Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Christmas to Remember

**This blog was originally published on December 16, 2013.

I sit here among bins of Christmas decorations that need to be hung, trying to remember where I placed everything last year. I really, really meant to take pictures so I would have a visual reminder (as so thoughtfully suggested by my then 5-year-old), but in the chaos of the holiday season, I simply forgot.

Unfortunately, last year’s Christmas wasn’t one of our best. Things were extremely tight for us financially, so the holiday stress and chaos levels were even higher than usual. My work plate was barely manageable, and sleep was more of a luxury than a necessity. Pink eye invaded our house yet again, and I ended up getting the flu two days before Christmas Eve. And, of course, I was hosting. Let’s just say a 103 fever and a house full of people made survival more of a goal than Christmas cheer.

So, yes, I remember that last year was the year we had to really cut back. It was the year we had to make a few homemade gifts. It was the 2nd annual year of pink eye (the gift that keeps giving), and the year I got the flu.

But, as it turns out, it was also the last Christmas I would spend with my father-in-law.

It was the last year my husband would give his father a Christmas kiss on his “cuppie.” The last year my children would hear their papa pray a Christmas blessing over all of us. The last year we would all see his mischievous smile as he instigated a wrapping paper war in the middle of the family room.

Oh, if we only knew.

A lot of people talk about simplifying the holidays—about how we need to take the time to sit back and savor the season. I have always loved those messages, and I have always tried to take them to heart. But this year, as I reflect on how quickly and drastically life can change, I vow to make more of an effort to soak in the memories. To not focus on the circumstances, but to focus on the people God has placed in my life.

Thanks to God’s abundant grace, I will tell you that our circumstances are different this year. We are in a better place financially. My job is much more manageable (and enjoyable). And so far—dare I write it—we have been pretty healthy.

I admit that in many ways, life is a little less stressful this year. But there is also a gaping hole that reminds me that life, regardless of the circumstances, is short. Too short to forget what’s really important—who is really important. Oh how I wish I had lived that truth last year.

I want to make this Christmas the year I simply enjoyed. The year I gave the priceless gift of grace to everyone God has placed in my life. The year I hugged more and laughed first and didn’t focus on the tangled mess of stuff I often let creep into the Christmas season. I want, more than anything, for this to be the year I focused on the manger, giving thanks and praise to a God who sent His son so that we could rest in the knowledge that we will celebrate Christmas with my father-in-law again—for all of eternity.

Of course, there will still be decorations and gifts, a few work deadlines, and now that I’ve surely jinxed myself, there may even be some sickness. But this year, the focus will not be on any of those things…or on any thing at all. It will be on my family and my Savior.

I just hope I don’t need a picture to remember to do the same next year.

Dad, Christmas 2012

How will you make this a Christmas to remember?

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Out Loud

If you know me or follow me at all on social media, you know that I am not exactly quiet about my feelings. I am definitely a “sharer,” and if we are getting gut-honest, I’m really more of an “over-sharer.”

This means that if you ask me how things are going and we have a few minutes to catch up, you will likely get a long-winded answer that will make your eyes glaze over about 10 minutes in. It also means that if you vacation with me in Florida, I will make you put down your lighthearted People magazine so I can fill you in on the horrors of sex trafficking I just learned about in the not-so-lighthearted book I brought with me. (I have very patient friends.) I have been known to confide in total strangers, and I absolutely love it when they feel comfortable enough to confide in me. And my poor, poor husband…let’s just say communication is NOT a problem in our marriage.

On the plus side, it also means that if you are on my heart, you will likely get a text or some other form of message from me because I just can’t keep that stuff to myself. If I come across a song, a Bible verse, a saying, or a prayer that makes me think of you, I will send it on—even if I only know about your life from social media. That might be where the word “over” comes into play.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a communicator. (If your mother also encouraged you as a young child to become a lawyer or TV reporter, you are probably one, too.) Like anything, this has its advantages and disadvantages. On my best day, I might encourage someone. On my worst day, I might make someone want to lock themselves inside their bedroom so they can watch mindless TV because I have emotionally exhausted them 5 minutes after they’ve walked in the door—hypothetically speaking, of course.

