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“Take it, take another little piece of my heart now baby.”

I’ve always loved that Janis Joplin lyric. The grittiness in her voice, and the lyrics.

I’ve always been someone who has been the first to just say, just take it.

You like my sweatshirt? You can have it.

I’m a horrible salesperson. I just would assume giving things away to people. I’ve always been a good sharer. I’m not competitive. I always have thought the more the merrier, and I’ve never understood how someone had to be the best. How we separated ourselves from others. It’s why I love theater kids. And what’s funny is it can be competitive, but they don’t let competitive come in the way of how they love. Of course there’s always that one.

It was never me.

Love is meant to be shared. Life is meant to be shared.

Recently as the division in our country has become even more vast, and the lines even more distinct and I feel this need to just make people look at each other. Like, make eye contact and see each other. This is a person you are writing about. Hurting. This is another human being.

We have lost sight of each other.

This past weekend was the pits.

Seriously.

Nothing worked out how it was supposed to, and the plans I had for our family fell through. Not for my family, most of them went ahead and did their plans, but for me. I stayed home. I sat. A lot. I cried even more. I talked to a couple of friends. I went through a box of tissues. And I thought about some messages I received from two individuals in the last week, both who have not felt love because of who they are by their families. I cried some more. Then I read about the monstrosities done to indigenous children North of us, at schools run by my Church. By this time my hair was covered in snot.

Oh world, take another little piece of my heart.

Oh families, who hide under rules and behind rhetoric and forget to look at the children you carried in your womb and fail to see how fearfully and wonderfully made they are in God’s image.

Oh humans in my church, you cruel evil people who have hurt children time and time again – you break me.

“You know you got it, if it makes you feel good.”

You. Not God.

You. You. You.

We have forgotten each other.

We have forgotten to love. We have forgotten to cherish the lives of others beyond our own.

Many of you know I am pro-life, but I want to explain that it goes so much deeper than what the media portrays.

Recently I was talking to a dear friend who has walked through life with me since I was 16. We’ve sang together, celebrated life together. We’ve grieved great loss together, and both of our lives in the last couple years have been tricky. We are both called to big things, but they are things because we have been crushed by grief and loss. And she dropped a big truth bomb on me:

“The world is not ready to be pro-life. You are not ready to be pro-life.”

And I thought about it. She’s right. She is SO right.

Let me explain further. The Church is a Hospital for the Sick. As a Catholic, I believe we are receiving the most precious gift of the body of Christ at every Mass, and so in all honesty, most of us should not be receiving the Eucharist because in the words of Wayne from “Wayne’s World”…”We are NOT worthy.” We say special prayers before hand in order to prepare ourselves, but we aren’t worthy if we believe this is THE Jesus. And we do. So when we are discussing who should and shouldn’t receive the Eucharist, I feel like we need to focus first on solving the above topics, like how we can be a more pro-life society period. Because we are not ready.

It’s like going to a PTA meeting where there’s a lot of circling around, but nothing gets changed because the real problems, the root problems don’t ever get addressed…the HEART, and deep tissue issue. We need to go back to the basics of the Gospels and who Jesus was ministering to, have some serious “coming to Jesus” with anyone and who is adding division, the modern day Pharisee whether they work for the church, work for the public, work in media, because they are hurting people. They are causing deep irrevocable damaging wounds behind the guise of faith, behind the guise of love. And that is not pro-life. That has never been pro-life. We need to stop throwing stones, and start picking people up, and looking at them in the eye.

The hard truth is that we aren’t ready to be a pro-life nation. We aren’t. We say we are. But then we would need to embrace all of it.

We have to be willing to take care of the widow, and help take care of her family and her in her grief and beyond.

We need to take care of the prisoner, to make sure they have good care, and to be for programs that help their families and them succeed when they leave prison. We need to be against the death penalty, because that is being pro life.

We need to have good training for First Responders, and support for ptsd, and do proper care for their families if they are killed on duty.

We need to take care of the poor, and not just the poor that are convenient. We need to care for those who are on welfare, and those who make us uncomfortable, and who we refuse to look in the eye.

We need to care for the immigrants. We need to offer protection and not separate families. I grew up with migrant families. I grew up with the hardest working families, who worked for pennies for their families trying to make it here. I will always take care of them.

We need to take care of the mentally ill. We have failed them for so long, and now we need to add them to the addicts because many of them have become self medicated. And we need to take care of the addicts, and those who live in tents. We need to stop legalizing things but making programs affordable for addicts and giving them support to get help. And we need to support their families. That is being pro-life.

We need to have programs for Foster kids. Good long term programs for foster families. On going support, and lots of options for adoptive families, and teen moms.

We need to care for the dying. Truly care for them.

We need to listen to the marginalized. Those whose existence makes us uncomfortable, because they identify differently. Maybe we should just start letting people identify as human beings. Because truly that’s all anyone really wants is to feel human. To feel whole. And when we ignore and discount them – we discount how God sees them. He loves them, even if they make you uncomfortable. I get it makes you uncomfortable, but with suicide rates so high THAT makes me uncomfortable. Being pro-life means acknowledging their lives.

Those who are on the brink. The mentally disabled. Those who need good care. We need to care more.

And yes, of course it extends to the unborn, because yes, I lost a baby halfway through my pregnancy and she had fingernails and was fully formed and her life was precious and sacred. I love her with all my being, and I want to adopt all the babies! And I know someone is going to read this and get technical with their catechism, I know mine too, because that’s what we do these days, we pick and get technical, but you are also not ready to be truly pro-life.

Because 21 years ago someone I love very much got pregnant in High School during her senior year. The people who were the most judgmental were the community who had watched her grow up. Who sat in mass, and saw her every Sunday. The same group who marched in “Right to Life” Rallies with her. Who knelt and prayed the Rosary outside clinics wouldn’t even make eye contact with her. Because she was damaged. After the baby, who is my godchild was born, none of them offered to help. None of them offered to assist with childcare so a barely 18 year old could work and go to school.

And they missed out. She fought her way, and is an incredible Mom. And my goddaughter is living proof in the beauty of life.

But I won’t march in those rallies, because they don’t prove you are pro-life. They prove you can walk somewhere in groups.

Instead I will always make eye contact with a young mom and say Congratulations. When my kids know someone who gets pregnant I’ll ask what they may need. I will offer to help, I will offer to baby sit and make dinner. I will show up.

But this world isn’t ready.

I was messaging with a friend from childhood who said instead of moving from your state to get away from whatever you’re running from “Get off social media.” And I agree…Here is my advice right here right now..

  1. My husband said recently “Jesus is a difficult lover.” meaning when you love Jesus, and He comes in many different forms you show up and love him, even when it’s difficult. My husband attributed the quote to when he lived with the Missionaries of Charity Sisters. And so I’ve carried that with me through prayer every day since…if we want to change the world we need to love people even through the difficulties and see Jesus in them.

2. You don’t need to move, you need to TURN OFF THE NEWS. Turn off Fox. Turn off CNN. Get off Social Media, Seriously. If you do that and your life DOES NOT improve with that anxiety, I will buy you a HUGE Diet Dr Pepper. I pinky Promise. But seriously turn off the news. It’s becoming like a tabloid. I’ve started fact checking some popular people and it’s bad. And they are mean too. You don’t need that meanness.

3. Read your bible. Journal. Pray. The last couple months prayer has sustained me through so much and I just can’t recommend it enough. If you do that and it doesn’t work I will buy you a HUGE Diet Dr. Pepper as well. See Double Diet Dr. Pepper.

4. We’ve gotta love better. Stop looking for validation and start just loving those around you.

5. Right now, name five things you are grateful for. FIVE. Do that every day.

6. Don’t just text back. Have an actual conversation. Answer the phone. I think we have lost our connection. And it’s not healthy and it’s hurting us and others. Call someone. Facetime. Meet for coffee.

I read this quote today and it kinda hit me right in the gut:

“Church practice has been more influenced by Plato than by Jesus. We invariably prefer the universal synthesis, the answer that settles all the dust and resolves every question even when it is not entirely true over the mercy and grace of God.” -Richard Rohr

You can take another little piece of my heart now baby.

But still…

I’ll take mercy.

I’ll take grace.

I’ll take God.

Just over two months ago, my friend Brendan passed away after a long battle with ALS. He and I had been friends since we were six years old and spent most of our lives as pen pals. I knew he was sick. I knew he was battling a disease that would kill him. I just wasn’t prepared to not have him be a part of my life.

Out of all the people in my life and friends I’ve had, he was the most faithful and constant. He knew me and knew my heart. He knew how I had started struggling with anxiety when I was 10, though we didn’t know what it was called then. He knew how much I struggled the last few years with some work situations, and even in my faith. He knew how I had knelt and found Jesus again, by talking to Jesus. He knew all this, because he asked. Because we were real friends. He knew how much I loved certain music, so he would send me music videos he wanted me to watch.

I knew how hard they fought to get him a better wheelchair. I knew how angry he was when his Dad died, and how he thought they took the wrong Brady. I knew how his Daughter was his whole world. I knew all this, because he told me. I knew he loved watching videos of me sing, and of my kids singing so I would post often because it was one more way he could be connected to my life. He would have loved my family.

