Friday, May 28, 2021

3 days



The sun streams in, bright and overwhelming in my front living room.  I’ve sipped countless morning mochas here. The furniture has changed but the view remains the same: the neighbors’ immaculate lawns, Gus the golden doodle resting on his driveway. The morning neighborhood traffic of a couple daycares and a few dozen homes. That one Tesla and the all junkers on their way to the last few days of high school. 

Twenty twenty one has been a whirlwind. From first quarantine date on the last day of 2020 to quick engagement a month later, selling his townhome and then gradually combining households and completing one big renovation project and a handful of minor updates, daily Amazon packages, furniture shopping and photo shoots, vaccines, illnesses, tears but more laughter, spending time with each other’s family and friends, rides on motorcycle and mustang depending on the weather, countless donations trips to goodwill, celebrating milestones, walks in his new town and my childhood one, both of us losing clients and gaining new ones, creating spreadsheets, financial plans and budgets, numerous meals out, purging his parents home of 48 years, medical scares on both sides of the family that resolved quickly, watching the world warm and open. 

We’ve crammed a lot of life together in a few short months. I’ve been surprised at how easy it’s been. Except for a couple days we’ve spent 8+ hours a day together since we met. 

Spring is now in full swing, gardens and flower pots planted and summer plans scheduled. 

I’m getting married in 3 days. Again. Already. 

We’re ready. 

He and I never thought we’d get married a second time to different people, that wasn’t in the plan or part of the dream. But life takes unexpected turns and even God promises trouble to those who love him. 

We talked the other day about if knowing a beautiful future was ahead would have lessened the pain of loss. Probably not we decided. Loss requires grieving no matter the promises of a God who overcomes the world and makes all things work together for good. 

Trusting the goodness of a good God in the midst of pain, however, does give one true hope and saves us from being swallowed up completely by the dark pit of self pity and anger. We each responded differently to loss. We each asked our whys. And yet we’ve landed here together in this place of joy and hope and a future. We are dreaming new dreams. The question isn’t why but Who. No matter the circumstances God is either good or He is good. 

The sun streams in, bright and overwhelming on our new beginning. I sip my mocha, savoring the foam and the sun on my face. Just a few more days. We are giddy and impatient, and so very thankful. Weeping endured for a night. But joy came. Morning dawned. 

And we will sing of the goodness of God. 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Unexpected : A Love Story


I glance down at my left hand, noticing the familiar feeling of my ring finger encircled once again. I’m not sure when I’ll stop being caught off guard by the glitter and glamour of new love. 

I didn’t expect this at all. My plan was slow and steady and defined, cautious and safe. 

I didn’t know relationships don’t always take years of work to reach understanding and decades to develop depth. 

In December I had resigned myself to online dating and decided to give it a year. I’d get to know a bunch of people, go on lots of fun dates and figure out what I wanted. 

But I already knew what I wanted: a best friend and partner in life. Some of what I had and some of what I had always wanted. I thought about my own personal convictions and beliefs about biblical divorce, my minimal dating history and felt the type of person I wanted and needed would be a unicorn. Rare and impossible to find. Non-existent. 

I texted my friend how impossible this seemed. Her response: “With God, nothing is impossible.” 

I had spent the year preparing myself and my life to be ready for the kind of person I wanted and deserved. I didn’t know how long I’d be single, and I felt an urgency to do “my work” quickly. I met with my counselor. I surrounded myself with solid Christian women  who would encourage and call me out when needed. I tried new things. I worked hard to pay off debt, take care of my house, diversify income sources. I rested. I studied. I grieved my losses. I prayed.  

I dreamed about my future. 

I gave God lots of ideas of how he could fulfill my dreams. I asked for a widower. First he had to love Jesus. That goes without saying. Committed to the body of believers. Someone who hadn’t dated much. A man who was married long and well. Affectionate. Fun. Someone I could tease and make fun of who wouldn’t get offended. I told God I’d like to be financially free, not independently wealthy per se, but able to at least afford a yearly vacation and have plans for retirement. Those things represented the kind of stability I craved. I didn’t demand anything of God, but dreamed with him about what kind of good life he had in store for me. 

While I waited and dreamed, I took all the steps to make my present life happy and fulfilled. 

Late on Christmas Day I made a profile on eHarmony. I was thorough and complete and didn’t pretend to be anything I am not. I made my faith in Jesus obvious. I set my filters and proceeded to look for anyone that was upfront about their faith as well. If they didn’t make their faith in Jesus clear, I assumed they didn’t share mine at all. 

