Dance of Change


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I go back and I read entries in this blog, and I laugh at the memories of the little boys I used to have– little boys who built snowmen out of grass and stripped naked and ran gleefully around the backyard– little boys who have, somehow, between now and then, grown up so much.


I don’t know what happened. I know this is the cry of mothers through all of time– how did that tiny, snuggly, soft baby I swaddled and rocked and cried with turn into this– person? Suddenly their shoes look like their dad’s shoes, not like baby shoes. And their jeans are ridiculously long, and I’m accidentally handing my oldest a sweatshirt that turns out to be mine. Suddenly I look at my three children and realize the baby years are done, the preschool years are gone. The onesies and diapers and the ruffle-bottomed tights are gone.


They have been replaced by something– good, I think. It’s just so different. Right now it’s all jokes about bodily functions and smells from bodily functions and hysterical laughter at bodily functions and– well, the boys are 10 and 12, with birthdays looming, so you can imagine. My daughter dresses up as a princess sometimes, as a ballerina sometimes, as a doctor sometimes. Her legs won’t stop growing and the shorts I said were okay back in May now make me cringe now, in the middle of September. She makes jokes about bodily functions too, even as she poses for a fabulous picture in her sparkly tutu and her pink stethoscope and demands that we call her “Doctor Princess Elsa.” There are dangers to having big brothers.


One hates carrots and wearing blue jeans. One hates sandwiches and fractions. One obsessively stalks the neighbors’ every move through the front window and has already mastered the duck face, which she says is “fabulous.”


One plays piano and one plays guitar and one wraps her daddy around her finger and talks about what instrument she’ll learn when she’s in second grade– most days deciding on the cymbals, because apparently she thinks our house is not loud enough.


One practices spelling and one studies computer programming and one sighs heavily over the terrors of 5+4 and 6+3, and I try to keep track of all of it and try to remember to hug and encourage and protect and love, because my time is so limited– so limited. So many days I fail.


We dance this complicated, ever-changing dance of life and growth, and sometimes it slows down for just a minute and we see, in a breathless moment of time, that we are moving forward– marching inexorably on– learning as we go. And if we linger in that moment of clarity, we might just see the beauty that is being woven in the midst of the small sorrows of growth and letting go, the great fears of the unknown future, the daily mundane living, the adventures and the milestones. This is how it is meant to be– always changing, shifting, growing.


And as they change and shift and grow around me– and as the face in the mirror changes too– I am grateful for my God who never changes, who placed me in the center of this good life.

“I am the LORD; I change not.”


My Hope


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My Hope

faint fringes sunset

My God is good and He is wise.

When pain cuts deep and all hope dies,

This world’s aches bid me hide my eyes;

But God is good and He is wise.

My God is wise and holds me near.

When my mind quakes with awful fear,

When agony brings me to tears,

My God is wise and He is near.

My God is near and guides my way

Through thorny nights and stormy days.

Bless Him—He gives and takes away;

My God is near and guides my way.

My God guides me with His good hand.

I fall in grief in this dark land,

But by His grace I know I’ll stand

And walk—led by my good God’s hand.

faint fringes mothLed by His hand I’ll see His face—

How wise His way; how rich His grace!

All sorrows gone, all tears erased;

All fades before that glorious face.

poem copyright 2015 by Erin Kilmer
photographs copyright 2015 by Irv Cobb




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My high school class is planning a little get-together for next weekend. Not an official reunion, you know, just a “Hey guys, who’s available to get together on Saturday and hang out? Bring your kids . . .” sort of thing.

It’s amazing how something this simple can bring up all the insecurities I thought I was past.

I graduated from high school in 1997– that’s 18 years ago, for those of you who stink at math. Half my life has happened since graduation– by far the best half. I found my people in college– the people who were so scarce in high school– and I thrived. I found a man who loved and accepted the person I was– the person who was just a big ball of neurotic insecurity wrapped up in a chubby, loud, crazy-girl persona. I guess at some point I decided that if I couldn’t be the pretty one, I was going to be the fun and funny one.

