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.

BUT.

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

Identity

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 include...photos. 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!



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why?

We've been in our new house in Pinehurst for almost 2 weeks now. Moving and unpacking is the worst - I feel like things are under control and then stumble across another couple of boxes which unearths stuff I have to find a home for and pretty soon the whole house is in shambles again. It's like a jigsaw puzzle that never ends!

But other than that, we are settling in nicely. The kids and I love the house, we love the area, and I can't wait to get involved in things once I have this baby.

So...why Pinehurst?

This is a tough post for me to write, mostly because I don't know what to say or how to say it or even if I'm ready to talk about it. But with Harper coming soon, it feels like I should address it.

With his permission to share everything below, I think most people know Todd and I have been separated. Some really hard things led to our separation and while I have battled hurt, sadness, betrayal and fear he has been battling an addiction.

For the last 9 mos, as I've prayed for direction, I've heard a lot of "be still."  I knew that separation was the right choice, without a doubt. I knew that Todd needed to get healthy, and that in small ways I was enabling him to stay sick. I am not, by nature, codependent - but it's almost impossible not to adapt codependent tendencies when you are married to an addict.

The good news is that Todd has completed an inpatient treatment stay and moved on to a recovery program where he's been since April. He's pursuing sobriety hard and with intention and commitment and I've seen him change significantly. I've seen the Todd I knew when we dated, the one I married and committed my life to. I've seen a vibrance in him that has been missing for a long time.

His recovery program is in the Sandhills area, not far from where we are now living. It was a hard decision for me, but one guided by the most loving and caring Heavenly Father who has taught me so much during this process. He has taught me about unconditional love, forgiveness, grace and even empathy.

I am a work in progress on all of those fronts by the way - I am also battling a lot of other feelings: fear, anger, resentment, betrayal, abandonment, embarrassment, sadness...

And I've had to let myself sit right there in those feelings occasionally, because they show up when I least expect it. They're real and they're valid feelings and I have learned at this point in my life that stuffing them does no one any good. And you know? It sucks. It sucks to be looking back over the last year at pictures and have them trigger memories or moments that are hard and painful. I want to delete everything about the past year and fast forward to the better stuff. I hold on to hope that there will be better stuff.


So what does this all mean, really?

I don't know.

My personal experience with shared custody of my oldest son has been a painful one in its own right. It's a painful situation to share your child across state lines and over holidays and summers. When Todd began to take the correct steps to get well, and continued to maintain his sobriety I felt the gentle nudge that reminded me my children need to be near their father, as long as he was healthy. And I knew that with a newborn coming, I would not only need help, but that I deserved help.

So the slow process began - one of starting the healing process as a family. A process of understanding, forgiveness, grace and learning - really learning - about addiction. It hasn't been easy. But it's been so good to see the boys happy and excited and truly enjoying things they have missed out on for a long time.

I don't know what this means for my marriage just yet. Todd and I are living in separate residences still. He is spending a lot of time with the family, helping out, just being with the kids, and we are slowly seeing where things go. It's been a time of rest for me, just having him healthy and well and here to help. I know that as long as he works on sobriety, our family has a chance at surviving this. I am hopeful for him and for my children.

But I am scared. Addiction is...almost impossible to describe. It's hell. It's insanity. It's indescribable. It's baffling and mind boggling and twisted and just really, really sad.

There are parts of our story that will be painful for a long time to come. Things that will take me probably years to get over. But in all my time on my knees, searching for the peace to officially leave my marriage, I never got it. All I ever felt was that my job was to be still. To continue on the path I was on, but to wait. And I got angry many, many times. I had so many reasons to be angry, and I knew that I had every biblical reason in my back pocket to sign divorce papers and move on.

But God's message to me was to be still. So I am practicing that as often as I can, and learning the
very complicated art of grace. For a long time, I thought grace meant blindly accepting and forgiving and ignoring what my inner self was screaming, but I have learned that sometimes before we can extend true grace, we have to be able to put up boundaries.

I hope to dig into the topic of addiction more on this blog. It's an extraordinarily confusing issue which is often misdiagnosed as a host of other mental illnesses or problems and statistics tell us that twenty-three million Americans age 12 or older suffer from alcohol and drug addiction. 23 million is a staggering number. It's a prevalent problem but one that very few truly understand. A problem that has directly affected my life, my marriage and my family and one that I am still working hard to understand every day. 

