The Most Beautiful Place

The most amazing people in this world are the visionaries. The ones who look at a field overrun with weeds and see the community garden it can become, or the broken down building with boarded up windows and envision a new children’s museum, or a gramps who takes his grandkids to a dump to find special exciting treasures!

EE Kardatzke, my Gramps, was exactly that. He bought a no frills cabin at Glacier Lake near Boulder, Colorado in the late 1960’s for $4000 that became our family’s vacation home for those early years. I remember that the kids bedroom had a triple bunk bed in it and we would jump from the top bunk to the floor over and over again. There was one bathroom in the whole cabin and the toilet could only be flushed once every 30 minutes. My Gramps and my dad built us the coolest fort outside. It was two stories, kind of like a tree house, and had a potbellied stove next to it where Gramps would fry bacon and scrambled eggs for the whole family. Gramps would hike with us kids to the neighborhood dump to rummage around for fun stuff like empty Joy bottles and old cans. I remember feeling so proud when I would find something he thought was worthy to keep. We would then make our way back to the fort and place our treasures in their perfect spots. Since I was the littlest grandchild I often rode on his strong shoulders. I’ve never felt taller.

We had motorcycles and for a time, horses on the property. I remember feeling such happiness when we all were together in that 1000 square foot cabin. Hippies and vagabonds were everywhere in Colorado during the 60’s and 70’s and Gramps didn’t want them breaking into the cabin when we were gone. Whenever we would leave, he would put an envelope filled with $1 bills on the door with a sign that said, “Take what you need and leave some for the next traveler.” One time we came back to the cabin broken into with a note left on the door that read, “The envelope was empty.”

In 1972, Gramps sold the Glacier Lake cabin for $11,000. I was only 4, but I distinctly remember feeling like my best friend had died. I cried and mourned with my siblings and cousins. I realize now we might never have gone on our European vacations if we’d kept that cabin. Dad took us for the very first time to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and England the following year. But that cabin at Glacier Lake is forever etched in my mind as one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever seen on earth.

 

My Dearest Friends

You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their books. Some are fascinated with murder mysteries, others are infatuated with romance novels, well me, I love soul searching!

When I got up this morning I glanced at my bedside and laughed at myself. This stack of books…I’ve read almost all of them, some multiple times and can’t put them away. They’ve replaced the stuffed animals I used to have on my bed as a child, they are some of my dearest friends. When I first started reading Chesterton, I wept with great sorrow that he died one week after my dad, King Jon, was born. As I was reading Tremendous Trifles, it was like truly meeting GK Chesterton in person, and becoming dear friends. When the realization hit me that he’s been dead for 81 years, I was overcome with grief! I never got to be in the presence of my dearest beloved friend!!

After reading Hemingway, I wept with shame. I had avoided reading Hemingway my entire life because I judged him harshly for ending his. I now realize he is a kindred spirit of mine. He just had so much emotional, mental, and physical pain that he finally gave into the despair. I love his description of ordinary happenings…he makes them significant and meaningful with his intricate detail tinged with both humor and sadness.

John Eldredge helped me wake up and feel fully alive as a believer in Christ, Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul is PRICELESS to mine, Richard Rohr’s Everything Belongs opened my eyes to the vastness of God’s reach and His grace, Dr Scott Peck is also one of my best friends I never got to meet, Jenny Lawson makes me laugh at our whacked humanity, The Shack taught me to live with expectancy instead of expectation, and the others are on my to do list! I must note that Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel is not in its usual place on the stack because I keep giving it to others. It’s actually my favorite of all.

There was a special group of friends and authors that regularly met to bounce ideas off of each other in the 1950’s and they called themselves “The Inklings.” JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Madeleine l’Engle were some of its most significant members. I often dream of having my own Inklings group in heaven with no barriers of time or age or language. All of these authors in this post would be in my group, and I would also add Dickens, Emerson, Austen, Alcott, Rumi, and Brene Brown. What joy!!! What learning!!! Such iron sharpening iron! Ah can you imagine the brilliant conversations and arguments over wine and hor d’oeuvres???

Soulful Listeners

Just watched Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk titled Your Elusive Creative Genius, and it spoke to my soul! I can’t count how many times I have been in total despair as a writer and songwriter, feeling that my muse has completely left me and I will no longer be able to create anything more than a simple Roses Are Red poem.

