Made For This

Dear You,

Happy Sunday! How was your week?

Last week I started a blog post, but the week got away from me and the words I was looking for never showed up. Some weeks are like that. I started writing about life-altering moments vs. defining ones. I think there’s an important distinction. I’ll keep working on the post so I can share it with you.

This week I want to explore the idea that we are made for the life we have. We are bombarded by messages that we should be more, do more, have more. As we scroll other people’s feeds, it’s so easy to wish our life was different in one way or another. It's easy to feel we don’t measure up. We remind ourselves of our shortcomings. All of this is exhausting and makes us feel disconnected from ourselves and others.

I’m the queen of striving, of having a vision for something I want to create, of rearranging this or redoing that. It’s the creative side of me. For many years my apparent discontentment with what’s in front of me was misread for a discontented person. Now I know it’s just my creativity, my mind that is always churning and turning, who loves great design and energizing places, spaces, and people. So yes, we can, of course, want more in life. We should strive to be our best selves. But we get into trouble when that inner drive to create, and better ourselves morphs into wishing we somehow had a different life.

When I feel jealous of what someone else is doing (don’t lie, I know you think this too!), I now stop myself and ask why. Maybe I love her handbag and just plain want it. Or perhaps the life she’s created came because she worked really hard for it, and yes, sometimes she just got lucky and was handed opportunities. But here’s the truth: she was designed for that life, and I’m created for mine. You are built for yours. In addition to asking myself why I feel jealous, I also need to be clear that perhaps I am called bring forth something similar to this world. Pay attention to those feelings and instead of letting jealousy take over, dig a little deeper to see what might be underneath.

The life you have is the life you are created for. And in it lives your purpose. When lives are handed out, it’s normal to speculate why some people’s appear unfairly more comfortable. We wonder if we drew the short straw. But we don’t live those lives. So it’s best to stay in our lane and focus on what we have in front of us. At one point in time my dad said to me, "if we could line up all the pain in the world in front of us and choose one to be ours, we’d pick our own". I think about this sentiment quite often. We have been imparted with the gifts and unique abilities to make this one life of ours beautiful.

My friend Stefanie and I were talking recently about the idea of living a life different than we planned. She’s the mom to three children. Two of them born with a rare disease called Sanfilippo Syndrome. In the last 14 months, both have died. She told me that she will always win the gold medal of "saddest story" in her group of friends, but that each woman has something that breaks her heart. Something in her life she wishes was different. Stefanie knows she was created for her life. A life that from the outside seems so unfair and the last life any woman would want, but when you get to know her, you see this person who is wise, beautiful and who sees clearly the purposes of her life. And you say to yourself, I want to be more like her.

This is why I say that your life is an invitation. If it doesn’t look the way you’d like, or if your circumstances seem more than you can handle today, dig in. Dig in deep. Accepting this invitation is not passive. Instead, it asks you to get honest with yourself and to start listening to your heart, to the Holy Spirit, to the God who breathed life into your lungs.

Stop grazing the surface.
Stop comparing to others.
Stop buying more stuff to make you feel better.
Start listening.
Start answering the calls of your heart.
Start creating space for new life to be reborn.
Start saying “no” to things, habits, time sucks, and people that don’t align with your vision for your best life. Start cultivating your natural talents, pursuing your dreams and finding creative ways to deal with the limitations set before you.

Erik, Bodey and I at my brother’s wedding

Erik, Bodey and I at my brother’s wedding

You are made for THIS life. Not for hers, or his, or theirs. For yours. So start making it stunning. And you know what? The imperfections, the deep pain, the crippling sadness, these make you more beautiful. Especially if you allow them to grow and refine you. When you do the hard, some days, yucky work, little by little you with breathe deeper and see clearer.

I remind myself all the time that I am created for the life I have. When I desperately miss Ethan, which is often lately, I remember I was born to be his mom. To walk with him in his illness and allow the most profound pain of my heart to transform me. When my body hurts from carrying around Bodey, and merely going to the store feels like such a production, I remind myself that I was created to be Bodey’s mom. I am invited to see life anew through the lens of disability and to be loved by Bodey (he gives so much love). When I want to redo my laundry room or buy new furniture, but there just isn’t the money because of medical bills or something not covered by insurance, I get frustrated. Being frustrated is okay. We were never promised easy. Instead, we are invited to become our beautiful selves BECAUSE of the life we have.

You are made for this. For all of this. Within you are the skills, abilities, and ideas to craft the life you want within the one you already have. You don’t need to go anywhere else. Climb inside of your own heart. See what you find. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sunday Love to you.

PS The great writer and poet Mary Oliver died this week. Fun fact is that like me, she was born in Cleveland OH (Maple Heights to be exact). Her words have meant so much to me. Take some time this week to read her poetry. I know her words will touch your heart too. These words are perfect for the week’s post.

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Source: Pinterest


The Courage to Continue

Dear You,

How’s your New Year going so far? Sometimes it feels overwhelming, doesn’t it? There’s pressure to change up everything from our skin care regimen to our workout schedule. Like I wrote last week, I love a new year because it’s a fresh start, a time to begin again. But as I pondered this whole New Years thing this last week, this thought came to me:

New Years is about the courage to continue.

(If you follow me on social media, you saw my post about this with a picture of my cute Bodey.)

