New article on The Well and a Big Announcement

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to share a little of my personal journey with my calling on IVP’s The Well.

Read it here.

Also, check out my bio for a BIG announcement! This is my first public announcement about what’s coming in 2018. I hope to share more in coming days, but for now I invite you to pray for me as I wrap up this project over the next two months.

Yours in Christ,

Kristen

Hope in the Lord: Philip’s 1 year anniversary with Crohn’s Colitis

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Monday marked one year since Philip started bleeding rectally. He was four.

Anniversaries are a funny thing. On the one hand, you are thankful for how far you’ve come. On the other hand, those anniversaries bring back to mind those dark days, and it’s almost like you can taste the worry and anxiety that you once felt.

When Philip started bleeding we were very concerned. Perhaps we would not have been so concerned had not just two weeks prior (the first week of December), I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. A week and a half before my colonoscopy, I woke up and saw blood when I went to the bathroom. Following my colonoscopy, I remember groggily getting into the car with the help of a nurse and looking at Osvaldo as soon as the door closed. I could tell then he was sad. He told me I had ulcerative colitis, and I cried. Receiving a diagnosis, even if it isn’t cancer, makes you feel vulnerable, fragile, and aware of your mortality.

But it wasn’t just my recent diagnosis that made us worry that December Monday. Osvaldo had been suffering from ulcerative colitis for 12 years! What was so strange was that our gastro doctor said our colitis was identical—in the same spots of our colon. I didn’t know whether I should be angry with God that we both had an identical disease or laugh because what are the odds! I told a friend, rather sarcastically, we should just be called, The Colitis Family.

When Philip began bleeding, we were concerned but it was difficult for us to believe that it was related to colitis at first. It would be too coincidental that he would start showing symptoms for colitis three weeks after I did.

That week was not only the longest week of our lives to that point but it ushered us into a very dark time. I’m crying even now remembering.

Four days before my bleeding began, I gave two talks on Matthew 6:25-34 at my church for its Fall Coffee event. In this passage Jesus addresses anxiety. “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life … Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” I told the women who had gathered for coffee that Thursday morning that circumstances change in our lives but our faith is in One who doesn’t change and who loves us. God is a good Father who loves us even when our circumstances might try to tell us otherwise. It’s interesting that the appeal to not be anxious comes after the Lord’s Prayer. I argued that it is within the context of prayer that we are able to be strengthened when worry and anxiety overcome us. “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt. 6:8). Little did I know how much I would need this sermon, this reminder that God is good and He loves us no matter what our circumstances would have us believe.

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A year ago Monday began a long journey and one we are still on. That week in December took us down a dark internal journey as well. As parents you love your child more than anything in this world, and when something abnormal begins to happen it triggers the fear of every parent—that of losing their child. Coupled with that fear is the fear of your child suffering, of your child not developing, of your child being left behind, etc.

This Sunday we will mark one year when we took him to the ER because the bleeding had increased. Next week will mark one year that Osvaldo and I were convinced that Philip had colitis and when we finally got Philip an appointment with Children’s of Alabama Pediatric Gastroenterologists for early January. This Christmas Eve and Christmas will mark a year when, as we were in Texas, Osvaldo and I were so troubled in spirit that it cast a shadow over the holiday. We hardly could put forward a smile or sing happily along with carols without crying. We were tense as we both dealt with worry and sorrow differently. We remember those nights in Texas as Philip lay asleep looking at him with worry about what lay ahead.

“My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ … Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps. 42: 3, 5a)

A dear friend put it so well: “I was afraid of not knowing and I was afraid of knowing.”

We lived for more than two months of not knowing. I will never forget the first doctor’s appointment with Philip’s gastro doctor. Philip knew something was wrong with his body. As he sat on the paper-covered office table waiting to be seen, his face became worried and his lips began quivering. He was scared. I held him, and he cried. We all cried; we were all scared.

It would take an hour and a half for his colonoscopy to finish in late February. When the doctor came in to see us, he broke the news that Philip had colitis. But given the location of his colitis, they felt like it was behaving more like Crohn’s Colitis. Prior to the exam, we had come to terms with a colitis diagnosis but worried about Crohn’s. Colitis is much easier to deal with than Crohn’s. Colitis only affects the colon; Crohn’s affects the throat all the way down to the rectum. When we heard the word Crohn’s, we were crushed. Osvaldo and I held each other and for the first time sobbed deeply. Relieved to finally have a diagnosis, we also broke down under its weight.

