In which reality sets in…

I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined I could be a candidate for the sin of vanity. In fact, I might be a good choice for the category, “She just doesn’t care.” Or maybe, “It’s not the outer beauty that counts” award. I was good at caring just enough to make sure I didn’t go over the imaginary line I’d set for myself. After that, I could do what I wanted and it didn’t matter what others thought of me.

I didn’t think much of me. Why should I care what anyone else though?

However, something drastically shifted in my thoughts, about six years ago. Something that changed my perspective on beauty and aging and the human body in general. I don’t want to call it a wake up call. That would imply it was a good shift. Although what created the shift was good, the thought process, I’ve found to be damaging and unhealthy, especially if I linger too long on those thoughts.

I had my first child six years ago and some odd months. With my little bundle of joy came a massive weight gain (eighty-five pounds of it), decrease in energy levels, a hormonal apocalypse that sent me into alternating degrees of depression and mania. I found gray hairs, hairs in unwanted places, wrinkles where there had been none, and my body (which wasn’t enviable to begin with) no longer resembled ANYTHING of the young college student I once was.

See, I have always struggled with my weight. Due to recent diagnoses after years of searching for answers, I now know WHY I struggle. It doesn’t make the struggle any easier though. So I still fight every stupid pound that grows on me if I even LOOK at that chocolate cupcake.

The topping on the sundae came when my husband and I started our third Daniel fast in as many years. The first two were a breeze for me. I felt healthier, I felt stronger spiritually, and I lost weight. I know weight is not the main focus of a fast, but it’s still a great thing for a woman who has been clinging to those extra pounds she never lost after her first baby.

This third time was great spiritually. But physically, I’ve felt exhausted, I’ve gained weight instead of losing it, and I’m ALWAYS hungry – craving coffee and cheese mostly.

Last night, I finally broke. I was getting ready for bed and caught a glimpse of my figure in the mirror. And I realized just how vain I’d become. No longer did I care less about myself.

Now, I care too much about what my outward appearance says.

And my outward appearance last night said, “Unlovable, ugly, overweight, wrinkly, frumpy, unwanted, undesirable, unnecessary.”

Fortunately, my husband was there to catch me as I fell. I don’t want to know where that particular dark road would have led. I’m still reeling from it this morning as I try to smile at the kids and pretend I don’t feel old and faded.

Thing is, I’m not that old. I’m thirty, still relatively healthy, with hopefully many more years ahead of me to live and enjoy. I have a beautiful family, a Good God, a great community around me. I have everything I will ever need.

So why does that woman in the mirror, looking back at me, scare me so much? Why do the wrinkles and gray hairs and aching joints send me into an emotional tailspin? Why should it matter to me so much, that I break down and cry over a few extra pounds and curves in places only I can see? I’ve cared about it before, but not enough to make me hysterical.

I’m well aware of the natural progression of things. You get older each year you’re alive. You go gray, you start to sag, you wrinkle, and sometimes you lose your mind.

When I broke down, I cried harder because I couldn’t remember if I was thirty or thirty-one. My husband did the math for me, but for some reason it didn’t help. I just cried harder.

I don’t have pat answers or a ready comfort for those of you who suffer from this issue. I’m going through it and it’s too close for me right now. I’m just trying to remind myself that these emotions and feelings will pass and my husband still finds me attractive and my God still loves me no matter what.

Those sentiments will work eventually. But for now, I’m grieving and that’s okay too.

In which humility and grace are on the menu…

Every prudent man acts with knowledge, But a fool displays folly. ~ Proverbs 13:16 NASB

I am a fool. All this time I’ve been teaching my children the value of having an “I can do this” attitude. The word “can’t” is not recognized as a valid argument. They try and if they still cannot accomplish the task, they ask for assistance.

So I wonder why, after such consistency in our training, they still use the dreaded C word. It’s like nails on a chalkboard and grates on my mama heart.

We’ve all heard the phrase,

Do what I say, not what I do.

I’m here as a first-hand witness to the fact that phrase is categorically incorrect.

My children were only following the lead of their foolish mama.

I say all the right things. But as for following my own instruction, I cannot seem to do that.

So my husband called from work to let me know that our smashed up car still had the plates attached and with the salvage company coming to get it, we would need to remove the plates. We have a new car (new to us anyway) purchased and wanted to just switch the plates to that one.

