All Posts By

Eryn Lynum

Living With Intention Motherhood

The Day I Nearly Killed My Son’s Compassion

February 17, 2017

Each cry from the back seat added another layer of tension to my shoulders as they hunched up closer and closer to my neck. My toddler was long overdue for a nap after a morning of running errands. Running errands is one thing. Running errands with three small children in car seats, who cannot buckle or unbuckle themselves, is a whole different thing. I was long overdue for a nap, too.

But that is when my middle boy spoke up softly. “Mom, look at that man. He does not have any food. We should give him some food.” This child, all of three years old with his soft voice and strong words knows exactly how to put a halt to the rush of our days.

I had seen the man too, of course, out of the corner of my eye. The toddler wailing and my blood pressure rising, I had hoped silently that the boys would not see him—would not suggest that we stop to help. Not today. Not now, when there is so much to be done. But then my boy reminded me that there was only one thing to be done, actually—and that was to help.

My boy’s words on that day, and his older brother’s exclamation of, “Wow, I feel great now!” after we rolled down the window and handed the man a gift card to a sub shop across the street—their words have stuck with me all these months later. Words that unearth the roots of your selfishness often do that. They stick. Not only did they show me a hard place in my heart, but they showed me a soft, strong place in my son’s heart; one bent on helping those in need. And I’ve come to see now that children are born with this bent within them.

Yes—kids are born selfish at their very nature; entering the earth with only needs of their own. But I believe that they are also born in the image of God; a God of great compassion towards those in need. And that compassion must be nurtured and encouraged, lest it be snuffed out by society.

Lest it be snuffed out by a mother in the thick of a rushed day, just trying to get home so the toddler can nap.

Last week at church we were given a bottle. Along with it, we were given the challenge of filling this bottle with change over the next few weeks. Then, with the bottle full, we’ll return it to church, where the money will be given to a local organization with a mission to help mothers and unborn babies.

As I picked up that bottle in my hand, it did not escape me that this is not the first time we have been given a container for change in church. Immediately I was brought back to that little stage, our toddler boy in my arms, the glass jar full of 936 pennies. I thought of the challenge we were given, to remove one penny every week; a poignant reminder of time being spent, and how are we spending it?

I stare now, these years later, at this bottle in my hands, ready to be filled for hurting mothers and endangered babies. I think of the organization helping mothers, and making sure that their babies will have a chance at their own 936 pennies. Their own 936 weeks with a family who loves them. And so we take our bottle home—three actually—to be filled.

Our boys have been doing just that. Day by day they ask for jobs to earn money. They’ve had their little hearts set on remote control cars for weeks, and have been working hard towards filling their own change jars, envisioning that trip to the store, and the picking out of their prized cars.

This week has been different, ever since bringing those bottles home. Now each day, after their hard work is done and it comes time to be paid, they divvy out their coins. One for their own jar, one for the moms and babies who need help. My second boy, the one who stopped us to help that homeless man on the side of the street months ago—he puts the majority of his change in the bottle for the moms and babies.

I count it grace that this comes so easy for them. It’s not always the case for me—take the example of the day I tried to drive by the homeless man. I see inconvenience. My sons see a Good Samaritan moment.

These Good Samaritan moments, and the conversations surrounding them, they teach our children, in a soft manner, the hard things of this world. As we talk about homelessness, moms who are frightened, babies without parents, and children without food—we coat the conversations with How Can We Help? And in doing so, our children grow up with an understanding that yes—this world is hard. It can be lonely and evil and scary and it is most definitely hurting. But—we can help. And this plants within them a sense of hope and purpose. It preserves that compassion engrained in their young hearts, so that it can outlast the hardship they will see and face as they grow. 

It teaches them that whenever within our power, we are never to just keep on driving. Because this world needs more people whose sense of compassion was never snuffed out as a child. This world needs more difference makers.

Faith Life Seasons Motherhood

When Your Limitations Are Staring You Straight In The Face

February 9, 2017

I saw it coming, though ever so subtly. I would be sitting at a table talking with a friend, and the whole room would shift as if balancing on a delicate axis. I’d sip water and concentrate hard—on anything—until it would pass, only to have it wash over me again like a line of unending waves in the ocean. It quickly accelerated from occasional to everyday. I’d find myself sitting in a coffee shop working on a project, and having to brace the table before me to steady myself, although I wasn’t actually falling—yet. And so, on the day when it finally gave way, I was not too surprised to find myself collapsed on the couch for the whole of an afternoon.

It is difficult to remember that this used to be my regular existence.

Over a decade ago when I sat in that sterile room, my parents in those cheap chairs next to the exam table where I sat fidgeting; the doctor spoke it, “Yes, she does have Addison’s Disease”, and I wonder if we knew at all what it meant.

Back on that day, we wondered whether it would mean that I may not be able to have those three babies I kiss goodnight every evening now. Or that I should probably never try anything like running that half marathon I completed a couple of years ago, our third boy nestled safe in my womb as I crossed the finish line. I don’t think we knew back on that day, in that little room, when words of prescriptions and doses and tests were exchanged, really what kind of life I could expect to live. If I could ever chase big dreams like writing books or starting businesses or raising babies. We had no idea what to expect, aside from limitations.

