I Will Rise Up: An Ode to Moms Everywhere

Darkness had swallowed up the last of the day as I sat in the Chick-Fil-A parking lot with my three kids, monitoring a possible anaphylactic reaction. As the lone adult, I agonized over the decision whether or not to Epi-pen my 6 year old, contemplating a drive to the hospital or a call to 911; alternatively, I thought, maybe he's ok and I should just drive home and monitor him for the night. Of course, my husband, Tom, was out of the country and at dinner with work colleagues, so I couldn't reach him, despite my 11 attempts to do so.

I stared at the red patches on my son's neck, listening to his sudden cough, and noting his complaints of a stomach ache - all three, mirroring the symptoms of his last anaphylactic reaction. Yet, it seemed different this time. The coughing could be explained by his running around. The redness on his neck wasn't exactly hives, it was simply red. His cough appeared to be settling down. Unsure of my next move, I started driving home, EpiPen in hand, hurling questions at my son for the duration of the drive.

My husband called as we were pulling into the driveway. I explained the situation in detail. After asking me follow-up questions, he uttered a statement that landed on me with the force of a thousand pounds of concrete, "I trust you to make the decision." NOOOOOOO. No. No. No. I didn't want to be the one to make the decision. To be the sole person making a judgment call regarding my child's life or death {for context, we almost lost him once, which you can read about here} is decidedly the most lonely and weighty place in the world for me. I really didn't know what to do and I didn't want to be the one to make the decision. But, I was the Mom, the adult in charge, and I had to make the call. I had to rise up and face the situation head on. And then I had to live with whatever decision I made.

Once home, his cough completely subsided and according to him, his stomach didn't hurt anymore. Listening to my gut, I decided not to administer the EpiPen, choosing to monitor him through the night. He and the baby spent the night in my room. He slept like a champ. Me, I didn't sleep a wink. 

My counseling practice is called Rise and Shine Counseling, not because it's a cute little saying, but because of the powerful image it represents. Much like the sun at dawn, people everywhere are rising up in the darkness and learning how to shine. As moms, we do this every day, literally and figuratively. We rise up, weary and sleep-deprived, from our beds, often at the beckoning cry of our little humans rubbing their hungry tummies. We rise up day after day to meet the needs of our families. We rise up in small, mundane ways, which we hope in turn, send big, life-long messages of love. And we rise up in the darkest of situations to, as Bruce Cockburn writes, "kick at the darkness until it bleeds light." 

Photo Credit: Karis Jordan

Photo Credit: Karis Jordan

When compiling a playlist for my daughter's recent birth, I chose mostly calm, instrumental music, but I also added a handful of songs that spoke to me in the deepest of ways. By far the most powerful to me was, Andra Day's Rise Up {listen to it here}. To this day, I cannot hear it without sobbing big, heavy tears and chills covering my body, as I imagine women everywhere rising up.

I think about exhausted moms, sacrificially driving their kids from one activity to another, ensuring they have clean uniforms to wear and nourishing food to eat. As they stand on the sidelines in the heat of the day, cheering on their children, these moms silently mourn and celebrate at the very same time, considering the growing independence of these humans who have been in their care for so long. They're plagued by wonder - did they make the right decisions for their kids, did they spend enough time with them, did they push them enough, did they push them too hard, and on and on.

You’re broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry go round
And you can’t find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains

I think about my mom friends who because of unexpected obstacles facing their kids, are now attempting to navigate the world of the NICU, autism, hearing loss, heart defects, sensory processing disorder, and hip dysplasia, among others. They rise up each and every day, tirelessly hunting down resources and advocating for their beloved children. There is nothing they wouldn't do for their kids and yet, there are days when they wish this wasn't their mountain to climb.

I think about the moms I know who just received word of a devastating diagnosis, those battling depression, and those busting their entrepreneurial tails trying to bring in extra cash for their families. You are all warriors, warriors who keep rising.

And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousands times again
For you

I think about my dear friend who held her husband as he died in her arms. In spite of the unfathomable ache, she went on to rise up over and over again. She led her two young girls forward and learned how to embrace the both/and by embracing the grief as they remembered him and the hope as they created a new life for themselves without him. 

When the silence isn’t quiet
And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet
And move mountains
We’ll take it to its feet
And move mountains

I think of moms who suddenly find themselves parenting solo, for one reason or another. Laying alone and utterly exhausted, in their bedroom, they question where they now fit in the social structure of their world and they wonder how they will muster the strength to face another day.

 I think about Syrian moms, displaced by war, fighting with every ounce of their being to find shelter and food for their frightened babies, unsure of where to go or what to do next.

Photo Credit: Yunny Wolff

Photo Credit: Yunny Wolff

I think of moms of adopted children, who want so desperately for their kids to know in every corner of their beings how absolutely loved they are. These moms, going to great lengths to build bridges with birth parents or seek support for their kids still suffering the impact of trauma.

I think of moms who find the darkness still banging at their doors as they grieve the loss of a child(ren) and fight through the ache that never seems to fully go away. And I think of the women who are moms in their hearts, who yearn to be moms in their bodies, but whose dreams go unfulfilled month after month.

I think of the moms who lay in bed at night, smothered in a blanket of self-criticism, as they reflect on the ways they let their frustration and irritability seep out into the day.

And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up

It's only when we face the darkness, that we can rise up into the light and fight. It's the very acknowledgment of the darkness - of our own pain, weakness, uncertainty, and fear - that allows us to rise up and forge a path forward with a love so fierce. As Paul Coelho writes, "The strongest love is love that can demonstrate our frailty." Even with doubt and ache as our companions, we keep going. We keep waking to receive the grace that is life and breath itself. We keep leaning into the hope that we have. We keep rising, with the strength of the one who rose from the deepest darkness. 

Moms are rising up everywhere, everyday, in every kind of darkness. And on this Mother's Day, with tears in my eyes and admiration in my heart, I celebrate you. Well done, Mama. Keep rising.

 

Engage, Enjoy, and Expect

It happened, my first official postpartum run - 4 miles in a canyon, with the company of a sole sister, a rushing creek, and big horn sheep. At a balmy 20 degrees, it proved to be wintery and wonderful. There's dirt on my ankles and sweat on my brow, and hot tacos it felt good!!

I'm almost 6 months postpartum and this is the slowest I've ever returned to consistent exercise after having a baby, but I'll be honest, a little slow feels good and right amidst a fast-paced life. The older I get, the more grace I have for myself and my body. The more I am embracing the phrase, engage and enjoy when it comes to exercise - choosing to walk my son to school rather than drive because it facilitates movement and connection; choosing to go for short hikes with my baby girl, and evening walks with my family; choosing to ski, ride bikes, and shoot hoops together - they all move me toward health, though perhaps not at the pace I've moved in the past. They also move me toward relationship, a higher priority in the present.

My blog is called The Expectant Life, and I chose that name because I aim to live expectantly. But a shift has occurred and the aim of my expectancy has evolved. Rather than expect results, I find myself more often expecting quality in the journey - adventure, joy, relationship, health, and even some pain - moving a little more slowly, that I may engage, enjoy, and expect along the way.

Her Story Unfolding

Stillness. I'm captivated by her tiny being. I see her. And I wonder a wonder so big.

That heart. The many colorful emotions she'll feel. That heart, big enough to hold love and hope, sadness and rejection, joy and fear, peace and disappointment. And who all will she love with that heart? 

Those ears. All the messages she'll hear, for better and for worse. May she hear them through a filter of grace and the unshakeable knowledge of her belovedness. Who will she lend her ear to? Who will she know because she listened? What stories will those ears hold?

Those lips. They will one day birth words, giving substance to her voice. Prayers for life-giving words of love, truth, and encouragement to cascade from those lips. Words that bring change, change of the best kind. 

Those hands. Hands to create. Hands to welcome. Hands to build. Hands to hug. Hands to give. Hands to hold. 

Those feet. Those long, flaky feet. Oh, the places she'll go. To think of the far off lands, highest peaks, lowest valleys, and driest deserts those feet will take her to. And through. 