I remain cautious and unsure on this journey. How could I not? I know that a happy outcome is not guaranteed. I know that recovery statistics are grim. But I also know that I follow and trust an amazing God who wants healing and recovery and wholeness. And for Him, I take a giant step forward.




Wednesday, August 5, 2015

New Beginnings


I've been trying to figure out how I'm going to address this post, since there is so much about it that I myself am still unsure about. This blog has always been a place where I can share my thoughts and feelings - maybe sometimes too openly - but my goal here has always been to share my heart and my life with you.

It is my very real belief that the human experience here is one of the most important things we will go through - and that learning to become a mirror of Christ here on Earth is rooted in that experience - of grace, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, love, peace and understanding. (Ok, sounds like my inner hippie coming out...)

But truly, I share myself and my family with you because I know I'm not alone. I know it because you tell me privately, and I believe a great healing comes from owning our stories, sharing them and releasing the shame and guilt we feel when we keep secrets and swallow our pain. We cannot hold our thoughts, pain, beliefs inside like shameful secrets. In the words of my bestie Glennon Doyle Melton (ok really it was Mother Teresa), we belong to each other.

It is my hope that by living OUT LOUD, I can become more like Christ. Sharing my life means that you trust me enough to share yours, and when I begin to see glimpses of everyone else's human experiences, I can't help but learn to become more compassionate, more loving and more empathetic to those around me.

However, when your story includes someone else's story, someone else's pain and struggle - the line you walk becomes a very thin line. It's tricky to balance wanting to share my life and yet acknowledge that all parties involved may not yet be on board.

So for now, I want to share this: As I've navigated very tumultuous waters over the last year and sought God's guidance I felt at peace knowing that my role has been to walk through each door as it opens. And that as He opened doors, I would take a leap of faith and walk through them.

And so many things have come together in the eleventh hour - so many details that have had me on edge, stressed, in tears, wondering and pleading when I would know what I was supposed to do. And like most answered prayers, God came through, right when I found myself feeling absolute desperation.

This little band of brothers and one VERY soon to be sister and I are relocating to Pinehurst, NC in the coming weeks. (I suspect Logan is grateful he's in Vermont and wasn't forced to sit on the steps of our new home for pictures!)

Pinehurst is easily one of the most beautiful areas I've ever seen, neighboring some equally beautiful little towns. 2 hours from Charlotte, 2 hours from the beach, gorgeous blue sky, majestic pine trees and a slower pace of life are beckoning us. I never saw any of this coming and can only do my very best to feel confident in God's leading.


Sometimes God gives us an opportunity at a fresh start. Not a do over, not a way to forget our past and we certainly have no guarantees that more troubles don't await us - but a chance to clear our heads, take a few deep breaths, spend a little time focusing on what's important and making sure all hearts are aligned with His plan.

This is a good thing for my family.

As I feel ready, I promise I'll share more. With everything I feel I need to say, it would probably be the world's longest blog post anyway!

But for now, your prayers for my family are (as always) greatly appreciated.

xoxo
Miranda
Tuesday, July 28, 2015

9 Tips for 9 Months

I'm now in single digit countdown mode when it comes to weeks left of this pregnancy. Kind of crazy to think I'll hit 33 weeks in a matter of days. In some ways it feels like this pregnancy has flown by - this past 8ish months has been so insanely busy and hard and I've been chasing after 2 other little ones - most of it has flown by in a blur.

I'm at the 'so close yet still so far' part so with pregnancy still pretty fresh on my mind, here are my 9 Tips for 9 Months, in no particular order:

9. Move!

This is the hardest one for me because I generally feel so bad my first trimester and I don't get into great habits while pregnant, but even a short walk around your neighborhood will help. Staying active, even in little ways, can actually help with morning sickness, weight gain and labor and delivery. {Then again, I am chasing a couple little boys around all day long and I'm still gaining weight like a champion...}


8. Crackers & Water!

Keep crackers in your bedside table, especially for that first trimester. I have been really fortunate to never suffer extreme morning sickness with any of my children. I am always extremely nauseous and queasy and dry heave constantly for about the first 16-18 weeks, but I never really throw up. However, first thing in the morning I HAVE to have something in my stomach or I'll be dry heaving for hours. Grabbing a couple crackers and having some water before getting out of bed really helped.

7. Advice

You'll get lots of unsolicited advice (like mine!) from all kinds of people when you're pregnant.

