Open letter to a New Friend…

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 12.18.35 pmMoving in any stage of life is a challenge. Once the basic needs are taken care of and you are able to locate the grocery store, a couple of restaurants, the nearest gas stations and have settled into a routine, the next need comes into play. The need for community and friends. When I was growing up and moved, you were thrown into a pool of peers, almost like forced socialization. When I moved as a newlywed we had the freedom with time and flexibility to meet other young couples. As we transitioned into the early stages of family and moved, again, that stage of life seemed to naturally create an opportunity for friends, motherhood is a time of desperation that brings you together with others struggling in similar life journeys. Early stages of parenthood gave way to connections when the kids entered elementary school and often crossed over into the nearby church we attended. So making friends, while sometimes daunting, in each situation had an obvious “entry point.”

This most recent move, however, has created a new set of difficulties in the realm of friendship. We have moved to an area of the country that is more static with people moving in and out, compared to where we were in Texas. In Texas, there was always a new person who had moved to town and we all had been that new person at one point or another. We welcomed them, just as we had been welcomed. Invited to lunch after church, asked to join other families for a get-together, or every person just made a point to continually greet one another and talk to one another when we ran into one another. Community happened with ease. In our new home in our new state, people have their “set” circle. Comically it reminds me of “Meet the Fockers” and the “Inner Circle of Trust.” To break that circle takes an inordinate amount of time, which brings me to my next challenge. The current reality of my children’s schedules. They are active, smart and involved. I do not plan to change that, however, that severely limits my ability to direct my focus to other things. Namely the time that it would take to “break” into a circle. So I write this letter:

Dear New Friend,

My family came here by unusual circumstances. We were not prepared to move here. We thought our children would graduate from the school district where they had started Kindergarten in Texas.

The decision to be where we are now was one that took an adjustment. We left a lot of things that we enjoyed. Great schools, great friends, awesome grocery stores, incredible restaurants, and a church home. One unusual tidbit, I grew up here in Arkansas, graduated from both high school and college in this state, my parents, sister, and family, and youngest brother and family live in the state, along with an aunt, uncle, and cousins. However, we have not found community here.

Our kids are adjusting, but we worry. We really hope they won’t hate us and they will find life-long friends here and keep the friends that they left behind.

We didn’t come here altogether. It was so hard for us to make our kids leave the only home they had ever known that we tried for me to stay with the kids in Texas while my husband worked in Arkansas. We made the choice to become a two household-still marriage intact family (despite all the rumors of divorce that surfaced). We worked hard to make it work. It kind of did. However, the it kind of didn’t was what brought us together in our current residence as a family after a year apart. My kids still wish we had tried harder to keep up the two households.

Don’t get me wrong. Our kids are great. They have adjusted and made the best of things. They excel in their academics and extra-curricular activities. However, they aren’t making those deep friend connections I would hope they would have by now to the extent I had hoped, and I can’t help thinking that is because I am not making friends either.

I had great friends in Texas. I also have a few great friends from the places I moved before Texas. I think if you met them, they would tell you I am a good friend. Serious, but funny. Will love your kids like I love my own. Loyal like a labrador. Love my husband. Struggle with some of my childhood experiences. Love my immediate family fiercely. Probably brag too much about my amazing kids… see there?

I want to have great friendships here too. However, there seems to be a lockdown on getting into the friendship circles here that is like Fort Knox, and I don’t have the time or the will to figure out the combination.screen shot 2019-01-30 at 2.57.09 pm

I am going to lay it bare here in this letter. My hope is that someone will read it and like it. Maybe you will give things a shot or when you do read, even if you don’t live close to me, you will give that new girl at work, at your kids basketball game or at church a little more of a smile, offer her an invite to coffee, or just chat her up a bit and take the edge off of her attempt at making friends. Trust me, I have put on a brave face, attempted to insert myself into a “set” circle and been “ghosted.” (By the way, I didn’t realize at forty-six adult women can make you feel like a teenage loser like in high school!)

