Monday, December 28, 2015

It Takes a Village

Ever since I was a child, I have loved writing as a form of expression. I remember winning a writing contest in elementary school for a book I wrote about my family. Going back years and years and years, I have enjoyed writing about life.

Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it wrong but these days I am trying to balance sharing my story while also protecting those who share it with me. There is no denying though, I saw the value and power in story even as a young girl. 

A little while ago, I got a message from a woman who had been introduced to my blog. She saw some similarities in our stories, and messaged me about it. Already a mother, she found herself unexpectedly pregnant in an extremely tumultuous and dark time in her life. She confessed that she had made an appointment to terminate her pregnancy.

I remember opening that message and feeling a whole host of emotions. Touched, that she would reach out to me. Burdened, to know what to say and how to respond. Overwhelmed, uncertain on how to make her feel safe and not judged. 

I didn't know what to do, really, other than pray.

I have written out this story so many times, and I'm going to be honest with you - I cannot do it justice. I wish I could. I wish I could adequately describe how God orchestrated so many events in my life leading up to receiving this email. I wish I could share with you the people He put in my path, the choices I've made, the things I've experienced that helped me in this moment. I won't, because it would take too long and truthfully the details aren't the important part.

What I've taken away from this experience is this:

- there is power in sharing your story
- there is power in reaching out for help

It doesn't matter whether you share your story through a blog like I do, or if you share it with just one other person. What I have learned is that God can and does use some of the darkest moments of my life for good. 

Reaching out for help is not easy. Most of us live with the idea that needing other people is a sign of weakness. We have a hard time knocking over walls, trusting others with our hearts and forgiving when people hurt us. 

So if you've reached out and felt rejected, I get it. There have been people, friends, organizations and even churches who have cast me aside when I needed them most. And even though I am now in a place where I remind myself often that I am dealing with imperfect people, it can be hard to bounce back from that. But I can look at myself and realize that I have disappointed people too. I have let others down, and rejected people needing help, even if I didn't do it intentionally.

To live openly, to trust fully, to try to be vulnerable when other people handle you imperfectly is hard. It's painful and usually disappointing.

It's also brave.

For this woman to reach out to me, a stranger, and let me know she was in a dark place was brave. It allowed me to not just see how a deeply painful part of my life can help others, it allowed me to reach deep inside myself where God works continually to shape who I am becoming.

I am brought to tears virtually every time I think about this story. This woman has been connected to counselors and a church - not just through me, but through people God has put in my life and events that have taken place. Her baby is due this spring, and she sent me this message recently. With her permission, I'm sharing it here.  

I want to send you a picture of a little girl, my little girl, she wouldn't be here without your influence, you made the calls and prayed, she's still got a beating heart because of you.

When I read that message, I couldn't help but look back and see how God had orchestrated so many things in MY life to help HER make a choice she felt unable to make. Because she was brave and reached out for help...because she was vulnerable and trusted me with her story....because God is such a great, great God who sees so far beyond what we are able to see, this woman's life will be forever changed.

Is she in a perfect place now? I doubt it. None of us are. But she is beginning to feel like she has others who love her and support her and want the best for her and her family. She has a glimmer of hope.

Please don't be afraid to share your story, and don't be afraid to reach out for help. I am forever repeating to myself this mantra: "We belong to each other" (You know I can't go a day without a nod to Glennon)

What an amazing God we serve.

Y'all. We DO belong to each other. Our stories, our hurts, our triumphs, our fears - there is so much power in all of it. We can't do this whole life thing alone. We aren't meant to. You've heard the saying, it takes a village to raise a child...I think it takes a village to get through life. Don't be afraid of getting messy with someone else's messy life. And if you haven't found your village yet, please keep going. Keep looking. It's worth it. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Brutiful Pinehurst Life

We've been official Pinehurst residents for 4 months now and are beginning to find our little rhythm. It's the strangest thing, relocating as a grown up - trying to find my tribe has been hard, mostly because of the whole 'having a baby' thing. There are times I deeply miss Charlotte and all the familiarity there, which is strange for me since I used to move around so much while Logan was growing up.

(Village of Pinehurst)

But this area is beautiful and I might even like it more than Charlotte, if it weren't for the lack of having mommy friends I can hang out with. Hopefully that will come now that Harper is bigger and we are able to get out more.

Adjusting to being a mom of 4 has been...interesting.  I'm grateful for my oldest who is thankfully extremely self sufficient and for children who offer me grace on a daily basis and love me while I work to maintain even a shred of sanity during this crazy phase.

