Friday, January 17, 2020

Abandoned



I have always loved exploring.  Whether it is a building, a forest, a mountainside, it doesn't really matter to me.  If I haven't been there before, I will always want to see it.  I want to walk hills I haven't tread prior. I want to sit in the tall grasses and make braided crowns with my children.  I also want to walk where someone may have never walked before. Each adventure bears a story that should be shared.

Sometimes dirty, unsafe, and long abandoned shanties, homes and buildings catch my eye.  I am normally a rule follower.  But something has changed in me.  When a No Trespassing sign is posted, it is as if I throw all caution to the wind and view it now as a Challenge Accepted. I have never been caught per se, but I have been yelled at, police have been called and I have needed to pick up the speed and head back to where I came from more quickly than I had wished. It is almost as if I have lead my entire life was a law abiding citizen, and I am now rebelling.

I wish I could draw or paint. I wish I was talented photographer.  I want to capture the curvature of the banisters.  The panes of stained glass, few of which remain.  I want to scrub the kitchen counter clean and imagine when the last meal was prepared in that setting.  I want to capture long forgotten beauty so that others may also enjoy it before it is completely gone.

As a child I remember standing in the doorway of a ready to fall down shanty a ways back in the woods.  Not sure who ever owned the land,  I know that many other people had already scavenged and found the last few treasures that were meant to be unearthed.  I didn't mind that there was nothing left for the taking.  I wasn't there, standing in that doorway, desiring to take anything from the dwelling.  I wanted to capture the stories of those that once called it home.  I wanted to to know who stood where I stood.

Was there a young mother who dried her hands on her apron as she called to her children to return home for dinner?  Was there a husband who rocked on his front porch after a long day in the fields? Did a boy whittle a toy sword on those front stairs that had long collapsed so that could play with his friends? Were corn cob dolls laid in a basket to rest by a little girl before she tended to her afternoon chores after the heat of the day had passed?

These were the story snapshots that I created.  The fictitious tales that were probably very close to true events. I committed them and many more to memory as if they were stories that were shared with me. 

The next summer, when I returned to the homestead, the modest two room structure had fallen to the ground.  The splintered sides of the door frame where all that stood.  The wood walls laid scattered in small piles here and there. And evidence of someone sorting through what could be salvaged was apparent. To most, it was the remnants of an abandoned fallen structure. To me, it was memories of a family home that I was never invited into but loved.

There are amazing stories everywhere we look.  And most of those stories are lost until we tell them or share them with others.

Be intentional about your storytelling.  Be overt in your explorations.  Leave the treasures behind.  But those stories?  Take those stories with you. Share them and share them often.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

May the Night Take Me

   


May the Night Take Me
for Writers Unite!
By: Kelli J Gavin 

I can’t do this anymore.  I live my life waiting. Waiting for my next meal or for it
to rain. Waiting to find something to catch the rain in.  Hoping it will be today. I wait
to hopefully smell coffee brewing again one day, but until then, I hold my mug and
remember a time when drinking the first cup each morning was the best part of my day.
I wait for the hunger to subside, and for that pain deep in my gut to lessen.  I wait for all
of this to end. But will it? Will it ever be any better? The only way out is death. I pray
some nights I will die in my sleep. Yet I continue to rise at dawn each new day.

I used to wait for Carrie to return. She must have been overcome by the road gangs. 
I wished that would happen to me. Not that I could have taken her place, more so that
I would have been with her and benefited from the same fate.  A fate that meant I
wouldn’t be here anymore. Waking up each morning and taking my first conscious breath,
I wish for death. It is the only thing I wish for anymore. 

Carrie and I had been together for 10 years before the invasion.  10 years is never
enough time when you are with the love of your life. She made me feel like a better man,
one that could and would succeed because Carrie was by my side. My wife, my
cheerleader, the lover of my soul. 

When I ripped my leg open on a fence I was attempting to jump over, Carrie said she
would go in search of medication, antibiotics, anything that could help me. She wouldn’t
look at me, but kissed me hard and told me she loved me.  Loved me so much it hurt. As
I laid in that bed wincing from the pain in my leg, I didn’t ask her to promise she would
return to me. 

