Category Archives: Family

The necklace

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During the after school hustle yesterday my daughter brought me a necklace. In it’s present condition however, it looked more like a metallic ball of yarn than a piece of jewelry. It was twisted and matted together tightly but I remembered what it looked like before. I took a look at the clump of chain links and charms she placed in my hand and listened as she requested I “fix it.”

As I began the task I had carried out many times with many different childhood objects over the years, I quickly realized this was going to be way more involved than I had the time or attention to give at that moment. I explained to my daughter that I wasn’t going to be able to complete the task in time for her to wear it that evening and her heart began to pour out. She pleaded with me to “fix it” because the necklace was her favorite and it was ever so important to her. I could tell by the look in her eyes, this one mattered. I promised I would try again later, set it on my dresser and went on with our evening activities.

As I passed the necklace in approach of my bed for the night, I decided to pick it up and try again. For over an hour I wove the chain over, under, around and through but still could not “fix” the necklace. It seemed hopeless.

But something in me confirmed it was important so I placed it on my nightstand, turned off the light and went to sleep. All day, my eyes would catch glimpses of the necklace as I passed through the room and it practically called out to me from its position on the nightstand. Finally I sat down next to it and began to unravel the chain again.

As I did, this time, I heard the voice of Jesus:

“See what I am doing.” He invited. “I am working. When no one is watching, when no one is expecting and when no one knows even where to look … I am at work. I am untangling. I am restoring. I am moving. Trust me. It looks like a mess, I know, but it is important work. Don’t quit. It matters. Rest. Trust. I am at work here.”

As the way of untying the last knot became clear and the last link of chain loosed, the necklace unfolded and indeed, it WAS special to behold its designed form taking shape once again.

During this Advent season remember, He IS working. It looks like a mess, it looks hopeless, but the untangling has begun and when He is finished, only beauty remains.

We welcome your presence Jesus. Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel. Do your work in our lives. Amen.

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No more petting

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I have a jacket that is crazy soft and so comfy. Literally it feels like a warm blanket with arm holes but WAY better than a Snuggy. I LOVE this jacket. When I wear it around the house it is inevitable that my family will reach out and touch it. Once they do, they fall in love and find it hard to stop petting it. They love how it feels so much, when I am out of town they have been know to ask if they can sleep with it!

I also have a teal pillow on my over sized chair in the living room that if you ever visit my house, I will force you to touch. I am slightly embarrassed that I even spent $30 on a pillow but making people touch it helps me feel better about the indulgence b/c once they do, they will understand. Its life-changing.

Im telling you all of this to emphasize from the get go: I am a lover of all things soft. I too process feelings through the art of touch. In fact, my secondary love language is physical touch so if you’ve been around me you know I, like Olaf, love a good warm hug. Touch in and of itself is a beautiful way to connect with another human being.

But there are times when it would be most appropriate to ask permission to touch someone or something. For example, when I was pregnant, it took a little getting used to how people would approach my belly like a separate piece of my body and start petting it and talking to it. Some people don’t think twice but I would prefer it when people took my feelings into consideration and asked first.  Or if someone was walking with their dog, isn’t it common knowledge by now that you should always ask the owner IF you can pet the animal BEFORE reaching down your hand to do so? It just makes sense.

So here is the rub for me and I will say it as nicely and as plainly as I can…

Please stop petting my daughter.

I know Jaydn has beautifully soft skin (I do too- shameless plug for Rodan+Fields). But a smooth skin texture does not warrant the same form of touch as my comfy jacket or life-changing pillow does. It also doesn’t equate to how you would approach touch for a pregnant belly or an animal.

Think about this a little … Let’s say you give me a hug and notice that my skin is really soft (it is thanks to Rodan+Fields). I don’t know anyone who would spend the next 5-10 minutes rubbing their hand up and down my arm while we carried on in conversation. Yet that has happened on multiple occasions to my daughter.

Why?

Of course I have my speculations but I won’t project them onto anyone else unfairly. So for now I will just challenge YOU to ask yourself the question WHY? Is that appropriate? Would it be socially acceptable in any other circumstance? I am relatively sure you will conclude that it’s not

It seems preposterous to many that I am even having to address this issue but you have NO IDEA how often this comes up in regards to my daughter.

