Author Archives: trulyyoursjen

My Near Death Sandwich: The Final Chapter

On our way to Hawaii, I had moments when I honestly wasn’t sure what would happen. I knew there was such a thing as too hot and I knew we did not have air. I did not know how hot our plane would become and I also knew we were over the ocean with nowhere safe to land. All I could do was pray.

In the hours leading up to our flight home from Hawaii, I honestly wasn’t sure what would happen. I knew I was very sick and was becoming dehydrated. I was not in the comfort of my home and I didn’t know if I would be able to tolerate the plane ride. All I could do was pray.

As you know, because I am sitting here typing this, I made it home safely from Hawaii. I drank a ton of (yes, you guessed it) Gatorade and I slept a lot. Eventually the pain subsided. Patrick finished my packing because he is a wonderful, sweet man and I rested until just moments before we had to leave for the airport.

Thankfully, because we were taking the red-eye home, I had time to start feeling better before take-off. It’s funny how that happens. When we initially booked our flight, I wasn’t sure about taking a red-eye. Now, I was incredibly grateful we were.

I didn’t feel the best on the flight, but I made it. Thanks to lots of prayers and more Gatorade than I had ever consumed before, I made it.

I had the most remarkable time with my husband in Maui –

and this remarkable time was sandwiched between two of the more nerve-racking days in my life.

Two nerve-racking, scary, bunch my stomach in knots and cover me in sweat days. These days both had the same end result – gratitude. 

Immense gratitude. The kind of gratitude that blankets your insides and makes you stop and breathe deep breaths and just be present with all of the thankfulness. That kind of all-consuming gratitude.

Gratitude to be on vacation.

Gratitude to have made it to my next destination.

Gratitude to have my feet on the ground.

Gratitude to be feeling well.

Gratitude to be home with my children.

Gratitude to be alive.





Sometimes, to fully experience gratitude you have to be taken to a place of discomfort. A place of unknown. A place of pain.

People wonder why bad things happen to good people. I know they aren’t talking about scary plane rides and food poisoning, but maybe sometimes you have to experience the bad to recognize all of the beauty in the good.

Maybe those moments that aren’t so great, those moments that drop us to our knees, those moments that have us crying out “why?!” as tears stream down our faces, those moments when we can’t imagine taking another breath because we are so tired and weighed down by the heaviness of life, those moments when we feel alone or scared or weary, those moments when we aren’t sure what our future holds, maybe those moments are the moments that draw us closer to God. Maybe they don’t always feel that way in the moment, but maybe that is the end result.

I know that was my end result.










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A Short Story About My Near Death Sandwich – Part Three: The Other Slice of Bread

I was scared, but like so many times when fear creeps in and threatens to take hold – the thought of what may happen was much worse than what actually took place.

What took place was nothing more than a breathtaking, exhilarating car ride around an island covered with the most lush, picturesque scenery I ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes upon.

As we bumped and jerked and raced the sun around the twists and turns and eventually saw it drop below the horizon, and as the stars started to twinkle one by one in the night sky creating a blanket of sparkling lights covering us from above, I no longer felt afraid. I felt grateful. Oh so very, very grateful.

We left the road to Hana and headed for our dinner reservations at the very popular, highly acclaimed Mama’s Fish House. And it completely lived up to the hype. It was beautiful and delicious and peaceful and everything you would hope a meal at a restaurant sitting on the beach would be.

After stuffing ourselves silly with delectable fresh seafood, we headed back to the hotel with full bellies and full hearts. We went to bed that night with the knowledge that our vacation would soon be coming to an end, but that was ok. We were beyond happy.

Our next day was spent lounging around the pool and ocean and doing all the other great things you do when you are in Hawaii for the day.

Our evening ended with another exceptional meal at a restaurant down the beach from our hotel. We walked back from dinner once again with full bellies and full hearts. We were content. We were joyful. We were breathing in fresh ocean air. We were together. It was bliss.

We began to pack our bags in preparation for our flight home the next day. We laid our heads on the pillow. And went to sleep.

And then it happened.

The pain. The horrible, awful, feel like you must be dying pain. It felt like someone was stabbing my stomach with a small knife.

What was happening?

I was so sick. So. So. So. Sick.

With each of my children I suffered from horrible “morning” sickness. You know, the kind that lasts all day that makes you wonder why in the world anyone was ever cruel enough to name it morning sickness when it should have been called “all day every day” sickness. I was used to feeling sick. I was used to throwing up. I was not used to this.

This was like something you would see out of a movie. I’m not even sure the word projectile does it justice.

After a couple of hours of the pain, vomiting and other unmentionables – I finally woke Pat up and told him I must have Gatorade. Now. Fast. My legs were starting to lock up and I was starting to feel like I was on the verge of being really dehydrated really fast.

It may have been far from reality, but I was wondering if I would ever get up from that bed. I had never felt so bad.

He called the front desk. They asked if Ginger Ale would do, I politely responded with a faint, “No, it must be Gatorade.”  (This is starting to sound like a really long Gatorade commercial, isn’t it?)

The kind man arrived in the early hours of the morning to bring my beverage of choice – I don’t have to tell you again what it was. For the next few hours, I continued to be sick and drink as much as I possibly could.

And as I lay there in all of my pain, I began to wonder if I would get home.

I was on an island and had not seen a hospital, or a clinic for that matter. While I am sure they existed, at that time I felt very. Very. Far away from home. I wondered where I would go to get fluids. I wondered how I would get on the plane. I wondered how I would endure the long flight back. I started to think about how Pat would have to leave me there and how I would have to come home later. I had never felt so bad.

My flight to Hawaii had been a sauna over the ocean and my flight home was about to be a whole different beast altogether.

