Donte’s 21st Birthday

Tuesday night we took Donte out to dinner to celebrate his 21st birthday.  On the way home, I told JR that “parenting” Donte has been the best and worst part of our marriage.

Donte birthday 21When we said “I do”, Donte had already been in JR’s life for three years.  He was one of his closest Young Life boys at the time.  There was really no option for me but to embrace this young man being around.  Of course at the time we had no idea how much we would really embrace this young man.

It’s been the worst part because it has been tremendously costly.  Our friendship with Donte has cost us every type of resource we have: social capital, financial, spiritual and emotional.  It has been inconvenient and discouraging.  We’ve navigated many waters and situations where we’ve had no clue what to do or what is right.  We’ve disagreed on what to do.  It’s cost us time together.  It is often frustrating and just plain hard.

It’s been the best part because as we have worked as a team and prayed for something that has seemed impossible we’ve seen God do some incredibly miraculous things.  I love my husband more because of the way he loves Donte.

We had several friends go above and beyond to love Donte on his birthday this year.  One invited him into her family’s home and celebrated Donte with very generous gifts and a birthday cake.  Another couple threw him a surprise party.  On our way to dinner, we asked which birthday has been his favorite, partially expecting the answer to be this one.  Without hesitation he quickly answered, “My 17th birthday when JR had all those people bring me different things at school.”  Later on at dinner he told us that on his 17th birthday he thought he would be in prison, dead or living his life continually under the influence of drugs by 21.  We celebrated that he was none of those things and that he is now on a very different path for his future.

On Tuesday night Donte shared with us a small way he hopes to be generous to two of his friends once he is employed again.  He then shared that on his list of things he dreams for his future returning the generosity he has been given is near the top.  This was the first time we’ve heard him truly acknowledge how much he has generously and graciously been given from others who owed him nothing.  He longs to be successful so that he can pay it forward and be generous to others in need.  H

That is exactly what Jesus does for people.  We have been given much: salvation, freedom, peace, joy, confidence and a family.  Due to that, we give much to others.  We give to the lost, the hurting, the broken and the poor.  We give to those in need because all of our needs have been met in Christ.  We invite them in to the family and freedom we have tasted and seen for ourselves.  Much has been given to us; therefore, we give much.

Donte’s journey reminds me of how much I have been given, how I so often forget to recognize the generosity and how it is the call on my life to give much to others.

Many of you have so faithfully prayed for our friend.  Here are a few things you can continue to pray: 1) For a job 2) For him to get a photo ID 3) For continued perseverance and dedication to abide by all of the restrictions of his probation 4) For Donte to humbly submit to all of the authority he is under

May you too remember how much you are given in Jesus and may that drive you to give generously in every area of your life.

Donte birthday


Singleness didn’t stop her

When Mary was a young woman, she fell in love with a young man.  Her parents disapproved of their relationship continuing because he did not share her Greek heritage.  Mary never married.

Growing up I remember my Great Aunt Mary coming to visit often when we visited my grandparents.  She always came with new frilly dresses for me and was ready to play Uno for hours.  She was a bonus grandma.  When talking about my cousin, Rawlins, and me, she referred to us as “her girls.”  She still does.

When our family wanted to travel to Greece we brought Aunt Mary with us.  She kept up with us all day long and told stories about her travels back to Greece when she was younger.  She introduced us to our extended family on the island of Ikaria after down playing how nice that island would be all week long.  The only part of the trip she missed out on were the nights Rawlins and I spent at the disco.  She encouraged us nightly to find a nice young man to marry.

aunt mary and her girlsEarlier this month my dad’s side of the family gathered together for a family reunion to celebrate Aunt Mary’s 90th birthday.  Since Mary has no children of her own and our family has three generations following hers, almost everyone lovingly refers to her as Aunt Mary.  Eighty people gathered together to celebrate this woman who has been a pillar of our family.  Mary was probably the only person there who knew everyone’s name, how they were related and where they lived now.

Kefalos familyHer singleness hasn’t held her back for a second.  She had a great career.  Her life has been full of travel and adventures.  She’s shaped our family by her deep love and her commitment to all of us.  She has developed deep relationships with so many.  She welcomes nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, and great-grand-nieces and great-grand-nephews like they were her own.  If Dallas makes the national news for weather or tragedy, I know to expect a call from Aunt Mary checking in to see if me, that handsome husband of yours and that adorable baby girl are all alright.  When I think back on my childhood to who loved me best, memories with Aunt Mary always stand out.

Mary and EmersonIt would have been easy for her to separate herself from our family – to be bitter of my Pappou (her brother) who originally hid his marriage to a non-Greek girl instead of playing by his parents’ rules like Mary did.  Instead, Mary chose to enter in with love.  She didn’t have to focus on her own grandchildren; she loved all of us like we were hers.  Poor lady has sent way too many birthday cards and checks.  Mary’s family is bigger than most and deeper than most because of the way she used her availability.

