Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Pain and the Promise

On the morning of the winter solstice, I awoke thinking about life, death, birth, grief, and the changing of the seasons. If you're thinking these are somewhat intense topics to wake up thinking about, well, what can I say? That's me.

I thought of the pain we each bear in our lifetimes-- suffering, grief, despair-- and how desperately many of us want to avoid this pain (me too). We resist it, we brace ourselves against it, we try various means of numbing it. But still it comes, and we cannot stop it from happening.

My second and third sons were each born naturally at home with a midwife. I, of course, took preparation for labor and birth very seriously. A big part of these preparations was relaxation; I learned to intentionally breathe deeply and relax every muscle in my body as much as I possibly could. 

You see, during the birth pains of labor, the inclination can often be to resist, to brace yourself, to tighten your muscles and tense up in response to the pain-- which, ironically, makes it all the more intense.

But when the pain comes, you can choose to instead relax and breathe and allow it to move through you. Rather than fighting against it, you work with it. 

I often visualized the pain as ocean waves, with me floating atop them-- carried by the waves of pain, but not overcome by them. 

Often in the face of emotional pain, we (yes, me too) resist it, fight against it, attempt to numb it, or powerlessly succumb to it. But perhaps when circumstances come that cause feelings of grief and despair-- and they will certainly come!-- we can figuratively relax, breathe, and let the feelings wash through us. 

Maybe we can allow ourselves to work with the pain, rather than against it.

Maybe we can allow ourselves to be carried by it, but not overcome by it. 

The pains of birth can be quite intense-- but during labor I found such peace in simply choosing to let go and allow myself to feel it, to be moved and changed by it, without resistance. There was peace in the visualization of floating atop it, knowing that it was carrying me but it soon would pass. After all, the pain is not the end of the story.

Emotional pain can be overwhelming, and when you're in the midst of it, it's impossible to imagine that it will ever pass. But in this way, pain reminds me of the seasons-- of time's unrelenting march through birth, life, death, and rebirth. Over and over, the stories of human suffering and renewal are told continually through nature itself. 

We are entering into winter. The trees are bare, and the wind is biting and cold. And yet, there is the promise of hope and renewal ahead. It is inherent in the solstice, that even as we embark into this season, the days will now become longer. A bit more light will peek in each day. The hope is there, perhaps barely noticeable, but it is there, walking alongside us through the winter months.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, 
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love...

We know just as sure as the seasons will unfold, so will life: a continual cycle of birth, love, joy, loss, suffering, grief, and renewal.

And so perhaps we can respond by allowing ourselves to be carried by it all, allowing ourselves to experience it and be moved and changed by it, without being overcome. Perhaps we can look to the promise built into the fabric of nature itself, a promise of hope and peace that goes beyond the circumstances and emotions of the moment. The hope is there, walking alongside us through the pain.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Prepare Him Room

How can a season bursting so full leave me feeling so hollow and empty? I have been asking myself this question as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.


Thanksgiving. I have been known to affectionately refer to it as my favorite holiday. In my heart, it stands for a time set aside to be with family, to pause from the chaos of everyday life, to reflect upon blessings, and to contemplate and express heartfelt gratitude. An annual Sabbath, of sorts.

Yet this sentimentalism, this desire to slow down and express gratitude, has begun to seem old-fashioned and naive. No one has labeled it as such, but the rush and the crowds, the overfull bellies and the unrelenting advertisements send a clear message: My sentiments are old-fashioned, idealistic, unrealistic. 


Our family of five is squeezed into a two-bedroom house, and space is at a premium. Likewise, time is at a premium; we have three sons, and we are both students. My husband is a computer programmer by day and a nursing student by night. He can be found in the evenings surrounded by stacks of textbooks, highlighters, notes, and the occasional cup of coffee-- taking advantage of whatever time and space he can find to study. 