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Anniversaries are a funny thing. They not only bring up the memories of that one day but they set into motion remembering what follows that day. Perhaps because Monday’s anniversary marked a new way of living for our family: giving Philip medicines three times a day, hospital stays for complications, change in diet, pain management, etc. Monday’s anniversary reminds us that Philip has an incurable disease.

But we have a lot to be thankful for. Monday, on his one year anniversary, Philip is not showing any signs of blood. He’s gaining weight; he’s growing. He’s happy, and doing well in school. He’s alive. There are many medicines on the horizon for Crohn’s and colitis and much research is being done. Who knows? Perhaps one day his disease will be curable! We also recognize there are many parents whose children receive a diagnosis that ends in death. We remember that many parents will be celebrating Christmas this year without their child. Osvaldo and I pray for these parents often.

It’s been a difficult year, but what I said on Nov. 13 is still true, even–or perhaps especially so–after our diagnoses. Even while we walked through the valley of the shadow of death, God was with us. His presence sustained us. His Word was our food. The psalmist responds to his own question, Why are you cast down, O my soul, not with a because. Like me, perhaps the psalmist knew exactly why he was cast down. But he answers with what will lead his soul out of the place of deep sorrow. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Hope in God. That’s all we could do. All we could mutter to God in prayer was “Have mercy.” But it’s not what we were able to do this past year but what God did. He sustained us. He held onto us. He enabled us to hope. He enabled our feeble prayers. He did not let anyone snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28). And He was with us and will continue to be with us on this journey. Thanks be to God.

Prayer Wednesdays: You alone are good

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Dear Heavenly Father,

You make all things new. In you alone is life, light, peace, and all things good. And yet you give these things to us to share in — life, light, peace, goodness; what a gift! You are a good Father, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and patient. Your mercies are new everyday, and I stand in awe of you. I, who am created in your image to look like my Father, am in awe of that relationship with you. I pray two things for my life: that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in me and that the Word of the Lord may go forth as a light to the nations.

Forgive my many sins, those things that break your heart. With each passing day may my sins decrease until the day I see you face to face and they are completely gone.

I know you are with us and have brought my family to this place. May we draw so much closer to you and simultaneously draw closer to one another. Protect us from bodily harm and from spiritual attacks. You alone are good and your mercies they fail not.

I submit to you. Conform me to your likeness, and give me ears to listen to your voice.

In your precious, most Holy Name, my Father and Savior Jesus Christ,

Amen.

My unexpected sabbatical: A look back at Cambridge

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There is a clock in the center of Cambridge, England. Actually there are as many clocks in Cambridge as there are churches in Birmingham, Alabama (where I am from). But the clock I am referring to is a special and unusual clock.

The Corpus Clock draws the attention of visitors and residents alike. For one, there are no hands on this clock. In fact, at first glance, one might not know that it is a clock at all! What draws people to it is its unusual appearance. Amongst a sea of brown and grey bricks and stones sits an encased 3-dimensional circle, almost 5 feet across in diameter, plated in 24-carat gold, and worth at least 1 million pounds if not more.

What is even more unusual about this clock is that the time is accurate only once every five minutes. Sometimes the clock slows down and at other times it races forward. Not to mention that what sits on top of the clock is a strange creature that looks like a cross between a grasshopper and a locust. This creature, also known as the Chronophage or “Time Eater,” opens its mouth as if he is eating time and occasionally blinks to show his satisfaction.

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Although the clock isn’t always accurate it truthfully represents our perception of time. For often time feels as if it has slowed down: when school or a work day feels like it will never end; when waiting for an appointment; or when waiting for test results. At other times in life time feels as if it is moving too fast, especially as a parent when you watch your children grow. Yet, no matter whether time has “slowed down” or “sped up,” it nonetheless passes and what is in the past will never be present again. This is why the Time Eater makes such an impression. For it illustrates this reality in a haunting way: time is eaten until it is eventually all gone, evidenced by the Latin inscription that marks the top of the clock: mundus transit et concupiscentia eius (“the world passes away and the lust thereof”) from 1 John 2:17.

