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marriage

you know, i don’t write too often about the ins & outs of my marriage.
if we’re in a rut, i usually don’t feel like airing our dirty laundry to the world or complaining publicly. if we’re doing awesome & on top of the world, well, i don’t want to come across as boasting either. so, i usually just keep the marriage stuff locked up for the most part.
it’s also my way of respecting what he & i share together.
he trusts me; i trust him. the last thing i’d ever want to do is damage that.

that said…

we recently had a tiff that started like a trickle and ended in a torrent. i confess, i was the one harboring the offenses and when offenses build up, they ultimately get out of hand, and you find yourself thinking, “how on earth did i get here?!” “how can this ever be fixed?”

well, i can testify that when you think there’s no fix, no hope, no end to the firestorm that started with just a few ill-spoken words…

God can fix it. God can heal it. God can turn it around.
thank God for my husband’s maleable heart that truly seeks Him.
if it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

if you struggle with words, like i do, and you say things that only seem to make matters worse when upset with your spouse, i strongly suggest you read james chapter 3…”taming the tongue.” it will hit you hard, but it is worth it. like a rudder changes the course of a mighty ship, so a tongue can change the course of a life. a bitter tongue can set a relationship ablaze, but a humbled tongue, can steer the ship back to peaceful waters.

i read a post today written by one of my favorite christian women/authors, Lysa TerKeurst, and it really gave words to our recent situation. i thought i’d share it with you. it’s a good one. like Lysa, we talked out the kinks and things turned around. take care of your relationships, and be sure not to let them unravel in your emotional haste.

The Unraveling of a Marriage ~ Lysa TerKeurst
{source: incourage.me}

I had a favorite sweater I loved wearing. It wasn’t too bulky but was still warm and cozy. The only problem was the threads were loosely woven together. It would snag on things, so I had to be ever so careful when I wore it.

I was always mindful of the delicate nature of this sweater so I could protect it, make it last, and enjoy wearing it time and again.

Until one day I was in a hurry. I grabbed some things I needed for a meeting and rushed to my car. I tossed all my stuff over to the passenger seat, including a spiral notebook. A spiral notebook whose metal binding wire had gotten caught on my sleeve. As I pulled my arm toward the steering wheel, the notebook came with it and pulled a huge snag in my sweater.

I unhooked myself and assessed the damage. Based on what I saw, I should have taken the sweater off, put something else on, and later taken the time to repair the snag the correct way.

But in the rush of all I had going on, I made the tragic decision to do what seemed easiest in the moment. I snipped the lose threads and hoped for the best. That tragic decision started an unraveling process that ended the life of that beautiful sweater.

Recently, my husband and I got into an argument. In front of the kids. Over something so stupid. Right before we were about to head out the door to go on a date.

In the heat of the argument he announced the date was off. He no longer wanted to go. And honestly, I no longer wanted to go either.

I wanted to go sit in a coffee shop by myself and make a mental list of all the reasons I was right. All the reasons he was wrong. And justify my perspective. But it’s at this exact moment of resistance that an unraveling can begin.

Doing what seems easy in the moment often isn’t what’s best for the long term.

I pushed for us to still go on our date. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t easy. There were tears. There were awkward stretches of silence. But we pushed through the resistance we both felt, and eventually talked.

Talking through the snags. The pulls. The things that threaten to unravel us.

There is a delicate nature to marriage. It’s so easy to forget that. It’s so easy to take it all for granted and stop being careful. Stop being mindful. Stop being protective.

The unraveling can happen so quickly.

What’s something you can do today to invest wisely in your marriage? To be mindful of your mate? To protect your relationship?

For me? I had to apologize. The right way. By admitting I was wrong and asking for forgiveness. Repairing the snags the right way… tying a knot and tucking it back into the weave of our relationship fabric.

Isn’t it funny that when we get married it’s called “tying the knot”? For us, this wasn’t just an act at the altar. It’s something we have to do over and over again.

By Lysa TerKeurst

looking forward to a lifetime with him.

marriage with a side of cinnamon banana pancakes…

first things first…the marriage stuff…so my hubby & i were having a little argument the other day – hard to imagine if you know us haha – and i was sulking privately in our bathroom, thinking thoughts like, “he should be more like…i deserve him to be like…” get the picture?  so then i had a pleasing revelation – “he really should be the kind of man that he himself would want ava to marry!”  he should be THAT kind of husband at ALL times, because we should model THAT for our daughters…RIGHT?!  right…and then, I believe the good Lord butt right into my scrutiny 🙂 and kindly reminded me that i should be the kind of woman & WIFE that i would like to model for my daughters.  ouch.  yep.  seems like i have a lot of work to do on my end and it doesn’t involve pointing my finger…so that’s what i am working on from now on – making a conscious effort to be a more godly example of a christian woman for my family.  so far that has involved getting my butt out of bed this morning w/ a smile on my face, making my family pancakes on a monday morning (usually just a saturday thing), doing a load of laundry, and showering all BEFORE ava woke up.  to some of you that may sound lame, b/c you do it all the time, but not this night owl.  i’m lucky to have my teeth or hair brushed most days before 7:30.  hopefully i can keep it up and keep the complaining spirit at bay in the process.

as for the pancakes…  🙂  one of my favorite traditions growing up was my mom’s weekend pancakes.  she ALWAYS made from scratch, which is probably why i loathe bisquick, and so now i’ve adopted that tradition myself.  unless we go out for breakfast, which is rare, or i’m sick, saturday mornings at our house almost always include homemade pancakes or waffles.  ava’s on a dairy-free diet, so i adapted the recipe for her.  some of my friends had asked for the recipe before, so here it is…btw it’s a work-in-progress, b/c i insist on getting them right.  they started out way too flat, but tasty.  then they were fluffy little clouds, but the hubby stated he would prefer having pancakes he could chew on, so here is my latest update.  enjoy!

cinnamon banana pancakes (dairy-free optional)

bowl #1
mash 1 ripened banana & coat w/ 2 tbs of sugar – mix well
add 1 tbs veg oil & 1/2 tsp vanilla
measure 1 cup milk (or rice/soy milk) & add 1 egg – beat together
add egg & milk mixture to banana mixture – combine

bowl #2
start w/ 3/4 cup flour
add 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 3 tsp baking power & 1 tsp cinnamon (or to your liking)
add additional 1/8 c flour – mix (if using non-dairy…add an extra 1/4 c instead)
add to wet mixture
stir – but don’t over do it – you want lumps & air pockets

cook on low/medium heat til lightly brown on each side (i give a flip then a gentle tap immediately to spread w/out flattening)

i love how puffy they get & still offer that chewiness you’re husbands will love 🙂
let me know if you make any alterations that work better!  thanks & enjoy!

Simply Noel: January 5 – Everyone Has a Word

Simply Noel:

January 5 – Everyone Has a Word

That’s a thing, right? A word. The word for the year…

I’m seeing it everywhere and love hearing which words people are adopting for the new year. Words can be encouraging. Words can breathe life into a soul, a situation, a home. Words have power. God tells us so in His Word, but even the secular realm acknowledges the power of what we speak into existence.