I have often felt my writing comes from an outside source, perhaps the Holy Spirit which is like the wind, always whimsically swirling around us, looking for someone who is soulfully listening and ready to write down what they hear. In my younger years, it was truly feast or famine. I either felt utterly overtaken by the creative spirit, almost like I was possessed with a genius entity that was using me to sing it’s beautiful truths to a weary world, or like an uninspired desperate wanna-be that literally had nothing to say. Today, in my more mature mindset (and body!), I have faced this fear by regularly setting aside time to write, disciplining my craft and recognizing it is a gift within that must be cultivated. I still get inspirations that seemingly hit me like a gust of wind… usually in the most inopportune moments such as driving in heavy traffic or in the middle of teaching a classroom of elementary students, but instead of feeling panicked that the magical breeze will pass me by, I will immediately write down or record the idea, knowing I can revisit it when I’m able to sit down and write.

Growing older isn’t all wrinkles and arthritis. It’s becoming comfortable in your own age-spotted skin, with all of your talents and your faults, and finally accepting the grace God’s been offering from your birth but you’ve kindly refused, thinking He should give that gift to someone weaker and less capable. I guess age has made me realize I really can’t carry the world and control its opinion of me so I’ve finally stopped trying, and boy do my shoulders feel better!

When we can accept grace from others, we finally are able to give it to ourselves. In turn, we are able to relax, be still, and and become soulful listeners, ready for the spirit’s creative call that is always actively searching for someone to hear its song and share it with whomever has ears to hear.

To Love

Every year at Christmas when we would say our goodbyes and leave my Grandmama and Grandaddy’s house in Ruston, Louisiana, my little cousin Annie O would slowly work into passionate honest tears. She fought it as hard as she could but ultimately the tears won out.  She was heartbroken that our yearly festive family time was over and she would cling to our Grandmama, whom she affectionately called ‘pokey bear’.

That memory always floods my mind when my own emotions completely overpower my body. When this happens, it is crystal clear to me how powerful our spirits are…these frail human bodies can’t handle the amount of love our spirits feel. Tear ducts overreact, heartbeat quickens, blood rushes to the cheeks, lungs fill up with gasps of breath…we are much bigger than our bodies,they can’t contain the power within.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

My spirit is overwhelming my human frame as we speak. We had 6 glorious days with our son Keenan and his lovely girlfriend Jen and they just left again for their home in Cincinnati. I felt just like little 5 year old Annie O, wanting to cling to our time together which is always too short. I’m so thankful for these tears. They are formed from an abundance of love that can’t be measured in human terms. They remind me of the love God has for us, and has placed in our hearts for him and each other. They affirm that we are bigger than our flesh, and there is so much more beyond what we can see, hear, touch, taste, or even feel.

Thank you God for this love, especially now as it spills out over my eyes! Yes it is painful, but I would rather suffer this kind of hurt than be impenetrable and numb. I end this post with a quote from The Four Loves, by CS Lewis, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

 

Homesick…for School?

A teacher has a unique opportunity every year to take a 12 week sabbatical. Most jobs just go on and on without real time for rest and reflection and it’s easy to fall into a pattern of the mundane and lose the passion you once had for your work. For teachers, by the time school gets out, we all are exhausted, completely on edge, thinking, “Do I really want to do this again next fall??” Summer break comes and we can’t get out of the school doors fast enough.

June: Home reorganizing, cleaning, purging, vacations, family time, swimming, “Maybe I’ll just lay here in this pool floatie for the rest of my life…I wonder if I could get paid for doing this?”

July 1: “Teaching, hmmm, yes, I was a teacher wasn’t I? How do I feel about teaching? I’ll revisit this thought after some more pool time.”

July 15: Familiar pang in heart, missing faces of coworkers and students, drive past school and have the first stirring of excitement to begin a new school year. “I think I’m homesick…for my school!”

August 1: “I HAVE THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD! I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE EVERYONE AND THIS YEAR I’M GOING TO BE THE BEST TEACHER MY KIDS WILL EVER HAVE!!!”

I wish every job had built in sabbaticals like teaching does. Being with kids all day for 9 months takes more energy and enthusiasm than the average job, and summer break gives us teachers that valuable reflection and rejuvenation time so we’re actually pining in our hearts for another school year with your wonderful children!

Like a Child

A child isn’t a nuisance, nor a messy, loud, annoyance. A child is a reminder of hope, of the internal magic you once had an abundance of and now lies buried and forgotten in your soul. Every once in awhile, you feel it stirring awake inside of you but supposed to’s and adulting lull it back to sleep. Being around children either annoys the unfulfilled child inside of you out of jealousy, or begins the spiritual awakening Christ mentioned.