Her story so new. May she keep loving, listening, speaking, giving, and walking on, all the days of her life. Her story unfolding

Keeping My Babe Safe and Snug

While working on a Mother’s Day project last year in preschool, my son was asked a host of questions about his Mama, including this one, “What is your Mom’s job?” His answer, “to do her best to try to keep us safe.” I smiled when I read it, mainly because it was evidence that some things we say to our kids really do sink in. Admittedly, it’s something I’ve said to my kids quite often over the years, whether I’m commanding them not to run into the street or saying no to riding their bikes down a huge hill which bottoms out into a rock-ridden lake. Why not, they ask. "Because it’s my job to do my best to keep you safe,” I say. Kids need adventure, yes. And I can’t protect them from everything, but I will do my best to keep them safe in the places where I can.

As parents, there are so many things having to do with our kids that are beyond our control. But when it comes to safety, we do have some choices to make. So, you can understand why I was thrilled to participate in an event hosted by Denver Metro Moms Blog where we had the opportunity to learn from the team at Britax about their revolutionary Click-Tight car seats, the Britax Click-Tight Advocate in particular and the many new safety features it includes. I’m a Consumer Reports girl, so when I’m looking to purchase something new like a car seat, I first check out the safety ratings of the various brands. When the boys were in Convertible car seats, we chose the Britax Boulevard for each of them because it had top safety ratings. So, while I’m no newbie to the Britax brand, I sure learned some very useful information at this event regarding their newest technologies which have only made their car seats even safer.

Did you know 75% of car seats are installed incorrectly but 96% of parents believe they have theirs installed right? So, what’s going on? Well, for starters, let’s talk about the latch system. Did you know that all latches have weight limits? Usually, it’s 65lbs, including both car seat and kiddo. So, come to find out that we were using the latch system unsafely. We were still using the latch system for our boys when they weighed 40 lbs and their car seats weighed 30 lbs, meaning we were exceeding the weight limit for the latch system. But let's be honest, we like the convenience of the latch system. While still often requiring the strength of professional weight lifter, the latch system is way easier than trying to blindly wrestle the car seat into the car while using the belt system. Until now. 

Britax Advocate ClickTIght Advocate 

Britax Advocate ClickTIght Advocate 

Britax’s revolutionary Click Tight Technology eliminates the need for the latch system and makes using the belt system so much easier and more convenient. No more spending unnecessary time and sweat equity trying to wrestle the car seat into the car. No more reaching blindly through the belt path trying to find the buckle or using your knee for leverage as you yank the belt tight. Instead it simply involves a mere twist of a dial to lift the seating area, exposing the belt path. There is both a forward-facing and rear-facing belt path. Run the belt through, lower the seat, and wait for the click. You don’t have to tension the belt, you only need to run it through and make sure there’s no excess slack in the path. When you close the seating area it cinches the belt for you, tightening it automatically. SO easy. SO safe. 

Did you know that the #1 cause of death in crashes is head injury? As a leader in car seat safety, Britax addresses this issue with various different technologies, all of which work together to keep the head as far back as possible in effort to minimize forward head movement.

  • Steel bars that run along the sides of the carseat - prevents the seat from flexing forward
  • Red components in the back reveal the energy-absorbing base. As the car seat is moving forward, those components compress to counteract the forward head movement and drops the center of gravity to keep the head in place.
  • Patented V-shaped design tether for when seat is forward facing to further manage the energy with staged-release stitches that slow and reduce the forward movement during a crash
  • Specially designed chest pads that act like brake pads to once again slow that forward movement
  • The Anti-Rebound Bar (ARB) - a padded, steel bar that attaches to the front of the seat when rear-facing. In U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) testing, Britax found that the ARB reduces rebound rotation by 40% and stabilizes the car seat during frontal, rear-end, and side-impact crashes.

And last but not least, there are a few other bonus features that make this Mama particularly happy:

  •  Side impact protection to limit lateral head movement. The Advocate has a third layer of side impact protection with a vented pad, releasing air through the vents in a crash, absorbing energy from the impact.
  • the way you adjust the seat height. Rather than having to remove the material and straps, you simply have to pull the handle on the back of the seat to raise or lower the height.
  • There’s a compartment on the back of the seat to hold the tether straps when not in use. It used to drive me bonkers when I would have to move the car seats or take them on a trip and the super long tether straps would be dragging everywhere, flapping about. It’s little details like these that I love.
  • All Britax car seats are made in the USA.

To learn more, be sure to check out the All About Baby Safety Event where you can also save on select Britax products from 9/1-9/30. 

Thanks to the team at Britax for the opportunity to learn more about Britax car seats, their ClickTight Installation system, and SafeCell Impact Protection. Now, I can drive my newest little addition around with the peace of mind that comes from knowing she is snug, comfortable, and well protected. 

 

The Waiting Game {and how it can be good for us}

Are you currently in a holding pattern, a waiting period in your life? Maybe you're waiting for something but you don't know when it's coming or perhaps you're hoping for something but you wonder if it will come to fruition, let alone the when. Either way, waiting is hard. It goes against every attempt and desire we have to control our environment. It forces a crack in the illusion of control, and much of it is an illusion. So often we live with an if/then mentality - if I just do X then Y will happen. Finding ourselves in a period of waiting can throw a wrench smack dab in the middle of all of those if/thens.

As difficult as it is to be caught in the waiting game, it can also be good for us. Waiting presents us with a choice. We can choose to look out the window of our lives, wishing we were somewhere else, occupying space in someone else’s life or we can choose to be present in our own life, just as it is, in the waiting. And there’s a fine line between living vicariously through someone else and using their life as a numbing distraction from our own.

I currently find myself in the middle of a waiting game as I am 40 weeks pregnant today with my third child. That’s right, it’s my due date. And I am so very ready for baby girl to come. Perhaps more aptly stated, I am so very ready to NOT be pregnant anymore. But I have no idea when she’s coming. Which day this week or next week will our world be turned upside down? 

I feel caught in what I can only describe as an in between place. There’s a word for this phenomenon, it’s called a liminal space. It’s a space where you find yourself in between, where one thing or season has ended but the other one has not yet begun. Due to my exhaustion, nausea, and contracting belly, my life with my boys as I knew it has ended. For weeks now, I haven’t been able to exercise nor have I wanted to be outside due to the heat. I don’t have the energy to engage with my boys in our usual active activities. I started my maternity leave over a week ago and my dear husband has taken over most of the housework. Yet, the next stage, that of life with a newborn has not yet arrived. You’d think I’d be grateful, with all of this “time” on my hands but I don’t feel like myself and I don’t quite know what to do with myself either.

So here I am in the midst of a liminal space and it’s not the first time I’ve been in this kind of holding pattern in my life. There’s an opportunity for growth here, an opportunity to practice being present in the hard space of waiting. As I want to look forward, to wish away this time of waiting, I am challenged to stay right where I am and to ask, how can I lean into this space well? How can I look straight into my life, see and love the people around me, and inhabit my own life in this very moment, as weary and wanting as I may be?

The next season always comes. Whether it’s when we want it to or the way we want it to look, well, that’s another matter. But it always comes. The question is, how will we live in the space that fills the in between?

 

 

Hope Rising: The Song of the Sparrow

Truth be told, I'm a sucker for details. Connections are made and symbolism revealed through the weaving together of life's tiniest details. As I sit here almost 39 weeks pregnant I feel not only like I’m bursting with baby but with gratitude as well. It has become so clear to me that slogging through the low valleys of life are what cause the high peaks to feel so intensely wonderful. We couldn’t have the one without knowing the other. And it’s for that reason I needed to capture in writing the details of the journey.

Exactly two years ago today, I finished a trail marathon with a stress fracture in my hip. This led to 3 months on crutches which in turn delayed our timeline for trying to get pregnant with a third. Because, it’s all about our timeline, right? But on December 31, 2014, I felt certain I was pregnant only to discover 10 minutes before midnight that I was not, or at least not anymore. Happy New Year. The next morning I sat at my in-law’s kitchen table in silence, with the weight of disappointment upon my shoulders, journaling my way through the sadness. And in the stillness, I noticed a bird firmly perched upon the deck railing outside the window, singing what could only be described as a cheerful tune. And as the tune danced around the morning air, my mind filled with the words of the old hymn, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.” I found it peculiar because I don’t really even know that hymn, nor do I particularly care for hymns in general. But the words and tune would not leave me, continuing to replay in my mind; as if to say, God cares about you, about your sadness, and your story is not over yet. 

A month later I found myself pregnant and nothing short of ecstatic, only to experience the silent and strange heartbreak of miscarriage thereafter. As I lay curled up in a ball on my bathroom floor, an endless stream of tears cascading down my face, I looked up with my eyes fixed on the door handle, the door handle which in that moment looked exactly like the face of a bird to me. I’m sure it wouldn't look like anything but a door handle to anyone else but to me it was the face of the sparrow, singing to me once again - God cares about you, about your sadness and your story is not over yet.