We also have tangible words all over the place. They serve as reminders of who we are, who we want to become, and perspectives that are valuable to us.

In our own bedroom, we have words displayed about love and commitment. In our kitchen, we have words about family and kindness. In our living room, we have words about our faith and values. In our girls’ spaces, we have words about their worth and God’s great love for them. We even have words in our bathrooms and tucked away on cupboard doors. We have words everywhere.

For the past few years, I have chosen a word to guide me through the year. Whether you decide to choose a word or not, I strongly believe that years seem to have themes and can directly affect the desires and expectations we set in place for ourselves and our families.

2017: Joy

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The year 2016 was somewhat a struggle for me as a mom to four. Our fourth was born in 2015, and 2016 felt like a ton of diapers, potty-training, tantrums, cold coffee and bad hair days. My oldest two were in public school at the time, and I spent my days missing them so much and overwhelmed at home at the same time. It was an emotional year for me as a mother. As 2017 arrived and I kept hearing people talk about their word, I couldn’t help but feel the word “joy” come up in my spirit over and over again. I needed joy so badly. We need joy always, but I really, really, really craved it. It became my word, and I honestly saw it popping up everywhere throughout that year.

Funny thing though – when I chose “joy” as my word, I found myself acutely aware of how hard I had to fight for it. But, you know what? It became that much more real to me. I sought it with intention. And now, thanks to that year of intention, intentionally seeking it is forever on my radar.

Psalm 94:19

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

2018: Favor

Psalm 5:12

For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord,
You surround him with favor as with a shield.

Although I was intentionally contending for joy, 2017 came with struggles all its own. These struggles weren’t found on the home-front, however. My husband and I had let certain influences into our lives that in the long-run did not have our best interests in mind. Everything that we had built our lives around became a battle. We were used to being surrounded by people that saw our hearts and caught our visions, and all of a sudden we found ourselves knocking at proverbial doors that didn’t want to budge – doors that were locked from the inside. We would look at each other and just shake our heads. We opened our home, we volunteered every chance we got as parents to multiple young children, and continued to work towards goals we had established as a couple. It felt so futile and exhausting. Ministry had been such a passion for us and we found ourselves feeling stuck and tired. On top of that disappointment, my husband was coming home worried about his job far too often.

As we headed into 2018 overflowing with uncertainty and frustration, the word “favor” was heavy on my heart. We needed favor. I begged for favor. I prayed for favor over our lives every single day. I prayed for favor over my husband’s career every single day. I prayed for favor over my children. I prayed for favor in our relationships.

And, you know what, God answered those prayers. Never in our ten years of marriage did my husband ever have multiple job offers at one time. In past years, we’ve had times of hoping for just one opportunity. At the end of 2018, my husband had his choice of the best fit, and it was a welcomed change that honestly blew our minds.

Psalm 90:17

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

2019: Redemption

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

As seems to be the trend, experiences in 2018 led to my word for 2019: Redemption.

The thief came in 2018.

On September 10th, the woman I loved most, my grandmother, left this earth. Only a handful of people truly know what she meant to me. Growing up she was my constant companion. She was my angel, and her passing left a huge hole in my heart that probably won’t be filled this side of Heaven.

The thief also reared his ugly head in our marriage. I don’t know that a Christmas devotional is the appropriate place to reveal our struggles, but “redemption” is definitely my word for 2019 for good reason.

I believe that God is a Good Father who hears the cries of His children. I believe His heart is softened towards His broken ones and He answers prayers. The answers may not always look like we imagined, but they are answered in His time and in His way. I have faith that in 2019 He will redeem the empty places. Already, He has strengthened relationships with other women in my life and is helping me to love my family as my grandmother loved me. I will not get her back, but I can honor her and feel her close to me as I try to fill her shoes. Her passing has reshaped our family in some new and positive ways. That is redemption at work.

My marriage will never look the same, but I am confident that it will be even better, because every low point chisels and refines if you let it. And as I walk through this year of redemptive experiences, a new word will surely begin to surface for 2020.

Lamentations 3:57-58

57You drew near when I called on You;
You said, “Do not fear!”
58 O Lord, You have pleaded my soul’s cause;
You have redeemed my life.

Your Word:

So, what’s your word for this year? I bet if you’d take a moment to search your heart, it’s there, as plain as day. There’s an aching in each spirit – a longing. God knows what you need, when you need it, and I think that our spirits know what He’s highlighting in our lives. This passage in Isaiah really hit home for me. No matter what it is we are longing for this year, I believe this scripture provides the direction needed to see the goodness unfold in every area imaginable.

Isaiah 58:9-12 (MSG)

If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.

“I will always show you where to go.”

That’s God’s word every year…

Always.

I love that. Don’t you?

xo,

Kristi

word

Klover House Christmas:

With it being January 5th, does it still feel like Christmas to you? Our Western culture has definitely made the “12 Days of Christmas” nearly obsolete; don’t you think? We are inundated with ads and jingles from November 1st to Black Friday. Then, we are bombarded with Christmas movies, radio tunes, and Santa-sightings until December 24th. By the time the first day of Christmas comes along, we are Christmas-kaput and dragging trees to the curb. New Year’s approaches and we speed on to our resolutions and clearing greenery for “fresh starts”. Oh, how I wish it wasn’t so. How I long for a Thanksgiving that focuses on families and feasts, and Decembers that glide along like chocolate glaze on hot cookies. I wish we spent those first 24 days preparing our hearts and homes for the King of Kings, and then, when Christmas morning rolls in, I wish it felt like a beautiful dawn breaking over an eternal night. I wish that feeling of awe and wonder lasted for all twelve days.

Twelve days.

That’s how long we should be rejoicing and snuggling. Yes, I know, we have responsibilities to attend to, thanks to this busy world we live in, but wouldn’t it be nice to savor the Savior’s birth for more than a few hours?

I’m guilty of thinking ahead to the next thing. My fourth child’s birthday is about a month away, and I’m already going there in my mind. When I go there, it causes me to think about Valentine’s, too. And in a blink, I’ve forgotten Christmas, and I’m holding off putting things away for the sake of appeasing the part of my soul that really does want to observe the Lord’s celebration a little longer. I may be playing the part on the outside, but my insides are already trying to figure out how to better compartmentalize ornaments and pack garland.

So, today, I plan to make an intentional effort to sit down with my children and spouse and savor Christmas. The tree can come down later this weekend. Before it’s all swept away, I want to address its close with my little ones. Christmas isn’t just a *thing* we do from this date to that date. Christmas is holy and sacred, because Christ is holy and sacred.

Even if you’ve packed up and moved on – I mean we’re all de-cluttering and dieting already, right? – it’s not too late to talk with your people about Christmas. It’s never too late to talk about Christ and how it took the Magi many days to seek him and eventually find him.

The 11th Day of Christmas focuses on the faithful apostles. What a perfect day to talk to our kids about being faithful to Jesus over the course of the new year. We can talk to them about faith and faithfulness and how God is always faithful to us.

Christmas doesn’t have to end because the lights are down and the cookies are a distant memory. Christmas can be for today, tomorrow, and everyday after, because Christmas is simply honoring Christ.