Covid came at the worst possible time because we were supposed to see him last summer. He never met my husband, or my kids. I never met his daughter. But we knew each others families so well because we talked all the time.

The last time I heard from him was on his birthday. January 27.

I wrote often after, to no response. My messages unread. And I knew. I knew it was very bad this time. He’d been sick before but he’d always found a way to communicate. We lost him on April 16.

I lost Brendan in one of the strangest seasons of my life. He knew about it because I’d shared with him. But it’s been a time where I feel like I’ve become a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit anymore. Like I was a part of a puzzle of a landscape and my piece got wet and when you try to put it back in it’s misshapen.

Unraveling.

I’m trying to find my place again.

There are some places where I fit. My job, my immediate family, my very core friendships who stuck around this year.

But then there is the loneliness.

This year I experienced such a level of loneliness. This wasn’t Covid related. I think it was because before I even lost Brendan I was grieving some other friendships.

There are the friends you have where you are the puzzle piece that never really fit, they are way cooler, you were never really in with. Outskirt friendships. You are the plus one, if they need a plus one.

There are the friends who found friends who just fit better. Maybe they are funnier. Less soggy. Maybe didn’t have as much damage.

And then there are the friends who just lost the piece of the puzzle and decided it was okay to use it without it. Maybe they are aloof, or lazy, or the Elsa of friends. You know, “just let it(our friendship) go.” But oof.

This loneliness was so great, because as an extrovert and as someone who loves to connect with people this is hard. And we don’t have family nearby, and so we aren’t connected to that puzzle. I miss out on a lot. Weekend get togethers. Holidays. So for me, I would try then to fill my time with just my kids because my husband works so much. But my kids are growing up too.

Maybe you aren’t following…the moral is I am lonely. I have been very lonely.

I would invite people over to my Covid Cafe. I would reach out. I started a Bible Study that I wrote over Zoom, all things desperate for connection. Because I felt like I didn’t fit. Because of the political climate and social media climate I was disheartened by that, and thought maybe that was why I didn’t fit. I stopped drinking and thought maybe that was why I didn’t fit anymore.

As a classic overthinker I spent a lot of time overthinking all of it. The loneliness. And when the grief came, I just became sad.

And what I realized. It’s okay for me to be sad. And grieve. I lost one of my best friends to an ugly horrible disease.

I never doubted Brendan loved me. And Brendan knew I loved him. We were so blessed to have each other.

And I miss him every day. Yesterday I missed him so much because I miss talking to him. I missed having a friend checking in. I wanted to tell him something that was bothering me, because he was the friend I would’ve shared that with.

So I read some of our messages, and letters because there are years and years of them. And it’s nice to have them. But also that’s it. He’s not there anymore.

He’s not here.

So it’s caused me to do something else. It’s caused me to reflect on what can come out of this year.

Loneliness is different than solitude.

I can embrace a little solitude if I invite God in. Because through all of this grief and sadness I’ve never been alone.

I was reading some writings by my spiritual director Fr. Henri Nouwen. You should probably know He is also in Heaven, but came into my life during the time when I COULD NOT find anyone to be my spiritual director. But the more I read his books and spent time in prayer the more I realized God can work in mysterious ways. And he has. But yesterday I was incredibly lonely, and was in prayer and read this.

“Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered into this furnace. There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world: to be relevant (‘turn stones into loaves’), to be spectacular (‘throw yourself down’), and to be powerful (‘I will give you all these kingdoms’). There he affirmed God as the only source of his identity (‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone’). Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”

Wow.

And you know something?

A year and a half ago I stood in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I was breaking out in hives daily every time I had certain meetings. I had started getting the shakes constantly from anxiety. I was losing chunks of my hair. I was questioning my faith. I was being told who my God was, who I had spent my entire life serving, and hearing division spoken that was tearing at my soul masked as love. I was unraveling. I had to walk away. I gave up a lot. And I lost a lot. I lost friends. I used to try to pile on make up to cover the circles under my eyes. I used to be told if only I let someone specific pray with me I’d be healed. I lost a uterus, and had a years recovery from the extensive work done to my bladder as well.

But I did find healing. I had surgery. I spent hours walking in my neighborhood holding my husbands hand praying, shuffling my feet. I stopped following people on social media. I stopped reading people’s Twitters(which by the way NO ONE SHOULD HAVE A TWITTER) unless they are in the news media and actually posting breaking news, it is completely self serving. And then I stopped going on social media most days. I started working out daily. I got a new job. I went to church where division wasn’t spoken, where Everything pointed to Jesus, and I could kneel and feel safe. And then Jonah moved away. I rarely wore make up anymore, especially under my eyes.

Life was still really hard. And I was still really lonely.

And then Brendan died.

In the last two months I’ve started taking at least an hour of prayer every day. Since we got our puppy, close to two or three. I’ve been looking at this solitude as a gift to my grief to allow God to do a good work in my heart. It’s not easy. In fact it’s brought all the loneliness of the last year to the surface. But it’s also allowed me to really begin to see how important it is to cherish the faithful friends we have.

I had a good one. One of the best ones.

And God can be the only source of my identity. Not my job. Not my stellar parenting, which by the way has not been the most stellar this year. Not who I am as a wife, sister, daughter, mother…which is where I have spent most of my life finding my identity in. In Him, and Him alone.

I want friendships of substance. I want a life full of great encounters. That means I’m willing to grieve when I lose. But I’m also willing to Love BIG. Because I am also a faithful friend.

I will miss Brendan the rest of my life.

I thank God for him everyday.

I’m so thankful for this time to grow closer to the one who continually walks me through grief. Through dark clouds. Who has always been my only source of healing. This time of grief is bringing great transformation in my heart. And our God is Love. And Love transforms Us.

Love transformed Me.

ps. one of the greatest gifts about my friendship with Brendan is that we checked in on each other. Check in with your friends. do it. friendship is such a gift. and never forget to tell them you love them. you are loved.

I can pinpoint the moment it started. It was about a week ago. I was talking to a friend, and talking about something heavy that I carry around with me. And suddenly it hit me. I may NEVER be healed from this. I may never get away from this. And it took all my breath away. With deep breaths I walked away from the conversation, but I carried it around with me the rest of the day. The weight of this realization becoming heavy and heavier. Feeling so defeated I didn’t even realize a cloud came to rest upon my head, draping over my shoulders, it’s shadow hanging over me until much later. It’s lingered since.

Since that moment I have been trying really hard just to pretend it’s not there. I eat balanced meals. I exercise daily. I get dressed. I drink lots of water. I take my medicine. I say my prayers. I do all the things. I’ve always had to deal with anxiety, but this is different. This is a different sort of cloud. Anxiety is like little lightening bolts that zap and extend, with rapid rain storms that come and go. But this is different. This is constant. It makes me feel tired. It makes me feel really sad. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t know how to. Quite a few years ago I had a dark season and I know how dark, the dark can be. This isn’t it.

It’s just grey. Maybe because I’m so tired of battling things I don’t understand. My husband of course has seen the cloud resting over me. He watches as it comes and goes, and how I watch “Shark Tank” because it makes me less sad. I know because he’s told me he’s worried about me. He really loves me, but he can’t make it go away.

I talk to people, and I don’t tell them what’s going on. I don’t really see the point. Because no one can change this. I can’t change this. I’ve asked for God for years to change this.

And now I just feel defeated.

I’ve always been someone who shares my life openly. But I don’t want to share this. Not again.

Some of it is because I’ve shared this before, and people like to be experts and tell me what I need. But no one listens. I don’t even think they think I try. I don’t think they know how long I’ve been trying.

For an eternal optimist, for a solver, for a worker, this may be the hardest part.

There are layers to storms I’ve found. Some stick with us for years, most days there are always clouds in the sky, maybe they don’t hang as low as this one but they are there.

For years I longed to belong. I always felt this overwhelming feeling that I was on the outside. Of even family. Of groups of friends. I longed for connection. I hate feeling isolated. Abhor being left out. Eventually I found trusted close people I could be completely and totally myself with. It’s not a big group. Connection means something to me. But I found in the last year that some of my relationships were me extending and reaching, and bending. I stopped trying so hard in certain relationships and you know what happened? The other side never bent or reached, they didn’t even notice I was gone. Did I over think our friendship? Was I not worthy? Did I do something wrong? I grieve for the friendships I lost, and the people who didn’t even notice I was gone. I still love them. The sky began to become overcast.

And then Covid hit. It has been the best of times. And the most isolating of times. So many good things have come out of it. I won’t lie and say I have not cherished some of the lessons I’ve learned. But recently the loneliness has begun to get to me. And I just can’t reconcile how little people think of each other and science, and the call we have to protect the vulnerable. Then May happened. The social justice issues. The protests. The horrible riots. I’ve worked so hard to listen to every side of every issue. I’ve went above and beyond to research issues. I’ve been so disheartened with the lack of empathy on all sides. The sky got darker and the clouds became more dense. I’ve seen people I loved, and people my kids have cared about wish harm on my family, including children of my friends. I’ve never seen my husband so discouraged from doing the job he was meant to do. I’ve seen family write hurtful things. I’ve read the most hateful things. But I’ve also see the other side. There is real prejudice in the world, we cannot pretend that it doesn’t happen, and we have to protect each other. If we have not been on the receiving side of prejudice, we need to learn to listen and hear. The rain began, because people are hurting. On both sides. AND Oh the politics! Oh my goodness. The meanness. The ugliness. I am so over it. People do not change from being shamed. They don’t change from being yelled or outsmarted or being gas-lit on social media. NOTHING written on social media will change someone else’s mind. And the news has lost sight of news, it’s just click bait. And we, the fish, bite, without knowing it will harm us. It will kill us. Our words and lack of empathy will kill us. We have to stop hurting each other. A storm isn’t brewing, it’s already pouring down and we have lost sight of our humanity.

