love makes the world go round

finding love By December 3, 2016 5 Comments

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Mother Love is as cozy as a blanket and as fierce as a grizzly.
It sounds like the sweetest lullaby at bedtime.
It feels tender, a heart no longer beating for itself.
It looks fragile, easily torn apart.
But resilient, healing itself to become stronger than before.

Friendship love is sincere and open.
It sounds like long talks and shared secrets.
It feels like cool water on a hot summer’s day.
It looks like a soul stretched and grown over time.
It rests in being accepted just as it is.

Romantic Love is wild and free.
It feels like the wind rushing through the trees.
It sounds like shouts of joy.
It looks like learning to navigate a windy, rocky path.
If it sustains its rough edges are worn away leaving smoothness and strength.

Self Love is a deep breath and a deep knowing.
It sounds like a quiet night sky with sparkling stars.
It feels like a good night’s sleep and a warm cup of coffee.
It looks peaceful, calm and undemanding.
It smiles to itself, confident it was created to be unique and rare.

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Family Love is beautiful and messy.
It feels like the shade of a sturdy tree.
It sounds like laughter and bickering.
It looks like honesty; revealing both sides of the heart–light and dark.
In the place of being known it finds firm ground and safety.

All of this love flows from the same source.
It bends and stretches through every heart connecting each of us.
This connection creates a force so strong it moves the earth.
Love, in its many forms, makes the world go round.

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one open heart

choose joy, finding love By November 29, 2016 29 Comments

I am learning one open heart can change the world.

On a sunny Sunday morning last year, we arrived at church a few minutes early. David slowly climbed the steps, one at a time, while holding my hand. Once inside he pulled away from me, wanting to explore the sanctuary before the service began. I set down my bag and followed closely behind him. I had no idea what was about to happen.

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David lives life inside a body that doesn’t cooperate. Because of his disability, he is very small, has only two fingers on his left hand and is non-verbal. David can’t speak with words but he has much to say. He communicates through gestures, physical touch and heart connection. As he moved around the room he ran his hand over the smooth wood of the church pew, weaving in and out of the narrow space. Then he crossed the aisle and made his way over to a woman sitting by herself. She was in her late thirties, had a kind face and a gentle presence.

We’d never met but that didn’t stop David from approaching her. As he got closer, the woman looked up and smiled at him. Once beside her, David turned around and backed up to her—it’s his way of asking to be held.

“He wants to sit on your lap.” I explained. “He can sit next to you if you prefer.”

“No,” she said, “I’d love to hold him.” She carefully lifted him onto her lap.

He tenderly wrapped his arms around her neck and laid his head against her shoulder.

“Is this okay?” I asked, anxious to be considerate of her space “Would you like me to move him?”

She looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

“My mom was diagnosed with cancer a couple days ago.” she said in a quiet voice. “I just needed a hug so badly. He knew exactly what I needed.”

I bent down beside them and touched her knee softly as she and David embraced. It was a holy moment of connection that soothed a hurting heart.

In that moment he gave her love, changing her world.

So often I rush around, trying to take care of people, trying to serve, trying to be good enough, trying to prove myself.

David doesn’t worry about these things. He is present in the moment. He is fully himself, unconcerned with what others think.

David’s simple act of love brought hope and beauty to this woman’s day.

He saw her and without pause met her exactly where she was.

It wasn’t accidental.

It wasn’t complicated.

It was David’s open heart that created a beautiful connection.

Maybe it’s not only grand, heroic actions that change the world.

Maybe it’s the quiet moments, when, in humility and brokenness we meet each other right where we are.

We offer hope and love.

We are present to witness another person’s pain and offer soothing grace.

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When we stop rushing, stop trying, stop proving, we can be fully present in the moment.

We can be fully ourselves and open our hearts to each other.

David is showing me one open heart can change the world.

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I am enough

finding love By November 17, 2016 13 Comments

I’ve beat myself up over and over with harsh words.

I told myself I wasn’t smart enough, wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t creative enough, wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t patient enough, wasn’t good enough.
Beating myself up with these harsh words was like setting my feet in cement and yelling at myself for not growing and changing and moving forward.

I’ve sat in business meetings and felt like a fraud.
I’ve tried on a pair of jeans and left the store feeling awful about myself.
I’ve dropped out of a pottery class frustrated I couldn’t master the techniques.
I’ve worn a big bulky sweater to hide from the world because I felt ugly.
I’ve screamed at my kids at the top of my lungs and then felt like a horrible mother.
I’ve told myself over and over I’m a failure. I’m not enough.

