Anxiety, Fear, and the Kick –My Messy Beautiful

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetSometimes I’m scared to talk about it. To bring it up again. What will people think? I should be better by now. Just move on.

But I can’t.

I thought I’d never ache so badly as the day we lost it all and flew back across the ocean, the second time we’d crossed that ocean in less than a year. Surely that was the worst pain I’d ever feel, that dull ache that never went away, tears just waiting to fall. If I could just get through life with an intact marriage and four littles, I would consider that good. We found a tiny house with a rent we could afford in an okay neighborhood. It wasn’t much but it had hardwood floors and a decent yard for the kids. It was just a place to land with no job and no prospects. We’d make do.

We did. Adam worked hard in a dry cleaning plant in the mornings; in the afternoons he would deliver that dry cleaning; the evenings he used to try to regain his freelance writing career. I focused on homeschooling kids, housework, and healing. We found out we were expecting again, a surprise that didn’t coincide with my “get through this life with four littles” plan. Life was hard. So damn hard. We longed for community, for the right place to lead worship, for a way to belong again. Nothing came and every door we thought we’d walk through was slammed shut in our faces. Even though we’d come “home” it seemed “home” was no longer able to house us. Or it didn’t know how anyway.

Then the kick came.

Five boys with five shotguns all pointed at me in my living room. My worst nightmare was being lived out. I wasn’t sure I’d live through it. I still can’t believe I did, that we did. There are really no words to describe the terror I felt that night. The thought of my children’s last memories of their mother being her death screams.

Those five boys, they killed someone the next night. We were spared.

Honestly, I thought I’d be okay by now. I should be. It was nearly three years ago. But again, I was wrong.
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The effects of that night have wrecked me. I live in constant fear and worry of it happening again. I’m afraid of guns. I live in a cussing open-carry state; sometimes when I’m out and I see someone proudly wearing a gun on their hip, something in me wants to take off and run. I’m always planning my escape, searching for my exit. I question everything and everyone I see is suspicious. I’m afraid to leave my house, because I feel safest here. And also most vulnerable. I never don’t feel vulnerable. Like a target. I’m a clustercuss of emotions. Being awake in the night is terrifying to me. When I’m most afraid I talk to myself, I say: “That was only the ______________, everything’s okay. Nothing is going to happen. You’re safe. You’re okay. You’re okay….” I try to remember to breathe during that 15-second pep talk and when I do that is what settles me most. Deep yoga breaths. The ones that got me through five natural labors, those.

The boys with the five shotguns stole so much more than a laptop and $20 that night….they stole my peace, my sense of security.

Sometimes I worry I’ll never get it back and that puts me on a whole other crazy spin. The one that fears life is hopeless, that God didn’t stop bad things and He won’t again. That life might as well be over. A happy life is gone. These thoughts make me want to hide in the darkest caves. Professional therapy has not been an option; we just haven’t had the funds and insurance is not part of the freelance “benefit package.”

But the real truth is my hope is not gone. Everything is not lost.

I’ve begun volunteering at a food pantry twice a week, and finding a place to serve has been important to my healing, but every time is hard for me. I’m anxious before going, I’m anxious while there. But I go anyway. I’ve been going with my big kids for 6 months, and now it’s our favorite part of the week. Being welcomed and received by the staff and guests reminds me that I’m still needed in the world. That we are. That we have a place. And it feels so good. I meet Jesus in the stories and faces of our guests every week. They give me strength and hope. He gives me strength and hope.

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I also find hope in my immediate family. My husband and I are still madly in love after 17+ years and five babies. His care and patience with me is overwhelming. He shows me Jesus on a daily basis. My kids are healthy and they love and LIKE each other. Our family is stronger because of what we’ve gone through. This is a gift.

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As difficult as it has been and as broken as it’s made me, I’m also changed for the good. My heart has not grown bitter and I see that as the greatest gift. I do not hate the boys who stole my peace–I pray for them. For their families. I hope they are okay. I know struggle in a way many don’t and because of that I’m able to show compassion to those struggling. This is a gift. In going through what we have I’ve realized many do not know how to walk through pain with others. It is a learned art. One I’ve come to know only through walking the lonely road of suffering myself. Just sitting with someone in their pain is holy. To listen and affirm, a gift.