Gosh, maybe that’s why I’m so tired. Just writing that was exhausting.

And parenting. I never knew how often I’d cry until I become a parent. And…teenagers. I lose sleep over their emotional health. I am constantly worried about if I’m saying too much or too little. I long for when they wanted to be around me still. I was so spoiled when Jonah was home, because he was so happy to see me. I’m constantly trying to be better. They hate being isolated, but we are trying so hard to be safe. When I try too hard, I say the wrong thing. And most of the time I’m failing. And I’m trying. And I spend a lot of time with a broken heart. And if you’re reading this, and you are thinking you’ve never had this issue…Whatever. Rain, Rain, Blah, Blah, Blah.

And then this new cloud. This lingering cloud. Maybe we’re all just dealing with a lot. A lot of heavy, dense clouds. Maybe it’s the weather outside, and the lack of sunshine that’s bringing this all on. Or maybe it’s that I can’t solve the world’s problems. I can only pray and love better. I can’t make people want to be a part of my life. I can just love the people who show up, and be a good friend to them.

But this latest cloud, I’m gonna keep trying to get rid of it. I don’t see any answers for it yet. I’ve got keep trying. There are so many things in my life I’ve overcome. I don’t know that I can overcome this. But I can try. I’ll keep trying to outrun the clouds. And I hope eventually God will meet me halfway on this.

We all long to belong. To be loved. To be noticed. To be heard. To be protected. To be appreciated.

We all long to feel peace. To find shelter in the worst storms.

The clouds can’t stay forever. But sometimes it’s a good reminder that people carry heavy things we don’t know about. Fight storms we can’t see. We all could use a little extra love.

My favorite Saint, St. Therese of Lisieux said “Above the clouds, the sky is always blue.”

I’ll keep looking for blue sky and sunshine. I know it’s there. Seeing it will be a victory in this recent season of defeat.

Praying for you and any clouds you carry. Please pray for me too.

You are so loved.

”I have no lid upon my head, but if I did, you could look inside and see what’s on my mind. Oh, it’s you.” -Dave Matthews Band

Recently my in laws gave us a mailing that had a part of a letter my husband wrote in 1996 to our friend Heather.*  This was when he and I were just starting out.

You know in a movie when there’s a romance starting and they have the musical montage? That’s what we were like.  I flew to Denver for a week to volunteer with him at a Missionary of Charity House for people dying of AIDS.  Our love grew in the midst of service and discernment, as he prepared to move to Mexico to become a Missionary of Charity Father, and as I discerned becoming a nun or letting myself fall even MORE in love with him.  I knew instantly when I saw him I was going to marry him, but both of our calls to serve God and others threw us big curves.  But back to our movie montage, it would probably be to a Dave Matthews song, because his soundtrack was the background to that time in our lives.  Mini clips of him picking me up at the airport after my first ever plane trip.  Kneeling next to each other in a chapel.  Serving dinner to a room full of very sick men, who were so joyful.  Him helping people bathe, as I helped the sisters strip beds down and mop floors. Both of us surrounded by these little nuns, stealing glances and sharing smiles (yes, it would be a cheesy montage).  Bumping shoulders as we walked in the snow to a church, and him asking me afterwards if he could hold my hand. These little memories still fit in my mind like a movie.  Sometimes when I’m super frustrated with him about the mundane like laundry or his work gear taking up an entire couch I remember watching him lift someone out of a chair and escort them back to their room, their slippers shuffling next to his confident feet as he let them set the pace.  I remember him leaning in to one of the sisters, listening to them and doing what they asked right away.  That music montage plays so fluidly because in him I didn’t just see the person God has whispered into my heart I was going to marry, but because I saw someone who had the same calling.

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These are some of the Missionary nuns (the three on the right) who were in Denver we met and had the honor to serve with. All of them were beautiful souls living their vocations so beautifully.

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In the Gorge at “The Dave Matthews Band”  Concert in 1998. Babies.

We met as he started his missionary year with a program called REACH (which is unfortunately no longer around). I ended up serving a couple years after him, but grew up with REACH and worked with them for many years.

The mailing my in laws gave us couldn’t have come at a better time. Jonah, our oldest son, leaves in four weeks to join NET which is the same sort of thing that his Dad and I did.

The words that were written years ago by my husband in a letter don’t just matter because of what Jonah is going to be doing soon,  but is in many ways the mission statement of our life together.  I just didn’t know it then.

  “Well, what I do isn’t that extraordinary. I serve Jesus in a distressing disguise, but REACH also does that.  Everyday I touch the broken body of Christ, but so does REACH.  He is in all of us, and it has taken this to open my eyes to that simple fact.  I work with Jesus in people who are dying of AIDS. I serve meals, mop floors, change diapers, give baths, dispense medicines, hold a hand, give a smile.  I listen a lot.  I pray a lot.  I understand that if someone gets mad and yells at me, then it is my duty to love in the face of fear and anger.  Over time this will change a person, the one that yells and the one that listens.  I do not do any one specific thing here because there is so much to do.  I just do whatever the sisters ask.  I have learned many things here. One thing is that our greatest ministry is by our example, not our words. As we say in our morning prayer, “It is the sympathetic influence of what we do, the catching force of the love our hearts bear for you, Jesus.” There is so much truth there.     

 

Another lesson I’ve been shown has brought much sorrow.  It is that our failure to love is always at the expense of another.  So there, that’s what I do.  It is outwardly very different than what REACH does, but inwardly it is all the same.  Youth ministry and AIDS ministry have a lot in common:  We both work with people who struggle with their identity and where they can fit into a society who refuses to identify them.  We both work with people who find it hard to see how God can love them.  We both work with people who are very vulnerable, and who are very hungry for the cross.  You don’t have to look far to see what I do, because you do it too.”  -December 1996

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(Former) Seton House, Denver, where Missionary of Charity Sisters served AIDS patients for 20+years.

 

 

If you take out the words REACH and put in our life’s journey, whether it’s how we are raising our kids, or what we have been called to do career wise there are no coincidences.  The Lord so clearly put us on this path, together, side by side. As the years have passed even with the messiness of life, we’ve been led to the same conclusions about things.  None of these are from the news or media, but instead of learning how to listen to others, and to be willing to love them, even when it’s difficult.  This includes in raising teenagers with all the curves and heart ache as they find themselves and their own path. 

It’s in the moments of loving one another, through anxiety and depression.  Loving each other when there’s only been $6 left in our bank account, or one of us is really sick.  When we’re grieving, and when we are so hurt by life.    When one of us veers off, we’ve learned that we need to go straight to love, because love never fails.  

Maybe our greatest testament of this is because in the days after our 20th Anniversary next month, Jonah leaves with the same calling.  I write words, but my greatest work has always been in the example of who I try to be and how I strive to live.  How we strive to live as a family.  Jonah is a product of that love and that mission.  As his parents, we are humbled by this.

We fail a lot.  But we strive to love better every single time.

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Cheesy Engagement photo 1999, reenacting “Sixteen Candles.”  You know because Jake Ryan and Haystack Rock go hand in hand.

 

 

I pray my kids find that sort of love, where memories become a montage. That they learn our failure to love is always at the expense of another. We must never turn from love, we must offer it freely. We must never give up on each other.  We must never give up on the opportunity to show someone else grace and hope.  

We get to be a part of a great big love story, way bigger than us.  Side by Side.  Together.

To God be the glory for that.

*Thank you to Heather Khym and my husband C for allowing me to use this portion of his letter.  All pictures of the Seton House and Sisters were from scouring different outdated news articles – none of them are mine.  But it absolutely melted my heart to see those sisters again.

<A little background.  I am home recovering from a major surgery three weeks ago.  For two of those weeks I was mostly immobile with a catheter, I can’t lift more than five pounds for three months. All of this during a pandemic with so much hurt and anger and unrest in our country.  I had to make an effort for my health to take myself off social media, for my own anxiety and my healing.  In all of my downtime I have had so much time to pray and listen, and then pray some more. >

        “At last I have found my vocation.  My vocation is love.”  -St. Therese of Lisieux                                                                                   

About two years ago I sat in an auditorium during a huge conference with a bunch of teens and listened to a speaker be not only divisive but the opposite of pastoral. Immediately a chill, and very strong urge from the Holy Spirit, settled over me and I knew what He said was wrong. I knew He was using this platform to hurt, in the name of God.  Suddenly I also knew I needed to go to confession because my urge to make a scene and tackle this person was so strong.

What happened next changed my life.

Jail was the worst.  Bad food. Itchy clothing.