The first six months, I believed she was coming back.  The next two years, I let my thoughts
get the best of me.  Carrie left me, lied about getting medication and never had any plans
of returning. How can it be true?  If she even felt an ounce of what I have always felt for her,
she would never be able to live separate from me. I was knitted to her and she to me. At least
that is what I have convinced myself. Something must have happened to her.

My leg has never fully healed, yet I was able to rid myself of infection.  The scarring is
still painful to the touch and my pronounced shuffle of my weakened leg announces my
arrival at our community meetings.  The community meetings I now run. I am in charge.
A small group of 37 which was once a large group of 94. Sickness raged and many
have given up. Given up in the night.  Given up on the hope a new dawn sometimes brings.
For now I will stay. I will lead this hodgepodge group. I will direct and mediate. Until
we decide what to do next. But then, I will pray again that the night will take me. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

An Audience of One

I have written and spoken in public about the fact that I do not make New Year's Resolutions.  It is something I have never done.  And I find myself on this New Year's Eve resolute to avoid doing so yet again. I feel that resolutions set people up for failure and disappointment. The reason is because most resolutions are Me Focused. Rather than a resolution that is Me Focused, consider all the ways that you can help and encourage others. And rather than doing it once or even twice, discover new ways that you can incorporate it into your life so that it becomes a habit. If a situation presents itself at any point throughout the year, act immediately to participate by giving of your time, your talents and your treasure. A heart change often takes place and then it will enable you to desire to help others, even when you feel you may have nothing to give.

My mother was a giver, a lover, an encourage-er, a pray-er.  We didn't have much when I was a child and at times, and we relied heavily on the kindness of others. Food, vegetables, canned goods, sometimes even camp tuition being paid for or money for gas and insurance would be dropped off, and even left on our front porch or in our mail box without any fanfare.  When my mother knew who the kind person was that gifted us something, she would thank them and make a recycled card. She would also sit with them, hold their hands, and pray earnestly with them. For their marriage, for their children and sometimes grandchildren, for jobs, for deep heart hurts, for finances, for vehicles, and often for answers to prayer.  She accepted the gifts of kindness, the gift of friendship, and knew that what she could give in return, was her time, and her ability to pray.

When my mom prayed, it was never filled will fancy language. She was never out to impress anyone with her ability to pray or say beautiful words. She prayed for others, but prayed to an Audience of One.  She knew her gift was intercessory prayer. She had the ability to drop everything at a moment's notice and pray. Pray diligently, pray earnestly, and sometimes, until there wasn't anything left to pray for. Her prayers of Thanksgiving were often why people would even seek her out in the first place.  When ungratefulness or bitterness would settle into someone's heart, when hopelessness and despair permeated someone's life and took up residence, my mother knew it was time to kneel. She prayed with people. She cried with people. She modeled prayer for people who couldn't yet pray for themselves. She showed hurting, sorrow filled people how to be thankful, even when it hurt. She prayed through the ungratefulness and bitterness, against the hopelessness and despair. She prayed until it hurt less. Until sorrow became but a shadow and the Joy of the Lord was on full display.

My mother's gift was the gift of prayer.  And what a mighty gift that was. Today, I am so thankful for her example, her witness, and her ability as a parent to show me how important it is to give and also graciously receive.  And sometimes that gift, is the gift of prayer.

This New Year, I will be praying. For my friends, and family and neighbors. For the people who approach with tears in their eyes and are not yet able to verbalize their need.  I will hold them in an embrace, and pray for them quietly in their ear, so only they can hear.  I will share cups of coffee and share Truth and Pray.  My prayers, like my mother's, will not be eloquent or perfectly worded. But I will will continue praying, because I know those prayers are said, for an Audience of One.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Nows



Emily Dickinson lived a full life.  A life she desired. Maybe not the kind of existence that others would have sought out, but she was content. She wrote constantly and the majority of her relationships with others consisted of only correspondence. She lived a solitude adult life, often avoided people and began to decline visitors.  She loved her younger sister and her sister-in-law most, and spent the majority of her time in their company.  She had written over 1800 poems in her lifetime, yet less than a dozen were published while she was alive. At only 55 years of age, a kidney ailment claimed her life. It wasn't until 7 years after she passed away, that her younger sister, Lavinia, discovered and published a large volume of her work. Not until 1955, was a mostly unaltered collection of her poetry made available.