16 years of being loved by a godly man, of walking with God and with that man through tragedy and grief, of seeing the path of our lives carefully laid before our unsteady feet, of choosing to face the “for worse” and the “in sickness” with inappropriately-timed humor, of always holding hands and saying “I love you” so we don’t end up like those people on TV who fail to say it and then die tragically before they can make things right– well, that kind of love gives a woman a confidence she might not have had before.

Since my high school graduation I have graduated again and watched my husband graduate three times. I have been pregnant five times and given birth to three children, whom I have raised with a certain amount of success to their current ages. I have been to China, to Mount Rushmore, to the Space Needle, to the St. Louis Arch, to a whole bunch of little Baptist churches in small Iowa towns. I have learned to cook from scratch, to French braid, to teach high school English, to play piano, to laugh (sometimes) at times to come. I have read hundreds of books, traveled hundreds of miles, taught one and a half children to read, two children to do long division, and three children to pee in the toilet. I have changed diapers and cleaned up vomit in the middle of the night, stressed over money and calories and weird rashes and potty training. I have thrown balls, danced princess dances, gone to recitals, held kids down during shots, argued with insurance companies, scrubbed out toilets with toothbrushes.

I have walked with God, by His grace, and learned that His goodness and sufficiency are so much greater than I ever could have understood at eighteen. I have experienced mercy, forgiveness, victory, and the overwhelming love of a Father for His precious child. I have experienced doubt, rebellion, defeat, and distance. I have always been brought home. I know who God says I am in Jesus, and I believe it– I am Redeemed, Beloved, Accepted, Adopted, Chosen, Precious, and Victorious. My identity is in Him.

So tell me why a simple “Hey guys, let’s get together” has me all in a tizzy? It reveals something about my heart– that in spite of what I just said about my identity, I am still afraid of what others think about me. I was not the cool kid in high school. My family moved when I was 16 and my whole life changed dramatically. I moved away from friends I loved and who accepted me no matter what, to a place where I knew no one. I wasn’t accepted there.

The two and a half years I attended that school were probably the worst two and a half years of my life. I was an overweight nerd in a pretty serious rebellion against my parents. I went to a Christian school and I wasn’t trying very hard to look like a good Christian girl, so I didn’t fit in with the cool kids. That’s the weird mentality of a Christian school. Now don’t get me wrong– I had friends– friends I loved and who loved me– but none of us were cool and all of us were the target of some pretty unkind stuff. And even though my senior year was better and I made friends with a wider group of kids and I felt less like a pariah, I still remember the hurts and the feelings that I just would never fit in. And when I think about going back– to people who only remember High School Erin– well, I’m afraid that’s how they still think of me. Pimply, fat, unlovable, loud. Unable to fit in, no matter how hard I try.

Isn’t it interesting how we let other people define us?

And isn’t it interesting how those relationships affect our view of ourselves after so many years?

I’m afraid of not fitting in with my former high school peers– what if I’m still the awkward fat kid? What if my awkward homeschooled children don’t fit in? I drive an old minivan and my clothes are all from the thrift store. My husband is a pastor of a tiny church in a town no one has heard of. I have never once taken a fancy vacation to a big city or the Caribbean. What if I don’t measure up?

And it’s not just the friends from high school who bring out the insecurity– it’s the other pastors’ wives, whose churches are bigger and whose ministries seem to be so much more effective. It’s the other homeschooling moms whose 10 kids are all geniuses and perfectly well-behaved. It’s the women in my church who have all lived in Tiny Town for their whole lives and know everyone and everything.

Do you see what happens here? I love my life. I am right where God wants me. I have good friends, a wonderful husband, and children that delight me at least as often as they infuriate me. My pantry is full and so is my closet. My days are filled with so many blessings. And my identity is in a Savior who accepts me, loves me, and gives grace for every single challenge.

