Kara Garis

About Kara Garis

Kara's Blog

Kara Garis lives in central Oklahoma with her husband and three small children. She studied biology and chemistry at the University of Central Oklahoma and taught science prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom. She contributes regularly for Mom’s Milk Boutique blog, Oklahoma City Moms’ Blog, her personal blog and has written for Desiring God. Instagram. Facebook.



The Painful Pruning of Good Gifts

The Painful Pruning of Good Gifts by Kara Garis

The Painful Pruning of Good Gifts by Kara Garis

Thanks to some writing opportunities I’ve had on some highly-trafficked sites, I’ve been the recipient of the occasional encouraging email. And, more often than not, these emails include something along the lines of, “please keep faithfully writing.”

I love receiving these. I am a self-proclaimed Words of Affirmation lover and I can run on one of these emails for several months. They spur me on to creativity and inspire me to just keep writing.

Lately, however, our family has undergone some changes. I’m halfway through my fourth pregnancy and we have a child needing a lot more from us emotionally, and that just requires a lot of time and a lot of declining commitments.

There have been several moments over the last couple of months that I’ve looked at my circumstances resentfully. How can I keep faithfully writing and serving the Body if my family requires so much? My disgruntled “servant heart” shifts to a stage of martyrdom… Lord, why would you give me these gifts and these opportunities but not the space to faithfully use them? This has been a regular cry of my heart. Until, that is, one day when I felt three small words creep into my spirit.

Who defines faithfulness?

This stopped me cold.

Do the women sending emails define faithfulness? Does my husband? What about the sites for which I write? Are they the authors of what faithfulness looks like in my life?

That’s easy to answer. No.

The Pain of Pruning

Early in my walk with the Lord the pruning (John 15:2), while painful, was obvious and necessary. Giving up bad habits, unhealthy relationships, and idols was a natural part of sanctification I was willing to endure, knowing that it would be best… eventually.

But lately, this pruning has morphed into something I never imagined.

Parenting is an area where my dreams and the faithful call God has placed on my life have collided with the most damage. From early in my first pregnancy, I “faithfully” pored over parenting books, doing my best to seep up all the words from all the experts. I wanted to know that my faithfulness would produce Christian missionaries who attended Harvard and started nonprofits in third-world countries where my husband and I could go live with them. (Too much?)

Once my writing began to receive a little more momentum, I “faithfully” attempted to do everything I could to capitalize on each and every opportunity. A more active social media presence. Contributing to multiple sites. Publishing regularly on my blog. This felt faithful. I was writing about the Lord and, it seemed, to be blessed. But then, we entered a particularly hard season of parenting right around when I found out I was pregnant… right around when we experienced tragedy with another family member. And faithfulness became a little blurry. I didn’t feel I could continue to produce what was needed in order to be faithful to everyone.

I was desperate for reassurance that the big picture would work out. Which is our response when the Lord prunes good things… we want to negotiate, asking for a sign that this will work, when really all we need to do is take the next small step of obedience. Change the diaper. Clean the table. Pray for the neighbor. Serve the Church. Trust God with the big picture and believe He is still good. Lay down the gift you so desperately wanted to keep. And step away in obedience.

So often, it is when we forget the good Giver of the gift, be it a beautiful home, a talent, a job that so perfectly utilizes the strengths the Creator gave us, and start to view it as a possession, that we stop walking in obedience. I imagine myself looking less like Christ and more like Gollum, bent over in darkness clutching tightly to the good thing, incensed at the Lord who would take it away, the Lord who promises to work all things together for my good (Romans 8:28).

But Lord, this is MY ministry opportunity. This is for YOU.

I once had a friend tell me he really struggled with the concept of laying our crowns at Jesus’ feet in heaven.

“I worked for those,” he pouted. “I should get to keep them.”

My friend wasn’t looking to the Almighty Giver of the crowns, but to himself as the “Almighty Earner” of the crowns. Once we stand before Jesus Christ in His glory, men and women of unclean lips, our pithy crowns will become meaningless metal accolades. What could we possibly give to this great God but all we have? This giving, this laying down of gifts, this sacrifice is the only act of obedience that seems reasonable. The Lord of the Universe has deigned to give us, mere humans, a crown for our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) of works. Who are we not to collapse at His feet and thrust forward those crowns as a tiny offering of gratitude?

And this is not painless. Walking away from the job we love to serve thanklessly at home as a mother can feel unjust. Laying down the ministry opportunity that seemed so right, is a sacrifice worth grieving. But, when we rightly look to the Giver in His glory, when we maintain our right view of a God high and lifted up, we can obediently and gratefully lay down these gifts and lift our open hands in praise, trusting that this pruning is for our good and His glory. And, what else could we possibly offer but these small acts of obedience, these crowns?