One year ago my family packed up what we could fit in six suitcases and moved to Cambridge, England, for six months for my husband’s sabbatical. I’m crying now as I write this. Those were some of the best months of my life!

My husband teaches New Testament at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, and was up for his first sabbatical since being at Beeson Divinity. He was under contract for a new book, The Acts of the Apostles: Essays in Interpretation, History and Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, forthcoming), which meant he wanted to spend his sabbatical at a good, theological library. Cambridge is home to the world’s largest (and best!) evangelical library, Tyndale House, not to mention that by being at Tyndale House he also had access to the Cambridge University libraries.

When our family of three moved to Cambridge, we did so for my husband’s sabbatical. Sabbatical comes from the Latin sabbaticus, which means to cease or take leave from work. You might also recognize the connection with the word Sabbath.

While Osvaldo was taking a paid leave of absence from his work as a theological educator, he wasn’t ceasing from work entirely. Yet, his reprieve from teaching allowed him to do something else that he loved – research and writing.

Then there was me. At that time I was a stay-at-home mom. Moving to England didn’t mean that I was ceasing from my work. I just carried it with me. His name is Philip, and at the time he was three. This won’t be a sabbatical for me, I thought.

What I soon discovered, about a month after being in Cambridge, was that indeed God was gifting me with a sabbatical of my own. But not in the way that you or I would think.

What moving to Cambridge did for me was that it took me out of my comfort zone and gave me a reprieve from expectations, commitments, temptations, cultural priorities, and even idols that came with where I was living. In this way, I was gifted a sabbatical.

The power of contrast allowed me to see those areas in my life and heart that had been controlled by culture or worldly things rather than by God.

Our way of living drastically changed. We were now living in a place without a car, TV, or 4G Internet access away from Wifi hot spots. Our home had no air conditioner, which surprisingly was a problem during the summer months, and no electronic clothes dryer. Part of my daily routine was to hang all of our clothes, towels and sheets! To get anywhere in town we would mostly walk or cycle and occasionally take the bus. This meant spending more time getting around town, which, consequently, meant more time in communication with my son, reflection, and prayer.

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This contrast brought clarity. The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see those things in my life back home that were superfluous, that created unrest in my life (the opposite of Sabbath), and that were unpleasing to Him. Like looking at my reflection in the glass window of the Corpus Clock, by living in Cambridge the Holy Spirit allowed me to see myself more clearly. In many ways I had been living like that person for whom the Corpus clock is true – as if time was a limited commodity that I had to utilize before the Time Eater ate it up.

I’ve heard it said, “That’s the thing with idols: when you think you have a control on them that is when they really have control of you.” For me, one of those idols was time.

The ironic twist in my sabbatical was that as life became more difficult (no car, TV, clothes dryer, etc) and thereby in many ways more time consuming, as I spent more time in communion with Him, and as time became less of an idol for me, the more time I had. My days felt longer. I had time for tea. For relationships. For conversations. For adventures. As a result, I experienced more freedom.

Within a month, I noticed a change in my spirit. Burdens that were once there, often placed by me, were gone. Life was simpler. Less time was spent caring what others thought, what others were doing and saying on social media, and trying to keep up with Pinterest, while more time was spent visiting parks. (We visited a total of eight while in Cambridge.)

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We took adventures. My first month in Cambridge, I was invited to a tearoom with other moms and children, whose husbands and fathers were studying at Tyndale. Going would mean cycling with Philip almost four miles one way without having a GPS. I screenshot some maps, packed a backpack and our basket on the front of the cycle, and we were off. With the help of several, kind English people, who gave me directions along the way, that little adventure took us down ivy-grown paths, along a river, past open, green fields, into an apple orchard where I eventually sat down for tea and scones with other women while the children played under apple trees.

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Whereas time before Cambridge was rushed and there never seemed to be enough of it, in Cambridge I was finding more time with the cessation of expectations (i.e., making a wreath for my front door or planning parties), material things, and the need to work and be productive all the time. Whereas my time in prayer and Scripture were rushed and not always made a priority before Cambridge, in Cambridge there seemed to be ample time for me to hear from God through His Word, prayer and Christian friendships.