I talked to a couple men online. I wept, overwhelmed. How does one begin to built trust with a complete stranger after betrayal? I grieved the need to start all over, begin from scratch, and I bemoaned the time that would be necessary to reach the comfort of a long and hard earned double decade marriage.

A few days in and I was already frustrated. I had chatted with a couple people, but the pool of men in my age group with no kids at home was small. On a whim, I raised the age filter to 53 to see what happened. 

My friend Sue again reassured me, “Nothing is impossible with God.” 

A match popped up and as I glanced at the photo I thought, “I could trust that face.” He was exactly 53. He had a great smile and looked slightly familiar. I read his complete profile but couldn’t place him. He lived nearby and attended a local church and I figured I’d seen him before, somewhere. I liked what he said about what he wanted. He was a widower who had been happily married to his best friend for 28 years.  Two grown and married daughters. One tiny grandson. His paragraph about how he envisioned married life was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. I sent him a message. 

He responded immediately. He had seen my profile the day before but wasn’t sure I’d be ok with our age difference of 8 years. He had only been on eHarmony and other dating apps for only two weeks. 

We started chatting and didn’t stop all day. He asked me out two hours in. He hadn’t been a date in 30 years and I hadn’t been on a date in 23, so we figured we’d get the first date “over with.” We were on even ground figuring out how to date as middle aged adults. 

He wasn’t on Facebook so I couldn’t vet his identity using that method before our first date so he sent me to his wife’s caring bridge, and his business website. From there I found his wife Angie’s memorial page on FB and was delighted to see we had mutual friends! 

Dan and Betsie had been in college choir with me, we had toured Europe together with choir and they sang at my wedding. This was too good a connection! The guys had worked together in youth ministry during Dan’s early years as a pastor. I messaged Betsie and she was so excited Randy and I had found each other. I was amazed. Randy was no longer a random stranger. In that moment he  immediately became a trusted friend of friends. 

We continued to chat, finding more and more commonality, bantering and teasing. We kept checking boxes on our relationship wish lists and practical lifestyle needs lists, one by one. 

I texted my family that I had a date in a couple days, and they asked for a name and a picture. My sister thought he looked vaguely familiar too, like someone she’d seen at a youth pastors’ conference once or something. We laughed it off. Until Sara joined the chat with this comment. 

“Is he related to the Northern Pine’s Kallmans?!”

In an instant we all realized why Randy looked familiar! He and his family directed the Christian family conference our entire extended family had attended on and off for 40 years! He wasn’t just a friend of a friend! His family was embedded in a whole community my entire family knew!  

When I told Randy of my connection to NP, he was shocked. 

Neither of us make a habit of swearing but this moment deserved a swear, so we did. 

And then we laughed. Because somehow we knew. 

God did this. 
For us. 
For love. 
For healing.
For hope and a future. 

My ring sparkles. The ring is more than I could have dreamed, a perfect symbol of our relationship. Our love is brand new, but it’s already bigger and better than I expected, and experience has taught me, with investment, love grows greater, deeper, wider. 

Love came fast and furious and easy. He’s all I prayed for and everything I didn’t know I needed. 

I didn’t know it was possible.

But my friend’s message from Scripture is truth: 

With God, nothing is impossible. 





Saturday, August 22, 2020

Marked Moments

Second basement bed staged for AirBnB 

Mitchell packed up his duffel bags and computer tower last night 
at midnight, loaded up his golden Grand Marquis and moved himself back to his college apartment. 

I asked him to clean and vacuum his room before he left, but I still found three bags of garbage and an assortment of dishes left behind. He was anxious to join his three new roommates, his old friends who are already all moved in. I don’t blame him at all, and just laughed as I took the first load upstairs. 

These moments often catch us by surprise, an inevitable and looked forward to reality, and then departure comes and regret sets in. Maybe there should have been more acknowledgment of the moment, more celebration, some thought that this could be the pivotal goodbye and hello to adulthood. 

He turned 21 not quite two months ago, but it’s difficult to pinpoint independence. He’ll probably come home again for his extended holiday because I buy the groceries here and he has free reign of the fridge. But nothing is for sure and we just don’t know. His independence is there and the free food is here and sometimes adults still want their mom. 

I was teary when I caught him downstairs mid packing. He asked if I was ok. I said simply I didn’t want to miss marking an important moment and we hugged. He’s not been a hugger but he held me for a long time. 

I told his neck I’m glad he’s leaving and happy with where he’s going and we’ll all be ok. I’m letting go and celebrating my free reign of the basement. We each win our own freedom in his leaving. He wipes a few tears too and then I grabbed a couple dishes and headed upstairs. I’ve got guests booked for the space and preparations to complete but the empty feeling in the house will linger for a while.



