An Open Letter to My Children 2018

To begin this letter, I looked back at my previous open letters in 2016, An Open Letter to my Children 2016 and 2017, An Open Letter to My Children 2017…it is breathtaking, and I am so thankful to have this forum, to remember, to focus, to explain all the things in life that make this journey so magical.  My hope is one day my children will read these letters, and they will know just how special they are, how very much they are loved, and how very much I cherish this time I’ve been given to be their mother.

To Jace:

You are nine years old.  At times you seem so much older.  You have a maturity about you that is so far beyond your nine years.  This year you finished the third grade.  Brock Moehler was your teacher and you shared a very special bond with him.  It warmed my heart that he just “got” you.  You came home from school each week with stories of the jokes and laughs you shared.  You looked forward to gym class each week, where you made sure to wear your best running shoes so you could beat all of your classmates in whatever game you were to play that day.  You played basketball, baseball, and continued as a Bear in Boy Scouts this year.  You attended Cross Country Camp for the first time, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as proud as I did when I saw you running, with all of your strength and heart, striving for a good finish.  You have so much heart, it overwhelms me and I admire you for it.  You attended STEAM Camp for the first time too, and each day I heard stories of the projects you completed and how your design won each day.  You were so proud and excited, and I was so happy for you.  You’re still a total gear head and each and every day, you are telling me about one car or another….about the names, about the designs, about the prices.  You dream of getting a classic car and rebuilding it on your own.  I hope that someday you can make that dream a reality.  You have lost your zest for scary movies and prefer comedies lately.  You love to laugh.  You started your first paying job, mowing the neighbor’s yard, and you are completely motivated to earn money of your own.  You come in from mowing, dripping in sweat, red in the face, and I’m amazed by your dedication.  You want to be a surgeon or engineer, mostly I think, because you want to earn enough money to buy your dream cars.  That makes me smile.  You worry about some of your classmates who have started to cuss or bully other kids, and you try to be a good influence on your friends.  That makes me so proud of you.  You are pumped to be a big brother again, and are hoping for a boy so that you can share your room with him.  You are kind.  You have the best sense of humor.  You love and care deeply for others.  You are a good friend, and you’re a ton of fun.  I love to be around you, and I’m so proud of the young man you are growing into.  Thank you for being such a strong, loving, uplifting and understanding son.

To Jera:

You are six years old today.  You leave your dad and me speechless often.  You are witty, playful, hardheaded, and kindhearted.  You took Kindergarten by storm this year.  I was absolutely astounded when you picked up reading as though you’d been doing it since the day you were born.  You borrowed Jace’s books this year and read through them with ease.  I gave you the option to pick any fun activity to celebrate your report card this year, and you chose to go to the library.  I am so excited by your passion to grow and learn.  You enjoy the challenge of learning something new, and I know it will take you far in life.  You played softball this year.  I was amazed to see your competitive spirit.  You listened attentively to your coach and played so well, always putting forth your best effort.  You also began dance this year with a combination class of tap and ballet.  Your first recital was just a couple of weeks ago, and you literally brought tears to my eyes.  Your ballet number was set to the song Smile, and you were the most graceful and beautiful ballerina I had ever set my eyes upon.  Your tap number was set to the song Boogie Shoes, and there was a part in the beginning where you shook your hips with all of the sass that only you have.  I am so proud of your courage, and although you shared with me that being on stage scared you, you didn’t show it for a moment.  You have the best giggle.  It is the sweetest sound and it immediately brings a smile to my face every single time.  You have taken over your brother’s love for scary movies.  You can’t get enough of all things spooky.  You are completely fearless.  You are still full of kisses and hugs, which I’m still soaking in as often as possible.  You are beyond excited to be a big sister, and stop several times a day to give my tummy a kiss.  I took me two days, a week’s grounding from the XBox and iPad, and about two thousand reminders to get you to clean up your room this weekend.  We’re working on this messy thing….but we’re about progress, not perfection.  Maybe next time we’ll get it done without the two thousand reminders…but maybe not.  You are a bright, shining light in our lives.  You bring energy and excitement to all things.  You may be hard headed, but you match that hard head with an even softer heart.  You ask me to sing You are my Sunshine to you each night as you fall asleep. You like to read two books and have your back scratched at bedtime…and then somehow you still end up in my and your dad’s bed by 3:00 a.m. every night.  I love you wildly and deeply.  I see the all of the world’s potential when I look into your eyes.  Thank you for being such a wonderful, vibrant, amazing daughter.

