On Divorce, Thanksgiving, And Sticky Fingers

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We will be divorced by Thanksgiving.

That wasn’t the answer anyone was expecting. I could tell by the way they squirmed uncomfortably in their seats upon hearing my response, how unbearable it became to maintain eye contact after such candidness…

They had asked what we were doing for Thanksgiving this year, and it was obvious to me that it didn’t matter – If we were still living in New York City by Thanksgiving, our marriage didn’t have a chance.

Life in New York City meant demanding schedules, late nights, and season after season of poor excuses as to why this term would be “unusually busier” than the last… and the last… and the LAST! Each time at the cost of my little family that was already trying desperately to catch our breath.

…But then I learned a lesson about sticky fingers that changed everything!

It was during that same time in NYC when my toddler was running rampant in our apartment, getting her sticky – fruit snack and dried apple juice – laden little fingers on everything she could get her hands on … In her destruction she snatched spatulas, nail clippers, and earrings (one of them of course, to be EXTRA obnoxious!) …She abducted green onions from the counter, books that had been left on my nightstand begging to be read, and one time even, a stick of butter.

When I was just about at the end of my rope, I remember complaining to my mom and giving giving her excuse after excuse as to why I was merely helpless at the hands of her brutality, and this was her response,

“ You’ll see… One day she will get her hands on something of such value, you will realize if it’s important enough to you, you will find a better hiding place.”

 

Her words rang true when just days later, I found the little terror standing front-and-center at her Dora Kitchen making a mirepoix of her loot of mismatched socks, q-tips, the tv remote and MY WEDDING RING!!!  

Horrified, I quickly snatched the band from her possession, “OH NO YOU DIDNT!!! Listen up chick…You can have my spatula, my earrings, my books, but THIS is where I draw the line!!!!” 

I continued to sputter off accusations until they went far beyond what her 3 year old mind could comprehend. And as I held that ring in my hand, and all that it symbolized, I realized what I was saying was true for more than just the sticky fingers of that of my toddler…

… It was true for the demands of New York, for the 60+ hour work weeks that greedily demanded more and MORE from my family, and fiercely sucked the life and delight out of my marriage like a vacuum…

That day I decided, with Dora as my witness, Enough was ENOUGH!

Because my mom was right,

“If something is valuable enough to you, you will protect it AT ALL COSTS.”

 

… That sometimes even, what we value will demand it!

One thing is certain: Had we not learned that, I have no doubt we’d be divorced by Thanksgiving… (And THAT will go down in history as the most humbling sentence I have ever written!)

Thankfully though, that will not be case. On the contrary, we are in the process of rebuilding, often painstakingly brick – by – brick, but rebuilding nonetheless. And yet it has taken our time in New York, and even more LEAVING New York, for us to learn what we value most is our FAMILY, and that we must protect it accordingly.

You see, this Thanksgiving each of us will gather with family and friends, and express gratitude for all that is most dear to us. But realize:

While Thanksgiving is about publicly declaring what we are most grateful for, the other 364 days of the year are about protecting it. Relentlessly!

 

… to protect it from the stickiest fingers both in the maddening toddler form, and in the ruthless demands of every day life!

For us that meant trading the bright lights and excitement of the city, for the breathtaking sunsets, and the downright ordinary of the South.

It took a pay cut, an ego check, and it took smacking the greedy hands of the business world to proclaim that our family was UNTOUCHABLE, and that no amount of money could ever be offered in return for missed holidays and the simple pleasures of tucking your children into bed at night.

And now a word to the Sticky Fingers of this world…

Listen closely: There is a standing reservation in our home for Dinner each night between 6-7. You are more than welcome to come, but what you are NOT welcomed to do is make my family the sacrificial lamb on behalf of your most pressing deadlines or staggering seasons ( …And as a rule, the closer you push dinner to 7 the more likely you will be required to bring a bottle of wine!)

Why? Because FAMILY is what we value. FAMILY is what we will go to great lengths to protect. Relentlessly!

And given the chance that slips your mind, or worse, that you get your sticky fingers on my wedding ring and all that it symbolizes, mark my words: I will cut you.

On that note, Happy Thanksgiving friends!

May we vigorously protect what we are most thankful for, today and always!

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A Bloody Nose, a 3 a.m. wake-up and a Lesson on Fear

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It was a rare Saturday night.  Our dinner plans fell through so we were chillin’ on the homefront, barbecuing in the cold, and enjoying pj’s at dinnertime.  The computers were off.  The tv was silent.  The little three of us sat down with cloth napkins and wine and enjoyed our charred chicken.  It was sweet.  “Fancy” as Maya would call it. :)

After a nice bath, we decided to watch a movie.  It was almost Maya’s bedtime, so we started it thinking she’d go to bed in 15 minutes.  We got it all ready on Netflix and nestled into the couch.