You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging. Brene Brown

I wasn’t good enough for what? Well, when I dug down deep and I was really, really honest with myself, I believed, I wasn’t good enough to loved. I believed I should be better to make myself more lovable.

I’ve been mixed up. I’m finding out…
There is no smart that’s smart enough to be loved.
There is no thin that’s thin enough to be loved.
There is no creative that’s creative enough to be loved.
There is no pretty that’s pretty enough to be loved.
There is no patient that’s patient enough to be loved.
There is no good that’s good enough to be loved.

These things don’t bring love. They may bring admiration–and admiration is a nice thing. It feels good. But I what I truly want, what my soul craves, is real and lasting love.

I’ve believed I won’t be lovable unless I live a certain way, look a certain way, perform a certain way. I haven’t completely overcome this deeply rooted lie, but I’m working to change my thinking. I’m working to believe what’s true, instead of believing a lie. It’s a simple truth but also complicated–because it means looking at myself from a completely different perspective.

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The greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection.
Henri Nouwen

The truth is, I am not only lovable, I am loved. Right now, I am loved, just as I am. I don’t have to change one thing.
I am smart enough to be loved.
I am thin enough to be loved.
I am pretty enough to be loved.
I am patient enough to be loved.
I am good enough to be loved.

Starting from a place of enough is like a pair of the best running shoes and a long, straight dirt road with wildflowers popping up on either side. It makes my daily to-do list shorter and frees up brain space. It’s like I’ve been holding my breath and I can finally exhale.

I’ve spent so much time trying to prove I’m lovable, because underneath, I believed I wasn’t.
I’ve worried about what my husband thought of me, what people at church thought of me, what other moms at school drop off thought of me, what strangers at the grocery store thought of me. Believing I wasn’t lovable got me nowhere. It was exhausting–so much energy, so much work, so much wasted time. How can I ever truly know what someone else thinks of me? In a business meeting, one person might think I’m smart and insightful, another person in the same meeting might think I’m completely missing the point and wasting time. Worrying about what other people think of me never, ever worked for me.

What other people think of me is none of my business. Wayne Dyer

It doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of me.
It only matters what’s true.
And the truth is I am loved, right now.
How do I know it’s true?
The God of the Universe says, “I love you.”

Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. Philippians 4:8

From the starting place, ‘I am enough right now’ I begin to make change, I begin to grow.
I don’t make change to be loved, I make change to live out of my truest self.
I don’t grow to be loved, I grow to love others better.
I’m starting from a place that’s filled with hope and light.

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I am enough.
You are enough.

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the perfect berry crumble

choose joy, finding love, worthiness By November 1, 2016 39 Comments

Every marriage goes through difficult times, and we were in a difficult time. We were both trying but we weren’t connecting. We were both hurting but didn’t know how to help each other. We were both making mistakes but we didn’t know what they were.

During this time, we had plans to gather with friends for a celebration. I decided to make Steve’s favorite dessert, berry crumble. This wasn’t going to be just any berry crumble—I was going to make the perfect berry crumble. I wanted to show Steve how much I loved him. I wanted to show him he was precious to me. This berry crumble was going to knock his socks off.

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I spent time researching the best recipe online. I gathered all the ingredients and spent a good chunk of the day making the amazing dessert. As the celebration approached, I slowly pulled the hot crumble out of the oven, wrapped it a heavy towel and we all loaded into the car. We parked in front of our friends’ home and I carefully got out, maneuvering the hot berry crumble to avoid a spill. I took a few steps and suddenly I lost hold of the wrapped glass dish. I watched in slow motion as my perfect crumble splattered all over the sidewalk. I felt the sting of hot tears behind my eyes.

“Hold it together.” I told myself.

But I couldn’t. The tears overflowed and once they started they wouldn’t stop. I could barely catch my breath between sobs. This was no ordinary berry crumble, this was the perfect berry crumble. This crumble was going to show Steve how much I cared for him. This dessert was going to save our marriage. It was going to make Steve fall in love with me again. I looked down at the berry crumble splattered all over the sidewalk and sobbed.

I tried so hard to be good enough. I tried to be the perfect wife. I tried to become less so he could be more. But it wasn’t working. Instead I was becoming less than whole–and a relationship can’t thrive without two whole people. I thought being perfect would bring me joy. But I was so focused on being perfect, I was missing all the joy.

