He Didn’t Have to Be

I like to tease my husband that he is, “The Favorite.” You know, the parent who walks through the door and the kids climb on his lap and can’t get enough of him. And I’m okay with that—because as “mom” I have some qualities that dad can’t match—like the habitual giver of back rubs. I’m the parent who is the “feeler,” the one who cheers when they cheer and cries when they cry; dad is the “protector,” challenging them to go for things in life, take risks, but fiercely protective of their safety and well-being. It’s why the two of us make a great team—we both have parenting strengths and weaknesses, but together our qualities make for a dynamic duo, and one that together loves like no other.

As Father’s Day draws closer though, I am grateful for the man that my husband didn’t have to be. You see, when Dan married me I’m not sure he fully knew how much I love young people. If you asked him, “What is your wife passionate about?” he would respond without hesitation, “Kids.” I love that he recognizes, sometimes better than I do, that working with and alongside young people is what brings me joy; what energizes me.

So when we had three small kids and I was stressed about housing my summer interns, he didn’t blink and opened our home to several college students. Not for just one summer—for many summers. He stepped in when I was too pregnant as a youth director to chaperone ski trips and summer events. When I had a special needs child who no one would mentor during our Saturday evening services, Dan sat on the floor with the little boy and blew bubbles with him for an hour every week. He doesn’t hesitate when I announce that we’re going to have a house full of kids over at the last minute for a meeting, or to go boating, or that he needs to help feed a small army. He is “my kids” protector on student council trips and navigates us through new cities and experiences. Oh, and he gives the biggest hugs!

But what I admire most is my husband’s quiet example of love. He loves my “kids” in a fatherly way—he helps them, cheers for them, protects them, and welcomes them with open and loving arms. And he doesn’t have to, but he genuinely wants to. Because he knows that each young person that has walked, and will walk, through our doors is important to me; and they’ve become important to him as well.

On Sunday our family will celebrate the Dad in this house. And I will also graciously give thanks for the man he didn’t have to be, but that he chose to be; the man who shows how much he loves me by lovingly caring about the people that are dear to my heart. Thanks, husband of mine, for being “The Favorite,” “Dan the Man,”—and to all of the men out there who pour into the lives of our kids—kick back and relax—this Sunday we honor and celebrate you.—CK

 

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It Takes Me Back

When we moved into our current home nearly ten years ago, we had a big project to complete right off the bat–landscaping the yard. While we had a designated window to complete the job in the eyes of our Home Owners Association, the more pressing incentive was our daughter’s graduation party, to be held at our house in a little over a month. Pressure….

Fitting our yard with the best plants in addition to making it all aesthetically pleasing was no easy task. Let’s also throw in there that I do not have the gift of a “green thumb,” so we researched vegetation that grew well without a lot of extra TLC. However, there was one plant that was a must for me and is currently thriving in several areas in our yard–lilacs.

Every spring, for a short season, the sweet smell of lilacs greets me at the door and sends me off as I leave. One whiff takes me back–I can close my eyes and vividly picture myself in my childhood backyard in Minneapolis. We had two gigantic lilac bushes that lined the fence on one side of the yard. There was a natural space between them and a path behind them where my sister and I would play for hours. We would pretend we were in the time of “Little House on the Prairie” and in those sweetly scented bushes we would make mud pies and do the chores that Ma and Paw had imaginatively assigned us. Other days we would be spies and use the bushes as cover to hide–watching our super-cool teenage neighbors tan in cute bikinis on lawn chairs next door. Sometimes I would just sit under the bushes eating a Bomb Pop Popsicle with the Minnesota Twins broadcast playing in the background–I’m sure there were thoughts spinning of what I would do and who I would be one day, as the sweet smell of lilacs comforted me.

As I got older, I took photos on special occasions in front of the lilac bushes–birthdays, confirmation, high school graduation. In the blink of an eye, I was the teenager that no longer sought the shade of the lilac bushes, but the small space of sun in the backyard to lay on a lawn chair and soak up the sun with a book as I listened to the latest hits on WDGY radio. But that sweet smell–it would still drift my way and I would be transported in time to the scent of my childhood memories.

Science explains that our sense of smell is linked more closely to memories than any of our other senses. Smells can act as a trigger and immediately fill our heads with the feelings and emotions experienced in our past. How awesome that every part of our created being connects and can bring us back to memories that could easily be forgotten. For me, lilacs evoke memories that I want to always remember–a piece of my childhood that was imaginative, whimsical, and free.

