He is generous, thoughtful, and direct. A lover of his family. A humble pastor. A servant. Contemplative. Highly competitive on the field. A loud introvert. Coffee-lover. Sports enthusiast. Whip-smart. Comfortable alone, his thoughts faithful companions. A keeper of time and schedule. A logical, yet creative mind.

His love shines hard through texts rather than conversation. His biblical passions arise in his sermons.

This is Caleb. Our firstborn. A deeply kind and slightly mysterious man–in the very best of ways.

This, this is what Natalia has been gifted.


Years ago, when we lived over 700 miles apart, Caleb phoned me. At that time, he was in grad school, working on his MDiv. We chatted for a spell and then:

Mom? I am not sure what will happen, but I have met someone. You will love her.

Few details, as is his nature.

And would you believe me if I told you that I knew? Only because I read his tone. Relaxed, confident, happy.

My brother and his family were able to meet this Natalia first, and my sister-in-law texted me that day:

A gem, Kristin. She is a perfect gem.


Not so long ago, I was crushed. The reasons were layered and complex, but I was holding up. Few knew my situation, which was for the best.

Natalia approached me, huge eyes sorrowful, and took my hand.

I am so sorry, she said simply and gently, her dark eyes suddenly filling in compassion.

I didn’t have to explain, but I tried, and then just couldn’t. Her soft hand squeezed mine, and she was quiet.

Natalia does this thing when someone is hurting. She looks down and away, granting privacy in grief. Yet she stays– fully present and unmoving. It is a gift as she willingly pauses work, deadlines, chores, everything. To be fully engaged with the hurting.

It is rare and restorative.

Natalia could not fix this particular problem, but she entered a deeply uncomfortable place and set up camp, rallying.

This, this is what my son has been gifted.


I was helping with their baby boy, our beautiful grandson, one Friday many months ago. Times were tense, as the baby wasn’t sleeping or feeding well, plus there were pressures mounting at work.

She told me that she and Caleb were struggling, more than she preferred.

I was flung far back to those new-mother days of fragmented sleep, interrupted conversations, bills piling up, jobs to tend.

I also remember discussing these hardships with absolutely no one.

She openly asked my opinion on a specific issue, her words threadbare and honest, admissions that cast her in a less than charming light.

And I thought then of Caleb, who was at work, laboring diligently. I felt the weight he was now shouldering.

So I answered my daughter-in-law directly, honestly. It was not easy, but she asked, and Caleb is my son.

She nodded after I spoke my opinion. You are right, Kristin. And thank you for telling me the truth. I must apologize to Caleb.

Zero whispered excuses, no building a case with But…but….but he!

No hardness in her eyes. Just peaceful ownership and humility.

The fullness of her heart glistened, and she became my teacher that day. I won’t soon forget.

This, this is what my son has been gifted.


She calls Caleb: My sweetie, and her voice is soft and pretty.

That was the first thing I noticed when we met her.

Her smooth, gentle voice.


As she confessed later, she was nervous that day.

We first met each other up high on those intramural fields, where Caleb was playing football. It was bitterly cold for April– the wind whipping over the mountain that night, stars twinkling. I was shivering.

She waved and hugged each one of us openly, her smile bright, her happiness impossible to contain. Effusive, contagious.

My first thought? Of course he loves her. She lights up the field. Such natural beauty wrapped in joy.

Our conversation was easy. I have since come to discover that Natalia never pretends anything. If she is stressed, she says so. Tired? She goes to sleep. Sad? She cries. Sick? She rests. Happy? She glows.

Everything remains open, genuine, authentic. Unmasked.

This, this is what my son has been gifted.


Natalia has twin brothers, eleven years her senior, each married with four daughters between them.

At Natalia’s baby-gender reveal, Caleb fired a rocket into the air. As blue powder flooded the sky, we jumped and screamed and hugged each other with sweet, wild abandon. Her brothers grabbed Caleb, slapping his back in congratulations. Their eyes danced, warm and bright, so like Natalia’s, and their happiness flooded the entire yard.

This is the first grandson for both sides, and with so many little girls perched on the branches of Natalia’s family tree, it is easy to see why some older brothers might have felt envious of those puffy clouds of blue.

Not the case here.

Everything in this family is celebrated in fine fashion, joy filling life’s hard crevices. My husband and Natalia’s father met in the middle, hugging and high-fiving and shouting the beautiful news with all of their might. Two grandfathers, together. Natalia’s mother and I hugged, each of us more reserved than our husbands, understanding one another and celebrating with broad smiles. Two grandmothers, happily sharing our first grandson, together. Even now we pass him back and forth, loving our treasure, this baby boy who holds the features of his father, with his mother’s dark hair and warm brown eyes.

We are all for each other in a way that feels heavenly. The way it should be.

This, this is what Caleb and Natalia have been gifted.


I listen when Caleb tells me, months after their wedding day, how slowly Natalia grocery shops.

She picks up every piece of fruit, every can, every package of meat, examining. She takes her time traveling the aisles, looking.

He smiles.

The other week Natalia moved gently about the kitchen, taking time to make us a delicious heated sandwich. She buttered the crusty bread, heating it in the stainless steel pan, and sliced thin tomatoes to slip between the ham and melted cheese. A few sprigs of Arugula and a careful cutting down the middle, and the finished sandwich was divine.

I see clearly how their differences complement each other. Sometimes pausing to slow, to savor, to linger, other moments eyeing the clock in order to fulfill obligations.

And I understand now what I couldn’t always see in the early years of my own marriage: God gifts us with a spouse quite different from ourselves. On purpose. He alone knows how to soften and smooth our edges, nudging us toward patience. And in time, we learn to grow, and flourish, as our roots deepen.

This, this, is what my son has been gifted.


I think she was surprised, at first, by how little fanfare I truly prefer.

I like clean, simple lines and spaces. Less is more, less is beautiful to me. I do not want to fill shelves and countertops. I am always tossing, donating, simplifying.

Birthday wishes for me are few: family all together, an ice-cream cake, a gift card, a pot of coffee, a fine walk, time in nature, a favorite movie.

Birthdays for Natalia are balloons and streamers and fancy cakes and games and restaurants and bunches of friends and surprise! surprise! I understand this now.

This, this, is what my son has been gifted.


He serves his wife and his son in ways that cause me to catch my breath. His patience has skyrocketed and I know so clearly that God sees, bears witness to the honor he shows his wife. The fruit of the Spirit is lush, ripe, lovely. He labors for his family, makes the baby breakfast, and works amidst broken sleep. He is a fine man.

I told her recently that Caleb has some mystery in his personality.

I love a little mystery she says with an easy laugh.

This, this is what Natalia has been gifted.


She told me she thought he was the one on their first date.

Kristin, he made me laugh so hard that my cheeks hurt from smiling!

She looks out the window, and her eyes are dancing, remembering. Her beautiful baby boy, a clone of his Daddy, reaches for her, and she holds him close.

I love you, she tells him with a tender smile and he laughs and claps.

This, this, is what my son has been gifted.


She is fun, genuine, open, authentic. She stretches her husband as she knocks and enters that inner soul-space that he inhabits, drawing him out of himself. She cooks delicious meals and welcomes help while cleaning up. He sacrifices his own preferences daily, loving his bride as Christ loves the church.

Together, they have built a family, and a home.


Happy Birthday, Natalia.

May your day be full of love, laughter, raucous conversation, loud singing, slow dancing, flowers, balloons, streamers, confetti, baby kisses, fancy cake, and ice cream.


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