Beauty in the Broken: Five Minute Friday

I’m linking metaphorical arms with the Five Minute Friday community this morning, where we write for five minutes on a single topic. Today’s word is BEAUTY. Here we go!

It’s not hard to find beauty in the natural world. God, in His wisdom, has created a lovely environment for His children. The ocean, the mountains, the wonder of a newborn baby – they all sing of His glory and His love for us.

But what about the broken things? Broken hearts, broken lives, broken bodies, broken spirits – where is the beauty there? Somehow I find a thing more beautiful to behold when it’s been broken. There is something holy in the way God alone can fit our broken pieces back together, filling up the empty spaces with Himself. Too much perfection might tempt me to worship the thing and not the Creator of the thing. But the broken ones remind me of our need for a Savior.

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Seventeen Years

So in the midst of all this medical stuff going on, my middle girl turned 17 years old.

She’s one year away from legally being able to vote and make certain other legaldecisions on her own.  This kid. Mercy.IMG_0589This kid took years to get here. Somehow I think she’s more precious for all the time it cost us to bring her into existence. She took her sweet time coming into this world and she’s been living on her own time system ever since. Don’t try to hurry her because it’s a sure way to slow her down.

She loves her music. She’s been singing since she could talk and began writing songs as soon as she was able to put words on paper. She took a few months each of piano, voice, and guitar lessons, and taught herself everything else from there. For her birthday this year she got an electric guitar to add to her two acoustics, one ukulele, and a keyboard.

She loves animals. She volunteers at the local SPCA in the cat room. She is tender toward her grumpy guinea pig and gentle with her sister’s pet rabbit.

This past two years has been like watching a flower unfurl in slow motion. She is stepping out of her shell, competing in a local talent show. She’s getting involved in the theater department. She’s doing improv comedy. She has found her “tribe” at school. We have fascinating conversations about things that matter and she has insight that astounds and confounds me, in all the best ways.

She is stretching her wings, reaching out, and becoming more like a grown woman every single day. It is both thrilling and soul-crushing to see how she needs us less and less. And at the same time I am struck by how much I still need to teach her and how little time I have left to teach it.

I found a video that I made for her several years ago and one of the songs I chose said, “Oh, darlin’ don’t you ever grow up, just stay this little” and while I certainly feel that way, it’s not fair to her to wish she would stay little forever.

As much as I miss that sweet baby face of hers, I want to see her blossom into full-grown womanhood. I want to see her step confidently out into the world, wherever life takes her. I want to see what she becomes.

Happy birthday, Super Seventeen. ❤



Small World



It’s a small world. And for my family, it seems to be getting even smaller.

I haven’t written much about it here – honestly, I haven’t written much here at all in the past year – but one of my teenage daughters has been ill off and on for the past couple of years. It started with abdominal pain that we (and the ER doctor) were just sure was appendicitis, but testing revealed a perfectly normal appendix. Since that first ER visit back in December 2015, we have been in the ER quite a few times for stomach pain and just like the first time, they can find nothing wrong except that maybe she could be dehydrated and/or constipated. She has seen GI specialists and had multiple tests done until finally in December 2017 one of them had an abnormal result. We have been held hostage to this pain and we now have a name for our captor – gastroparesis.

This active, social girl of mine used to be a gymnast. She played lacrosse. She went to school, if not joyfully, at least willingly. She hung out with friends. She laughed and joked and was in nearly constant motion. She had sleepovers at home and at friends’ homes.

At the time of that first ER visit in 2015 she was on a competitive cheerleading team. She was a flyer and pretty darn good at it. She tumbled like the former gymnast that she was and relished the whole hair-and-makeup process that came with competitions. She missed a few practices due to random belly pain, but overall it wasn’t a huge factor. She stopped cheer in spring 2016 and took a break from sports for several months, not for physical reasons but for personal reasons.

Early winter 2017 saw my daughter taking up lacrosse. She was very enthusiastic about this new (to her) sport and a fast learner. Even after she broke her wrist while snowboarding, she continued to go to lacrosse and simply learned to use her non-dominant hand for everything. When spring came she again did lacrosse, although she missed a practice or two due to bellyaches.

Summer 2017 saw her taking up gymnastics again and even joining a competitive team. She also did lacrosse again, which was only a six-week program in summer. But this was when things started falling apart for her. Of the six weeks of lacrosse, she made it to three sessions and left early on another day. The only thing she could tell me was that her belly hurt. She was relieved when the season ended.

