Kitti Murray

Kitti thrives when making new friends with refugees, teaching them the art of coffee, and continuing to raise her tribe of kids and grandkids.


5 Reasons to Thank Your Prodigal

As our friends get older, which unavoidably means we’re getting older too, we find we’re welcoming many of them into the Hurting Parents Club. “You’re late,” we sometimes want to say, or “What took you so long?” We don’t say these things out loud because we know that would do absolutely nothing to ease anyone’s pain. And they would never consider they would one day thank their prodigal. But this state of affairs among our more seasoned friends has caused me to want to formally thank our very own “prodigal”, Matt, for rebelling early and vigorously (I’ll get to why I’m grateful for the vigorous part in a minute). I use quotations around Prodigal because even now, Matt wears this label on […]

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How to Create Christmas Magic as a Boy Mom

Here’s How to Create Christmas Magic as a Boy Mom

Several years ago I got this message from Mandy, one of my favorite boy moms: “Am I seriously the only boy mom who has dreams of decorating together at Christmas only to be faced with three boys totally not interested? Just needing some female sympathy.” Well, here’s your sympathy, Mandy. Glad to oblige. It’s hard to sympathize these days, when almost all of my memories of our four-boy-house-Christmas are sweeter than a Leo’s peppermint stick, the kind in the blue tin that my grandmother kept on her coffee table from early November until late January. That’s what the years have done, made me a sentimental amnesiac. But I also feel that lightly singed sensation of having survived something. So I thought it

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The Holidays and My Martha Heart

It happened again. I sat down at the Thanksgiving table. A table ringed with these gifts: a husband, our children, their wives, and their children. They are my motives. They are why I schemed and shopped and cooked and baked (a chocolate-iced zebra birthday cake the shape of Africa … you know, the shape of above-and-beyond love). They are why I hauled it all from our house, along with flowers and wine and pretty little napkins. Today, at the table with this loud, fun family of ours, is the prequel to the next celebration, the one that means exponentially more cooking and baking and hauling and shopping and scheming. Today is the tugboat for that freighter called Christmas that sails into our

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3 Ways to Face Your Worst Fears, and Overcome

3 Ways to Face Your Fears and Overcome

I’ve written a book several editors like (but won’t publish) about how dying is essential to the emotional, spiritual, and even sexual health of marriage, and how I discovered this during the multiple times my husband’s physical health made me face my fears regarding death. Here’s a brief laundry list of those times: Cancer at 23, when I was his 21-year-old almost wife. Heart attack at 38, when I was 36 and the mother of his four, young children. First of many heart stents in his late 40s when I was in my mid-40s. And then at 52, when I wasn’t quite 50, major heart surgery. A tiny little stroke and a carotid artery stent at 56, when I was 54. I’ve

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The Refuge Coffee Co. Story Hope and Help in a Cup.jpg

The Refuge Coffee Co. Story: Hope and Help in a Cup

I’m a happiness addict. Rejoicing with those who rejoice? I’m a pro at that. But weeping with those who weep? Nigh unto impossible. Heck, being bored or mildly unhappy with those who are bored or mildly unhappy is a stretch for me. But over the years I’ve learned that real happiness is found in the most unexpected places. Jesus said the happiest people on earth are the poor in spirit, the persecuted, the mournful, the hungry, and the thirsty. Happier still are those who are merciful toward those people, who make peace for them. By God’s grace alone, this pursuit of a different kind of happiness has set the trajectory of my life. Sure, I still balk at anything that smacks of

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What Every Parent Needs

How These 15 Minutes a Year Can Change Your Motherhood

I’ve almost forgotten this fact: raising children can be discouraging. This stands to reason because children are, by definition, not yet what they will be. This “not yet” quality children possess persists for years, so much so that it feels like the “not yet” will never go away. Good habits like bed-making, doing homework with some proficiency, doing homework at all (hello, middle school), basic hygiene, table manners, answering politely when spoken to, kindness, and self-control… Sometimes I wondered if they’d ever learn. And then there were the bad habits like wearing their brand new, clean socks without shoes in the back yard or leaving the milk jug on the counter—unless it was empty, then they’d put it in the fridge. Sibling

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For the Boy Mom, When He's Grown

This Is Why You Need to Let Go of Your Boy, Mom

I had breakfast with one of my sons this week. Somewhere between our first cups of coffee and our last, he looked at me across the table and said, “We should do this more often.” If you are a mom of a boy, especially a boy who is old enough to drink coffee, and even more especially a boy who is a man with a wife and children of his own, you understand how this comment made me feel. I don’t have to describe the little flip-flop that happened in my heart. But it wasn’t all that long ago when the flip-flop could have ruined the moment. This is the danger zone between moms and their boys. I will not say we

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To Mom Who Feels Like She's in the Ditch

To the Mom Who Feels Like She’s in the Ditch

One day, as our collective brood of six children (later to become eight, between our two families) played in her yard, my dear comrade-in-arms, toddler-mom friend said something that did me a world of good. One of the boys (of our eight, seven were boys) asked her if he could do something both dangerous and downright wrong (mildly so, but still) and she said, “Whatever. Go ahead.” And then as an aside to me, “Sometimes I just get so tired of being consistent.” This, coming from the most consistent mom I’ve ever known—a real hall-of-famer. No, I did not judge her. Instead, my heart did a little jig. First, I must admit to a bit of schadenfreude… she struggled to keep it

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How to Get Your Kids to Depend on You (Less)

How to Get Your Kids to Depend on You (Less)