::January 4::    ::Back to the Top::    ::January 6::

Simply Noel: January 2 – I Am the Reset

Simply Noel:

January 2 — I Am the Reset

Have you ever wanted to hit a rest button in life? Maybe in your career… your marriage… your parenting style… your attitude?

I have. I’m in one of those periods right now in which I find myself longing for a reset, a reboot. You know when you shut your computer down and it gives you the option to “update and restart”? Well, it’s kind of like that. So many nights, I find myself crawling into bed, rehashing all of the spots in my day that were either so crummy that I wish I could have a do-over or so glorious that I wish I could have a repeat. Some moments lead me to a pivotal point of learning. I think about the way I responded to my daughter’s twelfth tantrum of the morning and think, “What can I do differently next time?” I wallow in guilt and regret and promise to learn from the cracks in the plan. Then, there are those times that catch my breath in a different way altogether. Those instances during which reality strikes like lightning, and you see how beautiful and wonderful your children are. You see how fast and fleeting the days are and you want to just hold the world steady long enough that time freezes and you can treasure their smallness. But you can’t, and the morning slips into another night, and tomorrow when you all wake up, they’re a little older and life keeps rolling in the same direction as yesterday…

Until it doesn’t.

Have you noticed that major resets in life tend to occur after major incidents? Maybe it’s the birth of a new baby, the taking of a new job, a relocation, a remarriage, a tragedy, a New Year’s Resolution, an epiphany…

I don’t know about you, I realize it’s January 2nd and goals are hot, but I want my reset to occur after an epiphany. Have you ever had an experience happen that really makes you appreciate life? I remember when my third babe tumbled down our stairs and was life-flighted to Children’s Hospital. It was if the world stood completely still. Even in the blurriness of fear, my focus had narrowed so acutely and my mind was totally set on my child and the wellbeing of her and her sisters. Nothing else mattered. Things were scrambling but I was also stuck in slow motion. Each second meant something.

The same thing occurred after my miscarriage years ago and following my husband’s sudden job-loss a decade ago. Yet, when the shock wears off, the trauma begins to heal, or the newness of a situation isn’t so new anymore, you slip back into the normalcy of life. Sometimes, it’s a new normal, but it becomes a “normal” all the same.

It’s the start of a new year. Who needs a new “normal”?

I need a new “normal.”

If I’m being honest, we stumbled through much of the past 365 days. We walked through the still unfamiliar territory of homeschooling, suffered a tremendous blow to our personal life, and lost a treasured family member. To say I don’t wake up wishing life looked differently most mornings would be a lie. But, each day is a new choice — to walk limping or to put on God’s Armor and tell my soul to rise and go in His strength, grace, and truth.

I am the reset. You are the reset. At any moment we can chose to be the new start we so desperately desire to see. It’s a battle, for sure, but it’s a winnable battle.

Some of us choose a word for the year, and that word becomes our war cry. Some of us place scripture and visual reminders around the house to snap us back to reality when our mindsets are less than rosy. Some of us practice daily gratitude as a way to focus on the good and the true that is so often missed, although right in front of us. Some of us stop and pray. Some of us sip coffee with a friend who breathes life into weary bones, igniting visions of a beautiful future. Some of us stop and grab the face of a loved one and just relish in the way their eyes sparkle when you say the words, “I love you.” Some of us do all of the above and then some — to reset.

There’s nothing magical about the calendar. God’s given you the gift of yesterday and today, and there’s a good chance tomorrow will be waiting for you, too. As January turns to February, don’t let the newness wear off. Any day of the year, any hour of the day, is a great time to reset if you need to.

xo,

Kristi

fruit

Klover House Christmas:

Today, I walked around my home and tried to figure out what I wanted each room to feel like over the next few months.

Im a minimalist when it comes to decor, and I often try to decorate once per season. That means, you’ll find more “winter” items than Christmas. You’ll probably be hard pressed to find Valentine’s decor, unless it’s a bouquet of fresh flowers and a bowl of chocolates. I try to decorate with purpose, meaning, and in such a way that requires minimal rearranging and dusting. Honest.

I know I’m not alone in that camp. This is a tricky time of year, because the festivities are coming to a close, as we’re on the ninth day of Christmas. Holiday decor is being tucked away for another year, but our homes are still begging for warmth and coziness as these barren months await us.

My challenge to you is to take a house-walk, as well. Think about how you want its inhabitants to feel in each space. Work with what you already have and create a clean, cozy, warm and welcoming home for the people you love. It doesn’t need to be fancy. As for me, I want my home to say to my family: “You are safe. You are loved. You are meant to be here. All this is cultivated with you in mind.”

January 1    ::  Back to Top   ::   January 3

When Writer’s Block Reveals a Stumbling Block…

An Easy Confession

Recently, my neighbor had joined us by the fire in our backyard.

(I love my neighbors. I feel that they genuinely like me and our family. Our street is this little slice of neighbor-heaven. It’s a judge-free, watch each other’s kids and bake each other keto-friendly strawberry pies kind of place. I’m one blessed girl. So, now that you have the backstory, you’ll understand why I can so freely share my heart with them. )

As we sat by the fire, our kids running around in the adjacent yards, torturing lightning bugs (aka fireflies), she asked if I was still writing, mentioning that she hadn’t seen anything shared on Facebook lately. Without hesitation, I admitted, “Not really. There are people in our town that don’t like me, and, honestly, I don’t want them reading it.”

The confession came so easily, and I can tell you from my heart of hearts that I was being 100% truthful in that moment.

In the Beginning

I realized eight years ago when I started this blog (formerly called “Ava & Isla”) that my posts wouldn’t always be liked, or praised, or even read. I understood that strangers from all across the globe would have instant access to the inner workings of our home, my life, and my brain. I accepted my destiny as a “writer”, because it was a passion I knew would never subside. I love writing. Oddly, I was never a diary-keeper, and I rarely wrote letters. Even as a Christian in my teens, it pained me to journal my thoughts to the Lord. But, the words were always in my heart, churning around in my soul, and when blogging became a known “thing” to me, I couldn’t imagine my life without this outlet. I still can’t. It’s a part of me. It’s become a huge part of my story.

I’ve said it before, when I started out, my intended audience was small – God and my four daughters. I wrote frequently for EJ, too, because in some way, I feel like my words here are like prayers at times, and by typing them out, I often imagine them traveling to Heaven in whispers. If it’s out here – really out here – then surely, EJ feels it and knows me better for it.

I’ll never forget the first time a woman reached out to me via email, thanking me for a post I had written. I couldn’t wait to show my husband. I swelled with such thankfulness. Each of her words was worth a thousand hugs from Jesus Himself to me. I knew then that if I could reach just one person with my transparency here, it was worth the late nights, the vulnerability, the risks… I wrote about my kids, my family and home, my illness, pregnancies, marriage, faith, and miscarriage with very little restraint. I held myself to a few very simple, yet vital, standards: honor my husband and kids with my words, respect their privacy as well as my own, remain honest and real, and write as if each post would be handed to Jesus in person for review and approval.