Within the first 5 minutes, someone on screen had a bloody nose and Maya was screaming.  “I don’t like this movie!  Turn it off!  I’m scared!  I don’t like this movie!”

Little did I realize that the bloody nose would affect the rest of my entire evening.

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I scooped Maya up and brought her into her bedroom.  We read her favorites, “Are You My Mother?”, “Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet”, “Count Yourself to Sleep” and “Winnie the Pooh Tells Time.”  We snuggled and said our prayers.  I laid her down and rejoined the hubs in the other room.

About an hour into the movie, I heard her.  She doesn’t usually wake up at night, but tonight, she was crying.  I went into her room, took her out and held her.  She said she was scared, she wanted me to stay and snuggle her, that she was SCARED.  I knew it was what she’d seen on the television.  I snuggled her on the big bed next to her crib (yes, my 2 year old is still in her crib!) and prayed with her, sang her songs and spoke scripture to her, praying God would cover her heart and mind and give her peace.

We finished the movie and went to bed.  At 3 a.m. I heard crying again.  The same thing, she was scared, she wanted me to stay, to snuggle, to hold her just a little longer.  Psalm 23 came to my mind and I began saying it over to her in her ear, praying God’s love and peace and ownership of her heart and mind.  She finally fell asleep in my arms, and I gently laid her back down in the crib where she slept peacefully the rest of the night.

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I awoke the next morning and couldn’t stop thinking about the fear that had gripped my little girl’s heart the night before.  All over a bloody nose, no less!  But rather than belittle or toss it aside to her innocence, I felt the weight of my own anxiety and fear that has held on to me before convict my heart.  Because, just like her, I have also faced fear and just wanted to be snuggled, for someone to stay, to tell me it will be okay.  Haven’t we all been there? When the fear seems so real, so intense, so threatening?  When we can’t even seem to squelch the irrational thoughts, they penetrate even a little bit further, threatening to steal our very joy?

Yet the same thing that calmed my sweet two year old back to sleep is the same confidence we can put our hope and our confidence in.  God’s word– His unchanging, ever faithful, forever true, timeless truths are what we need to hold onto when fear grips us.  The war between our fear and the One who has already conquered it before it sprouts has already been won.

You are safe, sweet girl.  It’s okay.  I’m here, I’ll stay, you’re okay.

We are safe, friends.  It’s okay.  He’s here, to stay– we are okay!

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Believe It Or Not, God Doesn’t Care

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While there once was space in my life for festive crafts, immaculate tablescapes, and the exchange of small talk over beloved recipes at holiday dinner parties, my mind has been preoccupied with far more pressing issues this year…

Like managing the wave of anxiety that rushes over me when I step into a room of new faces… the overcoming need I feel to BREAK for the bathroom - anywhere! - in order to retreat from the ‘holiday cheer’ and uncontainable joy that seems so distant, almost offensive, to me these days… To sit amongst the Charmin and to weep without abandon all while asking God the most poignant questions, ...What are you doing in my life?!? …Why am I here – both on this Earth, and like a loser, hiding in the bathroom right now?? … And what’s it going to take to put Humpty Dumpty back together yet AGAIN??

So this season, you’ll have to excuse me. While I realize how incredibly thankful you are for the Pumpkin Spice Latte held warm in your hands, those cozy nights spent sitting ‘round a cracking fire, and the crisp autumn walks you share with your loved ones in tow, MY gratitude lies in only one thing:

When my life is in ruins, and the state of my heart is seemingly unsalvageable, God doesn’t care!

… He fights for me anyway!

This year I am thankful God doesn’t flinch at what I am up against, or cut his losses and deem my life a lost cause – because believe me, He should have! This year, I am filled with gratitude knowing the Lord has never left my side, and that He will continue to use my darkest days as a platform to show He is bigger than my most daunting circumstances!

Even better, is the fact this same God is available to you – and He doesn’t care how hopeless of a situation you have found yourself in today!

3 Reasons Your Most Devastating Circumstances Aren’t Worrying God:

1.  He Knew People Would Let You Down  

Growing up my Mom always taught me, “it’s only you and God in the circle…” because the truth is, Every. Single. Person. no matter the relationship built or the bonds forged, has the capacity to let you down. God on the other hand, NEVER will.

In Psalm 118:6-8 it says, “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? The Lord is for me, He will help me… It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”

He knew we would put our hope in people, and even more that they would fumble carelessly with our hearts and let us down in ways we could never have imagined. Yet when we choose to put our trust in Him – and only Him – we have no reason to fear, only reason to wait expectantly for Him to help us.