To Baby Hafele:

You are the size of a peach this week, week thirteen.  You are so small, and yet, you have totally and completely changed my life.  Someday you may read my blog “2, 4, 6, 8…Nah 2” and I wonder what you’ll think about the fact that we thought two children were enough….and here you are, surprising and wonderful number three.  What can I say?  What words are there to explain all of the thoughts, decisions and feelings that come with bringing a child into this world.  I was scared.  I should explain that.  I wondered if I could do it, be a great parent to three children, build an amazing career, pay all the bills, clean all the house, do all the laundry, balance all the life that came with having three children.  I was also scared of having another miscarriage.  I hadn’t told anyone that.  You, Jace and Jera should have an older sibling, but that was not meant to be.  I felt blessed to have two healthy pregnancies after suffering the loss of my first child.  I worried if I tempted fate, if I tried again, I may have to go through that suffering again.  But then, you came.  You came without any stress, without any trying.  You are this wonderful gift in our lives.  And with your arrival, all of the worry left me.  I have been lifted up to a place of pure confidence, where I know I can do this, together with your dad, we can do this.  We’re so excited to meet you, to have you in our family, to get to go through this amazing experience one more time.  I’m moved beyond words in this moment.  I’m brought to tears.  You are the piece to the puzzle that we didn’t know was missing, that I know could not live without.  I thank God that he knows exactly what he is doing.  What an amazing, beautiful ride this life is.  What an unbelievable gift you are.  I am undeserving, but so thankful.

To my readers:

Make time today.  Write down the wonderful things about your children.  Tell them out loud.  They may not understand yet, but someday they will.  If life ever changes and we can’t tell them anymore all of the joy they bring to us, they’re left with the written things we leave them, with the spoken words we shared with them.  I encourage you to bare your soul when you can.  Be an open book.  Life is too short to keep all of the beautiful things hidden inside.

Advertisements

Full Circle

Parallel lines…two lines traveling side by side, having the same distance between them. Tonight I’m thinking of all of the parallels in my life. There are so many that I know there is more to this life than chance.

I think of the moments. The moment at 17 when I was falling madly in love with the man that I now call my husband, and we were dating only a few weeks when we realized we didn’t yet have a song. We were in his truck, a tan and brown Chevy S-10. I have no doubt that there was some type of rap playing in the background, and for no particular reason, we both decided that “Time After Time” by Cindy Lauper would be our song. I think about that conversation and that decision, what made us arrive at that song choice, a song that was every bit of 15 years old at the time. I know it’s what we wanted, for one another to be that person, to be there for one another, to pick each other up when we fall, to ground one another for a lifetime. And by some miracle of fate, that is what we got. But in that moment, there is no way we could know what that song would come to mean to us.

Some nine years later, we rushed to an emergency room. I had been carrying a high risk pregnancy, and I was miscarrying. There was no doubt. We arrived, we went through the motions, we sat in a waiting room for a doctor, and the world went silent. And then, over a small radio left playing in the room, Cindy Lauper came on the line, and she sang to us, “If you fall, I will catch you. I’ll be waiting time after time. If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me, time after time.” In that moment of tragedy and simultaneous comfort, I knew we would be okay.

In that moment of tragedy and simultaneous comfort, I knew we would be okay.

Then there are other, lighter moments. Like the moment when my husband and I were still in the “getting to know you” stage, and again we were cruising around in my 1994, forest green Camaro (we both lived with our parents and therefore spent a tremendous amount of time in our cars!). I had Prince’s “Kiss” blasting, and was quietly amused that my sweet boyfriend wasn’t turning the song or horrified by my off-key singing. When we began to enter the city limits, he leaned ever so casually forward and very inconspicuously adjusted the volume down. I smiled to myself. I’m not sure exactly what it is about that moment that made me fall more in love with him, but it did, and that memory is still extremely vivid for me.