Sometimes, on the hinge of words spoken or a diagnosis given or our own doubts crowding—we become a little afraid to dream. Because who wants to dream a dream that their limitations—be them physical, emotional, or other wise—will never allow them to chase after? 

In that first handful of years following my diagnosis, my parents fought hard to dissect this disease, and learn every little detail of how it might be affecting my body. And they fought even harder to encourage me to never stop dreaming. And then, five years after we sat in that sterile room, they handed over the position of Chief Encouragers to my husband, as we stood on that altar and exchanged vows. And as he took my hand, he eagerly took on that responsibility to never let me give up on my dreams.

And he’s kept that vow.

And so, on weeks like these, when seasonal colds and stressful weeks culminate in my disease reminding me—hey, I’m still around—I’m caught a bit off guard.

We have a way of forgetting about our limitations. Somehow we become comfortable with them. We tame them. We create a system, balance the weights, and set up safe guards. It’s what my husband and I have been fighting for over the past years, as we’ve learned how to live a life abundantly—with a chronic illness. It’s a good thing. But then, when we finally become comfortable and well adjusted—we round a corner to find those inhibitions staring us in the face—the floor falls out from beneath us.

Whether they be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—whatever these limitations be, they have a way of reminding us that we are but clay and dirt and finite. We are limited. And it hurts, to want such big and beautiful and wondrous things for our lives, but to feel terribly hindered by things outside of our control. It hurt this week, in the midst of big dreams and plans and deadlines, to lay on that couch unable to even make dinner for my family.

And yet, I am discovering that my limitations are an invite.

This week, they invited me to lay and read that book I’ve been too busy to pick up. They invited me to watch my boys as they ran circles around the house in boy-made Superhero capes, exclaiming “It’s my pleasure!!” Every time I would ask them to grab my notebook or my blood pressure cuff.

My limits were my invite to not care about the dirty socks and half-completed art projects scattered across the floor, but instead to hold my toddler boy as he waited for me to fix his Lego truck. My limits were my invite to remember that I am, indeed, limited—and that’s ok. In fact, once in a while, I need to remember those limits. Because they have this stunning way of springing up within me a longing for that which is above and beyond and bigger than me and my limits. They make me ache for my Creator, who made me wonderfully, and calls me Very Good. The One who is my strength in weakness, my ever-present help. These physical limitations that drive me to that couch or my bed—they also drive me to my knees in prayer. And call me crazy, but it makes me a little bit fond of these hindrances.

Our limits have a thing or two to teach us about ourselves, our loved ones, and the pace of life. Sometimes they are our invite to rest, when we’ve been to stubborn to give ourselves a break. They invite us to ask for help, to accept grace, to stop. Refocus. Refresh. Restart. and Remember the One who gave us life, calls us to great things, and gives us everything we need—right in the midst of our limitations—to pursue those great things.

Back on that day when the doctor handed me a diagnosis I couldn’t, at fourteen years old, begin to understand the intricacies of, I couldn’t have anticipated the gifts hidden within. Limitations are funny like that, don’t you think? A blessing in disguise, if we choose to see and treat them as such. What is that limitation staring you in the face today? They stand there, intimidating and threatening and discouraging—and inviting. Take the invite today. The one that calls you to your knees, to rest, and to embrace a life that says that we are not enough—and that’s ok.

Faith Family Motherhood

When I Run Out Of Compassion For My Children

February 3, 2017

I felt him climbing ever so precariously across the bed towards me; each small movement pulling me further out of my sleep. He laid down across my stomach, face centimeters from mine, his little boy morning breath warm against my skin. I opened my eyes to just a squint and found them peering into his soft baby blues. “Mom.” He began, ever so matter of factly, “You are not making me breakfast.”

And so my day began.

As do many of them, right here in the beautiful mayhem of raising three small children. It seems as though most mornings, the boys roll out of bed right along with their constant stream of requests, ready to meet me before the dawn of the day, or any chance at that first cup of coffee.

Motherhood, at its very core, is a demanding call. It requires that we serve and serve and serve some more, and then wake to do it all over again tomorrow. It is sweet and humbling and wonderful—and depleting. And sometimes, if I am honest, I just don’t feel like giving any more. Or, I feel as though there is nothing left to give even if I tried. I’m guessing you’ve been there, too. Maybe you are right now.

It was in one of those extra demanding seasons, when I was feeling suffocated under projects and deadlines and baskets of dirty laundry and endless requests for more snacks or another episode of Thomas The Train that I glimpsed something within myself. And when I did, it stopped me in my tracks.

It was a recent morning while studying a passage with a room full of other mothers that I saw it. Or rather Him. Jesus— and His disciples, anchoring their boat along the shore, exhausted and hungry and anticipating rest and dinner. It came after a long shift of serving and healing and performing miracles and teaching. They were weary, and ready for a break. Much like I feel every single afternoon.

“And He (Jesus) said to them, Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while. (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) And they went away in a boat to a lonely place by themselves.)” Mark 6: 30-32

In all of the serving, they didn’t even find time to eat. Sound familiar? The anticipation of a break was palpable. But then…

“The people saw them going, and many recognized them, and they ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.”