If you’d like to know where I got my jacket or pillow, I will be happy to pass along that information. I will even lend you one of my many soft blankets and let you pet my dog if you need to but my daughter is a different story entirely. So please, no more petting.

 

Why me?

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I often ask this question. Not to anyone specific but in my head. To life in general. Ultimately my soul questions The Craftsman. “Is this what you intended? Was this what you had in mind when you made me? Are you sure I’m built for this?”

The question could be a symbol of gratitude. Why me? Why do I have a marriage that is lasting? Why do I have kids that are a blessing to not just me but others? Why do I have a community no matter where I am in my, seemingly endless, metamorphosis?

More often, the question indicates anger. Why me? Why did the bottom drop out as a result of someone else’s choice? Why couldn’t I be a child when I was a child? Why do I have to watch and walk through so much death, destruction and disappointment?

Why me? Its a universal question.

The temptation is to hide the question when it hurts. To band-aid it with false mantras. Why NOT me. Pretending the sting isn’t real and convincing others it’s ok and I will be fine. That may be true. Its not yet.

For now, the ache is debilitating. It’s silence, deafening. The question is heavy and it’s ok to buckle under the weight of it.

I don’t wish it away anymore. It reminds me. Broken places that point to truth: I am not in control. The good and the hard alike, happen. They happen to me. They happen to everyone.

Why me often leads to me too.

My favorite phrase of all time. The perfect balm for any heart. Me too. You are not alone. I’ve been there. Its not exact. No cookie cutters. Not a mirror image. Only, I’ve walked a road near yours and Im here now.

Oh the saving grace of that knowing.

It doesn’t change anything but you. The struggle continues but deep down you know you will sing again. Rise up because someone showed you you could. Take what you have been dealt and continuing to play. You walk with a limp now so I will slow down my pace.

Follow the path that “Why me?” travels down. Let it lead you. May you find your resting place in the comforting arms of, “Me too!”

Mom Life

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There is a lot of shame wrapped up in being a mother. Everywhere you go, or even online, you are comparing yourself to the other moms and even if you weren’t, the general public is VERY outspoken about their opinions of how you do things as a mother. Its as if there is a RIGHT way to do it and anything that diverges, even slightly, from that way makes the way you do it wrong. Makes YOU (as the mother) wrong. Its a very critical place to spend most of your time and energy. Plus the rugrats you are exerting all that time, attention, energy and love for don’t exactly give you the affirmation you are needing along the way. It doesn’t matter what you do, at least once a day you disappoint someone. More often than not, we disappoint ourselves. We thought we’d be different. We thought we’d be “better” (whatever that means).

I have been a mother for almost 11 years now so it has reached across two age seasons for me- my 20’s and 30’s. While I am more secure in who I am in my 30’s than I was in my 20’s, the difficulties of being a mother remain the same. I am now in that place where I don’t want to sit on the floor and play blocks/puzzles/cars/trains/etc anymore. Ive been doing it so long I feel like Ive served my time and I want to move on with my life. But all day long I push swings and blow bubbles and cheer over every silly face and jump off the couch because my kids need that affirmation from me. The affirmation I need and desire, I give. Imagine if the tables were turned and every time I washed a plate or folded the laundry or picked up the play room for the 17th time my kids applauded and cheered. It would either be really rewarding or uber cheesy. Even still I think I would like it, if only for a little while. But thats not my life. Thats not a mother’s life. Scripture says that one day my children will call be blessed (Proverbs 31:28) so I cling to that promise, but today is not that day.

The thing that boggles my mind is that there is still a stigma out there for women who don’t feel like they were born to be mothers. While I have always been a nurturing person that loved kids, it was never a plan of mine to become a mom, or a wife for that matter. (I can hear the gasps from here!!) Yet, here I am, being both on a daily basis! I don’t think Im a mom or wife because I am a women and that is what I am “supposed” to do. What I do believe is that this is the path God had for me (specifically) to be totally stretched beyond my abilities and strengths. Being a mom and wife are the two main ways I have been challenged to grow. Had I ended up living in a hut in Uganda like I planned, single and childless, I would be way more comfortable right now. But God isn’t as concerned with my comfort as He is my character. Being a mom (and wife) builds the crap out of my character. I am challenged daily to love beyond my resources which presses me into the depths of the One who loves me, and them, most of all.