In reality, we are continuing. Continuing on this path of life that each of us has been given. A new year doesn’t change the reality that we are where we are. It doesn’t change the fact that my son Bodey has muscular dystrophy or that I miss Ethan or that I want to re-do my laundry room.

But what it does offer is an opportunity to begin again. To recalibrate. Rethink. Redo. Reimagine. Reframe thoughts and ideas. Reignite passions. Recommit to practices that make us healthy and whole.

We get another chance to do it better.

But we can’t make it better if we don’t take the time to do so. This year I’ve recommitted myself to prayer and meditation. My goal is 10 minutes of silence before I start my workday. I know that doesn’t seem like much time, but it’s a place to start and realistic enough to make it a daily practice. After I’m done, I write down the words that come to my mind. In silence is where I can hear myself, feel centered and her God’s voice. It’s in the emptying that we are filled up.

This practice allows me to continue. To then go on to my work. To care for my family. To do my work. To create new things.

I’m sitting in my office surrounded by large post-it sheets on my walls. I’m working on 2019 plans for the Ethan Lindberg Foundation, my Four Hearts Shop and dreaming about some new things I want to put out into this world. I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’m actually thinking about how I can recalibrate to make more impact with fewer resources. To do more with less. To continue in a new way.

I’m continuing. I’m reworking. I’m recommitting. I’m rethinking.

This week I hope you will take some time to think about what you need to continue. Acknowledge what is painful, disappointing, and heavy in your life. Call it out and then make a plan to continue. To what do you need to recommit? To recalibrate so you can live this year well. Maybe you need to change courses to continue. Continuing is also about changing the approach so you can continue to grow into your best self.

So this week continue. Take a breath. Recommit your becoming. To your dreams. To those you love. To those you care for. Let us all continue on this journey and live well.

Sunday Love to you.

Unsplash

Unsplash

Four Thoughts About Setting Goals for 2019 (and a note to you who grieve)

Dear You,

Thank you for following along this year. Thank you for reading my posts, for sharing them, for writing to me about your stories and how my words impact you. I love writing, but for me this is really about creating a community of like-minded women who want to grow and become their best selves despite what life dishes out. I am so inspired by women who choose to live big, beautiful lives even though things have not panned out the way they hoped. In truth, we can all relate to this sentiment. It’s exciting when we are able to embrace this life, all its parts, and say to the world – I’m going to make something beautiful of it.

source: pinterest

source: pinterest

I love getting ready for a new year. It’s a blank canvas ready to be painted. Your canvas is yours and only yours, so paint away. Make it magnificent, bold, loud, whimsical, employ your greatest talents, and stretch yourself to gain new ones. Make it a full expression of you and only you. Claim it, love it, and commit to making this your best year yet.

When I think about a new year, it’s easy to be influenced by the goals everyone else has – lose weight, take this class, declutter that space, go here, not there. You know what I’m talking about. Today, I’m challenging you to really think for yourself and more importantly listen to yourself. What is calling to you? What do you know is your work to do this year?

Before I share four thoughts on goal setting for 2019, I want to write to you whose heart is grieving. Ethan died in 2012. I dreaded the calendar turning to 2013. It would be a year I’d live in without him. It felt daunting and repulsing. When our hearts ache because life has dealt us a magnificent blow, the future feels heavy. Can I let you in on a secret? While I love goal setting and the possibility of a new year, the future with my son Bodey feels unknown and scary. I miss Ethan. I always will. I often feel I have one foot here in this reality and one in heaven, where this will all make sense. I feel like I’m walking on a balance beam that is simultaneously moving, trying to knock me off. I’m not sure I’m up for what is to come.

But here’s the thing, I’m here, you are here. So that means our work is not done yet. I’m now at a place where I’m curious about what life has me here to do. I’m okay with the unknown while I simultaneously make plans and set goals. There are days when I feel the weight of it all, but I am 100% clear that I’m here for a purpose, so I want to keep discovering what that is during this lifetime.

If grief is your everpresent companion this season, I see you. I’m also going to challenge you. You were not created to sit in a corner and wither away. The excruciating pain makes it easy to wish for withering away. But that is not who you are or what you are created for. So today, I want you to set three simple goals. One for the body, one for the mind, and one for the spirit. If you just focus on those three and in the process be gentle with yourself, you will make steps forward. The only way is through. So, keep walking through. You will get to the other side.

source: pinterst and morgan harper nichols

source: pinterst and morgan harper nichols

1. Choose a word: Each year I choose a word or series of words for the new year. I post them in my office. For 2018 my word was intention. I wanted to do things with more intention. Less autopilot, more active choice. I also wanted to be conscious of the “why” behind what I chose to do. When a year ends, I do not ‘loose’ the previous year’s word. I take it with me. So in 2019, I will continue to focus on being intentional in my work and life while adding my new word (which I’m still deciding on). One tip: I write that word in my planner at the top of each week to keep my focus.

2. Goals + tactics: We often overestimate what we can accomplish in one year (I’m the queen of this), and underestimate what we can accomplish in three years. This week I’m not only thinking about what I can accomplish in 2019 but what I can accomplish by 2022. When I write a goal, I’m also thinking about the tactics and tools I need to employ to make them happen. These tactics matter, so don’t skip over them! So think about this year, but also about three years from now. Some goals have a longer horizon. Be realistic and then create a plan to get where you want to be.

