ode to the McKenzies

After college but before Curt, I lived in Ramona, California at Young Life’s Oakbridge.  It was my first ‘real’ job, complete with salary and benefits.  I was young, 2000 miles from home, and single. 

When John (and family) joined the team a year after me, I was in a dark place.  No, literally.  I was living on camp in the basement of a staff house that faced into an embankment.  It was a cave.  My job running ropes and organizing groups was perfect for me, but I was so lonely. Living on camp and working endlessly did little to encourage a life outside of ‘the island.’  The McKenzies moved 20 minutes up the mountain and began feeding me.  I would periodically join their chaotic table with 4 kids, read their magazines, and tag along on hikes and errands.  John and I would cry about our thankless jobs and then we’d go play volleyball at the local high school.  I attended little league baseball games and cheered at 4th of July parades with them.  

Renee is the first and only person ever brave enough to tell me I was being a bad friend.  (She’s a nurse and a home-school mom.  She’ll lay you out.)  John is the only guy who ever let me throw things in the kitchen (and live to tell about it).  I taught toddler Kylie new words (best friends forever!) and I wrangled J-Bud into his seat at many a dinner.  Camber and Connor were just barely older, but I was there for violin and star wars and baking parties and 4-H bunnies. 

Eventually, they would watch me emerge from my shadow.  They would care for me after surgery.  They would host my first date with Curt.  They would make me feel like a part of a family again.  They would make me feel like a person again.   A valuable person.

This past Labor Day, the McKenzies piled in a car (all 6 of them) and drove from Atlanta to Grand Rapids to spend the long weekend with us.  They slept in our basement, they fed our animals, they shared our food.  Our Little ShoeBox has never been so full and so happy.  Truly. 

Yesterday, I received a package in the mail.  It was from Renee… and there was a card, a cd, and a bag of large scrabble tiles.  The card simply said thank you (for, you know, letting them ‘vacation’ on the farm and sleep on the floor… you’re welcome!  any time!).  The tiles are for speed scrabble, which they introduced us to and we are now addicted. The music is from their church, and I will think of them every time it plays.

I texted Renee… something to the effect of, “Thanks for making me bawl my eyes out on the way to drop Ry off at school.  Like they need another reason to think I’m a nut case!”

She responded, “There’s nothing to cry about, silly!  Unless, of course, you’re remembering how terrible you are at Speed Scrabble.”

Love you, too.

from the bottom of my heart,

Love. You. Too.

What’s your favorite game as of late?

About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

11 responses to “ode to the McKenzies

  • steph

    that was a crazy time…you were lonely at camp, i was lonely in Spain…but we had the tapes, remember? those conversations really kept me going in my dark time, even though they were recorded weeks before i ever heard them. but, God had us there for great a reason…to serve Him and to meet our hubbys! ha! you are a GREAT mom, by the way!

  • Renee

    You are far too gracious! We love you all so much and remember our Ramona/Julian days with you with as many mixed emotions as you do. You were definitely part of the positive memories. We fondly remember you reading “BFG” to all of us and being willing to join our messy world. You literally provided some of our only moments of humor and sanity. I love you. We love you. Now, we love Curt, Ry, and Gideon too.
    We are so looking forward to trekking up to Texas North again. Kylie is planning her summer trip now. I am glad you like your Scrabble tiles and hope you know I was kidding about your Scrabble skills 🙂

    Love you!

  • jtp

    i think most people have “that” family for them- for me it was the Splains and just reading your blog makes me miss them and almost makes me cry about how awesome it was to be with them and be loved like that…oh crap now I’m starting to cry at work….. as if my students need another reason to think I’m crazy…I don’t know if they’ll buy the “it’s allergies” excuse today…. at least this is a happy cry, not a divorce cry… 🙂

    • texasnorth

      Aw, yea! Yea for remembering good people 🙂 You tell your students that relationships are the most important thing they will ever learn to deal with. EVER. Good or bad, people affect you forever.

      And also, I love you.

  • Annie Mulder

    I love this Kate. I think that I’ve recently found “that” family here in Tanzania. When I get overwhelmed by learning new things, desperate for a mom, frustrated by cultural differences, and just need a place to escape to for awhile there’s a Seattle family here (with three kids, not four) who have adopted me as their own. I totally know what you mean when you describe what a difference it makes. I hope that I can maintain a close relationship with them like you and the McKinzies! Also, say hello to the cows for me. I miss them.

  • beckyswann

    Oh what a treasure it is that you have friends like that! Awesome!

  • LoLo

    Maybe not favorite, but most frequently played, is Pinkalicious UNO. It’s all about kids’ games around this casa. I have officially quit Chess. Not a good thing to hear your 5-yr old say over & over again “I wouldn’t make that move if I was you…”

    Yep, I keep very close to my heart a few precious, life-saving families/individuals that kept me moving in a forward direction during many LOW times. Love how the Lord knows just what & who we need at different times in life! What a gift!

  • Chelsey


    I remember you in the “cave”. You let me hide there a few times, when I needed it most.

talk to me

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