As I reflect on our six months in Cambridge now that I sit back in our home in Alabama, where we have two cars, a TV, 4G Internet, air conditioner (hallelujah!) and an electronic clothes dryer, I am not the same person. Despite my longing to be back in Cambridge to have that way of life once more, God’s unexpected gift to me (and really to my entire family) of a sabbatical has stayed with me. Although I find myself back in a busier culture with different values and temptations than that of England (which has its own temptations and negative values), God reoriented my mind and heart so that I could discern better and easier between what was important and unimportant, what was good and what was stealing my rest and joy, and what was necessary for life and salvation and what was cultural.

As I think back to the Corpus Clock, it strikes me that the inventor of the clock only put the first part of 1 John 2:17. Either he didn’t know the rest of the verse or didn’t believe it. “The world is passing away along with its desires” would leave anyone depressed. Life is frivolous. Life is just a breath. You’ve heard it said, “Drink, eat and be merry for we may only have the night.” I feel that as Americans we often live in this kind of reality. Live this life to the fullest because we all have just “one life to live.” Perform, do, work. Hurry up! Time is passing, and you only have a short amount of time to accomplish so much before you die. In this way, even for the Christian living in the States, life can be hard, restless and pressed from every side.

Yet this is not how the story ends. In Jesus we have a “salvific but” in this verse. The “but” tells us there is an alternative to the prior reality. For some, there is a period after “the world passes away and the lusts thereof,” but in Christ there is a comma. “But whoever does the will of God abides forever.” What is the will of God? Jesus answers this question for us in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” The world may pass away, but those who do his will – believe – will live forever and will never die.

You see, by Jesus Christ destroying sin on the cross and overcoming death in the resurrection, he destroyed the Time Eater. Those who die with Christ – by faith – will be raised to everlasting life. We won’t need a clock that tells us that time is passing by because time will never end. Instead of a Time Eater, we will have a Time Giver: Jesus Christ.

Before I went to Cambridge, I lived by a clock. Now that I am working outside the home full-time, in some ways, I live by the clock even more! But by the grace and mercy of God, the gift of my sabbatical continues. The reality that Jesus gives us is not one that has to wait until we pass from this life to the next; rather, it is one that begins here and now if we allow Him to be first in our life. You don’t need to go to Cambridge, England, to have this kind of sabbatical. As Jesus continues to reorient our hearts so that it is no longer bent inward toward self, time, and the things of this world, but arched outward to Him, He gifts us with rest, freedom and, ironically, more time.

 

 

 

 

 

My Reward: What Philip Teaches Me About God’s Love

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Last night Philip, our 2 year old son, had trouble falling asleep; so he brought his blankets and lovies with him into the living room and asked if I would rock him. How could I say “no” to that? So I gathered him up as well as all his soft things into my arms and rocked him. He fell asleep within 5 minutes but I held onto him for much longer staring at his sleeping face and his little hands and long fingers.

It wasn’t until I became a parent that I experienced the indescribable gift and blessing of a child. He’s my son. I don’t deserve him. Although he can drive me crazy at times and will do things to spite me, he is my great reward. Solomon says this in Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

Reflecting on this last night brought to mind another son I didn’t deserve. “For God so loved the world (which includes me and you!), that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8). “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

I am constantly reminded when I look at my son the great sacrifice God made so that we might find forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with Him, our Creator through the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. Just like I don’t deserve my son Philip, I don’t deserve what God’s Son did for me on a cross. Just like Philip is my great reward, even more so and greater is the reward I have in Jesus Christ.

I cannot imagine giving Philip up for anyone in this world. I simply would not. In fact, I would give myself up before giving him. So the truth that “God so loved us, the world, that he gave his Son” blows my mind. It’s an even greater love than I know personally through being a wife and a mom. It’s a sacrificial love. And it’s a love that Scripture tells us that Jesus agreed to as well. Philippians 2 says that Jesus humbled himself by leaving the throne room of heaven to become man so that “for our sake” he would be made “to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Christians have used this time of Lent historically as a time of preparation for Easter. We remember our sins that cost Jesus Christ his life; we repent and reconcile with our brothers and sisters; we spend time in reflection and meditation on Scripture; and we fast. God has given me a gift in Philip for many reasons too numerous to list here. But one of the best gifts is that Philip serves as a daily reminder to me of God’s sacrificial love in sending his Son for me as a propitiation for my sins.