3. Speak kindly: Instead of saying “I want to lose 20 pounds”, make your goal “I want to be a physically healthier person”. The first feels negative, the second feels positive. If you want to be healthier, then you need to employ tactics to make that happen. Of course, that will include exercise, diet, and habits that will help shed that 20 pounds.

4. Cultivate spiritual practice: Pray and meditate. Ready books about those whose faith you admire, on ideas about God you want to explore. I don’t think we can create the life we want or experience healing on a deep level without a spiritual compass. Please cultivate your inner self, your soul, the place in you that is connected to God, to Spirit, to your soul. You need a source of living water, of nourishment in order to face this life. If you do nothing else I suggested, do this. Cultivate the person you are on the inside.

If you’d like to dive deeper into goal setting, here are some people and sites I follow and learn from.

Headspace - a great source for learning to meditate and cultivating quiet.

Tony Robbins - he’s a powerhouse business and personal growth guru. Erik and I love to listen to his podcasts in the car together. He’s intense, direct and very insightful.

Rachel Hollis - many of you may know her from her book. Girl Wash Your Face. She’s touching a nerve focusing on goal setting and personal growth for women.

I just bought High Performance Habits, by Brendon Burchard. In this book, Brendan looks at six habits that create extraordinary results.

Happy New Year to you! I send you love and blessings as you approach 2019. Let’s make it a great year!

Sunday Love (on Monday:-) to you.



Christmas Is For You

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This is one of my favorite times of year. I love the music, decorations, time with friends and thinking of what to buy for people I love. I’ve always loved Christmastime most. But something shifted in me after Ethan died. And this season, while still a favorite, now has a heaviness to it that walks beside the wonder.  The heaviness catches up to me a couple weeks before Christmas. I now know I need to sit with it, not rush through the feelings, but feel them, journal about my thoughts and walk through the memories of Christmases past. 

 Ethan’s last Christmas was full of significant experiences. He was chosen to light the hospital Christmas Tree. Chase was born 12 days before Christmas that year. We baptized him on Christmas Day and Ethan’s first ever nurse made us a beautiful dinner that we ate in the department of anesthesia conference room. The day Chase was born Ethan’s doctors and nurses brought him along with his oxygen, med pumps and all that was attached to him over the bridge to the women and children’s hospital to meet Chase. We were interviewed by a local paper and that story helped Ethan meet Jack Johnson, his favorite singer, via FaceTime. A couple days after Christmas his doctors would tell us he needed another surgery and it would be the beginning of the end. The next six months would be some of the hardest of my life. 

This December Chase turned seven. Ethan died when he was seven. The passage of time felt thick and unbelievable. The memories felt close and I needed to take some time to sit with all of it. Christmas is nostalgic. Sometimes that nostalgia is painful. We find ourselves hoping or wishing or remembering. If that’s you this Christmas, sit there, and allow yourself time to be right there. Give yourself permission to feel all it is that you feel. 

 For me, it’s not only missing Ethan but confronting the reality of Bodey’s life. It’s hard to buy presents for a four-year old that can’t do ‘typical’ four-year-old things. I struggle to find toys to buy for him that he can actually enjoy. At the same time, I enjoy granting Chase and Blake their Christmas wishes. I love the lights and the baking. The parties and laughter. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I believe the sweetness of life is found in walking the middle road. The in-between spaces. I feel like my life is continuously asking me to live in this space. And as I surrender and sink into this space, I find more and more gifts there. 

This year I consciously took time to go visit and schedule meet ups with some women dear to me that I don’t get to connect with often enough. I had the chance to enter their stories. During these sacred times with dear friends, I find that my continuous walking in the middle spaces allows me to see and love them in unique ways. I love that my story has given me these gifts. This year I feel in awe and so thankful that people share with me their hearts and that I can actually feel their joys, pains, and longings. 

I love upside down thinking. I seek it out. I want to learn from others who see things in a new and different way. Who find gifts in the most unlikely spaces, who dig in and are willing to go places so many won’t. Christmas, to me, is a primetime upside down presentation. A king born in a stable. Stars guiding ordinary people. A young, unmarried woman chosen to be Jesus’ mother. The supernatural meeting the natural. Light bursting forth in the deepest darkness. Hope sitting with despair. Wonder and doubt finding a home in the same space. 

If you are sitting in these middle spaces this Christmas, I want to tell you that this time of year is especially for you. I wrote this Instagram post this week. I hope you will feel seen in it.

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 Do you wonder? Do you wonder if all this is for you too? You who ache. You who wonder. You who aren’t sure what you believe or what is even true anymore. You whose life is upside down in all ways with no signs of straightening up any time soon. You whose heart is shattered. You who aren’t sure what you are here to do. You who is flat out angry at life. You who feels lost. You who is lonely. You who longs for your soul to be fulfilled. For all of you sitting in this fragile space.

 Yes, Christmas is for you too. In it is a hidden wonder, uncertainty, darkness, and light. In its story are wanderers, those cast aside and put in uncomfortable spaces. The story shares hope born in the deepest darkness. In an unlikely place amidst ordinary people. People like you and me. People wondering and hoping as we wade through the unknown. As we sit with the sorrowful, the hopeful, the fearful, the dreamer, the weary.

We can be Christmas to each other. No, not in gifts and wrapped packages, but with our time. With our prayers. With our words. With our compassion.

This week I am holding so many stories of struggle. Of all kinds, in all different stories and circumstances. I want a magic wand. I want healing powers. I want to give answers. I have none of those things.