Recently as I reflected on his struggle-- watching him read and take notes in the living room with our oldest son playing video games in the background, or in the kitchen while the children ran about noisily, or sitting in our bed where he inevitably became fatigued-- I saw that a change needed to be made. He needed a dedicated space prepared for him to study, a permanent area to keep his books and notes, a place where he could count on quiet and solitude to undertake the serious business of preparing for his new, long-awaited career. That very evening I carved out that space for him.

This was important, yet our lives were so busy and cramped that we had not taken the time to prepare room.


The day after Thanksgiving officially launches us into the Christmas season, but already I hear the music. In the stores and on the radio, the songs play. Among them are songs I have grown up hearing, songs whose words I sang so often that their refrains began to fall from my lips automatically, mindlessly, devoid of meaning in my heart and mind. 

But occasionally one of these old songs begins to play, and my heart really hears it-- hears the quiet refrains of joy, hope, and peace being whispered into the chaos. 

This Thanksgiving morning, as music played in the background, nearly drowned out by the frenetic energy and despair I have sensed all around, there it was suddenly: joy!

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let Earth receive her king.
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing...


It is devastatingly easy to be drawn into the whirlwind of the season without preparing room in my heart for what this season symbolizes-- without providing ample space and time for the hope, peace, joy, and love brought by a Savior. 

Like the space my husband needed, it is important... yet my life is so busy and cramped that I neglect to take the time to prepare room.


And so rather than being drawn into the whirlwind, I feel myself being drawn into preparing room this season-- to reflection and contemplation, to the creation of space in my heart for the sacred and holy. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I feel like I’m in a fog today.

Certainly I have been shocked and saddened by celebrity deaths before; after all, it is always a strange feeling to know that someone who has been a part of my culture for as long as I can remember is suddenly gone. But I don’t recall ever feeling so shaken by a celebrity death as I do by the death of Robin Williams.

Already, not even 24 hours after the news broke, I have seen posts online that have taken a tone of shaming people for posting so much about a celebrity death and ignoring the terrible things that are happening in Iraq and elsewhere around the world. I will be honest with you, I think that is ridiculous. My Facebook feed has been filled for days, weeks, with the terrible news coming out of other parts of the world. Bombings, dead children, diseases, genocide, war, terrorism. We are all aware, and pretty much every person I know cares about these tragedies. We are not so shallow as to think that a celebrity death trumps all else.

No, we are reeling from facing yet another shock. At a time when we are all grieved, a public figure in our culture who many of us have known of our whole lives is suddenly, tragically gone. And what’s more, this is a person whose art brought not only laughter but hope and inspiration to countless people. In the midst of all that is going on in the world, all the destruction, suffering, and injustice, to lose a figure who stood for hope and inspiration in the public eye is truly a shock.

We have already been mourning so much, maybe even asking ourselves how much love, goodness, and hope are still left in this world-- and to see a person who seemed to embody those things end his own life probably in the face of depression and despair… it strikes a nerve. It hits too close to home-- too close, sometimes, to our own experiences or our own fears.

So yes, I am shaken by the death of Robin Williams, and it appears that countless others are as well.

Along with my shock and sadness, I am reminded that I too can shine a light of love, hope, and peace in the world, even in the midst of suffering and pain.

When I look around at all that I am aware of that’s happening in the world recently, I am struck by the desperate need for the human race to pull together to shine that light. Will you join me in bringing hope to others in the face of tragedy? Countless human beings’ lights have been snuffed out far too early recently, and those of us who remain must continue to shine brightly and persistently.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Moving Past the Lies

In the midst of all my perfectionism and idealism I wrote about last time, I did discover some things that are truly important to me. Even when I let go of many of my ideals, I still held on to these things because I deeply believe in them.

Examine your goals as a parent, listen to your heart, and be brutally honest with yourself. What is truly important to you? Perhaps your non-negotiables in parenting happen to come naturally to you; if so, awesome! On the other hand, perhaps some of the things that are most important to you don't necessarily come easily, but they are still worth it to you so you work to achieve them. If so, that's awesome too. If you believe in it, it will be worth your time and effort.