Everyone from strangers at the grocery store to Great Aunt Henrietta will want to tell you how their pregnancy and delivery went. Absorb about 25% of it, and let the other 75% roll off your back. Some of what happened to them may very well happen to you, but most of it won't so try not to overthink advice! One that I dread hearing is "Enjoy it now, it'll be over too soon" I have a 14 year old so I think I can say with a little authority - it's ok not to enjoy throwing up or feeling like death or waddling like a penguin. There are many things that you may find enjoyable about pregnancy, but let's be real - a lot of it is NOT enjoyable! Thankfully things like hearing his or her heartbeat for the first time, getting those first glimpses of your precious little on a sonogram screen and holding your child for the first time completely and totally make up for all the months of discomfort.

6. Nutrition

If I'm being completely honest, I find that I'm MORE in tune to healthy eating when I am NOT pregnant than when I am. It takes focus and motivation for me to make sure I stay on top of it when I'm pregnant. I'm usually exhausted and nauseous and will go for whatever is easy, quick and doesn't make me want to gag. If this sounds like you, don't beat yourself up. Do the best you can and try to remember your prenatal daily. On top of that, I really like to incorporate a great green smoothie into my daily diet. It's a fantastic way to get nutrients in all at once and sometimes a smoothie was all that sounded good. Some women can't stomach a lot of greens during pregnancy, so trial and error will help you discover what kinds of healthy things you can use in a smoothie. {This is my favorite green smoothie recipe of all time, and you can follow my Smoothie Love board on Pinterest for more ideas}

5. Pictures

I was pregnant with my first child at 21 years old. I hated my pregnant body, felt ugly, huge and self conscious. I think I have just one picture from that pregnancy - one someone snapped at a baby shower without my knowledge. With my next 2 children, I decided to get over myself and get maternity photographs taken (Helps to have an amazing brother in law who happens to be a professional photographer). I'm really glad I did it - Yes, I always struggle with my self esteem while pregnant but it has been fun to look back and see how my body changed. It's really pretty amazing! 

THERE'S A TINY PERSON IN THERE!! 



4. Plan & Un Plan

It's always good to have a birth plan in place. As women, we should feel empowered to decide how our birth story will go. Talk to your doctor, your friends, read about other people's experiences and educate yourself on the birthing process. You have way more ability to make choices than you might realize. At the same time, every single birth is different and some things you won't be able to prepare for so keep an open mind and try not to get too upset if your labor and delivery isn't going according to the plan. Make a plan, but also plan to scrap if it your body decides to do something different. My sister recently had her third child - she'd had two normal vaginal deliveries with her first two children but ended up in a c-section with her third. He was in the brow presentation, and after 18 hours of laboring they needed to do a caesarean to keep him (and her!) safe. Those third babies are supposed to be easy! You just never know...

3. Care

Going along with Tip #4, pick a great care provider that YOU relate to and are comfortable with. It's great to get opinions and recommendations but ultimately it's you and your provider for your entire pregnancy so you want to be with someone you trust to take care of you and respect your plan for the birthing process. That way, if something changes, you'll feel better knowing he or she probably did everything they could to make your wishes happen. Don't worry about hurting feelings either - if you don't click with the first provider you see, ask to see someone else. This is about YOU feeling comfortable enough to entrust yourself and your unborn child to someone else. Do what feels right for you.

2. Un Medicate

You'll want to try to be as medication free as possible throughout your pregnancy. At one of your first appointments, you'll probably be given a list of what you can and can't take. Always talk to your provider if you have any questions or concerns. Taking medications certainly isn't banned, and some of them will be absolutely necessary - just make sure to run them by your provider and call the office if you ever have any questions. And stay up to date on current issues regarding safety for certain medications. The medication Zofran, a popular choice in the past to alleviate severe nausea and vomiting, is currently under scrutiny for some adverse side effects on unborn babies.

1. Slack

Yes. Slack. As in cut yourself some. Pregnancy is HARD. Really hard. It's emotional, it's scary, it's exhausting, exciting, intimidating, amazing and a million other things rolled into a roller coaster 9 months. Make the best choices you can and don't beat yourself up if you do something you didn't know you weren't supposed to, if you can't get out of bed to shower for 4 days or if you gain too much weight. Just make good choices when you can, stay in touch with your provider so they can monitor your health consistently and tell yourself 'this too shall pass' (Sorry, some cheesy cliches ARE true!) It took you 40 weeks to grow that tiny human, it'll take you just as long (and probably more) to get back to feeling like yourself again. Try to remember you have just done something truly amazing and don't freak out if it takes you awhile to feel like you again.

xoxo
Miranda


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Desperation


As human beings, we've become accustomed to the idea that being desperate is weak and pathetic. No one wants to be seen as desperate for a friend or for a partner, for a job, for money, desperate for help or validation. As Shauna Niequist says in one of her promo videos for her book Bread & Wine, "We live in a culture that prides us for not having any needs. I don't need to sleep, I don't need to eat, I'm like a robot. I'm so tough I can keep on going. It's a really soul-less, really damaging way to live."

