt-so-bad. I pictured Mary moaning in pain as her sweaty body rocked back and forth with the back to back contractions.  I pictured Mary feel the tell tale pressure, eyes wide with fright, pain and excitement as she gasped to Joseph – “He’s coming.” 

And oh, I pictured Mary, human as I, grunt with the guttural, instinctual cry of physically pushing life out into the world.  I pictured her half laughing, half crying as she held her son for the first time on her chest.  I pictured her trying to get him to latch, and picture her wincing when the latch isn’t quite right.  I pictured her wearily waking in the night to feed her babe as Joseph lay peacefully sleeping on the hay a few feet away.  I pictured her changing his swaddling cloths in the night, shushing him back to sleep while she paced the inside of that stable, rocking him gently in her arms, feeling her heart explode with love so pure and so profound it was a little scary.  I pictured her pondering these things in that heart.

I picture all this and more. Mary tired for weeks on end.  Mary beaming with pride over her boy learning to walk.  Mary crying quietly by herself because her son was growing so fast and she knew he was destined for greatness beyond her.  Mary as a toddler mom being frustrated that her cooking wasn’t received well at every meal. Mary realizing in panic that her tween was missing.  Mary as a mom of a teenage boy.  Mary having all the mixed emotions as she saw crowds start to follow her boy.  Mary at the cross.  Human mom Mary, wailing with despair over her son.  That little baby she held in her arms only 33 short years before in the stable on that first Christmas night – being hung up before her eyes. Dying before her eyes.  Her baby.  Yes, the Savior of the World, but also, her sweet baby boy.  I wonder, did her moans of pain as she watched the life leave her son’s eyes sound reminiscent of the moans of pain that ushered in that same life?  I can’t imagine. 

Mary – chosen by God to be Mom, in all her humanness, to the Messiah. To Emmanuel. When she gasped those words to Joseph, “He’s coming” she was gasping to the World. She knew, as she snuggled her babe and breathed in his intoxicating newborn scent, that He was not hers alone, or hers to keep, and yet… she was his mom. What a profound gift and a profound burden for a human woman to carry.

May we, as humans, as women, as moms, learn from Mary.  Learn how to demonstrate humility and grace in this role we’ve been given as moms.  Learn to love without bounds and without restraint, the littles we have been given on this Earth.  And let us remember, they are not ours alone, nor are they ours to keep.  May we surrender their little hearts and big futures to the One who formed them. 

And may we trust our role of “mom” to the One who knew the pain Mary would endure as a flawed human in her role, but also knew the great capacity for love that human heart beating in her chest held and so entrusted her with His very own son sent to redeem us all.

Using our words for good

Words. I’ve always been good with words. Good in the sense that I’ve always been comfortable with them. Comfortable with letting them slip off my tongue, or fingers, and watching them fly. Sometimes for the good, but sometimes not.

In school. My English essays came home with “A” printed on the top with little notes saying, “Great imagery!” Or, “Can I use this as an example in my next class?” But my report cards came home with little notes listed on the side saying, “talks too much.” Or, “can be a distraction.”

At home. I knew how to tell a story without leaving out any details, and quip one liners to keep the family in stitches. I also knew how to poke at insecurities and say just the right thing to set my sister off, earning us both “verbal time outs” or a stern, “Sarcasm doesn’t make you smart,” from my parents.

With friends. I could cheer up and encourage when life got rough, bringing love and validation. Then turn around and spout out judgmental lines about how a classmate smells, just to earn a couple laughs.

You see, I’ve always been good with words, but I have not always used my words for good.

And words are powerful.

I’ve done my fair share of growing up since high school and like to think that I’ve tightened the reign on my tongue, at least a little. I’m in a profession where I have the immense honor of listening to peoples’ stories and using my words to help foster hope in their lives. I write for fun, but also with the desire that my words can be used as a balm on someone’s hurt or confusion- helping them to know they are not alone. I do my best to speak love and life into and over my kids, using my words to point them to Jesus and let them know they are safe and loved.

I TRY to use my words for good now. Do I slip up? Yes. Do I find myself wishing I could take back some snide remark or sarcastic response? Absolutely. Do I speak harshly to my husband and my children? Unfortunately, more often than I’d like to admit.

But, I’m making an intentional effort to TRY to heed James’ warning in the Bible about the, “world of evil amongst the parts of the body.”

Because words are so so powerful. They can be used for great and magnificent works- or they can be used for destruction and chaos.

The apostle John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And in Genesis, God “Spoke” the world into existence.

words.are.power.

Words birth creations into existence.

It is up to us what type of creations we are bringing forth into this fallen world by way of our words. Are we speaking words of encouragement to help build people up? Or are we spewing out criticisms and judgments to tear people down?

That little “thing” you had to tell your friend… Was it celebratory news that’s birthing admiration for a mutual friend? Or was it gossip about someone you have a problem with that you allow to burst forth like spider eggs hatching from your mouth to scurry around, spreading filth and pain and distrust?

Use your words to create powerful love and acceptance.

Use your words to bring peace and healing.

Use your words to bring light and life into dark places of hurt and sadness.

And friends, if we use our tongues to praise Jesus as our savior- please please, let’s be intentional about using our words to point people to that savior, instead of turning them away.

Let’s not just be good with words, let’s use them for good.

💙Kiley