Just joking…

Instead, I grabbed a priest nearby and asked right then and there if He could hear my confession.  And He said yes.  We sat up high in the same auditorium away from others and I just started to spill, all my messiness and sins, all my feelings, all of it.  I don’t even know how much He heard because by that time the auditorium was getting so loud.  But there was this moment when everything froze.  Those are the moments when God speaks to me the loudest, when my discernment is the best, and when my sins are out in the open.  The words that were spoken went straight to my heart after I shared my horror at what I had heard spoken from a podium… the Priest then asked me “Kristin, where do you think Jesus would have been during that time?”

And I knew.

Because suddenly I saw all these broken kids in the hallways.  Kids who were told the way they were born was wrong.  Who were told that if only they prayed enough God would heal them, from them.

Where would Jesus have been?  He would have been with them. 

That moment changed the course of my life.  I spent the next months pouring over scripture, but also the gospels and reading about Jesus. Reading Jesus’s words over and over.  I read theologians’ works and began to really study what people wrote. I read books that made me really mad.  I discovered writers who had started to search like I did, for where Jesus would actually be and they confirmed what I knew in my heart.  Jesus wouldn’t be sitting and waiting on an altar for people to come to Him, He would be seeking them out and loving them right where they were.  Jesus wasn’t a high priest or a Pharisee, and he turned tables on them and crossed lines in the sand to love those who were told they weren’t loveable.    I had been in youth ministry for over 20 years at this point, and I had never spent so much time intentionally and spiritually opening myself up in this vulnerable way to listen, and to hear.  I knelt before the blessed sacrament begging for clarity, and all I got was the same burning desire to love more, to be more like Jesus.

And the more I desired to love like Him, the more I began to see His love for the kids in the hallways. And to be convinced of his love for me.

Of course this all happened during our family year of Job (read older posts if you need context), and so I was also just very broken.  But being broken kind of cracks you open to so much.  And it took away some blinders I had put on.  I saw some things I needed to see, for my family, and for the youth I serve and have served for years so I could love them better. At the exact same time through his own prayer, my husband started coming to the same place in his heart and his faith.  I knew I needed to make some changes, set boundaries, and stand up for those that were fearfully and wonderfully made, who were not broken or made wrong.  Who were just as much children of a living God.

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Because I serve a living God.

When you look at God face to face and really bring these things to Him, he is very clear…He would Love.  He will Love first.  He will always wrap us in Love.

So, last summer after much prayer two of my dear friends and I went and wore “Free Mom Hugs”  and gave hugs to anyone who needed one at a festival. All of us are Mamas. All of us have a story for why we were there, brokenness that we carry close to our hearts, and brokenness that we can bind for each other.  And we can hug.  Because human contact is important.  A girl came up to us and asked if she could hug us, and we all hugged her with big mama bear ferocity.  And I realized looking at our faces afterwards, streaked with our own tears, that we all needed those hugs too.

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Today I looked at those pictures and I remembered.  I dream at night that I get to hug people. It has been so long.  And I can’t imagine what it would be like to be someone who hasn’t had a good Mom or Dad hug in a long time.

You know those kind of hugs right?

Those hugs are unconditional.  Those hugs wrap us tight and give us a chance lean in, to exhale and just rest in the arms and know we are okay.  We’re okay.  We were always okay. Those are the sort of hugs I get when I’m in prayer and feel that peace knowing that I’m loved by Jesus, exactly how I am.

“Kristin, where do you think Jesus would have been during that time?”

Those words ended up changing my life and my view on ministry.  For so long I was caught up in how I didn’t want to offend or upset people. For so long I was so worried because I so desperately wanted to please people.  But when the blinders came off I realized the criticalness of people is usually because they have their own stuff they haven’t dealt with.  And if they don’t like me?  That’s ok.  Because while I can pick apart so much of how I look on the outside, for the first time in a long time I’m ok with who God has called me to be on the inside.  Loving others first completely is never ever a bad thing.

 

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One of the the writers I discovered in all my searching is the brilliant late Rachel Held Evans, and she said something that was spot on of what I learned while studying the word, ““What makes the Gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out, but who it lets in.” The gospel and Jesus drew people in. It was for all of us.  Not just some of us.  It is not meant to be a weapon.  Instead Jesus came to save all of us.  Not just some of us.  Not just those who fasted for an hour before seeing him.  Not just those who were worthy, because someone else decided they were.  He came to embrace all our messy.  And it’s a good thing, because on a good day I’m a word class mess.  But I know I’m loved.

A few months ago a friend lost a former youth group member after they tragically ended their own life.  This was someone who was told for years by a couple people in the church that they were made wrong, that if only they prayed harder, if only they confessed more, if only they did better God would see fit to heal them.  Something about all of this, the wounds inflicted by someone who was supposed to work for God, and speak life and love, were too much for me. Those are the kinds of wounds that fester and become infected, because they seep into the heart and the mind.  This person should have been wrapped in the arms of Love, and instead was cast outside. I pray daily that this person is wrapped in heaven with the arms of Jesus holding them close now. I so wish they had been granted that love here on earth, in those formative years when they needed to be reassured of it the most. I just pray they know it now. There are so many.  Did you know LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth¹? That is inconceivable.  But it’s real.

And we all answer to God some day. I believe this with every part of my being.  I don’t want to be on that end when God asks if I turned people away from him in his name.  I want him to know that with every part of my being I tried to serve him in the way he served us.

So I will love.  And I will offer that love freely.  Because I know where Jesus would be.

During this time of quarantine I’ve had multiple dreams of hugging people again.  Gosh I miss giving people really good hugs.  I miss telling people how loved they are, while hugging them.  I can’t wait to hug the crap out of people.

I believe in the art of a good hug. I believe in the power of it.

I hug my kids when they are wet getting out of the pool.  I hug my kids when they are sweaty from a soccer game.  I hug my kids when they are feverish, and have spent the night being sick.  I hug my kids when they are fresh from a shower and smell little again. I have hugged my kids after their worst days.  And I’ve hugged them when they’ve felt their best. I hug my kids when they are broken.  I hug my kids when they are full. I’ve fallen asleep holding them close when they were infants, and I’ve fallen asleep while Grace cried herself to sleep after a rough day.  I hug them because they are fearfully and wonderfully made by God who made them exactly how he intended and He is good. My hugs are not conditional, and neither is God’s love.

In our family we all wear bracelets as a reminder of this.  One side says, WWJD, or What would Jesus Do?  And the other side says HWLF, or He would Love First².   It’s a constant daily reminder of our mission in all things to love first.  It works for everything.  I can react with all my big feelings sometimes, and it’s put me back in my place. Little reminders can lead to big changes in who we are.

A speaker and a situation didn’t change my life. One sentence said to me in the confessional by a priest didn’t change my life.  Jesus did.  I always knew my mission was to love but it’s been etched into my soul now.  Because I serve a living God.

My mission is to love.  And give good hugs, when this whole pandemic thing is done.

Until then I’ll wear my mask, and dream of giving a great hug again.

To the kids in the hallway,

I’m here. I’m not leaving. I will fight to make sure you always know you are loved.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are loved by a living God. He is good.

Need a hug?

 

 

 

[1] CDC (2016)

[2] https://.hewouldlovefirst.com for the bracelets we wear as a family.

 

 

When the whole quarantine started months ago I tried to write.  I had some time. I have multiple drafts on here ready to push publish.  But most of them are too raw.  They vary from the feelings of uncertainty and unrest, to anger, back to uncertainty, to sadness.  And so much anxiety.

Most people know I have had anxiety for as long as I can remember. But for the first time in a long time, my anxiety has been victorious in pulling up a chair and telling me all the things that can possibly go wrong.

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When I was younger she(yes my anxiety is a she) was like the long lanky girl with lopsided sandy blonde pigtails that picked at a scab until it bled, and then started to cry because she’d bled all over her white tube socks with the green stripes. She would always blame me for it.  I would sympathize with her, and of course take the blame and say I’m sorry repeatedly,  mostly because I’ve known her for about as long as I’ve known most people in my lives.   She sat up at night with me when I was little and was convinced someone was going to break in and kidnap me or Erin.  And she grew up with me.  She put makeup on next to me in the scratched bathroom mirror at Franklin Middle School, and put so much mascara on her eyelashes they stuck together, just like mine did.  My anxiety and fears grew up, and so did she.  She was who convinced me that parking lots are terrifying, especially Costco.  And no matter how hard I’ve tried to do all my breathing techniques that my counselor Lance has shown me, she has sat right next to me with her out dated Kate Gosselin hair cut saying, “Yeah, you are SO going to hit another car.  Or wait, maybe an old person! Or maybe, a toddler. You know, you DID hit a Dutch Bros stand that one time.”  So, I sit there paralyzed, by her grating voice, sweating and feeling like my heart is going to just pop right out of my chest and jump out of the car bouncing to a less anxious body.

My anxiety, she’s such a crap friend.  The last few months when I’ve been awake at 3 am, anxious because people are complaining about such silly things like wearing masks like their liberty is threatened over something so ridiculous,  I go and check on all my kids and stand in Micah’s room listening to him breathe as his air purifier cleans the air.  I check his pulse rate with his oximeter even though it’s been over a year.  And she waits outside in the hall, and says “OMG(She’s the kind of person, who uses those terms), remember that one time Micah almost died?  Did you see what they wrote on facebook? If they were your friends they wouldn’t have been so insensitive?  Did you see what that politician said?  I didn’t know he was a christian?  Do you think he’s a fake christian for votes? Oh my gosh, do you have any real friends?  Did you see that roll of fat on your neck when you turn a certain way?”  Then she takes a breath as my heart speeds up and I begin to think about everything she’s said, and pick away, as I say Sorry for my part in all the things.