But like you, I have love to give. Tears to cry, work to do, ears to listen, words to speak and time to give. And in those gifts, you find Christmas. In those gifts you find Hope. Born of love, amidst the deepest darkness. For you and for me. 

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This week I also listened to these podcasts, that you might like too. BTW - I’m a huge podcaster. My favorite topics - entrepreneurship, personal growth, faith, spiritual growth. Click on the buttons for the podcast links. 

I’ll be posting one more time this year about how I approach a new year. Thank you all for taking your precious time to read my words and journey with me. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. I hope you will take some quiet time to meditate on the gifts of this season. 

 Sunday Love to each of you, 

 Jessica

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On Darkness & Hope

Alexander Shaia and Rob Bell

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7,000 Ways to Listen

Oprah and Mark Nepo

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Three Prayers for Challenging Times

Oprah and Anne Lamott




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At Least - Part Two

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I hope you had the chance to read last week’s Sunday Love. I shared a story about observing a woman in the lobby of the hospital where Ethan had been inpatient for nine months. That day I looked at her and thought to myself, “at least I’m not her”. I went on to invite you into others’ stories, especially of those whom you might say to yourself, “at least I’m not her”.

I head from several of you who wrote to me and said, “I’m her”.

“I’m the one that others look at and say, ‘at least I’m not her’.”

So, this week I want to write directly to you. To you who feel looked at in this way. To you who know life circumstances that are not easy or ideal. Perhaps these circumstances can make you feel like you live on the outside.

If you don’t fall into this category, I hope you will still read along. I think these suggestions have nuggets of wisdom for all of us. And you never know where you might find yourself and who you might be able to help.

Okay, sister, back to you. I see you. I get you. I am you. At least I looked at myself this way for a long time. Some days I still do. Some days I feel like an outsider. I see the freedom of moms without special needs kids. Who doesn’t have a legacy of heavy stuff that impacts their life in every way. (I’d love to unpack these topics sometime. Anyone?) I can easily feel a twinge of jealousy. But I don’t any longer look at myself as less than because of it all. So here are five ideas I want you to think about as a woman who might say, “I am her”. I’ll warn you, none of these are easy. But you weren’t created for easy, you were created to be a world-changer in your own sphere of influence.

#1 Offer compassion + be a teacher

When I push Bodey around in his stroller it is clear my son has special needs and is other-abled. No doubt about it. When I pushed Ethan around he was smiley, rosy-cheeked and super cute. No one saw the scars on his chest and belly, the g-tube, the list of doctor and therapy appointments, the fear I carried in my heart. You could pass me in the store and have no clue about my story. The reality is that everyone, if they are honest, has something painful they carry in their hearts. Many of our wounds and scars are unseen. My life with Bodey is very obvious and that stinks sometimes. But holding a fear in your heart and carrying the heaviness that people cannot see is hard too. Offer compassion to others. Be the one who “sees” them, even if they do not see you.

Your eyes have been opened. The masks are gone. You see the world in a way that so many do not. You are a teacher. So teach. Teaching and exposing our stories is really hard sometimes. But I believe it is part of the calling. I know you can do it.

#2 Most people see you as amazing

Here’s the truth, most people look at you and think, “she’s amazing. I don’t know how she does it”. And your reply is likely, “If this was you, you’d have to figure it out too”. Yes, this world needs more compassion. We need more people willing to crawl inside each other’s stories. Many are willing. Many are not. You cannot change that. Other’s opinion of you is none of your concern or business. But the reality is many of them look at you in awe. But I bet you if I asked those who observe you, they’d say, “she’s pretty awesome”. So, own your awesomeness.

#3 Seek community

We need community. We were created for it. When life happens and we feel “other than”, it’s so natural to want to go and hide. To retreat, to shut down and shut out. But we cannot thrive there. Every one of us desires to be seen, heard, known and loved. So seek community with other like-minded women. Women who know your struggle, your story. Social media has a lot of foibles, but it does offer an opportunity to connect with others living similar stories. We need people we can text or message when something happens who will get it.

You can also find community with like-minded women living different stories. That’s actually really cool because you will gain new perspectives. Ideally, these will be women committed to growth and learning amidst their story. Don’t get stuck with those who want to wallow in their story. Join forces with those who want to create beauty from it.

#4 Take care of you.

I know. I know. Another plug for self-care. Yep, I’m making it. First off, I know it’s hard to take care of yourself when you are doing life alongside grief, pain, and circumstances that make actualizing self-care difficult.

But you must fight for it. You must fight for you. Start small – journal, podcast, read 5 pages/day in a book that inspires you, do 10 sun salutations, take 10 deep breaths. Just do something. You cannot do what you have been called to do without it. You are so worth the time.

#5 Be a difference maker

I know it’s a tall order, but you were created for this story. I believe each of us has the tools we need inside of us to live the life we have. Sometimes we have to dig really deep. We often need rest. Go back and re-read #3 and #4.

You, my sister, were called to be a difference maker. I’m not sure what that looks like for you. For all of us, it’s different. But you are called. I’m sure of that. Use your perspective, your experiences, your heartache, your backache, and the fire in your belly. And do something. Create something, love someone better, teach, grow, learn, do. They say if you want something done, give the task to a busy person. It will get done. That person is you.

Yes, you have too much on your plate, but concurrently you’ve been given beautiful gifts, perspectives, and experiences that the world desperately needs to hear about. So get going, okay?
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Do these ideas resonate with you? I’d love to know. I want you to know that I believe in you.

