The Best Day

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It was not the first time I had performed “I’m A Little Teapot,” but it was certainly the most important. With hair that curled into q’s and fire station red Keds, I bounced down the hallway, locking hands with my grandmother. We’d run a few errands on the way there, including a visit to my favorite mailman, Oddly, but our final stop held enough excitement that even my two-and-a-half year old stomach knew to drop.

I marveled over the hospital’s automatic doors and abundance of latex gloves, turning the corner to see two familiar faces: mom and dad. His face covered in a scary-looking mask to conceal his perfectly-timed pink eye, my dad called me over to a tall box on wheels with a blanket placed inside. Unsure of what the box would hold, I did the only thing I knew to do–distract. “But have you heard my song?,” I said.

Without pause for response, the words slipped out, dripped in that hilarious Southern twang I mysteriously caught for a few years of my childhood. “I’m a little teapot, short and stayyyout. Here is my handle; Here is my spayyyouuttt.”

They politely listened to the tune, their attention obviously elsewhere.

The blankets inside the box held something much better than a teapot–my newborn baby brother.

The next day, my dad let me help him choose a cake from the bakery, and I of course picked the one with flowers. We stood in line as the baker topped it with the words “Welcome home, mom and Kendall!” in blue icing. Later, we sat on the couch–my mom holding the baby, my dad holding the cake. As soon as he put it down, I decided to help by removing the flowers so we could eat the rest. Reaching for a petal, my hand dove into a glob of icing. Previously, I had no mental category for icing flowers. I had no category for being a sister, either.

This is my oldest memory. It includes all of the things that psychologists say fill out significant memories — hospitals, transition, fear and cake, of course. Our first memories hinge between what we value and who we are, setting the precedent for both to continue taking shape.

I can’t remember life before I became a sister. Of course, I have home videos on VHS to remind me of my first steps and birthday parties, but I could not recall these things on my own. Kendall and I have been commonly mistaken for twins, and I don’t think this is too far from the truth. In many ways, the day his life began was when mine did, too.

23 years later, it couldn’t be more true. I can’t think of a day that would define the rest of my life more than that one. Welcoming him home and into our lives felt like inviting joy to stay.

And 23 years ago, I would never predict that I’d be spending today alone. I couldn’t have stretched my imagination far enough to cover the misery, grief and death that would one day follow my brother’s birth. But more importantly, and the thing I see the most today, my little mind could never perceive the profoundly extravagant gift of being his sister. Even on my darkest day, it will always win.

The day those little blue blankets appeared was my first day worth remembering, so it would be wrong to drift through today just trying to make it through. Today commemorates the 23rd anniversary of the best day of my life. I sure wish I knew 23-year-old Kendall, but I’m thankful to hope that a little part of him lives within 25-year-old me.

Happy Birthday, sweet boy. Here’s to an eternity of days like these to spend together. Don’t worry, I’ll be bringing a little teapot, short and stout.

Cheers | 6.2

Cheers is a weekly toast to celebrate the people, places and things that helped us make it to Friday.

priscilla-du-preez-228220I don’t know how we got here already, but I LOVE IT. All of the caps lock for today and always. Last night, a new Jeni’s ice cream store opened down the street (DREAMS) and it was like our whole side of town dropped what they were doing to form a line to watch summer roll in once more. We waited for over an hour for free scoops of wildberry lavender and brambleberry sorbet, but it was more than worth it to support the cause of ice creamery, one near and dear to my heart.

Speaking of, if you have a Jeni’s near you, I need you to stop right now to try their Cookies In Cream. Last night, I declared that it’s my favorite ice cream flavor of all time, so this is serious business.

And with that, I’d like to a propose a toast to waffle cones and summer nights and all the things that delivered a little more hope this week. Can I just tell you that this week was hard, but taking note of these little hopefuls really helped me make it through? I never want this practice to get old.

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First of all, to YOU, dad, because it’s your birthday! Happy, happy day!

To you, Big Little Lies, for consuming my whole dang life this week. I have a strict only-happy-shows-and-books rule currently, but it was worth breaking it for this. I finished the book on Monday and am now happily making it through the show. Don’t let me watch any more murder shows after this though, you guys. #accountability

To you, Option B, for being the perfect recovery book from Big Little Lies and helping me sort through the trauma. But really, I mentioned the On Being podcast with Sheryl Sandberg before, and I’m still captivated by her story in the pages of this book. So far, this is the kind of grief book I can get on board with.