I’ve been through pain unspeakable. We all have. Sharing our stories and realizing that together we are strongest–that is worth the hard. Together we are a force unstoppable.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!







With Lent approaching, we’re preparing our hearts for this season. Here are a few ways we will celebrate in our home. 

Divine Hours Prayers for Springtime: daily prayers and scripture readings. We will each read this alone; some days we’ll discuss it, some we’ll just soak it in quietly. If this is all you do, it’s enough. 

Lent by The Brilliance: a lovely collection of songs for Lent. 

Messianic Seder meal with friends: Oh my stars. This is a family favorite and can be as chill or as fancy as you like. Ours differs from year to year. Here’s a Pinterest board I created with some ideas for a Messianic Seder. 

Lighting our Lent wreath each night and writing out our daily thanks in a family journal. We will do this over lunch or dinner together and share what we’re thankful for. 

40 bags in 40 days 

40 Ideas for Keeping a Holy Lent 

Lent is one of my very favorite seasons and I’m excited to begin tomorrow. What are you doing to celebrate a Holy Lent? 

Welcoming Strangers


In 2012 many friends and strangers opened their home to our family of seven as we journeyed across the US for our Group Hug America tour. We were so warmly received and welcomed on our 3 month journey, that when I saw that Bre was going to be making a similar pilgrimage I knew we had to be one of her stops. My good friend joked that I had invited a STRANGER to my home and hinted that she thought I may be completely CRAZY. I retorted that Bre “presented well online” so surely she was fine and crossed my fingers hoping my instinct was right.

Bre came on Saturday with her daughters Bailey and Eleanor. And what a gift and blessing it was to our family to receive them in all their cuteness! We spent the weekend trying to keep the baby safe from Constance and were mostly successful, except for the time Constance picked up Eleanor, and when we told her to put her down, she did. Dropped her right down onto the hardwood floors. Our 6 year-olds hit it off splendidly, and spent most of their time pretending, giggling and running through the house (Dear winter, you can go now). And we even got in some thrifting time.

It was much too short and we’ve already offered them to come again soon. In a world where we are scared to trust it feels so good to do beautiful, spontaneous things.  To welcome strangers and see such lovely fruit come from it. I’m glad you came, Bre.



Help came

“I’m not saying there won’t be an accident now, mind you. They’re funny things, accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.”


Saturday, after a few good slides down a snow-covered hill, our darling slid into bleachers and hit her noggin quite hard. So hard that she couldn’t remember words or how to put them together or who her mommy and daddy were. We rushed to the ER leaving our other four home and whispered beggy prayers as we rushed down the road. “Please, God. PLEASE!” But the hard part was keeping her awake as we sped down the icy roads.

ERs are a funny place–you either wait for hours or they take you right back and triage you. The latter, though nice, means that you’ve been bumped to the top of the list because your condition is serious.

We were seen right away.

And what a wonderful staff we had. They did a CT scan that confirmed a slight skull fracture and bleed. I couldn’t feel my legs when the doctor came in with the news. This isn’t happening, not to her, I thought.  It can’t be. She didn’t just say a skull fracture and bleeding on her brain. Did she? Please God, PLEASE. HELP!

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Help came in the form of this smile and Pei Wei smuggled in for dinner by our pastor. Help came in the form of our good friends and neighbors stopping by our house to be with our other kids while we were away. Help came in the form of text messages and prayers promised and encouraging words over social media from family, friends, and complete strangers.

It was divine provision that our Pastor Roger was there just after the news had been given and we were being transferred to our room on the children’s floor.

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Night came and all this little one wanted was to have something snuggly to hold. Our precious nurse found this polar bear. Help came again. She held it all night and it brought her such comfort.

“Mommy, I lovvvvvve this bear. It’s so nice. So soft. I can really keep it?! Like take it home? Oh, mommy my nurses are so nice. I like this hotel hospital.”

After a few hours of sleep we had a party from midnight to 2:00 am watching the Disney Channel, eating cheese sticks and graham crackers, and taking more meds before finally drifting off back to sleep.


