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. 

Mom's School Week Three: Being a Student and a Teacher

Mom's School Week Three: Being a Student and a Teacher

The concept of being the student and the teacher at each moment in our life was introduced to me by my friend and author Tom Zuba. It's the idea that life is a classroom and there are opportunities to learn and to teach in each moment. We need to be open to both. 

How do we think about these concepts in a day and age when people are sharing their every thought and meal on social media? How do we encourage our kids to do both? To find their voices, and also to keep learning? How do we learn to sometimes keep our heads down, keep quiet and learn in a world that is shouting their opinions, often unkindly, all around us?

Here's some thoughts that mostly apply to us as adults, but can be used as we direct and love our kids. 

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Mom's School Week Two: Attitude Is Everything

Mom's School Week Two: Attitude Is Everything

On Tuesday, I was at the pool with my boys, Blake and Chase, for their swimming lessons. Since I had a work trip in the coming days, I told them we’d stay after swim class and swim together. I had Bodey with me too. Bodey is my three-year-old son with Muscular Dystrophy. He doesn’t walk or talk or sufficiently hold his body up on his own (though he’s making slow and steady progress). So for an hour+ I held my 43 pound boy in the water. Bodey loved being in the water and my boys loved showing me their newest swimming skills.

After about 30 minutes my arms started burning. And my attitude sucked. I looked around and saw moms with kids much younger than Bodey sitting playing with water toy with their kids or sitting in the sun as they watched their children play and splash together in the zero-entry pool. I had a little pity party for myself and then the thought crossed my mind:

My attitude goes dark when I’m comparing myself to others. 

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Mom's School : Life Lessons I'm Teaching My Boys This Summer.

Mom's School : Life Lessons I'm Teaching My Boys This Summer.

So here are six topics I’m going to chat with my boys about over the next six weeks, and I thought I’d share them with you. Feel free to do the same, add in your own ideas or make up some of your own. We have such few years to have our kids tucked inside our homes. I don’t know about you, but I want to share with them what’s on my heart.

Here’s the topics I plan to chat with them about:

  1. Listening to yourself: What is your intuition and why should you listen to it?

  2. Attitude is Everything.

  3. Being a student and a teacher

  4. Hard work pays off: Going to practice so you can play the game.

  5. The gifts we get when life doesn’t go the way we want.

  6. How can we hear from God? What is the point of prayer?

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Dear Heart Community

Dear Heart Community,

We are long time, dear friends. You took me in and made me one of your own when I was 29, pregnant with my first child, and scared out of my mind. I thought I’d have healthy children, I never considered I wouldn’t. The moment I learned my son would have HLHS, you came along side of me and let me know I was not alone. When my dreams of bringing my son home from the hospital days after his birth and thinking his biggest “owies” would be his vaccines were dashed, you were there. You shared your stories, your children inspired me and gave me hope for my son Ethan.

When I grasped that my experience of motherhood would not be typical, you reminded me yours was not either. You made me part of something bigger than just my story. I grew up with you. I became a mother amongst you. I learned from you. I leaned on you.

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Restoring a Mother's Heart Retreat

Dear Friends, 

About two years ago I created Restoring a Mother's Heart Retreat for women whose children have died from chronic illness. One day in early 2016 while drying my hair I felt the nudge to create this event. I proceeded and as things so quickly fell into place, I knew it was mean to be.  This retreat is born out of my deepest darkest place. A space were I did not think it was possible for light to enter. I am here to tell you, the light entered and grew. I grew. I blossomed and I'm continuing to grow. 

As I say in this video, Ethan's life and his death have been the greatest invitations I've ever received. The invitation to be my best self (still working on that), to question, to wrestle with God, myself, and the decisions I made for Ethan's care. I had to let everything fall away, so that I could rebuild it. I am still building, but my heart is strong and my mind clear about what I am here to do. 

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From the Depths of Darkness, a Spark of Light Lives.

Though your story feels broken and unworthy.

Though your heart feels trampled upon.

Though life has been cruel and unrelenting.

That spark lives.

It lives in you.

It’s calling to you, “remember me, see me, fan me, I’m here, I’m part of you.”

This season has a way of magnifying our deep pains, and great longings. It has a way of making us feel like we are on the outside. While everyone else is singing and gift-giving, we can easily feel cast aside, since our hearts cannot fully participate in this season.

You see, it is in these spaces of deep emptiness, of arid dryness, that new life can come. With just one spark. You cannot see what that looks like right now. You cannot feel it, or sense it, but I promise you it is there. I only tell you this because I have walked this path.

Let your deepest darkness be a space for light and life to be born.

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Matter, Spirit and a New Way To See Christmas.

Here’s what I’ve come to-

Christmas is a miraculous event of the intersection of spirit and matter,
of heaven and earth,
of the seen and unseen,
of the now and not yet,
of the certain and uncertain.

And this is the place I sit. It’s the only place I can be. It gives me comfort and calls me to more, I find love and the challenge to love bigger. I find a call to the present and a pull for the future.

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How Hurricane Irma can teach you to be a first responder.

It’s our first responders that bring us through the disorder to the transformation. It’s their love and the light that allow us to take the next step. They help us take a deep breath and realize we are not alone. We learn we can clean up the mess, rebuild, and finally rebirth ourselves into a new space.

But here’s the thing, once we’ve been helped by a first responder, the love and energy we receive calls us to be a first responder. We too can show up in the mess, and destruction,  grab a shovel and get to work.

And we are called to do just that.

Experienced first responders are those who have been rebirthed. Ones that have allowed the tumultuous winds and waves to refine them. Ones who are wide awake to the gritty beauty of life. Who walk the balance beam of joy and pain, of laughter and tears.

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Long for freedom? Wrestle with your faith.

Today I want to give you one of the sweetest, most liberating gifts I’ve been given during the past five years as I’ve learned to live with the death of Ethan, the hardships that arose from his journey and now the acceptance of my son Bodey’s rare muscular dystrophy and many, many things in between. This gift has taken me from bitter to peaceful; from imprisoned to free. I want to give you permission to wrestle with your faith. Whatever deep, burdensome questions plague your heart, today you have the liberty to ask them.

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