Lilacs are around for a brief period of time each year, but a quick whiff of the flower can carry me back to those childlike emotions. Lilacs remind me to be the kind of person who appreciates living in the moment, to create lasting memories, and to take the time to stop and smell the flowers. — CK

Lilacs

A Tale of Lost and Found

This is a tale that I’m happy I get to tell. Because sometimes we lose things and we believe they’re gone forever. The loss evokes all sorts of emotions from sadness to anger, frustration to guilt, negligence to irresponsibility. We toss around blame to cover up our grief and then we ignore the pain or stuff it away to downplay the hurt. Losing something is hard. Period.

A few years ago I was in Waco, Texas helping our youngest pack up her college years to start a post-grad life in Houston. I happened to notice that an important item was missing from her jewelry box–her 2009 State Championship Cheerleading ring. When I asked her about it, she said it had been missing for some time and she had no idea where it was. She had come to terms that the ring was gone–for good.

I remembered all of the hard work and dedication behind that ring. I could still hear the screams of joy when they announced her team as the State Champs. It may have been just a piece of jewelry, but it was also a symbol of perseverance, commitment, and heart. And even though I know the memory of winning State would always remain, the keepsake of that moment was now gone.

Fast-forward to last week. A message arrives via our high school athletics Facebook page. I happen to manage that page. Before I open the message I can see a photo embedded in the message–one of a familiar looking ring. I open the message and read a sweet note from a shop owner who found a ring in a purse she had bought for resale. She thought the ring looked important and she wanted to find the owner. Her diligence and research led her to the school’s Facebook page, and ultimately, the ring owner’s mother.

Today, I got the mail and opened a small package with the ring inside and a hand-written note that said, “Here is your ring! We are so happy that we were able to find you and get it back to you! So sorry it took so long!” Just because something is lost doesn’t mean it can’t be found. Remember the story of the prodigal son? His father rejoiced and threw a party, telling everyone, “My son was lost and is now found!”

Lately, I feel like a lot of things have been lost; Respect. Dignity. Courage. Hope. But then a message appears on Facebook from a stranger; someone who searched and took the time to bring a bit of joy and hope to someone she didn’t even know. And I rejoice in knowing that there is still a lot of good in this world if we just take the time to look around and find it.

One of my favorite quotes is from Paul Young, author of The Shack, “There’s nothing so broken that God can’t heal it. Nothing so lost that God can’t find it. He pursues us with relentless love–whether we want him to or not.”

Keep pursuing. Keep looking. Never, ever give up.–CK

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The Memory of a Day

Sweet Megan, it seems like just yesterday….

There you were, all dressed up in princess costumes and high-heeled plastic shoes; licking the hottest salsa off of tortilla chips and singing, “So Long, Farewell,” from The Sound of Music every night with your sister before bedtime.

Who knew that your dad and I would blink and there we were, watching you get all dressed up again—this time in the most beautiful white dress with bedazzled Nike tennis shoes on your feet and salsa on the menu for all to enjoy later, as we got ready for our own version of, “So Long, Farewell.”

As kids grow up, there are all sorts of milestones that are reached and celebrated. From sleeping through the night for the first time, to starting school, to getting braces and a driver’s license, and then those big accomplishments such as graduations and first jobs—each milestone is both a first…and a last. And when your baby girl walks down the aisle to marry the man of her dreams, you can’t help but think about all of her firsts, her lasts, and every little moment in between.

This day—your wedding day—is something that we have been praying for since your very first day of life. Every day we prayed for your future, which included a young man we did not know yet, who would someday ask you to be his forever. And as you walked down that aisle, arm-in-arm with your dad, I watched the eyes of the man we had been praying for the last 23 years—and I thanked God for his faithfulness and goodness.

I believe God gives us little winks to remind us that in the midst of our big moments, he is ever present and ever good. While dad waited in the winery to see you for the first time in your wedding dress, he looked out the window and was filled with emotion. In the distant sky, circling the treetops just above the cross where you would commit to begin a life together with Lynx, an eagle soared. Your ancestors would tell you that an eagle is a symbol of blessing—for it’s the bird that flies the closest to heaven.

What a privilege it was for us to gather in that same spot and pray a blessing over you and Lynx and launch you into your greatest adventure yet. It was a moment of firsts, of lasts, and a little bit of, “So Long, Farewell.” But more than anything, it was a demonstration of joy and love; a testament to God’s faithfulness, and one heck of a celebration!