The other day my husband, Bill, said to me, “Don’t take this as an insult, but you have a very low tolerance level for dependent people.” This is funny, coming from the only human being on earth upon whom I depend regularly and desperately. But he’s right. Nothing gets on my nerves more than unwarranted neediness. We raised four strong, independent adult sons. I am beginning to see that my intolerance for dependence contributed somewhat to this outcome. Even so, God’s grace is still my final answer to anyone who asks how we did it. We didn’t. God did. Bill reminded me of a phone conversation I had years ago with our friend, Delores. Delores was the less likable, female counterpart of

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If Raising a Boy Has You Filled With Fear, You Need to Read This

We were on vacation with our kids and our grandchildren when it hit me. Boys will always give you something to fear. A red flag whipped in the wind, an ineffective reminder—in our case—that the surf was not safe today. Under my watchful eye our grandson, Gunnar, thrashed about in the waves. Up to his ankles. Up to his knees. Over his head. Every fourth or fifth time the water would pull Gunnar backward just as a wave would send him spiraling forward into the sand. I’d help him up and think, “Oh good, he’s scared now.” But he wasn’t. Or maybe being scared was the point. I used to say our kids were fearless, but watching our grandson last week I

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You Didnt Marry a Grown Up Husband

You Didn’t Marry a Grown Up Husband

You probably didn’t marry a grown-up husband. Neither did I. Somewhere along our marriage timeline, though, he became one. A while back at church we served in the nursery. We don’t particularly love this gig (don’t tell anyone), but we do it once a month for a lot of compelling reasons. Bill surprised me by choosing the “large group teacher” option when we signed up. This is something he has never done. I guess he thought he knew all about teaching, all about groups, and all about large. He was a pastor for over 25 years, after all. But teaching a large group of children ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade? All in one room together? I had a vague sense of foreboding

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2 Reasons Why Tag Team Parenting Is the Way to Go

2 Reasons Why Tag Team Parenting Is the Way to Go

Parenting, like marriage, starts out all theory. Which is why new parents, like new husbands and wives, can seem teachable. We read books, we seek advice, we ask questions. And then reality hits. I will be the first to admit that, as a new mom, I was not all that teachable in real life. It took me years, four sons, and countless small mothering disasters to realize how much help I really needed. Functional parenting is very different from the figurative version. The good thing about this seeming-humble to actual-humble journey is that I often had to do what I’ve observed healthy parents do: apologize to my kids when I blew it, while somehow managing to retain my role as The Mom.

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That One Time I Thought I Was Being a Good Mom

Here’s what your kids’ memories do with the times you thought you were a good mom, but you weren’t: They turn them into funny stories. That’s if you’re a good sport about it and—this is crucial—if you ask forgiveness as soon as your realize your mistakes, which, in my case, was often. I asked forgiveness in the moment for my losses of temper and other lapses in maternal conduct. And I asked forgiveness later when I had the perspective to know my general character and personality flaws probably did some damage. Forgiveness is important. It can almost turn you into a good mom. Almost. I have no accurate memory of this, but my sister and I love to tease my mom about

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How Boys Show Love

How Boys Show Love

Have you ever wondered if your boy loves you? They do, despite what meets the eye. Boys simply express love in their own, unique way… With a plastic snake, that’s how a boy loves. He wraps it around the milk jug in the refrigerator. Or puts it under your pillow so you’ll find it in your most unwary, weary moment. A boy’s affection is kinetic and sneaky like that. When a 300-pound homeless man slugs you in the face in broad daylight, on a sidewalk in Manhattan, while you’re working there. And that night your 6-year-old calls you at your hotel to ask if you got a good look at the man. And you say yes, he says: good, I’m coming up

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This is Your Brain on FOMO

This Is Your Brain on FOMO

It happened again this morning. I was noodling around on Instagram as the coffee sputtered into the pot and my eyes adjusted to daylight. And there it was, in saturated color, something one of our adult kids had planned that we weren’t invited to. This would not, should not, be a big deal if not for a condition we call FOMO—fear of missing out—that I suspect is written in the DNA of most extroverts. Those people who can fall asleep on the couch in a roomful of chatting people at a party? I’m not one of those. I might miss something. The other extroverts in our family and I joke about FOMO all the time. But today I realized its power over

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Marriage Won’t Mean You’re Never Lonely

There’s this one thing I still expect my husband to fix. Years ago, as the practical outcome of an epic fight, I wrote my husband a not-so-epic poem. In it, I released him from the pressure to read my thoughts, to make perfectly nuanced romantic gestures on time, to protect my inner and outer world, keeping it safe and happy. It was a relief to both of us when I did this. He could love me as himself, not some propped up version of perfect. Monumental transactions like this don’t become part of your soul overnight. Yes, I relinquished my unrealistic expectation for my husband to be my everything, but relinquishing something does not kill it. You slay it on an altar,

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The Wedding Sway, Your Son's Wedding Day

An Unexpected, Wonderful Moment on Your Son’s Wedding Day

I am watching my son dance his first dance with his wife. Foreheads touching, lips moving in a conversation no one else can hear, arms looped around the other’s neck, leaning together in a careless box step. Why do we make a spectacle of something so sacred? I look away. And then I notice the black and white row of our three other sons behind them. Their arms are draped behind each other’s backs and they are swaying to the music. Swaying. Together. Like a mother who never forgets how to move back and forth when a child needs soothing, I sway in time with them from the other side of the dance floor. I am struck by how substantial this image

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