I have been given the gifts of two sons: One who died for my sins and who is the Son of God and one who I get to hold and comfort in my arms at night. During Lent I want to encourage parents and non-parents alike to reflect with me on God’s Son, on our sins which he came to take away, and on the great, sacrificial love of God.

I want to mention that I was honored to write a blog post for Mommybites.com, which will eventually also be featured on Happy Family’s website, that went live today. I don’t write much on the topic of motherhood, so it was a joy and a challenge to reflect on something deeply personal and to share it with the world. It was in writing the blog post for Mommybites and reading a post by my very good friend, Leslie Ann, called 5 Things Parenting Taught Me About God, that encouraged me to reflect on my own experience as a mom and what God is teaching me about Himself through this experience.

30 for 30 goals: Final Report

When our friends the Beardens, my husband and I drove away from our home on February 4 for my 31st birthday dinner, one of the first things they mentioned were my 30 for 30 goals. Oh accountability how I loathe you! Especially when I have missed the mark. After running through my list, we determined that I accomplished about 66.6 percent of my goals (only later did I realize it was more like 56%). This percentage, they reminded me, would be considered a failing grade in school.

I never failed at school. In fact I never made less than a B. So to fail at something is pretty embarrassing for me (which is one reason I hate setting goals and New Year’s Resolutions in the first place). But that’s what God gives us good friends for. To keep us accountable, humble us and then laugh with us at our mistakes and failings.

One reason I did a 30 for 30 list was to have something fun I could do all year. I set some goals that were silly and easy to accomplish. But I also set some unrealistic goals or goals that I would have to try really hard to do.

So here’s my 30 goals again and my final report as to whether I accomplished each one or not. (Not in the way of an excuse, but two things happened last year that did hinder some of my goals. One, my grandmother died on March 1. I was very close to her and her death really affected me. I was in Texas during that time for almost 2 weeks. Secondly, I went to the doctor 11 times for a sinus infection/bronchitis last year. I see an immunologist and this is something we are working to correct this coming year.)

30 for 30 final report:

  1. Run a 5K. (I was so close. At one point I was running 2-3 miles, but never actually ran a 5K.)
  2. Get a massage. 
  3. Publish a second Bible study.
  4. Take Philip to a museum.
  5. Read and work through the Greek of one New Testament book. (I started 1 John with my husband but never finished.)
  6. Take a trip to visit friends outside of Birmingham.
  7. Read Lord of the Rings trilogy. (This is one I am most proud of!)
  8. Tell someone new about Jesus. (The one with the most eternal significance!)
  9. Lose one pant size. (No comment.)
  10. Speak at an event, retreat or conference. 
  11. Blog regularly. (I blogged more last year than the previous year but not enough to call it regular.)
  12. Learn to sew. (Got a sewing machine for Christmas! Maybe this year?)
  13. Go on a weekend “date” trip with my husband.
  14. Finish mine and Osvaldo’s wedding scrapbook. 
  15. Consistently update Philip’s baby book and scrapbook his first year. 
  16. Have an international over to our home for dinner. 
  17. Do a jigsaw puzzle.
  18. Paint one room of my house.
  19. Take a trip with my Supper Club friends. (Thanks to my friend Kaylie for getting married, we went to the beach for a girls trip prior to the big day!)
  20. Go to a college or professional football game. 
  21. Go to some place new that I’ve never been before. (We went to Pine Island in Florida this summer.)
  22. Learn Spanish. (Shamefully no since my husband is fluent.)
  23. Volunteer with a ministry in town. 
  24. Play Settlers often with friends and husband. (This should have been a gimme goal but no.)
  25. Make a new friend.
  26. Get out of debt. 
  27. Take lots and lots of pictures of Philip.
  28. Teach Philip a new truth about God.
  29. Give lots of kisses and hugs to my husband and son.
  30. Have a big 30th party — which is up to my husband.

Thank you to the faithful few who follow along with me as I blog and who have encouraged me in these goals. Thank you to the ones who helped make some things on this list possible and made doing these things much more fun and enjoyable than had I done them by myself. And a big thank you to my husband who I cannot imagine doing life without. God is good.