Their break— hijacked. I know the feeling; the disappointment, the frustration. When you lay your head down on the pillow and close your eyes, and then you hear that little voice calling your name from the other room. When you manage to wake earlier than the kids for a few moments and a cup of coffee to yourself, and they choose that morning to wake extra early, stealing that time away. Or when you lay them down for a nap, retreat to your desk, open the laptop to catch up on work, and he comes out asking if nap time is over yet. Your whole body aches for that little bit of rest. So much so that you can hardly even enjoy it when it comes, unsure of how long it will last. You’re afraid to drift into that sleepful state, lest a tiny voice yank you out of it, asking for another drink before bed.

And when those interruptions come, it becomes all too easy to overact; to voice my rights—what I feel I deserve after all of my serving. But then I look to that shore where Jesus and His disciples had just landed their boat, licking their lips at the thought of grilled fish and breathing deep at the anticipation of a good night sleep. And I see Jesus’ reaction.

“And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”

I have serious doubts that those “many things” Jesus began to teach the people were of His need for rest and their selfish actions to interrupt said rest. No, He showed compassion; without beating an eye or groaning under His breath. He laid aside His rights, and what He very much deserved, and He chose love.

Of course, He is Jesus. I, on the other hand, am a flawed Mom. Weary, tired, and often times selfish. But then, the Word says that He took on flesh. And, standing there on that shore teaching the multitudes—He certainly had. Flesh and blood and heavy eyes. Just as He would soon know the very real sensation of whips ripping apart His flesh before His crucifixion, I am willing to bet that He felt the very real sensation of fatigue after a very long week of serving.

He has been there, and He meets us there today, too, in our very desperate places. When we want to give up. When we don’t know how to keep giving. When we feel a little lost in this calling of motherhood. And He shows compassion to us, too. He meets us in our weakest places.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

The same compassion poured out over the multitude who chased them down and hijacked their rest—poured out over us in our most weary moments. It is a beautiful thing, to embrace His strength within us. To believe in it, live in it, claim it as true, and see it produce a new sort of compassion within us—one born of His grace, unfazed by the circumstances surrounding us.

And in those times when we do just need rest or a few moments of quiet, and the interruptions come—may our voices be laced in compassion when we explain to our children, “Mama just needs a few moments.” Or to our husband, “I really could use a couple hours by myself this weekend.” May compassion wind its way around our hearts, and through our actions and words.

Let’s embrace that kind of compassion today; the compassion Christ offers to each one of us, the kind that lifts us out of our tired, emptied state, and up to new heights. This compassion that overflows in us, out to our children, and can change the entire culture of our homes, and the legacy of our family. That kind of compassion that only Christ can create within us, when we run to Him on that shore, hungry for truth.

“but those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Devotional Faith Writing

Six Important Questions About That Dream On Your Heart

January 19, 2017

I placed the lens close to the dark, dry, rutted skin. Focus, shutter, snap. I came in near from another angle, focus, shutter, snap. Repeat. I set the camera down, and gently rearranged the avocados; placed the onion in a new position; picked the camera back up. I had no idea what I was doing.

Slipping the camera card into the card reader, I downloaded the photos, and acquainted my fingers with the laptop keyboard. It felt foreign, despite its daily use. This was new territory, and it felt strange. I was uncertain at that point what I would do with this. And I had no idea that day when I sat down at the computer that I was chasing a dream.

It was a dream that would take seven years to take seed, root down, unearth many parts of me, sprout, and flourish. Seven years comes next spring, when a book I never could have anticipated on that day that I created a tiny little food blog, will sit on bookstore shelves.

Dreams are funny like that, they seem to take on a whole new life apart from us; melding and twisting and transforming and becoming their fullest nature, but only when we show up. Everyday. Often unaware of what we are doing, or what we will become.

Maybe you feel a little bit of that today. There is this thing on your heart that you just cannot let go. It’s constantly on your mind, and when it resurfaces, your heart beats a little bit faster. It brings with it a vision; perhaps of people being helped, of words moving others toward good, of products thoughtfully composed and sent out into the world marked with your name.

And maybe you are wondering, at the dawn of this new year, if now is the time to chase that dream.

Mine took two and a half years for me to realize what was taking place; that this dream was much bigger than I am; much larger than what I could have ever known back when it was in its seedling stage. But when I saw it, I knew. And that, right there, changed everything. There was no hemming and hawing. There was just clear evidence, set up in advance, waiting for me to arrive at its threshold and see that it was time.

Maybe you are looking for that kind of evidence today, that “Go ahead, it’s time”. Maybe you have been waiting a long while for it. And it feels like a desert land, dry and endless and wanting. The waiting can be excruciating, when you have such a dream on your hands.

Perhaps with the days passing by at merciless speed, and half of January gone, one twenty-fourth of our year, you hear that familiar taunting. This is not the time. This is not the year to chase that dream.

But maybe it is.

