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, 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 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 gentlemen 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 be 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 2020








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.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Walk With Me


I welcome the night. I welcome the stars and the moon. I even welcome the drop in temperature.  I welcome sleep and the restoration that occurs when I shut off my mind for few hours.  I welcome the peace that sweeps over me. 

Winter in Minnesota can be brutal. I can't pretend that it isn't. Even just today, an almost blizzard hit mid day when I was running errands.  I exited my car to fill the tank with gas and the wind hit me hard and fast. But then I saw the evergreen trees and the giant slow falling snowflakes.  The silence, even while in a gas station parking lot, was immense.  Beauty surrounded and I took my time to enjoy the sights before me.

I have never enjoyed any winter activities.  I don't snowmobile, I don't ice fish, and I do not ski. I enjoy winter walks, but on well plowed paved paths and when the temps reach 30+ degrees. But one thing that I have found that I enjoy is solitary winter walks.  Walks where I can see my breath. Walks where the moon seems to be so close, that I could actually reach out and touch it. Where the stars shine so brightly, they always light my way home.

My son and daughter have learned to appreciate the beauty of winter even though they have yet to find comfort in the freezing temperatures. Within the next 24 hours it will be in the negative temps again.  The windchill will make it even worse.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate our family Christmas. My husband's side of the family will gather and share a meal and wonderful treats. We will give and receive gifts and we will enjoy the time we have together. Cousins will race and play until they can't race and play any longer. Adults will laugh and share stories of Christmases past. And at the end of the day, when we return to our own homes, smiles will linger, stomachs will be full, and contentment will remain.

These cold days are days to be treasured.  Adventure can be found around each corner.  And tomorrow night, will not disappoint. Even as the temperatures dip, a walk will need to take place.  Sometimes I believe the stars and moon beckon me. The silence of a moonlit walk can be the perfect end to a beautiful day.

So join me, near and far. Take that walk, wrap up in your scarf and mittens.  Pull your hood close and locate your boots.  Let's take in all that this winter has to offer.  Enjoy the silence. And report back about the joy you found in a solitude winter walk.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Sledgehammer


Sledgehammer 
By: Kelli J Gavin
Writers Unite!

Stop telling me what to do.

I don't need your guidance.

I have the instruction manual right here! 

It is in English and I can understand each of the simple steps!

If you say "Righty Tighty or Lefty Loosey" one more time, I may punch you in the throat.

It's a screwdriver, not a sledgehammer.

You continue to act as if I never fended for myself before I met you.

How do you think all of the Ikea furniture was assembled?

Do you think I haven't replaced a license plate on my car?

For the love of all things Holy, go find something else to do.

I am not a child who needs supervision.

Believe it or not, I was the one who attached the new knobs on the kitchen cupboards and drawers.

You even told me how great they looked. 

Did you think they magically appeared?

Maybe I applied them with duct tape and they miraculously stayed in place?

If you can trust me to function on daily basis and run this household, why is it that attaching a new door knob must be above my skill level?

I GIVE UP.

Take your stupid screwdriver. 

The screws are on the floor.

Do it yourself.

If you need me, I will be in search of the sledgehammer. 


-This is the perfect example of why I love listening to other people's conversations.  



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