I’m sure I’ve failed along the way, but I have tried to cling to those standards. I am so proud of this space and the good it has done in my life. I’m so thankful for the people that take time from their already busy days to read what I write. I’m so humbled that I have even the slightest following. And I look forward to the future with excitement, because I know that this place is still just an early chapter in the bigger story I’m written into.

Shutting Down and Shutting Out

All that to say…I haven’t been here consistently for a long time by choice. I want to be here, but I took out a lock and key of sorts last year and must have subconsciously made the decision to shut everyone out.

You may know from some past posts that I have struggled with relationships. I am the type of friend who finds a select few people that I want to form sisterlike connections with and give it 100%. For the most part, I consider myself liked and respected, but in every bushel, you’ll inevitably get a bad apple or two. I’ve had my share of bad apples, and they’ve deeply affected my writing.

I don’t know about you, but if someone literally lives on social media but can’t hit the “Like” button when it’s a sweet pic of your kiddo or an updated profile pic, they should probably refrain from cyber-stalking, -bullying, gossiping, and trolling. and they most definitely are not a friend.

I always remained cautious of the strangers on the internet, but sadly, it’s been people within my community and even close circles at times that have been behind every memory of heartache associated with this blog. Texts suggesting that I dishonored my child by revealing that one is officially a professional fit-thrower and has caused me to stretch and grow every last parenting muscle in my being… calls late at night from people who have no active role in my life advising I take down posts… fellow Christian sisters spreading gossip like poison, as if my personal life was their tabloid… people who don’t give us the time of day contacting my husband at work to check on the state of our marriage… combative private messages, so no one can publicly see the daggers thrown… sitting silently in a room with people I wrote posts for, smiling as they sang the praises of the writers in the room, calling them by name, until they reached my chair…

These are the extremely watered-down realities that we’ve dealt with over the years, and it’s been a real struggle to continue to click that “New Post” button as time has trickled on. The more and more I deal with, the further and further my desire to write floats away from me.

When Writer’s Block Reveals a Stumbling Block

As I sat by the fire and admitted that to my neighbor, my friend, I realized the power that I had given to those few people and the power I had given to my pride. My writer’s block has been an act of defiance. It’s been as though I walked up to them and spilled my ink at their feet, saying, “No more. You no longer have access to my life, my heart, my family. No longer will I share with you the treasures the Lord is teaching me. You can’t have access to my dreams and hopes. You can’t even have access to recipes, for the love. I’m not giving you anything anymore, because you can’t be trusted with it and you certainly don’t value it.”

And, as He always does, Holy Spirit revealed the pride in that hurt and ugliness. If this blog truly is for Him and my girls, then why should it matter what they think of me and what I have to say?

I read a Bill Johnson quote today on a friend’s Insta Story, and it really hit home.

Your future is on the other side of a battle, your destiny is on the other side of the conflict and the only way to win the conflict is by using what God has said over your life.

Amen.

I know what He has said over my life, and it’s so good. It’s better than I deserve, tenfold. Nonetheless, He said it, and I believe it.

Jeremiah 29:11 is not a lie… He does have good plans for us. He plans to prosper us and give us a hope and a future. I’ve heard what He wants to do with little ole’ me, and, even though I don’t see how, I say, “Yes.”

Fresh Start and New Ink

My husband came to me about a month ago and made me a promise. He said that he believes in me. He sees what I am capable of in Christ, and he made the choice to get behind me as a writer and entrepreneur. One of my greatest weaknesses is understanding the technical stuff. (That’s his jam as a former IT Project Manager and now Project Manager in the marketing department of a major global company.) He’s so intelligent and just wired to understand all of the things that confuse the Nutella out of me. He has been researching blog terms, ebook ins and outs, best practices, etc. and has asked on multiple occasions why I haven’t invested any time into the goals set before us. I knew it wasn’t laziness or disinterest, but the motivation was missing. It was the crippling thorn of pride in my side. Every time I’d set out to write, I’d see those faces like scar tissue that had formed over my heart. Their faces overshadowed the faces of those four little girls I love and for whom I write.

Well, no more.

I’m back. I’m writing for them again. I’m writing for my husband, who is committed to helping me. I’m writing for my dad, who takes every opportunity to tell me how happy it makes him to read my posts. I’m writing for my neighbors, who enjoy getting to know this crazy homeschooling mom of four blondies (who often run shamelessly pantsless through the backyard). I’m writing for that exhausted mother of a strong-willed child who thinks that she’s the only one negotiating through multiple tantrums a day. I’m writing for that wife who wants to prepare a healthy meal and learn how to meal plan, so dinner isn’t a daunting task. I’m writing for the many who suffered miscarriages and need a woman who has walked through the muck and come out with the silver lining called hope. I’m writing for myself, because it’s a gift and an honor to be able to share so freely here. I’m writing for my God, because I believe it’s part of the story He’s planned for me, and to give it up would be such a poor choice on my part.

I’m writing for you, because you are here, and I no longer care as to why you are here. You may be here by accident. You may be here by choice. You may be my friend. You may be my foe. It doesn’t matter. You’re here, and I’ve promised to tell you the truth. I’ve chosen to give you the real-deal. And in return, you gave me a few minutes of your precious time, so thank you for that. I’m staring this conflict right in this face, and I’m so glad you’ll be there when I’m standing on the other side of the battle, victorious and able to write again.

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Be blessed.

xo,

Kristi

Chip and JoJo…This Is Us…Is Tuesday Trying to Put Me in a Looney Bin?!

Oh, Fixer Upper…what have you done to me?

 

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{Image Source: HGTV}

Gah.

Seriously. When I first heard the news, or saw it rather, on my Instagram feed, I kind of glazed over it. I watched the short clip of Chip Gaines and started to move on. Then, I read the comments, and honestly, people, I felt like I was going to throw up. I know, right?! I’m probably crazy. But then, as I sat and thought for a moment, (which you moms know we literally get A MOMENT to ponder the great things in life like what Joanna Gaines is doing next… lol), I was actually REALLY happy for them.

Imagine for a moment that you were asked to be the next HGTV star. HGTV, the Mothership of Home, wants YOU and your precious family to hunker down in the spotlight for, oh say, a few YEARS. Gosh. I would feel like, “Man, this is IT! Mama has ARRIVED!” Right? You know it’s true!

But not Chip and JoJo.

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{Image Source: HGTV}

Isn’t it so like them to see the beautiful tapestry that God is weaving for their lives from above the limelight and say with peace and clarity – It’s time to turn this page. That’s the couple we love.

Yeah, we loved them for coming into our homes every week, teaching us new words like “shiplap” and getting us more excited for #demoday than our hubbies are for Football Sunday.

We loved them for showing us what it is like to have a marriage in which the banter is loving and edifying – constant, “Hey, Babe,” and “Thank you, Chip.”

Yes, we also loved their intentional and sweet interaction with their children.

We love them for introducing us to fluffy baked goods and Johnny Swim.

We loved them for teaching us to look at our boring walls and bad carpet and see POTENTIAL.

We loved them for loving Christ and not being ashamed of their faith.

