Rivers and Roads

“Don’t change anything about yourself, warts and all.”

My husband said this to me the other day when I said I needed to get rid of a wart on my hand,and he wasn’t speaking metaphorically.

Warts are gross and need to be removed…but we all have them, and the more time we spend with someone, the more we see these nasty, broken growths.

Since I’m apparently perfect to my husband, my New Year’s resolution will be to fix his warts. 🙂

In reality I’m reminded of that quote: “Strive to be the the person your dog thinks you are.” I think my New Year’s resolution is actually to try to be the person my husband thinks I am…or try to forgive my husband as much as he forgives me.

This Christmas was our first Christmas married, and we were both determined to enjoy the whole Christmas season without allowing stress to ruin it. It’s hard to adjust to being married all over again, spend time with all three families, and still do what we knew we wanted to do for our relationship.

I told myself early on that I was going to embrace the running around and hectic holiday I knew was coming. And we did, and definitely had an awesome Christmas.

But it hit me this Christmas just  how much things really are changing.

I love Christmas. It’s always been my favorite holiday. I loved how my parents used to parade the presents one by one down the hall on Christmas Eve. I loved having my stocking at the foot of my bed when I woke up at 7 to open with my sister before falling back to sleep. I loved how my mom always made a huge breakfast with mimosas. Then my dad gave his typical Christmas speech before we opened presents one by one. Then we watched movies, read books, and played games. And then some Christmases we spent in Green Bay and played football in the snow, drank far too much hot chocolate, went to packer games, and curled up on my grandparents’ couch trying to stay warm when my grandpa kept the house at 64 on cold winter days.

Christmas will never be the same again. I’m not even legally a Kern anymore.

I love my new siblings, and I couldn’t have asked for better in laws. And more than anything I can’t wait to start my own traditions with my new husband and new family.

But I couldn’t help but be a little sad that the Kern family doesn’t exist as it used to.

One night, Matt, Katie, Andrew, Alex and Rachel and I sat outside on the back porch like we’ve done a thousand times, passed the hookah, drank wine, and talked and listened to music, then the song “Rivers and Roads” played silently over the iPod and we all silently sang along.

“a year from now we’ll all be gone, and our friends will move away.”

This song has expressed my feelings since I graduated high school and my best friends and I dispersed around the country- beginning new lives.

But now I’m married and moving who knows how many times in the next decade, my sister lives in Africa, my oldest brother is married with his third child on the way, my other brother just returned from Australia, and my little brother goes to Hillsdale and then will take over the world who knows where. I’ve always wanted to grow up and be an adult, but no one tells you that asking to grow up is asking for your parents to get old.

I realize Christmas was a month ago, but I just finished reading one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors- Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. A book about many things, but one in particular – change, and the nostalgia, pain, and loss that it brings. Berry also wrote a sister story, Hannah Coulter. Many people complain how Hannah Coulter is written too nostalgically, how she complains about change too much, how it’s about an old woman’s end to a sad life in a small town that couldn’t keep up with the progressing times.

But I loved it. I loved both those books for their attachment to tradition, their love of the simple, their intentional need for nature as it should be, listening to the water, seeing the fruit of your labor, and feeling the breeze in a clearing of trees.

I’m only 24 years old..I’m still pretty young, nowhere near an old lady, but for some reason when I read his books, I feel, as much as I can, the nostalgia that Hannah and Jayber both felt, and it’s painful but hopeful.  Buddy and I always joke than when we’re 70 we’ll be sitting out on our back porch, drinking sweet tea, watching the horses graze; Buddy will probably have just gotten home from lifting, and I’ll be in dirty riding clothes.  But when I read Hannah Coulter I feel a pain that I know I’ll feel if my children couldn’t care less about a thing we worked for, if when we’re 70 nothing we did matters. I feel for the elderly who get put in nursing homes because their children can’t care for them. To me, that’s what Hannah Coulter is about.

My grandma just turned 70, and when I’m 70 I hope I have had as meaningful a life as her. Her family loves her. She and my grandpa blessed everybody they have known, and she is the most fun and adventurous grandma with the greatest stories. Though she suffered many losses, she never lost her grace or faith.

So I guess as we embark on many adventures, and I leave Georgia before I’m ready, and go live with Yankees, I’m reminded that I’m lucky I chose a good partner to continue on this adventure through life with. And as I get older, and rivers and roads put distance between both time and space there will always be family and friends, warts and beauty, loss and grace, and most of all faith.





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