So, don’t give up. Okay? You are doing a great job.

Sunday Love to you.

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At Least I'm Not Her - Part One

It was a fairly typical morning during Ethan’s year-long hospital stay. By mid-morning, post breakfast, his breathing became more difficult. So I helped him put on his bi-pap mask and he settled down for a nap. I watched the monitor to make sure all his numbers were in the safe range and he was comfortable. His breathing eased and the hum of the bi-pap machine filled the room. I checked in with his nurse and then headed to the lobby for some food and coffee.

Me the tired mom getting some love from Ethan.

Me the tired mom getting some love from Ethan.

On this particular day as I sat in the lobby, I noticed a woman walking with her son in a wheelchair. If you have ever sat in the lobby of a major children’s hospital you know that at all hours the place is buzzing with people. You see everything, kids running, kids in wheelchairs, kids with oxygen and tracheostomies. You see able-bodied kids and kids that are not. You see kids with diseases you can “see” and those with some you cannot.

She pushed her son who had blondish hair. He was about seven or nine years old. It was clear he probably didn’t walk and likely had some cognitive impairment. She had all kinds of bags strapped to her and his chair. She looked rushed and tired. At this point in time, Ethan had been in the hospital for nine months and I was tired down to my bones. So, I knew a tired mom when I saw her.

As she raced by me for the main elevators, I thought to myself.

“At least Ethan walks and talks. At least he can tell me he loves me and I can enjoy his personality. At least we travel easily with him (by this time he’d been lots of places on an airplane). At least if we can get his heart healthier, he will developmentally be pretty typical.

At least.

At least.

At least.”

The reality was that Ethan was very sick. His heart was not healing the way his team had hoped and I was feeling desperate. I had just given birth to Chase, we’d been living away from home for months, and every day I was watching my son suffer. I couldn’t see a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. I was scared.

I didn’t know the first thing about the woman I judged that day. I didn’t know anything about that boy. I hadn’t the first clue about her story, her life, her dreams, her disappointments, her support system, her sacrifice, her talents. But I was certain I didn’t want her life.

Now I don’t think my thoughts are particularly unusual. When life is frayed all around us, we grasp for something to hold on to. We tell ourselves stories about who we are and who others are around us. Survival mode does all kinds of things to our hearts and minds.

Fast forward 6 months Ethan would die after 13 months in the hospital. And two years later I would give birth to Bodey who arrived on earth with a rare muscular dystrophy. And in a split second, I became that woman. The one pushing the wheelchair. The one navigating daily life in a world that doesn’t accommodate people on wheels. A world where people look and may think to themselves “at least I’m not her”. Or maybe they are just curious, but they don’t have the courage to just ask. I also became a woman who knows the incredible bond you can have with a child who does not speak.

I don’t know why I recalled this rather simple, ordinary morning so many years later. On some level, I believe I knew I’d be Bodey’s mom. I believe that who we are and what we are capable of has already been pre-wired within us. Life’s events, whatever they are, reveal these parts of ourselves. We always have the free will, the choice of how to respond. But the ingredients are there, waiting to be revealed.

How many times have you looked at another woman and made the “at least” list?

At least I’m not single.

At least I’m not in her position in life.

At least I’m not sick like her.

At least my kid isn’t sick like her’s. I have no idea how she does it.

At least I live here and not there.

At least my husband isn’t like that.

At least I don’t struggle with ______.

At least….at least…

We all do this at one time or another. I think it is simply human nature. When life is hard (as it is) we grasp for straws. We want to feel like we have a handle on things. Even when it’s not hard, we all want to tell ourselves a story about what our life is like. We often do that in comparison to others.

That morning in the hospital I was exhausted and Ethan was so very sick. I was trying to tell myself a story about my life that made it bearable on that day. Our minds reach for “at least” when life feels out of control and not the way we hoped it to be. Similarly, stories that we don’t understand or that scare us often create distance between us and others.

Women gathering at our last Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreat.

Women gathering at our last Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreat.

Gratitude is, of course, thankfulness. But it can also be judgment masked as gratitude. We are always invited to crawl inside the stories of others. No, we cannot absorb the pain of this world. If we did, we wouldn’t leave our beds. But we can see with more compassionate eyes. We can seek to know more about our neighbors and those we cross paths with each day. We can be honest about our own sadness and disappointment in life. We can make a call, bring flowers, send a note or just a direct message. We can choose to “see” each other in a new way.

When we feel the urge to look at someone else and say “at least”, we are invited, instead to look inside ourselves. To piece through the parts that hurt, that don’t we don’t understand, or want to see. In those spaces, we have the opportunity to sift, learn, and grow into a more beautiful version of ourselves.

I find it interesting that we are able to hold the collective pains of the world so much easier than the individual ones. We band together to help with fires and famines and shootings. We donate money, share the cause on social media and talk about it with friends. But it’s just that, it’s collective, it’s at a distance. Individual ones are harder because we have to face what these pains manifest. We have to see what these “at leasts” look like with skin on.

This holiday season I invite you to do two things:

Number One :

Crawl inside someone’s story. Consider that she is so much like you. She probably wants so many of the same things you do. Think to yourself, “This is her calling. In this space is her invitation. It seems hard, but within her is already the person needed to answer this call. What can I do to support her? Can I listen? Can I encourage? Can I just drop off a note or a coffee and tell her that I see her?