And maybe you need some clear-cut guidelines for figuring out if that “Go ahead” is now. Perhaps you have prayed and kept silent and ran numbers and dreamed your dream at a low volume where no one can hear or see or poke fun or question. And now is the time to measure it up to some real conditions. Perhaps now is the time to sit down with a pen and paper, and ask the hard questions, the ones that sift out dreams and sort them into “Ready” or “Wait” categories. Questions like these:

  • Have you been in God’s Word lately, exposing yourself to His truth, which sheds light on the way we should go? Does your dream contradict anything you see in God’s Word? “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
  • If you are married, have you sat down and discussed all of the details of this dream with your spouse? Have you chased it down to its end, talked of its worst-case-scenarios, and shared with them your passion behind it? Are they on board? Your dreams are part of their story too. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:6-8)
  • Have you talked of this dream with someone you admire, who shares the same beliefs as you? A mentor or sister or dear friend, who you know will tell you as it is, and help you discern the validity of this dream? “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
  • If this dream is one that will produce an income, have you decided how much, and to what cause, you will give a portion of that income to? “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)
  • If you have a family, have you thought through the impact it will have on them? How much time will it take, and where will that time come from? Our time is one of our most limited, valuable resources. Is this dream a good investment of it? “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
  • Are there 3 Red Flags? Each of the above questions can raise red flags that need to be heeded and addressed before moving forward. However, smaller red flags, that often go unseen or overlooked if we are not paying attention, can also serve as a compass when we are deciding whether to pursue a certain dream. My husband has a “3 Red Flag” rule. If three smaller red flags arise during the decision process, that is enough for us to step back and put the idea on hold until we can gain more clarity on it with a spirit of discernment. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

Answering these questions might take you a couple of hours at the coffee shop, or months of revising your answers as you dig deeper into your own heart. Give them the time they are due. The thing that I have learned about dream chasing is that these dreams take time to develop. Even when we do not realize it, these ideas and aspirations and passions are rooting themselves down, and preparing to bloom—when the time and conditions are right. There have been several times that, when my husband and I have decided it was time to pursue a dream, we could look back and see how God had been preparing us for that decision; equipping us with certain skills and knowledge and friendships that we would need.

Trust that the Lord is working in the details of your life, behind the scenes, even now. Trust that He has great plans for you. And trust that He will lead you in those plans and purposes, when you are attuning your heart to His. And then, when the time is right, walk forward confidently in this command and promise: “Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

When You Are An Introvert Raising An Extrovert With “So Many Words”

January 9, 2017

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“Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t let you nap.”

My eyes are closed. I lay in my bed next to my five-year-old; his little brothers sound asleep in their rooms. He goes on. “It’s just that I have so many words. And I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.”

This seems to be the case lately. And can I just say it…that it’s exhausting? It is said that women speak, on average, around 20,000 words a day. Just the thought of that exhausts me. I am not, and have never been that woman. In fact, one reason my husband and I fit so well together is that we have a bit of a role reversal; he has always been the talkative one. During arguments (and yes, they do happen), he likes to talk things over, while I would rather employ the silent treatment, mull things over in my mind, and take a nap. I have never been the talkative type.

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And then I gave birth to the boy who is his father’s son. Just as Zeke put it that day lying next to me in my bed—he just has so many words. And some days, like today, it infuriates me. To get the same point across, I might use five carefully chosen words, while my boy would use twenty-seven to say the very same thing.

It has been a real struggle lately, to remain patient when I feel downright drained in every single way. He rounds the corner with another question, another idea, even another, “I love you Mom and you are the most beautiful Mom I know!” and it is just the sweetest thing. And exhausting.

If you’re the quiet type of mom who treasures her scarce moments of silence hidden amongst the chaos and noise of her day, you might just be nodding your head right now.

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It has been this terribly complex dynamic to wrap my mind around. As we prepare for my book to launch, which includes public speaking, I’m diving into this whole new exhilarating world. And I love it. I love speaking words that move people. And seeing them literally relax under those words and find space to breath again; wisdom to move forward. I love every single bit of it.

I also love quiet.

And how do I balance this type of life, where I can hardly call myself an introvert, because of my love for community and speaking, and yet holding a million conversations a day with my child is downright draining? I’m at a loss, most days. Maybe you feel the same, trying to keep up with just so many words from your little one.

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But on those days when I’m given a bit of extra clarity, I see it. That these “so many words” that my boy holds bottled up within him, they are his byway from young child to adolescent, and eventually adult. They are his only way to make sense of this world around him, where still so much makes very little sense at all.

His endless questions and limitless ideas, they are his only way to express all of those wonderings bottled up in that budding mind of his. With these “so many words”, he is trying to piece together all of the confusion, uncertainty, curiosities, and misunderstandings that surround him. And he is trying to figure out where he fits in it all.

These “so many words”, they need to be spoken, to find a voice and a space and an answer. It pains him to bottle them up. Just as he told me that day on my bed, “I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.” It is just the same with my writing. A thought or an idea enters into my mind, and I feel I must find a home for it somewhere. Whether it be in a notebook or a file on my phone or a text to my husband or straight here to the blog. It has to go somewhere, or else it might just disappear into oblivion, never to mature, develop, or move people. My boy feels the same with his ideas of snowboard designs and race car tracks and inventions. He needs those ideas and thoughts and questions and words to have a home, lest he lose them. And my listening ear provides him that sanctuary for his ideas, where he knows they’ll be safe.

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Every time we stop to listen to our child’s words, to really listen, and to answer, it is an invite. It invites them to be vulnerable and curious and to dream. And it invites us to step into their world, and glimpse those wonderings that dance about in their head all day long.

