A welcome back.

I jumped right back into posting without any explanation for the approximately four years of silence. It’s not at all unlike me to do things out of order.

Part of me just wants to pretend that it is normal and fine and nothing was wrong.
But a bigger part of me wants to explain, to share my truth. Because, if you know me at all, you know I almost never have short answers for anything. I love to give context, and I’ve definitely (rightly so) accused myself of being an over-sharer.

A lot happened in the four years of silence here.

Postpartum depression feels like the biggest and most overwhelming way to describe that season. It was more than that. So much more. But it was also that.
We got robbed. Twice. We got in multiple car accidents.
The structure of my primary community fell apart in the midst of a relational conflict that left me feeling completely isolated and confused.
The foundation of feeling safe, loved, or accepted within my secondary community (the church we were a part of) completely crumbled, and we left.

The brave boy seemed to tune into all the ways I was feeling and he used his voice to try to express when I couldn’t. So he screamed. Blood curdling screams. Hundreds of times per day. I actually counted once, thinking somehow that the counting might save my sanity. (Shocker: it didn’t seem to help.) This effected my hearing (to this day) and gave me a headache that lasted for more than a year. When I finally decided to wave the white flag, I sent the kids to day care and buried myself in my work. I didn’t write much at all during this season. When I did, it was dark. So dark that I felt entirely ashamed.

The second time we got robbed, most of my journals were among those belongings – journals from when John & I were dating, from all of the brilliant girl’s life thus far, from the moment I found out I was pregnant with her through the days leading up to when it was stolen. That was so painful that I didn’t dare write anything down again for fear of losing it.

The nail in the coffin for my writing on the blog, though, came through a probably entirely thoughtless and not at all malicious comment that someone made at lunch one day. This person was one of the first people I’d known in our city. She was leadership to me within my community. She was a mom to multiple kids when I just had one. She was assertive and seemed confident and bold – I admired these characteristics and being alone in a new city, in a new role as a wife and mom, I watched her, wide-eyed, and listened to everything she said like she’d been studying the truth all her life and was some sort of sage. I say that to take ownership that this next part is really, probably, mostly just on me. I put too much stock in what she said. I didn’t test it with anyone else. I just internalized it as truth, felt unbearable shame, and let it shape me. During lunch one day, this woman said something like, “I think people who blog are just self centered and vain – I don’t think doing that honors God…” I don’t really remember anything else she said. I remember feeling my heart race, my mind started swimming. She’s talking about ME, I thought. At that point, I was writing on this blog all the time. THE LAST thing I ever wanted was to be self centered and not honoring to God – wasting time and energy only to be all about me. All I had wanted was to share what I was learning, process how I continued to pursue hope, and do this in the least confrontational way possible.

About three years later, I was sitting in a worship service at the healing place and I was writing. I wrote out how I remembered that moment. Hot painful shame. And I realized for the first time, well after the time this woman stopped being a part of my life, that she wasn’t the authority. Not then, and certainly not now. That it’s my job to test the things people say. And it’s really only within God’s power to assess the posture of someone’s heart. The posture of my heart was never to be about me. It was a lot of things, but not really that. If it ever seemed like that, that was a mistake. I remembered a truth I’d said many times before – that I am at my healthiest when I write. I’m safe to write. Even if it ends up being dark. When I decided to share the dark writing, that’s when the healing started to happen. When I let people in. Fresh air and light started coming into the darkest place. And despite missing it for far too much of my life, I realized I really was surrounded by people who wanted to love me and help me grow and heal.

Grace started to become real.

And over the last year or so, I’ve been encouraged, affirmed, challenged, and even begged to write. These things came from both exactly where I’d expect them to – those are the easiest to ignore, right? – but then also, from the most unexpected places.

So here I am.
I survived a season that I thought would surely be the end of me.
And from all sides, I feel healthier and full of more joy than I ever thought possible.