I'm beginning to see that while yes, there are social disadvantages to being considered 'desperate'... being desperate is actually becoming the quality in which I strive to be in my relationship and walk with Christ.

Last night, I downloaded the Proverbs 31 First 5 app (very cool, by the way) and listened to Lysa Terkeurst's opening remarks at their She Speaks Conference going on this weekend. She was describing how in so many moments in our lives, we present God with a nice, tidy package of suggestions. We grasp them all tightly in our hands and offer them up to Him and we say something like, "Ok God...I was thinking about what's going on in my life and I think I've come up with a plan. So here it is - all of my suggestions, my plan for how to make this work, and I'd really, really like for you to bless this. Don't mess it up!! Just BLESS it"

I was in bed fighting off a terrible migraine after a hard bedtime with the kids, and when I heard her describe it like that, I had to laugh. Because isn't it true? Isn't it true that we still fight and battle to be the God of our own lives? And throughout it all, we present God with a package of suggestions and hope that He'll work those for our good. And when it doesn't happen that way, we feel miffed or disappointed or even downright furious.

It feels like when I fight to be the God of my own life, I often times find myself feeling fearful or discouraged. And I have to remind myself that fear is not of God.

It's in the desperate moments where I know I am far more attuned to Him than I usually am. It's desperation that breaks me open and brings me to my knees over and over and over again. It's the empty places that long to be filled up with Him that open my eyes to His plan for me and reminds me that He knows me intimately. He knows my heart, He knows my desires and He also knows where He needs me to be.

There are some changes happening in my life right now - things I'll be sharing soon enough - but I've found myself feeling almost backed into a corner. Desperate. Out of ideas, out of options, out of plans. I've been through my Plan A, my Plan B, my Plan C. And each time God has taken those plans gently out of my tight grasp and reassured me that He's working all things for my good.

And so here I stand, desperate for Him. Needy. Broken. Empty. With nothing else to offer but a whole lot of nothingness. Just myself and my faith that He is still sovereign and that He is still good.

And it feels pretty great.






Thursday, July 23, 2015

When personal growth threatens...

Picture this:

You're out alone at sea in a flimsy little rowboat. It's dark and stormy. You're grossly unprepared and without a life jacket. As the storm worsens, you cling to the side of the boat, afraid and certain you'll be thrown overboard where you will surely drown. You try to wait the storm out, but it seems to go on and on. You start to feel like your only chance at survival is to jump over and swim.

So you jump. You swim like hell to the shore, where you see a congregation of people. You feel one last surge of adrenaline, knowing they are all there waiting for you. They're holding signs, and you just know those are signs of praise and encouragement.

But as you climb onto the sand, a little broken, a little battered, soaked and cold you realize that some of the signs are encouragement but others say things like, "You jumped out too soon" or "You waited too long before you tried to save yourself". One says, "You should've used a different stroke to get to shore faster" and one criticized you for swimming too fast.

You feel confused. Didn't they see what you just accomplished? Can't they understand why you did what you did, when you did it?

I have a friend who used to be severely overweight. After years of feeling uncomfortable and unhappy with herself, she started taking the first steps towards health and wellness. Some of her friends responded with well wishes and excitement over her progress, others started to act a little critical or distant. And over a year later, when she was 100 lbs smaller, some of those friends were nowhere to be found at all.

As I've gotten older (ahem, let's say wiser) I have begun noticing that personal growth in someone else makes a lot of us uncomfortable.

Maybe it's the idea that they'll leave us behind or determine we aren't good enough. Maybe it's that we are envious of their ability to survive the storm triumphant while we seem to barely keep our heads above what most might consider calm waters. Maybe we feel a twinge of jealousy or insecurity as we watch others accomplish what we secretly wish we could.