If you don’t know her, you can just send her love, you can open the space of your heart that connects all of us and whisper a prayer for her, send her some of your strength.

Number Two:

Examine the areas in your own heart where you often look at others and say, “at least”. Journal about the spaces within you that need love, healing, and understanding. Work through them in writing or reading or even sharing with a friend.

May this Holiday Season be one of reflection and fulfillment as we seek to become more whole women who love others well.

Sunday Love to you.

Transition: The Whisper of Wow

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you each had a lovely holiday with your family and friends. Ours was low key and just what we needed. Next weekend we have our final event for the foundation here in our hometown. I’m ready to check off all the to-do boxes for the year and begin working on some passion projects in December.

I’ve been thinking a lot about transition these last couple months. I am always conscious of my desire to grow and evolve. I’m ever assessing where I’m at and where I want to be. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of listening.

What is whispering in my ear?

What is pulling me?

What things are completed?

What should be continued and perhaps evolved?

What new callings are on the horizon?

Some questions you might want to think and journal about too as this year is winding down.

I wrote the following words a couple years ago and am re-sharing (with edits) as they are a good reminder to listen to what is calling to you. What “wow” is captivating your heart these days?

Photograph by Jacob Campbell

Photograph by Jacob Campbell

THE WHISPER OF WOW

Do you recall a moment where you just knew something? A thought or message stops you in your tracks. Something previously foggy becomes crystal clear. Or perhaps it’s a new thought. Something you hadn’t previously considered. A truth comes through.

 Maybe you don't know it consciously, but something about that moment seers your soul. Jolted, moved, impacted. Maybe you don't realize the clarity of the moment at the time, but in retrospect, it's crystal clear.

And maybe you work really hard to deny this truth. You convince yourself it's not a message for you. Easily rationalizing over and around this deep truth.

Moments like this are defining. They make us say WOW!  Sometimes it's a WOW! that's in awe of love, the beauty of life. And others times it's a disappointed, shocked WOW! Sometimes for sure, it's a damn it, WOW!

Listen to the message that startles your soul. The jolt that makes it clear you better listen up. These moments are life steering. Deep defining messages. Gifts hidden. Freedom waiting.  

Perhaps it's hard to discern why you feel jolted or what that message means. Okay so you sit with it. You whisper a prayer "help me to know...to discern" and helpers arrive on the scene. Maybe in two hours or in two months the answer arrives. You commit to wait.

Or maybe you are desiring a message, a sign, a signal about what's next. Maybe you fall asleep each night asking God for a sign, for a helper. These can be times of frustration and impatience. The message in that moment may be, "not yet". And so that's a "WOW! I need to listen, I need to sit with this, I need to wait". And so you wait. You watch. You listen.

Sometimes these moments come from a comment directed at you that really ticks you off (this has happened to me). "How dare they say that?" You feel injured, shaken, offended. These are the moments that beg you to listen. They are a revealing mirror reflecting truth. Maybe the message comes as you are witnessing the beauty of nature or the wonder of your children. Maybe it comes when you are on your knees crippled in despair.

 These are moments that give you a push. In these beautiful, revealing moments ask God what you can learn. Ask life what it's trying to teach you. Then listen for the answer. Wait until it comes. Don't clank around creating noise with a luster of activity so loud you cannot hear the message.

Sit and listen.

Open your ears, don't deny your deepest knowing. Make space. Invite in the discomfort. Consider the message made just for you. Breathe it in. Feel peace.

As the bustle of the holidays approaches, carve out space for yourself. I keep a journal in my purse and paper and pen in my car. When an idea strikes or I hear something I want to go back to during my quiet time, I can easily recall it. Be listening, be conscious, be on the look out for messages calling to you. If something calls to you and you want to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Sunday Love to each of you.

Jessica

Source: Unsplash

Source: Unsplash







How Do I Stay Connected To Ethan?

When someone we love dies, we crave their physical presence. We crave a connection with them. Unfortunately, there is no guidebook that gives us the 5-step process on how to cultivate this relationship, but the cool thing about that is we get to discover it for ourselves. I believe figuring this out is part of the grieving process. Part of the self-discovery. Part of the invitation we receive when someone we love so very dearly leaves their physical body. 

In the early days we cannot even breathe. Every moment is difficult and we have little bandwidth for this big monster of grief. I remember so well going to sleep and waking up with tears running down my face because I discovered another day and the reality remained, Ethan isn’t physically here.

I have come to believe there is a universality to grief. That it actually looks more alike than we care to admit and there is a thread through all of our stories that sews us together. In the early years I would have hated this sentiment. I think what we are actually articulating is that the relationship we have with the one we love who has died is unique. They are a unique being. Our story of how this terribleness all went down is unique. Yes, that story needs to be told, heard and validated many, many times over. That’s why we need a community of those we have walked a similar journey. Seeing ourselves in others and sharing the communion of grief with them is powerful and unifying. 


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How To Find the Abundance in Your Life.

So on that day abundance was walking in the middle of the frustration of disability and beautiful nature. The weekend of my brother’s wedding it was saying no to things that would distract, add anxiety or worry so I could be fully present to the significance of the weekend. It was in the missing of Ethan and dancing the night away. It was in the frustration of traveling with all of Bodey’s stuff and seeing him all dressed up for the wedding.