Today, 16 years later, as I drive my kids to school every day, my 5-year old daughter picks out a song choice and then begs me to “turn it up how she likes it!” Which I of course oblige. And then, as we make a left onto my son’s school’s road, he so quietly leans forward and adjusts the volume down. I smile to myself. I look to my passenger-side seat, and I see his father there, some 16 years ago, and I love them both, my boy and his dad, just for being who they are. It melts my heart.

There are so many parallels from the past to the present. The way my daughter consistently puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable when she speaks, and her brother can’t help but giggle and point it out (much to her astonishment, as she is certain that she is correct, and he in fact, is wrong), much the same way that I had not the slightest clue that I wasn’t saying the words Tylenol, elephant and volume wrong, until I met their father, and he couldn’t help but grin every time those words came out of my mouth.

There are so many small moments that are of little significance at the time, but then later, I find myself coming full circle. It is truly amazing. Albert Einstein’s said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Smart guy…)

I see miracles every single day. I see them in the most ordinary moments, in the moments that a stranger would be completely blind to, because I have the gift of history. I can see how every moment in my life brought me to this day, to these every day little miracles. The parallels between who I once was and who I am now, between the small moments then that are playing back into beautiful moments today, the parallels in what I once was blind to, but today have the gift of sight. I’m blessed to see so many things come full circle in this life, and it is a miracle each and every time.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

– Albert Einstein

I hope you see a miracle today, in your life, in yourself, your partner, your children. I hope you can open your eyes to see that this life is a beautiful thing.

5 Things I’m just so OVER in my 30s

It’s my BIRTHDAY!  Woot woot!  That’s right, I’m celebrating my own birthday…and I’m not sorry.  I turn 33 today, and I have planned a massage, lunch with my two favorite people in the world (my mom and #1 sister….she’s my only sister but still my favorite), and some shopping for ME!  I took the day off work, which I have never done before, and decided to just enjoy my special day.  I’ve always loved birthdays, and I’ve put countless amounts of time and energy into celebrating those people around me.  However, I have never felt comfortable doing the same for myself.  But this year is different.  I’m totally and completely thankful for another birthday, for another year of this life, and I’m going to celebrate my life and all of the time I’ve been given.

My birthday, and all of this free time this morning, got me to thinking about how much I’ve changed since my teens and 20’s.  Inwardly, I’m the same bubbly, obnoxiously positive, and reserved person.  But outwardly, my habits and lifestyle have changed.   I’m thinking about all of the things that I’m just so OVER (and glad to be over) in my 30’s.  Here are my top 5:

  1. Late nights – Am I the only one who loves crawling into bed at 9:00….errrr, 8:30…..errrr, 8:00…..errrr, okay, okay, as soon as I possibly can?????  Late nights just aren’t gratifying when a five year old is staring at you at 6:00 a.m. waiting for her chocolate milk.  And mornings…I seriously love mornings.  All of the potential of a new day waiting for me.  The calmness of a sleepy world.  Why stay up late and miss out on the fabulousness of morning?  In my 30’s I am so OVER late nights.
  2. Cheeseburgers – And french fries, and deep fried oreos, and chicken strips…shall I go on?  In my 30’s, I eat healthy (aside from the cheesecake I indulged in last night).  But seriously, I make healthier choices, not because I have to, but because I want to.  I’m not trying to stay skinny.  I’m not trying to follow a fad.  I truly care about my health and quality of life.  In my 30’s I’ve found that when I eat better I feel better, and I’m so thankful for that revelation and the desire to make better choices for myself.  This is coming from the former “Queen of the Thickburger” (sorry Hardee’s), and I never thought the day would come, but I’m so OVER cheeseburgers.
  3. Needy People – I’ve had a lot of great people in my life over the years, and I’m thankful for each experience and how it’s shaped who I am and the life I’ve had.  However, in my younger years, I was drawn to people that I wanted to help/fix.  I had many wonderful friendships, but some relationships were draining.  I learned a lot, but friendship for me, in my 30’s, has changed.  Today I’m drawn to friends who challenge me to be a better, stronger, more mature and kinder me.  I want friends who challenge me to think differently, to try new and exciting experiences, and who want a reciprocal relationship in which we both grow together, learning and vibing off one another.  In my 30’s, I’m not interested in fixing anyone.  I’m interested in laughing and learning with my friends, and I’m thankful I have some amazing people in my life fill that space in my heart/mind/soul.
  4. Trends – Trendy clothes, trendy diets, trendy social media, blah, blah, blah.  In my 30’s trends make me tired.  I’ve become a fan of the tried and true.  I want my clothes to be classy, I want my food to be healthy, and I want my communication to be real life.  I value my time and energy.  In my 30’s I’m not interested in being cool or hip.  I’m interested in being me.  Doing the things I love, the way I love to do them.  I’m so OVER trends.
  5. Birthday modesty – As you’ve seen above, I’m pumped it’s my birthday, and I’m okay with that.  I’m so over birthday modesty.  And this why…the fact that we were born….that we were created should be celebrated.  We need to celebrate the fact that our existence isn’t random, we are not accidental, we are not the result of chaos.  Instead, our creator took the care, thoughtfulness, humor and creative effort to design each strength and weakness that we possess.  He did this all in an effort to prepare us for the path that He has made for us.  How can we not celebrate our special day, the day we were born and began this amazing journey?  I’m so OVER birthday modesty….I could not be more grateful for my birthday today.

I received a birthday card yesterday from my co-workers, and it truly touched my heart.  It says:

Celebrating you. On birthdays, we honor our beginnings and remember that in God’s eyes, we have a place in this world no one else has.  Your birthday is a reminder that God put you here for a purpose.

How amazing.  My childhood was magical.  My teens were adventurous and also tumultuous (as everyone’s are).  My 20’s were too much fun and transformational.  And my 30’s….well, so far, my 30’s are just right.

I hope you enjoy your birthday this year (feel free to celebrate yourself…you have my permission).  Every day we are given is a blessing.

 

Making This Year’s Resolution Just For You

This is the time of year that we all start to look back and reflect.  Although we know that time is continuous, it is hard not to feel like one door is closing and a new, bright, shiny door is opening. I have been thinking about 2017 over the past few weeks, trying to recall what I have accomplished, where I have grown, what made me smile and how I spent my time.

The single, over-powering memory that crowds my thoughts is the hours upon hours of studying.  I completed six MBA courses in 2017…and it was hard.  It took most of my free time, and the focus and dedication it required, stole some of my happiness.  While I am proud of my accomplishment, a particular sadness hovers over the fact that school is my most vibrant and lasting memory of the entire year.

I woke up this morning and began to look back at my pictures, blogs and FB statuses in order to see where else I spent my time.  I saw pictures and blogs from early 2017 when we were worried that Jera, my then 4-year old, may have cancer due to an asymmetric enlarged tonsil.  It brought back the memories of her tonsillectomy and waiting for test results that followed.  I thought about how grateful we were when those results came back cancer-free.  I am thankful to have a healthy and vibrant 5-year old today.

E2876F5C-8EA9-4F20-AE45-7D9205D04FA6.jpeg

I saw Facebook status updates on my mother-in-law’s surgery to remove her second brain tumor.  I thought about the journey she has been on, and our journey with her, as she has dealt so bravely with renal cell carcinoma (and when I say dealt so bravely, I mean kicked a**).  Pardon my language, but it is what it is.  I think about her recent test results that showed no new tumors and how truly thankful we are to have her in our lives every day.

FA7759F2-09C2-446D-86C7-EB746AA35757.jpeg

I thought about losing my grandfather, Linus Knebel, and in doing so, watching my father lose his father.  I thought about how brave my grandpa was the last time I saw him and how strong my dad was in letting him go to be with God.  And in thinking of these milestones, I thought about how grateful I am for my own parents.  How truly blessed I am to have them in my life, in my children’s lives, every single day.