Harper has been such a joyful addition to our brood. I've been on edge for most of her short little life, just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the non stop screaming and never sleeping to happen but every day she gets a little happier and a little more scheduled and I find that I can breathe a little easier and feel a little more certain that she is just a happy baby. She really only cries when she needs something and in the car. Her brothers ADORE her, especially Beckett, who would probably lay next to her all day long if I let him.

She still reeeeeeally hates the car, but I'm trying to learn how to just shrug my shoulders when the wailing starts. It used to make me crazy anxiety ridden, being stuck in a car with a screaming baby, and sometimes it still does. (18 months of car screaming with Declan has possibly scarred me for life.) But a lot of the time I just have to shrug it off because we can't stay housebound forever.

We've loved exploring downtown Southern Pines. Secretly I've always wanted to live in a little town with a walkable main street (it's Broad Street in SP) full of independent shops, bookstores and coffee shops. (Probably reminds me of my Burlington, Vermont days.) And the village of Pinehurst is just as charming - sort of a nod to old New England towns and little Charleston-esque alleyways.

(downtown Southern Pines)

I miss Target something fierce - the closest one is an hour drive - but it keeps my wallet in check and forces me to be creative with my kids. All mamas know that grabbing a Starbucks coffee and wandering the aisles of Target aimlessly with a cart full of kiddos is both amazing and dangerous. My mug obsession has been put on hold without my weekly Target trips, so there's that.

(Givens Library in Pinehurst)

Some days are good - really good and it feels almost normal here and other days are hard - really hard and it feels lonely and isolating and I'm wistful for 'before'

But I can't live in the 'before', which wasn't at all problem free anyway and was just as lonely and isolating in other ways - so I'm trying very hard to live in the now and find joy where I'm at.

We downsized significantly - losing almost 2000sq feet of living space. The littlest boys are sharing a room and everyone is underfoot constantly. I love it and hate it. It's so much easier to keep clean and it forces us to purge on a monthly basis and I'm finding my kids actually do so much better with the bare minimum. Lots more family time, both a result of having less space to be apart and having Todd healthy and here and present with us. We've been able to explore so much, take day trips and do some really fun family things that we haven't ever done before.

In the words of one of my most favorites, Glennon Doyle Melton, this stage is both brutal and beautiful. It is, as she says, brutiful.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Day in the Life {Addiction from the other side}

One thing I want to do on my blog is to post from time to time about addiction. It was very hard for me to find personal stories about it and I hope to share some of our story as a way to help others. Anything I write about this topic is written with permission by my husband, as I am committed to speaking our truth while protecting what is his to decide if and when to share.

There's a post I've seen making the rounds on Facebook recently. You may have seen it, liked it, shared it.

It says:
     2 twin boys were raised by an alcoholic father. 1 grew up to be an alcoholic & when asked what happened he said "I watched my father"... The other grew up and never drank in his life. When he was asked what happened he said "I watched my father"... 2 boys, same dad, 2 different perspectives. Your perspective in life will determine your destination. Today's a new day. Go.

I'm going to make an assumption here but I think the original author of this post probably doesn't know a whole lot about alcoholism. While I understand the attempt here (you choose and control your destiny through your outlook on life), the use of addiction as the teaching point is unfortunate.

Over the past 5 years, I have learned a lot about addiction. I'm married to a recovering addict. It has stolen many, many things from my family and if I'm honest - I'm not actually keen on "defending" addiction. I'm still fairly angry about the place it has in my life and what it's done to my family and my marriage. The moments it has stolen from me, the celebrations it has ruined, the trust it has betrayed. And while I believe in the disease model of addiction, it still angers me. It still feels unfair and cruel and let's be honest, most addicts act unfairly and cruelly. So let me say right off the bat, I am *not* in a place to defend an addict. I've been way too hurt by one to do that at this point.


As I've learned about addiction and its patterns - this much I know. It is not as simple as choosing to be an alcoholic or choosing not to be.

I know this is hard to understand. I struggled with it for a long time. I would think - why doesn't he see? Doesn't he hear what I'm saying? Doesn't he love me/us enough to want to make things better? How can he make those choices or act in those ways and say he loves us?

I didn't have my 'aha!' moment until around March of this past year. We had been separated since January. Our marriage was in a horrible place, we were barely speaking to one another, and when we did speak it was tense and anxiety inducing for me. 