But. But.

As annoying as she has been, I’ve found something that makes her be quiet.  In fact, when I get like this her lips become so thin they almost disappear and she totally disapproves.  She likes me nervous and anxious, and irritable.  That’s when she shines.  And when I wilt.  But I’ve found gratitude is her kryptonite.  And in all my moments of achy heart anxiety I’ve found moments of such gratefulness.

Here are some things I’m so incredibly grateful for, even when they come from some very sad moments.

It is the pits that Jonah can’t have a graduation.  Seriously.  I’ve been planning his graduation party since he was in first grade.  I wanted to be a part of every planning committee, and be all in.  Because Jonah is so special, and I want him to feel so loved.  But. But.  This time has given us time.  I’ve had more time with Jonah the last two months than I have had during the last two years.  I’ve been able to talk more to him, watch movies with him, eat dinner with him, sit next to him, pray with him.  And that’s worth so much.  I’ve gotten to do all those things with him over the years but in quick spurts.  But now I’ve gotten to see him go and lift weights with his Dad and siblings and hear them laugh and laugh.  Soon, really soon, he’ll be gone.  I won’t get to hear him play the piano for hours, and even writing this, it makes my heart ache from the loss I know I’ll feel.  I’ve gotten this beautiful time with him.  None of it is ideal, but so much of it has been an unexpected gift.

Another difficult thing has been not seeing Grace leave elementary school, and do her final walk down that hallway on the last day to the loud cheering from the entire school. She has been waiting for that moment,  her entire life.  I found out I was pregnant with her in the school right before Jonah’s Mother’s tea.  She has never known a day of her life not in this school.  Even when she was a newborn I wore her in a sling as I volunteered.  I changed her diapers there, and she worked on potty training there. I still remember Jonah walking her to her first day in school as she held his much bigger middle school hand.  She’s been waiting for these big moments.  She loved being one of the leaders of the school. She loved spirit days and her teachers.  But. But.  It was a hard year.  Some bullying.  Some mean kid stuff.  Stuff I wanted to shield her from a while longer.  And then we were quarantined.  And yeah, none of this is easy.  This is NOT homeschooling.  This is something else.  But I’ve gotten the chance to keep her little.  I’ve taken her out of some situations that were not healthy.  We’ve been able to work on some aspects of schooling that she wanted to focus and needed to focus on for middle school.  And I’ve gotten so much time watching all the ways she shines.  It’s been so glorious.  Because we are serious about social distancing I’ve gotten so much one on one time with her, and I cherish every second.  She is so fun.  She is magic.

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Yes, we miss Grace’s plays and theater club, tennis, and baseball.  We miss band concerts, tap dance, and my band.  I miss all of those things so much, but there are things we have gotten instead.  I’ve gotten to sing duets with Grace.  Jonah has gotten so good at the acoustic and electric guitar.  The boys play ping pong for hours. No one can beat Danny.  We’ve had time to do bike rides and long walks.  The gift of not being over scheduled has given more time for family.  More time for family meals and prayer together.  We’ve taken long drives and talked the whole time.  The kids have read more books than I can count.  We’ve watched old movies, and new ones.  The boys have fallen back in love with old cartoons “Avatar: the Last Airbender” and have watched all the Marvel and Star Wars movies in order. Grace and I’ve watched musical after musical.  My kids are already close, but seriously, they’ve never been closer than right now.  It’s been so special to watch.

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As hard as it’s been to miss mass, and not attend Church in person…we’ve had time to attend church as a family in the comfort of our living room.  We’ve been able to pray and bring Jesus into our house in a more profound way.  When I was growing up and I lived with my Dad in the summer I didn’t get to go to church.  You may not know, but for most of my life I wanted to be a religious sister and a nun, and not going to church was really hard for me.  I would ask every week, and usually we got to go maybe twice a summer, especially when my sister started driving and could take me.  But I started having my own “church” in my room.  And Jesus showed up every week.  I think some of my first real faith experiences happened during those Sundays.  My kids have learned the same thing.  God shows up, and He doesn’t just live in one building.  That’s why He’s God, and if we don’t let Him be a part of our homes we are doing a huge disservice to our souls.  My family isn’t ready to go back to a church service in our church, not yet, not with crowds of people, not with this virus still mutating,  but we aren’t missing out.  God is God, He shows up when you ask Him.  Let Him shine in your hearts and your homes.  Stop confining Him.

I miss my family so much.  We are all grieving graduations and I don’t know when I’ll get to see my parents.  But one amazing thing is, I’ve gotten to ZOOM and facetime with all of them.  Two of my sisters work in health care, my brother’s girlfriend is an ICU nurse, and both of my dads have very compromised health.  And we are ALL on the same page.  I never have to worry when I share my fears, and they know my anxiety as well as they know me.  And I realized something…our parents raised us ALL to care more about others than ourselves.  None of us are spouting off about our rights being taken, and conspiracy theories, instead we are all looking at ways to protect our parents better and make our communities safer.  I’m so thankful our parents raised us without an ounce of entitlement.  I get to talk to my grandma every week. She is still very quarantined in Montana where she lives and I get to pray with her, and laugh with her.  And hearing her voice and knowing who is worthy of our protection is better than any anti-depressant.  Ps.  Who is worthy is ALL of our vulnerable and compromised. My grandma. My parents. My in laws.  My sister.  My Micah.   They are the greater good.  They are worthy of our protection. I’m just so grateful my parents raised us to see beyond political views and ideologies, but to live the beatitudes and remember my life isn’t worth any more than someone else’s. I consider it to be the greatest value they continue to teach me.

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I was so tired when this all started, I had just finished a term of 18 credits, was overwhelmed with stresses with work and life, and raising teenagers.  Chris’s job was so consuming and overwhelming. Both of our hearts were so heavy.  And this happening couldn’t have happened at a worse time.  But time gave us so much more than we were hoping for.  Chris made a change with work that gave us back so much life and peace.  And I was able to step back, and really pray, and realize that I needed to make a change for our family with my own job.  So much of this is a continuation of the gift we were given after Micah got sick.  It’s clarity.  It’s the bigger picture.  It’s restoration.  It’s not being surrounded by negativity, but being where we can serve God and others with love.  Whenever “she” begins to talk incessantly about my failings or how “if you were smarter/better/prettier/more worthy this wouldn’t have been so hard.” I remind myself of how far we’ve come.  And then I wrap our family in prayers for protection from this horrible virus.  So many have lost so much during this time.  I think of them constantly. I pray for them all the time*.  I think many of us forget them.  I don’t want to forget that even when things are so very difficult we can always find something to be grateful for.

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Even on my darkest days, God has been so faithful in so many ways. He’s never left.

He’s reminded me that anxiety isn’t the only voice that likes to talk.  Gratitude, she gives me so much life.  She offers so much joy.  And she’s been here just as long.

When I was little, she looked like my Mom teaching me prayers with her soft voice.

She was in the deep soothing voice of my Dad singing me Patsy Cline.

As a teen, she was in the faces of my sisters who always included me, and saw the best in me.

As a newlywed, she was in my husband’s tight embrace and the safety of knowing he would always love me exactly how I am.

And over the years,  she was wrapped up in the laughter of my children. In the joy of seeing them grow and turn into beautifully kind, flawed, empathetic, good people.

And last year, she was in the miracle of seeing color come back into Micah’s face when I realized after days of looking at deaths door, that he was going to live.

And today, she is in a face that looks a lot like mine.  A few extra stress pounds resting on my waist, and without an ounce of makeup on. No nail polish, or long eyelashes.   Extra roll on my neck and all.

“But….But”  She says…my anxiety hoping to start my head spinning.  Hoping to take my joy today.

Not today. I tell her. I have nothing to be sorry for.  I’m going for walk with Chris.

Nightly walks.  Another thing, I’m grateful for.

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*My heart goes out to every single person who has been hurt during this time.  Please be rest assured of my prayers and love for you. You are not forgotten.

A couple weeks ago our family closed the book on the year of Job.

If you’ve never read the book of Job in the Bible you should. I read it multiple times this last year, and each time I took something different from it. A few things I learned…

Job loved God through it all. Even when he was broken, and didn’t know how He was going to get through it.

Last year at our worst, my faith in God was the only thing I knew to cling to. That and Love. Which as we all know is one in the same.

In the book of Job, after his entire life has fallen to pieces in a pile of rubble his  “friends” visit him. At first they seem to be there to bring comfort. They cry, tear their cloaks, and sit with him. But after Job shares his heart, something shifts. Instead of empathy, they tell him why God is punishing him. Instead of comfort, they offer harsh words to a broken soul…”for his own good.” They speak of rules and the ways Job has failed. They speak righteously of how Job needs to repent. They speak from a place of judgment. There is no love in what they say. They are not good friends. They are selfish, and self righteous.

