Thursday, November 21, 2019


Apparently, even after all these years, I am still surprising myself. One would think that at 44, I would have figured out who I am and how I operate. One would be wrong.  I am a faulty,  messy, distracted, fair weathered individual. I can be on it one day and completely scattered the next.

Actions speak louder than words.  And those actions sometimes have severe consequences. Severe enough consequences that can ruin relationships, change the course of a life and even cause a complete breakdown of person's ideology.

I find it disconcerting that I am always able to detect, point out and even call out poor behavior and decisions in someone else's life before I am willing to admit, confess and conquer those same behaviors and decisions in my own life.  I call out someone else's sin before I am willing to come face to face with my own.  Plank and speck. I even justify my judgement and need to convict others of their sin, forgetting that I can not be nor ever will be the ultimate con victor, the Holy Spirit. Taking on that job isn't one that I ever wish to have, especially when dealing with my hot mess self each and every day.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Matthew 7:3-5

Those planks tend to be messy, huge, and life stalling.  The existence and presence of so many planks can often blind and deter me from even attempting to take a step forward.  Usually because I have been focusing on fixing everyone else.  And when I pause, on days like today, and acknowledge that some serious personal housekeeping needs to be tended to, a knee is bent, a request for forgiveness is made, thanksgiving and praise is given to a loving Savior and an acknowledgement occurs of the grace and love that is bestowed to me each and every day.

When I pick up the pieces that have been mended not by own hand, a step forward is then possible.  Not only possible but commanded.  That first step is to love others, to serve others, to pour into the lives of other people.

Each time this happens,  I remember what I was taught as a child. Be the one that addresses the planks, not the puller of specks.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Too Many Battles

Too Many Battles

By: Kelli J Gavin 

  Life.  It is hard, isn't it?  Daily, sometimes, more of the hard stuff happens and it seems to pile up. Pile up so much that it can be debilitating. The heft, the burden of life can weigh so much, that it is immobilizing.

  When I was in high school, I was struggling during my junior year.  School, a couple of challenging classes with excessive amounts of homework, play practice, church youth group, babysitting. There seemed to be never enough hours in the day to accomplish what needed to be done. I was tired and I needed a break and there wasn't any break in sight.  My mom saw how much I was struggling. She saw me wipe tears away as I entered the kitchen. She saw me studying until 9 or 10 p.m. every evening.  She saw me become more and more quiet. 

  "Kelli, I know you have been under a lot of pressure with so much going on. I don't know that we can make school ever go away, but you can take a step back from a few other things. Knowing that you have made a commitment to be in the play, I would like to propose that maybe you take a break from babysitting and youth group for a month, maybe longer.  I know that you like the money you make from babysitting, and that you like spending time with your friends at youth group, but what if you just didn't attend for a bit? You can focus on school, homework and play practice. You can make sure that you get to bed at a decent hour each night. What do you think? Should we try it and see how it goes?"

  I started to cry.  I was so thankful because I felt like my mom was giving me permission to take a break.  She was giving me permission to pick my battles and letting me know that she knew I had probably picked too many. She was enabling me to put battles back that I shouldn't have picked in the first place.  Over commitment had become the biggest battle in my life.

  Now, as an adult, as a married mom of two teenagers, I feel I have learned a wise lesson from my mom.  I have learned picking my daily battles is essential. I find myself whispering, "Too many," to remind myself that most of the battles that I face were never intended for me to fight. 

 Today, I had the day off of work, but a to do list a mile long.  Deadlines looming, work contracts, errands, and groceries.  It took me 3 hours to finish everything on my computer alone.  But then I looked at my battle list for the day.  Too many.  Fewer. Put some back.

  Tomorrow is a new day without as many battles that need to be fought. And when something happens that may change my course, something unexpected that may weigh heavy on my heart,  I will remember my wise mother. I will give myself permission to take a break.  I will pick my battles, and when I realize that I have picked too many, I will put a few back.  I will focus on the new day that I have been given. I will be thankful for those family and friends that surround me. Because those are people that bring me joy daily.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


By: Kelli J Gavin 

When my grandmother passed, I felt defeated and utterly broken. She was the last of my grandparents left and I mourned the loss of our truly great matriarch. She was bold and vibrant, loving and forgiving, and an inspiration to anyone who had the honor to be in her presence.  Her loss spurred such a season of mourning and grief in my life, that I worried I would never pull myself from the miry pit where I seemed to dwell. 