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free.                                                                           His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.

The sadness I experienced following the miscarriage was far more intense than I had expected, not that I had ever expected to miscarry. I thought I would grieve a little and move on but I couldn’t. I executed my days like a robot, going through the motions, all the while feeling unmotivated and lethargic. I sank into depression, attempting to grab at the smallest strands of hope - God cares about your sadness and your story is not over yet. I held on to that very hope. I also knew I needed a new storyline to walk through the sadness with. I thought to myself, maybe I need to train for a race. Running has always brought me great joy and freedom. It's my go-to when I need to work things out. But due to the hip fracture and then pregnancy and miscarriage, I hadn’t run in over 6 months and the thought of starting again felt daunting. It all felt daunting. Because getting pregnant and staying pregnant at my age suddenly felt like a metaphorical mountain, I decided I needed to climb a real mountain. So, I signed up for a race that, given my out of shape condition, felt so much bigger than me - The Imogene Pass Run - a race starting in Ouray, CO and climbing 5,000 feet in 10 miles and then proceeding to drop down 7 miles to the finish in Telluride. It seemed like a crazy, impossible goal but at the time, so did getting pregnant. So, I went for it.

I ran and I worked and I trained for that goal, the one that felt impossible, the one that felt out of reach. Mile after mile I pounded out the sadness, because sometimes that's how we find healing, one step, one breath at a time. As I ran through the mountains, whenever I would hear a bird singing, it served to remind me that I was not alone, not even when I ran in the darkest hours of the night. Not even in my deepest sadness. I was never alone. And so on September 12 of last year {2015}, I toed the start line of the unknown, to set out after a goal that still felt beyond my reach - the top of Imogene Pass. I knew if I could climb the 10 miles to the summit, I could make it the 7 miles down the other side. After all, the challenge is most often found in the rising up. 

With every step I felt hope rising up in me a little more. 10 painful, sweat-filled miles later, as I stood upon that mountain, a stream of tears cascading down my face, I couldn't help but stare down at the valley from which I had risen. While we often tend to look ahead, there's value in looking back to the places from which we've come, from which we've risen. Looking back can provide a beautiful perspective which we carry forward with us into the future. Standing on top of that pass, something in me had lifted. I felt free - free to be sad, free to let go, free to move forward, free to hope again. I sang because I was happy, I sang because I was free. His eye is on the sparrow and I knew in every corner of my being that he'd been watching me, and holding me, and carrying me through it all. 

I found healing running in those mountains and I think that would’ve felt like enough, enough to accept the door had closed on a third baby, enough to move on. But as it turns out, the door had not closed. On December 31, 2015, disbelief filled my being as I stared down at the word, Pregnant, on the white stick before me.

So you see, I'm in awe when I consider that on December 31, 2014 my deep sadness was first met with the song of the sparrow and then one year to the date later on December 31, 2015 I discovered I was pregnant with this baby to whom I'm now about to give birth. And to think that my journey through miscarriage to healing and freedom culminated atop a mountain on September 12, 2015, the poignancy of it all is not lost on me when I realize that my due date for this sweet baby girl is exactly one year to the date later, September 12, 2016.

I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free.                                                                               His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me. 

Lovey, as she is currently known, we are ready to welcome you into a story and a life that can be both brutal and beautiful. But know that you are never alone and you will be surrounded by love every step of the way. And as a symbol of this, a sparrow necklace will rest upon my chest as I labor to bring you home into our arms.

My story is not over yet. And neither is yours. 

A Letter to My Daughter

After writing a letter to my boys earlier this summer, I thought it a good idea to write one to my daughter who is set to arrive sometime in the next couple of weeks. Really though, it captures my hopes for little girls everywhere. I shared it over at Denver Metro Moms Blog.

Dear Daughter {affectionately known for now as Lovey},

As I wait for your arrival sometime next month, let me start by saying how excited I am to meet you. I fall asleep wondering what you’ll be like; what you’ll look like; what kind of personality you’ll have. Will you be a good sleeper, unlike your brothers? Will you be a tiny peanut like one of your brothers or a bundle of chub like your other one? Will you want to host tea parties? Explore the outdoors? Or perhaps, both? While I’ve attempted to make green the new pink, I wonder if you’ll love all things pink and frilly? It’s ok if you do. The reality is you will be your own unique person. And I commit to doing my very best to love you exactly as you are. I hope to help you live into all of who you were made to be. I thought I would pen a few more hopes that I have for you, truths which I pray you'll come to both understand and embrace.

Read more here.

 

 

Another First: The Joy and Sadness of Letting Go

And just like that here we are, the first day of Kindergarten. Each first seems to get a little harder because as the old Semisonic song goes, “every new beginning is some other beginning’s end.” This day marks the end of a chapter - of my time at home with my firstborn, of arranging our days however we pleased, of him being a “little kid,” of him needing me for ALL the things, and of so much more. 

Making himself at home in his new classroom

Making himself at home in his new classroom

We’ve been talking up Kindergarten for a while now, focusing on all the many skills he will learn, the friends he will make, the fun he will have. We’ve also talked about the many great qualities he has which will help him navigate the ups and the downs of this new world. He is ready. Me? Not so much. Up until two days ago, if you were to ask him how he was feeling about going to Kindergarten, he would’ve told you he felt “a little bit nervous and a little bit excited.” But yesterday after seeing his classroom, meeting his teacher and discovering who would be in his class, he seemed to feel a sense of assurance.

So, as we prepared to bring him to his 1.5 hour orientation {without me}, he said he was mostly just excited because now he knew some kids in his class and what to expect. As we approached the door of his classroom, I gave him a big hug and kiss, and told him he has what it takes to make this whole kindergarten thing great. And then it happened…he just walked right in. He didn’t even look back. Not once. My heart couldn’t have been more proud or more thankful in that moment. Simultaneously, my heart couldn’t have felt more broken - I struggled to handle the pain of letting go.

The minute his little brother, Blake, and I were back inside the car, I started bawling. Mind you, this was not even the first day, just the orientation.

But I was sobbing and Blake asked,

“Mama, why are you crying?” 

I told him, "it’s hard watching my babies grow up." 

With a confused look he said, “but we're not all growed up yet!” 

"I know," I attempted to explain, "but every day you grow up a little bit more, which is a really great and wonderful thing, but it’s hard for Mamas.”

“Why is it hard?” He pressed. I found myself ill-prepared for this conversation with my four year old.

“Well, because when you’re babies, you need your Mama to do all kinds of things for you - hold you, feed you, get you dressed, take care of you. And as you grow older, we help you learn how to do those things on your own. And wow, look at you now, you can do so much more on your own now than you could when you were a baby, which is so great. But it’s also hard for me to let you go, to let you do all those things on your own. Does that make any sense?”

With his usual inquisitive tone, “So you like helping us?” 

I laughed. And I cried some more. Right there, in that space between us lay the ultimate parental paradox. “Yes," I answered, "I like helping you.” And I thought to myself, it’s true, I do. And I also feel like I want to rip my hair out sometimes when everyone needs me, for all the things, all the time. I wish I could hold it all together in one moment a little better - the joy and privilege of getting to invest in, nurture, and help grow this little person up with the often-felt frustration which comes from having someone be so very dependent on me all of the time. I both celebrate and grieve my children forging their independence. Love deeply, hold loosely, it’s my life’s motto. And the hold loosely part gets me every time.

It’s our job as moms to teach our little ones how to fly, to give them the needed tools, and to instill in them the courage to do so. And then it’s our job to let them go, to give them the opportunity to actually fly. And we start off at Kindergarten which I liken to a 3 foot cliff, and gradually, with each passing year, the heights to which they rise grow higher and higher and the more we are called to let go. And oh my, what a beautiful, joyous sight it is to watch them live into who they were made to be, to soar high above. And oh what a sadness to feel the distance as they fly farther and farther away.

So here I stand at the precipice that is Kindergarten, hugging my brave and not-so-little boy goodbye. I'm sending him off to fly on to a new adventure. It's evident he is holding that jittery combination of nervousness and excitement, and he is oh so brave. I'm a bit of a wreck. But the tears are because of the love, and that's a beautiful, wonderful thing. It's a new beginning for all of us and with it comes another chapter's ending. Love deeply, hold loosely...and grab a tissue. Sometimes, that’s all we can do.