Gymnastics was hit or miss. After being very excited to make the team, she started missing practices. Her father and I tried to be understanding but it’s hard to do when you consider the amount of money involved in the team commitment. Finally in November she asked if she could stop gymnastics, and we could see how hard it was for her to ask so soon after she begged to do it, but we could also see the pain in her eyes. That’s one of the only visible ways to tell she is sick, because she looks the same on the outside.

Our world started shrinking.

She decided not to do fall lacrosse because she just didn’t feel she could make it through the practices and games. She had plans to try out for the school lacrosse team in the spring but that dream started to fade away. She went on some sleepovers but most of the time after a couple of hours she called us to pick her up because of her belly. It got to the point where she hardly saw her friends, and if she did, it was nearly always at our house because she could lie down if the pain started. She cancelled plans and had to send friends home on several occasions because of the pain as well.

Our world kept shrinking.

After many, many absences in the spring, she started school this fall but almost immediately started leaving early, going in late, and missing days due to the belly aches. She finally stopped going in mid-November. The belly pain, now localized to one particular spot, made it impossible for her to sit up in school all day. In addition to the pain, she started feeling nauseated and on occasion she would throw up after eating.

And our world shrank even further.

We have turned down many invitations and activities because of this mysterious belly pain. We have virtually stopped inviting people over because the pain is unpredictable and we don’t know when she is going to need one of us to sit with her and comfort her. We have left events early and stayed home when we would have preferred to go out. We don’t travel. There are days that I leave home for my part-time job and I have to turn right around and go back home because she needs me. Or days when my husband works from home because she just needs to know someone is close by.

We have seen our world shrink to the size of our home.

We have endured doctors’ appointments, tests, and visits where they not-so-subtly suggested that maybe it is all in her head (it’s not, trust me). We have seen doctors who literally threw up their hands and declared they had no idea what is wrong with her. We have worried over missed schoolwork and despaired that she will complete her current grade level with her classmates. Where we once thought we could at least see an outline of what the next few years with her would bring, now we face an uncertain future. Will she go back to school eventually? Will anyone ever find a way to stop or at least reduce the almost daily pain she is in? We don’t know, and that is an uncomfortable place to be.

She doesn’t eat much because she is full quickly. None of the medications prescribed for her have helped. She is tired a lot. We are living in the in-between and it is such a small space.

And yet we want to keep hoping and planning our lives as though this is going to change. It has to, right? Next month we see yet another specialist, and for the first time we are having to leave our immediate area and drive a couple of hours away for care.

There are good days when she feels almost normal, but then come the bad days when she stays on the couch and tries to sleep it off. We are hoping for the time when the good days far outweigh the bad ones and this period in our lives is only a memory. Meanwhile we keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting in the One who holds the whole world in His hands.

2017 Wrap-Up and One Word 2018

Wait. Wasn’t it just January 1, 2017? Where did this year go??

2017 was a veritable tsunami of a year. I have to say I won’t be altogether sorry to see it go.

While we were busy living life, time passed unnoticed. And then when the dates change we all lift our heads and marvel at where the time went.

One big thing in my year was launching my daughter and her little family out of our house into their own place, and then a few months later, to another state. To say I will miss them is to seriously understate the situation. Three big chunks of my heart were packed up and hauled away, leaving gaping holes in my heart and life.

I continued working part-time as well, and I am blessed to truly enjoy both the work I do and the people with whom I do it.

We took one of our daughters on her first college tour. I sense more good-byes in the future and I’m taking the Scarlett O’Hara approach on that subject – I’ll think about that tomorrow.

I spent hours and hours, drove miles and miles, and spent many, many dollars in pursuit of answers for another daughter’s health problems, and this consumed a lot of my time – so much time that I don’t believe I have written on this blog for a solid year.

My word for 2017 was Open. I honestly can’t say how that has manifested in my life over the last twelve months. It really feels like I have been in survival mode all year, moving from one crisis to another.

I can say that my beliefs on certain issues have been challenged so maybe I have been more open-minded. I’m not as quick to assume that my way is the right way all the time.

I had to open my hands to let my daughter, son-in-love, and granddaughter move to another state and make their own way.

I’ve tried to be open to trying new things, even though I might not be good at them. I’m currently trying to learn brush pen calligraphy and not doing so well, but I’ll keep trying.

I finally got around to taking the Strengthsfinders assessment and the results really opened my eyes to some of my strengths and how they can be best used.

I guess Open wasn’t a complete failure.

And now it’s time to unveil my new word of the year. I don’t often have experiences where it feels like God is speaking directly to me, or like He’s whispering in my ear. However, when it came time to think about my new word, I heard it as clear as day.