We loved them for taking every step in stride with poise, grace, and the utmost respect for themselves and others.

We loved them for their perfect blend of humor and class.

We loved them for their down-to-earth wardrobes and great shoes (I’m sure there was a noticeable surge in Free People flats and Hunter Boots sales when Jo came on the scene).

We loved them for their quirky junking outings and their serious love for their farm.

We loved them for their visionary spirits and determination to see things through from blah to beautiful.

We loved the way they championed every artisan and entrepreneur they worked with and gave credit where credit was due.

We loved their humble spirits and the fact that, even being on a major hit show, they didn’t own a single television.

We loved them.

We STILL love them for all of those reasons and more.

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{Image Source: HGTV}

But today, I love them for an even bigger reason – they sincerely love and listen to the Holy Spirit, and He directs their steps with a holy, graceful boldness that should inspire any and all of us. I have never in my years witnessed a more grounded and wise pair of human beings. They laugh and have a ball, and, at the same time, they march through life to the steady beat of the Lord’s heart. I mean, how wonderful is that?!

Chip, thank you for making me laugh. Thanks for showing us all that it’s possible to have fun with your wife while chasing big dreams and facing huge responsibilities. Thanks for never editing your goofiness out of the shows and sacrificing your body with every hilarious wall-slam. Thanks for being a God-loving father to your children, because they’re going to be sharing the world with our children, and that makes me smile. My girls already have four like-hearted people out there in the world with whom to tackle the future. Thanks for being the kind of guy that shows other guys (young and old) that it’s okay to laugh and enjoy this ride we call life. Men carry such heavy burdens for their families, but it doesn’t have to be a burden, and you embody that truth.

Jo, thanks for being that jack-of-all-trades kind of girl that I immediately connected with. I’ve been wondering for twenty years what’s wrong with me that I don’t have a single passion – one that I can pinpoint and chase down with 100% of my time and energy. You showed me that it really is a wonderful and blessed thing to be a woman who can fit into many molds and none at the same time. I’ll probably never meet you, but I love you for that. Thank you for showing us that it’s possible to mother well while doing beautiful things for the people and community around you. Thank you for eating cupcakes every episode. I love you for that, too. Ha! Thank you a million times for taking a risk in putting yourselves and your lives out there. You have inspired millions of people, and many of those millions probably look at you and your sweet family and say, “I want what they have – that peace and joy and kindness…” You have been a beautiful window into the heart of Christ for millions to see. Thank you.

And now that I’ve cried and praised and sighed and smiled… I’m going to hit up the DVR for “This Is Us” and lose what’s left of my ever-lovin’ mind.

See you in Waco someday, my friends. Praying for you and your next endeavors.

 

xoxo, Kristi

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{Image Source: TODAY}

If you’d like to see the Gaines’ video announcement, you can find it here.

Follow Joanna Gaines on IG here. Follow Chip Gaines here. Follow Magnolia here.

Building A Heaven Family Here: Danielle’s Story

Far too often, a woman miscarries a child and carries the pain alone. The world keeps spinning, our schedules keep moving, lives are never paused…except for hers. She’s different now. Changed without permission. No advance notice, just a sudden curve in the road that jerks her onto a terrain she never wished to travel. And if she never tells a soul (other than maybe her significant other and doctor), she may never experience the freedom that comes by sharing her story. She may never see her story bring healing to the next woman walking in those shoes… This is why we share, why we talk about our experiences, and why I am so eager to share other women’s testimonies when they are offered up.

I picture our testimonies like the washing of another’s feet. We take our pain, our loss, our grief, our uncertainties, and sadness, and we pour it over the next woman’s soul. But once you pour it out, something beautiful happens… The Lord takes that pain and hurt and doubt and mourning and before it leaves the basin, it has been transformed by the Holy Spirit into gladness…joy…beauty…hope…peace…

In our book, “Blessings through Teardrops: Conversations of Hope for the Miscarriage Mom”, we say that you’ve joined a club of sorts when you lose a child. This club is not popular by any means – no one wants to be in it, but what you will find, if you find yourself here, is that you are loved. You are welcomed with open arms and offered many shoulders on which to cry. You are given doses of hope by the bucketful, and maybe the most important thing you’ll find in this club is validation of your motherhood.

Your motherhood was not lost with your baby – it was born. Your child is as alive as you and I, if not more so. Safe in the arms of Jesus, in a world we do not yet know and understand, your child awaits your sweet arrival. We call you “Mother” here. And beyond that, we have seen time and time again the power and freedom and JOY that comes with taking that validation and channeling it back to your baby by validating their eternal existence as your son/daughter.

One way that we have done that in our family, and I have witnessed time and time again in other families, is we give that sweet child a name. Our EJ is spoken of often in our home, and we have such peace with our story, because EJ is very much a part of it. It’s amazing how we know. We know deep in our mother-hearts that our children are very much alive, and we call them by name. In doing so, we validate their place in our families, and we honor them in our everyday lives.

The story I am blessed to share with you is the story of Danielle. Today, June 29th, was the due date of her precious child. She is a mother of two such precious ones, and she asked that I share her story of loss, hope, and revelation during a time of great grieving. I pray that you will read her story and be encouraged. I pray that you take her words and allow them to offer you comfort in your own time of loss, and we both pray that if you are in this club with us that you would consider what she has to say in regards to your own story. It’s never too late to validate your baby’s life. It’s never too late to honor them with a name.

Danielle’s Story

On November 8th, 2016, everyone in the U.S. was up in arms waiting for our presidential election results. I was at home with my husband, Brad. Our nation voted in a new president that day, but mine and Brad’s world would be affected in an unforeseeable way. That morning, our second pregnancy ended. The second in 9 months. The second in our first year of marriage. I went to the bathroom, and realized soon after that I miscarried. The emotions swept over me. I went to Brad’s home office and told him through tears that I believed I had just miscarried again. I have never witnessed Brad cry, but we just held each other and wept. Bawled, really. Deep sobs of sadness and pain. Why did this happen again?

Through the coming months, I would experience grief. Waves of emotions. Sometimes anger, sometimes tears. Usually uncontrolled. There were other things going on in life during this time that may have exacerbated these feelings. But, mostly it was just this feeling of deep loss. Loss of life, loss of dreams, fear, confusion, and a feeling that everything was out of control surrounded me.

When God Gives a Name…

However, even during this extremely emotional time, I knew God was in control. I never felt mad at God. I certainly didn’t understand why this happened or what the future held, but I knew God was still there, even if I didn’t feel Him. And since we had already experienced one miscarriage, we knew it was vital to ask God to reveal our baby’s sex so we could name him or her. A few months after our first miscarriage, I was praying in my head one night. I prayed for peace and understanding. I was saying a sentence about our baby, and the name Josiah just flowed out of my mind into the sentence. It was then and there, that I knew our baby was a boy. That moment also gave us a name. A name I had never even considered or thought about. I knew it was the Holy Spirit giving us peace of mind and clarity over a tough situation.