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
‭‭Matthew 18:3 NIV

Children are a gift of unconditional love and acceptance if you’ll just take the time to listen to the ramblings of their imagination and their heart. If you listen hard enough, if you listen well…you will hear your own 5 yr old self from past years shouting…”Remember me! Love me! I am special! I am important! There is no one in all the world just like me!” And this is the truest voice you will ever hear.

There is no one like you, with your personal experiences, hurts, joys, talents, virtues, aptitudes, thoughts…you are unique and wonderful. Children know this innately and do not question it until we adults confuse them with our listless unimaginative living or our irritability toward imaginative play.

Wake up to who you are…a child of the living God, Creator of all, the Great Imaginator! You have been created to search, wonder, discover, laugh, sing, create. Let your inner child awaken and breathe breath into your tired soul. Hear her excited song of wonder…feel his joyful abandonment of self consciousness and doubt! He or she will lead you to hope, acceptance, peace, and abundant joy!

Life is Difficult

Life is difficult. That’s the first sentence in Dr Scott Peck’s bestseller The Road Less Traveled and it’s such a simple statement, most of us are like, “Duh! Already know that!” However, Dr Peck goes on to discuss how most of us really try to avoid this simple truth so we don’t have to face it head on and deal with it in an honest straightforward way. We’d rather busy ourselves with appointments, jobs, schedules, and deadlines, and when we do have time on our hands we choose distractions such as tv, electronics, games, movies, parties, and vacations to keep us so occupied we don’t have to think. It usually takes something hugely difficult, even personally catastrophic to make us accept those three words, ‘life is difficult.’

Often the deep-seated fear of what CAN happen in this difficult life infiltrates everything we do, causing phobias and obsessive compulsive behaviors, and can even distort our personalities, actually hijacking us, taking over what we say, do, and especially how we treat others. I believe this fear is really the culprit behind the most difficult people on this planet. Think about the most difficult person you have to deal with frequently, at work, home, church, social settings, etc. Have they always been that way? Do you walk on eggshells because you’re always expecting an emotional outburst if you tell the truth?  Remember, my own therapist warned me I was teaching my sons to lie to me by overreacting in difficult situations.

Ultimately, we difficult people have such a hard time dealing with disappointments, failures, problems, and life in general because we desperately want to control every factor. We have an unreasonable expectation that we can control the uncontrollable, and this comes from the driving fear at the core of us, that desperate feeling of helplessness. Deep down we know we can’t control the universe, and this scares us, so we do our best to control everything and everyone we can, exhausting ourselves and everyone who is in relationship with us. When I began to realize this about myself, I cried for days. I finally sat down, buried my head in my hands, and faced the simple truth I’d been running from…life is difficult…and no matter how hard I try to control my circumstances I’m only making my life and everyone else’s MORE difficult. I decided then and there I wanted to be known as someone who lifts spirits instead of burdens them, someone who brings sunshine of love, joy, and positivity instead of a thunderstorm of anger, disappointment, and judgement. I don’t always succeed at this, but I am daily consciously choosing to fight that fear inside of me, trying to be a light in the darkness instead of adding to the murky abyss.

Now, think again of that difficult person in your life. The best thing you can do for them is let them be, let them rage, and stop walking on eggshells. They don’t want to be known as difficult, they’re just allowing their fear to dictate who they are and how they treat others. If YOU yourself happen to be that difficult person, aren’t you tired? Don’t you feel exhausted trying to make the world bend to your will? It won’t. Put it down, let it go, and embrace those three simple words…

Acceptance Speech

Growing up in Wichita, KS as the daughter of an eccentric, grandiose genius father and an intelligent English-teaching, gorgeous southern belle mother, I had high expectations for success in my life. My dad loved the limelight as did his father before him, and I felt my destiny was to someday publicly thank him from the Grammy stage for his influence in my life, sharing my dream of stardom and for always believing in me. In elementary and middle school, I daydreamed of that moment often, even frequently giving my speech to an audience of one, in the mirror.

I began singing publicly at the age of three, writing poetry and stories all through school, and songwriting in early adulthood. My dad was always telling me, “The hook of the song is what’s important! Keep trying and one of these days you’ll make a hit!” He funded my career in the 90’s, encouraging me to move to Nashville and make my hit record.