EA7F6918-5176-4852-952D-19687D608ACF.jpeg

I saw pictures of happier times too.  Jera’s preschool graduation, which feels like a lifetime ago, but was only months ago in reality.  My son, Jace’s, first day of third grade and Jera’s first day of Kindergarten.  I saw our family vacation to Kentucky and all of the joy we felt being cooped up in a cabin together.  I saw a trip to California to see my sister-in-law’s new home.  I saw pictures of taking my children to Disneyland, venturing to Santa Monica Pier and swimming in the ocean, traveling down to Laguna Beach and watching Jace jump into the waves.  I saw three great friends fly into LAX to meet me (in Christmas sweaters IN JULY!) and then make the drive up Highway One to San Francisco.  I saw a gum wall in San Luis Obispo, an ultra-windy/hilarious boat ride to Alcatraz, and a breathtaking (figuratively and literally) hike through the Redwood Forest.

As I sit here and recall all of these absolutely amazing moments, I am shocked to feel like they happened to someone else.  I am sad to think that the memory that sticks with me is the struggle to balance, the exhaustion, the feeling that I haven’t been good enough, done well enough.  How can that be?  How after so many life changing experiences can I be left with only memories of feeling defeated?

I am well aware of my character flaws, perfectionism being one of my worst.  I work on this every single day, and every day, it is a battle for me.  I have thought a lot about what my New Year’s Resolution could be for 2018.  Nothing has stood out to me.  Of course, there are plenty of things I could work on, but knowing I’m going back into another MBA course in one week is daunting, and I fear putting additional pressure on myself.  In April I will complete the MBA program, and this very challenging goal will have met its end.  I am sure I will find myself looking for my new normal and things like a clean house, working out and fitness, social events and all of the items I currently view as luxuries that I do not have, will find their way back into my priority list.  But for today I cannot think of those things.

So what can I do for the New Year?  How can I ensure that I don’t come to the end of 2018 and only recall the struggle?  The answer is both ridiculously simple and impossible.  I must work to be happy.  I had a lot of happy moments in 2017.  I am so thankful for this year and all of the blessings that I was given, but I don’t remember this as a happy year.  For my New Year’s resolution, I will focus on my happiness.  I will find time to do the little things that make me happy.  It sounds selfish.  It is an absolute truth that in order to make others happy, you must first make yourself happy.  To be the mother, daughter, father, son, sister, brother and friend that we were designed to be, we have to find our heart’s happiness.

Do you do that?  Do you find time for yourself?  Do you find time to do something that YOU enjoy, on your own.  Not for your family, for your husband or partner, not for your children, church, not for your employer, pet, parents, in-laws, friends, neighbors.  There is so little time and we often feel guilty about what that means to those we love.  So we focus on giving what little time we have left to others, which is fantastic, BUT we must give to ourselves first.

We must give to ourselves first.

For me, happiness is writing.  Writing is what makes me happy now in my life and it is just for me.  Whether it be in my blog, or my newly started journal (throwback to junior-high Melissa and I’m loving it!), I will take time, whether it be five minutes in the morning before the crazy day starts, or an hour on New Years Day while my family buzzes along without me (they’re really all okay, I swear…to my amazement they don’t even miss me when I take an hour to myself).

I hope for this New Year’s resolution, you do something just for you.  Take a moment and think about what makes you feel really good.  Not about the reaction or approval of those around you, not even of the result…but think about what you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled.  Got it?  Okay, now can you put a little bit of that thing into every single day?  Do you think you can do that?  I hope you’ll consider it.  I hope you’ll commit to it.  Most of all, I hope you’ll take time to love and care for yourself in the New Year.  You deserve it.

What do you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled…

Happy New Year to all of my readers, friends and family.  Thank you for taking time out of your day today to share with me.  Much love.