This last year our family had those visitors. For me it was a year long struggle with situations and systems that hide behind the word Faith. I spent the majority of my year when I wasn’t dealing with the year of Job, trying to discern whether I was going to leave the Church. Something, I never thought I could admit openly. But there, I’ve said it.  In fact I spent the majority of my year on my knees scribbling in my journal about these things. Pouring through scripture questioning God on what He wanted, where He needed me to be, and who He is/was.  But also questioning things that were much deeper and harder to contemplate. Things I was told were the truth but were not once said by Jesus, or in scripture. When I wasn’t doing that, I prayed desperately for the people I love in my life, that they would be blessed and have hope. I prayed that they would know love. I have never prayed so much as I did in 2019. But I was shattered in my faith.  My poor husband had to hear me over and over again like a broken record unravel about all of the things. So many things.  I’m so flawed as it is, and I already feel like I’m on an uphill battle to be better, to serve better.  In my brokenness I began to run out of words, and in my silence I began to hear. I learned in those moments of deep prayer and grief, who Jesus is. And who I serve. It led to some family changes, and some real conversations with our kids. We returned home to a place where my kids received their first sacraments. I fell back in love with roots, and not systems. And friends… At the beginning of 2019, I texted someone about a situation where I felt so alone and isolated. While that theme was constant, over time I began to see the beauty in being with those who want to show up for me. And letting them show up. And letting them stay and see me for me. Those who stayed saw a wreck of a person. But they still stayed.  I also learned to be ok with not being for everyone.

As for my kids…I’ve rewritten the part about “friends” and my kids in particular and deleted it multiple times. One of my kids experienced a vast loneliness that defined the last part of 2019. And all I’ll say is sometimes people are just not good friends, and are selfish, and someday I hope they realize how much their  actions hurt others. In the meantime I’m praying for them. Truly. Because my kids continue to be good to others, and I’m so thankful for who they are. My kids don’t need friends like Job’s friends. And I don’t need to feel lonely trying to be “friends” with people like Job’s friends.

These are only two examples of our year of Job. I figure because I’m already so wordy, I’ll spare you from the copious amounts other stuff.

And then…it was almost 2020.

Right before the new year I was praying for all of the people in our lives, and thankful that our family is still together and alive. (And the Lord said to Satan, “He is in your power; only spare his Life.” -Job 3:6) And suddenly in the space between gratefulness and brokenness- I heard the word “Restoration.” The voice was clear and spoke directly to the center of my heart.

I suddenly felt a wave of peace, but I didn’t know what that meant. Soon after I became distracted by life and went on with my day.

A few days later I attended a conference in Toledo Ohio with my son Jonah. I was apprehensive before we went, but after being there I got a lot out of it. During one of the talks, my thoughts began to wander back to last year and I felt the urge to read the last chapter of Job again. In fact I felt called to read Job 42:10. I kept hearing that verse over and over said by that voice again. The same one that said “Restoration” to me.

I opened up Job 42: 10 and read these words:

And so the Lord RESTORED what Job had lost when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD doubled all that had belonged to Job.

Ooh good mic’ drop there God.

So, here we are.

Restoration. 2020.

The more I’ve researched the word restoration the more I’ve began to understand what it entails for us.

Restoration can only happen when we can be honest about where we are at. When we can sit in the ashes and be real about our brokenness.

People won’t restore. People will fail.

I won’t restore. I will fail.

Only God will restore.

But there’s more to it. There’s always more.

My husband was reading through the book of Hosea, and God placed some words directly on his heart. If you don’t know my husband, he is a good man- who works so hard to be a better man. And If you don’t know the book of Hosea, read it. Hosea was called to marry  a prostitute. He fought her world for her. It’s better than reality tv. And it’s  a love story. To us.

In it God says: “I want your love, not your sacrifices. I want you to know me more, not your offerings.” Hosea 6:6

Another mic’ drop.

As a couple we’ve kept going back to those words as we welcome restoration. You see, when we get stuck on all the “rules” we lose sight of God.

As a family we will look to Jesus’ example. We will love Him, and we will love others. We will fight for the marginalized. I’ll turn tables if I have to. We will sit with the broken. And we will remember we don’t get to determine who is a child of God.

He does.

He wants our love.

He wants us to know him.

Just like Job, we are coming forth as gold in 2020. Restoration has already started, in our realness. In all our failures and brokenness. It is all so beautiful, especially because we know.

we know…we know. 017F7C25-7B35-4FCD-91D1-EE04A0C2B85D.jpeg

(Writer Disclaimer: this is a real account of  recent events. This is based on my life and my opinions, and my heart. I am not a theologian, I’ve never claimed to be one. This is just my life. And I know who I serve.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently on social media I shared one of my Senior pictures and my friend Nicole said “Channeling my So Called Life. And I’m here for it.” It got me thinking but first I have to set the stage…

Even looking back on that picture I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a brand new senior. My future husband was just my “friend” and had written me a letter that was in my back pocket. I had read it so many times that it felt like silk. My friend Jenn and I poured over it line by line trying to decipher what he meant by “I hope to see you soon.” Did that mean he liked me? That he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me? Or did he just want to see me like as a friend? I was having my senior pictures taken that day. We took them on the stage at my high school. That stage was my safe haven. I can still picture the sounds and the smells. I remember how I would run my hands along the wall, walking up the stairs from the dressing rooms, and do the sign of the cross before I went on stage. Theater kids are special kids. Everyone is different, and everyone is accepted. It was the first group of friends I had that I could be open with and disagree with and we would talk stuff out. We didn’t gossip about each other, and we were honest with each other. For so much of my life I had fought to be “seen” and they were the first group of people that just saw me. They challenged me to be a better person every day, and when I messed up they still loved me. I was rarely a lead, but it never mattered. Because we all mattered and everyone was a star…significant and shining. I was so thankful when Grace fell in love with theater. Her experience has already been such a gift. She leaves the ridiculous unnecessary “drama” at school, to a place where people see her and love her. Her theater friends are a blessing.

I remember when “My So Called Life” came out on TV. I was in High School, and had watched the previews for it at a friends house. I never got to watch the show regularly at my house because we only had three working channels, and it was on a channel the rabbit ears on our 18 inch TV didn’t get in. It was probably for the best. Every time I saw Clare Danes teen-angsty face I related to her. I was already filled with lots of feelings at that time anyway. I didn’t need more ideas on how to be extra. I had learned to slam doors and roll my eyes from DJ Tanner, and I don’t think my parents could’ve handled anymore.

Aw the 90’s.

I loved that grunge phase because those were the clothes anyone could afford. But they also just fit my personality- they weren’t too tight, were comfy, and the more wrinkled the better. My favorite shirt was my Papa John’s flannel and an old pair of bell bottoms that would get wet on the bottom in rain and snow, as well as these overalls(pictured) that I got at a garage sale. I still have all three of these items. I bet if you hold them close to your nose, you may still be able to smell my special blend of patchouli-vanilla I had mixed and wore as perfume. I wore the overalls for years, even after we had Jonah. I’ve never been a big shopper, but I’ve never met a thrift store I didn’t like. I have a closet full of flannels. And I still love the smell of patchouli. So I guess not much has changed in that respect.

But being a teenager has changed.

Kids are never allowed to be off duty. There is the constant connection that comes from cell phones and social media. Even some teachers won’t accept homework that’s not digital. There’s so much pressure for them to be more, to do more. And they don’t get a break. They are always in contact with friends and feel that pressure to respond instantly. And there is this open ended freedom to express yourself privately and be mean, because you can hide behind a screen, or say something anonymously. It’s dangerous. It’s no wonder anxiety rates have sky-rocketed. It’s no wonder suicide rates are off the charts with our teens. And our kids are addicted to that little glow, and that dopamine that is released in their brains. Don’t believe me? Check your kids cell phone use. And check your rates too. It effects all of us. There’s a mountain of research that supports this. And it’s not going away.

So, I started thinking.

I work with teens. I raise teens. And I was a teen. I have witnessed the pressures they are under, and continue to witness them. And I have also learned a few things from raising son’s, things I didn’t realize when I was a teen girl. Most of them know the basics…listening to your parents. Being respectful of others. Eat right and exercise. Washing your hands after you poop. And if they don’t- seriously that’s parenting 101. Get on that. But here’s a refresher of some other stuff that they may have forgotten. While my “so called advice” may not pertain to all there are some things I wish I would’ve known back then. I have a whole other post coming about body image and all that jazz. But here’s some basics for teens. Here’s the top stuff I see with the kids I work with. Here’s some stuff they need to know…

1. Being a good friend takes work. It takes time, and energy. Not texting and a streak, but actually spending time with someone and making time for them. When you find a loyal, good friend who shows up for you when you need them- you need to be that friend who shows up for them when they need you. Friendship goes both ways. Empathy is priceless. If you have plans with a friend, and get a better offer, don’t be the guy who just cancels. Or if you only contact someone because you need something, that makes you a shitty friend. Don’t be a shitty friend. Real, loyal friends don’t come along often. Friendship is worth more than an aesthetic instagram feed. Put in the work.

2. “No offense but…” is the perfect way to insult someone. Strike it from your vocabulary- and don’t say it. If you’re gonna say something just to insult someone STOP! When you need to talk to someone over a real conflict, and you come at with honesty but gentleness you actually will get somewhere. You may even stay friends. But starting any sentence with that…just No. Learn how to apologize and how to forgive. Being accountable for our actions is a priceless gift.