Receiving a phone call from my grandmother's attorney was the last call I expected two months after her passing.  My grandfather passed away the summer before and I was under the impression that in their old age they had spent everything they had and that was left were the social security and survivor benefit checks that faithfully arrived each month in the mail and the equity in the roof that covered their heads. When the attorney left two and then three messages on my answering service, I knew I needed to make time to return his call. 

"Ms. Garlow, thank you for calling back. I was concerned that you had moved or that I was going to have to stop by your place of business to ensure contact. I would like to request a meeting as soon as possible.  I have sold your grandparent's home, liquidated a small life insurance plan which paid for your grandmother's funeral and final expenses and hired a small company to clear out their home. Anything that is sentimental and all furniture is now housed in the dinning room on the main floor and the rest of the home is vacant. The final sale will be complete the first of next month and I need you to claim anything that you wish to keep and give me the final instructions for the disposal of the rest of the physical property. Could we meet this Friday morning at 9 a.m. at the house?  We should be finished by 11 a.m.  Please bring a truck or trailer and at least two people to carry and pack the furniture and belongings." Mr. Smithers spoke so quickly, I wasn't tracking.

"Mr. Smithers, I am sorry.  What did you say? 9 a.m. this Friday?  I already have a truck and don't anticipate wanting to keep more than I can haul.  I will hire two men to arrive by 9:30 a.m. and they can start loading while we finish any paperwork and other business." I replied. 

"Splendid.  I will see you then.  You should know that there were instructions about a few pieces, but we can talk about all that when we meet. Have a good day and I look forward to seeing you." Mr. Smithers quickly hung up the phone. 

Pondering Mr. Smithers comments about instructions on a few pieces,  I found my mind going down rabbit trails the next few days.  Calling to secure a team of two men from the local college service agency,  I also made sure that I had plenty of thick blankets and boxes paper for anything that I chose to take with me. Busying myself with preparations for the meeting on Friday made me feel better.  I noticed by Thursday morning, I didn't feel so sad constantly.  I was still mourning, but didn't think that sudden tears were threatening to flood my cheeks at anytime.  

Friday morning as I pulled up to my grandparent's home, I couldn't help but smile as all of my childhood memories came rushing back to me.  Times spent running in the backyard sprinklers, sitting on the back porch eating watermelon with my grandfather, and helping my grandmother decorate the large home each Christmas.  Beautiful memories that I knew I would always hold dear. 

Mr. Smithers greeted me at the front door as I reached the top stair of the front porch. "Wonderful, I am glad there was a close parking space by the curb. This street is usually quite full, even during the day. I have the papers ready to go here in the dinning room."  

We both sat down and he pushed two pens in my direction.  There were flags on each page and I had no desire to read each document, so I quickly sifted through and signed each spot.  Three packets had been prepared for my signature.  Two pertaining to the sale of the home, and the last pile was for the distribution of a few small leftover investment assets, liquidating and closing bank accounts, and selling everything that I didn't want. I also signed a form which reimbursed Mr. Smithers for his extra time spent on everything involving clearing out the home and hiring packers and movers. 

My hand cramped near the end of third packet.  As I passed the signed pages and pens back to Mr. Smithers, I glanced around the room at all of my grandparent's belongings.  Hearing a knock on the door and conversation,  the moving men entered the dinning room and introduced themselves. Quickly giving instructions about belongings that I knew I wanted immediately, I asked the two young men to take the china hutch, the two side tables and coffee table that were once in the living room and sideboard from the dinning room. I located the China and kitchen dishes that had been carefully packed and labeled and my grandmother's jewelry, my grandfather's World War II memorabilia and all of the photo albums, journals and family keepsakes. I found my grandfather's black trench coat and my grandmother's furs.  Not sure that I wanted either, I knew I wasn't yet ready to part with them. I placed a star on each box I wanted and then moved a few vases that were still sitting on the sideboard to be wrapped and also placed in my truck.  I didn't have a need for any of the beds, dressers or the dinning room table or chairs, but knew I still needed to locate the sheets and towels.  My grandmother had the most beautiful pillow cases I had ever seen and I always knew someday that I would want those hand embroidered pieces of art so that I could continue to treasure them in my own home. 