To you, empty edamame shells and salt sprinkles, for reminding us to slow down and enjoy our tables and the people around them. Also for being the perfect healthy-ish appetizer.

img_5588To you, long road trips, for hours alone with my favorite podcasts and audiobooks. My little-known introvert heart is thriving.

To you, Erin Loechner, for the most brilliant idea of a resource party. (Basically? Pick a goal, announce it to your friends and raise your hand with simple ways you can support them in their goal while they support you in yours. Best.)

To you, Kendall Sky, for always showing up and never letting us down. (Okay but seriously, usually I have an eye for these things, but when other people notice the beauty, it’s my favorite. Last night, standing in line for Jeni’s, everyone stopped to notice and take pictures and it took everything in me to not say “THAT’S MY BROTHER. IT’S A KENDALL SKY.” But we will all discuss these things in heaven, I’m sure of it.)

To you, reader, if it’s been a long week. I SEE YOU, friend. Keeping you in my prayers and fist bumping in solidarity. Also, if you want to reach out for a virtual “you’ve got this,” I’d love to cheer you on. Shoot me an email!

Wishing you joy and rest x a million this weekend. And free scoops of ice cream, while we’re at it. LOVE YOU, DEAR ONES.

Cheers | 5.26

Cheers is a weekly toast to celebrate the people, places and things that helped us make it to Friday.

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HOLLA AT US, LONG WEEKEND. That just deserves all the cheers in itself, doesn’t it? All the toasts to Memorial Day. The end.

But really, you guys. Isn’t this just the best? Whether this weekend finds you working or playing, let’s all vow to squeeze every ounce of the joy from it and be thankful. I hope it’s one of those weekends that keeps you cheesin’ all the way through next week. That’s your assignment, ok?

Now to the good stuff:

To you, assorted delicious food items, because you’re about to be ALL UP IN this post. Primarily because it’s currently 5 pm on a Thursday and I’m ready for you.

To you, cinnamon almond milk macchiato from Starbucks, for brainwashing me with all the sugary sweetness into believing you’re a healthy choice. We all know the truth and continue to deny it anyway, don’t we?

To you, Salad Palette with Mango from Trader Joe’s, because are-you-freaking-kidding-me? Mango and watermelon and all the summer joy topped with goat cheese. You heard me.

To you, plantains, because I really wanted to stop the food list there but couldn’t because I love you so much.

To you, TURTLE, because #FavoriteAnimalCrossing this week! I’ve claimed the turtle as my favorite animal for so long that I cannot even admit how gross-looking this is.

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To you, new patio furniture, because I’m in love! I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!!!!!

To you, Hidden Brain podcast, primarily because when my mom recommended this to me, I thought she said “Kitten Brain.” Maybe you should rethink your branding. Expand your audience. Just saying. “Getting Unstuck” is my fave so far.

To you, Andrea Lucado, for writing English Lessons! I had the most fun guest posting on her site this week. (Here’s the link in case you missed it.)

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To you, “things I did” list, because you’re so much more fun than a to-do list. I created a list to list all of the bold things I’ve done in 2017 and it’s the perfect little “keep going.”

To you, seriousness, because you are absent in this post. SEE YA NEXT WEEK.

To you, my favorite readers, because some of you are starting your own end-of-week “Cheers” celebrations and I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Heart eyes for days. Excited to follow along with you!

To you, weekend that’s going to last forever. It can’t hurt, right? #FingersCrossed

Happy Friday, friends! Cheers to you.

How to Squeeze Hope Into a Life Ridden by Fear

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This blog is part of Andrea Lucado’s series, “Notes To Your Younger Self,” celebrating the release of her new book English Lessons! When Andrea asked me to write a note to my younger self on a faith struggle, I knew exactly, exactly, exactly where this would go. Thankful for the privilege to share it! View the post on her site here.

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Dear 16-Year-Old Kaitlin,

We’re going to Sea World! Younger self, if we could cross paths at the same time, that’s exactly where I’d take you. We’d sit on the hot bleachers, watching seals wave hello as we welcomed memories of your first time there. You were four and it was the dreamiest preschool school field trip idea imaginable. Wearing your favorite denim jumper, it was finally your turn to experience the whale-shaped ice cream sandwich you’d been waiting for. But that’s not the part that stands out, is it?