 

A Letter To My Sons {Before Baby Sister Arrives}

Dear Boys,

As I write this to you, you are 5 and 4 years old, and our family is headed for some big transitions in the next few months. And there are a few things I wanted to share with you before all of the these big changes come.

For starters, I think you know this, but I wanted to put it down in writing, I LOVE being your mom. You two, born so close together, are the ones who have taught me how to be a mom. I still have so much to learn and I make many a mistake, but you are teaching me a little more each day and I'm so grateful for that.

And I love these ages that you're at right now - you're still small enough to climb up and cuddle in my lap but big enough to get yourselves dressed. You're old enough to engage in some semi-logical conversations but young enough to still be filled with innocence, and a joy and wonder so pure. While there are wonderful aspects of every age and much more good to come, I want you to know how much I delight in you both right now.

I love the way you wonder so freely, Ben. I love to listen to your curiosity run wild and your never-ending questions, even though sometimes I get to a point in the day where I can't answer them anymore {because there are just so many}. It's kind of like getting full on really good food - the food is still tasty but you just don't have any more room in your tummy for it after a while. Sometimes, Mommy gets a little full and I don't have anymore room that day for your questions. But that doesn't mean that they aren't great questions and I hope you keep asking them, always. We just might need to get a little journal to write them down in! Keep letting curiosity lead you and wonder spill forth. I am positive that I am filled with more wonder and curiosity because of you and I am so happy about that.

And Blake, I delight in the way you relate not only to people, but to all creatures big and small, with an interest and a tenderness so profound. It makes me smile to see the ways you love with your hands {most of the time} through your big Blakey bear hugs and sweet tickles; and the way you are so quick to pick up any and every insect or animal you find {perhaps a little too quick for Mama's comfort}. And I have learned to really enjoy going on walks and hikes with you, as slow as they may be because you need to stop and inspect and touch all the things. You help me to slow down and appreciate the smallest of beauties that lay before me - and that is a gift.

I love waking up to the sounds of your little footsteps, pitter pattering their way into the bathroom each morning. It delights me to hear you embarking on a new days' worth of play together; playing "house" and "camping" and "school," as I listen to your imaginations take the lead, inventing new games and creating a host of characters and scenarios to live into. At night, I love to listen to you two talking in your bunk beds, recounting the adventures of the day and scheming of even greater ones for the day to come. And then I always feel so proud of you when I hear one of you say, "I'm tired now, can you please stop talking so I can go to sleep?" Because when you say this, you are communicating how you feel and what you need. This is really important, especially as our family grows bigger. I want you both to continue to express how you feel and what you need, even though I am only one Mommy and I can't and won't be able to meet all of your needs all of the time. But it is important that you express them because I want to know what they are so Daddy and I can do our best to meet your needs. And maybe sometimes you can even meet each others' needs in the way that you share and help each other out. 

And while I'm on the topic of helping each other out, I want to tell you how much I love seeing you two love each other. Although I know you sometimes fight, get on each others' nerves, and need the occasional space from one another, you love each other so deeply and so well. It makes my heart so happy to see the bond that you share with each other. And this is one reason why this upcoming season of changes might be hard for you both. Because Ben, you are going off to Kindergarten. This means you will now be going to school all day, every weekday. And while I'm very excited for all of the new adventures you will have and the things you will learn, I know this will be a big change for both of you, and for me too. This will be the first season when you won't have most of the day, every day to play with each other. You will probably really miss each other and that's ok, it's actually a good thing because it shows how much you love each other. But sometimes things that are good are also hard. I know that may not make much sense to you now, but trust me on this one and know that it's ok for it to feel a little bit hard.

Changes can be really hard, especially when things feel really good as they are. Our life right now and our family feels pretty good, doesn't it? And we are preparing for the arrival of Lovey, your baby sister, who doesn't have an official name yet. Babies, they bring a lot of change and they have a lot of needs. They're not big like you yet, so they can't get themselves dressed or get a snack or brush their teeth. Actually, did you know that babies don't come with teeth? Weird, huh?! And babies don't know how to use the toilet yet, so they go pee and poop in their diapers. You did that too before you grew into big boys. You can imagine that it isn't very comfortable to sit in your own pee and poop. So, someone has to change all those diapers and it's ok if you don't want that someone to be you. Mommy and Daddy will have to do things like change her diapers and rock her to sleep. As we've talked about, she'll drink Mommy's milk until she gets those teeth, which means that Mommy will have to feed her whenever she's hungry. Babies get hungry a lot, even more often than you guys, if you can believe that.

Babies cry a lot too. Ben, you and I are both sensitive to noise, so this might be hard for us both. We can talk about it when it happens. But babies cry when they need something, so maybe you both can be like detectives and try to help me figure out what she is needing when she cries.

You know what I'm thankful for? That  you two have become such great helpers around the house. It's going to take a lot of teamwork and helping each other out once Lovey joins our family. But I believe in us and that we can do it together, with lots of help from God.

Boys, these changes are probably going to feel a little bit hard, maybe even a lot a bit, but they're going to be good. So, as we go forward into this next season, let's talk about the hard and the good. Let's do it together, with lots of love in action and prayer. And just know, I will love you through it all.

Love,

Your Mama

Pregnancy In Your Forties: The Whole Truth

If you’ve ever read anything about pregnancy over 40, it probably discussed the reduced chances of conceiving and/or the risks of carrying a baby in your 40s, likely containing very valid points. But what is it actually like to be pregnant in your forties?

At 42 and pregnant with my third child, I’m here to shed a little light on the “Really Advanced Maternal Age” situation, the good and the bad. If you start to feel depressed as you are reading this or like you better do the deed ASAP before the big 4-0 comes a knockin’, take heart, and keep reading. I’ve discovered some very beautiful aspects of being pregnant in your forties, so I thought I would share those, as well. Without further ado, 12 things you may or may not know about post-40 pregnancy: 

Head on over to Denver Metro Moms Blog to read more!

Age spots and Braxton-Hicks; achier body, stronger mind. The lowdown on a post-40 pregnancy.

Age spots and Braxton-Hicks; achier body, stronger mind. The lowdown on a post-40 pregnancy.

I Can't Remain Silent

Rape Culture

I recently read something that said, “whatever it is that you’re most afraid to write, that is what you should write." So, here goes…

In reading about the recent events surrounding the Stanford Rape Trial, in which Brock Turner was sentenced to a mere 6 months of jail for raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster - an act for which he was stopped and caught, an act for which he tried to flee, and an act to which he admitted, yet denied any wrongdoing - I cannot remain silent. My emotional response to this life-altering choice is composed of so many layers - my response to the reprehensible act itself, to the woman to whom this trauma was forced upon, to Brock, to Brock’s father who defended him, to the two young men who stopped him and held him until police arrived, and then, to the throngs of people reacting to this case, from all sides.

I am a survivor of college rape. My heart sobs for this young woman, knowing all too well, the litany of emotions, questions, and inevitable ‘what if’s' that will likely follow her into the years to come. I don’t know her. Other than reading the very brave letter she wrote to her attacker, I don’t know her story either. Rape affects everyone differently. I can only hope that light pierces her darkness and the rest of her story is filled with hope, and a grief that gives way to healing, triumph, and love. You are never the same after this kind of trauma. It becomes a part of you, woven into your story at very unwanted intervals. My hope is that it does not become her identity nor the measure of her worth.

I weep when I begin to think of the countless women, 1 in every 4, out there who have experienced sexual trauma. I ache for the ones who are still carrying this pain inside, feeling too afraid or too ashamed to share it with anyone. I think about the many incidents of rape that go unnoticed, unbelieved, and unpunished. This leads me to Mr. Turner, Brock’s father, who pleaded to the judge, saying that Brock’s life has essentially been ruined by his "poor choice" and that prison was a harsh sentence for “20 minutes of action.” To you, Mr. Turner,  I say this:

It has been over 20 years since I was raped and yet I still find myself emotionally undone as I read about how your son chose to rape an unconscious woman. It is still triggering, even after doing a tremendous amount of work and healing around my own trauma, even after meeting and marrying a man who loves in such a way that much of my mistrust for men has been redeemed. But you, sir, have no idea the deep reaching and long lasting effects that a violation like this has on someone. You have no idea what it is like to live every day - attempting to trust your own instincts, believe your own worth, engage in healthy relationships, and love people deeply - when someone once took it upon himself to decide that what he wanted in the moment was of greater importance than you and what you wanted or did not want, and then used his power to take it from you. As a parent myself, I can't imagine how devastating it must be to witness your son make a conscious choice to hurt and violate another human being. I suspect that, right or wrong, I would call into question my own parenting and all that I had taught or failed to teach my son. I don’t have a clue how you raised your son, what you did or didn’t model to him about relating to women and respecting boundaries. And regardless of what we teach our children, we cannot control them. They will still make their own choices, so I have no judgment for you there. But I think your greatest visible failure as a parent came when you did not advise your son to take full responsibility for his actions and instead, further victimized this woman by painting your son as the victim and discouraged him from accepting the consequences of his choice. There is a huge difference between continuing to love your child no matter his choices and defending your child’s choices, attempting to reduce his consequences. That is not love. That is failure to love.