I’ve clung to the belief that perfection held joy. I’ve spent most of my life believing if I could be perfect, or at least almost perfect, I would be lovable. So I worked hard to create the ‘perfect’ life for us. I tried to create a beautiful, tidy home. I tried to be the perfect mother—patient and fun and consistent. I tried to be happy even when I felt sad. I tried to be needless and wantless and take care of everybody else. My good intentions to ‘take care’ of everybody were really a desire to control. If I could control everything I would be good enough. I was terrified I wasn’t lovable, so I tried to control. The more I tried to control Steve, our marriage and our family, the more out of control I felt. I’d worked tirelessly to try to hold it all together, but we were a mess. It was falling apart—not just the berry crumble, but our marriage too.

I was finding out, there is no berry crumble so perfect it can hold a marriage together.

Perfection is a lie. It demands more and more, never offering a moment’s rest. Perfect is never satisfied. I kept reaching further and further, thinking I was almost there, but perfection was always just out of reach. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t be perfect.

But honesty. Honesty looks like me showing up and being my truest self, and Steve showing up and being his truest self. Two people showing up and being honest is imperfect and messy. Sometimes it’s more than messy; it’s super ugly and dark and scary. I don’t like messy. I wish relationships could be nice and tidy–but I’m learning that’s not how relationships work. Life is messy, marriage is messy, kids are messy, friendships are messy.

When we show up in the mess and we’re open, we are taking a step towards each other.

When we share our honest thoughts and desires, we begin to truly know each other.

When we’re brave and real our hearts connect.

When our hearts connect we begin to discover joy.

I can’t control my husband or my kids. I can’t keep my house perfectly clean.

I’m not perfect, I’m just me.

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I want to be loved for who I am, my truest self. I want to be in an honest marriage where we step into the mess together and together we work to make something beautiful. I want to let my kids be kids—in all their moods and messes and silliness. I want to order pizza instead of stressing about making the perfect holiday meal. I want to see toys and shoes and wrapping paper all over the family room and know we are living life together in this space. I want to let go of perfect and embrace truth. I want to be present in the crazy ups and downs of every day.
I’m learning I have to let go of perfection to have joy.
Today I choose joy.

How about together we let go of perfection and choose joy?

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Beauty is Not a Waste

finding beauty, worthiness By October 26, 2016 18 Comments

I have spent a lot of my life feeling that beauty was a waste. I craved it, pursued it and spent hours creating it, but it seemed indulgent rather than important. It was careless pursuit, not a critical pursuit. As I scoured thrift store for beautiful treasures I felt pangs of guilt.

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“I should be cleaning our closets, not finding another treasure.” I scolded myself.

When I took time to put on mascara and lipstick I had a nagging sense that my priorities were all wrong.

Setting the table with our “good” dishes, pretty napkins and candles was just silly if it was only the four of us at home.

My heart craved beauty but my brain disagreed.

Over the last months and years, I’ve begun to rethink my perspective on beauty. Beauty matters. Beauty is not a waste. God created a beautiful world and called it good. God made us creative. He gave us an innate sense of beauty and a desire to seek beauty.

But I have misunderstood beauty. I’ve tried to use beauty to prove my worthiness. Instead of letting beauty wash over me and fill up my soul, I used beauty as a tool to feel good enough. A perfect home, beautifully set table, delicious meal or the right shade of lipstick could never make me more or better. Misused, those things become a wall between myself and others. I am already enough. I don’t need to prove my worthiness; I’m already worthy.

When I start from a place of knowing I am worthy, beauty becomes a gift to myself and others. Beauty inspires instead of distracts. Beauty connects instead of divides. There is no need for comparison, because each of us is worthy and amazing in our own unique way.

Beauty is everywhere.

There is beauty in a sink full of dishes after a delicious meal shared with treasured friends.

There is beauty in the red lipstick kiss I leave on my son’s cheek.

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There is beauty in the way the sunshine filters through tall, dry grass as I hike the hills near our home.

There is beauty in slowing down, breathing deeply and just being.

There is beauty in two hearts truly knowing and loving each other despite the messiness of relationship.

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There is beauty in the bravery of trying something new.

There is beauty in letting the moment be whatever it is, without trying to control it.

There is beauty in the pain of being human, the tears of a friend sharing in my pain.

There is beauty in a carefree moment of laughter and being silly.