FEARLESS. And not just in the “bold” sort of way:

FEAR LESS. That’s right. I’m supposed to be fearless and fear less.

You’ve probably heard that old line about how there are 365 places in the Bible where God says “do not fear” in various ways. I’m sure that’s not an accident. Just like it wasn’t an accident that I was in the Hobby Lobby store today and this sign jumped out at me.


This is very timely, because as it turns out, I have a lot of things causing fear right now. They wake me up at night and stir up my anxiety to a fever pitch and cost me restful sleep. I’m not even going to list them out because it just makes my heart beat faster, and not in a good way.

I have things to do, God’s work that I need to be about, and I cannot let fear paralyze me or build a wall around me. My daughters (and granddaughter) need to see me step out in faith to do what God has called me to do so that I can set a good example for them.

So here’s to my year of being Fearless and learning how to Fear Less!

If you choose a word for the year, or a word chooses  you, share it in the comments.


One Word 2016 Review and 2017 Reveal

So here it is the year 2017 and time once again to talk about my One Word. Last year my word was Mindful. I started out doing quite well in being mindful of what I was saying and doing, but then Life interfered, as it so often does. In late January I accepted a part-time position which allowed me to work while my kids are in school, which is fantastic, but it leaves me very little time to write. You may have noticed this quite extreme decrease in posts on my blog. Or maybe not.

Anyway, with my time during the day occupied and having a generally lazy attitude most of the time as it is, I decided to choose one thing to concentrate on this past year and to be Mindful about it.


I have two school-aged children who (apparently) do not eat much for lunch at school so when I pick them up afterward, they are ready for what I call “second lunch”. There is a nearby McDonald’s between school and home, so many (many, MANY) times we go through the drive-thru on our way home so they don’t perish from starvation in the 7 minutes it takes to get home. Don’t judge. Seriously, you’d think they hadn’t eaten in a week. I noticed that it is very easy to order, pay, and pick up an order in the drive-thru without even making eye contact with any of the employees, and it got me thinking. People feel noticed when you make eye contact. In fact, if you are trying to capture the attention of the opposite sex, one tip you will often hear is to make eye contact. Let them know you see them. Make the connection that comes with locking eyes.

So my goal for the year was to be deliberate (or mindful) about making eye contact whenever I was buying something or making a business transaction. It’s so easy to look at your wallet, the credit card machine, the signature slip – anything but the person behind the counter. I’m not sure why that is. Anyhow, I decided that any time I dealt with any kind of service personnel, I would make a point of looking at their eyes. At first I made it a sort of game by looking to see what color eyes he or she had. And then I added a smile, for good measure. Who knows? Maybe someone was having a bad day and they needed that little bit of contact. And after all, it couldn’t hurt. Later on I found myself looking for things to compliment, just to see if I could get a smile in return. I thought about how many people might go through a drive-thru window without ever really seeing the person inside, and I thought about how invisible it might make that person feel. Everybody wants to be seen, right?

How did it go, you ask? At first I had to remind myself to look up. It felt a little awkward, almost like staring, to look at the other person until they looked back at me but it seemed less creepy with a smile on my face. I suppose there were some who still thought I was a bit weird, but I’m used to that. My kids even noticed what I was doing and asked me why I was being so friendly with the McDonald’s (or Starbuck’s or Target) crew!

In my unscientific observation, roughly 99% of the time I got a smile in return. That’s a pretty good success rate, in my book. It’s just hard not to smile back when someone else smiles at you. Furthermore, this little project made me take my eyes off myself and concentrate on someone else, for at least few seconds anyway. And then I just kept going and started holding eye contact with ANYone who was having a conversation with me. I often had to turn my cell phone face down to keep from getting distracted, but I found I actually started LISTENING to what other people were saying and not just formulating my responses. Occasionally I took it a step further and asked pertinent questions just so the other person could explain themselves further and I could understand more. What a revelation!

(You know what? Other people are interesting!)

I have to admit here that once I got into the habit of looking for someone’s eyes and really seeing them, I sort of forgot about my One Word. It started to become such second nature that it didn’t seem much like a campaign any more. In fact, when I sat down to write this year-in-review I actually had to look up what my 2016 One Word even was! That’s how topsy-turvy my world has become with working a measly 20 hours per week. I was planning to write a post about how I lost my way with my One Word 2016. But when I looked up my word it all started coming back to me. I didn’t lose my way at all – I found it.

Now here comes 2017 and it’s time to choose a new word, or for a new word to choose me. Some years the word comes more easily than others and this is one of those easy times. You might say it fell right into my hands. My new One Word is OPEN.