Her poetry is something that I have come to adore.  In high school, while at the Forest Lake library,  my mom pointed out her collection. She looked at it, pointed to it and made direct eye contact with me saying, "Read it. You will never be sorry."  Not only did I read it, I devoured it.  I didn't understand some of it,  yet other portions, I felt like I could have written myself.


I often come across the following quotes and they cause me to pause.

The brain is wider than the sky.

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.

Tell the truth, but tell it slant.

Forever is composed of nows.

I think the last one is my favorite. When I first read that quote all those years ago in high school, I wondered a lot about it.  I thought it was one of those quotes that would mean much more to me as I aged than it did to me at that moment.  I was right. It does.

I have learned how fleeting each and every moment really is.  That those times we enjoy, sometimes the moments, few and far between, are to be savored.  Whether they are spectacular or seemingly mundane, those moments only happen once.  I find the importance of taking a mental picture. Of committing the moments to memory. Memories that I hold dear, and treasure.

This Christmas was the quietest Christmas my husband and I and our kids have ever experienced. No running, no racing. No stressing. We went to the Christmas Eve service at church and came home to have a lovely, mostly already prepared dinner with my mother in law and her husband.  I had cooked all the sides the day before and only needed to set the table and my husband prepared a splendid main dish. Today, it was just the four of us. The kids opened presents and Josh made a great breakfast.  We read, watched the end of a Christmas movie and I even took a nap. We had a great afternoon family walk as it was almost 40 degrees. We enjoyed a taco dinner and then watched The Santa Clause. My kids and Josh enjoyed frosted brownies. All together wonderful. Peaceful.  We will celebrate with my family on New Year's Day.

The peaceful Christmas that we experienced has been committed to memory. The now is one of the little pieces that adds up to forever.  Times with family, not focusing on anything else. It makes me want to experience about 100 more of these peaceful Christmases. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

All Of It


I wonder sometimes what my children and my husband think I do each day.  If they wonder how many hours I spend with clients, how many hours I spend in transit, or even how much time I spend at home working on mundane tasks such as laundry and dishes and packing backpacks for the next day.  I wonder even if they view it as work. Because I am self employed, I am not accountable to anyone except for the clients that I schedule appointments with. I keep my own schedule and my days are my own.

Most days are actually filled with clients, writing and editing.  Sometimes a bit of housework for good measure.  But I have found that it is all work.  Don't get me wrong, work doesn't have a negative connotation to me.  Work is important, fulfilling and essential.  Work is something where I see results.  I complete important tasks and then I am able to see the fruits of my labor.  But work sometimes can also be all consuming.

I work a lot at night on my laptop.  I catch up on emails, respond to client questions, and research purchasing decisions for clients. I write a lot of short stories, edit other people's work and occasionally write a blog post.  I edit my own writing, other people's newsletters and even map out plans for future writing commissions and projects.  It is all work.

There are times when I have to work when my kids are still up and awake in the evening. Once I get them fed and settled and occupied, the work begins. I have had to shush my kids quite a few times, especially this week, because for some reason they often select the room that I am working in to sing entire scores from musicals or they decide that watching Star Wars at full volume is a appropriate.  And I am easily distracted.

Lily will ask, "What are you doing?"

To which I will reply, "I am conducting business."

She usually giggles at this response and says something like, "Business. So much business."

The other day, I couldn't figure out what was taking Lily so long to get ready.  She was upstairs and I had already called her 3 times. I hollered up and asked what she was doing. She shouts in return, " Business! I am conducting business!"

Really, anything that occupies our time can be business.  I may have pulled a child of mine aside at church this morning to "conduct some business".  AKA, that child needed to be disciplined in a public place.

My husband and I went out today to finish Christmas shopping, to the grocery store and out to lunch.  The kids stayed home. Sure, we could have brought them with, but wanted to spend some time together and get a last few small gifts for Zach.  We had business to attend to.