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There is beauty in a vintage wool rug, a worn chair and a cozy blanket.

There is beauty in accepting things don’t have to be perfect.

There is beauty in an amazing thrift store find.

There is beauty in an orderly, cleaned out closet.

There is beauty in seeking out beauty and sharing it with others.

There is beauty in choosing hope, choosing joy, choosing love.

And there is so much beauty in knowing I am enough just as I am. You are enough. You are worthy. You are amazing. You deserve sunshine and good coffee.

There is beauty in knowing beauty matters. Beauty is not a waste.

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identical twins, unique souls

finding beauty, soul connection By October 7, 2016 6 Comments

“Oh my gosh they look exactly alike!”

I heard this phrase over and over throughout my childhood. It was usually followed by a request that my identical twin sister and I stand next to each other so a person could compare our features.

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“Her eyes are more almond shaped.” My mother’s friend would say.

“Her jaw is more square.” The lady at grocery store would comment.

“Her nose turns up just slightly.” My Sunday school teacher would remark.

Back and forth their eyes would go from my sister to me and back to my sister again. Counting freckles, examining ear lobes and looking at us from every angle.

“Now which one is Lisa and which one is Chrissie?” They would ask. Over and over they would ask.

Sometimes I loved the attention, but other times I felt insecure. As they compared, I wondered if they were asking bigger, darker questions, “Which one is smarter? Which one is more athletic? Which one is more outgoing? Which one is thinner? Which one is prettier?”

They were looking at me but I didn’t feel seen. The closer they looked the more unseen I felt. The more they compared, the less I felt like an individual. Ironic, isn’t it? The closer we look at the outside of a person, the less we see the actual person.

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Twins are fascinating. I have always loved being a twin. But being one of two, being constantly compared to another person has its challenges.

It’s crazy to consider I have a sister who has been by my side since before we were born. We have so many shared experiences, not mentioned shared DNA, that we literally know each other inside and out. At first we were one; one egg, that became two. I am incomplete without my twin sister. She is most definitely part of me. The only way I can begin to describe the unique relationship of being a twin is to compare it to motherhood. Many of my friends have remarked when they became a mother they experienced a deep, passionate love for their child they had never felt before. The love of a mother is fierce and intense. This baby is part of her and she will love and nurture this baby at all costs. She will fight to protect her baby. It’s an rare and beautiful thing. When my baby was placed in my arms for the first time, I thought, “I know this love. This is the love I have for Chrissie.

Comparing two similar things is part of human nature. And it isn’t just twins. As women we naturally compare ourselves against our sisters, friends and coworkers. I grew up being so often compared to Chrissie, so often coupled with her, I began to believe there was nothing unique about me. We looked exactly the same except for slight variations. We were practically the same person, right? Of course not! We were very different despite our similar exteriors. We had very different personalities. We had difference preferences. Each of us exceled in different areas. Despite looking so much alike, in many ways we were opposites who complemented each other—two pieces of a puzzle that fit together, night and day, peanut butter and jelly.

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As I grew into an adult I became less dependent on Chrissie. We had different jobs, different friendship circles and after college we lived apart. I worked with people who didn’t know I had an identical twin. They only knew me, Lisa. They didn’t compare me against my look-alike. I was growing into my own person. I was becoming me, instead of being one half of a set of twins. I was a whole person, just on my own. And one day I had the very big realization that my soul is completely my own. My soul is unique and amazing and no one, not even my identical twin, has a soul like mine. God created me to be me.
My soul can’t be compared with any other soul because it’s unlike any other soul.

My soul was created by a God who makes wonderful, amazing things.

My soul was lovingly designed by a God who has endless creativity.

My beautiful soul makes me, me.

And your beautiful soul makes you, you.

It’s our distinct souls that make togetherness an incredible blessing.

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Comparison wonders, “Which one is better? Which one is best?”  Comparison wants to categorize things from greatest to least. Comparison begins with the false assumption there is one correct standard and everything is measured against it. Comparison can make us feel powerful or desperate, turning on us in a moment. The more I compare the flatness of my tummy, the length of my legs, the wrinkles near my eyes, to another woman, the less I see myself or her. Her value cannot be summed up by examining each part of her. Her value isn’t found in those things at all. Her value is found deep within her soul. It’s a spark all her own, so uncommon and rare it can’t be found anywhere else in the whole world. And truly, how can we compare one soul to another? Each is so unique, so precious, so individual.