Well, it takes a lot more than money, talent, and desire to make a hit record. It takes drive, self esteem (if not a dash of narcissism), intelligent marketing, connections with other talented people, and commitment. While it may seem ridiculous to some of you that know me, my lack of self esteem was the biggest stumbling block in my career. I know I come across as confident and extroverted, but I have seriously always felt awkward and out of place, struggling to feel like I had the right to even take up my own space in this world. I never trusted my songwriting ability, feeling like each song I wrote was a lucky accident and I didn’t really have a gift that could be harnessed. As I rubbed shoulders with established musicians and songwriters, I felt inadequate and withdrew, instead of digging in and learning everything I needed to know about the business. I guess I never grew up from that starry-eyed childhood fantasy that someone would discover me and mold me into the megastar I was born to be. Obviously I had watched too many old Doris Day and Judy Garland films!

I’m now 49, still writing songs and now this blog, still singing but now with a soft jazz group instead of contemporary Christian music, and I think I’ve finally discovered myself! I love teaching music to elementary students, writing songs, even entire musicals for them to perform, and I finally believe enough in my work to seek publishing or perhaps self-publish. Of course, I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m going to learn this time around, and at the risk of sounding stupid, I’m going to ask a lot of questions instead of keep my mouth shut and my head down like I did in my youth.

The point is, no one else is going to discover you without your own self discovery. No one else is going to value you if you don’t value yourself. These statements sound cliche but really are true! Forge your own path and learn from your mistakes, and you will grow your own successes while building your self esteem, and as my husband Mike consistently reminds me, get rid of expectations…they set you up for disappointment. We must actively cultivate our own garden of talents with self-discipline and passion, and it will grow in ways we could never imagine. You’re the only one who has the key to unlocking your own potential and discovering yourself.

It’s time for me to finally give my acceptance speech…I accept myself as I am, I accept the talents I’ve been given, I accept my place in this beautiful world and that I deserve to be here, living, breathing, loving, creating, and forging my own path ahead, step by step. And I’d like to say a special thanks to my dad AND my mom for their influence in my life and for believing in me!😆❤️

Nashville

This Nashville trip has been a new experience for me. I lived here from ’97-’05 but rarely visited downtown or the east side. We toured the Country Music Hall of Fame, visited AJ’s, Robert’s, Acme, and listened to an incredible soft jazz trio at Skull’s Rainbow Room in Printers Alley. I’ve truly been a tourist in my previous hometown!

I wish I could’ve seen all of my Nashville friends, but this was a special cousin vacation and four days went by way too fast. So many emotions being here. I love this place and have such happy memories of raising our boys in this area! Being from Kansas, the hills (which are mountains to me!), winding roads, and lush trees always made me feel like we were on vacation when we lived here.

It’s a window of time I love to look back through, but so much has changed and we can never go back to what’s already been. I will always cherish my memories of our family here. I miss the trees, the hills, the autumn colors, our house, but most of all I miss the people. I miss my dear friends that I made here as well as all of the ones with whom I never got acquainted. To clarify, the south has such a friendly welcoming attitude I truly have never met a stranger in Tennessee, just friends I haven’t been introduced to yet!

CR 2017 Lifetime Friends

Lifetime girlfriends are hard to come by. I have a few, but most have been for only a season or two in my life. I can honestly say my cousins, this group of ladies I’ve known all of my life simply because we were born into the same family, are lifelong, kindred spirit, iron sharpening iron kind of friends.

Flea is my Uncle Charlie and Aunt Karen’s oldest. She is calm, empathetic, generous, brilliant, and has the gifts of counseling, public speaking, writing, and pastoring. I can’t wait to read her first book!

Kat is my Aunt Nita and Uncle Joe’s youngest. She is kind, witty, genuine, tenderhearted, understanding, and wise beyond measure. She has a rich inner life of love, joy, and spirituality that you can actually see in the mirth in her eyes if you’re looking closely enough.

Karo is my Aunt Marie and Uncle Dave’s youngest. She is patient, honest, intelligent, loving, and quite literally one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She is always working on herself, trying to be the best person she is capable of being.

Annie O is a younger sister to Flea, also daughter to Uncle Charlie and Aunt Karen. She is fiercely independent, strong, loyal, creative, colorful, and truly a visionary. If she gets an idea that she feels passionate about, it WILL become a reality.

And our new honorary member, Brynne Marie, is my niece, and my dearest friend. She is beautiful, talented, spirited, strong, insightful, and gifted with the ability to see beyond the surface of people. She gets to the heart of others with her intuition and offers much needed encouragement and advice.

Did I say how lucky I am to call these incredible women my best friends? What joy to also be related and share such beautiful memories together! A lifetime isn’t long enough!