I feel particularly compelled to share that this doesn’t mean I don’t have dark days anymore. I still lay in the middle of the floor sometimes, or in my bed, holding on to not facing the day. I still get the chill of isolation down my spine, the whispers of inadequacy, the feelings like I might drown in just trying to breathe. The only difference is that now, it’s not all consuming. I don’t have a formula to follow. It was hard and felt impossible and it felt like I would just be swallowed up – a reality I would have welcomed on so many dark days. Thank God and all the people who determined to let His love flow through them to listen and love and share truth. Gratitude is able to conquer the defeat I was experiencing. There’s nothing perfect about me or where I am. I remember feeling angry at people who could experience joy when I was neck deep in the drowning season. My hope is that if you’re reading this, and you feel the waters of inadequacy rising, that you can see that hope is possible. It’s not nearly as scary as it seems. And there are people all around that want to lift you out of these waters, that when you can’t save yourself, they will come alongside you and build you a ship.

What I found in this season and as I came out of it, though, are treasures that changed me. The friendships formed through struggling together, the light poured into me when I was completely drowning, laughter and joy and redemption.

I can point to at least a dozen experiences and resources and practices that have completely changed my life. I’ll share those soon, but they’re not what saved me.
Love* did, and Love continues to do so.

// i will end with this \\
// if you are drowning in each day that feels like it will consume you entirely, please reach out to someone you know. \\
// risk hoping, have grace that they might say all the ‘wrong’ things, but that if they’re listening or responding to you, they’re probably trying, and they probably care. \\
// if you don’t feel like you have anyone at all, reach out to me. \\
// please. \\
// the world would inevitably be dimmer without you.\\
// you are unique in all the world and within you is the power and potential to love others in a way that no one else on the planet can. \\
 you are a treasure. 

I mean it. Here’s a contact form to make it easy.

Our Apologies.

While we were preparing to get married, we heard our friend Ted talk about apologies – it could’ve been a sermon, a conversation, or during our premarital counseling. The years made the specifics of that fade. But he talked about how meaningless “I’m sorry” has become in our culture, especially. I observed how many of us move through our days – sometimes, apologizing for existing. Other times, saying ‘I’m sorry’ out of obligation or on behalf of other people, or for no reason at all. But more often than not, apologizing without ever taking ownership for what what they’d done wrong. Ted talked about how his family had committed to say “I was wrong.”

This resonated deeply with me.
YIKES, though. For real.
Who wants to say those words? Not me. Not really.

But the husband and I agreed that was the approach we’d take to reconciling our differences as we headed into marriage. And that carried over into parenting.

This strategy has helped me stop apologizing when I don’t need to, and it has helped me reconcile when I desperately need it.

Our method for this has grown, especially as we’ve taught it to our kids. It had to be adapted… I’ll talk that through as I address each piece and why it matters.

Let me also add the disclaimer that we don’t always do this well. Sometimes, my heart runs away at the idea of having to say, “I was wrong” out loud. And sometimes, it trembles at saying “I need your forgiveness.” Each step challenges me for the better. It seems to be a structure that works well to properly posture the heart for humility, courage, empathy, and growth.

The Four Pieces of Our Apologies

  1. Connect.
    Simple: make eye contact.
    This can be especially hard when I am experiencing shame. But it is absolutely necessary to making sure I’m facing what I did wrong. I’m faced with the humanity of another living being.
  2. Take Ownership.
    This is the, “I was wrong” part. And it is certainly more than saying I’m sorry. For our family, it’s saying “I was wrong for _________.” And calling out exactly what it is that we did – taking ownership for our (wrong) action(s).
    For example, one that the brave boy has mastered, “I was wrong for hitting you.”
    One that I often practice, “I was wrong for the way I spoke to you.” Which is the perfect transition to the next piece:
  3. Express Their Worth.
    Tell them what they mean to you. This reminds both of you of their inherent worth and what it means about how they should be treated.
    Examples include:

    • “You are important to me.”
    • “I value you.”
    • “I love you.”
    • “You’re special to me.”
  4. Ask for forgiveness.
    Pretty straightforward, this one: “Will you please forgive me?”
    Sometimes, for an extra measure of vulnerability and courage, it comes out as “I need your forgiveness.” There’s a lot to unpack in that, but suffice it to say that we’re set free to forgive ourselves when others choose to do so, and sometimes I have to say that out loud so (let’s be real here:) my husband and kids know that I’m prone to torment myself forever should they decide not to forgive me. That’s how it weighs on me when I’ve seriously wronged them.

That’s it.
It seems simple.
It takes a ton of courage.

I promise that if you put into practice these steps to replace the language of apologies in your house, it will change things. For starters, it’ll push everything in the direction of being more authentic, which is what my next post is about. Stay tuned.