Honesty, vulnerability, transparency…these things come fairly easy for me. I definitely have perfectionist tendencies (ask my siblings), but putting up the fa├žade that I am actually perfect is just way too exhausting. I’d rather just tell you my flaws upfront so we can cut through the fake and move on to real.

This, I've concluded, is just how I am wired. If I experience it, I want to tell you. If I learn it, I want to teach you. If I don’t understand it, I want to ask lots of questions and talk it out until it makes sense to me.

So naturally, when I found out about Brooklyn’s Spina Bifida, my instinct was to share. It just felt like the next right thing. I started writing on my blog (free therapy), and a few times, I also shared our testimony out loud—during a few church services, at a women’s event, and twice at a moms’ group at my church. It was all very healing and empowering, and it also helped me find perspective and meaning. Words always do that for me.

Fast forward to today. I still feel led to share about lots of things -- my feelings, our story, God’s goodness -- but life is busy and work is necessary, and I am often lost about where and how I should share. Social media is usually not the right place for big feelings, and I also understand that my children and my family may not fall into the “over-sharer” category and don’t want their lives chronicled on my blog. So instead of doing the obvious, logical thing – write in a journal that is never published – I do mostly nothing, leaving me conflicted and frustrated and full of way too many feelings most of the time. (Go ahead and say a quick prayer for my husband right now.)

A sweet friend put it to me this way:
“Everyone has a story. You just need to write it.”

Those words resonate so deeply with my heart because they remind me that this little personality trait of mine -- one that makes me feel like I’m a bit “too much” for most people -- is part my unique design and maybe, just maybe, God could use it for His glory if I’d just get over myself.  

Perhaps this nagging feeling to share is God telling me to go and share. Of course, maybe it isn’t, but I am choosing to believe that God can do anything, even through me.

Last spring, one of my steps of Faith was sending out a flyer to local MOPS groups that might be looking for a guest speaker. The opportunity totally came to me and wasn’t anything I pursued, so I walked through the door—and now I have 9 speaking engagements scheduled over the next 6 months.


Now, the mature, business-savvy person would take this all in stride. They probably wouldn’t write about it, and they certainly would not send out group text messages with half a dozen emojis every time they got a new request. I mean, I sent out flyers and people responded—get it together, sister. But remember that I’m an over-sharer so I’ll just go ahead and admit that I am not taking this in stride, and although I am excited and humbled to take on this new venture, I am also pretty freaked out. But Paul told us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, so I’m just banking on the fact that this is just what it feels like when God moves in your life.

I also have a few more “steps” in the works, but as someone has wisely advised me, I am being careful not to knock down any doors. This doesn’t mean I won’t work hard, it just means I am following His lead. Honestly, I think that is the only way I can do this and keep myself in check.

I do, however, need to follow the advice of another friend and get back to writing. Hence, this rambling post. I knew that if I waited for the prefect blog post to brew, it would be three more months before I showed up on here. Plus, if my goal is to be honest, then it only makes sense that I give you the full scoop on this new journey I am about to embark on.

And, really, who am I kidding… I’ve been dying to tell you all about it!!! :) :) :)

Artwork by my talented friend, Nicole.

Monday, June 08, 2015


Ever since Brooklyn started talking, we’ve had a “rule” that she is not allowed to say the words “I can’t.” If something is too hard for her to do on her own, she needs to try one more time, and if she still can’t do it, she simply needs to ask for help.

I also made a promise to myself that I would never say “no” or make the decision to bow out of something because of Brooklyn’s disability. That was never a good reason. Somehow, some way, we would make it work.

My goal has always been to show Brooklyn that she could do anything she wanted. That if there was a will, there was a way. I wanted her to see life as a constant adventure, not a constant disappointment.

This strategy has worked well for our girl, and it really hasn’t been that hard to “teach.” God has made her feisty and motivated, and I’ve never really had to push her too hard. From the start, it was clear that Brooklyn was going places, regardless of what test results showed. Her abilities far exceed any of our specialists’ expectations. She has, and continues to be, the exception in more ways than one.

As her mom, this makes me extremely proud. I love her spirit, and I love the way she approaches life. I love when specialists tell me how amazed they are, and I love that her teachers constantly tell me what a joy she is to be around. My daughter is strong and happy, and in her eyes, she has no limits.

This is exactly what I wanted for her.

There is only one little problem: She actually has limits. 

And as it turns out, so do I.