It’s been just over a week, and dad and I daily reflect on the awesome memories of your special day. So here’s to Lynx and Megan Hawthorne—may your love grow bigger and better with each new day and may you be ever mindful of the winks God gives you along the way. Love you both so much! ❤

—Mom

The 100th Day

February has a plethora of special days that kids celebrate in school. But there’s one day in particular that falls on different days depending on the school–it’s the 100th Day Celebration. For most, this day falls somewhere in mid-February and is a day that is anticipated from the very start of the school year. A countdown begins and students prepare for a day that applauds 100 days of learning. On the 100th Day, students take time away from the regular routine to engage in activities centered around the number 100; from math to reading, science to PE, kids focus on celebrating The 100th Day.

So it’s appropriate that this year, mid-February offers for our family, a 100 Day Celebration for two incredible people. Today marks the 100 Day Countdown for our youngest daughter, Megan, and her fiance, Lynx. In 100 days, they will wake up to a day filled with anticipation and promise. And by the end of that day, they will celebrate the beginning of a lifetime of love and adventure as husband and wife.

Just as students in school, these 100 days will be filled with anticipation and learning for Megan and Lynx. There may be days when details feel overwhelming or too many people try to steer the ship to the final destination. Other days will be filled with overflowing excitement and the feeling that the celebrated day can’t get here soon enough. In those 100 days, they’ll be tested–there will be feelings of great accomplishment as well as failure. But in each of those 100 days, the anticipation grows, the celebration builds, and lessons are collected to help build a foundation for a lifetime together. And I know for each of them, those 100 days can’t go by fast enough!

As a mom, I pray that these precious days of planning, anticipating, and celebrating strengthen their relationship. I pray that whatever the world tries to throw their way they will tackle together–because together they are better. And I pray that they will always know that the One who created them, the One who loves them relentlessly, will also be the One who will help them build a foundation of faith, love, and adventure as husband and wife.

So in step with the “100 Day” theme, Psalm 100 is divinely appropriate to mark this once-in-a-lifetime day for Megan and Lynx–it is because of Him that we can graciously praise the love He give us so we can love in return:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to his name and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.“–Psalm 100:1-5

Here’s to 100 Days–let the countdown begin!!! –CK

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Legends Live Forever

Earlier this month I checked something off of my bucket list–a trip to the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony for one of my all-time favorite legends–Brett Favre. The weekend was a fan’s dream–but the Enshrinement Ceremony on Saturday night stands out for reasons beyond the game of football.

Eight men who’ve made an impact in the NFL were notably honored on stage that evening. Their bronze busts were unveiled as each NFL hero was introduced with video tributes that highlighted their careers. The enshrinees who were present at the ceremony, then took the stage to speak to a stadium-packed audience. As I listened to each man speak, I was captivated by their hearts and how they communicated what really matters to them about being inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Their video reels highlighted their accomplishments on the field and in the business, yet as each man spoke, there wasn’t a lot of focus on football–instead they brought attention, admiration, and affection to what lasts after the cleats are retired and the clipboards are put away–relationships with people. Here is my takeaway on what matters to the NFL greats:

  • Influences: Listening to each inductee pay tribute to individuals who impacted them not just as professionals, but as individuals, was inspiring. No one mentioned how someone taught them how to tackle or throw the ball, however. Each player paid tribute to high school and college coaches who spoke into their lives on being men of character and perseverance. Tony Dungy thanked coaches who guided him in his faith both on and off the field. Marvin Harrison, who played for Tony Dungy, expressed admiration not only for Dungy as a coach, but as a man who taught him what it meant to be a father. These NFL legends attributed their success to individuals who not only influenced them in the game of football, but in life.
  • Family: Kevin Greene expressed how growing up in a military family continues to be a strong influence on who he is today and honored the men and women who protect our country. Eddie DeBartolo spoke admirably about his daughter who graciously gives back to her community. Orlando Pace gave credit to his single mother and grandmother for providing him with opportunities–even when it wasn’t easy. And Brett Favre brought a stadium to tears when he reminded fans of his wife’s bravery, when he got choked up about his mother-in-law’s unwavering support, and his late father’s no-nonsense parenting that pushed him to be the best. At the end of the day, no matter what your family looks like, they’re one of your strongest influences, supports, and admirers.
  • Team: These NFL greats have a firsthand appreciation that no man (or woman) is an island. They understand that their NFL success is attributed to individuals who have helped them succeed on the field. Each inductee was visibly grateful and appreciative of their teammates who sweat, sacrificed, and succeeded with them on game day, in practice, and in life. These men see their team as family, and even embrace players from rival teams as comrades who shared in a common goal. When Favre asked those in the audience who have played the game with him to stand, it was moving to see over 200 men–those who played with him in high school, college, and professionally–rise to be thanked and recognized. Legends of the game understand that their success rides not just on their own merits, but more so on the partnership of their brotherhood on the field.