As I made my way to the back of the large row of labeled boxes,  I found the sheets and pillowcases in the very last box on the floor placed next to my grandfather's chest. An audible gasp left my lips as I remember the last time that I saw the chest as a child.  

"Never, ever touch that chest.  That chest is your grandfather's and no one is allowed to touch it." My grandmother declared. 

"But what is in it?" I asked.

"That is none of your business.  I have never been allowed to touch it either.  Just promise me, your hands will never even grace the hinges.  Promise me."  Never seeing my grandmother so serious before, I instantly promised her I wouldn't touch the chest.  I was fascinated by the fleur-de-lis metal adornments and the rope handles.  It took everything that was in me to not touch the chest which sat in the basement of their old home.  I always wanted to even get a glance of it down at the bottom of the rickety stairs. And then one day, it was gone.  I knew not to ask about the chest and then I just forgot that it seemed to be missing from the bottom of the stairs.  

"Ms. Garlow. You should know that one of the things that your grandmother had listed in her final instructions was in regard to the chest.  Your grandmother wrote that under no circumstance was I to disburse of the chest on my own. That the chest was for you and it needed to go to your home. That opening it wasn't an option. You have to take the entire chest, contents and all."  I smirked at the attorneys final disclosure.  That sounded exactly like something my grandmother would request. 

"I will take the chest and I promise not to open it until I get home.  I think I am done with putting a star on all the boxes.  Those movers have done a great job loading all the furniture.  I am going to go outside and make sure that they started loading the boxes safely for transport."  When I went outside, I found only one box that should be moved as it was lighter than all the rest.  

Returning indoors I perused the boxes to make sure that each one with a star had already been taken outside and pointed to the chest.  "Don't open it. Just put it on the floor boards of the front seat of the truck."

"Of course ma'am." The second mover quickly replied.  

Mr. Smithers had also been given strict instructions from my grandmother from my grandmother to tell me about who had purchased the home, once purchase papers had been signed and the final sale was pending. 

Once everything was loaded,  I decided to do one final walk through of the home. The amazing home that I loved as a child.  Saying a silent prayer for the family that purchased the home, I prayed for the children, that they would enjoy each room as much as I did. I prayed for the parents that would raise their kids in the home the same way my grandparent's raised my mom and her siblings. Heading home, the two moving men that I hired, followed me in their car. So pleased with their hard work after they had brought all of the furniture and boxes into my home and positioned each where I had requested, I paid the two gentlemen in cash and tipped them well.  I remembered what it was like to be a struggling college student. 

I had requested that the chest be put on the coffee table in front of the couch.  Sitting down slowly,  I steeled myself for what I would find.  Slowly, as the chest creaked open, the smell of cedar and lavender wafted out.  My grandmother had placed the cedar chips and lavender swags to fight against any musty odors that may have sunk in over the years. Sitting in front of the open chest, I stared in disbelief.  

Apparently, the Purple Heart that had always been rumored to have been awarded to my grandfather, had found its resting place inside of the scarred chest.  My grandfather had never spoken of his wartime experiences, and even denied being hurt during war and subsequently sent home.  He had mentioned that so many of his friends had lost their lives, and he was grateful to ever make it home.  I remember my mother questioning if he thought he was diminishing the experience of those that served and gave their lives when he was only wounded and had the rest of his life to live. Whatever the reason, he valued the Purple Heart enough to keep it and store it for safety.  