Back to a little about me. I hate to exercise but try to because I know it is best. I love to read but with my schedule, I have become an avid audiobook-phile. I like to craft but rarely do because of time. Not huge into cooking although I am not bad at it. Like to bake, but only from about October 1st to the end of February.  I also love dark beers, a glass of most kinds of wine, a good gin and tonic, or a cranberry vodka. I am a huge college football fan but not so much an NFL fan. My favorite outfit is yoga pants, a soft t-shirt, and bare feet, however, most of the time you will see me dressed semi-casually in typical 40-something appropriate outfits with my TOMs wedges, wishing I was in my yoga pants, t-shirt and bare feet. I have two dogs, two cats, and a pet snake. I have a gift of learning a little bit about someone and determining based on that information what wine they like or would like… I have been given the name of #winefairy, and I carry that honor with pride. I love the idea of going to social events, trying new restaurants and experiencing community, but when push comes to shove, I am a homebody at heart.screen shot 2019-01-30 at 2.57.39 pm

Church has been a constant throughout my life, but the real relationship between me and Jesus has been more real in the past twenty years of my life than it was from age 0-26. If you were to try to put who I am on a t-shirt it would say “I love Jesus, I cuss a little, drink a little more, and love hard.”

In addition to all this, I am a public educator and am passionate about excellence in PUBLIC education. Other than Jesus, I believe education is the key to transforming lives. I am passionate about this part of my life, too.

So here it is. Take it or leave it, but this is who I am and I think it is pretty o.k. I am not sure why making friends has been more difficult this time. It hasn’t been for lack of attempts on my part.

If you have read this far, thank you. I hope as you read this it encourages you to be open,IMG_1668 reach out to the “new people” in your path and invite them into your “circle.” This may not improve my current friend situation, but it makes me hopeful. After all, I am a good friend material who wouldn’t want to be my friend!

Sincerely,

Kirsten

 

 

2019 and Our Family’s #oneword

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It iThe discussion of our one word was much less of a process this year. I sent a group text asking for the three words that each person felt was a word that would guide us through 2019. The two words that were common among us four were FINISH and BALANCE. After a little discussion, it was agreed that BALANCE, if we worked toward, would also address the term FINISH.

Last year our word was EMBRACE. There was a lot of opportunities to do that. We moved states, changed jobs, changed schools, etc. We kept our chins up, and we grabbed hold of this change. It hasn’t been easy, but when is change like that easy? I was watching/listening to a marathon of DIY’s “Building Off the Grid.” Every 30-minute show at some point the novice builder building his “off-grid” cabin would say, “This was harder than I thought it would be.” At one point I rolled my eyes, I mean, what did he expect? It is Alaska, rugged terrain, remote and a very limited opportunity to build before the eight-month winter sets in, what was his first clue this would “be hard?” But then, I realized, he knew the challenges and yet the hardships were more than he anticipated. That parallels so closely with this last year and the move. I knew and anticipated the hardships, but I still didn’t realize it was going to be THIS HARD! So we leaned in and we embraced it. I can’t tell you how thankful I was for our #oneword EMBRACE both for myself and as a parent.

Image result for balanced life memeWe have so many things coming toward us and we are planning for in 2019. It is no accident that BALANCE was our #oneword for 2019. Honestly, it will be the greatest challenge for me. Perhaps as the coordinator and chief scheduler of all events and logistics, this may have been decided on as more a hope for me, than a need for our family as a whole.

We have needs that if not met we will not achieve BALANCE.

Those include:

-Being healthier as a family (exercise and eating)

-Being intentional and purposeful with our travels, adventures, and opportunities

-Finding a church home

-Investing in ourselves and in others

-Discovering and creating an opportunity for community

My greatest hope is that just as our #oneword guided us through 2018, our #oneword for 2019, BALANCE will do the same.

I know for me it will be a great integration between our family #oneword and my personal #oneword for 2019- FOCUS. You can read more about my personal #oneword on my professional blog: My 2019 #oneword- FOCUS: Yes, It is a Revisit!

 

This is a STAGE in life… right?

I love my kids. I love my husband. I love my job. I love serving in my church. I love my family. I love my friends.

Easter 2017

Easter 2017 with Eric. Love this picture of us!

I love spending time with my kids and my husband. I don’t see my time I spend on my work outside of the normal working day as intrusive or excessive; I enjoy every minute of my job, even when some days the hours are long. I love serving in my church. I love and treasure the time I spend with my family. Unfortunately, not much is left for my friends.