How is it that we live in a culture in which a crime so devastating receives so minor a consequence? How is it that someone ever thinks he {because it's often a he, but not always} has the right to take whatever he wants from another person at any cost? How is it that we live in a culture in which the acts of attempting to force, coerce, possess, or control another human being are still not seen as wrong by so many? Is it any wonder that women are still so afraid to come forward and speak of their trauma? 

Whether we want to admit it or not, a rape culture not only exists but permeates the fabric of our society. There are those who still seem to be confused about the wrongfulness of rape, underplaying it's impact or worse, believing it was the victim’s {though these people wouldn’t call her a victim} fault for being drunk at a frat party. I cannot even dignify that mentality with a response other than to ask, “ok, so if you’re drunk and/or fall asleep, that gives me the right to go ahead and cut your testicles off?” I don’t think so. This, this contributes toward the existing rape culture.

But on the flip side, I am also angry, perhaps confusingly so, at the attitude which leads people to call Brock and his father things like "pieces of trash" or "shit" and far worse as they call for their deaths. Why? Because I think the rape culture of today is largely built upon layers of attitudes such as these, attitudes in which we deem ourselves better and our lives of greater value than someone else’s. In other words, I believe that whenever our attitudes and actions lead to the dehumanization, objectification, or commoditization of people, we contribute to a culture which sets the stage for rape to seem like a permissible choice. I don’t think rape culture is to blame for the rapes that occur. Let me be clear, the people who choose to rape, out of their own unhealed wounding and brokenness, are to blame, and ought to be held accountable. But identifying who is responsible for a crime and identifying the contributing factors in creating a culture which promotes the occurrence of that crime are two different things.

There are a whole host of attitudes and actions, big and small, that contribute to creating this kind of culture, and many of them have nothing to do with sex. While I'm still processing all of this myself, here are some of my thoughts on how we might bring light and change into the existing rape culture, both as parents and as adults...

  • Boundaries. We can teach our kids the importance of setting our boundaries {and not just with regard to their physical bodies} and of respecting the boundaries of others. When we don’t teach our kids why it’s important to stop when another kid says, “stop touching my head” or “stop pulling my hair,” we fail to teach them that each person is in charge of his or her body and that we must respect a person’s wishes with regard to her body.
  • Physical Affection. We teach our kids that it’s ok to say no to unwanted physical touch and that the giving of physical affection is their choice when we decide we are not going to make them give people, even ourselves or relatives, hugs or kisses, or any kind of physical affection. When we make them give hugs, we are essentially telling them that it’s ok for someone to make them {or guilt them into} do something with their bodies even if it’s against their will.
  • It's ok to say "no." It’s important for our kids to be able to say “no” to things like sharing a toy with someone else. It’s equally as important to teach them that they can’t just grab or take what they want and to allow them to feel the disappointment of not getting to play with a toy that they might want.
  • Empathy. I’m a big believer in empathy as a connecting force within relationships. Whether a child is hurt or a child hurts someone else, both modeling and teaching empathy is key. But empathy is not a substitute for consequences. And that’s where I think Mr. Turner got it wrong. I can say to my child when he hits another child, “You were really mad. You really wanted to play with that toy. I get that. That toy belongs to so-and-so, so we can’t use our hands to take it and we can’t use our hands to hurt him when he doesn’t give it to us. Do you see that he is crying? How do you think he feels right now?” But then I can also allow for consequences to occur, taking my son out of the play for a while, letting him know that the other kid probably won’t share his toy with him now, etc…”
  • Handling Power. My mom used to always tell me that, “with freedom comes responsibility.” And, so too it is with power. I wonder if this is why rape is so prevalent at the college age: underdeveloped thinking + sudden increase of freedom + sudden increase in bodily strength and power + recognition for achievements and accomplishments = a stage set for the abuse of power to occur. So, backing up to when they are little, how do we teach them to handle power? When they have someone over to their house they have increased power. When they are bigger than another kid they have an increase in power. When they are in the role of leader or decision maker in a group they have power. I come back to empathy here, teaching them to be aware of how their actions may affect others. Is it their intention to love or hurt others? How would they feel if the tables were turned and they were the one not in a position of power?
  • Using Their Voice. Teaching children from a young age to use their voice to express their hopes, feelings, desires, is equally as important as empowering them to stand up for themselves, using their voice, when something does not seem right. We have a rule that we don't keep secrets in our house {You can read more about that here} because I want my kids to learn from an early age that they don't have to keep hard things inside, that it is safe to tell me anything. Because should my children ever experience any kind of trauma, I hope to God that they don't remain silent about it.

As adults, male and female, how are we viewing and relating to women and each other? Women, and people in general - we are not a commodity. We are not an object. We are human and we should treat each other as such.

  • Let’s stop complimenting girls only on their appearance. Because when we do so it leads them to believe that their appearance is the only thing valued in this world and they come to believe that their looks are what make them valuable as women. I have yet to meet a woman who when asked what she would like her obituary to read, says, “So-and-so was really hot and beautiful.” If a woman secretly wants the world to think this, it’s likely because she has come to believe that her body/appearance is the only thing for which a woman is valued. Let us {women too} recognize women as whole persons, mind, body, heart, and soul, and value them as such. 
  • Let’s check our own hearts whenever we find ourselves attempting to use our position of power to get what we want from someone else; when we reach out to someone, not to connect, but instead, for what that person can do for us or to get our own need met in some way; when we erroneously think that because of our effort, skill, income, looks, race, sex, etc…that we are more deserving of something than someone else.
  • Let’s not lump entire groups of people into a category and slap general descriptors and labels across said group, because in doing so, we fail to recognize the individual names and faces and unique stories of those people, and this can lead to dehumanization, which in turn makes it feel easier to hurt people.
  • Let’s try empathy ourselves. It takes not thinking about ourselves for a moment to think about what it must be like to be in someone else's shoes. It takes setting aside, at least momentarily, our need to be right, because we cannot listen when we're busy trying to be right.
  • Let’s respect each other’s boundaries, whether they be of time, energy, money, or of a physical nature. Bosses, do you respect the boundaries of your employees when they prioritize their families and stick to a 40 hour work week? Friends, do you feel the disappointment when a friend bails on something but also respect the boundary they feel the need to set? Do we demand our spouses do something for us or do we ask if they’d be willing to do it and respect the answer? Are we applying pressure to the people around us in attempt to get them to do what we want?

This is as much a challenge to myself as it is to anyone else. I can do my best to live into the best version of myself, the person I was created to be and attempt to parent the way I hope to parent, but my heart needs to remain open and soft to the way of love, growth, change, forgiveness, and healing. That’s the only way people change. And it’s the only way culture changes.

 

Dream On, Little One

As kids, we have this innate sense that anything is possible, that we can do anything we set our minds to. But then somewhere along the way, whether it be from the deflating words of others, the setbacks we encounter, the acceptance of our weaknesses, or the increasing pressures that come with adulthood, we begin to stop dreaming. And we start wondering, if anything big is possible anymore, doubting our own ability to carry out what our dreams and hearts desire.

My second son, who is four, has a self-confidence that far exceeds his actual abilities. A few weeks ago, after skiing several easy green beginner runs, he says to me on the lift, “Mom, I’m a really good skier. I could ski black diamond (expert) runs if I wanted to.” For a split second, I was tempted to set the record straight and say something along the lines of, “well, I don’t think you’re quite ready for black diamond runs just yet.” After all, that would have been a perfectly true statement. But I didn’t say that because one, there’s no arguing with this kid and two, more importantly, the last thing I want to be in my kids’ lives is a dream crusher. Now, let me clear, I refuse to lie to my kids or blow smoke, making them think they are better at something than they actually are. But the thing is, the “you’re not quite ready yet” statement would have just snuffed out the possibility. I can kick the door of possibility wide open for my kids without falsely inflating their ego. 