2. God Has A Plan To Give You Victory Over What Is Threatening To Take You Down

In Isaiah 43 the Lord says, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness, I will create rivers in the dry wastelands…”

God sees the perilous journey ahead of you, He sees what you are up against and promises to make a pathway through the desolate state of your life, and to create rivers in the most ravaged parts of your heart!

I love how David describes his journey through the wilderness and even more, how the Lord rescued Him,

“ … They surrounded and attacked me… But the Lord!

They swarmed around me like bees; they blazed against me like a crackling fire… But the Lord!

My enemies did their best to kill me, BUT THE LORD RESCUED ME. The Lord is my strength and my song. HE has given me victory.Psalm 118:11-14

Swarming problems…unrelenting opposition…unbearable circumstances that ‘blaze against you like a crackling fire…’ those are the stakes God likes to play at! A journey SO perilous, that WHEN He rescues you, you would know with complete certainty it was the Lord who gave you victory – because ONLY He could!

3. God Promises To NEVER Stop Rescuing You  

Joel 5:19 says, “From six disasters He will rescue you; even in the seventh, He will keep you from evil…”

Know this: The Lord isn’t giving up on you anytime soon (…or EVER!) He doesn’t care how bleak your future looks, or how many times your marriage, your finances, or your sanity, have been on the verge of ‘disaster.’ The Creator of the Heavens and Earth – who effortlessly made a way through the impossible when He parted the Red Sea, and who breathed Jesus back to life – is the same God that is working on your behalf. And you can rest knowing when you place your confidence in Him, He will rescue you time and time again (and that He doesn’t need anyone’s help in doing so!)

So this season be thankful God doesn’t care. He doesn’t care what you are up against, how you got there, who let you down, and what you did or did not do to deserve it. He loves you… He sees you… and HE’S NOT DONE until you are standing victorious over your darkest days!

…Now, THAT is something I can be thankful for!  #Holla

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His Artistic Side

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There are moments when I suddenly stop and it hits me.

God’s is one creative genius!

I often think of Him more as a business man rather than a painter or artist, but fall is one of those times I see the other side of Him.

Today was one of those moments that I just couldn’t get over it– while looking around at all the leaves blowing, the sun peeking through the glorious colors of red, orange, yellow, and toast, I couldn’t help but just be in awe.  To think He created all this to bring Himself glory and to allow us to enjoy it along with Him– I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

And then to come home and read these verses below– it was as if I was reading them for the first time.  I love it when His word comes to life and stirs something inside you, giving you something new.  Again, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  That’s what fall does.  It begs us to think, to thank, to hope.  Just as the leaves and the weather changes, perhaps there’s a change in me that He’s bringing to light too.

Psalm 103

Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.

Let all that I am praise thhe Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.  He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.

He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

He fills my life with good things.  My youth is renewed like the eagles! (v. 1-5)

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. (vs. 8-9)

For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. (vs. 11-13)

But the Love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him.  His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments. (vs. 17-18)

Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom.

Let all that I am praise the Lord. (vs. 22)

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The Prayer I Will NEVER Pray Again

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I attempted to stand to my feet but fell to the floor as my knees buckled under the pressure. I grabbed frantically at anything in an attempt to steady myself, until everything suddenly came still.

I surrendered. Placing my head to the floor and holding my knees tight to my chest, I was convinced this was going to kill me

Hands clasped and gripping my heart, I sobbed knowing what no one else knew:

I had asked for this!

Weeks before my heart broke - before my marriage and sanity buckled under the pressure like that of my knees – my husband and I were asked to share our story, to divulge our most private heartache with hundreds and hundreds of complete strangers.

Though I cringed at the thought of how my voice quivers when I’m nervous, my husband knew I’d do it. No questions asked. Sharing our hurts and mistakes were always worth it to us if it meant others could avoid what we had endured early on in our marriage.

But almost as soon as we had raised a hand to volunteer and share with the “class,” the nightmares began.

Each night, I found myself tormented by the same horror…

The outline of my figure, standing high atop a hill, smiling uncomfortably and holding in my hands what I prepared to share on behalf of broken marriages, men chained to secret addictions and the women who stood tirelessly beside them.

Yet as I began to speak, I strained to make out the faces of the people I was speaking to. I searched the crowd for eyes to connect to, but there were none. Only countless faces marred beyond recognition with dirt and blood. I watched in terror as they inched their way along a vast field laden with barbed-wire, I watched as the daggers tore into their flesh, causing them to writhe and scream out in desperation.

I looked on as my most heartfelt words of encouragement echoed to the heavens… unheard by those struggling… seemingly unfit for their agony….