This is a lesson God has to keep teaching me, and I have a feeling it’s a lesson most of our generation needs to learn.

Somewhere along the way, we learned that we should push and push and push until we reach some level of super power and only then, maybe, can we feel as if we’ve reached success. Most of us, though, never really reach a level where we are satisfied, so we keep raising the bar, taking on more and more until we either get to the point that we are neglecting all of the good things in our life, or we break and then live in some deep sense of failure and shame.

I watch Brooklyn, and I see her determination and desire to do everything her sisters are doing. So far, I have been able to help her do those things. But as she gets older (and heavier), we are coming face to face with the reality that she and I are both physically limited in what we can allow her to do.  

We can still try—we will always try—but sometimes when there is a will, there still isn’t a way. Sometimes “no” is the answer, and you know what? That is okay.

We don’t have to be able to do everything.

And, better yet, no one expects us to do everything. It is healthy, even necessary, to set limits for ourselves. It is also healthy, even necessary, to admit that we have limits.

Because we actually can’t do everything.

This sounds a little silly, I know. Obviously, we can’t do everything. But I truly think that most of us walk around believing the lie that everyone else is, in fact, doing everything, and that somehow, we should be too.

For almost 10 years, I have juggled raising kids and working from home. The convenience and flexibility are wonderful, and I have been able to blow bubbles and help with school parties and be home when my girls get off the bus. But I won’t lie: Most of those years I ran on fumes, sacrificing things like sleep and health, and it eventually took its toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

About three years ago, I pushed myself way too far, and I almost lost “it.” And by “it,” I mean any sense of joy in my kids, my husband, my work, and most everything else in my life.

I was miserable.

Right at my breaking point, I decided that I didn’t want to live like this anymore. I wanted joy in my life, and I wanted to just.stop.pushing.

That required the hard work of adding necessary things to my life and letting go of some of the less necessary things. None of these steps were easy for me, and in all honestly, I did it more for my family at the time than for myself. I knew they deserved the best parts of me, and I needed to find those things again.

So I took action. I went and saw a counselor for a few months to talk through some hard things. I also hired a babysitter who allowed me to get my work done during normal hours of the day. And as much as I am still a little embarrassed to admit this, I have (more recently) hired a cleaning crew to come to my home once a month because I just can’t get to it all.

I also started working out again, seeking more time with God, and going to bed at a normal(ish) hour. I started saying “no” if I was asked to take on something I knew was too much, even if there was a nice paycheck attached to it.

I realized that at the end of the day, I only had 100% to offer, not 10,000%. I realized that saying yes to something took from something else. It’s simple math, of course, but somehow in the midst of push, push, push, I forgot how to add—and subtract.

Here’s the truth: If you think for one second that someone in your life (or on Facebook or Pinterest) is doing it all, it just isn’t true. They either have help, or they are probably running on fumes and/or miserable.

I know not everyone can afford to hire a cleaning crew or turn down a paycheck. And trust me, we have been there. But I think all of us could probably afford to say “no” a little more, and I’m almost certain most of us could use a few more hours of sleep.

Saying “no” does not equal failure. A strong person knows herself well enough to set limits and abide by them. She is confident enough to admit weakness and ask for help from God and from other people in her life.

In this new season with Brooklyn, I can see that this is something I am still working through. My instinct is to always push. I want Brooklyn to achieve far more than this world expects from her—and far more than she even thinks she’s capable of—but I also don’t want her feeling a deep sense of failure or shame when she can’t do something. As I learned firsthand, this is no way to live.

The balance is tricky, and she may have to learn the hard way, like I did. In fact, I am already watching my older girls reach limits in their own ways, and several times I have went to bed in tears over their disappointment.

Limits are hard, especially when it comes to our children. We want everything for our kids.

But everything just isn’t possible.

My job, as their mom, is to always encourage them to try, but more importantly, to provide a soft place for them to land when they reach a limit. I need to remind them that “no” is okay and that limits are good. Disappointment forces us to grow in ways accomplishment never would have allowed. 

Above all else, I need to remind them that they are not loved because of what they can or can’t do, but because of what Christ did for them. Their worth does not come from this world or their own abilities. It comes from God and His ability to work all things for our good and His glory.