Of course, there will be a place and a time to gently offer the hard truth of reality, but life tends to do a pretty good job of that on its own. In the event that my first-born son, who has always sat below the 10th percentile in height and weight, at age 16, still has his heart set on being an NBA star, well, then it might be time to have a serious heart to heart. But if at 5 years old, he takes a liking to basketball, loves to play, is motivated to practice, and dreams about playing pro ball, who am I to get in the way? Who am I to ring the loud gong of the impossible? No, life in the form of team tryouts will likely affirm or challenge those dreams. But until it does, I want my kids to believe in the seemingly impossible. After all, I believe in a God of the impossible whose ways are higher than my ways. So, I want to encourage my kids to chase after big goals, to dream of things far bigger than themselves, things beyond their reach.

I’m not talking about a “just follow your heart” approach to life, though I do believe the heart is always worthy of a good listening to. But I think that as adults we tend to swing too far the other way. My husband was telling me that he knows so many men who feel stuck in jobs they hate because they either don’t see any other way or because they don’t think there’s space to dream of any other way. I know of countless women, myself included, who feel the flutterings of a passion or idea, but who all too quickly give ear to their inner critic who says, “that’s silly. You could never make that happen.” They ignore their heart’s pleas because they deem them too impractical or impossible. And maybe they are. Maybe they are. But what if they’re not? And they won’t ever know unless they try. 

The people who achieve the seemingly impossible are the ones who keep believing despite the internal or external naysayers who claim it cannot be done. I want to model this for my sons. I want to learn how to dream again, give myself permission to freely entertain God-given passions, dreams, and ideas, and let possibility occupy more space in my heart. So, what does it look like for me as a mom to foster and nurture a little dreamer? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m going to try my darndest to find out. And in the meantime, I’ll start with holding that door of possibility wide open saying, “Black diamonds??? Well, anything is possible and I guess you’ll never know until you try?" So, dream on, little one.

Love After The Fog {How We Kept Our Marriage Alive After Babies}

I'm sharing about love and marriage after babies over at Denver Metro Moms Blog today...

Someone recently asked me whether my husband and I had ever gone through a hard time in our marriage. I chuckled and said, “Oh yeah we did. We refer to it as, The Fog Year – the year following the birth of baby number 2 {who was born 16 months after baby number 1}.” It also happened to be the year that we sold our house, lived with my parents for 3 months, moved into a new house, my husband switched jobs, and oh yeah, in addition to working full-time, he was working on a PhD. My friend continued to ask me about that year, why it was hard, and how we got to the place we are today, a place of deep love and respect for one another, though far from perfect.

I began to share with her that as parents, it's all too easy to get sucked into the vortex of Taskyland. It’s the place where we become all-consumed with the needs of the kids, the job, the house – all the things that need to get done. We can become so focused on all of the tasks, that we sort of stop seeing our spouse or partner as a person, a person with needs and feelings, the person we love. I remember that after the birth of child #2, my husband and I were so exhausted and in such a fog, we were just trying to survive. I felt like I had started to see my husband as, “the guy who takes out the trash.” And ugh, why hasn’t he taken out the trash? I had let the stress of the season cloud my view so that I was only seeing him through the lens of the tasks I needed him to do, most of which he was doing all wrong {from my warped perspective, of course}...

To read more about how we found our way back to each other and worked at our marriage, head on over to Denver Metro Moms Blog by clicking here

 

Mama, We Did A Lockdown Drill {And Why I'm Mad As Hell}

This is my latest piece for Denver Metro Moms Blog:

Just the thought of it makes me want to cry – a gaggle of 4-year-olds tucked into a ball under their tables, encouraged to be silent as they hide from a hypothetical bad guy. It makes me sick. And I’m mad, really mad that 4-year-olds have to practice hiding. To be clear, I’m not mad they’re doing lockdown drills in school. I’m mad that we live in an age where mass shootings seem commonplace in the landscape of our culture and that lockdown drills have become part of the school routine. I’m mad that my kids are growing up in an age where they have to do lockdown drills in the first place.

I think of those kids practicing for a lockdown and I can barely stand it. The idea of hiding and staying hidden is foreign to kids that age. I LOVE playing hide-n-seek with my kid for that very reason. I start counting, he goes scurrying away to hide. Before I can even get to 20, I hear him pop out into the hallway, arms stretched wide like a shining star as he exclaims, “Here I am, Mama!!!” Oh my heart. “Yes, THERE YOU ARE, baby. There you are.” Kids are not meant to hide. They’re meant to be seen. They’re meant to be heard. They’re meant to be known. They are not meant to hide and certainly not in fear. And I’m mad that my kids are growing up in a world where from an early age, they are taught to hide...

To continue reading, click here to head on over to Denver Metro Moms Blog.

 

A Life Unimagined

IMG_0509.JPG

Yesterday I caught myself in a moment, standing at my kitchen sink, smiling. As I washed the dirt from every crevice of an ironman figurine that had been taken for a ride through the mud, I could hear Tom and the boys belly-laughing at America's Funniest Home Videos downstairs. When I think back to a decade ago, I couldn't have ever imagined a moment like this. I couldn't have imagined a life like this, one in which I'd be cleaning dirt off of ironman (and off of everything really); I couldn't have imagined I'd breathe in such terrific joy from hearing people laugh; and I certainly couldn't have imagined that I could love three people as much as I love these three. I couldn't have imagined this life and I'm so thankful it's mine. 

It's wild to reflect on where I was a decade ago and how I had no idea of what all would unfold in my life - the unexpected, the hard, the beautiful, the hoped for, the painful, the lovely. 

It makes me wonder, what is it that I can't see or imagine today that I will be giving thanks for in some down-the-road tomorrow?

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

I Am Her, She is Me, and We Are We {Reflections on the Paris Attack}

{My earliest thoughts last night, raw, incomplete, and for the most part, unedited. But I had to get them out.}

I was slow to hear the news today, but when I began to listen, all I could manage was a string of one word prayers...hold, love, healing, light, courage, hope, strength, peace...

As the stories and images of people in Paris poured forth, so too the emotions erupted within. I couldn't find words at first {and still really can't}, only emotions. And questions. Seated in the comfort and current safety of my own home, I felt the urge to turn it all off, to go to sleep, to look away. But I can't look away. I can't. We can't. 

I would love to give someone credit for this photo...

I would love to give someone credit for this photo...

When I see an image, like the one to the left, of the American Flag laid out in front of the Eiffel Tower, with a caption that reads: WHAT THEY DID TO HONOR US ON 9/11, I think to myself, there is no us and them {France and the U.S.}. They are us, and we are them.

Earlier, I kissed my boys goodnight, as I do every night, but tonight the massive wave of that indescribable something washed over me, the one that leaves me wanting to hold them ever so tight and never let go. My mind turns to the Parisian mom, holding her kids tightly tonight, hovering in the dark, covering their ears from the never-ending scream of sirens. And it hits me, I am her and she is me, bound together not only by the thread of our humanity but also by the commonality of a love something fierce, that of a mother's love. I think of how we are probably more alike than we are different. Tonight, see her tears. I hold her pain. I stand with her in her fear. I make room for her sadness. I think of her tonight. I am her, she is me, and we are we.

I think of those who have lost and are devastated today, those who have loved ones unaccounted for, those whose innocence has been shattered. I feel a deep sadness for their pain. And if I'm honest, I also feel deep gratitude - for where I am right now and for my people, here sleeping soundly under this roof. That always bizarre and never comfortable juxtaposition of two strikingly different emotions, held together in one tiny beating heart. To feel thankful for what I have, in light of someone else's have not, feels on one hand cruel, and on the other, strangely right.

As I feel the sadness and the gratitude, I also see the injustice and I see the terror in their eyes and I feel angry, so angry. There is this sense of feeling so very small and yet still capable of holding such big, big emotions.

And then I watch the powerful video showing thousands of strangers joining together in singing the French national anthem as they walk with trepidation toward the exit of the soccer stadium, unsure of what they will find as they cross out into the street. Why is it that we come together in tragedy? That in a blink of an eye what was "us and them" gets traded in for "we." That suddenly we see each other in both our humanity and our glory. That we finally realize, I am her, she is me, and we are we.