My weekend at the NFL Hall of Fame was the perfect way to kick-off my favorite time of the year (football season!). I hope this post is a reminder that on or off the field–coaches, teammates, family–you’re an influential staple in the lives of others. You are the true legends.–CK

Legends

The Anatomy of a Great Trip

Summertime is often when many of us hit the roads and fly the friendly skies to explore and experience new places and make memories. Many of our travels bring us to new places and some lead us to familiar ground, but each destination imprints something new in our collection of memories. Most trips have their fair share of bumps, detours, and minor disasters–not unlike the roads we travel along daily.

One week ago we had a nearly 20-hour excursion on both water and land that led us back home after another amazing week at Lake Powell. It is never easy to transition back into the daily grind when you experience a week of fully relaxing–which is one of the best things about Lake Powell. However, this year the “re-entry” process seemed to be a bit more difficult–and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Was it too much sun? A bit of “back-to-the-real-world” depression? An extra long journey back home? Or maybe it’s just that every year I want to hang on, for as long as possible, to what I would describe as a “great trip.”

Every summer for the past ten years we have set aside one week to enjoy this majestic lake. Each year the lake looks a bit different, but it never fails to capture our hearts. Some of our houseboat guests are regular attenders while others come on board for the first time. The week is full of good food, better drink, outrageous laughter, exquisite beauty, and the best conversation. But it has also had it’s share of mishaps over the years: burnt feet, sun rash, broken water toys, food disasters, and even a broken ankle that resulted in a helicopter ride back to civilization.

As our kids get older, it makes it tougher for them to share in this trip each year. In recent years we have new friends and families who bless us with their presence and invite us into experiencing the lake once again through the eyes of someone who is seeing it for the first time. It is a reminder that despite some of the things that might be challenging or don’t go according to plan, a trip is really about what you experience–the things you feel, the adventures that delight, and the memories that you make.

We were privileged to have the family that lives next door join us on our latest trip. Their oldest daughter (Kyra), who will be a high school senior this fall, said something during the week that was wise beyond her years. Near the end of the week, her friend looked down at Kyra’s legs with concern and said, “Oh my gosh! Look at your legs–you are so banged up!” As Kyra looked down to evaluate the many cuts and bruises  she had acquired over the week, she smiled and calmly said, “That just means it’s been a good trip.”

On vacation or in life–it’s the cuts and bruises, the brokenness and hurt, that can graciously lead us to the indescribable beauty, contagious joy, and the incredible adventure of a remarkable journey–or in Kyra’s words–a really good trip.
—CK

Trip Blog

Kudos to Snow Days

No one ever believes the forecast in Colorado–because as the phrase goes, “Blink, and the weather will change.” And the past 24 hours proved that phrase true.

Yesterday afternoon, we sat out on the dock, enjoying the warm sunshine and a glass of wine. A welcomed moment of relaxation after a busy, busy day. The Weather Channel warned that a wintery front was approaching–but we were soaking in the start of spring; what cruel joke would cloak a beautiful day with a blanket of white?

As we crawled into bed last night, I could hear the rain pounding the roof. The sound lulled me to sleep. And then the alarm sounded to start another busy day. As I began to make my way to the edge of the bed to start the morning routine, a text alert lured me back to my phone with the glorious words, “Snow Day.” A peak out the window affirmed the unexpected day off. Snow, wind, and cold–not what I would have anticipated as I sat on the dock the night before.

Sometimes the unexpected is exactly what we need. Our lives get so busy–we grind through the routine of the work week, stress about things that are out of our control, and forget to appreciate the little things. Today, I was able to relax with a cup of coffee as I dug into my morning devotions, not the norm on a Wednesday. How appropriate that today I was reading about contentment. These words pulsated off the page, “We find contentment once we learn to see everything as a gift or opportunity. Perspective is everything. Happiness is a choice.”