But instead of focusing on these realities, I so often focus on the opinions of others– real or imagined. I worry– am I dressed okay? Do I sound like an idiot? Do any of these people even like me? What if I am hurting my husband’s ministry? Did I overshare? I’ll never fit in with the other homeschooling moms; I don’t have enough kids. I’ll never fit in with the public school moms either. Do I even have a place? Why did I wear my hair like this? What if everyone is just being nice to me because they pity me?

I know it’s not just me. In fact, I expect that the majority of the other people from the class of ’97 saw that little Facebook post about getting together and started making plans for getting their hair done or crash dieting to get a few pounds off. All of us have insecurities. The good thing about my Savior is that He meets us right here where we are– and He says to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in your weaknesses.” In other words, all that stuff I’m freaking out about, all the weaknesses and insecurities– that is exactly where God’s power is. So if people see my weakness– if they see that I’m afraid of their opinion or that some part of me is still a pimply seventeen-year-old girl who will literally do anything for acceptance– well, that’s right where they’ll see God’s power. His glory. Because He is transforming all of that into something beautiful.

I know who I am. I know who my Savior is. My arms are full, my belly is full, my heart is full. In Him I am exactly who I am created to be, and so I can go with confidence to wherever He takes me– whether it’s the grocery store, Sunday morning church, a homeschool convention, or a high school reunion.

He is everything about me that matters. And that truth frees me from my insecurities.

“In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.”


**********Edited to Add**********

I am afraid that this post comes across as unjust to the people I know from high school, many of whom I am Facebook friends with. I want to clarify that so many of my issues during that time of my life (and during all the OTHER times of my life) were coming from me– the way I perceived what people said and did, my defensiveness, my choices that alienated me from others. I expect that many of the people who hurt me in high school had no idea how their words affected me, and that a lot of them would be appalled to learn it now. And this is the truth– I have forgiven all of it, forgotten most of it, and made peace with my past. My insecurities that spring from those experiences have proven to be opportunities to grow, to minister, to reach out, to bless others, to pray harder.

High school is part of my story. I would not be who I am today without those pieces to the puzzle. God is good and He can redeem EVERY part of every story. Look at the verse in my sidebar. That’s truth right there. All things. Together for good.

No regret. No condemnation. Only Grace.


On Saturday


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The birds don’t know
it’s the silent day
after Good Friday,
before Sunday comes.

It seems all earth should be waiting
in a slow, silent inhale
ready for dawn’s hallelujah.

But the birds don’t care.

Their song greets the morning with joy
and says to me–
You don’t have to wait till tomorrow
to celebrate.

He is risen indeed–
just as He said.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory.


Currently– An Update on Me


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So yeah. I really want to be back to blogging more in the New Year. I know I say that at least twice a year, post four times, and am never heard from again. I guess we’ll see. Anyway, I’m here tonight, and I was going to post something deep, and then we watched The Great Muppet Caper and my husband and I tried to have a conversation while all three of my children took turns standing between us, so I just decided to do this kind of post instead. Because I cheat. And because it’s my blog, so I can.

Current Books:
Be Encouraged by Warren Wiersbe
Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America by Edwin S. Gaustad
Glimpses of Grace: Daily Thoughts and Reflections by Madeleine L’Engle
Discipline That Connects with Your Child’s Heart by Jim and Lynne Jackson
Sweet Agony Two: A Writing Book of Sorts by Gene Olson

That’s a pretty long list, but it’s not as crazy as it seems. Be Encouraged is what I’m using, along with my Bible obviously, for my morning Bible study right now. Glimpses of Grace is just a daily reading that’s less than a page long each day. And Sweet Agony Two is my pre-bedtime read, because it’s lightweight and therefore easy to hold onto in bed, and it’s also amusing but not so engrossing I can’t put it down. So really I’m only reading two books, which I think we can all agree is almost shameful and I probably should add a few more to the pile. ;)