Somehow, in the bustle of chaperone herding and sunscreen applying, you found yourself locked in the bathroom alone. All of your friends were outside watching walruses clap their hands and dolphins jump through hoops, but you were sitting on the stained cement floor, hearing the fun but feeling trapped and forgotten.

When you were finally discovered, your teacher was horrified but you were fine, brushing off your knees like you’d purposefully chosen to study tile grout instead of sea animals.

And while I’m happy to report that you haven’t been left in a bathroom since, at sixteen, you will find yourself in your own closet, trapped not by a lock, but by fear. Anxiety is your grown-up Sea World bathroom, keeping you in a dark space while your friends play without you. They will look at you strangely, wondering why you can’t just enjoy the penguins.

You may be disappointed to know that at 25 you still won’t have it all figured out, but I do want to give you a little pep talk about what to expect.

First of all, people are going to tell you a lot of things. They may tell you that the things you worry about rarely happen, that being afraid is a waste of time, or even ask you to stop your anxiety, as if it’s a piece of gum to spit out. This advice, while well-meaning, is about as valid as dating tips from your dental hygienist. Their entirely wrong words at precisely the wrong time will make you feel alone.

Before I go any further, sweet girl, I need you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. This is not a flaw, a malfunction, or a mistake you made. Fear is not a sign of weakness; rather, it’s a sign you’ve been strong enough to love. You’ve been bold enough to lend vulnerability and compassion, to give yourself to things you know you could lose. This is your biggest strength, and man, I can’t wait for you to see the places this takes you. Anxiety will huddle up to the things you adore most, but I hope you’ll remember that love always showed up first.

Although you grew up in church, you’re just learning what it means to open your Bible and believe it for yourself. When you do this, you may be tempted to think that anxiety is due to a lack of faith. You may find it hard to take your fears to a God who allows such bad things to happen. Because you’re desperately afraid of suffering, you’re reluctant to follow a faith that guarantees it. Before today, you’ve always had the Truth to discuss in Sunday School or write in a notebook, but from now on, it is your lifeline. Yes, suffering is unavoidable, but hope isn’t. Please don’t miss it.

As you grow closer to God, you will give Him ultimatums, saying you’ll leave if He lets bad things happen to you. But at the root of all your fears, you’re afraid He will be the One to leave first. The bad things are still going to happen, but He won’t leave you, not for a second. Your worst fears may come true, but the Gospel will ring truer.

And finally, you may not be able to control the darkness, but you can control whether or not you face it alone. Don’t be afraid to go to the scary places that make you feel like the only one, because that’s the only way to find out you aren’t. Because love showed up first on The Cross, loneliness is never the end.

You have a lot to look forward to, and most of it has to do with hope. Keep looking for it. There’s a room for you there, too.
XoXo,
25-Year-Old Kaitlin

P.S. You don’t have to enjoy the penguins, but please eat the ice cream sandwich.

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I’m so thankful to help celebrate the release of my friend Andrea Lucado’s memoir, English Lessons, with this note to my younger self. You may recognize her last name, as she is daughter to pastor and author Max Lucado. His books were foundational to my faith growing up, and I can say exactly the same about her book now! I’ve enjoyed writing alongside her at She Reads Truth and am honored to introduce you to her work, knowing you’ll absolutely love it! Her book, which is now available at your favorite retailer, is about a year she spent in England when she was 22. It’s the perfect combination of rich travel descriptions and genuine, searching vulnerability.

In her own words, “English Lessons is about one of the most formative years in my faith. I was going through a dark season of doubt and I wrestled a lot with the beliefs of my childhood, wondering if the Christian faith was simply something my parents had passed down to me or something I really believed in. If I could go back to Oxford and sit down with my 22-year-old self, I would tell her a thing or two about what she was going through and what purpose it would serve.”

Order your copy and visit the rest of the “Notes to Your Younger Self Series” at AndreaLucado.com. Congrats on this beautiful work, Andrea!

THE BEST PART: Andrea is graciously giving FIVE of my sweet readers a free copy of English Lessons! Enter and subscribe below, then I’ll choose the winners on Friday, May 26! Update: Contest is now closed and winners have been notified. Subscribe to be notified of future fun giveaways! 

Cheers | 5.19

Cheers is a weekly toast to celebrate the people, places and things that helped us make it to Friday.
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My annual trip to the post office happened last week. Since I do not frequent it often, when I do, it’s with precisely nine oversized packages. That need to be overnighted. Yesterday.