When I think about Open the first thing I wonder about is what in my life is closed up. I think about open hands and something my pastor said about opening our hands to let go of the things God wants us to stop holding onto, and also opening our hands to receive the plans He has for us. We can’t simultaneously hold onto the old and still have room for the new. I also think about open eyes to see things more clearly, and open ears to hear, and an open heart to love more deeply, open arms to embrace those around me, and an open mind to consider opinions other than my own. And then I think about being open, or willing, to try new things and that’s a little scary. But I’ve heard if it doesn’t scare you, you’re not aiming high enough, right?

Let’s swing those doors wide open and see what 2017 brings!


Christmas Makes Me Tired

Christmas makes me tired, y’all. Am I the only one? Somehow, in this season when we are supposed to be celebrating Christ’s birth, there’s barely any time at all to consider Him.

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 The pressure of being a Mom and trying to orchestrate the “perfect” family holiday weighs me down. The expectations of my kids and extended family are many and varied, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Never mind that perfection is not attainable. I know that, but it doesn’t seem to stop this perfectionist from trying. Every year I say I’m going to scale back and every year I find myself mired in the muck of “shoulds”.

I will admit that much of that pressure is self-imposed. I want my kids to look back at their childhood Christmases and remember them as magical. I want to make lifelong memories. I want them to carry traditions into their own homes one day. And yet when I look back at my childhood Christmases, there was nothing particularly magical about them. The best part was being with my family. Okay, and getting presents. I was a kid – of course it was about the presents. But it was also singing Christmas carols at church, and watching Peanuts and The Grinch on TV, my Grandma’s homemade candy, and the anticipation – oh, the anticipation!

(I might also mention here that I have one child for whom the anticipation of Christmas is more than she can handle, and we do some things differently around here because of that. It also gives me more incentive to keep Christmas simple and low-key, two things that I would struggle with anyway. Because I want to do it BIG and SPECIAL and FUN, yet sacred and sweet. More pressure.)

In addition to the pressure I put on myself, there is pressure from the outside world. Advertisers want me to believe that their product is the only gift that will make my family happy. (Side note: car companies need to stop advertising their vehicles as Christmas gifts. Who buys someone a car for Christmas? Seriously. Stop it.) Furthermore, if I don’t supervise my children’s TV habits, they might become convinced that their eternal happiness depends on the next hot toy to come along. (Hatchimals, anyone?) It’s a lot of work.

Charities all want me to donate to their worthy cause, and I really want to help. There are so many needs this time of year, but also just as many, if not more, needs the rest of the year. Donating at Christmas is wonderful, but I should think about those organizations the rest of the year too. People are not only in need at Christmas. And I shouldn’t make myself feel guilty when I walk past the bell ringer with the red kettle without putting money in it, especially when I have donated the other 42 times I passed one on my way into a store this season. (That’s on me, not them.)

And the activities! Besides all the optional ones (Santa! Christmas lights! Parades! Parties!) there are some you really can’t avoid without ramifications (school Christmas concerts, for example, or gift shopping). So. Much. To. Do. And yet we can’t do it all, even though we might feel we have to try. Baking cookies, watching Christmas movies, decorating the tree – even the fun stuff can feel like pressure when it’s added to the other demands on our time.

(Have you ever listened to the words of the song, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”? Who are these people who have no place to go? Are they even real?)

I hear people saying, “Have a Merry Christmas!” and I wonder, How? How do you have a Merry Christmas? What makes a Christmas “merry”? What is considered merry enough? And that feels like additional pressure. If I don’t feel merry and help my loved ones feel merry, have I failed at Christmas? Is that possible? Because I don’t think God’s intention in sending us a Messiah was to cause us shame. He came to save us from our sins and show us how to love each other, and it wasn’t necessarily by putting on a Pinterest-perfect Christmas dinner. (But if that’s your love language, by all means, go for it!)

What if instead of looking internally for my Christmas I looked up? What if instead of all the voices telling me what I “should” do/buy/give/be, I listened to His voice? That sounds simple but we don’t live in a vacuum and the world continues moving whether we keep up or not. What if we stepped off the merry-go-round and sat still for a few minutes a day?

More practically, what if we stopped to think about what makes Christmas special for our family? Not the ones on TV commercials or in Hallmark movies, but our own special, unique family. Is it baking cookies? Then do that. Does watching The Polar Express make your Christmas merrier? Watch it, complete with hot chocolate and pajamas, or without. Do the Christmas lights make your head hurt? Then skip it. Don’t feel like you have to live up to someone else’s idea of Christmas. Give yourself permission to do YOUR Christmas.