Current Playlist: My Laura Story Radio station on Pandora is my general favorite right now. Although I also do a lot of listening to Darth Piggy practicing guitar, and Pooka singing “Let It Go” at the top of her voice.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Spending time in the bathroom reading because it’s the only place the kids will leave me alone. I know. That’s not a very juicy guilty pleasure. It’s January 9th. Give my resolutions a few more weeks and we’ll see how I’m doing then. ;)

Current Colors: I’m enjoying my white, silver, and blue snowy decorations I put up for January. I expect to enjoy them for a limited time before I’m ready for spring.

Current Food: I made these super good Southwest Turkey Burgers the other day. Everybody but Pooka liked them, but she doesn’t like anything unless it’s spaghetti.

Current Drink: Lots of water. And more water. So far today I’ve had 96 ounces!!! (So some of those bathroom trips aren’t just for reading . . .)

Current Favorite Favorite: Early mornings with my Bible and journal and a cup of coffee

Current Wishlist: About three more hours in my day

Current Needs: Lots and lots of wisdom and patience for homeschooling

Current Triumph: I’ve gotten up to exercise early six out of the nine days of this year.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Memorizing a verse a day, which I decided to do for the month of January. No big deal, I said to myself. Memorizing has always been easy, I said to myself. Now I say to myself, Self, you are getting older and your brain cells have been sucked away by your children.

Current Indulgence: Afternoon naps as often as I can get them.

Current Mood: Pretty chilled out. The kids are in bed; Art is playing Super Mario World; my blanket is cozy and my chair is comfortable; and I’m about to have some ice cream and read a book.

Current #1 Blessing: Friends and church people and family who pray for me!

Current Outfit: jeans with long johns under them (I had to go shopping today and it’s like Antarctica exploded on Iowa out there), my super awesome Mountain Meadow Resort t-shirt from our family vacation in September (It’s neon pink), wool-blend socks my mom gave me for Christmas, and a sweatshirt.

Current Quote: Psalm 145:1 “I will extol You, my God and King, and bless Your name forever and ever.” (This is the verse I am supposed to memorize today)

Current Photo: This isn’t really very current. It was taken in Mitchell, South Dakota, on our family vacation last September. It kind of goes with my random mood today. :) Rabbit has crazy eyes.
I don't even know

Sacrifice– a Word for 2015


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I’ve chosen words of the year before, but this is the first year when I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, exactly what the word was supposed to be. This is one of the benefits I am discovering to journaling my prayers– as I write, I often discover the answers I am seeking. And this year’s word has been no mystery.

Originally, I thought my word was going to be praise. God has been teaching me a lot about praise– the importance of praise in the life of the believer. I believe that praise is one of our most powerful weapons against the enemy of our souls, who tempts us and lies to us and accuses us and discourages us. I have struggled and failed through many (mostly food-related) temptations, and I can certainly say that it is pretty much impossible to stuff a brownie into your mouth when you’re praising God for His sufficiency and for being your portion.

So I expected that was going to be my word, because all these lessons were coming so late in the year that it just seemed like clear direction. But then as I prayed I began to feel less confident about that word. The phrases sacrifice of praise and sacrifice of thanksgiving kept coming to mind, along with many reminders that I have been crucified with Christ– that I died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God– that I am to present my body a living sacrifice– and it all clicked into place.


This word encompasses so much of what I have been learning over the past year– mostly what I’ve been learning about myself and my God. I am selfish, ungrateful, prideful, and seeking of immediate gratification. God is generous, gracious, merciful, and patient, demonstrating His character through His Son, who “made Himself of no reputation, but took on Himself the form of a servant and came in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself (as if He weren’t humbled enough?) and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” I am called to be Christlike, but I am so extraordinarily far from that.