Friday, July 3, 2020

Story Arc

My house got a facelift!

When I was a child our family read missionary biography after Christian hero biography after epic faith story. Each was a true tale of faith giants choosing hard paths, forgiving the unforgivable, and walking with integrity the road of an extreme love for the gospel of Jesus and the work of Christ. 

I was drawn to these stories and soon began to realize I could respond to life’s trials like they did before me, with a faith that moved the mountains of fear, resentment and selfish safety. 

My life seemed mundane but I was being tried in the fires of motherhood, marriage and church community. It was good and it was hard, and I did nothing well except persevere.

Inevitably, I soon faced the larger questions of who I was, and who I was going to be. I walk this road of life with friends and counselors by my side, faithful and Spirit filled women, with knowledge of boundaries to help keep me safe and a heart planted in Matthew 5 and Luke 6. 

Do not resist an evil person, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you. Then your reward will be great and you will be children of the MostHigh, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. 

There are a lot of scriptures that could guide my way these days but I’ve landed here for years. I consider the body of scripture, Old and New, all the stories of a God who pursues relationship with a repeatedly forgetful and rebellious people.   

Hosea comes to mind, and David refusing to exact revenge, leaving his enemies alive to pursue him in the caves and wilderness another day. Jesus ate with sinners and rebuked the rule following Pharisees, washed Judas’ feet. He saw past behaviors to hearts. His purposes extended past perceptions. This is the love of Christ that compels me and the heart posture that guides me. 

The fruit of harsh judgements, angry limitations, hard hearts and resentful posturing only ever leads to withering branches drying on the vine. I have never seen this response bring about the fruit of the Holy Spirit in either the exactor of the judgement or in the life of the judged. I trust God to do his work of righting wrongs, bringing justice, inviting repentance. 

When I read the New Testament I cast off old tendencies toward Pharisee-ism and hear the heart of Jesus encourage me to chose a bigger storyline, absent of penal justifications, but full of ridiculous grace and love.

How often do we as the people of God forget our primary calling to love? It sounds so elementary as to be diminished and mocked by some camps. Love is not enough. It’s too easy. 

But no.
It’s not easy.
Not the kind of spirit led, self sacrificing, enemy-loving LOVE. 

I hope someday it is said about me that I threw caution to the wind, but the wind was the Holy Spirit and He carried me.

That is the BIG epic story I want my life to emulate. A heart that remains soft to both those who have hurt me and to my God. That is the faith that moves my mountains and the story arc I want to be written someday for others to read. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Morning Light


Morning light. I miss having coffee here every morning with my best friend. Today marks one year since he came home from a Christian men’s retreat where he asked a question and got the answer he’d been waiting to hear. Some brand new friends told him him it would be worth it, so he came home and told me our marriage was over. 

Of course it’s not as simple as that, and the journey was long to that point, but after all we’d worked through, it still came out of nowhere. We had hopes and dreams together that we had worked toward for 20 years. I thought we had enough love and friendship and commitment that we would be “together forever.” Today marks the day we began unraveling our cord of three strands. 

One year is long and it is short. I don’t wish to go back and I’m glad I never have to relive a summer of keeping secrets in my own house, weeping in the shower, in the bed still next to him or fearing the impending exit of my life partner.  

Technically all wasn’t final for 7 months but he was gone in 3. 

I’ve learned a lot this year. 

Divorce is stupid. 

But I learned I’m strong enough to endure and thrive through my biggest fears. My faith stands because my God is faithful. 

I cannot take credit for the joy that endures.  It comes natural to my personality type. I am a relentless optimist and stubborn in hope. The Word has not only been planted in me to save me (James 1), but has taken root so that my views of the world and my God and myself are not swayed by pain or discomfort or the unfairness of life. 

It’s been a year. And though we don’t share coffee daily, and there were weeks and months of tense communication, we’ve settled into a new normal of acceptance. We talked last night for an hour about my house projects and our kids. I’m getting my house painted and his work history includes painting and managing a paint store so I ran the bids by him and got his advice. He was helpful and I was happy to have his help. 

We may be divorced and our lives disconnected in a growing number of ways, but I suppose it is true in some sense that we will always be linked “together forever”. Divorce does not erase history or memories and our kids are the tie that keep us connected. 

The next step in my house painting project includes choosing a paint color. I lay the color fan out on the coffee table in the light and think about what a fresh coat of color will do to my home. The home I am making my own day by day and repair project by project. I take care of myself while I take care of my home. 

