2010 – Part 3…50 Years Old

Early in life, I latched onto some false beliefs:

Do not question authority and, by implication, do not question God or the church.

I was safer flying under the radar.

It was easier to allow people I deemed trustworthy to think things through for me.

Conflict is perilous and to be avoided at all costs.

Disagreeing with anyone, even safe people, felt terrifying, dangerous, and disloyal.

I had begun to recognize some of these unhealthy beliefs and coping mechanisms during my time at SALTS. I was on the healing journey and beginning to let go of old lies and ways of navigating life which were no longer serving me well. So how would I choose to respond when “my people” viewed a situation differently and headed in a direction different from me? What does love, honesty, respect, and honor look like especially in the face of disagreement?

My inner turmoil was ramped up to top speed. I played the options over and over in my mind, trying to figure out a good solution. I hate change. I hate confrontation. I like to please people. One side of me tried to figure out how to avert the issue. Yet, I knew that I could not support the church’s theological beliefs on counseling which had become significantly different than my own.

I could not figure out a way to reconcile this no-win quandary. Leaving our church would come with a high cost including eliminating regular opportunities to see family, friends, and children-of-our-hearts. Yet, staying would come with a high cost of my personal growth since my support groups had been eliminated.

With heavy hearts, we were in full agreement. As much as we might wish we could stay, our hearts knew that it was time for us to move on.

We were brokenhearted. Our “new normal” would be filled with grieving and times which were difficult, awkward, painful, and uncertain.

2009 – Gregg with 8th grade guys who had just ridden bikes across Florida from the Gulf to the Atlantic!
2004 – Gregg and Josh Karadeema at Wild Adventures – a Jr. High summer day-trip.
2002 Pioneer Club pool party. Kim Hayward co-led this group with me.
2004 – Pioneer Club “graduation” to Middle School. Kristin co-led with Kim Hayward and Carole Ritchey.
2004 – An all-time favorite picture! Christine Diskin, Jenni Lipscomb, and Paige Murray at Wild Adventures the summer before 6th grade.
2005 – Grubby Night – Playing with food.
August 2006 Extreme Excursion retreat
2007 – Nicole, Jenni, Paige, Christine, Hannah and Abigail remembering our overseas Real Life Group member, Amandalee!
2005 – Sunrise on the beach at the end of Insane Insomnia. Only the prayers of my good friends beseeching the grace of God on my behalf got me through these all-nighters! This girl needs her 8 hours of sleep!
2006 – These beautiful hearts!! “My Girls” visiting and loving on Mrs. Perryman who was fighting cancer (Mom and I made friends with her while she and Mom got chemo in 2004.) I believe we ate lunch with her on this day. Their first visit to Mrs. P. they did yard work for her, and another day they made and delivered a Build-A-Bear.

2010 – Part 2…50 Years Old

We arrived in Hungary with a mixed bag of emotions – excited, nervous, confused, sad, and exhausted.

Our time at English Camp was AMAZING! We ate, roomed, talked, studied English and the Bible, loved on, and played 24/7 for 10 days with high school and adult campers. Many had never experienced daily interactions with Jesus-followers. My heart bonded with my roommate. We have kept in touch throughout the years and now I am thrilled to be considered an honorary grandma to her children. 

After English Camp, we drove to Great Britain with friends. It was a lovely time with well-suited traveling companions. Cathy drove, Gregg navigated, and they formulated a plan for our next destination. Erika and I sat in the back seat – enjoying the view, conversations, talking about food, and passing out snacks.

During our time in Europe, Gregg and I cried, prayed, and talked through the changes in our church. We moved to Jacksonville ten years prior so that we could be more involved with family. Their church home had become our church home, sharing many friends, and immersed in ministries together. Gregg and I had actively participated in adult small-groups and studies, five mission trips to Peru, and missionary Sending Teams.

Gregg was intentional about being involved with our 3 nephews, leading their small groups in elementary, then middle school. Our 2 nieces had established leaders, so there was not a similar opportunity for me to connect in the same way. Instead, I followed in the example of my nieces’ leaders. Our first fall at the church, I volunteered with a group of 2nd grader girls on Wednesday nights. I moved up with “My Girls” each year through their 8th grade year. These girls remain very special to my heart.

Our lives, including vacation time, had revolved around the middle school program for the past 4 years, joining them whenever they met: on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday nights, and often weekends for retreats, special events, summer activities and all-nighters. I hosted sleepovers, baking days, and movie marathons. Gregg did guy things including riding bikes across Florida.

Life was filled with family, friends, and children-of-our-hearts, all at this church.

It would be a huge death if we chose to leave.

2010 English Camp at Lakitalek
Gregg was on the Green Team and Kristin was on the Yellow Team
The Yellow Team – the object of this game was to collect the most objects in your team color.
Kristin teaching her afternoon Conversation Group.
Roommates! Judit is a precious woman and friend who declared me an honorary Grandma!
Oxford – Gregg, Kristin, Jennie and her son, Corwin, in front of the pub where C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and the Inklings met. Jennie and I went to Cocoa High School together. She now lives in England.
We couldn’t go to Oxford and not go punting. We laughed so hard! Erika played it safe and stayed on land. We all tried our hand at it and stayed balanced and afloat!
Cathy and Erika having tea at Eagle and Child Pub
Loving Life at The Irish Sea!
Afternoon Tea in Canterbury. SO FUN!