As my time is being taken up more by my children’s events and activities, it leaves very little time for “friend time.” For me, if there is a conflict between my children’s events and activities, time with my husband and/or family time and an opportunity to spend it with my friends… it will always be kids, husband and family. Right now those conflicts are happening so much, I find myself disconnected from friends.

It’s my fault. However, I wouldn’t change the decision I have made to put my kids/ husband/family first. I have even seen it said that if you find your friendships fading it is because you have become self-absorbed or busy with your life, and not taken the time to invest in your friendships. I don’t disagree… but I can’t tell my kids I won’t be at their events, performances and moments. I also can’t tell my husband I would rather go out with the girls on a Saturday night after he has been traveling weeks at a time and wants to spend time with me.

So that brings me back to finding myself disconnected from friends. I don’t like that my friendships have grown apart, that I don’t have meaningful conversations with my friends on a frequent basis, or that I don’t get invited to fun nights out. That is on me.

So I ask myself, how do I fix that?

Well, you have to be a friend to have a friend, right? That requires time and investment, and I am right where I started. So I think I am resigning myself to the truth about this time in my life… it is a STAGE.

Kinder round up kris

Text from the parents of a family that Kritter gave a tour for Kindergarten Roundup. This is the school where he attends and I am the Assistant Principal.

I apologize to all my friends who may have assumed that I just didn’t want to be friends anymore because I never call… not true. I just am trying to stay one football game and musical performance ahead of my kiddos and still have a meaningful marriage.

I hope I don’t look back and regret that I didn’t make more effort to find the time for my friends. I do know I don’t regret a moment I have been present to treasure my husband or my kids.

It has been the surprise moments where I have chosen to be there for my kids that I have seen God work. Seen how they are growing up into amazing adults. They have also seen how their mom and dad love each other, because we spend what little time we have, together. So this STAGE… it won’t be long, and I am working on being content with that.

EmBug, age 14, Leading Youth Worship May 3rd, 2017

In This Storm…

plot twist

I have fallen into a Social Media trap. I post and brag about the perfection in my family’s life. I don’t share the ugly, the weaknesses, the shortcomings, the failures. It was ok for me to share the perfection. I was good with sharing, bragging, boasting of the things I had done, my husband had done or my children had done.

“Look at how ‘blessed’ I am,” is what I was saying…

But where was God in all this? Where was my reliance on my savior? Where was the being ok, if everything isn’t ok?

And then the domino of events began…

First, my husband had a minor stroke in January. Then, after that, there was a series of minor events where hopes were dashed and financial concerns surfaced. In every situation I kept saying to myself: “this is not a big deal; we can get through this; it could be worse.”

Of course, in true educator fashion, I kept plowing through events, thinking… “Once summer break is here, I can reflect, reorganize and refocus. It will all be better with a break and a little vacation.”

Then it came, Memorial Day Weekend, the small domino of events chipping away at my resolve turned from a snowball of concern to the impending doom of an avalanche. My husband was pursued via litigation by a previous employer. For the next three weeks everyday was an unknown and my unease and fears grew. I hadn’t had the opportunity to reflect, reorganize, or refocus. Vacation was off the calendar, too. Then Friday, the final blow. His present employer stepped away. No income.

So my pseudo-perfect world came crashing down. I found myself feeling vulnerable, afraid and questioning why. Why is God letting this happen?

Then sweet friends have come to my side. Encouraging me in hugs, prayers and sending me words of encouragement and scripture. It is amazing.

I feel “blessed” but in a humble and undeserving way. A way which I did not create or design. In the same way I was given Christ’s love, undeserved and without condition.

Our little family has come together, and in true humor we are yelling “Plot Twist!” (see above meme) Having faith that God knows the plan. A plan not based on our actions but His character; we are confident we are loved and cared for by a God much greater than us.

I saw a video this weekend at my church’s service. It was a lead into the message that focused on father’s. Over and over again, the message from the father’s in the video was “You’ve got this.” I don’t think I have “got this” except with the Father by my side, I know “He’s got this!”