It’s an oversupply of the good stuff of life, not of the pretty stuff or the easy stuff. Yes, we should still desire, want and work for the pretty and easy. I know I do. But it’s being able to see fullnes and beauty where so many others miss it.

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On Being and Doing

 I’m a believer in walking in the middle spaces of life. Here on these balance beams, in these tensions, where most people don’t care to abide, are the sweet spots. Being and doing absolutely go together. In fact, they intersect at one of those sweet spots. We are called to be doers and creators in this life. If you read enough of my blogs I know you will get that sentiment from me. I don’t think we are here merely to exist, but to do and create big, beautiful things. In my experience these big (I don’t mean in size, but in what they give) and beautiful things often stem from suffering and difficult life experiences. I love learning from people to have struggled and created beauty from it. To me it is the quest for healing personified. 

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Bodey's Gifts On His Fourth Birthday

Over the last four years I have let Bodey into my heart. We love him more than anything. He has helped to heal us. I have watched my boys care for him, protect him and love him. With each piece of equipment that enters our home, my heart hurts and yet it also leaps because we can help him some more. He looks so much like Ethan. It’s uncanny. And I’m sure no accident. It’s as if he’s continuing the refinement of our hearts that Ethan began. 

 Each day we walk in deep love, on the path of the unknown. It’s hard. It’s physically hard, emotionally hard and many days it feels horribly unfair for us and for him. Yes, my heart aches when I see a four-year-old riding their bike and carrying on full conversations with their mom.  But I’m also aware that something deeper is happening here. Bodey is teaching us to hold our suffering and hope in tension. His life is not a mistake. He is not less than or other than. On the contrary he is a living invitation for us on a daily basis. I could write many chapters just about Bodey, but I leave you with four things he has taught me. Four things I’m very thankful for.

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Learning to Look Up

Don’t look down any longer. Not is shame, or guilt or comparision. Not in despair or hopelessness.

Look up.

Receive this life, all the parts, all the sadness, all the pain, all the shame. And then listen to what you are being called. Can you hear it? What is this heartache inviting you to become, to see, to hear, to love, to transform, to lead, to change, to grow, to give, to be?

And if you can, say one yes, and then another, and then another. Until you can say one big YES to the life you’ve been invited to. The one that has been given just to you.

No, it’s never going to be perfect (no one’s life is)  and your friends might not be banging down your door for it, but you will make it beautiful. You will make it signature you. Full of all the “youness” that it’s designed for.

And when you do. Raise your hands, call out to this world, and say THIS IS ME! I accept this invitation and I’m going to make this one life beautiful!

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Silence the Noise and Mentor Yourself.

As women we struggle with self worth, confidence, the inner critic. Grief and special needs parenting have been huge hits to my self-confidence, to my vision for the future. But deep inside I have met the me that God created. The one designed for the story I am living. There’s no mistake in the story, nothing out of place or unseen by God. She may not look like the woman I planned for, but she is home. In low moments I wish I wasn’t her, in high ones, I know I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

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The Constant Amidst the Change

In my heart, I have gone from a place of needing complete knowledge, to a place that is willing to accept the mystery. But each tragedy, each heartache, each time something happens that our hearts cannot grasp, it is okay and it is important to re-ask,

“Are You there? God
”Do you exist?
”What is this all about?”

Each time is an invitation to dive deeper, search harder, ask the questions, feel the hurt and feel the Presence.

For me, I just keep coming back to Love. To a Love that is constant in the change, that is present in the pain, that I do not always understand, but that I choose over nothing at all.

As accept I am not in charge and my prayers are not passports to my plans, I appreciate the strong, constant Evergreen.

This Evergreen Love is ever present and stands with us as the seasons of life that ebb and flow, sometimes fading into the colors of our lives, sometimes standing in contrast. Especially in the contrast. Present, strong and right beside us as we surrender (and re-surrender) to life.

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Find yourself and fuel your creation > Even in the wilderness

Do you feel like you are living there now, deep in the thick, dense forest? Do you long to see a path forward or out of this space?

Can I make a recommendation? Don’t despise this time. Lean into it. Learn to appreciate the solace, the cool crisp air, the new vistas. Think about embracing this space you never wanted to stay. When you do, I promise you will find others there too. In your space, in your wilderness. Some choose it now because they see the value and the freedom it offers. Some just arrived and they feel so far from home. 

I now find the wilderness to be home. To be a place from which I learn and create in a way I never would otherwise. We are called to embrace the life we have and to create from that space. Yes, I said CREATE. Not just sit or wallow or throw up our hands, but to dig in, figure through and CREATE.  

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Embracing All of You

 I’m not willing to be just one part of my story and I don’t think you should just be one part of yours either. I’m not just my history, I’m also my future. I’m the person I’m growing into. And not just my future either, I’m my history. We should not run from our story, from those defining moments because they can be a springboard from which we create. 

We are all tapestries, colorful conglomerations of the people God has so beautifully created us to be. We need to start embracing all of our gifts, our interests, our talents, our heartache. All of it. We are not one dimensional, we are not just our careers or our interests, or that one defining moment when it all went so wrong. 