I have fought against the concept of sacrifice for a long time. I had a very legalistic view of salvation when I was younger, and then as I started to grasp the concept of grace I started to feel like I shouldn’t have to deny myself of anything– because God would forgive me, right? And isn’t self-denial, and obedience, and living a life that is pleasing to God just another form of legalism? In 2014, God began to open my eyes to the foolishness of my heart. He began to teach me who He is, which made me love Him more, which makes me desire to serve Him. He showed me (keeps showing me!) that whenever I start to feel like I deserve to have my own way, it is a sign that I am moving out of alignment with His heart.

And I want to be near to His heart. The more time I spend with Him, praising His name, reading about His amazing character and His beautiful attributes, the more I desire to be near Him– the more I am willing to do whatever it takes to get closer to Him– and that includes sacrifice.

And so this year, I will sacrifice.

I will sacrifice my freedom to eat whatever I want whenever I want, and in exchange I will receive the satisfaction that God my Portion gives.

I will sacrifice my time and my selfish pursuits in order to love and train my children, and in exchange I will see God working in them and in me as our relationships grow.

I will sacrifice my rest so that I may spend time with my God, and in exchange I will receive strength, peace, joy, help, grace, forgiveness– whatever I need.

I will sacrifice my pride and serve God as He leads, expecting no recognition or reward, and in exchange He will be my sure reward.

I will present my whole self as a living sacrifice. I will draw near to God and experience His holy fire, and it will hurt, and I will cry out against it, but in the end I will be closer to Him, filled with Him, more like Him, able to be used by Him.

It’s scary, you know? To name a year one of sacrifice when you can’t see the 365 days ahead– when you have no idea what God might ask you to do. I do not have great faith, but I have small faith in a great and faithful God, and I believe this: He is Enough for me, in every sacrifice and in every failure, for there will be many. His grace is always sufficient; His life is in me, and His life is worth it.

Every sacrifice worth it, if it draws me nearer to the heart of my God.

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.



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candlesI am a mother
five times over.
five times? you say, looking around my house
obviously populated by three
three kids smiling from pictures on the walls–
three kids’ artwork proudly displayed–
three kids’ worth of beds and clothes and Legos and dollies and schoolbooks.

Yes, Five.

Five hearts have beaten under my own–
Five times little fingers and toes and formed
in the miracle of love and life.

But only three times have I held those tiny people in my arms.

Twice death has stolen those heartbeats away.
Twice I have been emptied from within.
Twice I have mourned a child never known apart from a heartbeat, a small flutter.

But death has no sting, for
It is swallowed up in victory–
I believe in hope and I believe in heaven and I believe that

In eternity I will be surrounded by

Encounters, episode 4: Pharmacist


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“Can I help you?” she asks. Her hair is dark and chin-length, and her smile is friendly even though she looks a little tired. I tell I need a refill, give her my name, my birthdate. “Which prescription do you need?” she asks. This is a fair question. I am currently on seven prescription drugs and take two other over the counter supplements, fiber pills, and an allergy pill every day.

“Folic acid, please.”

“Is that going to be all?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Okay, well, give us about twenty minutes to get it ready.” She smiles and I smile and go to push my cart away from the window, toward the blood pressure machine my daughter is trying to operate.

In a slow-motion instant, I watch as my cart gently but thoroughly knocks over a display of lip balm, spilling its contents over an area approximately the size of Providence, Rhode Island.

“Oh, good grief,” I mutter.

“Mommy, why did you do that?” Pooka asks, running over from the blood pressure machine. My adventures in gravity are far more interesting than a machine that refuses to recognize her existence.

“It was an accident. Help me clean this up.”

“No! I don’t want to.”

“You get to anyway. Come on. Help me.”

By now a woman and her two daughters have come up to the counter and are watching me and my five-year-old hurriedly pick up spilled lip balm. The pharmacist has come out from behind the counter and crouches down to help us. The three of us make short work of the scattered green boxes.