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And, as always, if you have something to add on this – the elements of apologizing – drop it in the comment box below!

The Questions.

My daughter has been at school full time this year.
She gets in the car at approximately 3:34pm. Many times her little brother is asleep in his carseat and I ask her to enter quietly and let him rest.
Pretty early on in the school year, I realized that the typical, “how was your day?” question wasn’t getting me anywhere. She would say, “fine,” or “good.” Sometimes, she would cry and talk about how she perceived the other kids disliking her.
It was beyond disheartening.
It took awhile, but I felt a growing gap in our communication.
8 hours of her awake time each day were happening to her, and she had about 15 minutes a day to tell me about them. And I wasn’t asking the right questions to get real answers. (Not that she could fill me in and process all that she needed to in the allotted time, anyway.)

Inspired by the “highs & lows” trend, (as well as Brene Brown’s ideas on self reflecting with her kids from her course, The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, such as “Tell me about recess”) I started asking some specific open ended questions aimed at getting to her heart. I’ve been sharing these with friends to help them get more from their conversations with their kids, as well as adapting them for my own adult relationships when I need questions to ask, questions that let me skip the small talk without forcing intense vulnerability from the get-go. I’ve also been asked these questions now, by my kids and husband, since I started this practice. I’ve found that it causes me to reflect on my circumstances and experiences in ways that I’m clearly internalizing but wasn’t otherwise processing, or even altogether aware of.

Since I’ve been sharing these, I keep getting asked if I can write them out, and for the sake of time saving, I decided to write them out as a blog post.

I’ll list them here and then talk a little about each one.

  1. What was the best part of your day?
    This is great because it focuses on the good. On a hard day, it calls out what was good about it. It also is open ended and ALWAYS gets my kids (and let’s be real, anyone I ask) talking. This question shows me what stands out to them – what they treasure, what makes them feel good. Sometimes it gives me an insight into their love languages.
    To adapt this for an adult, or someone I don’t talk to on a regular basis, I ask them something like, “What’s been good for you, lately?” or “What’s the best thing in your life right now?”
  2. What was the hardest part of your day? 
    I’m going to be honest: I don’t always ask this one. Sometimes, I already know that because that information has been volunteered. Sometimes, I can tell they’re sad and I focus on the good questions and get to the heart of why they’re sad a bit later on. Sometimes, my daughter will shock me with, “I really didn’t have one. Today was just good.” Other times, she comes back to it on her own. She knows the flow of these questions by now.
  3. What was a moment you were proud of yourself today?
    This is my favorite of all of them. Having self compassion and confidence is something that is VERY new to me, personally, and I really, really wanted a question that aimed to grow those traits in my kids so they’d be able to identify wins… especially on really tough days. Another reason I love this is because a lot of times it leads us to call out a moment we were proud of each other.
    For example, yesterday, my son talked about a moment he was proud of himself for controlling his anger. He will often lash out in anger when he experiences any big feelings. He’d crashed his scooter and smashed his head pretty hard, resulting in a big goose egg. When asked about his proud moment, he remembered that moment – he said he had wanted to be angry at the scooter or be mad at just anyone. But he said he chose to let me hold him and cry, instead. He was very proud of himself. His sister jumped in quickly to say that she was most proud of a completely different moment… We’d been playing at our friends’ house and their oldest had offered to let our brave boy keep his toy handcuffs. Both of us moms agreed that the answer was no, not this time. We all get loaded to leave and we almost get out of their neighborhood when I realize that the brave boy in the backseat had snuck them out anyway. I turned the car around. We talked about our steps of apologizing/reconciling, and we went back. We went to the mom, gave her the handcuffs, apologized, and hurriedly went back to the car. He was embarrassed, I could tell. She followed him to the car. She told him, “I forgive you. I value you. Our family loves you. Can I give you a hug?” I saw relief wash over him like he’d just been set free. He had. The brilliant girl called it out at the first opportunity. She said “that took a LOT of courage, apologizing to an ADULT, like you did! I’m so, SO, SO proud of you.” I’m sure you can imagine that made my heart swell with joy. What a total win, to call out your own successes and have others do the same for you. What courage building.
  4. Was there a moment today that you wished you’d made a different choice than the one you did?
    This is great because it lets me see if they’re grasping when they’ve made wrong choices that I didn’t catch, or didn’t correct, or even if they just held onto something for which they need to give themselves grace, or of which they need to let go. If they’re already struggling, I don’t necessarily ask this one. It’s the most optional at their current ages (4 and 6.)
  5. What are you looking forward to?
    Man, oh, man do I love this question! It’s usually the last question I ask in the series if I’m asking all of them in one conversation. Sometimes, I ask it out of the blue. It reminds us all of what’s good. Of a reason we can maintain hope. It makes us check the posture of our heart if we come up with nothing.
    The answers to this question surprise and delight me so often.
    When the brilliant girl answered, “When we start homeschooling,” after we made that decision a few months ago, my eyes welled with tears. What a delight that she was actually looking forward to that. What affirmation for me. What a sweet gift.
  6. Who can tell me something good?
    So, obviously this isn’t a question. But it’s a thing I say when I don’t have time for all of the above questions. Or when we’re driving in the car and it’s quiet. Or after one of us has just exploded at another. Or when we’re clearly struggling through a day. And sometimes, just for fun. It centers our hearts on goodness.
    Sometimes, it also lets me know when someone is struggling extra hard – they might get teary-eyed, or angrily say, “Nothing good, Mom.” And then I get to be the one to tell them something I see that’s good.