Love,

Kristen

Two Franks, Tres Leches and One Desperate Housewife

Have you ever had a day that left you understanding why some people really lose their minds?

I did. This past Friday to be exact. And I almost did lose my mind so much so that if you had seen me by the time I went to bed around 11 p.m. on Friday night you would have seen a woman with hair like Mel Gibson’s after coming out of a battle in Braveheart and a face like Frodo’s every time he heard the winged nazgul coming in Lord of the Rings. Not a good combination if you have ever seen both movies.

So Friday morning starts off great; in fact it was one of the best.

Cue flashback music: Ozzie, Philip and I are sitting at the table and eating breakfast together for the first time in forever. I read Scripture aloud for a family devotion, and not even Philip peeps during the reading. Ozzie wraps up breakfast and heads off to work, while Philip and I get ready for the day. I start laundry and the dishwasher. Philip plays. It’s a big and busy day for us.

I work for an organic baby/tot/children’s food company and represent them at events where I do sampling, handing out coupons, etc. I have a very big event the next day (Saturday) for which I have to leave at 6:30 a.m. So I must do all my preparation that day. Plus, Ozzie had invited a new family from the Hispanic church over to eat at our house that evening. It’s a family of five, and they are supposed to come at 7 p.m.

So I map out the schedule. I’ll run Philip to the park and let him play for about 30-45 minutes so he’ll take a good nap later. Then we’ll go to Publix and buy what we need for our meal. Ozzie is making rice and beans and I am going to make Cuban steak in the crockpot. It only requires 5 ingredients and all I have to do is put it in and let that magical pot do all the work. While I’m there, I’ll also pick up some frozen maduros that I can pop into the oven. Easy, schmeasy. Dessert? Well I’ll make a quick and easy version of Tres Leches (Three Milks). So I’ll need a yellow cake mix, heavy cream, evaporated milk and, wait for it, sweetened condensed milk. Oh and yes whip cream. Again, easy. Once I shop, we’ll go home and eat lunch. I’ll start the meat and put P down for a nap. While P sleeps, I’ll prep for my event, clean the house and take a shower. Ozzie will be home several hours before so he can help me with whatever I don’t finish. We’ll welcome our guests, eat, and visit. Then we will all go to bed full and happy. I love schedules!

Park is a great idea. Philip has so much fun with all the kids; it’s hard to pry him away. But like every great mom I bribe him with a cookie from the grocery store. We go to Publix; I get him the cookie I promise and he really is a perfect kid. Things are going just according to the schedule.

Then the first thing happens that should’ve alerted me to the rest of the day. Maybe I was getting a little too confident, maybe I was a little naïve, or maybe both! But I empty out everything in my cart; there’s a line behind me. I have the cart with the “car” in front that Philip can sit in and pretend he’s driving. This thing is like a bus. And all you moms who have ever “driven” one can testify to this truth. So I put the last item on the conveyor belt and realize I forgot the whip cream. I can’t make the Tres Leches without the whip cream! Oh man. I put the last item I just took out back in my cart. I stop the cashier lady, “I’m so sorry but I forgot one necessary item.” Blank stare. To the women behind me, “I’m so sorry; forgot that one item you know. I’ll be out of your way in a jiff!” Blank stares. So there I am getting red and sweaty. It’s a good thing I wore my workout clothes to the store! (I don’t know about you, but when I have a busy day where I have to get a lot done, I like to wear my workout clothes. Not because I’m going to workout but if I’m going to sweat doing chores then I’d rather do it my gym clothes.)

I get all my items back into the cart, make everyone back up behind me, turn the bus around and go to the frozen food aisle. This has put me behind schedule, but at least Philip is still being the perfect child for mommy today! (1. If you ever start thinking your child is perfect, you’ll soon be reminded that they aren’t. 2. Don’t count the eggs before they hatch.) Son and groceries are loaded up; we arrive home. I get everyone and everything out of the car. I put up the groceries; I empty the clothes dryer; I make Philip and me lunch; and we eat. I then put Philip to bed. Whew! What’s next on the schedule? I think it’s time for that second cup of coffee!