This morning I was reading His Word and trying to find peace in this season. My sister texted me the scripture below. It is the most comforting words I have received so far… and, of course, it is His word!Ps 143 vs 1 to 12

As I go forward, I am not sure what the plan is. I will continue to post moments of things that my family have done that make my heart happy (plus I have grandparents to keep up to date on the latest about the kiddos). However, I am working on not making this about what I have done or deserve, but the true, transparent work God is doing in me and my family. I am working to be less perfect and more what is the real us. So just to let you know I am trying to #keepitreal and #keepitpositive, while giving the credit of all of this life I have to the one who provides… Abba, Father.

I will praise Him in all things. I will praise Him… IN THIS STORM.

 

 

Our Little (?) Sweetheart…

Valentine Sweetheart Embug February 2015

Valentine Sweetheart Embug February 2015

In the fall Embug attended her first school dance. This girl loves a good party, especially where there is lots of good dance music. So when it was announced there would be a “Valentine Dance” we knew she would be going.

Now that she had gone to the first dance, she had even more ideas on how to prep for this one. The search for the perfect dress began early in January. I had many an email, text and conversation with her over just the right RED dress. I loved all of her choices. All modest and reminiscent of the Audrey Hepburn classic look. She had one she really wanted but every site we went to purchase it was sold out. Finally we found a suitable second… which was way less expensive, too.

She had the dress, curled the hair, invited friends to go with her and was ready for a night of fun with 100s of her closest middle school friends.

All smiles taking a picture with friends before Valentine Dance 2015.

All smiles taking a picture with friends before Valentine Dance 2015.

It was great to see her so excited to go and happy after the fact as well. It is bittersweet to watch her grow into this amazing young woman, so full of hope and expectations of what life will bring. I’d like it to slow down a little, but we all know that won’t be happening.

So I try to savor each moment. Take it in and cherish these times. I sometimes wonder if these times of reflection and savoring is what Jesus’ mother Mary was doing throughout His life that was momentarily captured in Luke 2:19 “But Mary treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.” I also wonder how much did she know in advance of the sacrifice that He made on the cross. I can’t imagine in moments of joy like this “Valentine Dance” could one experience the knowing of future loss at the same time. How blessed I am to experience the joy of seeing my daughter excited, expectant and gleeful without the knowing of future sadness.

Some may want to know what the future holds, I for one am thankful for the moments of joy that the present has brought. Moments of my not-so-little sweethearts life journey that bring a smile to her father’s and my face.

 

20 Years and Counting…

FullSizeRender (2)Eric and  I celebrated our 20th anniversary back in July.  We have moved to 4 different towns during that time. Had 7 different addresses, and become parents. All that moving around and child rearing can result in some friendships becoming more distant, and even lose complete contact with wonderful people.

However, there are just some people you can’t lose… no matter the how much you move around. As luck would have it, they sometimes move in the same places. The Johnson’s are those people.

FullSizeRender (4)Eric and I met Bruce and Janice the summer we were engaged to be married in Ozark, Arkansas (our first community to reside in as a married couple). Once married we attended several events at their home. Janice taught me the finer art of garage sale-ing and showed me how to “Design on a Dime” before HGTV ever thought of it as a concept for a television show. To top it all off, my first year of teaching, I taught Janice’s oldest son Cody. Our lives were intricately woven.

Fast forward five years, Eric was transferred to Waco by his employer. We loved the little town of Ozark and the people we had met. However, we were headed to a new life in a new town. We figured our interactions would be few if any with the Johnson’s and the rest of our Ozark friends.

Fast forward six years, we left Waco (with one child and another on the way) and headed to a new opportunity in Dallas/Fort Worth. Three years after that I returned to teaching at Haslet Elementary in Northwest ISD. A year later I discovered Facebook. Through a former friend still in Ozark via Facebook we learned that Janice and Bruce were living in the very town I taught in, Haslet!

FullSizeRender_4Quickly we reconnected. We have been going to most of their New Year’s Parties and other social events since then. This year was no different… except now our children have come to expect this celebratory tradition.

FullSizeRender (3)Some paths only cross for a little while, others weave back and forth and by creative design are intricately woven. That is the path that has formed between the Johnson’s and the Wilson’s.

FullSizeRender_3

What paths in your life have crossed the paths of others and become a part of your intricately woven life journey?

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