I love being a twin. I cherish our unique, deep bond. I know Chrissie’s soul and she knows mine. We look alike but we are not the same. Together we are stronger. We shine brighter. We are better.

My soul is the truest, deepest part of who I am. My soul is a marvelous thing that belongs to me. It’s been given to me by a God who created it and called it good. My soul, and yours too, is incomparable, there is nothing else like it on earth.

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I should do more, should be more.

an everyday moment, thoughts By September 30, 2016 5 Comments

I should keep the house cleaner.

I should lose ten pounds.

I should speak more kindly to my kids.

I should be more.

I should be better.

I should be someone other than who I am.

Should. It has a heaviness to it, don’t you think? It seems innocent enough but has undertones of guilt. It always points out my shortcomings and implies I’m not who I should be. It blames me and says I’m not good enough. There are as many shoulds as moments in a day. My head is full of them. They make me feel tired–like I’ve already failed. I’m letting people down. I’m inadequate.

Should takes away my power and shames me. There is a right way to do things—and I’m not doing them that way. Should pretends to be on my side, but should is no friend to me. Should says it has my interests at heart and simply wants to motivate me, but should will never be satisfied. Should has already decided who I should be and how I should spend my time. And no matter how hard I try, should always wants more.

I want to eliminate should from my life. I want to speak words that encourage and lift up. I want to free up myself, family and friends from should. I want to replace should with kinder, gentler words.

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I should keep the house cleaner.
I could keep the house cleaner or I could choose not to worry about the dog hair and laundry today.

I should lose ten pounds.
I’d like to lose ten pounds but I am lovable and worthy just as I am.

I should speak more kindly to my kids.
I want to speak more kindly to my kids. I’m not getting enough alone time and I feel worn out. I will make rest a priority this week.

I should be better.
I am imperfect.

I should be more.
I am enough.

I should be someone other than who I am.
I am loveable just as I am.

Where did all these shoulds come from? They’re everywhere, woven into the fabric of our culture. We use should as a tool to criticize ourselves and others. We don’t intend to be harsh but should always murmurs its disapproval.

I am working to remove should from my vocabulary. I’m replacing it with words like need, want, can, am. Words carry power. I want my words to offer grace and allow imperfection. Words that celebrate who I am, who you are. Words that remind each of us we are precious and unique. I shouldn’t be anything other than who I am. I am enough, just as I am. You are enough, just as you are.

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From that safe place I can live with bravery and intention. You can too.

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I Love You Body and Soul

david, finding beauty By September 13, 2016 43 Comments

At the cellular level, every bit of David’s body has been affected by a chromosomal abnormality. It isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The coordinates on the map are incorrectly labeled. The recipe has all the ingredients but in the wrong amounts. The computer coding has a typo and the program won’t run correctly. When David was born we saw his left hand had only two fingers. It was the first indication David had a genetic disorder. His body is broken, imperfect, flawed. His soul on the other hand, is intact and whole. We are two parts, body and soul. His soul resides in a body that simply doesn’t cooperate because it can’t. His soul fights every day to live fully.

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Before David was born, before I was married even, I taught with kids in wheelchairs, kids with g-tubes, kids who were non-verbal, kids with autism. I worked with special needs kids, or I should say, I worked with typical kids trapped inside bodies with special needs. Every day they arrived at school at 8:30am, every day they left at 2:40pm and in between we lived life together; learning, growing and connecting. I knew each of my students well. I knew their physical needs and quirks, their preferences and personalities. I knew their souls and they knew mine.

When two people truly connect on a soul level it’s a kind of miracle. It’s much deeper than a physical connection. It takes time and energy. It takes patience and quiet. It’s a soul to soul, heart to heart connection. It’s the way an expectant mother bonds with her child before he’s born. It’s the way we can’t stop thinking about a friend–so we call up her up only to find out she really needed words of encouragement at that very moment. It’s a deep knowing cultivated over time. I can’t explain it, but if you’ve experienced it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

We may be tempted to say the body doesn’t matter. The body is broken—who cares?! It’s the soul that truly makes us who we are. And yes, in part, this is true. But the body does matter. The body carries the soul. The body breathes and speaks and sings and moves. The body is the outward representation of the soul. The body works on our behalf to make our soul known. A soul needs a body and a body needs a soul. So we care for our bodies. We walk and run and try to eat healthy food. We brush our teeth and see doctors and have surgery to repair a heart defect. We buy clothes that fit and have our hair trimmed. We honor the soul by caring for the body.