If you believe in something with your heart and soul, do it! But stop should-ing on yourself. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to live up to an ideal just because you think you "should." And don't worry about what other people think; if you believe in what you're doing, other people's opinions won't matter to you anyway. Someone's going to judge you no matter what you do, so you may as well do something you believe in.

I know what my non-negotiables are as a parent. I don't regret the time and effort I have put into making them happen, and no one else's choices are going to convince me to change my stance. I also know what works best for my family, and if that doesn't look like my formerly held ideals, that's okay.

What are your non-negotiables? What works best for your family? Once you've determined that, remember to let go of perfectionism too. Even if something is important to you, you probably won't always do it perfectly. Because, you know, you're human. ;) Give yourself grace, and keep moving forward.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lies About Mothering

The lie that a woman's value-- or at the very least, MY value-- comes from joyful full time mothering creeps into the back of my mind when I least expect it. I don't believe it, not anymore, but the lie persists in whispering to me in my moments of self-doubt.

How did I ever come to believe it in the first place?

I suppose it began innocently enough, with the nearly universal motherly desire to be the best mom I could be to my kids. But, as a lifelong perfectionist, my perfectionism reared its ugly head.

Quietly, gradually, but insidiously, my perfectionism convinced me of three things. One, that an ideal mother exists-- complete with all the little details that make up this idealistic vision. Two, that the "best mom I can be" is synonymous with being the ideal mother. If, after all, I was enlightened enough to see what the ideal mom should be like, then I was obviously capable of achieving that vision.

Even if it drove me to depression.

Even if I slowly lost touch with my longtime interests and passions.

Even if I became ever more resentful of trying to live up to an ideal.

I said my perfectionism convinced me of three things. The third may have been the most devastating of all: I became convinced that my value as both a mother and a woman was inextricably tied to my ability to perfectly and joyfully live up that ideal.

At the time, I don't think I would have been able to admit that this was what I believed. But it was.

Thinking of some of the ideals I once tried so hard to live up to now turn my stomach a bit. Not because they are inherently bad things; no, in fact, they are really good things. But some of these ideals were never a good fit for me. I cringe to think of how I tried so hard to force myself into a mold that wasn't right for me, then criticized my own worth for not fitting.

I'm not going to detail what my vision of an "ideal mom" was, because that isn't important here. But I suspect that many other moms have a similar struggle with not living up to the ideal in their heads. And I wonder what would happen if we let go of the ideal. What if we decided to embrace our natural strengths and interests, and allowed those to extend into parenting, rather than trying to reinvent ourselves to be what we think a good mom "should" be?

For me, I've found that as I began living in accordance with who I really am, I became much happier. And ironically, I feel like I am actually a better mom to my children than I was when I was striving for an ideal.

Maybe none of this resonates with you. But if it does, what is one thing you can do to begin releasing yourself from the grip of the lie that says your worth is tied up in living up to an ideal?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


When I was six years old, I wanted to be a teacher.

By the time I was eight or nine years old, I would read my mom's parenting magazines for fun, because I thought it was interesting to learn about kids at different ages and stages.

Despite my shyness, I began performing in choir when I was in fourth grade, and I tried out for my first school play in seventh grade. Throughout the rest of middle school and high school, I continued acting and singing, and I became more and more comfortable with being in front of an audience.

In high school, I loved my school counselor, and I thought I might like to become one myself eventually.

At the age of eighteen, I became a parent, started college, and began taking child development and sociology classes. All together, this led me to developing an interest in working with teen parents and their children.

When my oldest son was in preschool, he was diagnosed with developmental delays and possible autism, and I quickly became acquainted with IEPs and therapies.

Around the same time, I also immersed myself in learning everything I could about positive discipline and emotional intelligence, because these were very important in being the kind of parent I wanted to be.

In my early-to-mid-twenties, I applied for a master's program in social work because I wanted to work with people who were in poverty. I was accepted and ended up deciding not to go because I was pregnant with my second child.

And then I had a third child after that.