I notice this a lot in female friendships especially. And none of us are immune to it, we've all been there, in that place of jealousy, envy or comparison. Haven't most of us, at one time or another, poked or criticized another person in an area we know will sting because we don't want to feel alone in our insecurities and uncertainty?

I used to really, really love to sing. I've done it my whole life in churches, in school, got some scholarship money for it in college and was even in the elite college choir on campus. I've done some vocal stuff as I've gotten older and if I'm honest, oh there is a part of me that wishes it was an easy, natural talent of mine. That I could just open my mouth and a little songbird would fly out. But it isn't like that for me. I have to work on vocals. My voice is melodic but simple and I'll never be a powerhouse or a vocalist with that unique indie style that leaves people wanting more.

As I sit here though, in my mid 30's, I can say that I'm coming to terms with the knowledge that it's not where I'm supposed to focus my time and energy. That God has placed other passions and talents inside of me and while I love to sing, it isn't where He wants me. I'm 90% ok with that. I feel fine about it, and then occasionally a little envy or jealousy rears its head and I find myself wistfully daydreaming about being able to sing and give people goosebumps with my powerful voice.

But the more I focus on where God wants me in my life, the less envy I feel of other people. And let me tell you, there's a confidence that comes with encouraging others. Steering clear of back biting, criticism of how other people live their lives, not trying to jump on every bandwagon out there because someone else is doing it - there is such a freedom in that.


If you find yourself feeling critical, envious or even angry about what someone else is doing in their life, I want to give you a little nudge. First: knock it off. Let's all stop thinking we know how someone else should be living their lives and focus on how we should be living ours.

But in addition to that: Pray for them. Invite God to do amazing things in their life, on their journey and ask Him to bless their endeavor. It's impossible to feel threatened with someone else's growth if you are able to encourage them. And over the past year, I have realized that the more I'm able to pour into others, the less envious I feel. Walking the path of trying to be more like Jesus involves way less of my mouth and way more of my life.

Whoever you are, wherever you are at, I want to encourage you today in that. You're probably walking this path the best way you know how, and that is good enough.

Be you, bravely.





Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When Sadness Comes

Dang y'all.

Motherhood guilt is REAL, isn't it?

I was asked to write a blog post for another website featuring my Top 9 tips for 9 months of pregnancy. (I guess I'm now bordering on expert...hehe) and I was going back over some pictures from my pregnancies and just like that I'm sobbing like a baby.

Not with the sheer joy that comes from creating life. No, it was like each picture told a story, held a memory of what my life was like in that exact moment. As I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, looking at pictures of the last several years of my life, feelings and emotions just came flooding back.

I have a LOT of guilt over the first 10 months or so of Declan's life. We had gone through some really hard stuff as a family, and he came to this world with troubles that I just couldn't get a handle on. It wasn't for lack of trying, you all KNOW how much I tried to figure out what was going on with his little self. And I look back and know in my heart I did everything I could to fight for him, and to be an advocate for what we were going through and I pestered doctor after doctor after doctor until somehow the planets aligned and we started to piece together what he needed.



But I look at pictures of those early days - his tiny, scrawny self that hovered right above the failure to thrive line on the doctor's charts and I feel wracked with terrible, awful, sorrowful guilt. I can't shake the memories of those dark days of endless crying, no sleep, constant worry. I can't help but feel so sad and so sorry that I didn't figure it out sooner. That I couldn't help him feel better when he was so little, so helpless, so dependent on me to protect him.



Of course in the grand scheme of things, compared to real trauma, what we went through was nothing. But this mama's heart still shatters a little when I remember. When I see pictures of him crying and inconsolable.

Sadness and grief are an interesting thing to me. I suppose I'm becoming a little bit of an expert on those topics as well.

When I express my feelings about those dark days to people, I usually hear things like "You did the best you could!" or "It wasn't your fault!" or "But look how happy he is now!" All things that are - truly - accurate. They are all true statements. It wasn't my fault. I did do the best I could. He is happy now (well, most of the time!)

But you know what else I think is helpful?

You have to sit in that.

In the sadness. In the pain. In the darkness. It's ok to acknowledge those are real feelings. I feel guilty about the fact that Declan was born with a lip and tongue tie that basically kept him from consuming any calories the first 9 months of life and probably spent his days and nights hungry and miserable. Y'all. I. Feel. So. Guilty.

Whether it's my fault or not, the feelings are there and they are real.

I saw this today and it just resonated with me.

Yes. Just sit there. And then? Get up and walk away.