Next to the treasured medal, was a picture of my grandmother and grandfather.  Oh, how young my grandmother looked. I believed the picture was from when they were dating, and turning it over I received confirmation. A handwritten note from my grandmother read, "Come home to me.  I will be waiting for you. You are loved."  Tears poked at the corners of my eyes.  Underneath, I found my grandfather's class ring from high school, his class ring from college and the small framed award he had received when he had reached 25 years on the job. I also found my grandfather's watch and wedding ring which my grandmother must have carefully packed away after his passing. Beneath all of these beautiful items, I found something I never expected.  There was a single envelope addressed to my grandmother with her maiden name from my grandfather when he was stationed in Europe during the war. The envelope was never sealed, nor was it torn open.  The flap had been neatly tucked inside of the envelope.  

"April 11, 1942

I miss you more each day. Know that I will always love you.  I won't overwhelm you with the details, but I am struggling and concerned that I may never see you again.  My friends are dying. More and more every day.  I have seen so much killing, so much death.  I can't imagine how I will make it three more months, even three more days.  If we are not meant to be married, if I do not return, know that I want you to be happy. Find someone who loves you the way you deserve, someone who will treat you like a queen and give you all the babies you want. But promise me you will be happy.  Promise me.  I need to know this one thing.  I love you.  I love you. I love you. Always. 

Tears streaming down my face, I took the envelope from the table.  The envelope had never been posted. My grandfather wrote this letter and never sent it to my grandmother. Checking the date on the top of the letter, indeed, he returned just over 3 months later to the United States.  He loved her the moment he met her, when he was drafted and was forced to leave her, all while he served his country, and he loved her the moment he was reunited with her after a 13 month tour of duty. He loved her and this letter wasn't meant for her to see, as he planned on returning home to his soon to be bride.  It also wasn't meant for me to see either. Until now.  

That day was the day when I knew that things wouldn't always be so hard.  It wouldn't always hurt so much to continue each day without my grandparents.  I would always miss them, but grief would no longer be so heartbreaking.

Thankful for these treasures, I opened the China hutch which was placed in the new desired location in my dining room. The Purple Heart, the wedding ring and picture, the watch, both class rings and the letter in the envelope were all placed accordingly on the top shelf. A shelf of honor. 

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Do You Care?

My daughter is a little drama queen. She loves music and singing and acting in plays. She also loves swimming. She lacks any sort of talent when it comes to sports, but can ride a scooter like it was her God given gift. My son loves drawing, golf, swimming and going for walks. Everything he enjoys is a very solitude act.

My husband and I have always enabled our kids to choose their activities.  We never forced them to participate in tee ball, little league or even any team sports. I never encouraged my daughter to try gymnastics, dance or baton like I had when I was young.  But I also never encouraged it.  We never signed them up for anything and then made the go against their will. However, there was a week long summer dance clinic that made me feel like that week was actually going to kill me in the end. My kids swim in the backyard in the summer when they want.  The go for walks and scooter rides. They tell us when they want to go to the golf course, the driving range or Top Golf. We are a content family without surrounding ourselves with the busyness of organized team sports.

We are also content with the idea of our kids not being involved in a ton of other activities. We make it a priority for our kids to attend church youth group on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. We also make sure that if our daughter wants to be in a play or volunteer through school or church, that she is able to do so.  We encourage our kids to have fun through doing the things that they like to do and we don't force them to do the things they may not enjoy just because other kids participate in those activities.  I never want to be a parent that passes on a Keeping Up With the Jones mentality to the next generation.  And that attitude can be formed when it comes to the acquisition of things or the participation in events or activities.

I have been asked if Josh and I have any plans for Lily to become involved in any additional activities.  Um.  No.  What?  Why? My daughter is in 7th grade, has asthma, lacks any coordination whatsoever to excel in any sport, but loves to act in two plays each school year, sing in choir, volunteer after school each fall and at church every other Sunday.  I have full confidence that she enjoys every activity she participates in and doesn't begrudge Josh or I for forced participation. Parents are already talking about college and scholarships and resumes.  My mind can't even wrap itself around the fact that we have two teenagers.  I can't even yet imagine the idea of Lily going to college.