“Nobody told me Mary Poppins was coming today!” the postmaster exclaimed, referring to my seemingly bottomless bag of boxes. I’ve resolved to try taking this as a compliment.

So if you’re feeling more procrastination than Poppins this week, I’M SO WITH YOU. But it’s Friday, so cheers, friends! Let’s do this.

To you, Garden Fresh Gourmet salsa, for rebranding. What does this say about my life that this is the top of the list? I don’t even care. This salsa. Is my favorite salsa. And it no longer looks like…well. It’s better. Just trust me on this one. Sweet Onion, I love you.

To you, friends with perfect porches and better hearts. Thanks for creating a mid-week happy.

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To you, On Being podcast, for bringing all the joy to my ears. How did I not listen to you until now? Smart, pleasant, approachable, and turning me into a nerd about All The Things. Which brings me to my next point:

To you, Sheryl Sandberg, for leaning in to another topic. Has anyone read her new book Option B yet? After listening to her On Being interview, I picked it up right away and am excited to get started. I’m allllll about listening to powerhouse women talk about grief.

To you, outtakes, for keeping us humble. And also for channeling the perfect “I need a weekend” vibes.

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To you, Fruit of the Loom tank top multipack from the men’s section at Target, for being my best fashion purchase in a while. And you guys wonder why I’m not a fashion blogger. #LiketoKnowIt

To you, Scott Sauls, for the sermon “Rescuing Our Souls From Digital Captivity.” 10/10 would recommend. Not cliche. A refreshing, truth-filled perspective. Do you have any soul tips for approaching technology? I’m listening!

To you, Nashville Predators, for doing a good job at sports. Hashtag bandwagon fan.

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To you, reader, for all of your pre and post-half-marathon encouragement. I was thinking about you guys while I was running and am just so thankful for your sweet support!

To you, Chuy’s, for creating creamy jalapeno dip and being the sole light at the end of the tunnel this Friday. (Started with salsa, ended with dip. Pro writer tip: bookend everything with Mexican food.)

To being Mary Poppins or totally rejecting it. In the most delightful way.

CHEERS, friends! Happy weekend. xoxo

what bold means

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I’ll always remember the night we saw
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. With popcorn kernels stuck in our teeth and drowsiness in our eyes, I slumped into the passenger seat of his gold Jeep, counting down the minutes until I could cannonball into my bed.

Kendall, on the other had, had another idea. Many of them, in fact.

To me, this movie starring Ben Stiller had been an enjoyable summer late-night activity. It soon became clear that to my little brother, it had been 90 minutes of complete life change.

“KAIT!”, he exclaimed. “It’s just that…I don’t have to do things the way I thought I did. We don’t have to! How did I not see this before!”

With freedom in his lungs and determination in his eyes, he began devising a plan and I realized we weren’t going to call it a night anytime soon. These moments happened frequently with Kendall. No one could catch inspiration quite like he could. Except for his sister, that is.

Although I’m usually a New Year’s resolutions kind of girl through and through, this year was different. This year, I chose one word: Bold.

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I wasn’t sure what it would be like to lean into one word for all of 2017. Would it be an excuse for me to get away with off-the-wall antics? Was it too vague to execute realistically?

What began as a wild hair idea for my word of the year quickly turned into a much more intense personal challenge. When everything began to change around me, it was a hearty joke. And then, as things tend to do, it became spiritual.

After years of life happening to me, I wanted to happen to my life. I would reclaim myself in the “family of things,” as Mary Oliver would say, grabbing the reins of my favorite role, bossy big sis.

“Bold” wasn’t the motivation behind running a half-marathon, starting a new job, pursuing writing full-time or moving into a new home; Bold is, however, my own personal Walter Mitty–a permission slip to see and experience each of these differently than I had before.

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Bold is my year-long experiment in being brave enough to find what lies beneath a thick blanket of grief. It’s calling joy by name unashamedly and reclaiming the uninhibited concept of fun. It’s noticing the muscles that have become stronger and the backbone grief has grown and counting myself better because of it. It’s knowing that in doing these things, I don’t miss Kendall any less, but I can release myself from performing my grief to convince others I am still sad.

Bold is a no-pressure first draft of rewriting my narrative and brainstorming what genre it may live under next. And at the same time, it’s all just reclaiming the freedom and grace that has been mine for the taking all along. Yes, it’s a process of reinventing, but in doing so, I think I’m coming home to myself. I’m so happy that, after all this time, she’s right where I left her.

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Photos by Simon and Moose