My kids have been through a lot in their little lives. All of them. And sometimes, that reality takes my breath away. Even though so many things have been out of my control and let's be honest, life is just HARD for all of us - oh, the guilt and sadness are so very real.

So I've been forcing myself to sit down when those feelings start. Just sit and think. Pray. Cry. And then I get up and walk away. And it's helped me relate to my kids as well when they start acting out or crying over things I don't understand. Isn't it easy to say "stop crying!" "you're fine!" "it's not that big of a deal!" - but oh, the acknowledgment of feelings is such a valuable thing. I'm giving myself permission to feel and those little guys? They need permission to feel too.

And so do you.

Thankful for redemptive and happy moments. If we don't sit in the sad, we'll never truly feel the happy.

(And because a year makes a whole lot of difference! He almost has little baby rolls!)






Monday, July 6, 2015

What's up with She's Brave?


14 years, 7 months and 5 days ago I became an unwed mother.

It's been a winding road since then, full of self discovery, mistakes, heartache and pain but there has been plenty of sunshine, happiness, joy and celebration as well.

And yet, I spent so many years feeling like an outsider, an oddball, less than...

About 6 years ago I felt God nudging me to reach out to women because most of them felt the same way. Perhaps for different reasons, but what I came to know was that there are a lot of women struggling in silence. Avoiding sharing their true selves because of guilt or shame or feeling like they were the 'only one' who felt the way they do.

Addiction.
Eating Disorders.
Depression.
Abortion.
Anxiety.
Rape.
Molestation.
Exhaustion.
Infidelity.
Broken marriages.
Single parenthood.
Infertility.
Single-hood.
Loneliness.
Fear.
Hopelessness.
Overwhelmed.
Heartache.


Have I named something you, personally, have struggled with? I personally have been affected in some way by addiction, infidelity, single parenthood, a broken marriage, feelings of hopelessness and being overwhelmed, heartache and exhaustion to name a few.

Is that embarrassing to put out there? A little. But I know that there are many of you who are dealing with the exact same issues I am because you've told me. And there are others who are struggling with things I'm not, but I also know you're not alone.

Something that has become very clear to me is that women who are united for Christ are a dangerous force. The enemy knows this, and he desires so much to drive a wedge in between the meaningful relationships that we can have with one another. Not only does he try to attack our families and marriages, he wants nothing more than to drive a wedge in between our friendships by making us feel as though we can't share ourselves with other people. When we feel like no one else could possibly understand WHO we are, we begin to isolate ourselves from the very people who could help lift us up and help to heal our pain.

It began as a nagging thought in the back of my mind as I noticed the women's conferences going on around me. There are some amazing ones that address finding your purpose and how to be a great mother. There are conferences about how to be successful professionally and conferences about being a Christian.

What we felt was lacking - or at least not as easy to find - was a conference that said HEY. HEY YOU. YOU AND I ARE ACTUALLY THE SAME!

 I'm depressed and I feel hopeless or I can't take my children for one more second today and I feel guilty. I'm sick of being single and I'm so lonely. I had an abortion and I feel shame. I've been betrayed in my marriage and I feel heartbroken. I was abused and I feel so much fear.

It started as a daydream, a fleeting thought, a hope, a yearning to provide a safe place for women to talk about the hard stuff without dwelling on it - a place to be vulnerable and hear other women share their painful stories and walk away feeling hopeful because suddenly they realize they aren't alone.

When Shaunna and I started Nourish - we hoped on a small scale our monthly dinner groups would become a safe place for women to discuss tough stuff alongside celebrating the joy to be found in day to day life. And that has happened in so many ways. But we also daydreamed about a culmination of all those dinner parties happening in the form of a conference. For women involved in Nourish and women who aren't - to come together in one place and look around the room and feel brave.

The She's Brave Conference is the very heart of what Nourish is about. It is about being vulnerable and showing up to a place with a lot of other people you probably don't know. It's about looking around the room and saying to one another "You're not alone and you matter". It's about safety in numbers as we begin to peel away the layers of armor we have put on to protect our hearts.

It's about finding the joy that can come with releasing the shame and the guilt you feel. It's about acknowledging that none of us are alone and that together we can become an amazing, beautiful, powerful force for good. It's about standing up to the mean girls stereotype and refusing to buy into it. It's about forgiving the friends you've had that have hurt you and betrayed you and finding hope in community again.

It is, at the very heart, about encouraging each other.