Josh and I are making an asserted effort to spend time together or at least in close proximity as much as possible.  (We both work a lot and have a lot of evening commitments.) This evening after I fed the kids, Josh and I sat down to play a few hands of cards.  The kids kept interrupting with additional food requests and questions about iPad passwords. I turned to my daughter and son and said, "Guys, your dad and I are conducting the business of playing cards. We will be with you in a bit."  They already think we are weird, so a statement such as this isn't surprising.

All of it really is business.

Excuse me.  I have more business to conduct this evening before putting the kids to bed.


Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Letter To That Girl


I had just turned 18 and was so excited to start my Freshman year of college at Crown in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota.  It was the fall of 1993, and I was looking forward to starting my life as an adult. I was majoring in vocal music performance and taking challenging Bible classes and enjoyed the freedom that campus life provided.  I went to school with my best friend and was making new friends from all across the country.  I didn't know what was in store with this new adventure,  but I knew that I was now in charge of my making my own decisions and set out on an uncharted path.

All of these years later, I look back at this young woman who was all of 18, yet thought she possessed so much knowledge and wisdom. I see a girl whose smile was always painted in bright colors and who kissed a few too many expectant lips. I also see a girl who had a lot to learn.

A Letter To That Girl,

Girl, listen. And listen closely.  I am you, 26 years older, and dare I say wiser. I want you to know a few important truths that might make life a bit easier.

There will be young men and even older gentleman who pay you too much attention too soon.  Walk away from all of them.  Except that first one.  That first important one, (you know who he is) is the one that will teach you about what love isn't and about what you should look for in a lasting relationship.  That older gentleman will also hold your hand like he means it.  Remember the warmth it brought and remember to always be the last one to let go.  Whether it is a handhold or an embrace, hold firm.  And when he tells you you were important to him and you will be missed, believe him.  Know that your presence made a difference, even though it was only for a short time.

Work hard at school and then at work. Never cut corners, always put your best foot forward and be the person others can count on.  Pay attention, take notes, commit everything you possibly can to memory.  Be on time, stay late and be an example for others.  I promise you, you will do well.  You will apply for jobs that you are unqualified for, but because of your conversational skills and confidence you will be given a chance. And you will succeed many times over.  Never doubt your abilities.

When you meet your future husband, remember that you are young and cover your relationship with a whole lot of grace. Love will hit you hard and fast and you will realize what true love is all about. Do not let your heartache over your own parent's divorce make you doubt your relationship.  Your parent's relationship failed, yours will not. You will grow up together. You will be each other's best friend and you will seek each other out for comfort and encouragement.  You will love your husband through many mountain highs and valley lows. But your love for each other will remain constant. Do not lose heart. Your desire to walk with the Lord as you walk side by side will be the focus in your marriage.

You will struggle with health issues and bizarre diagnoses. You will see many doctors. Some amazing, and some you will believe should have chosen a different profession.  Those few amazing ones will set you on the right path, find medications that will help you long term and perform surgeries that will fix your broken and failing body.  It will be anything but easy. You will suffer, but you will suffer well.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Remember, He is the author and perfecter of your faith.  And your faith and dependence will grow during these trials.

You will be blessed with two amazing kids, but it will not be on your own timeline. You will wait for children.  Do not let this waiting crush you.  Spend time with your husband and enjoy each other's company.  When they are born, you will feel ill equipped, because you are. Rely on your amazing mom and equally amazing mother-in-law. They will help you, love you and pray for you. Do not give up. Even when you feel completely depleted. Because the joy you will experience from being the mother to Zach and Lily, will overwhelm you.  What a treasure these kids are.  You will grow and mature as a parent and you will actually be the mom that others seek out for advice and prayer in parenting. (I know this is super hard to believe.  But it is true.)

These are all big picture pieces of advice. But there are also a few small things you need to know.

It is okay if a friend walks away.  Those friendships were only meant for a season. New friends will come into your life and you will hold them dear.

Hold his hand in public. Don't be afraid to tell him that you love him. Because at the time, you will.

Be the person that doesn't share secrets that were shared in confidence. You will become the woman that is often sought out because you know how to remain silent.

Write that book. Write all the books. Take every writing and editing gig that comes your way. Do it sooner than later.