My kids know I love them. They also know that I have dreams of doing other things with my time and energy. Until then, I will play blocks/puzzles/cars/trains etc on the floor and applaud their every move. Because deep down I know, God sees each dish I wash, each swing I push, and each meal I prepare and He is cheering me on.

I may not be the kind of mother you were or are, but I am a mother and one day my children will rise up and call me blessed. I will cling to that for now.

Ink stories

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During the days of the Bible people would often build alters of stones to mark a place in their journey when they met with or experienced God in some way. They did this to remember what they had seen.

In a day and age where most people are trying hard to forget, I have always held a deep appreciation for the art of remembering. I don’t want to dismiss the painful or powerful moments of my life as insignificant, because they aren’t. They have played a role in shaping me and therefore I acknowledge them.

Not long ago I realized that instead of building alters out of stones, I mark the main highs and lows of my life journey through tattoos. Like a Chinese tattoo artist once said, “Tattoo on body, tattoo on heart.” Basically what I share with the world about my story through my tattoos has already had a deep impact on my heart. This is just my way of painting a picture or writing a book – Im telling my story.

#1: My first tattoo was the typical, “I just turned 18 so I can do whatever I want” tattoo. Although not rebellious in image, it was certainly an expression of my instant adulthood. I was really into sunflowers at the time, still am really. Sunflowers just exude a joy and brightness that cause me to light up when I see them so for a few years I decorated with them everywhere. I tend to be a negative thinker so sunflowers help me see a bright and beautiful side to life. When I got the tattoo the petals of the sunflower were bright with yellow and orange tones and the leaves were a deep green- it was really pretty. Nowadays, not so much. Inside the center of the sunflower you will see a cross. You see I became a Christian at the age of 18 and I didn’t know anything about the Jesus fish or any other religious symbol but I knew it was the cross that set me free so I made sure that was in there.

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#2: I didn’t have any tattoos done for the next 10 years. But on my 28th birthday my oldest sister Kim was in town from California for my “golden birthday party.” While she was visiting, I asked her to come with me as I got a tattoo in honor of our sister Tiffany. Tiff fell between us in age so there was a definite gap left when she passed away. Our sister died in a tragic drowning accident on her 12th birthday. I was a witness to the whole event. It was a turning point for our family and we all struggled with the loss. I was 6 at the time and the couple of years that followed her death were some of the hardest, darkest and ugliest days of my life. By age 8 my life was completely different. I was completely different.

Tiffany’s death did teach me something most people don’t ever learn though: life is precious and family is forever (like it or not). So I got a tattoo b/c even though my husband and children would never meet her, I wanted everyone to know she existed. Tiffany was a part of me and I didn’t want to ever forget that.

 

#3: I think I was about 30 when I got my next tattoo but it was a year in the making. Nathan and I would often wander into tattoo places and ask about pricing or look up fonts but then walk out b/c he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. But finally we found a place that would do it and he knew what to get, so we had each others’ initials put on our ring fingers. For me it was symbol of our commitment to each other. Yes a ring does that too but in today’s society, rings can be removed. We had no plans to exit our marriage but we had already been beat up a few times over the years and we saw this as a way of sealing the fate of our relationship. We will always be together, even when we are apart.

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#4: My Africa tattoo is the one that gets noticed or commented on the most b/c its on the inside of my wrist. A lot of people would assume its for our daughter Jaydn who was born there but my ties to Africa go back much further. I have felt a connection to Uganda since 1998. I didn’t know why until I did some research and started learning about the plight of children out there and how they were being terrorized by the LRA. I started joining forces with organizations such as ONE and INVISIBLE CHILDREN to raise awareness and contribute to relief efforts and support. I was constantly burdened for these people and promised one day, I would travel there myself. After a few attempts to travel there, I finally got to go in 2006 with an organization called WATOTO (which means children). When my feet hit the ground, I felt like I was home. We heard a phrase while we were there that says, “If you come to Uganda, you will find that you bury a piece of your heart there, in the red soil and when you leave, it will always beckon for you to return.” That was so true for me. I love Uganda. I love the people, the country, the culture, all of it! When we went back in 2010 to gain guardianship of Jaydn I was so excited to be home again. We lived there in an apartment for a little over a month and it was hard for me to leave again. So my tattoo of Africa has a heart over Uganda b/c that is where part of my heart is buried and where part of my heart was born.