I've decided not to share the details, but I can say that it hit me over the head like a ton of bricks that NO ONE - no one - would choose this life for themselves. There is no one who would enjoy living that way. To be so dependent on the substance that is wrecking their life - it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. 

Things did not miraculously get better after that point. I am not yet in a place of peace about what's happened. I am working hard every day to forgive the things that have taken place in my marriage and to gain some understanding about how alcoholism and addiction affects my husband. I still am fearful of relapse. I am fearful of being hurt and betrayed again. I am fearful of the effects on my children. I am sad that I will have to talk to my children about this disease and the power it may have on their own lives as they grow older, I am sad that I will have to watch them closely for the signs of addiction in themselves. 

Addiction sucks. It sucks for the addict and it sucks for anyone in his or her path. If there's one thing I've learned over the last 5 years, and the last year in particular, it's the exact opposite of what the above post proclaims. Most addicts cannot simply wake up one day and choose another path.  In fact, that kind of assumption contributes to the shame and guilt addicts feel about not being able to just 'stop'.

If you've been hurt by an addict in your life - this is a critical point of knowledge for you. It doesn't take away the pain, it doesn't invalidate your anger and feelings, it doesn't make you wrong for feeling how you feel. But it was, in many ways, like a weight off my shoulders when I realized what a hold this disease or illness had on my husband. It finally allowed me to see a glimpse of him for who he is - a child of God who is broken and sinful like each and every one of us. A man who I vowed to love in sickness and in health.

Many days that knowledge and realization seems grossly unfair if I'm honest. I struggle with feeling angry that this is the path I unknowingly walked down. And it doesn't - not for one second - excuse past behavior. But it does offer an explanation, even one that is hard to swallow.

I don't know why I am here, in the middle of this. Substance abuse is a subject I knew absolutely nothing about 5 years ago. And I am still learning - still struggling to understand something that makes zero sense. And my heart hurts for those of you who are on the other side of addiction like I am. For those of you who are confused and alone and trying to make sense of the insanity. I wouldn't wish this path on anyone. But as I learn and grow in this, I hope to share what I'm learning with you.
I realize that sharing my story so openly like this opens me up to a lot of judgment, criticism and opinions about how I live my life. I have heard some pretty hard things over the past stretch and am learning to toughen up a little bit. My journey is not the journey everyone will or should take. 

I am not saying that everyone should forgive willy nilly and could never advocate that every person continue doing life with someone in active addiction. If you are currently in a relationship that makes you feel unsafe emotionally, mentally or physically - get out. Get space. Protect yourself.

But in my life, his journey of sobriety and the choices he has made along with being very prayerful about going forward, have led me to this place. 

It's my hope and prayer that from our trauma and pain, we can bring a message of hope and understanding to other people about this topic. Today, he is 228 days sober and he moved back home 2 weeks ago. It is an interesting place I am in, having to be so vulnerable and out of control in so many areas of my life and simply choosing to throw my open hands up into the air and trust that God is in control. 

Because if I am being honest, I hate it. I hate feeling afraid of the unknown and of being hurt again. Grace is given to me daily by my Savior and it is grace that I will keep trying to extend to others. I fail at that a lot, but I keep going every day, because I believe that God IS bigger than my circumstances and that no matter what happens in the future, His ways are better than mine. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


There I was, minding my own business, going about my day when I got some really awful horrible no good very bad news.

Brace yourselves.

My friend {now enemy} Shaunna sent me a message that South Park magazine (who is writing a little story about Nourish) wanted to do a PHOTO SHOOT for their magazine. A photo shoot which would Of us. In a magazine.

So I did what any woman and hopeful co-founder of a new but growing little organization does in such a situation.

I cried.

And not the happy kind of tears.

The 'ohmygosh I am 7 weeks post partum and now I have to have my picture taken for a magazine' kind of tears.

I'm not a Kardashian, ok? I don't have a team of stylists, personal cooks and trainers waiting in the wings to whip me back into my pre-pregnancy state.

And this pregnancy was hard on me emotionally. Most of you know what's taken place in my life this past year, and the best way I can describe it is that it was survival.

I survived this year, and I survived this pregnancy. I was mentally, physically and emotionally overwhelmed and distraught. I went from dropping 20 lbs in a month from anxiety and sadness to gaining 65 pounds in a pregnancy where my exhaustion prompted very regular visits to the Chick Fil A drive thru.

I'm not proud of this. In fact, I'm kind of ashamed. After all, I was also receiving my health coaching certification at the beginning of this pregnancy. I KNOW better.