Tickets are on sale now! Early Bird ticket purchasers will get a discount, but those are limited availability so don't wait!

We know it's expensive. We know it's an investment. We promise we aren't making a dime off this conference. Truth be told, Shaunna and I will end up footing the bill for some of it ourselves. That's how passionately we feel about what we are doing.

We hope you'll join us. You'll hear from some amazing women including a Q&A and meet and greet with Momastery's Glennon Doyle Melton, and from author and blogger Sarah Mae.  You'll hear from other talented local speakers that are women just like you and me. We truly want this to be a conference that sets you free.

For more specific info about what is included in your ticket price, please visit us on our website. You don't have to be a current Nourish attendee to come but email us at nourishclt@gmail.com if you'd like to get involved with one of our monthly dinner parties.

Come, be brave, be filled up, and rest in the knowledge that you are seen, known and loved...just as you are.



Friday, June 19, 2015

What a Privilege


Sometimes, wow...I seriously love my life.

Y'all. This week has been hard. From start to finish (and it's not even over yet!) It's been hard physically, hard emotionally, hard spiritually, hard from a parenting perspective...

But in the midst of my exhaustion and moments of fear and doubt, God whispers to me that He's got this.  Why do I fight that so much? Why do I doubt?

I went to bed about 2 hours ago - and have already been woken twice by little people in utero and out (ha) My mind was working overtime and I picked up my phone to see messages that had poured in after our Nourish Friday night dinners ended.

By the way, for all of you who attend or host a dinner, this is probably my favorite part of the weekend so keep reaching out to us.

I read messages, I scrolled through pictures and I just burst into tears.

My heart is so full.

I am so thankful.

Women of Nourish, I haven't even met most of you! But my gosh...You. Are. Inspiring.

Thank you for being brave and for showing up. Thank you to those of you who open your homes and welcome in strangers. Thank you to those of you who leave your house or work on a Friday or Saturday night and step into the new and the unknown.

Thank you fighting back against the stereotype that all women are mean girls. Thank you for taking a risk.

6 or 7 years ago, working with a large group of women like this would've been the last thing on my mind. If you'd told me about Nourish then, I'd have laughed in your face.

This passion we have, for seeing each of you connect and be part of something...I just never would have seen it coming.

Shaunna and I - we don't know what we're doing here. We just felt God had put this passion in our hearts so we jumped. We are figuring this out month by month, day by day. If you knew how much we talked about you, prayed for you, thought about you - well you'd probably think we were crazy stalkers. But really, we LOVE each of you.

It isn't easy keeping tabs on a group of women that spans across the city, that isn't focused on any particular group or church or religion or age, etc. It makes my head hurt sometimes, worrying that we've dropped the ball on something or missed someone or something or hurt someone's feelings accidentally. Have we been too churchy or not churchy enough? I can't tell you how many times I've woken in a panic in the middle of the night sure that we'd forgotten to respond to an email or put someone in a group.

But as each month passes, one thing I know for sure - God is placing each of you in your group for a reason. He is orchestrating your lives, your friendships...He is weaving together a beautiful and rich story of love and acceptance and Shaunna and I get to see it happen. What a privilege.

I. Love. You.

xoxo


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Love is a Verb

Boy social media has been fun this week, hasn't it? (sarcasm)

I can hardly scroll through my feed without being told how to feel, think or act about Caitlyn Jenner, especially because I call myself a follower of Christ.

And since my opinions and thoughts on the whole thing aren't generally aligned with what seems to be popular thought, I don't even want to go there - this isn't a debate about what she should and shouldn't do with her life and what God says or doesn't say about it in the bible.

But rather this is a plea to my friends to stop using social media as a way to be lazy Christians.

It's fine to have opinions, we all do. Our thoughts, experiences, feelings and emotions shape who we are and how we feel about things. I personally don't care what you think or don't think about this whole thing.

But what saddens me is the blatant disgust, attempts at shaming and name calling I have seen from so many people. Shouting bible verses behind the relative anonymity of a computer screen is not really what I believe God had in mind when he commanded us to love others. Assigning greater weight to certain sins over others is not our job.

Last night, I responded to a comment thread about this whole thing, and about the concept that those of us who aren't in an uproar about someone else's life must surely be confusing love with acceptance - that we can love without agreeing with someone's actions. That whole love the sinner, hate the sin thing.