Now here I am, thirty years old, pursuing my master's degree in school counseling. And as I am reading the book Engaging Students With Poverty in Mind, it hits me that so many of my past interests and experiences have been leading to this.

School counseling is a perfect area for my passions, knowledge, interests, and experiences to intersect. Look back over those things that I mentioned. I will be teaching classroom guidance lessons, which would make my six year old self very happy. I will be putting my nearly lifelong interest in child development to use, as well as my knowledge about positive discipline and connecting with children as I work with kids, parents, and teachers. I will be working with kids who have special needs and IEPs. I will be working with kids who are in poverty, and I will be working with teen parents and their children. Even my performance experiences are coming in handy, as they helped prepare me for getting over the nerves that come with speaking in front of classrooms. And there's so much more, so many experiences that have helped prepare me for this.

I am so excited to finally see how all of these interests and experiences are coming together. In the fall, I will begin my school counseling internships, and in May of 2015 I will graduate with my master's degree. I can't wait to begin working as a school counselor. This is truly where I am meant to be.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


One thing we love about the internet is that it gives people an avenue to voice their thoughts.

That is what I do on this blog. But then, it seems that blog readership is dwindling (not just here, but overall). We might want a quick and dirty glimpse of other people’s opinions-- a few characters on Twitter or a short blurb on Facebook, maybe, but if we have to actually follow a link or click on “read more,” forget about it. Someone else is probably saying the same thing in fewer words elsewhere on the internet.

Lately I’ve seen that video posted over and over, the one about looking up from your screens and engaging with people face to face. Some people love the video, some people hate it, and everyone is ready to shout their opinion about social media on social media as loud as they can because they have the most correct viewpoint of all the people.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really care about the video. I watched it, thought it was interesting, and forgot about it until my Facebook feed made darn sure I couldn’t forget. So what the heck? Everyone else has an opinion, so I guess I’ll jump into the fray too. My semester is over, my kids are in school, I have nothing else pressing to do today, and I’m feeling just a hair sarcastic and aggressive, so why not opine a little? You know, on this old-fashioned weblog that only a handful of people will read because I say too many words…

I thought the video made an interesting point worth considering. Certainly I have been guilty of ignoring important face-to-face interactions because I'm too busy reading Facebook, and I want to stop doing that.

Does that mean I think all social media is evil and should be done away with because it stops people from interacting face-to-face? Um, no, and I honestly think the number of people who actually believe that is very, very small-- although approximately one-half of The Internet would have me believe that anyone who found value in the video’s message believes just that. The other half, of course, would have me believe that anyone who ever glances at a screen instead of doing something else is a mindless, selfish drone.

Of course social media isn’t inherently a bad thing. Of course it isn’t stopping people from interacting face-to-face. Of course it can foster connections and relationships. Of course people have been focusing their attention on other things for a long time-- be it books, newspapers, knitting, art, talking on the telephone, writing, and so on. Because of course our lives are not made up solely of eating, sleeping, and socializing face-to-face 24/7. People like to pursue other interests and hobbies. People like to connect in other ways, via phone or email or texting or social media. Big deal. Is anyone actually arguing that all social media should be done away with here and now?

I don’t know. Probably someone out there is arguing just that, but I’m not going to do a lot of research here because this is just a blog where I’m hastily typing out my opinion of utter importance so that everyone can read it and bow to my authority. Or no one. That's cool too.

Aaaanyway. How about this? How about if we all just live our lives the way we see fit? If we want to read a book on a Kindle/iPad/smartphone, cool. If we want to post some pictures on Instagram, cool. If we want to post witty one-liners or overshared memes on social media, cool. If we want to smash all our screens into smithereens and spend our day prancing through fields of flowers and intensely staring into people’s eyes as we interact face-to-face because EVERY LAST MOMENT COUNTS, cool. If we want to share each and every strongly held opinion for everyone to read… or even a not-so-strongly held opinion, just to stir the pot and see if anyone actually reads what we say, cool.