E3CD9F1D-1DE2-4B6B-A97B-834324259519.jpeg

My Dash

Today marks the first day of my freedom….for approximately 30 days to come.  Yesterday morning I submitted my final paper for MNGT 681 – Strategic and International Management, class number eight of 10 and the capstone of my MBA program.  The past seven weeks have been challenging to say the least.  30+ hours of course work, 40+ hours of “work” work, and of course, family.  I have been tired, stressed, stretched to my limit (and my very supportive, amazing, sweet husband has too).  But life keeps on going, even when you take on too much.  Life moves on, ready or not…as mine certainly did.

In the past seven weeks, we lost Jace’s most beloved pet hamster, Butterscotch.  On a rare night alone, my husband and I decided to go out for a little wine and dinner.  On our way home my husband mentioned he forgot that he had let our pet cat, Molly, inside the house.  You see, Molly was once an inside cat, but after my daughter’s cat allergies arose, and exasperated by Molly’s awful temperament and propensity to pee on our bed when she wasn’t pleased with us, Molly become an outside cat.   So, Phil had let Molly in for old time’s sake and forgot to put her out when we left for dinner.  Arriving home, I bolted for the restroom, which tends to happen after a few glasses of wine.  From upon the porcelain throne, I hear my husband mutter, “OH MY GODDDD.”  From the restroom I shouted, “What???!!” To which he returned, “It’s the worst possible thing you could imagine.”  There, left lovingly by my husband’s bedside as a sweet little gift, was Butterscotch, dead.  Molly was prancing around the house as though she was really something fantastic.  I’m not sure if it was the wine or the thought of telling Jace that Butterscotch was no more, but that night I sat in the kitchen and cried for a while.  Jace took it well, and much to my own amazement, in place of Butterscotch, we now have two hamsters, because little sister needed a hamster too.  Our family continues to grow, fuzzy as it may be, Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera, Rusty (dog), Molly (cat), Oreo (hamster) and Angel (hamster) keep on moving forward.

In other news, my oldest son, Jace, turned nine years old this week.  As absolutely crazy as it seems that I can have a nine-year old (yes, that is half way to 18), in the same breath it seems so right.  When I look at my son today, I see a boy, not the baby and toddler that I used to see.  I see someone with his own thoughts and opinions, someone who is considerate and kind, someone who is quirky in the best way.  I see someone who is gaining an understanding of this world, both its beauty and its cruelty.  He isn’t the same tiny boy he used to be, which in moments makes me sad, but  also so proud.  I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he is growing into. Time keeps moving forward.

Now Christmas in the Hafele house has begun.  The tree is up, the presents are bought (mostly), the month is filled with Christmas-fun plans.  The elves are back….and they’ve multiplied.  We first began with Zart, the original Elf on the Shelf.  Then in year three, Zart went missing.  We then brought in Millie and Willie, one for Jace and one for Jera, of course.  Then in year four, Zart turned back up and we had Zart, Willie and Millie.  Ater my grandma passed away recently, the kids wanted Great-Grandma’s elves to remember her by, so three more elves came to live with us.  Today we have six, you read that right, SIX elves to stash around the house.  Thankfully, I let Jace in on the little secret this year, and he has had a blast helping us to hide the elves for Jera.  As much as I thought it would be sad to tell him the truth about the Elves on Shelf, he has genuinely enjoyed being the giver of joy this year.  Another sign of what a special boy he is.  And every once in a while, Zart hides somewhere special for Jace to find….just for old time’s sake.

img_3403.jpg

My next class begins January 8th, and I plan to enjoy each and every second until then.  And then, when I’m back to the 70+ hour work weeks, I will try to enjoy every moment then too.  I look back at the last seven weeks, look back over the past year and a half in the MBA Program, back at the last 10+ years of working full-time, at the past 15 years of my relationship with my husband…I think back to the time of my childhood, of my parents and all of the love we shared, to my siblings and cousins and all of the laughs…I look back and I’m in awe.  I’m in awe to be where I am today with so many blessings.  I’m in awe that so much time has passed and at times it feels like it’s only been an instant.  I’m brought back to my Pastor’s sermon from last week where she recited the poem “The Dash”….if you haven’t read it, the poem talks about how a headstone marks the date of birth and the date of death, but those dates really aren’t important at all.  What is important, what really matters is the ‘dash’.  What are we going to do with our dash?  How will we spend it?  I hope to make the most of my dash.  That is what I strive for every day.  I hope you do too.