Without hesitation my first response was, “What am I supposed to do about that?”

See what I did there? I didn’t actually say I can’t do it. I just beat the bush to pieces in a more subtle way. I was still saying, “I can’t do this. You do it for me.”

After he got off the phone and we ended our conversation on less than pleasant terms, I realized the gravity of what I had done. I also realized with shame, that my children were watching the entire exchange and had heard my defeatist words. I’m positive that if I continue on the path I’m taking, my children will also learn how to be more subtle in their, “I can’ts.”

I called my husband back to apologize for my “I Can’t” attitude, and I made a genuine attempt at removing the plates. While I succeeded at one of them, I did still ask my husband if he could help me with the other one. This time, he gave a definite YES.

And yeah, my children watched that conversation too.

In which my desire is for my husband…


I’ve read that part in Genesis so many times, the page is marked and torn. You know the part.

To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”

It’s Genesis 3:16 by the way. In case anyone else wants to rub the page thin, trying to figure it out.

I’m no Bible scholar. I have passages memorized from days long past when my parents lovingly and rightly drilled them into my rebellious brain. I get a kick out of the fact that sometimes in the middle of a Sunday sermon, I will find myself whispering the words just one step ahead of the Pastor and my husband’s eyes glow with pride.

“You are amazing, you know that? To have all that knowledge in your head and to recall it so easily.”

Which is high praise when you consider it’s coming from a man who once (and still) suffers from a traumatic brain injury. I think it a source of pride for myself as well, especially when he recognizes it. I’m not saying it’s healthy for me to be proud of my accomplishment in this area. Just that, considering the topic of this post, it’s a kind of irony.

This Christmas, I came face to face with my pride (and this verse in Genesis). I strongly desire my husband’s approval and attention. So strongly, that it colors my own actions or feelings toward him.

I finally get it. The punishment Eve faced was even more insidious and cruel than I first believed and I wanted to be angry at both men and God in the moment the revelation hit me. In the end, though I struggle with wanting to hold on to my own self-righteousness, I place the blame where it belongs. On Eve’s head. And boy, does that admission hurt.

See, I always questioned why Eve would desire the very person who had, in her greatest hour of need, failed her magnificently. Why on earth would she desire him and how could he rule over her when he couldn’t even keep her from taking the fruit of the tree?

Then it hit me. Because I was always thinking the curse actually hurt Adam more than Eve (minus the childbirth part). But I was focusing on Adam. Eve would struggle (women would struggle) for the entirety of their married life with a desire for their husband that often overwhelms their desire for and service to God. It wasn’t so much that Adam would rule over her.

It was that, his action or inaction, words or lack of words, could make or break her. This was not how God designed marriage obviously. He designed it to be a reflection, a shining example of His love for His bride and her submission to Him.  And how could that be when everything in her cried out for her earthly husband’s approval and affirmation? How could she possibly seek after God with her whole heart, when her heart could break over the simplest misstep her husband made.

If he chose passivity, she would struggle over insecurities long buried. If he chose inaction, she would question what she’d done wrong and whether he still loved her.

In the end, her focus, her desire, could very well pull her away from the one thing she needed most. Her heavenly groom’s unconditional and unwavering love.

I gave in to that this Christmas. I focused so hard on my desire for my husband, that I missed my Husband’s joy and affirmation. I focused so hard on my (his) lack, that I missed out on the overflow of His abundance.

I admitted all this to my poor husband, realizing that I’m still not over it. I’m still struggling through it, but I’m aware of my struggle now. And I  pray that I can accept and take joy in where my desire should be focused.

Because I may come to a day when my husband can’t give me the desires of my heart. Not that he won’t, but that through no fault of his own (whether through death or disability or illness–temporary or permanent) he will not be able to be what I need. So I need to stop expecting that now and focus on the joy and gratitude when he does meet a need–focus on it in the right context.

As a part of the overflow of a good and abundant God. Not through any ability or talent of my husband’s, but through the blessing of a God who longs so much to give His children–His bride–good things. Who wants our eyes on His abundance, not on our own lack.