Let’s just make sure that we very vocally point out that other people's opinions and actions are wrong, okay? Because the thing we love about the internet is that it gives people an avenue to voice their thoughts… and that’s fine as long as we agree with them, right?



Thursday, April 3, 2014


I am driving down a winding back road, nearly home. The road twists and turns, cutting its way through the woods, and as always I look at the trees. For months they have been mostly brown and bare, their empty branches lonesome against the backdrop of the sky, the space between them revealing rocks and hills.

But today, I round a curve, and as my eyes take in the view, I notice a change.

Little bursts of color-- yellow, fuschia, green, lavender, and white-- are beginning to appear throughout the branches. The buds are barely there, and many trees are still bare, but still there is the promise.

A promise of spring.
A promise of new life.
A promise of hope.

I had grown so accustomed to the emptiness over time that the change almost comes as a surprise.

The changes of the seasons are quite spiritual to me; they are profound reminders of the natural progression of life. And today, the colorful buds throughout the woods speak to me, reminding me that even when things appear barren, empty, or dead-- there is still, somewhere, hope and new life. The still-empty branches suddenly take on new meaning; they too will soon be bursting with color. It is so easy to become accustomed to that which is empty, rather than seeing the great potential for life that exists within.

So my encouragement to myself, and to those who might be reading, is simply this: do not give up hope. Even in the emptiest of circumstances, there is a promise of hope and new life. Look for the promise, even when it is hard to see. It's there.

Friday, January 31, 2014


Well, the insanity of this semester has officially begun! My classes are in full swing, I am doing my school counseling practicum 9 hours a week, and my husband is in class two evenings a week on top of his full time job during the day. Plus, you know, parenting and life stuff. :-P We stay busy. And honestly, most of the time I like that. I enjoy having lots to do. I've seen so many blogs (and have probably written a few myself) about how people just need to slow down and relax and not do so much. And I agree with that to a point; there is definitely a lot to be said for intentionally slowing down and living in the moment, absolutely. But I can't do that all the time. My mom has observed that I work well under stress, and it's true. I like being busy.

But last weekend it hit me just how busy things are going to be, and I freaked out a little. There are so many things I want to do, things I need to do, and things other people want me to do. And quite frankly, there isn't nearly enough time for all of that. I need more hours in the day. And the night. I would like to sleep lots of hours. ;)

And then the snow came, and I was forced to slow down for a few days. It was pretty marvelous.

But now the snow is gone, and I'm ready to get back into the swing of things. I like going to my classes, and I love my practicum. I'm in an elementary school, and there is always something to do! I'm learning so much, and starting to take on more active roles rather than just shadowing. Next week I'm going to start leading a small counseling group with a few kids!

This is me with a Wonder Woman mug on one of my first days of practicum
There are plenty of things ahead in the next few months. It's going to be fun, exhausting, and maybe a little terrifying as I try new things. But it's going to be great!

As for needing more hours in the day, that is obviously not going to happen. Sigh. So I guess I will have to get better at being self-disciplined so I can stay on top of things. And I'm going to have to get better at saying no sometimes so I will have room to say yes to the right things. That is not always easy.

I'll leave you with a few pictures from our snow days. Enjoy!

Elijah looking like a grown up kid

Isaac took off his gloves, then his hands got cold, so he was warming them up
Joshua was unimpressed with the snowball his brother threw at him

Just me, enjoying a snowy day

Elijah and Joshua had fun running through the snow

Joshua took off his gloves and put his hands in the snow.
At first he didn't know what to think...
And then he was very upset.
He went inside shortly after this photo was taken.

The next morning. Beautiful!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


The passages in the Lectionary this week which inspired this post are Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-11, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, and John 1:29-42. I hope you will read along and share the ways these scriptures spoke to you.

The story of redemption is so thrilling to me. 

I have this picture in my head of God concocting a plan that went above and beyond anyone's wildest dreams, with a gleam in his eye and a conspiratorial whisper to the prophets and his own Son about his plans for redemption of the whole world. Isaiah 49:6 says, "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." 