2018-01-08T14:15:52+00:00 By |

The False Security of Morning Sickness

The False Security of Morning Sickness by Kara Garis

The False Security of Morning Sickness by Kara Garis

“How are you feeling?”

I stared at the text message, wondering how I should respond… because, truthfully, I felt terrible. I couldn’t keep anything down and I was exhausted. Being ten-weeks pregnant while parenting three other children wasn’t the easiest thing I had done. I spent most days counting down the seconds until nap time, and then bed time, when I could flop back on the couch and just focus on resting.

“Meh… I’ve felt better!” I typed back, inserting a green, nauseated emoji.

“Well, look at the bright side… sickness means healthy baby!”

I nodded. That had, honestly, been what sustained me through days on end of my forehead being pressed firmly to the bathroom tile while my children argued in the next room: the mantra of… “morning sickness means healthy baby!” It seemed to take the edge off of the suffering. Never mind that this was another opportunity to experience, in the tiniest of ways, Christ’s suffering for me… the greatest good was a healthy baby.

As a mother who has experienced the suffering of two miscarriages, I can personally attest that battling fear and anxiety each pregnancy is a real struggle. Any time the nausea seems to lessen, my first thoughts are, “I hope the baby didn’t die.” Each and every time. I breathe a small sigh of relief when I pass the sacred 12-week mark and, then, another at 25 weeks… yet the fear of cord accidents, placental abruption and any other unforeseen misstep weigh heavily on my mind until the baby is placed in my arms. My arms… where I can finally protect them from harm.

But… this is the lie.

Even today, as I write this article, I am 12 weeks and 2 days pregnant. I am still slightly nauseated but mostly better. The exhaustion is alive and well… but the notion of morning sickness being the hope to which I can helplessly cling is a false hope that truly won’t deliver because, as we believers know, to hope in anything but Christ is futile.

John Newton said, “If it were possible for me to alter any part of His plan, I could only spoil it.” Yet, as I choose to place my hope ultimately in a healthy baby… trusting morning sickness or healthy diet or obsessive fetal heartbeat monitoring along the way, I am foolishly holding my plan up as the ultimate good… rather than the plan of the Creator. Thanks, God… for making the world and sustaining everything and all of that… but I can handle my children and my family. You go handle the Middle East.

If I can believe that a hope that does not put us to shame (Romans 5:5) is a result of suffering in the likeness of our Savior (Philippians 2:3-11) and that God truly works EVERY thing together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28), then I can wake each morning trusting my unborn baby to God and his goodness. Yes, I am to be wise and to steward this pregnancy well… but morning sickness is a terrible Savior.

Beyond that, once the baby is in my arms… I am still not able to prevent illness or injury. I can only, again, wake each morning with open hands and trust my children to their Creator who is good.

Can we press on, believing God is ultimately in control and good, even if it means we will not carry this child to term? Is His goodness contingent upon a wrinkled, pink baby delivered at 40 weeks? And then a happy childhood free from tragedy or illness? If I stand at the graveside of my child, can I do so with hands raised to God in praise? Or will that dark moment be the one that causes me to turn my back on my Maker?

Is Jesus truly enough?

Any time I choose to rely on what the world relies on for safety and security, I am reminded of how quickly it can be taken away… leaving us lost and confused, wondering how on earth this could have happened… when we were so faithful to do what the world says to do.

Christ is really the only hope that lives. Christ is the only hope that satisfies… both in times of infinite blessing and nights of suffocating grief.

So, I will, today, resolve to trust the Lord not only with my unborn child… but with my 5-year-old, my 3-year-old and my 17-month-old. I could choose to trust in morning sickness, the right education, a certain income, a suburban neighborhood, or an organic diet. But… ultimately… those things will never keep their promises. There is only One who does.

Recommended Reading

All Things for Good by Thomas Watson

 

2018-01-08T18:07:24+00:00 By |

Redefining Self-Care in Light of Eternity

Redefining Self-Care in Light of Eternity by Kara Garis

Redefining Self-Care in Light of Eternity by Kara Garis

Each morning, I roll out of the bed quickly in efforts to stop the tiny toddler trotting happily across my floor, making a beeline for his baby sister’s crib. I scoop him up, try not to trip over the dog, and plod to the kitchen, shushing my son along the way. Coffee is poured. Oatmeal is heated in the microwave. I realize I left my glasses on my dresser and squint, bleary-eyed, at the clock. 5:39 AM.

These days are exhausting. I know I’m not the only mom on the planet that’s tired.

I live in the world of #firstworldproblems. So many of the parenting podcasts I listen to stress the importance of self-care. “Moms, take care of yourselves!” or “Put your own oxygen mask on so you can take care of your children!” I get it. There’s definitely truth to these things or they wouldn’t say it.