This open invite into their world, it’s a gracious offering that our children give us, and we can’t know for how long it will last. How long until they begin guarding those words; bottling them up and hesitant to share them with us? Now is the time, while our children are young, that we can provide them with a place of trust for their words to rest upon, so that even when they are grown, they will know exactly where they can go to for a listening ear.

So yes—it is exhausting—these so many words. But really, isn’t most of parenthood? And this piece of it—the opportunity to speak truth and life and love and kindness, to answer their questions in such a way that will satisfy their curiosity and teach them about the most important pieces to life—I’ll take that exhaustion any day. One question at a time. Let’s graciously give those so many words a place to be heard today.

Life Seasons Living With Intention

Why My Favorite Part Of The New Year Is Not The New Year At All

January 1, 2017

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We are driving along a road in the Northwoods. We’ve wound our way along Lake Superior, glassy at the edges with ice creeping towards its center. Now a vast expanse of pine trees frame us in on each side. I look out into the depths of the woods, and I wonder just how many there are. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, an eternity of trees all stretching tall and reaching for the sun. As we pass each one, they seem as a blur of pine needle and bark.

They play out before me like one of those flip books I played with as a child. The ones where you place your thumb across the edge of the pages, all stacked side by side, then slowly release them and watch as  each page turned adds a tiny piece to the scene. These pines do the same. And if I look hard, I see the intricate, beautiful details making up their story. I see one felled pine, arching high like a bridge, dipping its tip into the blanket of snow below. And then a white-tailed doe, gently nosing at that same carpet of white, in search of breakfast buried beneath. The pines tell of time’s passing. For years they have stood here doing their job of drinking in the snow melt and sunshine, growing ever so methodically in tune with the passing of hours. They grow slow, we pass fast. And only when I stare deep and focus my attention do I see the beauty of their work, and the treasures lying within their forest.

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I think of these things a week later, as my husband and I sit on our living room floor, surrounded by journals, notebooks, and mugs of hot tea. The steam dances above our mugs and we write, pausing every few moments to think and talk and dream. We do it every year, this planning and goal setting and dreaming of what 365 days can hold.

And although I love the excitement of looking ahead, my favorite part is actually found not at all in the New Year, but the Old Year. Before we look ahead, we first take time to look back. It is another sort of Time Counting, but in retrospect. We think back on twelve months and we pick them apart, searching hard around every corner of them for those treasures within. Just as on that day with snow flakes falling big and pine trees stretched out on either side of me. I had to look hard beyond the eclipsing trees to find the further beauty within them. And now I do the same, looking beyond time’s passing over 365 days, to discover just what they held for us. We start to write.

Moved to Colorado!

Vast mountain explorations

Gray’s smooth transition into a new job

Signed contract for 936 Pennies book

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It begins slowly and then like an avalanche. And as we remember each of these gifts, our hearts lighten. The year behind us takes on a whole new look, one covered in grace and abundance, despite any heartache and struggle.

3 Family vacations

My family came out to Colorado

Paid off loan

Did fine owning only one vehicle, and had no issues with it

Gray built us a beautiful work desk where we can work side by side

Many family picnics

Met new friends

Found a church family

Sold a house

Bought a house

Spoke at a conference

Joined a wonderful Bible study

Good news from doctors

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And of course, this list is one sided. It is supposed to be. It does not tell of the loneliness and struggle woven throughout our move to Colorado. It does not hint at the emotional, exhausting process that buying our house was. It does not tell of our fourth child, lost in a miscarriage. It does not tell of the fear wrapped up in those doctor’s tests, a year after they hinted at cancer. Some of those gifts on our list could have never come to be, had it not been for the hardship.

Three hundred and sixty-five days can hold a lot within them. 

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It is a peculiar thing, looking back and realizing that this was both the most difficult and most wonderful year of my life. Maybe you feel the same way today. Or maybe you look back, and you only see the hard, the hurt, the ugly, the disappointment. Maybe you see very little, and you wonder just what good your 365 days did. Whatever you feel looking back on last year, now is the time to count. Search long and hard and in between every crevice of those days, and find the beauty. Find those moments that redeem the hurt, heal the wounds, and shine brighter than the dark.

Look beyond time’s passing, and find the treasures within. If you struggle hard and come up with five things, cling hard to those five gifts. And give thanks for this New Year in which twelve months lay before us, promising of beauty to be found, if only we’ll open our eyes to it.

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Before beginning our list of 2016 Thanks Givings, I looked back in my journal to find our 2015 list. It was good. But it was short. This year, as we wrote down gifts, the list was over twice as long. Perhaps the blessings were more abundant. God gave us a good year. But also I believe that the length of the list has something to do with our journey of Time Counting.

We are learning to look beyond the pines; beyond the ticking of the clock, and deep within to count those moments. The tree arching over white ground, the doe gracefully walking below the forest canopy. Our boys venturing into the forest in search of adventure, good news from doctors, friendships forged, picnic lunches between mountains towering. This is Time Counting. And perhaps it is the secret. Maybe our greatest chance at our best year yet in 2017 is not found in creating the perfect scenario, but in finding the beauty that is already waiting for us in these next 365 days. May we walk into this year with our eyes open wide to see it.

