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Thursday, November 28, 2013


word of the day: reveal \ri-ˈvēl\ to make something hidden able to be seen

I like to think about things.  I like to think about things, and I like to over-analyze things.  If you know me, you know that much of my existence takes place in my own thoughts as I quietly process everything around me.

If there were a land for the internal processors, I think I could be their queen (although I’d probably need to think it over for a while first).

Recently I find myself thinking about words.  Words stay with me and etch themselves into my brain.  Today I can’t get a phrase out of my mind.  A phrase from what has nearly become my favorite book.

That book is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and if you haven’t read it, you need to do so immediately (I now own three copies; my favorite as seen below). 

The book circles around Hazel and Augustus, two teenagers who meet in a support group for kids with cancer.  Their little infinity takes them around the world as they wrestle with life and death and everything in between (a terrible summary, I might add.  If you hurry, maybe you can still find the $2.99 version for your Kindle).  At one point, there is a line from one character to another (no spoilers): “Grief does not change you…It reveals you.” 

Before Lily was born, so many people told me that becoming a mom would change me.  But I don’t think it changed me.  I think it revealed me. 
I’m not a different person because of Lily.  Instead I’m more aware of my faults and traits and tendencies.  She has revealed things about me that I never knew were true and, in many ways, altered the way I view myself. 

I think it’s good though.  I think what you believe to be true about yourself needs to be rocked every once in a while to remind you not to stay still.  To remind you that those faults and traits and tendencies don’t define you.  That the place where personal revelations meets disappointment is where redemption reveals true identity. 

I think I’m blathering on though.  Overthinking things?  Probably.

Thankfulness is the order of the day and I’ve got spoils to share. 

Namely, I’m thankful for Jake.  Without him, I am (very literally) a crazy person.  I don’t know what I would do without his level head and reminders that the tasks will all get done and that we’re really doing ok at this whole parenting gig.
And for this girl.  For her smile and her spirit.  Before she was born, I wrote that she would teach me a different kind of love, and she certainly has.  Thankfulness, really, feels like an understatement.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


word of the day: busy \ˈbi-zē\ full of activity or work

I recently informed Jake that I wanted to start writing again—at least once a week.  His response?

Why don’t you set a more attainable goal?

A reasonable question, really.  I thought life was busy before Lily came along, and now I often feel like the work will never get done.  There are currently 160 short stories sitting in folders waiting to be graded, and yet here I sit.  Typing with no real direction to my thoughts. 

People often ask me how we’re doing.  And I often respond with, “Good.”  Then, the first vague question is often followed up by a second vague question: “How are things going?”  To wish I generally respond, “Busy.” 

Our life is full of activity and (not or) work.  As I read the definition to that word, though, I realized that it’s also full of a myriad of other things.  People.  Baby laughter.  Trips to Chipotle (right down the road from our new place.  I’m developing guacamole dependency).

And if there’s something I’ve gotten much better at in the last three months, it’s making room in my life for the more important things—the spur of the moment Target run we took this evening, for instance (because I think Target fulfills my need for Vitamin D).

The short stories sit.  The laundry basket hums.  The dust collected under the furniture whispers. 

And here I sit, happier that I took some time to write.  Everything always gets done.  That’s what Jake tells me anyway.  He also tells me, though, that if we were ever to rob a bank together, I would not be allowed to come along which seems counterintuitive.

I’m too busy to rob a bank anway.

And, on a totally unrelated note (when did THIS happen?)…

Saturday, July 27, 2013


word of the day: five \ˈfīv\ a number that is one more than four
Lately I catch myself thinking about the girl who walked down the aisle toward Jake five years ago. She exists primarily in my memories because I feel an entirely different version of that girl today.

I could say that the past five years have been the easiest years I have lived, but they haven't been. In truth, one of the best decisions I have ever made has brought with it some of the most challenging moments of my life.

I don't know why that's what is on the forefront of my mind this anniversary. Why the moments I find myself calling to mind are the moments of tears. Moments when I have said to Jake things like, "I can't do that," "I don't think I am strong enough," or "I'm scared." They are moments on park benches, in airplanes, and on hospital beds.

And yet, here I am today. On the other side of all those moments mostly because Jake walked with me through them.

With minimal sarcasm even.

I'm a better today because Jake has helped teach me to step outside of myself. He has pushed me to do things I never thought myself capable of and has encouraged me in those moments of hesitation.

In turn, I have taught him how to be more cautious and less risky.


Ten years ago I would have told you that I wanted to marry someone safe. Someone who build me a house with a white picket fence and let me live in Des Moines forever.

I find myself increasingly thankful that our marriage is safe. But it isn't safe because our life together is easy. It's safe because I know that whatever lies ahead of us we'll face together and that he'll keep cheering me on each moment I'm unsure of myself.

I'm not the same girl I was 5 years ago. I have since accepted new challenges, embraced new ideals, and adapted to new roles. I'm a better version of the girl in the white dress thanks to the ways God continues to use Jake to sharpen me.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


word of the day: words \ˈwərd\ something that is said

As someone who prides myself with the ability to put words together, I have had surprisingly few in the past year.