And while I suppose there is truth to that line of thought, to ME, it seems that so many people think love means shouting your opinions on Facebook while sitting on your couch in your pjs watching Netflix. Because as long as we are talking about what God thinks, we're getting the job done right?

Sure I'm not a theologian or a gospel scholar but see, I'm pretty convinced that isn't love at all.

A few years ago, a pastor friend of mine (Holla Jared Kirk!) gave a sermon about love - I don't remember much of it (sorry, Jared...mommy brain and all...) but I DO remember him saying that love is a verb. I've heard this several times since then, so I know you've probably heard it too - but it always sticks with me.

Love isn't just words. It's actions.

Saying you love someone isn't enough. As humans, we respond not just to words but to touch, to kindness, to actions. We observe everything around us and we internalize it and it shapes who we are.

It has become far too easy for us to say passively that we are praying for someone. To talk about our faith on social media or in blogs and think that's enough. To shout about what we are against instead of what we are for. To point fingers and act like someone else sins more than we do.

But the truth is, Christ died for my wretchedness as much as anyone else's. And I don't know about you, but if you really stop and think about that - that'll kick you in the gut. He died for MY sins. For MY wickedness. When you get right down to it, we are all the same in that way.

No, you don't have to agree with someone's actions to love them. But I do have to wonder - isn't it critical to get in the mess with someone you claim to love? Get down in there, sit there with them, try to understand what's happening and what they are struggling with. Listen to their heart, their feelings, their emotions. Learn who they ARE.

In my personal life, I can attest that over the past couple of years I have harbored a LOT of anger towards someone I'm supposed to love. And some of that anger was justified, some of it came from a place of hurt because I had been deeply hurt.

But if I'm being honest, a lot of it came from a place of fear and of misunderstanding.  And yes, my fear and misunderstanding was normal and justified. Most everything I feared would happen DID in fact happen. I felt angry, disgusted, and furious because I didn't want to truly understand what was happening with the other person.  Some of it - a lot of it even - was justifiable.

But if you want to live out the gospel, you have to stop thinking about your own fears and embrace the unknown. To open your mind and listen to what God tells you.

And yeah, sometimes it sucks. Because when you get right down to it - we are all failing. And to admit that God sacrificed His Son for you as much as He did someone else will shine a light on your own brokenness faster than you can blink. But that's what is beautiful about the gospel. Our failures, our sins, our mistakes don't define us.

Hey friends, let's not just preach love. Let's actually give it. The gospel is so much more beautifully lived out through actions and not just words. We have an incredible message of radical love and grace. And if we are commanded to love others, that means we have to try to live life with them and not against them.

(Also y'all - Snopes is a fantastic website to verify what you're posting as truth...just sayin)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Breakfast Cookies (yes, really!)

I am not sure how I'm going to make it until I have this baby in September.

She feels so high, I can already barely breathe well. If I sit down, I feel like I'm suffocating slowly! Girl needs to drop down a little and give me some space in my lungs...

Anyway, a month or so ago, I made the mistake of buying a package of gluten free cookies to have around as the occasional treat for Declan. Let's just say it didn't take him long to figure out they were in the pantry and pretty soon he was standing at the door all day long demanding COOOOOKIE. (He makes the cutest little duck face to form the 'ooooo' sound...like a mini Cookie Monster)

Someone posted this recipe and I had to give it a try. I have to admit they are really good, and my kids have already eaten half the batch. Oops.

Sure, you may not want to make this a regular breakfast but how fun is it to offer a cookie at breakfast and know that the ingredients are pretty darn uh...breakfast-y. And even though they are healthy, you could totally chow on one or two of these for dessert and be just as satisfied.


You'll need:

- 3 large bananas, ripe (peeled, and chunked)
- 1/2 c. creamy natural almond butter
- 1 Tblsp butter (I actually used coconut oil)
- 2 Tblsp honey or maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2.5 c. oats  (We used Bob's Mill gluten free)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
Add ins:
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips/dried cherries/dried cranberries/nuts, coconut flakes, etc
(We used about 1/4 c. dark chocolate chips, 1/4 c. dried cranberries and pecan pieces)

Mash bananas with a fork, add next 4 ingredients and mix well, until smooth.

Add dry ingredients, stir well and then add your chocolate chips, dried fruit and/or nuts.

Bake at 350 degrees on a parchment lined or oiled cookie sheet for 12-14 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies. (via Self)

I will totally be making these again - maybe throwing in some flax or hemp seeds for even more nutritional benefit.


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