Morning came and she had her second scan. It showed healing! The blood on her brain was receding–practically gone now–and soon after Daddy came back to the hospital for a visit, we were able to join him and go home! We sent hugs to all the folks who had been praying far and wide for a good report. Help came. We were heading home.

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Double-fisting popsicles is the best way to say goodbye to a scary night.

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Now we’re home and this little slept through the night until 10:00 am and is only complaining of a little pain. We are so thankful, so very thankful. Help came.

When I called, you answered me, you increased my strength within me. –Psalm 138:4

My heart sings to you without ceasing: O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever. –Psalm 30:13


Holy cookies


We got the news of the sudden, tragic passing of Johanna, 27-year-old fiancée of our friend, on Friday. Shocked. Stunned silent. How could this be? Life is cruel. And this kind of news make you crazy. It’s so unbelievable. So unjust. Unacceptable.

Last night was the memorial service at our neighborhood Orthodox church, St. Antony’s. I wanted to do something for our friend, who’d lost his dreams, his love. So I baked cookies with the help of the kids. I didn’t have anything else to offer. My prayers, yes, but this was something I could put my hands to. Cookies and card in hand, we went to the service.

It was packed and the moment we entered the sweet smells of incense welcomed us. The icons comforted me as I thought on all the long line of people of faith who have suffered before us. Friends crowded the tiny church, we went upstairs to the balcony, the only available seats in the sanctuary. Prayers were chanted over her dead, lifeless, forever-27-year-old body. This was so unfair. Life stolen. Robbery. Our friend sobbing over his love’s body. His bravery greeting all those who came. Always such a gentleman.

Then it was our turn. In the long line of people (what a beautiful community they’re surrounded by) we walked up. There are few words to give to a grieving friend. “I’m so sorry” and tears seem to be enough. They just are. One of the most beautiful expressions is to mourn with those who mourn, to touch their sorrow with your own. So human.

I stood there in an embrace with my own love and our friend, these two towering men above me, and we hugged long and cried hard. The plate of cookies smashed in my arm. I shyly handed them to him, tears streaming.

“Is there somewhere I can put these?” I said. “I made you cookies. It’s what I can give.”

His response humbled me. Tears, a smile, heart touched by my simple offering. In this moment cookies were holy.

Today the funeral will be held and her body put to rest. The priest called her life “a light. Humble, quiet, and one that points us all to Christ.” Let it be as he has said. Let her light sparkle and shine in all of us that we might live more aware of this precious gift of life. Of today. Of now.

I love this quote by one of my favorites poets, Mary Oliver: “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Note: there is a memorial fund set up to defray funeral expenses, and another friend wrote a song in her honor. If you’re able to give towards either to help the family and her fiancé Garth, it would be so much appreciated.

17 years is not nearly enough….


….time to spend with the one you love.

Today we celebrate 17 years of marriage not always easy, but always choosing each other, choosing to work through the hard ugly to get to the beautiful, tender. Thank you darling for these 17 years, for these five, for always loving me in-spite of myself, for calling me brave, for taking my place, for choosing me again, and again, and again. You’ve taught me to love and be loved.

Speaking of love….

I love your smile, your warmth, the strength and love I feel when you hold me, reading in bed with you, how you make me laugh. I love your mind and the richness of our conversations. I love making music with you, so intimate. How you take time always for us, always, it overwhelms me. You inspire with your kindness and self-sacrifice, how you care for the children tenderly. I love remembering life with you all of these sacred moments. I love living life with you. Always you. You make it all joy.

I love you forever and then some.

This song’s for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FM5EAyuAG2c


Messianic Seder

For the last three years our family has celebrated a Messianic Seder meal with dear friends and their children. It’s a rich tradition full of beautiful meaning and we look forward to it with great anticipation (Find Ann Voskamp’s version free here, though this year we added masks representing the ten plagues that God brought on Egypt).

Dinner was simple and elegant (as it should be): roast beef with Portobello mushrooms, balsamic and almond roasted asparagus, rosemary roasted potatoes, salad, and a lovely paleo desert thanks to my good friend AJ (she’s the ballerina below–paleo is how she keeps her girlish figure).  Here’s a peek into our evening.

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