At least, I have put surprisingly few down on 'paper.' Truth is, I've had more words spinning around in my head this past year than I've known what to do with.

There's quite a bit of pressure that goes along with being a new mom. It's self-inflicted and primarily irrational, but it's pressure nonetheless that makes your words suddenly all the more vulnerable.

And so I let my words spin. They tossed and turned inside my mind, and I hardly allowed myself to put them in order. But here I sit. The tap, tap of the keyboard calls to me as it generally does. It whispers its calming effect and makes me wonder why I haven't been processing this way all along.

People describe childbirth as a euphoric experience.

"It's the hardest thing you'll ever do, but it's so worth it when you see your baby's face."

"She’ll teach you what love really feels like."

"You'll immediately forget about all the pain because of how much joy your baby brings you."

This was my expectation. I anxiously awaited the emotion that would engulf me the first moment I laid eyes on my baby. The joy, the love, the magic of it all.

Lily Jean made her grand entrance on May 28 at 1:35 a.m. She decided in quick fashion that she'd had enough in vitro and ten days before she was scheduled to arrive, she made her way into our world.  I had anticipated that moment longer than I’d even known about her existence.  I anticipated the joy and the instant connection that I would feel. 
Instead she felt a stranger to me.  She was ours and we loved her, of course, but she was a person nonetheless and one I found myself knowing very little about.  I was surprised to find that the feelings of joy I felt were overshadowed by feelings of inadequacy, fear, frustration.  And because of the inadequacy, fear, and frustration, I generally succumbed to an overall feeling of guilt.
And nobody warned me about the guilt. 
It was just as the guilt set in that everybody I met exclaimed, “Don’t you just love being a mom?”  And, in turn, I would smile and nod because that’s what you’re supposed to say when, in reality, I didn’t really. The honest answer was, “No.” 
I had been entrusted with the task of keeping a small and very fragile person alive. I was in survival mode and generally focused on both of us living through another day.

It's perhaps the most humbling experience I have ever gone through.  But like any experience, it has begun to shape and refine me.  It has begun to teach me a better understanding of God’s love.
People prepare you for that one too.
“When you first look into your baby’s eyes, you’ll start to understand how much God loves you.”
 It wasn’t, however, the joy of the moment that showed me God’s love.  Instead, it was at the height of my frustration—a crying spell that I couldn’t seem to fix when Lily looked up at me completely helpless.  It was in that moment that I realized her complete dependence on me.  I’m the one at this moment in time who can meet all her physical needs.  She cannot survive alone.    
And it was in those moments that my heart began to change.  That I began to embrace the role of “mom” and this baby who so greatly needs me.   

It was in those moments that I was reminded of what Paul says in Philippians:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (4:11-13).

I often use the phrase 'the new normal' as Jake and I continually enter new phases in our marriage. Just like anything new in life, this one took and is taking some getting used to.

But I'm comforted by the fact that that's ok.  That I’m not the first person to feel this way and, most certainly, not the last.  That in my lowest moments, the ones where I am completely helpless,  I can look to God and He meets my needs.  I cannot survive alone. 

I now, as ee cummings said far more eloquently than I ever could, carry Lily's heart with me. This fierce little blue eyed lady has changed my world.  She has given me a new perspective on love and reliance, and for that I am so very thankful.  For that, the words feel worth sharing.


Sunday, March 3, 2013


word of the day: decision \di-ˈsi-zhən\ a determination arrived at after consideration

The following post was actually an entry into an essay contest that Real Simple Magazine puts on every year.  I was supposed to be notified by January 7th if I had won.  Now that it's March 3rd, I think it's pretty safe to publish it here.  The theme is similar to something I wrote last summer upon our return from Africa if it sounds familiar.  This was the prompt:
If you could change one decision that you made in the past, what would it be? No, you can't go back in time, but here's the next best thing. Think of a decision that you regret—anything from a ridiculous choice of prom date to a serious lapse in judgment—and tell us what the mistake taught you about yourself.

I was four. I stood in my Minnie Mouse overalls, looking at the first major milestone I can remember: a bicycle with two wheels. I had already learned to roller-skate, but this was the true test of independence. I sucked my thumb in nervousness as I listened to my dad's instructions. He patiently explained the mechanics of starting and stopping and held on for the first few rides as I gained my sense of balance. Then, suddenly, I was on my own. I imagine he let go, unbeknownst to me, because he knew I would never have asked otherwise, but, nevertheless, I was riding solo. I slowed to a stop, moved past a brief moment of panic, then grinned proudly. I'd done it!
Learning how to rollerskate in the Minnie Mouse overalls.  They must have been my favorite outfit.  What I'd like to know is whether or not my parents ever made me put a shirt on underneath them...
I rode my bicycle for weeks following and then made an interesting decision: I asked my dad to reattach my training wheels. I continued to ride for months with them until I eventually went back to the higher level that I had already mastered.