I love these questions because they’ve helped our family to see one another. They’ve helped to build our relationships with each other. They’ve helped give us new courage. They’ve helped us bear one another’s burdens. They’ve made us closer.

There are some additional or alternative questions we ask of each other that I also love, or questions that are currently in process:

  • What did you do to make someone else feel special?
    (The brilliant girl gets credit for adding this question to our daily questions – it was her idea!)
  • Tell me about a moment you tried something new, or a moment that you failed.
    (Because success is great and to be celebrated, but failure is how we grow.)
  • How did someone else make you feel known/special/loved? 

Over time, I hope to add in the other open ended questions I ask, either as a continuation of this post or as a part two to this post.

Please feel free to comment below if you have other questions you’ve found to be gems for your communication.

Heavy. And light.

Sleep deprivation and constant self sacrifice – required from every angle, demanded with shrieks and tugs in different directions – has led me to quite the desperate place.

The kind of church community we need in order to thrive has been mostly non existent for well over a year now, and that coupled with the obstacles this year has presented, plus two babies in less than two years brought me to some serious hopelessness.

I lost sight of almost any joy in motherhood.
I finally said out loud that I’m battling PPD.

What you might not know is that even when things seem to be going perfectly, I’m a moment away from being certain that I’m the worst person ever.

So when things are going badly, I perceive with some serious certainty that the entirety of what’s wrong in the world is my fault. (Obviously I know how ridiculous this sounds, but is my truth, far too often.) It is where my heart goes. There’s this guilt that starts to weigh me down for all of the possibilities of various outcomes for every miniscule to major mistake I perceive that I’ve made.

It’s crushing.
And I had this community where I felt so at home to share my struggles that I didn’t censor my stresses. It was my attempt at processing what I wasn’t able to. And I caused stress to women who I only ever wanted to equip with new courage.

I’ve been so lost and felt so alone.
I’ve struggled so much as a mom and felt cheated and punished yet completely deserving of every adversity that I’ve come to expect nothing less than pain. Nothing less than an unceasing battle.
I’ve given up on rest.

I’ve been living in the darkness.
I’ve stopped desiring any light because I’m afraid of hoping that things will be different. Because then, when they’re inevitably not, I don’t have to process the disappointment, because I expected it.

And I’m so sad.
I’m so sorry this has become my reality.
I’m so sorry to the friends I’ve discouraged.
I’m so sorry that I’ve said such dreadful things about motherhood.

And I’m so grateful for those few of you who cared enough to see that I’ve been drowning and had grace enough to not abandon me  entirely.

I’m not out of it. It feels like I never will be.
But I have to hope otherwise. I have to hold onto the idea that today is the first day of many that will be entirely different.
I have to notice and say out loud and practice with my every breath this idea of  thanksgiving. (Eucharisteo.)

Because if I don’t, I think in this drowning I might just sink. The fighting will end and I’ll just fade away.

It’s my hope. It’s hope that I can name these gifts I’ve been overlooking and practice hope. Practice coming back to life.