I also need to provide space in my life to remind myself of the same truth. That means saying “no,” and it also means not feeling bad about saying “yes” to myself once in a while.

There is a reason most of us are exhausted. There is a reason many of us are living in shame. We are doing too much. We are forgetting that limits are a very important part of growth. Instead of hitting our knees, we are climbing ladders so high that they are buckling underneath us.

We need people to lean against. We need a solid foundation to stand on.

As it turns out, we weren’t designed to do everything.

That, my friends, is what God is for.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, May 29, 2015

In Faith

It's been such a long time since I've written here, I barely know where to start. It seems odd and awkward to dive in without some sort of "I'm back" declaration, but history proves that may or may not be true. This time, though, it's different. Or at least I think it is different.

I hope it is.

Here's the truth: I want to write here. In fact, I do write here -- in my head -- almost every day. I have posts floating around my mind and my heart that get hashed out as I drive or in the shower, but they never seem to make it on the screen for many reasons. A lot of those reasons revolve around time, energy, and children that want to be fed, but after a year of self reflection, I have realized the real reason is fear.

Fear of failure, fear of not being enough, fear of judgment, and I'll just go ahead and throw it out there:

Fear of doing what I think God is calling me to do. 

Wow. It feels good to admit that.

For about 3 years now, I've felt God's nudge to write and speak for Him. I've never shared that on here because it made me feel uncomfortable. In fact, the whole idea made me uncomfortable.

Part of that is because I already have a writing career. I have worked hard, built up a steady stream of clients, and even took a few risks -- all of which have paid off. Surely, God wouldn't want me to give all of that up.

And then, of course, there is the fact that I feel totally unworthy of the job. Who am I to be teaching, preaching, or pointing anyone else to God when I can barely get my Bible study done or go 20 minutes without losing it with my kids? Anyone peeking through our windows would know right away that I am no different than any other mom just trying to get through the day. I yell too much and often drown my sorrows in a jar of peanut butter. My kids run wild and throw Barbies at each other. Our family is more likely to watch a movie together than to sit down and play a game because it is only then that there is NO FIGHTING. The struggle to get anyone around here to listen or help or care sends me to my knees multiple times a day. Clearly, this does not describe a woman with any sort of authority.

Perhaps my biggest hang up, though, is that others might also see me as unworthy. Or, worse, that they would classify me as self-righteous, narcissistic, or hypocritical...maybe all three.

At first, I allowed these fears to silence me. I stopped writing because deep down, I was afraid that all of those things were true. What were my motives? Was this really a "calling" on my life, or was it my own selfish dream? How do you know for sure what you are "meant" to do?

God allowed those questions to eat at me enough to finally do something about them. Even though I stayed silent, I have spent the last year praying and really seeking God's direction. I've done a lot of hard heart work that has been both exhausting and liberating. I have opened old wounds, opened my Bible, and opened my hands to both release and accept God's plan for my life.

And so here I am.

I am not here because I am qualified or because I think I am special or to become famous. I am here because I think I am supposed to be, which is really just another way of saying I still have no clue what I am doing or where I am headed. I am just showing up. That, as shaky as it feels, is my plan.

I have decided that Faith requires you to step out, even when you don't see the path ahead. Faith, if it is real, is uncertain and scary and risky. It is making the choice to believe more in who He is than who we aren't.

So little by little, I am taking steps. This was one of them, and I'll be sharing more as I go.

I may fail. I may be judged. I may even do it all wrong. But I will do it in Faith and that, I know, means I am already on the right path...wherever it leads.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When the Enemy Whispers, “It’s Your Fault”

I know the right answer. I know what I should feel. This was the plan. His plan. I had nothing to do with it. I couldn’t have prevented it, and I couldn’t have changed it.

She was born this way, and she is beautiful just as she is. She is fearfully and wonderfully made.

This I know full well.

Yet there are days, nights, when the enemy sneaks in and whispers, “It’s your fault.” Most days, my armor is strong and I deflect the lies with Truth, in my soul and if necessary, out loud.

But there are days, nights, when my humanness takes over and I wonder if he is right. If there is something I could have done had I known. Or, worse, if this had to happen for me to trust my Savior fully.

My daughter is four and amazing and fighting the obstacles life has given her with an inspiring mix of innocence and drive that only He could have placed in her. She takes this life and runs with it, even if she needs a little help to get there. Her spirit has changed me forever. I have grown, surrendered, and embraced this new life – this life of a special needs mom – and I am better for it. In ways I never expected, I am better for it.