My dad often tells this story as an illustration of what kind of child I was, but only recently have I come to realize that this small decision does more to explain the kind of adult I turned out to be. Nothing happened that should have caused me to want my training wheels back. I never fell off; I was never scraped or bruised. My hunch is, knowing the person I am today, that I realized I could fall. I could scrape my knee. I could bruise my hand. I could explode my front tire and fly into a fence. Irrational, yes. Enough to change my mind, no.

I have followed this logic throughout most of my life. You give me a situation, and I will think through all the possible consequences. I never had a hard time turning down adventures growing up because often the thought of getting into trouble or hurting myself was enough to give me no sadness in rejection.  I can think of multiple occasions where I stayed home alone in my adolescence because the idea of risk made me sick to my stomach. 

The great irony of my life came when I married my husband, a man who is my opposite in almost every way. He is a daring risk-taker by heart and fairly fearless in most situations.  At the mention of adventure, you will see a bright twinkle in his eye, because he’s never one to pass up something even remotely exciting.  

I knew early on that marrying Jake would eventually pull me out of my comfort zone. 

That moment came when I was 25-years-old.  I sat in the car on the way to church, nervously chewing away at my fingernails (a habit that, thankfully, replaced the thumb-sucking).  Jake and I were discussing the prospect of taking a cross-cultural trip to a country with risk of danger.  I was forming some foolproof arguments against the trip, but when our Pastor chose that Sunday to preach on the five excuses Moses used in the desert, I considered all my points moot.  I agreed to go but kept my “risk calculator” out at all times.

This trip had the potential for more than just scrapes and bruises.  Planes might crash, diseases might be contracted, and hostages might be taken.  You name a completely irrational worst-case-scenario, and I had already reasoned through how I would deal with it.  Suddenly, I was the four-year-old again, desperately wanting my training wheels back on.  This time, though, my dad and his screwdriver weren’t going to solve the problem.

We embarked on our adventure in June, and my irrational fears were always near.  They whispered in my ear as we walked down the street and crept up my neck in the middle of the night.  They paralyzed me at times, and I found myself frustrated to be so mastered by them. 

Then, I had a rather profound experience.  I was riding in a car with the other women on our trip.  We were coming back from an evening in the desert.  It was dark, and the streets were lined with people.  In the midst of the chaos of that night, our vehicle started acting up.  Each time we stopped, the car would die.  I began to pray fervently that our car would work long enough to get us home.  It didn’t, and as we rolled to a stop on the side of the road, I was frustrated.  It seemed such a simple prayer to answer, and here we sat, five women, alone, far away from any person who could help us. 

That’s when our car was surrounded by local people.  They practically swarmed us, and when I surveyed the scene, I realized they were smiling.  Smiling.  All they wanted to do was help us.  They brought us into their home, served us tea, and just kept smiling until a car arrived to take us home.  It was such a lovely picture of hospitality and an answer to prayer that I wasn’t expecting.  I saw in that moment what a blessing our broken down car had been because it allowed me to see the great kindness of the people and shattered the misconceptions I had projected through my own fears.   

I learned during the rest of our time overseas that the benefits of such an experience far outweighed any potential risk.  Sure, there was a possibility for something to go wrong, but had I listened to that inner fear, I would have missed out on all the beautiful things the country had to offer—which, in my experience, were the people.

I’ve been thinking about my four-year-old self lately—wishing I could go back in time and convince her that it wasn’t worth putting the training wheels back on.  That a scraped knee or even an exploded tire is only a big deal because it’s during those times that we are shaped and molded and bettered as people.

I’m thankful to have learned from that small childhood moment; to have realized that all the hundreds of possible risks aren’t worth missing out on the one experience at hand—that situations, once you’re in them, are never really as scary as you think. 

Four-year-old me may always linger, sucking her thumb in the in depths of my being and reminding me of all there is to be afraid of in life, but the screwdriver and the training wheels are nowhere to be found.  I see now that it’s not worth it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


word of the day: freeze \ˈfrēz\  to become fixed or motionless

I’ve been wishing I had the ability to freeze time lately.  Take a moment and live in it for as long as I want.  Soak it in.  Savor it.

 Life doesn’t really work like that though, so I’m left with taking mental pictures.  Memorizing the room the first time we heard baby’s heartbeat, so I can close my eyes and return to exactly that place.  Sinking lower in my chair the first time I feel baby kick, so I can remember exactly how it felt.  Staring at myself in the mirror before our ultrasound, so I know that no detail goes unnoticed.  The color of my scarf.  The curl of my hair.  The feeling the first time that face popped up on the screen.

 I’m very aware that no other pregnancy will be like this one.  This is the baby who changes things.  Who teaches my heart a different kind of love.  Who, like my friend Laura says, pulls my heart on the outside of my body and asks it to reside there.  Who changes the very nature of who I am.

 This is the baby who makes me a mom.

 The idea is hard to digest.  That these moments, often miniscule in time frame and fleeting in nature, will never come back again.  Well they will, and they’ll still be grand, but I know they will be different. 

 And so I continue to do my best to freeze time.  To throw my head back, close my eyes, and revel in the amazing things Jake and I are blessed enough to experience right now.