In which the last few months reflect an unlived life…

I haven’t blogged in recent months because I haven’t really been living them. Oh I still breathe and eat and sleep and run–although I have to say the sleep thing is a work in progress. I feel like I’ve survived these months since my last post.

I just haven’t really lived them.

Ever have an out of body experience? That’s what August through December felt like. I did everything I was supposed to do and did it well enough to pass inspection. However, on closer examination, I won’t be winning any medals for seizing the day.

I get in to these ruts at times. Where I feel like I’m doing the bare minimum to live without really experiencing or growing or maturing at all. It ends up feeling like a holding pattern and in the meantime, I grow more and more restless. Until something crazy or ordinary shakes me out of the doldrums and I’m once again careening on the path of adventure.

I’m still on a quest to discover whether these “doldrums” are really all that healthy for me. I know it does nothing positive to excite my creativity and I end up seeing the worst of myself in big ways. I stagnate and grow frustrated, which in turn reinvents my patterns of laziness. I like to call it lack of motivation on my denial days. It sounds better that way.

All I know is, it’s a vicious cycle, until something comes along to break me out of it and I dance my way through the minefields with new vigor and purpose.

I think it was the Christmas cookie baking that did it this time.

So in an uncharacteristic show of “motivation,” I’m going to go beat back insomnia and hit the pillow a little early tonight. I’m back.


In Which a Walk Down Memory Lane Begins with a Phone Call

“Look dad! A big rock. I’ve never seen a big rock before.” My three year old son excitedly chattered about his amazing find on our family walk this evening. He’s dressed in daddy’s shirt and big boy undies and wearing socks with his sandals. It’s an interesting get-up, but it fits him somehow.

In the grand tradition of three year olds everywhere, he’d already forgotten about the pile of “big” rocks he’d found the day before. Those treasures are now sitting in a basket on my dryer while I wait for him to forget about them so I can replenish our gravel street. Thus repeating the cycle of a rock collecting little boy who probably picked up one from two expeditions ago.

My husband and I smile at the antics of our children. The five year old has found her own collection and is attempting to pawn them off on us so she can run on ahead without the extra burden in her hands. She’s also grinning like a mad woman when we decide we’re going to have a swinging session.

Jake and I each grab one hand and on the count of three, we send them soaring right up to the clouds. Or so they say. Then it’s a race to see who gets to steal who’s turn and we set a limit. Three turns each and then switch. We manage it for two rounds before both of us are sweating and laughing too much to continue.

The littlest little is content in his sling on my chest. He chatters and coos once in a while, but mostly vacillates between sucking his thumb while his eyes grow heavy and darting quick glances all around at the dusky landscape.

We hear the crickets chirping and a lawnmower in the distance. The breeze blows through our hair, cooling the summer evening to just the right temperature.

At some point, middle little has discovered a new treasure. “BIG dicks, mom! Look dad. I found some dicks.” For those of you wondering, that’s kidspeak for “sticks”. Get your heads out of the gutter people… :)




My mom and I chatted on the phone earlier today. We were discussing many things, but among the topics was the benefits of exercise and how much harder it is to keep in shape nowadays. I mused on the idea of our lost village mentality. When I was growing up, we had neighbors.

No, I don’t mean the people who live on our street and we see in passing on a family walk or when the neighborhood garage sales start.

I mean neighbors who knew us backwards and forwards and we knew them the same. Neighbors who had cookouts, Sunday morning brunches, and evening walks with our family. We kids would leave the house in the morning after our chores were done and we didn’t reappear until lunchtime. Mom handed us all sandwiches and water bottles and we at on the trampoline for an impromptu picnic. Snack time took place over at the neighbor’s house and somewhere in between, we managed to traverse MOST of the backyards on the entire street. There WAS that one neighbor who had a fence because they didn’t like kids.

We managed to get around it anyway.

I heard recently that we aren’t necessarily living in more dangerous times. We’ve just become more paranoid and thus, less a village and more an island unto ourselves. Each family unit, taking walks on their own, collecting rocks, and having no clue who our neighbors are. It’s sad really.

I love our neighborhood. It’s quiet, out in the country, yet close enough to town for convenience sake.

I don’t love our neighbors. Not because they are horrible people or anything, but because I don’t know them enough to love them. I miss the village.