After baptizing Jesus, John proclaimed that Jesus was "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Even before Jesus' ministry began, John caught a glimpse of God's grand scheme, a plan that had been in the works since sin first became messily twisted into human nature. 

It was too light a thing to simply bring hope and salvation to his people, Israel. God decided to go even further than that, to bring hope and salvation to the world. 

The first chapter of 1 Corinthians declares that recipients of God's grace and forgiveness will stand guiltless before God. Of course, this is not because we are naturally without sin on our own, nor are we suddenly incapable of sin in light of our salvation. No, we are guiltless before God because Christ sustains us. Our guilt has been covered, is being covered, and will continue to be covered.

This is what inspires me to worship, and to speak of what God has done; I stand in awe of of the grace that has been given to me. I certainly do not deserve it on my own. I have another picture of God in my head, as a loving parent stooping down to gently wipe the dirt away from a small messy child who has stumbled and fallen yet again. My hands are dirty, yet they have been cleansed, and they continue to be cleansed. 

And in the process, my heart is continually transformed. God's law has been written on my heart-- a law that can be summed up with the directive to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. And while this law does not do away with the propensity to sin that has been entangled in my very nature, the spirit of God himself whispers it to my heart daily, pointing me toward a different path and enabling me to choose it.

I don't always choose it. No, sometimes I choose poorly-- and boy, have I messed up over and over. And yet there is God again, holding out a loving hand, cleansing and forgiving me, pointing me always toward love, hope, and grace. He has a hold on my heart that the propensity for sin cannot undo, and for that I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Faith Creeps In

This week's readings in the Lectionary are: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43, and Matthew 3:13-17. I hope you'll read along!

According to the liturgical calendar, we are now in the season of Epiphany. I am familiar with Advent, and of course Christmas, but I didn't know much about Epiphany. I wanted to understand the significance better, so I looked it up.

Basically, Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of God in human form through Jesus and focuses on the ways that Jesus was revealed to both the Jewish people and the Gentiles. (I'm sure there's much more to it that some readers could explain, but these seemed to me as though they were the major points. Readers, feel free to further elaborate in the comments!)

Epiphany will last until Lent begins in March. I'm excited to spend the next several weeks focusing specifically on God in human flesh-- and actually, I've done a bit of that already in my Christmas posts!

Isaiah 42:5 paints a beautiful image of God as the creator and giver of life, "who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it." Furthermore, Psalm 29 specifically describes God's glory, strength, power, majesty, and holiness. This God-- this holy, powerful God-- chose to humble himself and come to us in human form through Jesus. God's spirit rested upon him, and anyone at all can be redeemed, regardless of who they are or what they have done.

Isn't that amazing?

However, since this is my blog, I'm gonna be really honest. As amazing as it is, it can also be hard to believe sometimes. Please don't misunderstand me here. My heart fully believes it to be true, but occasionally I have doubts. I think most people have this struggle at times, if they are being honest with themselves.

I told my brother recently that I have a faith crisis every six months or so. And honestly, that's pretty accurate. I wake up one morning and reflect on my beliefs, and all of a sudden I find myself thinking, "Whoa! That sounds crazy. What if it's not even true and I'm just nuts?"

Unfortunately, many times the church shuts people down when they express their doubts and questions. It is as though there is something to be feared about doubt; as if doubts will inevitably lead to renunciation of faith.

Actually, in my experience, my doubts and questions have always led me to a deeper faith.

When doubts creep in, so does faith. It's a hard answer sometimes, because of course some tangible, undeniable proof would be nice. But there is an element of faith that involves the things we cannot prove. For me, my heart just feels it and knows it to be true, even when it doesn't always make perfect sense in my head. And I have come to a point where I am okay with this supposed contradiction.