Parents are a funny thing.  Of course we all want whats best for our kids.  But sometimes, parents fall into the comparison game. They even take more pride in the personal accomplishments of their children than they do in anything they have done.  And that pride can morph into a raging machine when they want to make sure that every other parent knows how well their kids are doing in comparison to other children. 

Nope. I just don't have time for it.  A humble brag, yes.  My kid is having fun in a play at school. The performance is this weekend. So proud of her.  Not- My daughter is the most amazing actress ever. - And then try to recruit the entire family and friend sphere to attend a performance of a junior high play.  Or- My kid loves to draw and he has really improved over the last two years.- Then post updated drawings.  Not- print out a million copies and and distribute them to everyone including the lady stocking fruit at the grocery store. 

My goal each day is to love my kids, encourage my kids and point them to Jesus.  My goal isn't to fill their day and frankly my day with more activities and more stress that make them feel like they just want to make it through each day rather than enjoy and savor every moment. 

Do I care that my daughter won't have the most padded resume or activity involvement when it comes to college applications? No. I do not.  But I do care that she has a kind heart. I do care that she enjoys helping others. And I care that she has time to play with friends, time to read, time to play games with her family and time to be a kid.  Because in a few short years, this world is going to ask an awful lot of her. This school will ask her to be an adult in a world where adults aren't very nice to each other.  This world will ask her to compete for positions in school and for jobs.  This world will ask her to focus on everything that doesn't matter rather than focus on the condition of her heart and mind.

So, for now,  I will not push.  I will not sign her up. I will not pester. I will not beg. I will not make her do anything she isn't interested in or be involved in anything she doesn't enjoy.  Because today, we are focusing on her being a kid. On having fun.  On smiling and laughing.  On enjoying this day that we have been gifted.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Never Disturb

Wondering what brought on a rush of emotions the other night, my husband wiped a few of my tears and gently asked me what was wrong.  My feelings were deeply hurt when I reviewed a text history with a friend. I realized that I was the one texting. I was the one asking questions.  I was the one initiating every interaction we had.  I continued to put in the effort and hadn't caught on that the effort wasn't appreciated.  That the effort hadn't been appreciated in quite some time.

I wish I could say that this is the first time it has happened to me. That it was the only time I shed a tear over a friendship when I realized it had played its course. After drying my own tears, I fondly remembered what my mom had said more than once when I was growing up. "Never chase anyone. I don't care if it is a friend or a boy. Some relationships are meant to last. Some, for only a short while. When you learn who will stay, hold on to them."

I think my mom knew a little about relationships playing their course. She had watched friends come and go. She had also grieved as she experienced her marriage to my dad crumble.  A personality larger than life,  she was driven, focused and sometimes too much to take in.  People felt overwhelmed by her.  But I realize now as an adult, that the relationships my mom lost, said more about the person who walked away than it ever did about her.

When someone loves another person fiercely, it can be scary and often disarming.  What if a person was hurt, even expected to be hurt,  and built up a few walls of protection in the mean time?  When all that love is directed at someone, it can be overwhelming. And usually when people are overwhelmed, they either shut down or flee.  And flee was what I saw people do when it came to my mom.  No longer answering phone calls,  not available to hang out or meet for a quick meal. And eventually,  that friend, that person who was once so close, was a fond memory. 

Never chase anyone.  I always listened to my mom. Well, I usually listened to my mom.  I won't chase.  But I also won't fall apart. I will miss my friend. I will miss texting, our late night laughs, our giggles and catching up over coffee. Our meals that turn into 2 then 3 and 4 hours long.  But I will never disturb them again.

And what if another text is received? What if an attempt is made to contact me?  I will love them like I always have, I will remember fondly a friendship that was important to me.  But I will remember the feeling of being avoided and move on. I will move on to the relationships that encourage me, to the relationships that restore me.  The relationships that I plan on continuing to treasure.

I Know What That Means- By: Kelli J Gavin for Writers Unite!

I Know What That Means By: Kelli J Gavin After my family moved to Minneapolis three years ago, my parents refused to visit us in our ne...