Yesterday David worked on feeding himself. He carefully lifted a spoonful of lemon yogurt to his mouth, took a bite and placed the spoon back into the bowl. He isn’t able to scoop up another bite, so I do that part for him. Again and again, I fill the spoon, again and again he lifts it to his mouth and places it back into the bowl. Over months and years of working on this skill David continues to improve.

And we celebrate! Because David’s amazing, stubborn, beautiful soul is winning over a body that doesn’t work right. We celebrate because it’s a HUGE accomplishment. No, eating a spoonful of yogurt isn’t a huge accomplishment for most 14-year-old boys, but for this kiddo, who lives inside a body that doesn’t cooperate, it’s massive. It deserves shouts of delights and high-fives.

While my hands are clapping and I cheer for his success, a tear slips down my cheek. This sucks. I hate that my son has to fight moment by moment to live a full life with a body that fights against him. I hate that he has to work harder than most kids to communicate and eat and walk and sometimes just to breath. I hate that he sees seven different medical specialists. I hate that he’s had multiple surgeries and will likely have many more. I hate there are times he comes up beside me and takes my hand, looks at me with an intent gaze while he stomps his foot, hoping I’ll know what he wants. I offer him a snack and see the frustration cross his face. He stomps more and pulls on my arm. I offer him a cuddle and he pushes me away. I hate that he can’t tell me what he wants and I hate that sometimes I can’t read his soul well enough to guess.

But that soul. I love that soul. And I love that broken, imperfect, adorable body that holds his beautiful soul. A love that is deeper because our souls have struggled and grieved and found hope together.

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Today I will put this necklace around my neck as a reminder of the love between his soul and mine. He is part of my tribe. He is my safe place and my love. I will do my best to care for his physical needs with patience and tenderness. I’ll help him scoop up spoonfuls of food again and again. I’ll help him put on his pants and button his shirt. I’ll cuddle him and kiss him. In return he will smile at me making my heart do flip flops. He will take my hand and show me what he wants. He will teach me how to be grateful. He will teach me to notice the beauty all around me. He will move through the day with bravery and determination. He will inspire others and spread joy to all who know him.

His soul knows mine and my soul knows his. And at the end of the day, we are both souls living inside imperfect, broken bodies. Not just David, but me as well. And someday I know it won’t be this hard. Someday all with be made right and our bodies will be made whole. Someday heaven will come. Today we find beauty in this moment, hope for tomorrow and a deep love between our souls.

Have you experienced a soul connection?

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The risk of being me

finding love, marriage, the meaning behind By September 6, 2016 32 Comments

I was unhappy. Steve was unhappy. I began to feel afraid. We were unhappy so I must be doing something wrong. I was certain I could do better and try harder. I’m a pleaser. I want to make others happy—sometimes to a fault. I want to make my husband happy, my kids happy, my friends happy, heck I even want to make the cashier at the grocery store happy. I’ve long believed if I could make others happy, they would love me.

Steve and I fell in love. Initially we were just friends, hanging out in groups with other friends.  But as we spent time together I saw his integrity, insight and compassion. Once I saw his heart, I fell hard. I knew he was a good man. We dated for a few months, had a short engagement and said our marriage vows with confidence. I was determined to be the best wife I could be. I believed with all my heart, I would make him happy and he would love me.

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We’ve walked through some of the most difficult things two people can face; losing a job, depression and having a child with a severe disability. Through these storms our friendship has been a strong foundation. Inevitably though, when two flawed people spend an extended amount of time together, conflict happens. Things get rocky. And for us, things began to get very rocky.

We weren’t connecting. I was unhappy. He was unhappy. My fear was paralyzing me. I believed if Steve was unhappy he would stop loving me. I believed if Steve was unhappy it was my fault. I believed I could control his moods and emotions. I was certain I could do better and try harder. I kept a mental list of the ways I could please him. I put his needs before mine and tried to think of my own needs less. I tried to control our marriage, avoiding conflict at any cost. The more I tried to please him, the more I lost myself. Steve didn’t want a wife who lived to please him, he wanted the strong, confident woman he married. My fear of losing his love was putting walls between us. The harder I tried to make him happy the more frustrated and discouraged I became. I falsely believed if I focused more on him and less on myself I could heal our marriage.