I long for the day when I can look at holiday photos on social media and don’t feel even a hint of envy. I’m not there yet, by any means, but I’m getting there. There is no “perfect” Christmas. There is only the one that is right for your family.

Wishing you the merriest Christmas ever! But no pressure.

Behind the Lens

A couple of years ago I was sitting in traffic when I noticed a sticker on the rear window of the car in front of me. It was an abstract sort of design and it wasn’t immediately clear what the sticker was supposed to represent. But owing to a particularly long traffic signal I was finally able to discern the image of a pregnant lady. She had a rounded belly with her hands on her aching back, her head was slightly downturned (looking at her belly, perhaps), and her hair was a bit wild. I’ve been pregnant before and I could totally remember that phase. Your back hurts and you’re tired, and if you have other kids the wild hair is a given. Even if it’s your first pregnancy sometimes the hormones can affect your hair, rendering it nearly unrecognizable. I almost wanted to roll down my window and shout something like, “Solidarity, Sister!” but I refrained. In fact, the more I looked at it the more I could see a crown on top of the head. Because of course it was a crown.

Over the next couple of months I noticed more and more of those stickers in different colors and patterns. I wasn’t sure why the sudden show of support for pregnant mothers – after all, women have been carrying babies in their bellies for thousands of years – but it was kind of cool. Yeah! It’s about time mothers got the attention they deserve!

Then came the day I was driving my oldest daughter somewhere and we found ourselves behind a car with one of those stickers. I pointed it out to her and commented that I might want to get one myself. You know, to celebrate motherhood. She gave me the side eye, trying to decide if I was serious or not, and then she laughed. And laughed, and laughed, until she was tearing up and gasping for breath. In fact, guffawed is probably a more accurate word than laughed.

“Mom. That’s not a pregnant woman.”

This is the sticker to which I am referring:


Now admit it: you can see why I thought it was a pregnant lady.

Of course now I know it’s the Browning logo, which is in the shape of a deer’s head looking backward. What I thought was hair (or a crown) is actually antlers, head=ear, belly=neck, and those hands pressed into an aching back are actually the deer’s nose.

Go ahead and laugh. I’ll wait right here.

Are you finished? Let’s move on.

(But it could totally be a pregnant woman. I’m just saying.)

Let’s just talk for a minute about WHY I saw one thing and not what was intended.

:I was viewing that sticker through the lens of my unique life experience. I am a mother of three and it is a huge part of how I see myself. I have never been a hunter (huntress?), or an outdoorsman (outdoorsperson?). Much like the ink blots in the test conducted by psychiatrists, I related what I saw to my own personal experience. When I see a round belly, or what looks like one, it reminds me of my pregnancies. In a similar vein, I have a habit of matching new friends up to old ones. Or shall I say “friends I have known longer”? And if a new person reminds me of someone I know and like, somehow it rubs off. I tend to like you already!

Because each person is a one of a kind creation of God’s, each of us views life through the lens of our own life experiences. And unless you are a middle aged mother of three girls who was born in the South, married young and divorced, then married again to a Yankee, reads like it’s my job, and cannot stand seafood, you probably won’t see things the way I do. Even if you do meet all those criteria, there are thousands more things that we don’t have in common that may mean we see life differently.

Nowhere is this more evident than on social media right now. State an opinion and among the 253 responses you will find 253 opinions of your opinion. And far too often each person is convinced that their opinion is the only right one, never considering that someone else might see a pregnant woman instead of the deer that’s intended.

It’s true in parenting, marriage, work, ministry – anywhere you gather two or more people together, you get two or more sets of life experiences and therefore, opinions. And it’s very hard to step out from behind my own lens to see things from where you might be standing behind your lens, but it is so very necessary.

Because while God created us all to be unique, He also told us to love one another and I believe that love walks hand in hand with acceptance. Not just tolerance, but acceptance. Accepting that my view is not the only one, and actively seeking to see things from another point of view, for instance. Accepting that I might just be wrong about what I think I’m seeing. Keeping an open mind and heart for what God might want to say to me through another of His creations. Recognizing that there might be more than one way to see it, or that I may not see the whole picture.

Now every time you see one of the Browning stickers on the back of a car, maybe you’ll  find yourself thinking, “pregnant woman with back pain and hair issues”. You’re welcome for that. May it remind you that oftentimes there is more to a thing than we see at first.

And if you smile at my silliness, that’s okay too.