The light changes as the sun rises, my mocha mug is empty, and a new day has begun. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

After a quiet winter

The spring sun warms as birds chirp and the hum of a vacuum faintly disturbs the sounds of nature around me. An early lawnmower from a nearby neighbor adds to the soundtrack of spring. 

I’m content in my favorite season. 

I hired a carpet cleaner today, ordered a few things on Amazon and should have packages arriving a few days this week. Some would call this retail therapy, in a season when other forms of shopping and social joy have been removed, but for me, this shopping is different.

In the past I lived with a scarcity mentality. I differentiate between a love of thrifting and hunting for treasures and the feeling of hesitation at ordering things I need or want to live comfortably. These are two different things. 

With a comfortable savings growing, I am beginning to allow myself the freedom to buy what I want, to live guilt free, as I find financial freedom. This is both the freedom to save and the freedom to spend. There is a supreme contentedness in the feeling of being able to provide for my own needs and the needs of my kids, to thrive at supporting a rather large home and multiple businesses. 

I have never been independent in this way, and find it intriguing that I have less fear, more confidence, more trust in a God who delights in taking good care of me. 

I do not embrace a prosperity gospel, but I do believe God places and removes blessing and I can’t help but feel this season of stability in the midst of a world crisis is a purposeful gift to me. 

I feel like He’s saying,

“Girl, I see you. I have counted your tears this year, I have seen your trauma and you get to sit this one out.” 

I work hard to be sure. Projects are a joy and when there’s a need for masks I make them and earn a bit more. I spend a little more on Fair trade and take-out to support those who need. I give a little extra because I can. 

I don’t pretend to know why some struggle and some are shielded from it. No doubt we all take turns in the valley and mountain top. 

Both have their gifts for us. The view is fantastic from the top. But the running water and the wildlife are found in the valley. 

I can still hear the birds causing a ruckus from my perch on my deck. The vacuum has stilled and my carpets are clean. I order one more thing before paying the carpet cleaner. A comfy new outdoor couch for my whole family to enjoy. 

Spring is here and I want to be ready to live in the sun. 





Monday, December 9, 2019

Community

I scrounge the fridge for leftovers and manage to compile a tidy treasure of goodies: stuffed dates from the show choir party the night before, a handful of my signature scones from the Divorce Care party a couple  nights before that. A bag of salad that I top with nuts and fruit and cheese. I pull out the bag of frozen wild rice and start the roux for the Byerlys’ wild rice soup recipe. That will be a win for me with my kids and my guests. 

I tidy the house a little but I don’t stress anymore. I leave a couple piles of stuff on the stairs so no one mistakes me for a perfect housekeeper. The kitchen floor remains daycare dirty because honestly? That’s a fight I can never win. My theory is, if my house is cute, maybe no one will notice it’s a tad dirty. So far, it’s a deception working well for me. 

Four women will arrive soon, most of them relatively new friends. We bond over similar life struggles and experiences and we value openness and vulnerability. These women have become treasured friends. We share triggers and traumas but we are each overcoming our own messy crap. We cuss and cry, celebrate and sympathize. We all remind each other we are doing the best we can. 

We are enough and we are OK. 

Community. 

I’ve got it in spades. Book club, Bible study, my church ministry team gals, Divorce Care groupies. The small band of women who will sit around my dining room table. I think FB fans count too! Daily I am encouraged by you, by her, by them. Whether through a screen or face to face, past or present friend, each relationship is impactful and insightful, and we speak truth to each other. 

My community didn’t just happen accidentally. I built it on purpose. Volunteering, sharing my heart, showing up, reaching out. This is how community is built. 

My friends arrive with chocolate and wine, shrimp and meatballs. We lay out a feast and dig in, to both the food and the events of the week. 

Our bellies are filled and our healing hearts are too. 



Saturday, December 7, 2019

First Holiday

The afternoon was quiet, the fire in the freestanding brick fireplace crackled, eagles soared out the bank of windows from a living room situated almost precariously on a hill overlooking the lake. 

The holiday meal at my parents house had been simple. Only a half dozen of us this year but we held to tradition and ate turkey breast and mashed potatoes, boxed stuffing, because that’s what we like, and jello. We say the jello is for the kids but it’s really a nod to tradition and my grandma who always made it, molded, with fruit and whipped topping. 

This was a different year, absent one, but we felt close and the chatter rose and fell, the youngest generation spilling over their plans and dreams and ideas. It was a pleasant day and we all enjoyed one another. 

Change has come in waves and ripples. This day the ripples were smooth and slow and almost imperceptible. There were only thoughts of what we had and the present fellowship of the day and what was missing and changed disappeared like a shadow when the sun comes out. 