I think this Christmas, we’re going to bake cookies for the neighbors. We may not get the village back, but I’m determined to at least love our neighbors the best that we can.

In which the darkness tries to hide the light…and fails…

It’s been a rough year so far. I’m pretty certain that’s been mentioned before in my blogs.

But hey, I’m actually getting in a blog a month now. What do you know? At some point, maybe I’ll stretch and make the three blog/month mark.

Anyway, in the midst of financial woes, medical emergencies, raising young children in the midst of cold springs, weird schedules, and insomnia, I’ve felt the darkness pulling at me.

It’s not something I’ve ever gotten a diagnosis for or experienced time in therapy to deal with the implications of this darkness. But these little demons of despair and depression and discouragement (that’s a lot of D’s) seem to creep in during times of high stress and little to no sleep. They chip away at my energy and my joy and fill my brief dream states with disturbing images and dreams that wake me in a cold sweat. I’ve been running and praying and pleading with God to keep the demons at bay, but sometimes I forget in all the running and praying and pleading, to fall.

Fall into the arms of my Savior. To stop running, stop praying and pleading.

Babies seem to get this concept of falling. As they learn to walk, they kind of toddle until they cannot keep their top-heavy bodies upright any longer and look for the nearest pair of arms into which they can tumble. Ungracefully, certainly not very well. But they trust in those arms with everything in them. When logic and reason tell them there’s no way they will be caught (sometimes those arms are halfway across the room and have to hurry close to make it in time) baby knows–believes–those arms are already there.

I do not care much for falling. I like my legs to carry me with control and poise. Stumbling looks foolish and stupid. Needing Someone’s arms to catch me when I’m perfectly capable of carrying myself through the darkness? I scoff at those arms when I should be trusting them to carry me.

I hate it when the darkness overwhelms me. I feel less than human, non-functioning. A piece of scum on the bottom of a very deep ocean. Drowning because I need light and air and freedom. And the chains are heavy, dragging at me, pulling me into the darkness with an ease that frightens me. I fight back, but often have reached a point where I just don’t want to care.

It’s easier to stay in a little comfort bubble. To let the darkness take me. I can sit in oblivion, not noticing life passing me by with all its joys and sorrows and amazing light. Oh, I go through all the motions, and probably do it well enough that no one would notice the difference unless they knew me inside and out. Even then, I’m pretty sure I’ve fooled my loved ones too.

Because the darkness is all inside me. I cover well and cling to sanity like the last lifeboat casting off a sinking ship. I go through the motions and pretend it’s all right, when in reality, I’m screaming for help inside and no one can hear me. It builds and builds until I finally explode with it.

It’s crazy. I find the darkness recedes the most after I’ve had a great worship experience. I’m not just talking music either. I’m saying worship in all of its colorful forms.

A long chat with a mother whose encouragement is often found in the form of a kick in the pants but I know she struggles with the same thing, so it doesn’t have the ring of judgment it might have had if she didn’t know what I needed most.

A good, solid run where the sweat drips down my back and into my eyes and I’m gasping for air like a land-stranded fish desperate for the ocean again. Where the pain reminds me that I’m alive and God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Making love with my husband (and I defy anyone who says that’s not the sweetest form of worship for a couple bound for eternity in the eyes of God). I will leave this one right here.

Cuddling with my littles, when all is right with the world and they haven’t filled my day with complaining and griping and, “Mommy, he got more than me,” and “Mommy, she hitted me.” When they haven’t drained me dry with their wants and needs and demands on my time and energy. When I have a little more to give and I’m glad to give it. Such precious time when we say, “I love you” and mean it with everything that we are.

When my fingers fly across the keyboard as a new burst of inspiration fills me with ideas for my manuscripts that have seen too little light and too much time in between the writings.

When a particular piece of music sends tears to my eyes. I revel in the beauty of a melody so profound, it can induce me to a blubbering mess of snot and salt water puddles.

When laughter overwhelms me for no reason I can begin to explain. I giggle at first and then fall in to those deep belly laughs that hurt so good.

What joy I experience in these flashes of light through the darkness of days spent wandering far from God and wondering why He hasn’t answered my plaintive calls. The lost little lamb, stumbling around in the dark valley when all the while the Shepherd’s fold is so very close and the only thing He asks is for me to turn around and run back into His arms.