It’s about 1:30 p.m. and I pull everything out I need for the big event. It takes longer than I realize. What were you thinking, Kristen? I really hope Ozzie gets home early. I start working away. Cutting boxes open, organizing containers, setting out all my supplies. I look up at the clock and note that it’s 3 o’clock. Okay, 3 o’clock, wait, nooooo! I haven’t put the Cuban steak in the crockpot yet! Don’t panic. Open up computer; go to Pinterest; find my food board; scroll down. Where’s the recipe? Oh there it is. Scroll down some more. “4-5 hours on high in crockpot.” The race is on; there’s no time to lose. My fridge door stands open as I rip the steak out; my fingers are in danger of being cut off as I go at the bell peppers and onions. All my spices are out of the cabinet as I look for the cumin and oregano. Of course they are at the back. As I am literally throwing everything into the crockpot I’m praying that it takes only 4 hours not 5 for the steak to cook or else we’ll be eating at 8:30 p.m.! Whew. Well that was a close one but everything is still ok. I walk into the living room and look around. I look at the clean laundry piled on a chair.

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My event stuff is strewn everywhere,

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and the playroom is a disaster area.

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Don’t panic; you still have time.

I wrap all my event prep up by 4 p.m. Philip wakes up but I hear the garage door open. Ozzie is home! Breathing easier. Philip is settled; I start handing out commands to my hubs as he is walking in the door. I look at the clock and it’s 4:15 p.m. Oh no, wait, I haven’t made the cake yet and it has to cool before I put the Tres Leches on it! Really? Pull out the cake mix I bought; I need water, oil and three eggs. Open the fridge door and pull out the egg carton. Two eggs. Again, really?? What does a desperate housewife do in a desperate situation? Call the next-door neighbor. She doesn’t answer. “Ozzie, do you have Frank the neighbor’s number in your phone?” “Yeah, I think so.” I find Ozzie’s phone and find Frank. Call Frank. Frank answers. Me: “Hi Frank. This is your neighbor Kristen. I know this is crazy but can I borrow an egg? We have company coming to dinner tonight and I am one egg short.” (I tend to talk a lot when I get nervous.) Frank: “(Static noise. Inaudible sounds. Can’t make sense of words.) What? Excuse me. Hello?” Me: “Frank, you there? Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but I was wondering if you had an egg I can borrow.” Again, glad I had on the workout clothes because I’m pouring sweat at this moment. Frank: “(Static. Inaudible sounds.) Hablas espanol?” Me, holding phone down and away from mouth: “Ozzie, I think I called Frank the mechanic! Talk to him!” Ozzie: “Kristen, just hang up.” Frank: “Hello, hello.” Me: “No you talk to him.” Frank: “Hello! Hello!” I hang up. Frank calls back. I throw the phone to Ozzie and head out the door. Lo and behold, there sits Frank the neighbor out on the bed of his truck talking to another neighbor. “Hi Frank! Can I borrow an egg?” I ask exasperatedly. Sure; not a problem, he tells me. Oh thank you Lord!

Frank comes out with an egg carton with three eggs. I take it and run. I promise I’ll buy him some new eggs. The schedule is now nil and I am operating in a survival/panic mode. I whip up the cake and attack the living and play rooms. Ozzie has started on the rice and beans. He asks me if I bought Coke or Sprite for tonight, to which I yell, No! He asks me if I bought cilantro. Again, No! Great; I hope they like water and cilantro-free beans! I was able to clean both rooms and vacuum. The cake is out and cooling. Things are looking up. I plan to do a quick vacuum of the hallway so I leave the vacuum out.

At this point I decided I didn’t have time to shower but I have sweat so much (more than I had anticipated) that I really didn’t have a choice. Ozzie decides to run to the store at 6:30 p.m. to grab some drinks for our meal, while I am mixing up the Tres Leches to pour on the cake. “I hope these Hispanics are late like most Hispanics and not early or on-time Hispanics.” We both laugh. “Most likely late Hispanics,” he yells on the way out the door.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

I pour about 1 cup of the Tres Leches over the cake and set the bowl aside with 2 cups remaining of the mixture. I go back to the computer to see what I need to do next. I remember reading that I wait for the cake to absorb some of the Tres Leches before pouring more of the mixture on it. As I am glued to the computer screen reading this recipe, Philip comes running in and grabs the bowl of Tres Leches and flips it over. You read right. He dumps 2 cups mixture of heavy cream, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk on the kitchen floor at 6:30 p.m. – 30 minutes before company arrives.