Motherhood

I Wondered If It Was I Who Had Made Him Sick

November 18, 2016

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I haven’t breastfed for sixteen months. And so when the The Honest Company asked me to share my personal feeding journey, I felt a bit unqualified. Along with their feeding page to help us parents with the options we have for feeding our babies, The Honest Company has collaborated with many moms on this journey to share their real, honest feeding stories. It wasn’t that I felt unqualified for this writing project because I haven’t dealt with the strong emotions tied to feeding my children—but simply because I’m not in that particular phase right now. 

I felt that way until a conversation I had with my husband recently, when I stumbled upon a sentence I had ruled myself guilty of—something I hadn’t known that I was holding against myself.

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My family has been sick lately—a lot sicker than we’ve been in recent years. In the past few months, our three boys have suffered through bouts of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, a stomach bug, and a respiratory virus. “I just don’t understand it,” I told my husband recently, “Why are they getting so sick? And with all of it, Willy seems to get hit the hardest each time.” Our youngest boy, Willy, is a year and a half. And through every recent illness, he has suffered the worst, and the longest. “Do you think…” I knew it was a bit ridiculous, but it was on my heart, so I went on, “Do you think it’s because he nursed for the least amount of time?” He assured me that there were a lot of factors, and that although nursing could be one factor, we didn’t even need consider it. His face said it all. Let’s not go there.

Our conversation opened my eyes to see that over these past sixteen months since our boy gave up breastfeeding, I have been holding it against myself. There has been a shadow hanging over my motherhood, and I am certain that the same shadow lingers over many mamas today.

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It could be argued that I should have tried harder. Perhaps I should have drank more mother’s milk tea, or ate more lactation cookies. Maybe our life was too stressful—we were in the midst of a move to a new state, and I was trying to run a business and secure a book deal. Maybe those ambitions were partly to blame. But I find that anytime I shift the blame, looking for a spot for it to call home—I am never satisfied. Playing the blame game only leaves me worse off.

Many of us moms are harboring guilt over the choices made around feeding our babies. There is so much out of our control. When our first son was five months old, I became very sick. While in the hospital, I was given medication that I could not nurse my boy on. Laying in that hospital bed, I pumped milk every two hours to encourage my supply. But I still lost my milk. The freezer at home ran empty of backup bags. I arrived home from the hospital to find my infant boy drinking formula from a bottle. It was all we could do–and I felt like a failure.

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Many moms face circumstances out of their control when it comes to feeding their babies. For some, their milk never comes in. For others, their baby never latches. For others, they didn’t meet their child until adoption brought them together, years after those feeding decisions had already been made. In our motherhood, there is so much that we cannot control. But sometimes the deepest peace is found in letting those matters go, giving ourselves grace, and shifting our focus to what we do have a say in.

When our youngest son gave up nursing at three months old, I was determined to find another way to bond with him. I missed his suckle, and the way he would lay pressed up against my skin, feeling nourishment pass from me to him. I missed it bad. And so I began carrying him on our hikes. Whenever we set out on a trail as a family, I volunteered to carry Willy in the hiking pack. As he sat behind me, taking in the wonderful world around him, smiling and chattering to me as we made our way down the path, he and I connected. We shared that experience of awe, adventure, and wonder. We bonded in a way that I will remember for all of my days.

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Whether the circumstances are within our control or not, our job is to look back on that time and remember the sweet cuddles, the middle-of-the-night lullabies, and the way our child rested securely in our love despite their feeding regimen. If you’re in this stage right now—make those moments matter. Weigh them down with your full presence. No matter the pressures, anxieties, and confusion permeating your own journey—rest knowing that the moments you will remember are the ones when you chose to love big despite the circumstances. Remember that your love for your baby is so much more powerful than feeding plans gone awry. And be thankful that even when things don’t go as planned, we still have good, wholesome options to offer our babies.

I am choosing to lay down this burden–the one I’ve been allowing to taint my motherhood for sixteen months. I hope you will do the same. Or if you are currently in the stage of making those decisions, that you’ll offer yourself some grace. With the immense pressure we face when deciding how to feed our babies, I think it would do us all well to step back and remember that what our little ones need most from us is undying, unconditional love. In our presence they find security. In our voice they find belonging. In our caress they find assurance. And in our own acceptance of ourselves as their mother, they find exactly the mom that they need.

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For more encouragement, be sure to read these Honest Feeding Stories over the the Honest Company!

 

Family Parenting

The One Question Us Parents Are Asking But No One Is Talking About

November 11, 2016

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I paused as I considered my next box to pack. Our move date was fast approaching; within a couple of short weeks we would relocate our young family from Missouri to our new home in Colorado. Most of the house was already stuffed and taped into cardboard boxes. But there was still that pile of clothes and a few garments hanging in the closet, the ones with elastic waist bands and stretched out mid-sections.

I could no longer avoid the decision. Do I pack these, or list them on Craigslist? It was crux of the crossroad we couldn’t move beyond. To do so we would have to answer that question us parents seem to encounter around every conversation with a new friend, or a stranger at the library. You know the one—the, “So, are you done?” question.

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I find it ironic that even with the question hovering around our conversations, we’re not actually talking about it. We offer a short, “Oh we’re not sure yet,” or “I think so, but maybe not”. Yet these short, trite answers speak nothing of our heart’s agony over this decision.

We’re not talking about how emotional and heart-wrenching this decision is. We’re not talking about the finality of it that haunts us, freezing us in our tracks.