2010…50 Years Old – Part 1

I eagerly embraced my 50th birthday, walking into “the 50’s” with hopeful anticipation. In hindsight, this decade brought about its share of difficult times. It also gave rise to much personal and spiritual growth, including freedom from childhood perspectives and coping mechanisms that were no longer working for me.

Gregg and I committed to volunteering at a 10-day summer English Camp in Hungary. Having never taught English as a Second Language, we began volunteering at the International Learning Center teaching English to refugees. It was a win-win, helping our community while learning new skills. On mission trips, I loved developing relationships with the local women. Even so, I hadn’t anticipated how deeply my heart would be drawn to refugee ladies.

In another area of my life, God was facilitating deep emotional healing through the ministry of Mending Hearts. My heart was stirred to attend SALTS (Survivors-of-Abuse Leadership Training Seminar) in April. This week-long intensive training in Michigan was a step towards becoming a Mending Hearts small group co-leader.

SALTS is not a “how to” training, rather, a guided opportunity for personal growth and healing. I roamed the beautiful conference center and shoreline of Lake Michigan during free time. Being in nature helped me talk to God and courageously process my childhood perspectives and survival techniques. The week was full of pain, joy, healing, tears, laughter, new relationships, and God holding me closely. In hindsight, I see that this week had an eternal impact on my life, kindling a journey towards profound healing and growth.

August arrived, and we were off to Hungary for English camp. Sitting in the airport, a text divulged that our local church had abruptly discontinued Mending Hearts and similar ministries. I was stunned and grieved. A safe place had been amputated. In my experience, the remaining counseling model seemed helpful in the moment, yet kept me in bondage to “try harder,” “disregard feelings,” and “readily accept the ramifications of other’s actions.” I had beaten myself up under that theology. It was not a healing place for me.

I had a pit in my stomach wondering how we would respond. What were we to do?

Birthday cake and pizza rolls!
Sandy was an amazing mentor as I “helped” in her classroom and accompanied her on home visits.
My precious Grace Group for the week and leaders, Elaine and Silvia.
The daffodils were a sweet Jesus-gift to my heart!
Had to stop jogging to capture this cheerful color!
Being around water soothes my heart. Seeing new life budding from trees brings hope. And Francesca Battistelli in my ear provided encouragement to give Jesus My Paper Heart, take “a giant leap of faith, Trusting and trying to embrace, The fear of the unknown, Beyond my comfort zone,” and allow God to “make my life something so Beautiful.”
“You said…To put my faith
In what’s beyond my eyes

And to believe You
I have to come as a child
So help me to rest in the mystery
Of what I can’t understand”

Francesca Battistelli – Unpredictable from My Paper Heart
“When you need a reason
To help you keep believing
Let my love be your blue sky
Your blue sky…

Don’t you know that I know
Life can be so hard, it makes you wanna give up?
But don’t you know over the horizon
The sunny day you’re looking for
Is waiting right here in my love?”

– Francesca Battistelli – Blue Sky from My Paper Heart

I’m Back! February 2020 Birthday Celebrations!

My Dear Readers,

Thank you for your encouraging feedback on my birthday posts and grace while waiting for the series to be completed. I paused writing to give myself space to live in the moment and enjoy being celebrated. Coincidentally, my next post (2010) is a labyrinth of joy and grief, so I drug my feet to begin writing again. Now the pain of procrastination is worse than the pain of finding words to share.

First, an update:

February 2020 was wonderfully extraordinary. A week before my birthday, Gregg hosted a perfect-for-me celebration – an open house for family and friends to talk, eat, laugh, and relax together. I was overwhelmed with the thought and preparation he put into making the evening special, including making ten soups for a soup-flight-bar and finding a fireworks candle for the ice cream cake. My sister, Bryn, outdid herself with decorations, a photobooth, and a photo-memory album.

Friends came from near and far which deeply ministered to my heart. Mysteriously, my life felt more cohesive – a whole story in one book rather than segments – as family and friends from all periods of my life mingled together.

Basking in the glow of a wonderful party, my actual birthday was to be low-key. Mardi was unable to come from Alabama, yet a quiet heart-hope whispered, “It would be so special if she surprised me!” I was talking to Mardi on the phone when Bryn arrived to take me to breakfast. I opened the door to a huge balloon. Bryn is so festive and thoughtful! Then, when the balloon moved to the side, it revealed Mardi! My jaw dropped, dumbfounded with delight and my heart soared!

We set out for a sisters-day, filled with love, laughter, delicious food, and lots of shopping. Topping off the phenomenal celebrations, Gregg created a delicious ice cream cake, shared with family and Crazy Love friends that evening.

I am grateful to be alive, for a husband and family who love me, for the treasure of friends, and for God’s relentless love. I enter my sixties leaning into a paradigm shift, embracing the gift of being loved.