Yes, I do believe God came in the flesh. I believe he humbled himself to our level to make a way because he loves us. I believe in forgiveness, unmerited grace, redemption, and love. Even if it doesn't always make sense, my heart believes it to be true.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Open Gates

Recently I was talking to my kids about boundaries. Because, you know, with a future school counselor as a mom, that kind of thing is pretty commonplace around here. ;-)

I explained it to my five year old like this because he was having some difficulty with staying out of his two year old brother's space:

"Boundaries are kind of like a fence. Imagine that there's a fence right here. That's the boundary; you stay on one side of it, and Joshua stays on the other."

Isaac seemed to get it, and was especially intrigued by the fence analogy (which, in his mind, became a gate).

A few minutes later he climbed into my lap and snuggled up with me.

"My gate is closed," he said. "But Mom? My gate for you is open. I have two gates."

No matter what, he is always interested in cuddling with his mama. Even when he's ready for a break from other people, he wants me to know that I'm always welcome.

I hugged him close, and he asked, "Mom? Is your gate always open for me, too?"

Yes, baby. Always.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Great Start

It was cold on New Year's Day, but not so cold that it kept our family cooped up indoors. We'd been stuck inside for way too long with all the sickness we'd had, and we were all ready to get outside for a while.

So we bundled up in coats and hats and headed down to the school playground.

The kids enjoyed some of their new toys; Isaac and Elijah drove their remote-controlled truck around on the track for a little while, and Joshua rode his new tricycle. 

Isaac and the truck
Joshua rides his tricycle
I also enjoyed my new toy: a camera! Earlier this year, my camera broke and I couldn't afford to replace it, so I had been bitterly taking pictures with the awful camera on my phone. But Clark's dad and stepmom got us a new camera for Christmas. I'm excited to take lots of new pictures of my family!

Here are a few from our day at the park. It was a great start to the new year!

Isaac and Elijah

All my boys! Elijah, Joshua, and Isaac

Elijah and Joshua

Isaac had fun swinging

Joshua and Clark

Clark and me
 It was nice to get out and spend some time outside, even if it was super cold. We need to do this more often!

Monday, January 6, 2014


If you are interested in reading along, the passages from the lectionary that inspired this post are: Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 147:12-20, Ephesians 1:3-14, and John 1:1-18. They can be read at http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=11

Scripture speaks of the same tendency over and over, a theme that seems inextricably woven into humanity: the tendency to veer quickly off course when left to one's own devices. Throughout the Old Testament, God revealed himself to the people of Israel-- his ways, his power, his provision, his righteousness, his love, his mercy, and his comfort. And yet continually, they turned away as soon as they lost focus on him.

Then God came in the flesh through Jesus, and still many of his own people did not recognize him. He embodied grace and truth; he gave them an example of what God is like. Yet they were so focused on their own expectations and traditions that when God himself walked among them, they rejected him.

But another theme is revealed throughout scripture: amidst the chaos and brokenness of the human condition, God loves so fiercely that he continually makes a way.

Heaven knows if I were God, I would eventually throw my hands up in disgust and give up on the whole mess. But that isn't who God is. I've heard so many negative statements about the Old Testament through the years. A punitive God, wars, bloodshed, and so on. But if you take a closer look, you see God's mercy and love revealed again and again. God doesn't give up on his people, no matter what. He promises to lead them back, to gather and keep them, to comfort them, to turn their mourning to joy, and to redeem them.

His love and provision are evident; his tenderness and mercy are always present. God doesn't give up; he makes a way because it is clear that they cannot do it without his help. 

And this is not just for the people of Israel. No, it is for anyone who will receive him. Despite our human tendency to miss God when he's right in front of us, he is able to shine through into our hearts so we can recognize him. And that, to me, is a beautiful mystery: it's not something we are able to do on our own; it is something that is done through his grace.

Ephesians speaks of receiving an inheritance, and the Holy Spirit is the down payment. This means that through God's grace, we have received even more than forgiveness; we have also received his spirit so we can live out his love and grace toward others. We won't do it perfectly, of course, because we are in fact still human. But we can do it; or rather, God can do it through us.

This leads me to seriously consider the ways in which God's spirit is evident in my life. Am I loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle? No, not always. And yet God remains merciful to me, and continues guiding and discipling me in love!