This road hasn’t been easy for Mary.  I know that mainly because she used to always encourage me to find a man, a nice young man to marry.  When I think about the way she lives, there are a few things I always want to remember.  First, love your family deeply.  Show up for them.  Call them.  Even the distant family members.  Second, travel to places you love often.  Mary headed to Greece for the majority of her summers.  She deeply values the culture, the food and the people in that country.  Lastly, accessorize.  Mary’s jewelry is amazing.  She has tons of big bold pieces.  To fully appreciate her, you need to know that.

Mary and all her girlsHow good does that woman look for 90??  #oldgoals



Best friends help friends move

When I was four years old, I met Pati and Billy Martin.  They moved in across the street from us on Devonwood and my mom paraded our family over to their front door with a homemade apple pie in hand.  Billy decided right then and there that our families would be best friends.  Dessert is the way to that man’s heart.  Can’t fault him for that.

Pati, Billy, Jenny and Megan Martin are the other half to the Kefalos family.  Jenny and Megan gave me a taste of what it would be like to have sisters.  We played games in our basements and back yards.  They helped me try to convince my brother to play Barbies.  We made up plays and various performances for our parents.  Our parents took turn babysitting the four of us.  Every other year we went on a family vacation to the beach together.  We ran back and forth between our houses Christmas morning to compare presents. I locked myself in their guest bathroom when we were leaving to catch our plane to move to Houston.  If my mom hadn’t threatened, “If I have to call the fire department to get you out of there I will make your life so miserable you will wish you were still in there,” I probably would still be in that bathroom avoiding a cross country move.

New Years 2000Even once we moved to Texas and the season of playing with the Martins daily came to an end, our families still maintained a close friendship.  Visits, phone calls and family vacations together were still the norm.  Our early memories together as friends have motivated us to continue to pursue friendship despite the distance.

On July 8th, my phone rang with Pati Martin appearing on the caller ID.  Pati and Billy were originally supposed to come to Austin, TX on that day to spend the weekend at my parents’ new lake house.  Mom and Dad were supposed to move in to their new home in early June and the week of the 4th of July was supposed to be the big grand opening.  As happens with construction, the move and the grand opening were pushed back.  My mom had Pati and Billy cancel their trip because she wanted to wait for them to visit when she could host them properly.  When I answered the phone that Friday afternoon, Pati had a simple request, “Can you figure out where your mom is right now, but be sneaky about it?”

Immediately I knew they had come to town anyways.  Pati explained that they knew my parents could use the help unpacking and setting up life in a new home.  I should maybe mention that my mom was also just getting out of a boot for a broken toe and that my parents had hired no help to move their possessions from the garage into the home.  Pati and Billy did not care if my mom wouldn’t be able to wow them with her hostessing abilities in her new home.  They didn’t care that the house had no furniture and the only place to sit was on the steps. They came to spend time with my parents and to help them when they needed it.

It took only a few minutes for me to decide that our family would drive down from Dallas for the weekend as well.  I couldn’t let Pati and Billy fly to Texas without seeing them.  Within the hour, my mom was surprised by Pati and Billy’s arrival and then informed that our family was en route with precious Grandbaby Emerson as well.

We all WORKED that weekend, even Emerson helped sweep floors and unload boxes one piece of Tupperware at a time.  Goodness, a woman can accumulate a lot of Tupperware over 30 years of marriage and the popularity of Tupperware parties in the early 90s.

Emerson cleaningDuring the clean up and setting up, we caught up.  We talked about recent things, important things and dreams for this home we were helping to create.  We laughed about past memories and the adventures we’ve had.  Pati cried when she met Emerson for the first time because it sunk in for the first time that I am a mother now too.

Martins meet EmersonPati and Billy are the type of friends that have seen our family at our best and at our worst.  They have loved our family and served our family in all sorts of situations.  We’ve done the same for them.  They’ve cheered my parents on and encouraged them from across the country.  They have never let distance define our friendships.

They are the type of friends we all need.  The ones that show up when you need them without being asked.  The type that know what you really need even though you will not ask for it.  It’s only best friends that will show up to clean and unpack boxes with you, even 30 of them that are labeled “Knick Knacks” and 20 that are labeled “Miscellaneous Kitchen.”

Best friends show up for the exciting things: weddings, births and birthday parties.  But they also show up for the less glamorous things: funerals, moves and hospital visits.  We don’t need our fringe friends showing up on unpacking day because some of our possessions, collections and clothes from the past several decades are rather embarrassing.  But, best friends help friends move.  I’m thankful my parents have those type of best friends.