3. Don’t gossip. Do not share anyone else’s story. There is something beautiful about staying out of other people’s drama. The same goes with writing anything on the internet to someone or about someone that is just to hurt them. Or to get even with them. The one thing I’ve learned, eventually everything catches up with people. It’s not our job to make that happen. Also stop making polls, or opinion polls, or anything on the internet to invite that in. Because people can and will be really mean sometimes. Let God be God, and always be kind.

4. With that being said we should be past the part when we don’t speak up if we hear of someone threatening violence on others or themselves. We have to speak up. Regardless of what anyone else thinks- it’s that important. If you can save a life that’s all that matters. It’s not gossip if you’re saving a life. And when in doubt still speak up. Seriously.

5. If you wouldn’t send that picture to your grandma, then you shouldn’t be sending it to anyone else. Or asking them to send you one. That is someone’s baby. They are worth more than that. And you are worth more than that. Period. Respect yourself.

6. If you marginalize anyone else because of their beliefs, or because of who they are inside and/or out…you are a jerk. So stop it. Not everyone is gonna look and act like you. Not everyone is going to know your story. Not everyone is going to have the same opinions. So stop it. Stop it right now. Respect others.

7. Find a church. Find a youth group. Find some faith. Find something to believe in, other than just yourself. Because you are going to fail. People are going to fail you. And there’s so much more. We all need God. And He’s real. I promise.

8. Relationships are hard. They take work and there is no such thing as “relationship goals” in high school. You’re all just figuring stuff out. A relationship on social media isn’t real, if you’re not actually spending time getting to know someone else. You are going to make mistakes. Trust is important. Being jealous never has good results. And you have to communicate. This is all training for the rest of your life, so if you don’t tell someone what’s going on they won’t know. No one can read minds. Therefore, they won’t learn how to love you. Because we all love different. Friends are important when you’re starting to date. You need them. So make time for them. But don’t make them fight your battles, and don’t let them run your relationship. Instead talk to your parents, or a trusted adult when things come up. Seriously, the best time to learn how to navigate relationships is when you’re still home and can lean on people who’ve been there. Break ups in High School are inevitable, and it’s hard on both sides. Don’t ever think because someone has broken up with you everything is hunky dory for them. The other person is trying to figure it all out too, and sometimes, they are doing what they think is right for both of you. And a lot of times they are hurting just as much.

9. Don’t take dating advice from “Twilight.” Edward is creepy and old. Bella needs serious counseling. Also if someone is super mean to you one day, and super sweet the next day- that’s a red flag, wave bye bye bye Justin Timberlake style, and don’t date them. If they are mean all the time, don’t date them. If they tell you not to talk to someone else or are controlling, don’t date them. If they sneak in and watch you when you’re sleeping…ew, don’t date them. If they talk bad about your family or your friends, don’t date them. If they cheat on you EVER, be done. If they pressure you to do ANYTHING, be done. If they push or hit you, be done. You are worth more than that.

10. Take a break. From your phone. From social media. And talk to someone. If things are tough and you feel helpless tell someone. Don’t ever give up though. Don’t walk towards the dark. Instead turn on the light, and find someone right then who can help you. Sometimes that means feeling all the feelings right then and there, and getting help. Maybe that means talking to someone. Maybe that means seeing a doctor. Maybe that means dropping a class. Or taking medicine to help the chemicals in your brain get balanced. But speak up, and speak out. Stand up for yourself. We need you here. So many people need you. I promise. The dark will tell you we don’t. But we do! You are the world changer’s. You are so needed. And so loved. Please please speak up. And stay.

So there you go…my so called advice. Here’s your recap:

Don’t be a shitty friend.

Be kind and accountable.

Speak up for others, not about them.

Be brave.

Respect yourself and the people on the other end of the phone.

Don’t be a jerk.

Know that relationships take work, and things don’t always work out.

Don’t ever take dating advice from a movie or a book- you are a real person and you deserve love.

Know that God loves you and created you for good things.

Take a break from your phone.

And always face the light. You have a place in this world, and you are needed. You are loved.

It all started with the fire.

We had only been married a few months and we had plans. He was going to become a top commercial real estate appraiser and I was going to finish school. We were going to wait exactly 5 years to have kids. If we were even able to have kids, which I was convinced I was not able to(another post, maybe). We were going to go on vacations and have a savings account.

But then the fire happened. I had started back to school the day before. We went to bed early. We had only lived in the rental two weeks. A fire started in the wall behind the chimney. I woke up to the smoke alarm and the house alarm. I fell back asleep. I woke up again. And I couldn’t wake him up. The entire wall in our living room was on fire, as was the ceiling. I grabbed his feet and had to drag him out of the house. Finally, he woke up. We lost our couches. We lost so much. But we were able to save our wedding photos, and later found the crucifix from his grandfathers funeral in the rubble completely untouched. It was on the wall that burnt down. The week before the fire we had made an appointment to get rental insurance*. Our appointment was for the day AFTER the fire happened.

Instead, the day after the fire I woke up in a grubby hotel. My hair still smelled like smoke even though I’d just showered. I had a raspy cough and I drove back to the college I’d started the day before, dropped my classes, and sold back my books. We couldn’t afford for me to stay in school. I didn’t know if we’d ever get through it.

But we did.

I got a second job. He got a third one. We finally got into another apartment after staying with some friends. Someone from the church donated their old couches to us. We still had plans but suddenly everything was uncertain. We decided I’d go back to school after we got back on our feet. I got a horrible stomach bug that wouldn’t go away. A member of an aerobics class I was teaching said to me, after I ran out to throw up in a garbage can, “You aren’t pregnant are you?” Later I bought a pregnancy test, and saw two little pink lines. We’d wanted to wait five years. We’d been married five months. And I was already eight weeks along.

I was weeks away from giving birth to Jonah, as we watched the second plane hit the Twin Towers live on the television. We had just bought our first home. I was only working one job. And he was swamped at his job, which was a good thing because He was paid solely on commission. I saw our entire world shift, as we watched in sheer terror that day. Dyp felt God whispering something in his heart. He needed to do something different. He couldn’t be the person watching others run in to help. He needed to be one of the helpers. As the weeks passed, the economy started to plummet from the uncertainty people were feeling.

We had Jonah. My labor went wonky with a lot of complications for me. But Jonah was perfect, with curly blond hair and a little round face. He was the best thing that ever happened to us.

Dyp only got to take one day off work when Jonah was born. But then the work stopped coming. No one wanted appraisals. We stopped getting paid. We had this new baby. A new home. He started applying for other jobs**. Pushing a broom at night at the grocery store near our house. Being a security guard at a church a couple other nights a week. He got on the reserves with a small town near us. So much of that time was such a blessing because we had this little person neither of us could live without. But there was a lot of fear of what we were going to do. I didn’t know if we’d ever get through it.

But we did.

He got offered a job in Eugene, where we’d went to college. We transitioned our little family there. Our house sold. We bought a new one. We found out we were pregnant again a few months later with Daniel.

Danny came early, in a labor that took less than two hours, to be caught by my mom. Born on his Dad’s birthday. He was the best thing that had ever happened to our family.

At this point we’d stopped making plans. Whenever we had savings something would happen and they would disappear. There was always something.

We got pregnant again. I’d never been so sick in my life. Fainting weekly. Multiple Hospital trips for IV fluids. Vomiting constantly.

We lost Mary, our first daughter. I became a different person overnight. I stopped sleeping in my bed on nights when he was at work. I fell asleep every night on the couch to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” I had to know where my kids were every single moment. I hugged them longer. I couldn’t look at baby girls, and held my breath around pregnant women. I didn’t think we’d ever get through it***.

But we did.

Then we had Micah. He was the sweetest, most content baby. He was a miracle. He would watch my every move. I carried him everywhere. He was so joy filled that we all caught it. He was the best thing that had every happened to our family.

And a couple years later Grace Mary joined us. She was fussy and mad for her first few months. She was teeny and adorable, and salty about every single thing. But when she first smiled, we all melted. Huge dimples took up her entire little face. Once she started smiling, she never stopped. When she started talking, she never stopped. Then she started singing, and her voice became the background music to our lives. She was the best thing that ever happened to us.

There was a year when all our kids were constantly sick. They got the swine flu. They all got pneumonia. Dyp and I got strep throat SIX times over a summer until we found out Danny and Micah were carriers and kept infecting us. We had the stomach flu all at the same time. I got a blood clot in my leg(twice). Grace had kidney issues. I got influenza and fainted at the kids preschool during a Thanksgiving celebration. Dyp only had 6 hours of sick leave left. We were so scared of anyone else getting sick. I didn’t know how we’d ever get through it.

But we did.

There were more seasons and years like that. Grace’s constant kidney issues that plagued the first five years of her life. Jonah’s fifth grade year. Helping a sick sibling. Danny’s stomach issues. Micah having a growth removed that had to be biopsied. My Dad’s heart issues. My Papa John’s cancer. My Father in Law’s heart attack. Losing family members. Losing friends. One of my children’s anxiety after a traumatic event. My anxiety. Stress at Dyp’s work. Worrying about our families safety. Losing Robert. Losing my eyelashes and clumps of my hair and having to battle an invisible illness for years until I finally got a diagnosis. Friends losing children. Friends losing spouses. Big work stresses. Just so much stuff. And during those seasons I didn’t know how we’d ever get through it.