Contentment isn’t something that comes to us naturally, it’s an acquired taste. Lately, my taste hasn’t been so evolved. I find myself focusing more on the worries of the day, rather than on the treasures of the moment. And then, when I don’t even realize it, my heart becomes cold to the blessings that surround me. In the midst of a winter storm, God has led me to a day of rest. A gentle reminder to change my perspective and find contentment in the every day.

So kudos to a snow day–a  day when I am content to curl up under a blanket and ponder on all of the gifts and opportunities that I am daily grateful for–not the things that I have been denied. I need to remember that when my perspective is set on the storm, all I need to do is blink.  snow day (2)

What I Discovered in D.C.

A week ago today I was on a flight to Washington D.C. with thirteen high schoolers to experience our nation’s capitol and attend a leadership conference. I’m always amazed and humbled when I get to spend quality time with young people. Working in a high school, there are days when I hear a lot more grumbling about teenagers than I do praise. I often wonder if more adults would intentionally spend quality time with young people, would they see the value and potential in this future generation?

Over the weekend–which was packed with nonstop activity–I made some pretty cool observations about the group of young people that I was privileged to hang out with for a few days:

  • Patriotic: Walking the National Mall wasn’t just exercise, it was a meaningful trip into our nation’s history, leaders, and heroes. Our students were excited about where our nation has been, and engaged in the process of where it is going in the future.
  • Empathetic: The Holocaust Museum was a deeply moving experience for our students. While I watched some student groups go through the museum at lightning speed, our group was extremely different. They read and listened about the history. They used their eyes to focus on the pictures and their sense of smell imprinted the spirit of those who lost their lives in concentration camps. They became teary and somber as Holocaust stories left a permanent scar on their hearts.
  • Kind: When you’re in a city that is bustling and busy, a quick smile or “hello” on the streets is virtually non-existent. What a ray of sunshine a small group of students from Loveland, Colorado were to a city that appeared a bit hardened. From strangers on the Metro, to tourists on the National Mall, to the cute, elderly concierge at the hotel; to hear others–strangers–tell our students how kind and friendly they are made my heart smile.
  • Philanthropic: When downloading what our students learned at the conference, one theme was obvious–our students have a heart for serving others. Whether it be their peers, the school staff, the Loveland community, or the world, our students first and foremost want to make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Spirited: On so many scales, our students are wise and mature beyond their years. Their creativity, drive, resiliency, and openness is inspiring and motivating. But…they are still “kids.” Thank, God!
    They are comfortable being silly, they laugh until it hurts. They still slide down banisters, run up escalators that are going down, start snowball fights, play with cheap toys, and have dance parties at 35,000 feet.
    This….
    This is why I love what I do. Why I love young people. And why I’m not worried about our future. I’m excited to see how young people like this, are gonna change the world. –C

White House

Believe in the Good

A kid will never feel significant until you give them something significant to do.”–Reggie Joiner

I am incredibly fortunate to work with young people. It’s where my heart is and I’m so blessed that I get to wake up and do what I love every day. Some days, though, are just a bit sweeter than others. Those are the days that I just sit back and watch with a bit of awestruck wonder at what young lives are capable of.

Last spring I met with the incoming leadership team for student council. Their excitement for a new year of dance themes, spirit days, and service to others was contagious. We touched on service projects for the upcoming year and when I mentioned thinking outside of our local community, their eyes lit up. The conversation turned toward making a global difference and before we knew it a project was born–our students committed to raising money to build a fresh water well in Uganda. A big endeavor for a small group of teens–but the very idea of doing something good for people on the other side of the world ignited them with enthusiasm and purpose.

Adults can learn so much from young people. These students charge forth, full-speed ahead, with confidence that they can reach their financial goal. They are learning about the struggles that people in impoverished countries face and are dedicated to changing the landscape for them. They believe they can make a difference–even when others (often adults) tell them they can’t. They work hard, play hard, and they don’t hesitate to sacrifice for the good of others. Yes, these are people that I want to watch–I want to capture their energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and heart. They are embarking on something significant and it is my hope that it is a value and characteristic that continues to grow in and through them in the future.

Too often we only hear about the negative when it comes to this upcoming generation. We read about how they are lazy, we assume they only think about themselves based on the “selfies” they take, and we conclude that they lack drive because society portrays them as an entitled generation.

I see something different. I see a generation who wants to make a difference–a generation who will and can do significant things. We just need to give them a chance. An opportunity, And the faith that they can do it.

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Kids collecting dirty water in the village of Aputon-Koreng in Uganda. Soon they will have clean water to drink thanks to the vision and hard work of students @ Thompson Valley High School