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#5: My most recent tattoo is on the inside of my left foot. The placement of this one has significance b/c as a soccer player back in the day, this was always my weakest foot. So it was there in my weakness that I had an anchor placed. Over the course of the past year or so the waves have been crashing against me and ripping every aspect of my life to shreds. The only thing I had to hold onto was God and He was constant. God was the anchor in my storm. He was faithful to me when all I could do was bury my face into His promise to make “all things work together for the good of those who loved Him.” So no matter how high the waters rise or how hard the waves crash in the past or in the future, MY ANCHOR HOLDS.IMG_8471-3

 

#6: This is my biggest tattoo and honestly, I didn’t intend for it to be so prominent. But when I saw the drawing and how it looked on my back below my neck, it felt right. So there she is! This tattoo was for me. Many dark and ugly things have happened to me throughout my life and I always knew that they were meant for harm but that God had used them to produce a depth in my character that wouldn’t have come about any other way. But after the recent desert experience I walked through I noticed that there is a victim inside of me. I have always been the one that bad things have happened to and I have always tried to do my best with it. I am a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of girl and I have powered forward almost ignoring the hurt or at least not allowing myself to really feel it. But after everything I went through this year I felt like I was broken into a million pieces and now I have the opportunity to almost reinvent myself. The same elements are there but I get to choose which ones to put back in and which ones I won’t allow to carry weight with me anymore. Despite what you may think, I decided to hold onto my wounds. They are woven into every fiber of who I am. What I did though, is change what they were saying to my heart. They used to say things like, “You will never” and “suck it up” but now they say things like, “use this to fuel you” “I am a part of your story but not the end of the story.” Truth is a lot of junk HAS happened and it HAS shaped me but I get to decide what it will shape me into. So for the first time in my life I am choosing to no longer be a victim but to be victorious instead. So this tattoo reflects my new attitude with the lyrics of one of my favorite songs. Its a feather breaking off into birds with the saying, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” I intend to.

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The Garden

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The Garden:

I dreamt of a life

in straight little rows

where I could meander

and dirty my toes.

It was planted with order

and tended with plans

but as it grew larger

it got out of hand.

Though the life I am living

is shabby at best,

my garden is growing

north, south, east and west.

Each root has dug deeper

each bud toward the sun,

and soon I had realized

true life had begun.

Its not in neat corners

or making much sense,

but it’s ever so special

this big flowery mess.

Though the flora grow sideways

and rows go unseen,

Im surrounded by beauty

like that in a dream.

My life is a garden

full of color and scent

its wild and free

and some branches are bent.

But I love this sweet place

and I rest in its glory

and humbly accept

how Gods woven the story.

Marriage is messy

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I wasn’t one of those girls that grew up dreaming about my future husband. I know some girls do that. I am raising one of “those” kinds of girls now and let me tell you, it is an area of disconnect for us BIG TIME! I don’t intend to have hard feelings towards people that dream of marriage but I can’t relate to it either. Like we always say at our house, “its not wrong, its just different.” So please hear me say that there is nothing “wrong,” per say, with dreaming about your future spouse. I just didn’t do that. Moving on…

I will admit that even though I didn’t dream of getting married, I had no healthy context for the institution of it either. My parents were divorced and both went on with their lives on their own. So I guess I just grew up thinking that the single life would be ok too. Married was ok but so was not being married. Neither had more of an advantage to it. Plus, I am a highly independent personality type so I didn’t need anyone to be anything for my sake. Then I met Nathan.