I know that people will be working long and hard to figure out who is responsible for this horrific attack on innocent people. As they should. There absolutely needs to be a response on the larger scale. But I also have to ask myself, what do I do with all of this? Right here where I live. How do I allow it to change me? How do I stand with Paris? What does that even mean? Because Paris isn't just a place with a big tower. It's a city filled with people, people like me. People with names and faces and stories. People who are hurting. People who don't have the option to look away. And these hurting people are not just in Paris, they are everywhere. They are in Beirut, where a deadly bombings ocurred two days ago. They are in the Horn of Africa. They are wandering refugees looking for a home. They are right next door. Because when we peel away the layers of difference, they are us and we are them. And so, no, I cannot look away.

There is a temptation to let fear and anger lead the way. But they cannot win out because alone, they don't lead anywhere worth going. So, I stand and I listen and I watch and I think and I feel and I shout and I pray and I hope. I hope not for understanding but for healing, the kind of healing which I don't, in fact, understand. I call out to the one who heals, for the light to rise, because I don't believe that darkness wins. I hope for comfort and strength and light - light to shine into the shattered and broken places. And I am reminded to see, to really see people, near and far - the neighbor, the store clerk, the person on the other side of the political aisle, the homeless person on the corner, the bank teller, the parent at school drop-off - and I enter into what she is experiencing and feeling. I stand with her, because I am her, she is me, and we are we. And only when we see, can we truly love. And love is the only thing that can drive out hate.

 

Hello, Slow-vember

Coming off of an action-packed summer and a wild Fall, I was longing to slow down and restore a rhythm to our days and weeks. Just when we had hit our stride, November came knocking and with it, the impending holidays and the allure of busyness. You see, in general, I have a tendency to try to pack an unreasonable amount of things into a particular time period. It’s my effort to you know, maximize the time. This often leads to me feeling rushed, tired, irritable, not to mention, late for most things. Then, enter the holiday season of November and December with all of the extra fun events, and it’s like my personal catapult into a deep pool of stress. 

And my kids, well, they're along for the ride. Trying to get out the door in the mornings is the antithesis of fun and you know why? While I’d like to blame it on dawdling pre-schoolers who can’t seem to ever find their left shoe, I can’t because that’s just what preschoolers do. No, our morning stress is not because of them, it’s because of me. It's because I either don’t leave enough time for us to do all that we need to do or because I’m trying to pack too many things in before we go. 

This is not at all how I want to live, rushing from one thing to the next. One of my favorite things about my time living in Costa Rica was experiencing their slow pace of life. At most, I would have two events scheduled in one day. Meetings that take an hour here in the US would take at least two hours there, because the first hour was always spent drinking coffee and socializing. I spent a good part of my day walking because that was my major form of transportation. Each afternoon I’d partake in “cafecito,” when we would stop our work and share some conversation over coffee and sweet bread. It would probably be fair to say that the Ticos (Costa Ricans) are not the most productive or efficient people but I would dare say, that’s not at all a bad thing. When I moved back to the U.S., I remember longing to live as simply as I had in Costa Rica, with both my time and my money. Yet, I felt that it was next to impossible to do so in a culture like ours that moves at break-neck speed.

While I may not be able to live as simply as I did in Costa Rica, I don’t think it’s impossible to find some middle ground. So, as we rounded the corner into November, I decided to make an intentional effort to slow us {our family} down, and instead of adding more to our schedules during this holiday season, I’m actually removing things. I’m re-naming this month, SLOW-vember, and I’m so serious about it, I actually changed the name on our calendar.

My goal: to reduce the amount of scheduled events and create margin for spontaneous, organic connection and fun to occur. What does this mean for us? It means saying no…no non-urgent doctor appointments in the next two months; no weekly kids activities until January; keeping our weeknights out to a minimum; putting only three things on my to-do list each day; saying no to certain fundraisers and holiday parties; delaying the dog’s annual check-up at the vet until January; not having an agenda for my time with my kids; limiting our playdates - both of the kid and the adult variety; saying no to gift, book, and cookie exchanges. You might be thinking, it sounds like you’re saying no to all things fun. I know, I know. It hasn’t been easy. I’m not very good at saying no. 

But let me tell you about our first week of Slow-vember. We didn’t have any week day afternoon or evening activities planned, which afforded me time to do something I love - cook in a slow and relaxed manner, everything from scratch. {This is my thing. It may not be your thing. You do your thing.} I had all kinds of goodness coming together in my kitchen. So, when I heard a friend’s husband was going to be out of town all week, I decided to bring them a meal because I know what a gift to me that can be amidst a busy week. In all honesty, this idea probably wouldn’t have occurred to me if I had been going at my usual pace. I likely would have missed the opportunity to bless my friend. But because we were going slow, there was room for this idea to well up inside and I had food ready to give. 

Fast {or slow} forward a few days to when I was once again, cooking…a giant batch of butternut squash soup and fresh bread this time. I had just pulled the bread out of the oven when I heard a knock at our door. There stood our next door neighbors, asking if they could hang out at our house for a half hour while they had an unexpected house showing. Because dinner was already made and we had no where to be, it was easy to welcome them in, open a bottle of wine and enjoy an impromptu happy hour. That bottle turned into three bottles and before we knew it we were enjoying soup, bread, and wonderful conversation together - an unexpected and beautiful opportunity to connect before they move.

Oh and then there was Friday morning. It’s my one-on-one time with Ben, so I usually try to plan something fun for us to do together while Blake is at school. Recently, our favorite biscuit place re-opened so I thought it would be fun to take him there for breakfast. In typical fashion though, I attempted to fill the remaining time as I wondered, what will we do after biscuits? We could go to the library. We could go to the park. We could…And then it hit me, SLOW-vember…why not just leave that time open, unplanned, and see what happens. So, I did. 

On our way to biscuits, Ben was asking me questions about the North and South pole and why they are cold. Because I wasn’t rushing to get anywhere nor did I have an agenda, I felt relaxed and easily engaged in conversation with him {not always the case}. This led to a discussion about the equator and the continents. The next thing I know, I hear myself asking, “Ben, would you like to make a model of the earth together? We could quick stop at Target and buy a ball and some markers and work on it while we have biscuits.” If he hadn’t been strapped into his carseat I think he might have lept out of it in excitement. So, we stopped at Target, picked up the supplies, and we made the earth! It resulted in such a sweet, fun, and connecting morning together. Instead of seeing his zillions of questions as annoying, I had the space and time to appreciate his wonder and curiosity. My point in telling you this is that when I woke up that morning I had no plans to make a replica of the Earth. I had not previously pinned a pin of the Earth on Pinterest. The idea had never occurred to me before that moment in the car. But because we had left that time unplanned, the idea had room to bubble up and there was time for a spontaneous trip to Target so that we could make the Earth!

Slow-vember thus far has reminded me that when I intentionally slow down, beautiful, wonderful things happen. But for me it does indeed take intentionality. A lot of it. 

Slowing down allows us to see ourselves and each other in a more clear light. It creates an opportunity for the many thoughts marinating deep within to rise to the surface, allowing us to become aware of what we’re actually feeling in any given moment, and it brings our values into sharper focus. It creates space in our minds and hearts to see other peoples’ needs. When we’re so busy frantically trying to keep up with our own schedules, it’s all too easy to fly by people without really seeing them - their personalities, their struggles or their joys. When I slow down, instead of seeing my kids as loud and messy, I am able to see them as energetic and creative. I have space to appreciate their curiosity and questions rather than be annoyed by them. I feel margin in my schedule and my heart to linger over Saturday morning coffee on the deck with my love, dreaming about the future together instead of just discussing the weekly schedule; to take walks around the lake; to pause and see the beauty all around me. Slowing down leaves room for us to hear the gentle whisper, the one leading us to love others. It opens the door for organic, spontaneous, wonderful things to happen that likely wouldn’t have occurred had there been an agenda and a rush. 

It isn't easy and it isn't perfect. There are sacrifices to be made. But I'm discovering more and more, that when we say no to good things, it allows us to say yes to the best things. 

So, cheers to SLOW-VEMBER!

Lessons From The Mountain {Part III: The Gift Is In The Journey}

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I still find it difficult to believe.

If you were to rewind to a year ago, you’d find me hobbling around on hideous pink crutches with a fractured hip, wondering if I would even be able to run again.