Happy holidays and a merry Christmas to all of my readers.  I pray that you are filled with the sacred spirit of this season and that your dash is everything that you were created to be.

Just Say No

Good, great and beautiful Sunday morning! I love mornings in general, but Sunday mornings? There is just something about those precious few peaceful hours that makes all the world right.

Life continues to be absolutely crazy. A week ago, I finished my fifth MBA course marking my half way point in the program. Then Monday, I rolled right into my sixth class with Computer Information Systems…no rest for the wicked they say. I’ve taken on some new professional challenges, determined to continue growing and move forward with my skill set and work experience. 

We’ve had golf camp, art camp, VBS, baseball and Cub Scouts. After a sedentary year of adjusting to being back in school, I’ve started running again with my sister (see the photo below…I made her run in the rain and then take a makeup free picture 😲…she thinks I’m trying to kill her but she’ll thank me later!). And finally, I’ve started reading again (for fun!). I’ve decided to go back through the classics that I “cliff noted” my way through in high school and to try to actually appreciate them this time. I just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (absolutely fantastic) and am now reading To Kill a Mockingbird.


I feel a shift within myself. There are no more hours in the day today than there were a year ago. But today I feel more productive and happier and thankful for the energy to do all of the things I’m passionate for. This change, these happy moments with my children, with my husband, in my career, in my schoolwork, they haven’t been without a cost.

I have learned little by little to start saying no. Let me clue you in to the fact that I hate saying no. I want to do it all. Be involved, support all good causes, be a strong leader in my community, church and work… But in order to be happy, in order to be content, in order to be the Christian, wife, and mom that I am designed to be, I have learned that I have to pick and choose where I am spending my time very wisely. 

Sometimes the no’s are obvious and sometimes they’re painfully difficult. Some of my no’s were easier than I imagined. I say no to TV today. I say no to social media. The truth is that I  have better places to spend my time, and when I’m focused on television or social media, I losing time on something I find more precious. You may be reading this blog via a Facebook link thinking “what a hypocrite, ” but let me tell you that these are not hard no’s. If my day is done, and my husband has settled into bed to watch a good murder mystery, you better believe I am by his side. If my child has done something adorable (as children often do), I will make a post on Facebook to share with my friends and family. But gone are the days of spending an afternoon on a Netflix binge or blindly scrolling through a Facebook feed while sitting with my family. I’ve turned off all notifications to my cell phone and try to leave my phone put away any time that I know my focus should be on my family, work and/or school. So of all my no’s, this was an easy one. This no has brought me many moments of great joy and peace.

However, there have been other no’s that hurt my heart. I had to resign from some volunteer work; volunteer work that I know is important, that is vital even. But I saw myself swimming…drowning in commitments that I could not follow through. My joy in life was slipping. I was missing out on too many tuck-ins with my kids, too many opportunities to grow mentally, emotionally and/or physically. Right now, at this point in my life, I have to make difficult choices. I am happier today for the no’s I’ve forced myself to say. I am a better wife and mom. I can feel God’s joy in my heart because I am taking moments to just sit in his peace. I can share that joy with my family and friends. That is my number one responsibility in this life. 


When was the last time you had a moment to sit in God’s peace and love? Are you making quiet time to just be? It’s difficult. It’s one of the hardest things in life for me. I also believe it’s one of the most important. Saying no isn’t always easy, but the rewards are exponential. Make today a joyous day. Say no to the things that aren’t on your priority list (and if you don’t have a priority list, make one). Say yes instead, to the things that bring you peace and joy. Here is a list of my “insteads” since I’ve started to say no: a walk with my kids, a bike ride, a run, planting a garden, reading a great book, listening to my favorite podcast, dancing with my children, coloring a page with my daughter, washing my dishes, sitting on the front porch with my husband…the list will continue to grow. I am so thankful. I’m wishing you the best of days over this holiday weekend. Happy 4th of July from my family to yours! 