The darkness never wins. It can’t. Because I run to a God who is so much bigger than the darkness could ever be. I never doubt His ability to overcome. He is good, all the time. All the time, He is good. It sounds cliche, but it can’t ever be, because it’s so very true.

Peter grew overwhelmed by the waves and began sinking. BEGAN being the operative word there. Because he never ended with sinking. Christ’s arms were right there, the moment Peter cried out. Peter never had a chance to drown because Christ would never let him.

And so the darkness threatens His light; but once again, it never had a chance to win.



Book Review: All My Belongings


This book has become another favorite. I read it in one night (about three hours total) because I knew the busy week ahead would hold little time for reading. I woke up exhausted the next day, but it was completely worth the lack of sleep. :)

Warning: There are spoilers, though I will not tell the ending…just for your information.

All My Belongings is the story of a woman trying to find home when home is a place she cannot wait to escape.

I resonated with this, even though our reasons for running were vastly different. I came to a point in my life where home was full of bitter regrets and stifling rules without the saving grace to buffer me. I did not know who I was apart from the four walls of what I imagined at the time to be my prison cell.

I know now that there is healing and grace and forgiveness in the relationships and bridges I tried so hard to burn. I found Christ for myself, though I knew Him all my life, in the great big world. I discovered my identity in the Savior and realized that running away would never fix the wounds I carried. So I found home again, in the arms of those I loved and with new-found perspective to see them for the children of God they really were.

This book is exactly that. And it’s a whole lot different too.

Because I never had a father who practiced the crime (or art depending on who you talk to) of mercy killings. In the stylings of Kavorkian himself, Jayne’s father helped (or forced) many people to take the final step into the afterlife–including her own mother. Even before she walked in on him administering the fatal dose (and reported him to the authorities) her parents had shut her out of their lives and their home. Oh she was still present physically, but she was unwanted and a necessary annoyance in their world of disease and devastation. She gave up everything–her hopes and dreams–to care for her ailing mother and it all fell down around her with her father’s devastating choices.

To escape the stigma attached to her name after her father’s trial and conviction, she changes her name to Becca Morrow and moves across country to take care of the sister of her dear friend and mentor.

Upon meeting the elderly woman and her handsome son, Becca realizes just how difficult it will be to keep up the facade her life has now become.

How does one continue a lie when one is desperate for truth and love? When one is desperate for a home to call her own?

Just as Becca is settling in to her new life and finding peace in the midst of a new normal, tragedy strikes again. She’s once more at the center of a murder investigation, only this time, she’s the chief suspect. The victim? The mother of the man she’s fast falling in love with, and he doesn’t even know the real Becca Morrow.

I love the redemptive power in this story. Not only is there reconciliation with her past, there is a genuine chance to start fresh in the beauty of an identity that is God-given. No longer is Becca homeless and destitute and unloved.

She is a daughter, a friend and beloved. The pain of the past is not erased. Her wounds have to be reopened for true healing to occur. But she finds home in the most unlikely of places and a chance for redemption in the loving arms of her Savior.

Cynthia Ruchti has the amazing ability to take such raw, emotional topics and weave them into a powerful story of forgiveness, healing, and the binding up of the captive’s wounds. She writes of tears and laughter and life and hope that glows in the dark. I find myself swept up in another tale that doesn’t have all the loose ends tied up in neat packaging with easy answers and quick fixes. It’s one of the reasons why her stories restored my faith in the Christian novel. Because life is not always neat and wrapped up pretty.

Life’s actually a lot like guacamole…you can’t get the good stuff without getting the mashed up bits.

And life’s really good with chips and a side of guacamole..

In which I honor my fallen heroes

My family has a rich history of service to our nation’s military. I can honestly say that every branch of the service is represented in the fine men and women with whom I share a genetic bond. I am proud of every one of them for what they have sacrificed and fought for down through the ages.

I want to also remember those who have fallen, either in battle or in the natural passing at the end of their lives. I also want to remember those who have fallen in a different way entirely. Those soldiers who have fallen in to civilian life and do not know quite how they fit in the puzzle that is not a war zone. Those soldiers who have fallen because war hardened them and shaped them in ways even they cannot fully comprehend. All bitter memories and pain too deep for words.