I listed those clothes. Laid them out piece by piece on our bed, a flood of memories washing over me with each fold. I could picture my hand rubbing the red knit sweater over my belly swollen with our third boy. The electronic shutter of our camera sounded, wiping the memories from my mind as I pulled out the camera card and slipped it into my laptop.

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In the coming weeks, I’d receive a few emails of interest, but no bites. In the rush of last minute packing, I shoved the clothes into a plastic bin and loaded them into our moving trailer. It would be a month later when I would think about that bin of clothes again, and why they had made their way across the vast expanse of Kansas and into our new homeland of the mountains. With a faint second line and a burst of shock and hope, I found the purpose for holding onto that bin of clothing.

We were going to need them again.

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I wondered if that was the plan all along, why the interested emails never turned into a sale. Some divine intervention sparing us from having to purchase a whole new maternity wear wardrobe.

But then two days passed. That faint line grew fainter, and with it my hope. When the blood appeared, I knew that those clothes were not going to get unpacked with the dishes and photo frames. They would remain in their bin. I began to wonder why, again, they had made this trip with us.

Our miscarriage brought everything back into question. All those conversations where we had circled around and around and around again, with no conclusive answer. “Are we done?” We had been, I thought. We were, I thought. But carrying another baby, if only for a couple of weeks, unraveled any previous reasoning.

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And now I don’t know. Do any of us, really? I hear of parents who know for certain when they are done. No questions asked. But I have to wonder, did doubts or questions or uncertainties cloud their decision, if only but for a moment? Was there ever that uncertainty of, “What if we change our minds?”

If there is one thing about parenthood that has completely shocked me it is this:  the decision of when to “be done” having babies is far, far more difficult than I ever anticipated. It’s a question we circle around and around and around again, unwilling to stop at a certain conclusion. Because, “What if?”

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The one thing I do know is this:  We’re not talking about it enough. Just as I discovered with our miscarriage, this is a difficult area of parenthood that many of us are suffocating under the weight of, without leaning on one another.

I’m not saying let’s bring up all of our family planning woes and intimacies at the next church potluck. I am only suggesting that if you’re struggling under the weight of this question, that it’s likely that one of your close friends are, too. And perhaps they just need a hug and a “Hey, me too.”

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Maybe all they need today is a conversation over coffee, and to hear that they’re not the only one who could just keep on having babies, while not knowing if you can handle more kids. Maybe they need to hear that they’re not crazy, and that it’s ok to be in a place where you just can’t make that choice. Not yet. And really-that’s ok.

I don’t have an answer to this one. There’s no equation for determining when to “be done”. But one thing I am certain of is that in the midst of these most difficult and emotional decisions, we need to know that we are neither desolate nor deserted in our struggle.

So if this is you tonight, hemming and hawing and avoiding and discussing and praying and standing paralyzed in your uncertainty—I’m there too. You’re not alone. Neither am I. And often the greatest comfort is found in the realization that you’re not alone.

Anorexia Motherhood

5 Things I Need My Son To Know About My Eating Disorder

October 25, 2016

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Son, I need you to know something. It is something I am not proud of, but it is a part of who I am, and it is important. The chances are, you will encounter it in your life on a personal level. So I need you to know this—there was a time when I hurt my body. I chose to not eat enough food, because I was confused about what is important. I did not understand what it meant to be pretty, and so I chased after a fake kind of pretty.

I wanted people to think that I was strong and beautiful, but I did not understand what it really meant to be strong and beautiful. I thought that by not eating, I could be these things. I was wrong. God is good and kind, and He helped me to heal, and to learn what true beauty and strength look like.

I am telling you this because the chances are that in your life, a woman you know will struggle with eating just like I did. And I want you to know a few very important things, when that time comes.

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 1.   Pay Attention When Your Heart Tells You She May Be In Danger

Your heart as a way of telling you when something is not right. We call these “Red Flags”. They are that small feeling that something is wrong. If you have a girl in your life that you care about and spend a lot of time with, you will see these red flags when they come. 

She might start acting funny when it comes time to eat. She might make many comments about wanting to lose weight, or be prettier. She might talk badly about how she looks. She might push her food around her plate, or make excuses why she’s not eating. She may say things like, “Oh, I ate before I came” every time you hang out. She may seem sad and distracted. My Love, do not ignore these things when they sit heavy on your heart, telling you something is wrong. You are probably right.

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2.    Do Not Talk To Her About It

This may sound strange. Usually when someone is hurting or upset, I tell you that we should help them. But son, when it comes to eating disorders, it is not your place to fix this. In fact, because you are a boy, if you say anything about it to her, it might make matters worse. It is hard for me to explain, but I have been in her shoes. So I know that if you say anything, even if it is to help, it might cause her to skip another meal. Because deep down inside, she wanted you to notice.

3.  Instead, Ask An Older Woman To Help

Although you should not talk with your friend about your worries, you are not powerless. When you see those red flags, there is something you can do, and it could make all of the difference. The chances are that this girl in your life has an older woman that she looks up to. Whether it is a teacher, a youth leader, an aunt, or another woman in her life that she respects—this is the woman you can talk to about your red flags. This woman is in a place to talk to your friend, and get her the help that she needs. This is your most important job in helping your friend.