Startled, I would awaken to the most cold-hearted truth: I had forgotten

Though I bear my own scars from my time in the trenches, I had forgotten the misery and desperation that had engraved them into my existence. I had forgotten how it felt to be surrounded by darkness and affliction – and even more, how God had rescued me from it!

So I prayed a prayer I will NEVER pray again,

Remind me.

….and God would, in what seemed to be the cruelest of ways…

By forcing me to hunker down in the trenches. All. Over. Again. – thanks to heartbreaking confessions made on one bitterly cold night, admissions that callously ripped open the wounds of the past, leaving what was left of my heart mangled and gaping… and to my demise, I had asked for it! 

Just hours before I had struggled to find words on behalf of brokenhearted women and shattered marriages, and now I was one… When I begged God to remind me, I could have never imagined He would reply by placing me front-and-center to my own hopelessness set in barbed wire and complete desperation, all while equipping me to find words for those hurting if I so chose to write through the mess.

You see, this hopelessness I have found myself in, is quite literally an answer to prayer – and because it has cost me EVERYTHING – I will do whatever it takes to make sure I NEVER forget again!

If it means I have to publicly scream, question, and beg the Lord to deliver me with every last ounce of fight I have left, I can assure you I will never hesitate to make a scene….

If it means airing my heartache, my faithlessness, and my darkest nights, so that you can see the same loving and all-powerful God is available to you in your’s, than I welcome your curiosity, and even your judgement -

Because I made God a promise to write through the mess,

…and I will be damned if I forget!

* Follow my ‘Journey Through The Barbed Wire’ 

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Home Is…

Lord, through all the

generations

you have been our home!

~Psalm 90:1

Next month, David and I will celebrate our 7th year wedding anniversary!

In our almost 7 years of marriage, we’ve lived in 5 different homes, and in 4 different states.  It’s been a true whirlwind.  We’ve hardly had a ‘normal’ life at all, probably one that most counselors would warn is a recipe for disaster with all the moving, traveling and constant change facing us.  Even so, I’ve come to internalize this truth:

The Lord is our HOME.

Our first apartment was a mile from the Redondo Beach pier, in Torrance, California.  We had 600 square feet and a one car garage.  It was much bigger than my studio apartment (400 square feet) and I was in heaven having a home for us.  We unpacked all those wedding gifts and squished a queen sized bed into that tiny bedroom, only to have to move a short 10 months later.

We moved to Vancouver, Washington into a huge 2 bedroom apartment with two full bathrooms!  I met one of my best friends there, learned how to be married away from family, and we bought our first house together….

In Tualatin, Oregon.  We moved across the river to the hippy side, to the smallest in a beautiful neighborhood. We brought home our baby girl to this house, had birthdays and housewarmings and baby showers and movie nights and goodness, just lots and lots of fun in that house.  It will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Three years after buying that special house, we moved again.  This time clear across the country, to Caldwell New Jersey.  It was a year of learning how to be a stay at home mom, making new friends, experiencing a completely different culture and having my husband home more than I’d ever had before.  It was a beautiful yet hard and refining adjustment.  Then our landlord sold the house we rented, so we moved yet again…

To Lincoln Park, New Jersey.  This town is probably most known for the flooding that took place during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.  We decided to take that risk, because how many hurricanes can Jersey take, really?! :)  I’m still crossing my fingers it won’t flood.  So far, so good.  Except for my car…  But that wasn’t even in our city!

As I look back, the landscape has changed so much.  The size, the culture– EVERYTHING is different about each place we’ve lived in.  But one thing has remained constant, and He has never changed and has provided, protected and proved himself faithful throughout every. single. move.  He will again, I’m sure of it.

I know we won’t live in Lincoln Park for much longer (remember my interesting landlord? Well, he’s gotten even more interesting and I’m not sure we can take it!).  I do know that no matter where we go, the Lord is our Home and He is perfect.

Have a wonderful weekend friends!  I’m off to play and keep my baby girl on a day off from work, and hopefully clean a little and bake this rainy day away too.  

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Babies Don’t Keep

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The foliage in New Jersey is beautiful in the fall.  It was beautiful in Oregon, not too apparent in southern California, but absolutely gorgeous here in the northeast!  The trees are just beginning to turn colors in the park down the street from my house.  Every morning Maya and I walk around the path three or four times to get our exercise in and for the fresh air– and take in the beauty.  I found something I love about this place!  Fall!

A few weeks ago I also started working from home.  With another winter coming up, I knew I’d need something for myself to keep me sane.  We decided I’d give it 90 days to see if it was a good fit for our family, and the jury’s still out.  It’s been two years since I’ve worked full time!  Working 40 hours in addition to being a wifey and mama is a lot.  It’s made me remember this:

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow

For babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow,

So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep

I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.

Author: Unknown

Cheers to rocking our “babies” often. :)

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