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Without missing a beat, and while I am in a completely stunned stupor, Philip runs out of the kitchen covered in Tres Leches into the living room leaving little Tres Leches footprints on the wood floor.

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He jumps in the chair. Noo! I’ve got to stop him from spreading the mess! I carry him to my bathroom and take off his underwear. (Did I mention we are in the middle of potty training?) I then remember that Ozzie has left me with instructions to turn off the beans and cover them once they come to a boil. Oh no! The beans! I run to the kitchen. Oh no! This mess! I hear Philip behind me; he’s peeing on the floor! Nooooo! I’m screaming, “Let’s pee-pee in the potty” as I carry him back to the bathroom and as he leaves a trail of pee-pee on the floor. I tell him to stay in the bathroom. I run back to the kitchen and turn off the beans. Philip is behind me again and now has a truck that he’s sending through the Tres Leches. I grab my phone and call Ozzie. There’s no telling what my voice sounded like on the other end of the phone, but it was obvious that Ozzie was really concerned about my state of mind as he was sweetly telling me everything was going to be ok and to go take Philip with me to the shower. I plead with him to call our guests and ask them to come at 7:30 instead. But since Hispanics are never on time to things, he assured me not to worry.

I couldn’t leave the Tres Leches however, so I emptied my kitchen of every towel I could find and doused them in water and sopped up the milk. I run Philip with me to the shower. We are about three minutes in and I had just lathered my hair and his (because at this point there was no helping my hair except by washing it), and I hear noise. I left the TV on so that’s what I am hearing, right? My cell starts ringing. I open the shower door and it’s Ozzie. I answer on speaker phone, “Hey honey, we are in the shower. Everything OK?” “They’re here, Kristen.” “Hold the phone. What?” “They’re here. They rang the doorbell and no one answered so they called me. I told them to wait for me in the car.” “Please explain what happened,” I say before we hang up.

And as Philip pushed bath toys between my legs and as the warm water sent my shampoo down my back I stood there sobbing and laughing at the same time. I didn’t know which to do so I did both. I pictured my husband bringing in our guests only to find the vacuum cleaner still out and our bedroom (which is right off the living room) door open exposing all the junk that I threw in there from the living room. I thought of the guest bathroom that I had not cleaned, of the maduros (oh the maduros!) that I forgot to put in the oven and the Tres Leches, which I never finished.

So I did what anybody in my shoes would have probably done. I took a looong shower. At this point I wanted to prolong the inevitable of me coming out and greeting my guests with wet hair, no make up and a naked son. I wanted to prolong the embarrassment of walking across my kitchen floor and hearing the “crrrreak” of my shoes prying itself away from the sticky floor. And I secretly hoped that this was all a nightmare and my husband would walk in and say that our guests had rescheduled.

However none of that happened. And I finally had to come out and face the music. The family greeted me with smiles. I went ahead and started the oven and put the maduros in. I covered the cake in whip cream and stuck it in the fridge. When it came time to eat, I tasted the meat and it was a little chewy. I apologized for the chewiness of it and the wife exclaimed that they liked their meat chewy. (What a sweetheart!) When I cut into the cake it wasn’t very soppy like Tres Leches is supposed to be, so I apologized again for another part of the meal. But she said they don’t like their Tres Leches to be very soppy but just a little sweet. (Again, was she being honest or did she just know from one woman to another what to say? Either way, I was glad she did.)

We ended up having a very nice meal and a wonderful conversation. Ozzie and I felt like we were truly serving the Lord by having this family in our home. In fact at church today, one of the children came to me and said, “We had so much fun at your house. Can we come back again?”

In the end, it didn’t matter that my vacuum was left out, that my floors were sticky or that this family saw many of our imperfections. What mattered was that we welcomed this family with open arms and that we did it with a joyful spirit unto the Lord.

In the midst of the chaotic day, after I called Frank the mechanic, and I opened the egg carton that I just borrowed from Frank the neighbor (you just can’t make this stuff up!), there printed for me in the inside of the carton was Psalm 118:1. “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”