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4.   Your Words Hold Great Power

Lately I have been teaching you the importance of being a good encourager. You know that you can tell people what they are doing well, and things you like about them, and that it will bring a smile to their face. The power of your words runs even deeper than you think. You tell me at least five times a day that you think I am pretty. My boy, those words are life-giving. Whether it is your cousin, your friend, your aunt, your Grandma, and later on your girlfriend and eventually a wife, your words can give her all of the confidence in the world.

I know you have witnessed this in how your Daddy speaks to me. His words make me feel brave and strong and beautiful. Your words can do the same. But son, the most life-giving words you can speak to a woman are the ones that tell of her inward beauty. That she is brave, that she sings well, that she writes great stories, that she is smart, that she is kind. Everything you see good within her, tell her. Because a strong sense of inner beauty is one of the greatest protections against eating disorders.

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5.  It Is Not Your Fault

Finally, my boy, I need you to know that if a girl in your life is struggling with an eating disorder, it is not your fault. These sicknesses are so very hard to understand. Before and during my sickness, I had strong godly men speaking truth into my life. I felt loved and secure in my family. Sometimes these things just happen, for many various reasons. It is not your fault. It is the same sentence I would speak to any man who was in my life at that time. 

But son, although you were not the cause of her sickness, you can be a part of her healing. By paying attention to the red flags in your heart, by taking those red flags not to her, but to an older woman that she respects, and by always encouraging the women in your life by telling them of their inner beauty. You can make a difference. 

Be brave, my boy.

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Faith

“I’m Writing In My Journey”

October 15, 2016

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I didn’t see it until late that evening; long after his little head had hit the pillow. “What is this?” I fingered the cover, adorned in truck stickers. “You didn’t see that? He made it at camp.” My husband smiled. I read the crooked letters that he’d just learned to put together the week before. “Zeke”. I opened it to the first page to find a heart and a note. “I love you Mom. I made this heart for you.” I could picture his teacher, bending on a knee next to my boy to help him with the letters.

The next morning when he woke, he went straight to the notebook. “Oh Mom, I need to write in my journey.”

I smiled and turned my head slightly. “Your what?”

“My journey.”

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I went to correct him, to teach him the meaning of “Journal”, then I stopped; thinking his title to be more fitting. He pulled a marker out and began stringing together a sequence of letters. In the following days, he would repeat this practice every morning when he woke, and every night before he went to bed. I would offer to help him with words. “No, I can just write whatever letters.” He’d kindly reply, not taking his eyes off the page. “Ok, that’s enough for today.” He would declare before setting the book carefully on his desk, and running off to play with his brother.

I think of this now, each time I open my own leather-bound collection of thoughts, or come to this tiny corner of the internet where we’ve recorded and shared a small smattering of our stories. These are the places I come to write our journey. I look back over the span of our parenthood and I see the big moves, even bigger fears, great triumphs, and magnificent failures that make up our journey. And I am so thankful to have it written down.

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This week I read of another journey. One of 2 million sojourners dragging their feet through a dry land. “The people became impatient with the journey.” Impatient. I read the it and dig deeper to its roots. In its truest form—curtailed. Cut short. Cheated.

They felt ripped-off.

When have I felt ripped-off along my own journey? When have I come with pencil to that paper, and written of great discouragement and letdown? “And the people spoke against God and Moses.” Tummies grumbling, lips parched, hearts hardened, they threw up their arms and tossed in the towel. Why have you even brought us here? Clearly the hopelessness of their recent slavery had slipped their minds, or any thought of the Promised Land that laid ahead. They could only see what was in front of them, dust and discontent.

“There is no food or water, and we loathe this miserable food.” I have to read it twice to make sure this is what they actually said. There is no food….we hate this food. I picture a child complaining of nothing to eat, while standing in a kitchen full of food. I wonder how many times I have stood in the midst of God’s provision, and complained against Him because His gifts do not look like what I had asked for.

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A few days later I read of another sojourner. He sits on the edge of a well, wearied. Who wouldn’t be, after stepping into a new job, and facing immediate accusations and allegations? He’s come for water. A woman approaches, empty bucket in hand. She nears the well, and He startles her with His words. “Give Me a drink.” She looks at Him perplexed. People of her kind and people of His kind, they didn’t associate. I can see Him looking deep into her eyes, making certain that she catches this next part. “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

He came wearied. She came empty. Both came for water. But only Living Water would quench. And I wonder, how many times do I come with my empty bucket, looking to fill it with something that will never quench—something that will never satisfy?

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I see these fellow sojourners. A group of grumpy travelers rebelling in their discontent. And the Son of God who took on flesh and suffered the marks of humanity—tired and weary. Much like me on my own journey.

And this is when I pray. I pray that every time I sit to write in my journey, that it will tell the story of girl sojourning with a heart of gratitude, always seeking Living Water. I pray that mine will be a story of giving thanks, even when the provisions are not exactly what I had pictured. And I pray that when my journey grows wearisome and I come to the well, that I will fill up only on that which satisfies for the long haul.

What about you? Your journey is taking on new words today. Everyday our stories go on creating new plots; taking us through dry lands and to wells of water. And how our stories look in the end, when all is said and done, depends so very much on our responses in the desert and at the well.

So let’s write our journeys well today.

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