Love your mom more even when she drives you crazy.  She won't live a long life and it is up to you and your sister to make the time that you have with her absolutely amazing.

Stop at every house that has Christmas lights.

Be willing to get caught.

Your work can wait until your children go to bed.

You don't need 16 bins of Christmas decorations.

Always carry a blanket in the trunk of your car. There will impromptu picnics and downpours. There will be splendor. Let me repeat. Always carry a blanket in the trunk of your car.

If someone compliments a belonging, give it to them as a gift. You will have too many things. You will have all the things. You won't need most of them.

The perfect brand of jeans is from the Kohl's. Sonoma brand. You won't find them until you are 38. Buy 6 pairs. They will fit you perfectly and you will be able to buy them off the rack.  I know this sounds like a figment of my imagination, but believe me. You will try on every pair and never find a nicer pair of jeans.

Say no to clients when your calendar is too full. Put your family first.  Refer clients elsewhere when you know it isn't a good fit. The money doesn't matter.

Try being less confident at times. You will be a bit overwhelming but do not change who you are.

You won't always get what you want.  And 18 is when that starts becoming a reality.

Spend less money on things, and travel more.

Kiss your husband like it is the first time, every time.

And girl, read your Bible. Every. Single. Day.

Remember these things. And know that being 44 is just as amazing as being 18.

Always,
You from 2019










Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Stars


When I was a small child, I can remember my dad's appreciation of all things outdoors. He loved the woods and lakes and all wildlife that surrounded.  He found beauty in each snowflake, treasured the fresh air that could only be found in country living and turned to God's creation to supply for our needs.  He chopped trees and spent many hours ensuring we would have heat for our home by means of the basement fireplace.  Ahead of his time, he installed solar panels to the side of our home which created solar energy to heat our home and water.  By collecting solar energy, he made sure we had clean, and warm water from our well. He enjoyed hunting and fishing and knew that he could always rely on these skills to provide much needed food for our family.

I also remember my fascination with how much my dad loved the air that we breathe. Yes.  The air that we breathe.  He would take in air through his nose with such appreciation, one would think he was a wine connoisseur.  He would stand as straight as a tree, lift his chin, close his eyes and concentrate on breathing in. As he held his breath for a brief moment, I would often see a glimmer of a smile at the edges of his mouth. Usually, while his eyes were still closed, he would say, "Ah, how refreshing." Or, "Do you smell that?  That is beautiful."  Sometimes even, "I wish I could bottle this fresh air."  He would then open his eyes and return to the task at hand.

I learned over time, that his appreciation for the air that we breathed, wasn't common.  My dad took time to be thankful for the air while others didn't even think about it at all.  He viewed the air that we breathe as a gift.

My dad tried to teach me about the stars and the moon when I was young.  He watched the night sky as if it was the best movie he had ever seen.  He would point and I would follow his finger.  He would find books that would teach me about astronomy and space and give them to me as special gifts. Not for Christmas or a birthday, but from one admirer of the night sky to another.

I knew a young man in high school who was also fascinated by the night sky.  He would linger, in awe of the lit darkness far longer than anyone else.  When everyone had retreated or carried on their merry way, he would still be standing with his hands in his pockets, his jacket pulled tight around his neck and his head bent back a bit to take in the splendor.  I remember smiling at him as I silently watched him enjoying the the vast display.

When he called on the phone, his conversations never began with Hello. "Kelli, go outside right now and look to the north!  The stars and constellations are breathtaking! The Northern Lights are amazing. You won't believe the size the moon tonight!"  And then the line would go dead. He had only a moment to share his excitement with me, before the beauty beckoned him to return outdoors.

Now, all these years later, my 16 year old son is a lover of the outdoors and the same night sky. Even in winter, he will exit the deck door without a jacket to take in the first stars of each night. He will shout and count as the stars appear. When he returns indoors, he will yell, "Mom! Did you see the moon? Look at the stars!" And I will grab my jacket and return to the deck where we can take in the sights together. I love this time with my son. I love that he seeks out the darkness to discover the light.

I like the kind of people who get excited over the stars at night.

Abandoned

I have always loved exploring.  Whether it is a building, a forest, a mountainside, it doesn't really matter to me.  If I haven'...