My grandfather died in the natural course of his life at the brilliant age of 89. July 25, 2013, three days after my husband and I celebrated our seventh anniversary. I’ll always feel the bittersweet of those memorial days now. He lived a long, amazing life. A man of integrity and character, he knew what it meant to build with his own two hands, the life he wanted. He fought death so hard, because he was stubborn enough to try to outlive it. I loved that man and wish I’d told him more, exactly how much he meant to me.

My father is also fallen but not in the eternal sleep either as a soldier dying with honor on the battlefield or an old man at the end. My father has been broken and changed and rebuilt and destroyed by life, not just as a soldier, but as a man. He won’t admit it, because pride comes in many different forms. His wounds aren’t all shrapnel and amputated limbs and the stench of gunpowder in his lungs. But he too clings stubbornly to life with the tenacity of a man who’s still fighting on the battlefield. I love this man too and even with all his wounds and his pride and his damned stubbornness, he’s a hero I’m h0nored to know. I wish he could trust in THAT truth above anything else. It would sure make our relationship a little easier.

But I have my own wounds, and while I was never on a battlefield (unless you count the reenactments during the civil war days or a museum at Cantigny Park) I too fight my own battles. I hope to follow in the footsteps of these two great men and in the footsteps of my other family members who have fought and fallen before me.

In the great exodus of the Israelite nation, the people stopped along the way to commemorate both the bitter and the sweet of their journey. The battles they fought both within and without, the lives of the fallen and the lives of those yet to fall. They memorialized things that to some, might seem trivial, meaningless. Unless you’d been there and witnessed it for yourself.

Today, I want to commemorate the men and women in my life who have fallen and those who have yet to fall. In life, falling is not always a bad thing, though we seem to make it that way with all of our ideas about failure and fairness and black and white. Sometimes, falling is just the precursor to learning to walk. For those who are learning to walk and falling a little or a lot,

Thank you.




A Blessed Memorial Day!

In which I fall apart…

I’m falling apart and I really don’t know why. Reading the Bible feels repetitive, my daily routines are shot by three needy, chaotic kids, and my husband is trying to be a rock while struggling with his own work and faith problems.

Now before anyone gets any ideas, there is nothing wrong with me or my family right now. We have bills and health issues and crazy times just like everyone else and probably no worse than anyone else. In fact, I can name on both hands and toes how many of my friends are going through rough stuff right now and it’s far worse than anything I’m struggling with right now.

My son killed a baby bird today. And I LOST it. Not temper, screaming, throwing stuff lost it. Like broke down in the middle of my soggy yard and bawled lost it…

The thing is, these little things in life are really tripping me up right now and I don’t know why. My son makes a mess somewhere in my house at least once a day…most of the time more than once.

For some reason, I’ve been seeing mountains in these molehills.

I mean, okay. So I told my son about fifty times that if he touched the eggs in that nest (who builds a nest in the middle of our raised garden beds anyway?) he would be facing consequences. And he still dragged all four eggs up to the house with a grin on his face to show me his “find.” It’s a wonder they weren’t all broken in the process…that he only managed to kill one is a miracle.

And yes, that same son has been told a million times that taking the lid off his sippy cup and dumping out the contents is a definite NO. As soon as I get distracted by the baby or something else, I’ve got a huge puddle on my hands. He’s been disciplined for it and it still happens and I’m just so frustrated that I can’t get through to him.

Is it a huge thing? No. It’s a phase and he’s testing boundaries (God, is he testing boundaries). It will pass and I will survive.

For some reason, I can’t seem to convince myself of these facts though. I feel like I’m having a mental breakdown and it’s doing NOTHING for my already short fuse.

It’s amazing. Sometimes I have all the right words for other people who are struggling with doing life. I know exactly what to say. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to the music below and knowing exactly where I need to go and to whom I need to go.

My son just came to me to apologize. And I fell apart while I held him. Fell apart and fell on Jesus. Prayed for my son’s heart and for mine. That He would fill us both with obedient spirits and tender hearts. That He would heal those breaks and build our relationship into something beautiful. That He would fill my heart with an abundance of unconditional love. That my first response to failure and sin would not be anger and judgment. That my first response would be love and falling on the One who did the same for me on the cross and every day of my life.