Room for Doubt

My faith has become a center for my life.  My marriage, the way I raise my children, my friendships and even my career are heavily shaped by my faith and where I feel I fit into God’s world.  I have talked friends through times of crisis.  I have pushed myself and my family through times of grief all on the back of my sturdy and solid faith.  But I have to share that I’ve had moments where my faith fell.

I hesitate to write on this because it feels a bit taboo as a Christian. Is it okay to say I have moments of doubt? Is it okay to admit that in my life’s darkest moments, I have felt the terror of wondering if I am alone? Does this make me a bad Christian?   

It was nearly a month ago that I found myself in this dark place. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My happy, peaceful little life was turned on its head. My plans were interrupted. The things that had been important the day before, suddenly had no significance. And with this swift turn of events, I felt incredibly weak in my faith.

I struggled in my pain and confusion and I wondered, is my God real? This idea of a soul, is it more than an elaborate, hard-wiring in our brains? Are we nothing more than the most amazing computer that biology ever evolved? The feelings I had in those moments with my thoughts are hard to describe. I don’t think I can find a way to write the emptiness of doubt.

I have heard of people hearing an answer from God. I mean actually hearing. There are Biblical stories and those experiences my friends have shared. But those have always been just stories. Something that happened for someone else, but not me. I have cried out in loss to God and felt resentful at the return of silence. But this time, in the silence of my doubt, I could hear for the first time.

I received an answer.  I heard a clear, calm voice and it told me, 

“No. This life is not it.  You are more than your personality.  You are more than your intelligence. You are more than the way you feel about one another.  There is more to you than the way the world perceives you.  You. Are. More. Than. The. World. Can. See.”  

I was astounded in my heartbreak.  How did I never understand this?  I had thought the soul was so simple. I have explained it to my children time and time again saying, “Our soul makes us who we are…why Jace is funny…why Jera is stubborn…why we feel and cry and think.”

But suddenly I knew with absolute certainty that that isn’t it at all. We can change the way the world sees us.  We can mimic another’s behavior.  We can pretend to be someone we’re not.  We can fool the world. We can make the world love us. We can make the world hate us.  But only God sees who we truly are…only God has access to our souls.  Only God knows us, the deep down, secret parts of us.  The parts that we don’t show our lovers and our friends.  The parts that our family never knows.  The part that we might not even recognize.  The part that is tucked away and is only for God, our Creator.  

This part of us knows only God. Our soul doesn’t create a persona. It doesn’t design an interesting human being.  Our personality is certainly a gift to us. It is a tool that can be used to do God’s work.  And our relationships and the way we relate to one another, again, are separate from our soul. These bonds are again, a way for us to show God’s love to one another in this life.  But our personality and our relationships are not US.  They do not determine who we are and without them, we are still us.  

If tomorrow something happens in this life, my memories are taken from me and you can’t recognize me as the often bubbly, sometimes overly serious, too guilible and always passionate person, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend that I have always been….God will still know me. He can see past all of the qualities that the world uses to define me. He can see what I’m made of. 

This is my answer. This was my experience. My gift in my time of doubt. I’ve never felt so certain of anything in my life.  In my darkest moment, in my doubt, God was listening and he provided my answer.

I still went to sleep that night with a troubled and heavy heart.  But I knew I was not alone.  Difficult times are not over for my family. Over the past month, God has shown himself to my family and to me…little, undeserving, doubting me…again and again.  I hope to tell the world about God’s work in my life.  It is my greatest responsibility to share it with you. 

I hope you read this and know that if you doubt, it’s okay. We are only human. I never thought I would react with doubt in a time of desperation…but I did. And my faith grew in leaps and bounds from this experience. Our faith can grow from our human experience. It should. I’m starting to realize, that’s the whole point. And when you doubt, God will love you anyway.