“You’d be surprised how many people do this,” she tells me.

“Ha! Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one!”

“Whoa! That’s a big handful! You sure are a good helper!” She smiles winningly at Pooka, who takes this opportunity to make a new friend.

“Yeah! I’m Mom’s helper today! We’re going to buy groceries and I had a donut and we’re going to buy birthday presents because my brother is going to be ten!”

The mess cleaned up, the lady and her daughters still waiting and staring, the pharmacist must get back to her regular work, but not without one more wink at my daughter, who is now trying to climb into the cart and chattering nonstop about how she is going to buy Darth Piggy some Legos for his birthday.

“You ladies have a great day!” she says as she unlocks the door to the Top Secret Pharmacy Counter Area.

The lady and her girls are still staring. I grin at them. “If you’re ever bored, you know, this is a great way to pass the time. Just knock over some displays and then clean them up. You know. Super fun.” Yeah. I’m that person that talks to strangers in stores. Usually I can at least get a courtesy laugh, but not from these three. They just keep on staring, and then turn toward the counter to place their order.

“Bye now!” says the pharmacist as she types in the name.

I walk away with a smile.

Encounters, episode 3: Husband


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His arms are around me, and it’s the best place to be. We’re standing in the kitchen and just sharing a little smoochy time, which still gets me a little fluttery after all these years.

Fifteen years ago this month we shared our first kiss, sitting on a log overlooking the lake. I was wearing blue jeans and a Seattle t-shirt and I don’t know what he was wearing but it was probably flannel. Some things never change, even though we have.

We’ve seen new babies and miscarriages, new cars and car accidents, road trips and trips to the ER and trips down memory lane. We’ve seen loved ones die, watched our body shapes change, moved from apartment to apartment to duplex to house to duplex to house. Between us we’ve graduated four times since our wedding day. He held my hand when the nurse said “push” and when the doctor said “no heartbeat,” and his arms around me has always been the safest place.

I have a lot more gray hair and he has a lot more facial hair. I am redecorated with stretch marks and his eye crinkles don’t completely disappear when he stops laughing anymore. Most of our conversations are interrupted by a catastrophe or world war 12 breaking out in our living room or having to make dinner or yell “knock it off!” or deal with a temperamental washing machine.

It’s okay. It’s a season, just like it was only a season when it was just him and me and a log overlooking the lake.

The radio is playing a Disney princess song and the house smells like a mixture of cinnamon candle and dishsoap and something unpleasant coming from the bathroom. Nothing is perfect, here– not us, not our marriage, not our lives– but this moment, with his arms around me and mine around him, is about as close as it gets.

Little hands grab our arms. A little pigtailed head pokes its way between. “Why are you guys kissing like that? Can I have a kiss, too?”

His arms still around me, he kisses his daughter on the cheek.

Yup. Just about perfect.

Encounters, episode 2: Girl


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She’s a little uncertain as she pushes her way through the swinging door into the big room where we’re all standing in a circle. She’s wearing a striped shirt that’s too small on her, and an inexpertly-tied ponytail that looks like it could fall apart any minute. I smile big and wave her in and we all say the Pledge.

Later, she is in the classroom full of fifth and sixth graders that are jockeying to see who can be the most cool and annoying. I take attendance and hand out books so they can start learning their verses. We are on the verge of chaos, so I quickly tell the kids they’ll have to stand in line and wait their turn.

She tries really hard. She wants to learn the verses, wants to do a good job, wants to catch up with the kids who were here last week. She waits patiently in line, shuffling her booklet from hand to hand. When it’s her turn she struggles a little bit, but she gets the verse out: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” I smile and scribble down my initials, and then it’s on to the boy behind her.

At the end of the night she is excited to tell me that she said her verse to three different people and earned a candy bar. She a face of eager participation in a sea of boredom, and I can’t help but smile at her excitement as I give her a high five and send her out the door.

I sure hope she comes back next week.


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