9 months ago, I was staring down in beautiful disbelief at a positive pregnancy test - later only to find myself in disbelief of a different kind as we lost the baby and with it, a million tiny hopes.

6 months ago, still reeling from the miscarriage, I still couldn’t bring myself to run, weighted down by a lack of motivation and depression.

And a mere 4 months ago, a relatively flat 3 mile trail run felt hard. But I was running again.

And on Saturday, I’m preparing to run 17 miles over a 13,000 ft. mountain pass. I don’t know how the race will go. I don’t know what state I’ll be in at the finish line. I don’t know if I will even cross the finish line. But one thing I do know, the gift has been in the journey.

How often do I want to fast forward through the hard places in life, the places wrought with big, uncomfortable, painful, feelings? The answer to that is ALWAYS. Who wants to stay in the hard places? We want to be done with the pain. We want to arrive at the unforeseeable end, with the pain fading away in our rearview mirror. But the truth is, we can’t get to the end unless we go on the journey. We can’t get to the finish line unless we run the race and log the countless grueling training miles. We can’t get to the end of the pain without going through it first.

Grief is a tricky beast. We can’t just sit down and say, “ok, now I’m going to do this whole grieving thing and then be done with it.” It doesn’t work like that. Grief comes and goes and comes again, sometimes sending it’s counterpart, sadness, to hang on with a vengeance. I couldn’t make myself feel all my sadness at one time, so I took a step. And then another one, and then another one, and before I knew it, I was covering miles and climbing mountains, pounding out the sadness, one step at a time. I was living it, feeling it, and with each mile, letting a little more of it go.

When I set out on this wild adventure, carrying a tired body and a sad heart, chasing a seemingly unattainable goal - some how self-propelling my body from one mountain town to another - I could not have fathomed the many gifts that would come along the way. I started off thinking that the race would be the gift, but no, the gifts were in the journey. Gifts like watching a growing strength emerge with each steep hillside and rugged peak I climbed; the whisper of God meeting me on the trail, beckoning me forth, and using fields of brilliant wildflowers to fill me with hope and life; the gift of time and space to think and feel and pray; the gift of running up a lung-busting mountain only to find that while I couldn't breathe physically, I could breathe emotionally for the first time in months; the beauty of powerful, rushing streams to remind me that water, the softest of elements, has the ability to cut right through rock, the hardest of elements; a greater appreciation for the body that God gave me and all that it can do; a swelling confidence in my ability to do hard and unimaginable things; and a growing comfort with being uncomfortable, for it is in the struggle that we grow. The journey too meaningful and the gifts too many to recount.

{The slideshow below shows a some of the journey and the gifts I've received along the way}

Regardless of how this race turns out, the gift was definitely in the journey. 

As I struggled and {often reluctantly} heaved myself up mountain after mountain, feeling like I was going to die, I re-learned how to live. And it all began with a step, a step in the direction of pain rather than away from it. 

Does a part of me wish that I would be hitting that "full-term" milestone of being 37 weeks pregnant tomorrow rather than being pregnant only with the pain from running up and over a mountain? Of course I do. And yet, I can't help but feel thankful for the sweet unexpected gifts that have come along on this unwanted journey.

 10,000 reasons for my heart to sing.

Lessons From the Mountain {Part II: Fear}

For the first time ever while training for a race, I have run every one of my training runs alone. And the good majority of them have started in the early hours of the morning, often before dawn, with only my headlamp to light the way. People have asked me again and again, "Aren't you afraid running out there in the woods in the dark by yourself?" And my answer is always a resounding, "heck yes, I am." Because in all honesty, I am a bit terrified running around the mountains in the dark with cougars and bears as my company. And yet, I've learned that slightly terrifying is a necessary element in the equation that adds up to the undoubtedly exhilarating.

When I run through my fear, the rhythm of my breath and the sound of my feet hitting the trail one after the other is magnified by the quiet of the darkness. I feel strong and empowered, my confidence growing with every step. If I weren't a little bit terrified, I wouldn't have the sense of exhilaration and strength either - and that would truly be a loss. I guess that's to say, that when we let fear win out and let it paralyze us or prevent us from doing something we're meant to do, the question is, what have we just missed out on? 

                                                                                               Don't Worry, the only place I saw this was in my imagination!

                                                                                               Don't Worry, the only place I saw this was in my imagination!

Now don't get me wrong, fear can be a good thing. It can keep us from doing stupid things. Ask my parents and they will tell you that as a child I really could have used a bit more fear in my life. But I'm pretty sure there's far less of a risk of something catastrophic happening from running the trails alone than there is getting in my car every morning. So, I think there's a fine line between fear that helps us and fear that hinders us. 

So, I keep running, even when I'm scared - whether the fear is of the physical or the emotional kind.

Because if we're going after truly big goals in life, fear is going to be present. A big goal means there's a risk of failure, a risk of feeling vulnerable. With this upcoming race, I've felt all kinds of fear - What if I don't even make it to the start-line? What if I don't make the cut-off times? What if I don't make it to the finish line? What if I get injured again and repeat my time on the hideous pink crutches of yesteryear? What if people will then say, 'I told you so?' What if I am the last one to finish {admittedly while I'm terrified of this, I also think it would be pretty cool - much better than second to last}? What if I get to that point in the race where the pull in me to give up is so strong that I just give in to it? What if I don't have what it takes mentally? - so many fears. And all of this, this is the healthy side of fear, the side that leads us to the fork in the road where we can choose to risk and be vulnerable or choose to play it safe. It's the side of fear that if we lean into it, rather than run from it, will lead to growth.

So, what if instead of aiming for "fearless," we aim to acknowledge the fear and to embrace it - to run straight at it, to run right through it, to come out on the other side, the side called growth. I'm going to give it a try this Saturday. I'll let you know how it goes!


Lessons From the Mountain {Part I: Perspective}

Perspective.

Back in the day, when I spent my summers as a backpacking guide, we would give a little talk at the end of the trip that went something like this: Everyone loves the mountaintop - it's awe-inspiring and amazing. And while we wish that we could stay on the mountaintop forever, the truth is that life is not meant to be lived up there, nothing grows on the mountaintop. Life is meant to be lived in the valley. But the beauty of the mountain top is that it offers a view and a perspective of the land down below that can often get lost when you're traipsing through the valley.

From the Summit of Imogene Pass looking down towards Telluride 

From the Summit of Imogene Pass looking down towards Telluride 

These last 4 months as I've trained for the Imogene Pass Run, I've spent a good deal of time on and around mountain tops. My two little feet have taken me up to some of the most beautiful peaks and ridges this state has to offer. But no matter how breathtaking it is up there, I always know that at some point, I need to head back down and re-enter my everyday life. Though before I descend, I take a moment to pause, to take it all in, to notice the winding creeks, the fields of wild flowers, the switchbacking roads and the old structures that dot the landscape below - things I can't see when I'm in the trees. And I look out around me in every direction, attempting to get my bearings, noting the mountain ranges to the north, south, east, and west. I get perspective. And when I make my way down, I have a little better sense of the features unique to that mountain and where it sits relative to everything around it. 

Similarly, these last four months "on the mountaintop" have offered me some perspective on my day to day existence, on who I am at the ripe old age of 41, on what I hope for my life to be about, and on the current state of the landscape that surrounds me everyday. I've been given a more clear understanding of each of my kids and their unique personalities and needs. This has motivated me to want to hunker down with them and press in, with the realization that these formative years are flying by. The mountaintop has brought definition to both my personal and professional goals. And it has given me a greater appreciation for the beauty and richness in my everyday life, my marriage, and my friendships.  

Sometimes I think we get so lost in the frenzy of our daily lives that it's easy to lose perspective, forgetting where we are, where we've been, and where we're going. The busyness and daily demands may blind us to the beauty that's existing all around us. The noise of the critics, the cry of the insecurities, and the shouts of the unimportant can drown out the sounds of the quiet whisper, calling us to live and love more fully. And perhaps more bravely too. While life is meant to be lived in the valley, I think we also need those mountaintop experiences to gain perspective, a perspective that we can take back down the mountain, allowing it inform our everyday lives. 

What have your mountaintop experiences taught you? How has your perspective changed from stepping outside of your everyday life?

In addition to perspective, there are 6 other lessons I'm taking with me down from the mountain and I'd like to share one each day leading up to the race next Saturday, so stay tuned!