In February, a few months after our second miscarriage, while continuing to pray about this same question of whether our baby was a boy or a girl, a friend sent me a blog post about a woman who had a miscarriage. This blog was about how the mother named her baby Rose and all the details of how miscarriage affected their lives. It prompted me to have a conversation with Brad. So, I asked him if he had prayed about the sex of our baby and whether he thought the baby was a boy or a girl. He said he believed it was a girl, but couldn’t remember why he had that thought. It was ok that he didn’t remember why he felt that way, because I also felt strongly that it was a girl. Even with only two choices, it was a big deal that we both had opinions at all, let alone that these opinions were the same. I then told him that I had a name I felt compelled to name our little girl who never made it past seven weeks. This name made me cry every time I thought of it in the weeks prior to this conversation with Brad. To me, that was a verification from God that it was the right choice. I told Brad that I wanted to name our baby Charlotte. For me, this name is an important name in our family, as it honors my grandmother.

However, as soon as I said this, Brad was in awe. He recalled that his parents, before he was born, almost adopted a young girl named Charlotte. To further confirm our choice, Brad’s mom, Kathy, was adopted as a baby; however, her birth name was Charlotte! There was such a connection for this name choice. Many times in the past months I didn’t see or feel God working in this extremely painful situation; yet here He was working out the details of our baby. Who she was. What she would be named. The fact that her father and I both knew she was a sweet baby girl. I couldn’t have felt a stronger reminder of God’s love than at that time.

Building a Heaven Family Here…

When you don’t feel the love, or don’t see the path you’re to take, or can’t understand the journey you’ve been on, God is still working out the smallest details to give you peace of mind, allowing you to rest, to heal, and to love your unborn baby in a deeper way. Right now, Charlotte is back with Jesus. We don’t believe she’s an angel looking down on us but we know she’s not alone. Her brother Josiah is with her. There are countless relatives with her. And, as of this June, her great Aunt Joyce is in Heaven with her. My Aunt Joyce sang to so many babies here on earth, because, man oh man, she really loved babies. I am comforted thinking that she is in Heaven singing lullabies to our sweet babies. I have peace knowing they are all so loved. That these babies only knew love. That they never knew fear or evil. It’s comforting to know that Brad and I will see them again, in redeemed and whole bodies, in Heaven one day when God calls us home.

Through it all, I am thankful. I am still grieving our loved ones, but I can have peace and be thankful. God freely gives the gift of salvation that allows us to know Him and come home to Him after this earthly life is over. And without God working on our behalf behind the scenes, we wouldn’t know this peace or be able to have the courage to share our story.

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A beautiful necklace my friend, Cessily, gave me for Mother’s Day this year.

Sing and dance with Jesus, our beautiful loved ones.

Josiah             3-30-2016 (due around November 29, 2016)

Charlotte       11-8-2016 (due around June 29, 2017)

Joyce Miller   6-2-2017

 

 

 

The Last See You Later

Her last words as his wife here on earth.

Her last “See you later.”

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My grandfather passed away a week ago yesterday.  His illness…acute leukemia…was so brief and shattering for our family.  In one month, just one, he went from initial doctors’ appointments, tests, and the unknown to a diagnosis we’d never expected and the doorstep of Heaven.  We were shattered.  Especially heartbroken was my grandmother.

 

The love of his life for 65 years tomorrow, loved and depended upon him desperately.  The days spent at the funeral home must have been grueling for her.  How I wish I could have somehow rewound time for her, taking her back to her kitchen table where we’d play Rummy 500 for hours and my grandfather would sneak a little love tap in as he passed her on the way to the coffee pot.  I can still hear her words…“Stop that!” He’d have a sly grin on his worn face and she’d roll her eyes and laugh.

 

They loved each other.

 

I happened to be standing at the casket the morning of his funeral service when my grandmother spoke her last words to his physical body.  I wasn’t expecting it, because, according to the funeral director, we were expected to leave and offer her a chance to be alone with him one last time.  Although, I doubt she could have stood on her own had we left her.  My father held her.  I watched her knees buckle slightly as she approached my grandfather’s side.  I followed and stood at the foot of “his bed”, as we had called his casket when trying to explain what was happening to our oldest daughters.

 

I’ll never forget my grandmother’s last words to her beloved.

 

I love you.

You took good care of me.

You were my best friend.

You were the best husband, father, brother.

I’m going to miss you.

You’re not suffering anymore.

I love you.

I’ll see you later.

 

And she walked away from him.  I was left motionless – struck by the monumental life moment that I had just taken in.  Things like that hit you so hard in the heart.

Those simple words may seem just that, simple.  But when you hear them trickle in a lonely whisper from the brokenhearted lips of one human who has lost her one and only…they become the deepest words this side of eternity.  Tears welled up in my eyes in agony for her aching soul.

Watching my grandmother go through one of the hardest moments in her life and hearing her last good-bye brought so much clarity.  I thought of my husband.  We are approaching our 8th anniversary.  Eight.  We’re still newbies when our union is stacked up against theirs.  There is still so much we have yet to learn.  As the weight of this new urgency to love him well fell heavy on my heart, I remember saying to him something along the lines of,

We need to enjoy each other while we are still young.  I don’t want to be in her shoes one day and look back on our lives full of regret.

When that day comes when one of us may have to say good-bye to the other…I want those same kind of words to be able to pass between us, completely free of regrets.

You loaded the dishwasher wrong…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You drove like a maniac…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You took a nap instead of helping around the house…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You left your dirty socks on the floor…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You woke up on the wrong side of the bed…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You forgot what I needed at the grocery store…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You burnt dinner…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

You made plans without checking with me first…doesn’t matter.  I love you.

 

You see, when that day comes, none of the trivial things will matter anymore.  All that will remain will be the love shared.  Was I your best friend?  Did I selflessly care for you?  Did I love you well?  

That is what will matter.

If I have to recall her words every day for the next sixty years just to be the wife I need to be…to be the mother I need to be…to be the daughter and sister I need to be…to be the friend I need to be…  I will.  

Will you?

Happy Anniversary, Gram and Pap.  In marriage, companionship, friendship…thank you for always being an example for us to follow.

xo,

Kristi

 

 

Alive Again: An Honest Look at Healthy

Here comes Big Mama!

Big. Mama.

That’s the honest introduction I received from my five-year-old as I entered the pool.  I smiled, trying not to reveal that beneath my skin, my soul was crushed, mortified.  Big. Mama.  Not Pretty Mama, or Sweet Mama, or even just Mama.  Big Mama.

I know, you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal?  She’s five.  She might be talking about your height or that you are just a “big” person in her little eyes that view the world much larger than it is.”  And you may be right, but what you haven’t heard over the past five months are the other comments.  The “when is the next baby coming out of your belly, Mommy?”  “Is there a brother in there?”  “Why is your belly so big, Mom?”  “I think you need to exercise.”

Thank you, Sesame Street and preschool for teaching my daughter all about physical health, because what she is retaining, she is kindly sharing with her big-bellied-mama.

The four-year-old taps on my stomach incessantly like it’s homebase or a bass drum.  I don’t know which, but neither feels pleasant.  Their small hands hurt my tender tissues, and their innocent words hurt my bruised ego.