Even though I didn’t have the radar for relationships other than friendships with guys, there was something unique about Nathan. Long story short, I knew we were going to get married. Honestly, the fact that I was with him really complicated my future plans. You see I was going to become a missionary in Uganda after college (think of that Kisses From Katie girl- yeah that was supposed to be my life). However my new relationship didn’t quite assimilate to that plan very well so I needed to make adjustments. Thats what love does. Love is flexible when it needs to be so that the relationship can stay connected in a healthy way. As you can deduce, I didn’t move to Uganda to live in a hut and love on orphans and instead I stayed in Nashville and nurtured our growing love. We got married in 2003 when I was 23 and he was 24 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Yes, it was perfect! I was confident in our future and I felt ready to commit to this thing long term so I practically ran down that aisle. We said some words and exchanged some jewelry and voila’, our two had become one.

There is no way to really know what it means to get married before you get married. You can do counseling, read books, go to conferences, ask mentors etc but marriage is one of those things that you can’t fully prepare yourself for. Its kind of like parenting and adoption. There is just nothing like the experiential knowledge you get from being married that can teach you about wisdom in marriage. All that to say, I certainly knew what choice I was making on my wedding day but there was really no way of knowing how hard it was going to be to live with that choice. There is so much emphasis on weddings  when the real work comes in during the marriage. I wasn’t naive, I was just inexperienced.

A few years after my wedding day my whole world crumbled into a million pieces. We had our first child and life seemed grand to me. But everything I thought was true about my marriage turned out to be only true for me. It was one sided. In the season of that disruption I realized I had done what all of those little girls I knew that dreamed of marriage had done. I had made a hero out of my husband and I had put myself into the role of the girl that needed rescuing. And I DO need rescuing but my husband is NOT the hero I needed. I asked God to replace Nathan on the throne of my heart and prayed fervently that I would find my identity only through His love. Even though that was the right order of things, it caused a great distance between Nathan and I. Sure we hashed out the details and went on with our lives but there was a wall of distrust and disappointment between us. We had moments of connection but I kept the fragility of my heart a safe distance from him. Life decided to really come after us and we would cling to each other through some really crazy storms but all throughout I didn’t know how to fully trust him again. I wanted to, I just didn’t know how to.

As most of you know, in November 2013 our family took a very big and a very public hit. In the process of losing everything, there was once again, a battle for my heart. The script where “I am the victim that always does the right thing but only has bad things happen to her” kept playing over and over in my head. “You don’t deserve this,” the Enemy said. “I told you, you can’t trust him,” he chanted. “You don’t need him,” he badgered. “Just leave,” he pressured. But the Holy Spirit fought back with whispers of grace for the moments right in front of me. “No one is deserving, so freely give,” the Spirit taught. “You can trust Me,” He promised. “Nathan needs you,” he chanted. “Stay, I want to show you something miraculous,” he invited. Every day it was a battle. Some days I lived from the Spirit and walked out faithfully and others and I let the Enemy rule my head and I was bitter. Its been quite a journey really. Which brings me to today…

As far as where things stand as I write this, I see myself as entering into my third marriage. Only in my case, its with the same man. In my first marriage I was educated but had no hands on experience so I had limitations of understanding. As a result, I lost my identity when the waves came crashing against us. In my second marriage I lived as if my husband had a function but it was no longer safe to emotionally connect to him, let alone fully let my guard down all of the time. So when the waves came, I stood strong through faith in God but what little I had left in my relationship with Nathan washed away. That can be a scary place to be. However, its allowing us to start over too. My desires for marriage number three is to find more health and balance. Together we need to make sure I am not the only anchor in our family where everything and everyone relies on my lack of mobility to thrive. Rather we need to create an environment where both Nathan and I are dependable forces that take turns letting the other take flight while we hold down the fort for awhile. We want a marriage where love can flow freely and safely and Truth will be at the root of it all. That our hearts towards each other will remain good and pure and we can trust without fear. Ultimately I pray this is our best marriage yet!

I write about all of this because I am a firm believer that I am not alone in anything I walk through. Sharing my story is often times sharing a very common story and so I use my journey as a way to connect to the bigger picture of “us.” I know the power of hearing the words, “me too” and how that can instantly lift a weight greater than anything else. So I continue to write about my life with raw honesty toward that end: to lift the load for someone else. May you walk lighter today knowing, you are not alone either. Marriage is messy, not just for you, but for all of us.