But we did.

And then 2019 came. I don’t even want to rehash this year. I feel like all I do is rehash it. By April I wrote that I felt like I’ve aged 10 years and it’s true. I look and feel older. So many people have shown up for our family, and yet my circle has become even smaller. I think because I’ve started second guessing everything this year. All of us have dealt with big stuff. A lot of loss. The kids have had many growing pains of growing up. Learning that even though you love someone you can’t always be together. That sometimes the person you thought would be your best friend forever won’t. Raising teenagers is so hard. Raising a daughter is so hard.

I told my older kids recently I’ve felt like a failure most of this year. Failing at parenting. Failing at housework. Failing at friendships. Failing at my job. Failing in my faith. Failing at conversations. Failing at showing up. Failing at exercise. Failing at our finances. Failing. Later one of my kids shared He had been feeling the same way.

I don’t really know if things will be different in 2020. I’m just sick of thinking about all the things that went wrong. Every facet of our life has suffered this year. Things I never thought I’d worry about. Issues I’d never thought we’d have to deal with. Many times I thought we’d never get through it.

But we have.

Because…

When my faith was shaken, God reminded me that He is bigger. He is bigger than a building. He is better than systems or rules that can do damage. He is bigger than sickness and despair. He is bigger. And He is real.

Because…

My husband is a rock. When I’m anxious, he’s calm. Even when our relationship has been uncertain, he has never doubted everything will be ok. He has still loved me when I’ve been unlovable.

Because…

There are really good people in the world. People that love you even though you cancel last minute, or don’t make you talk when you get choked up at coffee. Who just sit with you and let you be broken. Who you can ask for prayer from, and who still ask you to pray with them.

Because…

“Man’s rejection, is God’s protection.” My mom said that to me this year, when many things I really wanted to work out didn’t. At the time I didn’t understand, but now I do.

Because…

It’s never too late. Only a handful of people know I went back to school this fall. Yeah, I can’t believe it either. But here I am, back in college as my oldest prepares to start next year.

And Because…

We are all still here.

We still pray as a family at night.

We are raising beautiful, kind, imperfect humans who have bigger faith than we do.

We are still together.

We have found our hope again.

2019 may have broken us, but we are still blessed.

And…

It all started with a fire.

It may have changed our big plans. But it also saved our lives. Because God had much bigger ones for us.

Love, K

*ps. Get rental insurance.

**My Husband has the best work ethic of anyone I’ve ever known. He has always worked so hard to provide for us. Bonus: because of that example- our kids are the same way.

***We got through it, but we never will be over it.

It’s only April and I feel like I’ve aged 10 years.

We stepped into this year and I picked the word “Joy.” Please note, I didn’t say I felt called to that word. I just picked it. Because I wanted more joy. I felt because I wanted Joy, God would give us more Joy as a family. Instead our lives have been turned inside out, wrung, and in many ways hung out in frigid crisp air to dry. Instead of warm air softening us like fabric hanging in the breeze, we have felt cold and stiff.

I’ve made the joke that God got Joy confused and instead picked Job for us. Except it’s not a funny joke, but I’m trying- I’m trying to find moments of joy. And there are so many. There’s just also a lot of hard stuff.

This has been the hardest few months of my life.

And it’s not just one thing.

It’s all the things.

Last weekend I spent the weekend with 125 women in Central Oregon and was able to share with them about “Joy Thieves.” Kind of full circle since I feel like my year of Joy was stolen from me. I shared openly about how this was the hardest year, and I saw I was not alone. Everyone has stuff going on. And a lot of it is big huge stuff. I shared about how if we are willing to share the good and our highlight reel we need to be willing to share our lowlight “real” too. You know the real where we have something stuck in our teeth, and our pants won’t button, and our eyes are puffy from crying.

I’ve never hid from that here. My words have always true and real, and messy.

But every shiny happy “cohesive Instagram grid*” makes me feel like I should have it more together. That if only I was a more faithful person God would give me my year of joy back. Don’t get me wrong- I have joy, and there is a lot of good things in my life, and good days. But there’s also a lot of tough stuff going on.

And again it’s not just been one thing.

It’s been all the things.

In True Love

It’s been a tough few months in the land of “as long as we both shall live.” Maybe the toughest we’ve had in all our years together. This is a deeply private thing but we are living through it. And we’ve been through a lot. And sometimes it’s all a lot. And it takes a lot of love and a lot of work. There’s this incredible part in the song “It’s Quiet Uptown” in Hamilton the musical that really has resonated with me.

“I don’t pretend to know, the challenges we’re facing. I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost. And you need time. But I’m not afraid. I know who I married. Just let me stay by your side. That would be enough.”

In Raising Love

Our kids have also been through stuff, not just with us almost losing Micah. But just a lot of really big life altering things. When my kids go through stuff – I go through stuff, because my kids are everything to me. And sometimes the little things can build into so much more. I feel like each of them have had to carry a lot more than they could handle this year, and have had to work through things we weren’t expecting. I respect my older boys need for their stuff to be their stuff and private, and them to be able to share their real in their own ways with their own safe people. But one example I can share is it’s been hard seeing Grace for the most part sit by herself everyday at lunch all year. She doesn’t have a buddy in her class. To hear of things said to her by other girls in her class. To hear her anxiety about next year. She has always been so filled with joy even when school is difficult, but some of it has been dimmed this year.

In (self) love

First off, I hate the term Self Care. It goes against every part of who I am. The way I love best, is by showing up for other people. I’m not a watcher. In fact I resent people that watch others do…And don’t offer. I’m doer. It’s how I love. So self care is as foreign to me, as self medicating is. I’d much rather do soul care- take care of others, and then do the stuff that matters…pray, and get my mind right. Whether that’s counseling, sitting before Jesus, working out, spending time with a safe friend…all of these things are soul care things. They don’t require bubble baths(puke) or me to have me time. I’m not actually a huge fan of me lately…so really I’d rather find other things to do than me time. Which is a whole other thing…all this stuff I dealt with as a kid, all the weird crap I just pretended wasn’t a part of who I am? Well suddenly this year it all became very apparent that it’s effected my life, and all of the sudden it makes sense, and I’m so over that.

Also I’m really lonely. I’m afraid to talk too much because I don’t want to be that friend. The friend whose always asking for prayer. All my friends are going through their own stuff. So a lot of times It’s just me. And it’s lonely. And remember I don’t really want to hang out with me. Because News Flash: I’m a mess half the time.

In Perfect Love…my faith.

The more time I’ve spent in prayer this year(which is probably more than I have in my whole life), the more I’ve become aware of cracks in the foundation of so many things. It’s been a little bit heart wrenching, and not easy, as I have questioned more than I ever have. What I can say now without any shadow of a doubt is God is Love, and a lot of us have been getting that part wrong. Also “The Our Father” is one of the most beautiful prayers. Gosh, I love it- and I love the words and what they mean. And when I say them I really mean them. That’s something else I’ve come to- I like to know what I’m saying in prayer. It’s important to me. Words Matter. “The Word” changed my life. And we need to remember where God would be when we use our words…if we are alienating or marginalizing anyone…we’ve got it wrong. God is Love. Period. There is no but.

In “For the Love!”

And I won’t bore you with all the crazy things that have gone wrong…cars, house, stuff. My band is on a hiatus and I miss singing. I don’t know if I’m supposed to stay at my job. Hashimotos and anemia is stupid. All this Just random stuff that’s small but is big when it all compiles. Bills, and medical bills that we are waiting on.

Also it needs to stop raining.

In fear for Love

I wrote something and I’ve deleted it. Twice. Almost 11 days in the hospital. Longest 11 days of my life. We almost lost our Micah. But miracles happened, and He is a miracle. I will be unpacking a lot of what we went through for sometime. But I’m not crying as much this week so I feel like we are making progress. He laughs a lot again. I’d missed his laugh. And I’m so grateful He’s still here. I’m grateful for his Doctors and Nurses, all gifts from God. Every person who took care of him was a part of saving his Life.

Love love love.

So back to the beginning- now our word for the year is Gratefulness. And I feel like gratefulness is something I do have a lot of- even in all the broken and cracked parts of our year. I took a picture today of myself and I saw my laugh lines and bags under my eyes…and for the first time in a while I was just so grateful for those laugh lines. Because there is a sacredness to me in surrender. And I’ve learned a lot about surrender. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I do know- we have so much to be grateful for.

Every stressful thing the last two months shows on my face and in my waistline, but I know a few things to be true no matter what…

God is Good. Our family is loved. Prayer is Powerful and Works. My kids are good humans, and are wonderfully and fearfully made. I love my husband with my whole heart.

And even when things are hard. Life is worth fighting for. All the things are worth fighting for. And I’m so grateful for that.

Even if it’s only April.

* Cohesive Instagram Grid is a thing. A legit thing. A friend told me about it. And then I googled it. It’s so all your photos have similar tone and color, and evoke a certain feeling of calm. It’s very common with professional photographers- which makes sense. I am not a professional, so my Instagram is as cohesive as a hot mess. But whoever sees it know I love my kids. And that’s good enough for me.