I know, child.  I know your mama is big.  Your mama doesn’t want to be.  

But you can’t tell your growing daughters that.  I mean you can talk about health and self-control and dedication to a positive lifestyle, but you can’t express what you are really struggling with.

I feel fat, honey.  I don’t know how your dad is attracted to this hot mess.  I feel strangers’ eyes on my stomach.  I can’t button my pants and it ticks me off.  

You can’t really say those things when you’re raising four beautiful, healthy, innocent daughters who haven’t been tainted by a negative self-image.  I will never introduce them to self-loathing.  I will fight that fight to the end.  

I got on the scale the next morning.  We have one of those fancy-schmancy ones… And it gave me an honest look at myself and my health.  I had gained just over six pounds in two weeks and was teetering back into my pregnancy weight high.  Yep, I was weighing as much as I did when I had a human inside of me (and all that comes with it)!

Again, you may be struggling with weight too and look at me thinking, “She has no idea what it really looks or feels like to be heavy. (smh)”  You may be right, but I am heavy for me, and I am trying my very best to raise four daughters in a home that aims for well-being, not a number on a scale, so, while I know that number doesn’t define me, I also know that the way I feel isn’t healthy.  I feel the sluggishness in my muscles…  I feel the heaviness in my legs when I walk…  I feel and see the extra rolls that I am trying to hide under my shirts…  It doesn’t feel good, and I refuse to settle for less than my best.  (And I refuse to buy a new wardrobe!)  If my best was this at just a month or two postpartum, then fine, but Miriam is six months old now, and I know that I can do better.  Truthfully, up until this point, I haven’t been doing anything at all.

I had let diastasis recti get into my head.  It put a fear in me.  “Don’t do that, you may make things worse.”  But after seeing that disheartening number on the scale that morning, I knew I had to do something, because not doing anything is what has made things feel worse.

The other night, I waited until the kids were in bed and sleeping.  I changed my clothes and donned my running shoes, which hadn’t even been worn since I mowed the lawn for my hubby a month ago!  I left our quiet house and started a brisk walk beneath a peaceful, pastel sky.  There wasn’t a whole lot of running, and I honestly felt like I was on the verge of shin-splints about ten steps in, but as I completed my first lap around our neighborhood (three makes a mile), cresting a small hill, I was even with the horizon and I felt it.

Alive.

I felt alive again.

All of this time, I have been staying indoors feeling sluggish and worthless and anxious…  This girl that used to ask for and receive gym memberships for her birthday.  I had tried an intense workout video at home during my second pregnancy and miscarried the following day, and it scarred me.  I never touched another form of exercise since.  I’m recognizing these unhealthy choices now.  I’m recognizing not just the physical issues, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual ones too.  I took that first lap and felt free for the first time in a long time.  The smell of fresh air, the healthy burn in the quads I thought were long gone…  It felt so good to feel again, to catch my breath again, to believe in myself again.

I will succeed, not because I need to, but because I want to.  I want to feel that way every day for the rest of my life.  I will be that little bitty (God-willing) still walking those laps around the flower bed when my hair is white, because it’s worth it.

I felt my spirit having a chance to connect with God.  I was able to pray for my neighbors as I ran past unfamiliar porches.  I added about sixteen projects to my “Honey-Do” list, because some of those folks have killer landscaping!  😉  This is what I was longing for, and I didn’t even realize it.

I left my cell phone on the bed and the music with it.  I kept glancing at my new “live hands free” bracelet from Rachel Macy Stafford, the wise and amazing Hands Free Mama, and I kept thinking, Yes!  This is living.  This is what it’s all about – getting back to life…to my health…the outside world…the sound of trees in the wind and birds and rocks crunching beneath my feet…  This is living…being my best self, so I can be the best wife and mother for them.  This is what I’ve been missing over the past five years…

live hands free

 

I went for my second run/jog/walk yesterday evening.  I have a long way to go in order to jog that mile without walking breaks, but I’m confident that I’ll get there.  I drove my girls around “Mommy’s exercise path” yesterday afternoon, and we talked about being healthy and working our bodies, so they are strong and useful.  My oldest shouted from behind, “Exercise is good, Mama.  I think your belly is getting smaller!”  Her words didn’t sting this time.  Even if my belly hadn’t changed a bit in three days, my heart has, and my mind has.  I am becoming a better version of me for me and for them.  I’m proud to be their “Big Mama”, and I’m proud that they will get to witness my healthy, prayerful, and patient transformation for themselves.

And so why am I sharing this with you?  Because I know I’m not alone.  I’m not alone in desiring change.  I’m not alone in diastasis recti.  I’m not alone in miscarriage.  I’m not alone in marital issues.  I’m not alone in low self-esteem.  I’m not alone in motherhood.  I’m not alone in fear.  I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed.  I know I’m not alone in eating well, yet never seeing the scale move.  I’m not alone in feeling alone!  I’m not alone.  Neither are you.  I’m here.  I’m struggling, but I’ve decided to step into the ring and fight back.  I’m done with the pity parties.  I’m ready to be accountable to my community of sisters here and see where this new path leads.  Let’s take our lives back, friends.  Are you on this life-changing journey with me?

xoxo

Follow my journey on IG @kristi_kloverhouse.  See you there, friend!

alive again

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the letter that i write and never send

thirty years ago this december a tragedy hit our family that would prove to change the course of history.  my uncle, my father’s only sibling, died tragically in a hunting accident.  i was three.  i have one beautiful memory of him picking me up and throwing me into the air in front of my grandparents’ refrigerator, big smile on his face.  it’s the perfect, only memory to have and i have held onto it for my entire life.  i tie it to the stories that i have heard, the descriptions of him.  in a way, it has helped me to know and love him, even though i never got the chance, and i’m sure that is also why it has helped me to feel a deeper level of compassion for my father, my grandparents, and the only child he left behind – my cousin, the only other girl grandchild on that side of my family.

from early on, i knew she was special.  we all knew.  we could see it so easily as children, my brothers and i.  she was the apple of my grandparents’ eyes and in their grieving, they poured everything into her…their love, their time, their attention, their conversation, their finances, their hearts and souls.  all along, i knew it was okay.  i didn’t mind, and i understood.  i have a great dad, and i would feel such sadness for her loss and my fortune.  the fact that i had my father to play ball with, to kiss me goodnight, and to walk me down the aisle…i never once resented playing second fiddle to her in my grandparents’ eyes.  it was okay, and i would remind myself of this often.

it certainly helped that i grew up with another set of grandparents that took as much interest in their grandchildren as parents would.  on that side of my family there are twelve grandchildren, yet, they never missed a birthday, a chorus concert, a dance recital, a softball game, a bowling tournament, a graduation…  they drove for miles and hours to watch us play tournament ball.  they babysat seven of us at one time daily for years while our parents went to work and never once complained or treated us like a burden.  they were, and still are, saints.  i thank God for them and hold them personally responsible for my loving and compassionate upbringing.