For this, I am grateful, but a mama is never really thinking of herself. So in the midst of all of the blessings, there is a small voice that reminds me that my gain is her loss. That some of the greatest victories of my soul came with a price paid by my own daughter.

Right now, she is joyful and content, but I have seen her noticing the differences. I can see the questions stirring around in her head, not quite able to find their way out. With a cracked voice and heart, I sing His promises into her soul, reminding her that she is loved and that her worth is found in God and His special design for her. That she is whole in Him. I believe it and she does too, for now. But she is only four, and I know this journey –- one that has more to do with her heart than her body -- has only just begun.

So in those moments when dark murmurs sneak in and my flesh fails, I enter a space I know He is desperately trying to cover. I crack open the door, and I give in to the question that is always lurking.

What if?

What if I had known I was pregnant...acted like I was pregnant. What if I took the prenatals they said could have prevented it all? What if I had more faith and didn’t need brain surgeries, physical disabilities, and a life of unknowns to fully rely on a God I always knew was there?

Could the blessings of a mother have been found without the sacrifices of her daughter?

The heaviness of it all forces me to my knees, and like always, I find the answer –- the mystery of the answer -- at the foot of the cross, and I wonder if He asks Himself the same question.

Could the blessings of a Father have been found without the sacrifice of his Son?

The mystery of the answer, it has become our connection; a connection that is deeper than it ever was, leaving me with an emotion somewhere between utter humility and eternal clarity. It feels both wrong and right to compare our stories, but then I remember that He intended it to be all of our stories.

Not the pain, but the victory. It is His. It is mine. It is hers.

It is all of ours.

So I push out the murmurs with the powerful, deafening Truth, and I slam the door, hoping that one of these days it will stay shut, locking out the lies and forcing the whispers into silence.

Or that one of these days, they will finally fall on deaf ears.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Answered Prayers!

I apologize that I didn't post this's been quite a week. But I have some good news about our Brooklyn! Thanks to our amazing God, we were able to CANCEL Brooklyn's shunt surgery that was scheduled for this past Wednesday. Several tests on Tuesday showed that God heard our prayers. In fact, Brooklyn's MRI showed a slight DECREASE in spinal fluid! Thank you, Jesus! Although we are still not 100% positive that Brooklyn's shunt is fully functioning, the decreased fluid in her spine and stable fluid levels in her head are good indicators that our girl is doing just fine. She also continues to show no major symptoms. Our neurosurgeon feels strongly that intervening now would cause more harm than good, and Jeff and I agree. As much as we want to be proactive, Spina Bifida is more of a "wait and see" journey. We won't lie... this is the hardest part. But we are following what Brooklyn's body is telling us, trusting our neurosurgeon, and putting our faith in the ultimate Healer. We believe with all of our hearts that He is guiding our journey and will make it clear if and when we need to intervene.

Brooklyn also had a series of urology tests this past week. The preliminary results look good, but we aren't quite out of the weeds yet. We will meet with our urologist this week to make sure there haven't been any major changes in Brooklyn's bowel or bladder. If there have been major changes, we could be dealing with tethered cord surgery instead of shunt replacement (worst case scenario)...but for now, we are just thankful for the good news we received this week. We will keep you posted as we know more.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers! They are powerful!!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Many of you have been checking in on Brooklyn, which touches me more than you know. And since so many of you are praying, I wanted to give you a quick update.

Overall, Brooklyn is doing well. Right now, we are in wait and see mode until her doctor appointments on December 9. That is when we will do more MRIs and scans to see if we need to perform the surgery on December 10.

Some good (helpful) news... she recently had an eye appointment that confirmed NO pressure behind her eyes, which is a really good thing. If there was pressure, we'd definitely have to intervene with surgery. Knowing that there is no pressure building in her head was a huge relief and gave us some peace of mind as we wait on the Lord this next week. It also helps that our little rock star is as spunky as ever and seems to be feeling just fine. I keep telling myself that is she is joyful, I should be too! Her smile and all of your prayers are helping us stay strong.

We are so blessed to have a community of prayer warriors going through this with us, and we promise to keep you posted as we know more!