The rest of the weekend held plenty of fun. Two hair appointments in an empty salon made for a fun mother daughter date. Bowling for a birthday in which we all took turns scoring poorly. Except Megan. She surprised us by being fairly good. We laughed and we should have taken pictures of each reaction for a fun montage. Ah well. Some of my best ideas come too late. 

Another day we decorated for Christmas together, fluffing tree branches, wrapping string upon string of lights. It’s a tedious ancient tree and it requires a specific procedure to assemble and light, but I can’t seem to part with it. Two years ago I cut the bottom pole shorter to fit my house better and finally this year I fixed it so it wasn’t wobbly. By some miracle all the strings of lights worked and the two unopened light boxes remain for next year’s potential Christmas decor emergency. We sang with Michael BublĂ© and reminisced at each time honored ornament. 

It so happened by a second unexpected miracle that all six of the kids I claim as my own were available for dinner one evening so I threw together a table of cloth napkins, goblets and centerpiece, a simple Amish chicken meal and we visited around a fancy table in our loungewear. There was laughter and fun and compliments to the cook and they stayed at the table far past the clean plates. 

This is family. Changing and growing. Adjusting and thriving. 

It was the first year my expectations for these moments were met. The weekend left me feeling supremely content. 

My home is now festive with twinkles and trees and the sounds of the returned basement occupant’s bass booming or the occasional victorious gaming shout fill the house with life. 

Our first holiday separated is a memory and soon everyone will be home for Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

This is me

I’m sitting in a Caribou, eating a mushroom soufflĂ© with a fork and knife, savoring each bite. I’ve already had a peppermint mocha this morning before my divorce hearing so I just have a brewed coffee in hand. The sun streams in from the winter wonderland outside. 

I don’t know what I expected for this day, but the day came and I woke to thoughts of a Christmas decor project at church and not anything sad or grievous. 

I feel settled and at rest. This is acceptance.  

A friend asked me this week if I was more terrified of the future or more excited. 

Honestly it’s not even a hard question to answer. I have not experienced fear. There has been peace that passes understanding. I eagerly await the future while remaining present in each new day. The only explanation I have for this calm is that I simply believe God’s promises. I believe his promises about my past. My present. My future.

What is faith without hope? Without actual belief that God is good no matter what? 

I cannot deny that this transition has been smoother than I ever would have expected and that God has given me not only what I need, but also what I want. He’s given me specific things that are meaningful to me personally, and make me feel loved specifically. 

Today is just another day. A chapter has closed but I’m nowhere near the end of the book. 

A couple friends interrupt my solitary reflection and merriment arrives. A mug is presented bringing a sassy proclamation and I laugh loudly.
The day promises delightful companionship, delicious food and      diverting destinations. 

There is much joy to be had. 

“I didn’t do it alone. I couldn’t have. I had help every step of the way...Find yourself faith. It helps...No. It’s everything.”
- Princess Alice, The Crown

My name is Kristina Joy. 
Follower of Christ.
Joyful one. 

No longer we. 
This is me. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Good, pleasing and perfect

A new profile pops up on my FB feed with his picture and a new name. I’m a hopeless FB sleuth so I follow it and find things that make me wonder and ponder. Maybe it’s not wise but I’m a curious mind about many things and many people and it’s not unusual for me to try to figure out what makes a person tick even if it’s a stranger. 

He’s becoming a stranger. 

It bewilders and baffles me. But it no longer hurts me. I don’t take it personal. My life is now my own. 

I see the scales of his life before on one side and the life after this decision with all the new realities on the other. I see the weight of the internal battle before, that once removed, favors the side of the scale where the after and all the new challenges lie. 

It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. 

I want to do this whole thing well, but I’m saying this right here, admitting I’m not perfect. I will probably ask my therapist to yell at me for digging into a life that is no longer my responsibility, and I’ll fess up to obsessing for a bit. But that’s not until Wednesday so I text a friend or two or three so I can remember my boundaries and do my own work. That’s all there is left to do. I have no business in his work anymore. 

He’s moving on but I know I have much work to do before I’m ready for that. Maybe I’ll make a list of what I want and who I am to get started. 

My Divorce Care leader quoted Romans 12:2 last week and I saw it in a new light. I have always known God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect, but I had never thought to use that verse as a gauge to discern his will. I had put heavy emphasis on the first part of the verse about not conforming to the world and having a transformed mind, but glazed over that last bit. It was right there in the verse the whole time. 

That is what I want for my future, whenever it’s time to move on. 

I want good.
I want pleasing.
I want God's perfect will. 

I’m going to do the work so I’m ready for it.