I went from unhappiness to exhaustion and desperate sadness. No matter how hard I tried, nothing changed. I was reaching a breaking point, so I decided to risk it all and tell Steve how desperate I felt. He had no idea I was so deeply unhappy.  I’d been trying to save our marriage on my own—and I was losing myself in the process. We met with a therapist and both shared honestly and openly. She helped {and continues to help} us work through our blind spots. We began listening to each other more. I began to say what I wanted instead of trying to please him all the time. I started taking better care of myself and cutting things out of my schedule. I stopped trying to be everything to everyone and began to focus on being me—even if it meant rejection. I needed to be me, not knowing if Steve would love that person.

And something miraculous happened. It wasn’t easy or magical but it was truly amazing. Together, with tears and humility we began breaking down walls. Together we grew closer. Together we shared more, we listened more. Together we stopped casting judgement and being defensive. We set aside our fear of losing each other and began choosing to stay together.

I believe there are cycles within a marriage; we give all we have but love still breaks down. In the breakdown both partners have a choice: go through the pain and fear of reconnecting or continue to pull away. If in our brokenness we can be humble and honest, a new love begins where the old love left off. Love is risky. Showing up is risky. But a healthy marriage consists of two people, each showing up and being their truest self. Two people who adore each other despite their flaws and imperfections.

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Slowly but surely I’m learning I can’t make someone else happy. I’m working daily to overcome false beliefs that I can control another person’s moods and feelings. I can only control my own emotions and my own actions. Caring for my own heart enables me to love better.  An ignored heart loves incompletely, a nurtured heart loves deeply. I want to be in a marriage where instead of avoiding conflict, we engage honestly, work hard, daily choosing to be together. When love breaks down, we begin again. I’m still a recovering people pleaser but I’m growing. I’m learning to feel my feelings and stop managing other people’s feelings. I’m beginning to understand love isn’t based on emotions or changing circumstances. Love isn’t one sided. Love thrives when two people choose kindness, patience and forgiveness.

Being me is risky, but losing myself is even riskier. Brave love is risky and beautiful.

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I can’t be silent

thoughts By July 9, 2016 49 Comments

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A few years ago my family went to the Southern California mountains for a snow day. We planned a fun-filled day of skiing and tubing down snowy slopes. As we arrived we headed to the lodge for snacks and a potty break. I got the kids settled and headed to the bathroom. The door to the stall next to me closed and the screaming began. I heard a mother berating her daughter. Her cruel words echoed through the room. Then I heard the slaps and the little girl began crying. I stood frozen in fear.

“I don’t know the details.” I told myself. “It’s none of my business.” I tried to reason with my heart.

I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. They left the bathroom before me. I washed my hands as a few tears fell from my eyes. I went on with my day but I couldn’t shake the awful feeling inside me. I did nothing. It was horrible. It was wrong. And I stood there silent.

I promised myself next time I would do something.

A couple years later I was shopping at a department store. As I entered the dressing room with a couple pairs of jeans, an angry mom pushed past me. She dragged her child into one of the dressing rooms and began screaming. I heard slaps. I had been in almost the exact same situation a few years before. I felt the same feeling of fear and horror move through my body.

I looked at the dressing room attendant and said, “We have to do something.”

She looked at me with sympathy in her eyes and said, “As an employee, I’m not allowed to say anything. There’s nothing I can do.”

I took a deep breath and walked over to the dressing room. I knocked on the door and said with a timid voice, “Pardon me. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m uncomfortable with what I’m hearing.”

The mother responded, “It’s none of your business. We’re fine.”

“But I’m not fine.” I said. “I’m uncomfortable and I’ll wait out here until you come out.”

After a few moments they came out of the dressing room walked past me and left the store.
Did I do enough? Maybe not. But I did something. It was a start.
I showed up. I stood up and said, “I’m uncomfortable.”

My husband and I recently started watching a documentary that explores racism {among other things} in the US in recent history.
A couple days ago I read a news story about police violence against a black man.
And the next day, another very disturbing news story about police violence.
I’m uncomfortable.
We have a problem.

If we see injustice and do nothing we’re not only part of the problem, we are the problem.
We cannot look away.
We cannot sit silently by and do nothing.
We can fight for what is right.
We can say, “I’m uncomfortable.”
It’s not enough, but it’s a start.
One voice, even if it’s squeaky and small, can join with many others to become a roar.
A beautiful, power force for change.
Friends, we need change.

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