I'm unspeakably grateful for a loving God who lavishes us with grace. In his perfect love, he has cast out fear and he has made a way for us, a path of forgiveness, freedom, and mercy.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Technology is Hard

I've been trying to move posts over from an old blog to this one recently, and it seems that despite posting them with their original dates from 2011, they might be showing up as new posts to read in some blog readers. Oops! 

I still have several more to move over, so I guess feel free to enjoy a chance to catch up on the last two and a half years of my life in one fell swoop. ;) Lots of things have changed along the way, so maybe it will be an interesting read!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year

Looking ahead at 2014, there are a lot of big things on the horizon.

Next week, I will start my school counseling practicum at a local elementary school. I'm so excited, and also pretty nervous. This will be my first real experience in school counseling. The spring semester will also include an oral exam for my master's program, plus I'll be attending my first school counseling conference. During the second half of the year, I'll complete my first of two school counseling internships at either an elementary school or a high school. Also, my husband is about to begin nursing school at night on top of his full-time job. His classes start in a couple weeks, and clinicals begin in February. By the time 2014 wraps up, I'll be one internship away from graduating, and he'll be halfway through the nursing program! We're going to be busy, for sure, but we're both excited about taking the next steps toward our future careers!

Also during the second half of the year, my oldest son will start middle school (how is this even possible?!) and my middle son will start kindergarten. I can't believe how fast my babies are growing up. Each year seems to go by faster.

Of course, I have plenty of other goals for the year. Like most people, I want to lose weight this year and get in better shape. I'm turning 30 next month, and I've realized that I've been carrying around extra weight my entire adult life. Certainly, I have lost a lot of it over the past five years, but I still have approximately 30-40 pounds I want to lose. Even more significant than that, though, is the situation with my abdominal muscles. Basically, they are split (thanks, giant babies) which causes me to have core weakness, back pain, and puts me at risk for a hernia if I don't repair the split. So that is my main health goal for the year. I have to be careful about the exercises I do, though, because traditional abdominal exercises can actually do further damage. I am also thinking about signing up for another color run in April. Maybe. We'll see. ;) I enjoyed my experience with running last year, but it never helped me at all with weight loss, so I may choose to focus my exercise efforts elsewhere. I definitely want to do some strength training, and I have plenty of inches to lose.

Some other things I anticipate this year:

No more diapers! Joshua turned two a few weeks ago and is becoming very interested in potty training. I definitely plan to be completely done with diapers by the end of the year, and hopefully within the next few months.

Lots of reading. I know I don't have a lot of extra time, but I want to be intentional about how I use it. Right now, I tend to spend too much of my spare time on Facebook. Instead, I want to cultivate a habit of reading, especially about topics that are important to me as a mom and school counselor.

Another trip out of town with my husband. I'd love to go back to Nashville around my birthday next month, but any trip at any time would be acceptable. ;)

Writing. If you know me, it's no secret that I've always enjoyed writing. I've kept a journal since I was a child, and I've been blogging in various forms for about a decade now. Unfortunately, I haven't written as much over the past couple of years because I've been so busy, but I miss writing and I want to get back to it. Between my posts as I read through the lectionary, thoughts about various topics, and general life updates, hopefully this blog will get a lot of use this year.

Love. As always, I want to be a more loving, generous person. I hope that people will see the love of God through me as I continue to grow spiritually.

I also want to start consistently attending church again. This will, of course, require my family to stay healthy. That has been our biggest hindrance over the past few months.

And of course, I'm going to continue developing close, positive relationships with my children. The older they get, the more I see these efforts pay off. It's not always easy, and it certainly takes time and patience, but it's so worth it. I want to intentionally focus on spending consistent one-on-one time with each of the boys. They each enjoy this, but it's so easy to let life get away from us without making time for it on a regular basis.

So, there are some of the things I expect for the year. Of course I know there will be many unexpected happenings as well, and I hope I can stay positive throughout whatever changes come my way. Here's to a new year!