So here goes:

1. Light poured through shady trees
2. Spanish moss
3. Fresh ocean air on open roads
4. Bridges and uninterrupted skies.
5. A house full of friends, sharing a meal
6. Mismatched chairs
7. Late night films with my soulmate
8. The sway of my little boy, barely walking and determined to dance.
9. The boldness of that little boy to take on big things.
10. The tenderness of my daughter to swaddle her pretend babies.
11. Teddy bears ticked in with blankets to their chins.
12. Wisps of sleepy sweet sweaty blonde baby hair
13. Siblings imagining the same thing together.
14. Amelie’s bewilderment at all things alive. (And sometimes dead.)
15. lily pads
16. Still water
17. Unkempt nature
18. Pig tails.
19. Curly, blondish, ringlet, pig tails.
20. Her smile.
21. Toddler pants.
22. The texture of printed, bound pages
23. The freedom of conviction.
24. The sounds of ocean waves
25. Wind blown curtains
26. Reminders hidden in pages.

27. Forgiveness of friends.

2 reasons we have survived.

‘I’m an awful mom.’

I said that to a group of women this week.
Despite the fact that I love my kids wholeheartedly, despite the fact that moms tell me all the time what an awesome mom I am. Despite the fact that I’ve managed to keep these kids alive as long as I have, I think I’m an awful mom.
Mostly, because there are a lot of moments that I am so frustrated with parenting – so frustrated with myself for not living up to my own expectations, for not having endless patience that I wish I did – and I get so frustrated with my kids. And the miracle is not only that I’ve kept them alive as far as not drowning {that was a close one!} or getting hit by a car, but also that in my weakness, in my fury, in my awfulness, that I haven’t totally destroyed everything.

Because, let’s be honest. I’ve wanted to. And chances are if you’re a parent of a child who’s at least two years old, you’ve had your moments too. If you’re not a parent, borrow my kids for a day when one is teething, and both are still in diapers, and see how you feel at the end of the day. When one’s lying on top of you and the other is pulling your hair, and you’re just trying to go to sleep.

But still, I get about a dozen personal messages or emails every week asking me for parenting advice. Cloth diapering info. Gentle parenting ideas. Teething help. EC information. Natural birth. Home birth. VBAC. So. many. questions. And I love helping people grow in their knowledge and understanding – and of course I’m affirmed that other people want to make choices that I have, who wouldn’t be? I meet moms and I gauge where they are in their parenting lifestyle, whether they have support, whether they feel secure in their identities as moms, and 95% of the time I share information with them that I sense they need to know on their mom journeys… And often, still, I invite them into one of my communities – a place that I think they will find ongoing support in their journey.
Because moms MUST have support. There’s no way around that.
No man is an island.  No mom can survive as an island.
We can be it, when we have to be. But not long term. There’s no way.

I love connecting people. I love helping people find their identities and know freedom.
{{This is why I love sharing with people about Jesus… from the most simple ways I try to talk about him, to the more complicated ways of trying to live out His truth in calling us to this radical and subversive Kingdom.}}

So I love sharing with moms. And connecting them to other moms.
Because there are two reasons my kids are even alive.
1. God’s grace.
2. My community.

I would’ve given up on all the things I valued long ago, I have no idea what my mental or emotional state would be but for these amazing women who come around me at least once a week. Sometimes we’re just present, existing in the chaos of our toddlers, together. Other times, we voice it. We voice our craziness. We voice our concerns. We ask our questions. We let each other know that none of us knows it all. None of us has it down pat. We’re all just learning, growing, and sometimes only surviving.

Thank God for these moms who survive with me, helping me to grow, helping me to live, and most of all helping me learn how it is to love my kids while still existing as myself {more than “just” the booger-covered, spit-up soaked, drowning in poopy-diapers, burning dinner, stay at home mom.}

The Brilliant Girl wants Water

Our darling daughter is turning 2 so soon!
And when she learned that some boys and girls don’t have clean water, she wanted to help them. See for yourself in the video below.

So, for her 2nd birthday this year, we’re trying to raise at least $200 for clean water.
Our family is participating in the 12 x 12 project this year, and the goal for the project this month is to raise enough money to build a well. That’s only $5,000.
Help us contribute by giving Amelie clean water for her birthday. 🙂

Thank you!

Donate HERE through Living Water International.