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Sunday Love

I hope you've had a great week and are finding some time to relax and restore this weekend. I so enjoyed writing and creating Mom's School this summer, I've decided to write to you weekly on Sundays. This series is called Sunday Love. Every Sunday I'll be sending some love to your inbox. It may be a blog post about a topic I think you will find meaningful, a review or recommendation on a book I've read, or just some inspiration for your week. I hope to bring some guests into the blog, other women who inspire me and have important messages to share. I'll also occasionally have some special surprises just for you. I have a few things in mind:-)

I'm learning that we all evolve and grow, and that we are not just one part of our story, but rather the totality of it. A few people commented they were surprised by my Mom's School series. They thought it was a departure from what I typically write about, or have written about. My reply is that I am growing and stepping into my bigger story that includes the many facets of who I am. I'll be sharing more about that in the coming weeks. I believe we are all many, beautiful parts and that it's so important to embrace and cultivate them all. 


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Mom's School Week Six: Opening Your Heart + Cultivating Faith

Mom's School Week Six: Opening Your Heart + Cultivating Faith

This idea of opening my heart and cultivating faith have been a winding roads for me. I believe it’s a space that each of us are invited to. It’s a place below the surface of life that gives foundation to all else. Allows for firm footing when life happens, as it always does. We tend to go through the motions, we think of God the way we were taught to, we pray the way we did as kids. We intuitively know and want our kids to have some spiritual life, so we pass along what we’ve known. Or conversely, we reject what we grew up with and steer our kids clear of the spiritual or religious experience that did us wrong. 

Instead of all that, what if you went back to the drawing board and chose to be open to hearing and cultivating that which calls to your heart? 

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Mom’s School Week Five: Three Steps to Help Our Kids (and Ourselves) Deal With Disappointment. 

Mom’s School Week Five: Three Steps to Help Our Kids (and Ourselves) Deal With Disappointment. 

Life feels unfair, sometimes often. Disappointment feels like a generous term for the really horrible things that happen. We feel downright despair and rage. Those are real, appropriate feelings for the grievous things that happen in our lives. 

What about our kids?
How do we teach our kids to deal with the little disappointments?
We know they are certain to experience the big ones.

Despite what our culture preaches, there are not quick fixes and anything that sustains us involves intense work, struggle and commitment. Here's some steps I'm using with my boys to talk about disappointment. I try to use them for myself too.

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Mom's School Week Four: Hard Work Pays Off. Going to Practice so You Can Play the Game.

My son Blake and husband Erik after their first triathlon together. 

My son Blake and husband Erik after their first triathlon together. 

Check out last week's blog here about being a student and a teacher in this life. 

Earlier this summer my son Chase was complaining about soccer practice.  He loved his games, but never wanted to go to practice. I told him that if he didn’t go to practice, he wouldn’t be allowed to play in his games. I actually kind of empathized with him. I didn’t particularly like going to his practices either. Games were much more fun. 

This got me thinking:

“How we practice is how we play. Practice pays off when we get in the game.” 

My son Blake struggled with reading in elementary school. He’s made great strides and put in a lot of hard work. I tell him all the time, when he is struggling or just simply doesn’t want to read, 

“Hard work pays off.” 

We are at the point where I just say, “hard work” and he says, “pays off”.

He earned a stellar report card at the end of the year. He looked at me and beamed, “hard work pays off.” It was such a proud moment for us both.  

Life is a lot of hard work. That’s the truth. Sometimes when I look around I feel like I’m seeing highlight reels of everyone else’s lives. And then I look at my own and it doesn’t look so pretty. 

It’s a lot of late nights and early mornings.
Trials, errors, failures, and negative self-talk.
Followed by a pep talk, trying again, this time something different.
With no guarantee that it will work. But we keep trying.

Some days we take a day off from trying. Because nothing feels right. 

This trying, these trial and errors take courage.
Courage to get up and try again. 
Courage to begin. Maybe again.
Courage might even be setting an alarm for an early workout after a long day.

All the little pieces of courage, all the “I will try’s” add up. What we practice is never wasted. 

My oldest son Ethan went to this magnificent preschool for three years. He had a magical teacher named Mrs. Lightcap. She taught the kids so many life skills. One of them was to say, “I will try”. They were not allowed to say, “I can’t”. Ethan took this to heart. A lot of things were hard for him. And each time he would say out loud, “I will try”. I bet he said those words hundreds of times in his short seven years. Those words always took courage to say, because they did not guarantee success. They just signaled a willingness to give it a go. 

I noticed that Ethan’s eyes lit up every time he said, “I will try”. He truly relished in the trying. I always felt so inspired by him. He pushed me to try harder and to do better. I have to admit that prior to his death I always thought hard work would pay off in the way I wanted it to. Now I know that is not true. 

I know now that what matters isn’t the end game, isn’t the win or loss, it’s how we play the game. And if we don’t practice, if we don’t’ get out there and give it a go, we’ll never play the game well. 

So, what’s my advice this week?

I don’t have five or ten points for you like I’ve had in past weeks. This week I’m here to tell you to practice and practice hard. Whatever you are working on. Don’t give up. Keep practicing so when it comes time for the game, you will play well. 

Teach your kids to say, “I will try”. Take “I can’t” out of their vocabulary. Take it out of yours. 

Commit to the early mornings and the late nights. Hold tight, hold fast to your dreams. To that one thing, or ten, that you really desire. 

Practice. Practice. Practice.

I promise you will have a chance to get in the game. 

And when you do, you will show your kids that hard work really does pay off. 

photo via Pinterest Rachel Gadiel

photo via Pinterest Rachel Gadiel

Next week: The gifts we get when life doesn’t go the way we want.