Now, I’m not going to be that mom that says we aren’t allowed to complain or lament the woes of parenting littles. It is for sure a challenge and there is some degree of needing to take care of ourselves so we don’t take it out on our kiddos. But in that same vein, I think maybe we have made self-care an expectation. I think if you were to poll moms around the world, they might look at you blankly if you asked them about their self-care routine. It’s interesting how we, the country of independence, have established habits of moving away from family and community to find ourselves and make it on our own, only to lament the denial of self-care when we are stuck in the emotionally and physically draining season of shepherding tiny hearts. I wonder if self-care was as much of an issue to the mothers of my grandparents’ generation, since they lived so close to sisters and aunts and parents.

I am less than an hour’s drive from family. I by no means got away to exert my independence as some of my friends did. But there is a part of me that has started to become a bit of a mommy martyr. Feeling as if I am sacrificing all of myself for these children, as if I am some sort of mommy hero for all that I’ve given up. Anytime I see a woman out running during the day I think to myself, longingly, “I could go for a run. But, these kids..” as if the eternal task of discipling these tiny souls entrusted to me is worth disregarding for the short-term effects of a 5-mile run.

To be a mother is a call to sacrifice. Philippians 2 says that we are to look to Christ as our example who, though he was in the form of GOD, did not count equality with God something to be grasped but rather humbled himself, taking the form of a servant. How does this apply to me? How do I set Christ as my example in these years?

I cannot push on in my own strength. But maybe looking to Christ as my example means, while I do not negate self-care, I redefine self-care. Maybe redefining self-care looks like, as 2 Corinthians 4 says, looking to things that are unseen and eternal. Maybe self-care doesn’t involve getting to run everyday. Maybe self-care doesn’t look like an afternoon at Starbucks with a book and a journal.

In this season, self-care looks a little more like reading my Bible out loud to help me focus on getting the Word in… which shows my kids that it is a priority to me and also gets them some extra Bible as well. Self-care looks like prioritizing prayer and reading my Bible during rest time rather than doing a workout video. Because, while a workout video would definitely curb my calorie intake and maybe give me a slightly smaller waistline, it’s eternity that matters.

So, press on, Moms. Look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. Take care of yourselves, please. But take care of yourselves in light of eternity.

 

Recommended Reading

2018-01-08T19:29:07+00:00 By |

When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll

When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll by Kara Garis

This past week was a difficult one.

We don’t have to look far to be reminded that the world is a terribly broken place. Check out CNN.com or simply scroll through our Facebook feed, and there it is. Human trafficking, acts of terrorism, war, starvation, disease. It’s all there. No crevice of the world is safe from the reaches of the deep brokenness that creation feels. Even in the land of plenty, children still get cancer, marriages still fall apart, teenagers get in car accidents, and relationships are fractured. From the moment Eve bit into the fruit, refusing to trust God’s goodness, we as Adam’s posterity have been fighting against our own fallen nature.

Even with the overwhelming evidence of creation’s brokenness, our brains are somehow able to protect us by compartmentalizing a bit. I can know theoretically about human trafficking, know that it happens in my very city, and yet be disconnected somehow. Even when I am moved to tears by it, I still am able to wash my face, go to the gym, and move on with my business.

It’s in the moments where tragedy hits closer to home, to someone we love, when the compartmentalization lets us down. Suddenly, everything becomes mushed together, like spaghetti. The tragedy leaves nothing untouched. I have to introduce my small children to a difficult topic that I wasn’t prepared to explain. I have to once again choose to fully place my trust in a God who could have prevented said tragedy. I have to trust that just being present and weeping with those who weep is enough when I so desperately wish there were magic words that can take away the pain.

In it all, I know my Maker has a good plan. I know He loves us deeply and grieves with us. Lamentations 3:33 says that the Lord, “does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”

I think of the hymn, “It is Well” by Horatio G. Spafford. I think most of us know the backstory but, in case you don’t, Spafford wrote these words after his four children were drowned in a shipwreck that his wife barely survived.

If he, after losing his four children, after previously losing another child to pneumonia, can still say, “when sorrows and sea billows roll… it is well with my soul” we can perhaps find it in us to cling, though it may be shaky, to the promises of God. My hope is not in the broken world, but in the future glory of Christ.

Peter writes in 2 Peter 3 that all the “earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” And, not simply exposed, but “burned.” He goes on to say that, since all of these things will be dissolved, to pursue lives of holiness and, in verse 13, “in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

When sorrows and sea billows roll, we must pursue that which will outlast all that will be burned on the earth. We must devote ourselves to eternal things. We mourn with those who mourn, but we are not a people who mourn without a hope. And, it is because of this hope, that we can still praise Him in our suffering, and, as James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

So, when sorrow hits close to home, find the rock of the Word and stand on it. His Word does not return empty, says Isaiah 55. Even when you are facing terrible truths about the fallenness of creation. Stand on the rock, trust that God is good, no matter how it currently feels, and praise Him.

 

Recommended Reading

2018-01-08T20:15:46+00:00 By |

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