i’m sure that those close bonds in a way helped to create a greater distance with my other grandparents.  there was also an unending tension between them and my mother that i never fully understood.  they never had a good relationship with her and i know that the stress from a sour relationship with in-laws definitely can add strain to a marriage.  my parents’ marriage finally cracked when i was a senior in high school.  so, it was no surprise that the only people from my father’s side of the family to show up at my high school graduation or graduation party was a great aunt and uncle.  that hurt.  deeply.  still does to this day. 

fast-forward through my time in florida earning an associate’s degree in christian ministry and then five years following, earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education…getting married…having babies…to today.

it’s still the same story.  still the same record on repeat.  no phone calls to ask how we are doing.  ever.  no invitations to visit.  why?  because they are remarkably capable of holding grudges. 

you see, they have been heavy smokers my entire life.  i used to love visiting them.  i would look forward to spending entire weekends with my cousin (who was like a sister i never had growing up).  i have so many great memories as an older child/young adult sipping coffee with my grandmother and playing cards until the wee hours of the night.  what she didn’t know…i would go to the bathroom after a couple of hours of being there and sit on the closed toilet.  i would bend over, woozy, pull my shirt up over my head and hang it between my knees until the intense feeling of nearly passing out would subside.  it didn’t happen once.  it happened over and over.  the hot flashes, the flushed cheeks, the ten minute trips to the bathroom…  and i never said a word.  how do you tell someone you love that their home is making you sick?  it was always so spotless, so organized, so perfect, but the smoke…  i couldn’t take the heavy, stale air, but it was never too much for me to handle.  i continued my usual visits.

then, i became a mother.

i couldn’t bring myself to introduce my babies to smoke, even in the womb.  i tried talking with them about it, but it was always a failed conversation.  i was the ridiculous one, and the space grew wider between us.

i knew i had offended them.  i tried to be polite about it.  my mother explained that they stopped coming to thanksgiving dinners at our home (when i was a child) after one of her sisters requested that they didn’t smoke in the house around her baby.  it was an offense worth giving up thanksgiving dinner.  that was just the way it was.  as i aged and was pregnant with ava, i realized something that i knew all along but had only then started to sting my heart.

my cousin had her first child and withdrew from everyone following his birth.  she was coping with things in her own way, but my grandparents couldn’t handle the distance she had put between them.  so, there i was, pregnant with my first baby, and for the first time in my life receiving phone calls from them.  until then, i was the one having to make them, but now i was receiving them.  they weren’t about me, though.  had i heard from my cousin?  is she alright?  please let them know as soon as i hear anything.  let her know they love her…  no, ‘how are you doing, kristi?’  ‘how’s the pregnancy?’  ‘how’s work?’  anything…  let us know if you hear from her, hangup.  over and over for the few weeks that she had taken to her privacy.  once the lines of communication reopened, i never received another call.

holiday conversations, phone calls made to wish them happy birthdays or to thank them for cards, all went the same way…me asking them how they were doing and then us talking about my cousin and her family for the rest of the call.  i could go further here, but i won’t.  i’m sure you get it.

as i continued to get pregnant over the following years, i would hear the same sentiments from them – why would i want to bring another kid into this world?  it’s awful in this world.  jokes about birth control and then haughty looks and scoffs as i tried to explain why we don’t use it.  our choice.  i would swallow the replies that i would want to say…  the subject would change to my cousin.  i would go home and write the letters that i would never send…  i would hear the Holy Spirit speak compassion to my heart and life would go on.  it has been a predictable cycle.

all of these years i made a conscious effort and choice to never hold her accountable for the blatantly obvious favoritism.  and as i withdrew more and more…it only justified it to them that she deserved it anyway, so what did it matter anymore?

earlier this year, i decided that i was finally done.  done thinking about it.  done caring.  done trying.  a great aunt passed away, and i received a text about it from my cousin.  it was the first i had heard about it.  7pm and i can’t get to the viewing b/c i am home alone with three kids (one of them already in bed for the night).  it sent me into a rant.  why didn’t i hear about her passing before this?  sure, it’s easy to peg me as the granddaughter who doesn’t care, who doesn’t even show up for funerals when you don’t tell them that someone in the family has died.  well, that opened a can of worms.  ‘they never called once to see how i was during a single pregnancy.  never came to the hospital to see our newborns or made us a meal.’ ‘did they even know i battled sjogrens?!  a debilitating illness that had me nearly falling down stairs and considering anorexia so i could give up running to the restroom after every meal?!’ i had had it.  they made sure i knew about every doctor appointment of my cousins.  they would change the subject to her during every.single.conversation.  i was done playing second fiddle.  thirty years is a loooong time to be reminded that people that you love and strive for their consideration and attention just don’t care all that much.

so, earlier this year when that happened, when i vented and was told how ‘selfish’ i was, i made a decision to stop letting the void hurt me.  i decided to not care.  i’d always be second-rate in their eyes, and it’s a-okay.

september came and my husband didn’t receive a birthday card for the first time in our six years of marriage.  well, people forget.  that’s not a biggie.  oh well…

october came…my birthday is tomorrow, and i received a card in the mail today.  an empty card.

also, not a big deal.  i had already received two other empty cards in the mail and expected it.  i don’t care about the presents, and i would rather people not spend their money on me.  it is not about the gift, or lack-there-of, but in my past thirty-two years on this planet, i have never, ever received an empty card from my grandparents.  fall on hard times?  i get it.  decide that your grandkids are old enough and won’t be getting gifts anymore?  no problem.  at least the other cards i received this week contained a thoughtful note and not just a signature…

so, already knowing the answer i texted my cousin.  ‘curious…still getting gifts from them?’  (i am paraphrasing.)  yep.  so, i was right.  i was purposely not sent a birthday gift this year.  my husband was purposely not given a card.  they had decided to send us a message, and i got it loud and clear.  and it hurt.  deeply.  i felt like that 18-year-old girl all over again.  knowing that my cousin still got a gift this year…just like i knew no one skipped her grad party.  knowing that i wasn’t even worth the five dollars that it cost to buy that card.

so i wrote a letter.  a letter that i’ll never send, and once again, i tell myself that i’m done.  it’s okay. 

i’ll always be the ‘other granddaughter’.  there are so many details that i am omitting b/c it would simply take too long, and why would you want to hear it all anyway? simply put, my struggle now is: how do i respond?  not in this single circumstance, but how do i respond in the long-run?  how do i show Jesus?  how do i take the high road?  how do i do the right thing?  and how do i mean it?  i can go through the motions, i can say the right words, but how do i actually feel them in my heart?  

my parents and husband reassure me, saying things like, “you know it’s just how it is.” “don’t worry; it’s not going to change…”

i know it’s probably not going to change.  more than wanting the circumstances to change, i want to change.

i’m sure, as with all of my woes and gripes, there are others out there with a much sadder story, with a much more broken heart.  i know.  most times, i kick myself in the butt and say, ‘get over it.’  but today, i just felt a little pitiful, and this is how i’m am dealing with it.  tomorrow is a new day – my birthday, and it is going to be spent with a man who loves me and children who adore me, and on sunday, our families are coming together to get a little extra pudgy off of some ice cream cake.  i’m hoping that God will give me a swift kick by then and help me to see this all a little more through His eyes instead of mine.

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