But life got to be too much and I just couldn't rally to cook meals. Like, basically ever. So I didn't.

And it catches up to you. Ok, not to all of you. You who are blessed with amazing metabolisms, and know nothing of which I speak. Ah, I wish.

But I'm seven weeks post partum and working hard at losing the rest of my baby weight. We aren't talking ten pounds, more like thirty. Ok thirty five. And thirty five extra pounds on my 5 foot 5 inch frame shows. My closet mocks me from the corner of my room, full of clothing I can't even begin to entertain wearing.

And if there is one part of my life that whispers lies straight from Satan into my ear, it's my appearance and my weight. Telling me I'm ugly, worthless, gross, less than...

So there I was, feeling sorry for myself in my kitchen. Feeling sorry for myself because I need to have my picture taken and I feel hideous. And then I started thinking about all the other things that have happened to me this year, and I started feeling even sorrier still. It sort of became this all consuming thing for a few moments and I found myself falling into that dark hole of 'why has all this terrible, awful, hard stuff happened to me?'

And I hear Satan whisper again: Worthless. Ugly. Fat. Less Than.

Who cares what's happened to you this past year. Who cares that you were struggling to get out of bed most days. Who cares that you just had a baby. Who cares that you moved to a new town where you know basically no one. Who cares that your children have been sick for 2 straight weeks. Why haven't you lost your baby weight yet? Scratch that, why did you let yourself gain so much to begin with? If only you had maintained better control. If only you hadn't eaten your feelings with peach milkshakes and waffle fries. 

It's a dangerous hole to fall into, and it can be really hard to climb out of.

So I thought about saying no to Shaunna. To the magazine. Truthfully, I kind of did say no at first. And Shaunna said, 'it's ok. Whatever you're comfortable with. I'll make it work if you can't make it"

So there it was, my out. I'm 2 hours away now and I have a 7 week old who, incidentally, HATES the car. I have some good excuses. But I knew that if I were at my pre pregnancy weight, I'd be trucking up to Charlotte for the photo shoot and to see my friends and to let them meet my precious baby girl. I'd be all over that so fast it would make your head spin.

I knew that what was REALLY holding me back was that 30 (ahem 35) extra pounds I haven't lost yet. And those lies that were running through my head about my value.

I'm caught in this dilemma you see, because I helped to build a community of women who feel just as passionately as I do about offering a judgment free zone. We wanted Nourish to be a place where women of all shapes, sizes, and colors would feel welcome. Our Nourish tables are a place where a mom with a new baby could come to dinner in her yoga pants, stained shirt, ratty hair and 35 extra pounds and feel loved and welcomed. But I am having a hard time extending that grace to myself.

I'd rather hide away for the next 5 months or however long it takes me before I find my normal self again.

But I don't want to be that person.

I don't have it all together. I'm 35 lbs more than I'd like to be. I don't fit into many of the clothes in my closet right now. I'm exhausted and overwhelmed as I learn to juggle 4 children. These things feel more intense because I'm struggling in my attempts to mend a truly broken marriage but you know what?

I'm trying.

I'm trying to eat well and exercise when I can as I juggle these 4 awesome children. (I'm losing this weight, it's just so darn slow!) I'm trying to do my best to mend a truly broken marriage and some days are good, but some are really really hard. I have a lot on my plate and most days, I'm pretty sure it shows.

Here is what I'm learning through it all though. My identity is not found in the size of my jeans or a number on the scale. It's not found in a closet full of clothes that fit. It's not found in my children or even in my marriage.

If I let myself focus on Him, on the God who calls me beloved - if my face is turned towards Him and Him alone - I would not worry about my weight or what my picture will look like in a magazine. I will not worry about my life or my marriage. My hope is not found in a great pair of well fitting and small jeans. It's not found in my children or my home or my husband. Those things do not - and CANNOT - define me.

I am defined by Him. I am defined by the One who found me valuable enough to lay down his life and hang on a cross for me. He did that for ME. And for you. And our hope has to be in that and in Him. I am worthy. I am valuable. I am a daughter of the King.

So I am going to do my very best to make it to Charlotte next week so I can hug my friends who I haven't seen since August. So they can meet my beautiful daughter who is more than worth the extra weight I'm carrying around. And so I can sit at a table with my amazing, thoughtful, hard working and treasured friend Shaunna as a photographer takes our picture for a magazine who wants to tell Charlotte all about what Nourish is doing in the community.

God uses all things for good. I can't wait to see how He continues to use Nourish, even if I have to show my chubby face for Him to do it.

I'll make sure to take that up with Him someday...

Friday, October 2, 2015

31 Days of Brave: Showing Up

Nourish is working on a women's conference for next year - most of you know that already. When Shaunna and I began daydreaming about what the conference would look like, what kind of speakers we wanted to invite to join us, what kind of topics we wanted to discuss - we just felt like She's Brave encompassed all of that.

We use 'brave' a lot in our interactions with the Nourish community.

Have you ever sat with someone as they shared something deeply painful or shameful or guilt ridden or secretive?

I have. And at times, I've been the one doing the sharing.

There is a quiet, still, kind of holiness in those moments. A build of tension, where fear is almost palpable as this person begins to speak their truth. This moment is when a lot of people shut down or shut others out. We become scared of facing truths with someone....unsure of what to say, how to react. Will our facial expressions give us away when they tell us what they're about to tell us?

There is no doubt this fear is exactly what intercepts an authentic, real relationship between two individuals. If we let ourselves be known, will we be rejected?

Within Nourish, we challenge ourselves and our groups to explore this more. What does true acceptance look like? What does it look like to let someone speak their truth and be met with love? What does it look like to sit around a table with 7 or 8 women who are different in personality, age, background, lifestyles and feel accepted?

We've had some precious, scary, hard, redemptive moments around our tables.

It isn't a perfect formula. At times we've stumbled, made mistakes, messed up. At times the message of acceptance gets muddied or lost. In the spirit of honesty, I myself have had moments that I have handled incorrectly despite my best intentions.

We are learning to love regardless. To say sorry, to hold a hand out and pull someone else up. To forgive and to understand.

And that's when the brave comes in. It takes some courage to be a part of this community. You have to commit to a dinner group where you may not really know someone. Then you have to show up and hang out with women who are different from you. And if you really want to get the most out of Nourish, eventually you'll have to share a little bit of who you are. And once you do that, we hope you'll keep coming back. And to keep coming back to a group of women who are getting to know YOU takes courage.

But we hope it also brings comfort and relief: to know and be known - to love and be loved even when it isn't easy.

My heart has been so touched, my soul so encouraged by the women who show up every month, yearning to be brave and fighting through the fear of letting someone else know who they are.

So proud of my girls who show up each month, ready to be brave. 

Interested in attending She's Brave 2016? Buy tickets HERE.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A New Normal and 31 Days Of...

We are finding our new normal around here - as normal as can be found in our current circumstances. Harper Adeline Hahn joined our family on September 18th, the littlest peanut of my brood at 7lbs 10oz and 20 inches long.

She's been a really great baby so far (knock on wood, fingers and toes crossed and all that jazz) She's up at night with normal newborn needs but never participates in MOTNP (Middle of the Night Parties) which is lovely. She sleeps most of the day and cries when she's hungry or needs a diaper change or if she's ticked off at being disturbed.

Her brothers love her, even Declan who still gives me looks of betrayal from time to time when I'm holding her but he's coming around. I caught him singing "Harper, I love you. Harper, I love you" last night at bedtime. Sweetest ever.

It still is surreal to have a baby girl in the house. Sometimes I find myself calling her sweet boy or buddy just because I am SO used to boys! Ha!

It's amazing how in love you can fall with someone you just laid eyes on. I think my favorite part of motherhood is when these tiny, helpless, wrinkly creatures join your family one day as if they've always been there and your heart just feels like exploding all the time from the exhaustion and amazement and joy of it all. Motherhood is hard, like a holy kind of hard, but it is the best part of my life and my children are the best thing about me.

It is impossible to look at Harper and not wonder what her sister, Lilia, might have looked like had she been able to join our family. And of course there are so many conflicting emotions there - because without Lilia, there would be no Declan and no Harper. It is a strange place to be, both missing and mourning a child you never met but feeling so grateful for the ones that came after. It is a beautiful and reassuring thing to know we will meet her one day. Harper was born 3 years and one week after I laid on the table in the ultrasound room and they couldn't find Lilia's heartbeat - and I love that there is a little redemption that has come in the month of September. 

I can't wait to see how Harper grows and changes, to see little pieces of her personality shine through and to watch her interact with her brothers. I think we'll keep her.
Love you sweet Harper!

I've also decided to join in on the 31 Days of Writing Challenge and will be {hopefully} posting every day in October about bravery - specifically pertaining to the She's Brave Conference that's coming up in 2016. I want to dive more into this topic and why we use it so much with our Nourish community. I hope you'll follow along!