*This is part three of a now FOUR part blog series….oh my…..I just can’t stop…….

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A Short Story about My Near Death Sandwich – Part Two: All the Good Stuff in Between

After an unbearably hot plane ride where I thought I may not live to see another day; a 10-hour lay-over in San Francisco; an hour wait on the tarmac (they originally told us it would be two hours, so one seemed pretty awesome) and a bumpy second flight that may have been scary at any other point in my life (but because of what we had just been through seemed like a walk in the park) – we finally touched down.

Yes, it was 3:30 in the morning Hawaii time and yes we were supposed to be there at 1:45 in the afternoon the day before and yes we had been traveling for over 24 hours, but who cares? We made it.

We had arrived. Maui. Paradise.

My husband and I were about to experience the vacation of a lifetime and we were beyond excited. And exhausted. Excihuasted.

We made it to our room and I would say we slept like babies, but I have never understood that analogy. My babies woke up every few hours, cried, wanted to eat, needed their diapers changed and sometimes refused to go back to bed. We absolutely did NOT sleep like babies. More like rocks. I get that analogy.

When we woke up the next morning we were greeted by sunshine, fresh ocean air and a breathtaking view. Our harrowing trip to the island was well worth it.

That evening, we went to a luau and saw people move in ways I never knew possible. They danced with fire and told beautiful stories about their culture and while their hips were shaking and fire was flying, we ate….and ate….and ate some more – and I realized as I looked down and saw the deep purple hue on my plate that even the sweet potatoes in Hawaii are prettier – and I was giddy with happiness.

We rode aboard a catamaran on a bright, sunny day and went snorkeling with exotic fish and gigantic, graceful sea turtles  – and I was sure if one of those sea turtles were to talk they would sound just like Crush – and I was giddy with happiness.

We went whale watching and saw two enormous humpback whales breech and then a smaller, baby whale followed suit a second later. And even though it was only a baby, it was still one of the largest, most remarkable creatures I had ever laid my eyes upon. The whales flew into the air and landed with splashes that were so ginormous it seemed as if they could surely be seen for miles. The captain of the ship told us this was the first double breech they had witnessed all year (and we saw a triple!) – and I was giddy with happiness.

GOPR0888.3gp  (Click here to see some whale breeching footage)

Nearly every morning, we would wake up and go for a jog on a path that wound around the coastline. We ran with clear, baby blue skies above and the ocean beside us. We watched the waves roll in and crash against the rocks, spraying the air with glistening drops of salt-filled water. We ran and we talked and we laughed and we eventually would stop talking and laughing because we were tired from all of that running. My heart was full, my legs were sore – and I was giddy with happiness.

We rented a car and drove along the narrow Road to Hana with its bends, twists, 617 hairpin turns and 59 one-lane bridges. The road to the quaint, isolated town of Hana is roughly 52 miles. Seems as if you should get there in no time. Right?  Think again. This trip took us an entire day. Close to ten hours to be exact.

Part of the reason the trip takes so long is not just the hairpin turns and 25 mph speed limit, but because of the many stops made along the way. On more than one occasion, we stopped to hike and we hiked and hiked and hiked some more and saw the most beautiful sites  –


lush green foliage,

painted eucalyptus trees,

a black sand beach,

a red sand beach,

and on and on.

God’s great beauty as far as the eye could see –

and I was giddy with happiness.

We stopped at shacks on the side of the road where local food was being prepared with great love and care. The conditions were questionable and I am pretty sure they weren’t being regulated by the Department of Health, but that was fine. It was all part of the experience.

At one location, our food was handed to us inside of a hollowed out bamboo shoot with small bamboo sticks to use as our utensils. It felt as if we had left our country and flown around the world to have our meal.

It was delicious – and I was giddy with happiness.

And finally, after traveling and hiking and eating and just being present with each other and God’s glorious creation – we arrived at our destination, the town of Hana.

We were told that tourists are supposed to drive to the town of Hana, turn around and drive back because past Hana the road becomes more dangerous. We were told some rental car companies make you sign a paper saying you will not drive past the town. Ours did not. We spoke with some locals and they encouraged us to keep going past Hana, saying it wasn’t that bad. Being the rebels we are, we decided to go for it. We had already faced danger along the way.

Driving past the town of Hana did make my heart skip a beat on more than one occasion. The guard rails on the ocean side of the road were rusted and crumbling apart. The volcano side had a flimsy net that was supposed to serve as some sort of protection from any falling rocks. I am pretty certain it would protect us as much as the guard rails. The road became very narrow and unpaved. We bumped and jerked and shook along the way.

But the beauty. Oh the beauty. It was breathtaking. We had left early that morning, but found ourselves racing the sun on the last leg of our journey. As the sun was going down, we were both painfully aware of the plethora of twists and turns on the unpaved, unlit road. We could not go faster, we could only hope for the best. The race was on –

and I was scared.

*This is part two of a now three part blog series.




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A Short Story about My Near Death Sandwich: Part One

The first slice of bread

Have you ever had a moment you thought may be your last?

In that moment, your mind takes off in the direction of all of the “what if’s” and you begin to feel like every part of you is being covered with a heavy blanket of anxiety. You feel like you may suffocate from the weight of it. Do you know what I am talking about?

Have you had that moment?

I have.

I wish I could say in that moment when my mind was all “what iffy” and the endless stream of possibilities were making laps around my head like race cars on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that I was perfectly calm and not all sweaty and suffocatey feeling.

I wish I could say that, but I already told you – I was covered in an Is-this-the-End blanket of anxiety.

Not once – but twice.

The first time was at the very beginning of a vacation of a lifetime – a trip to Maui with my sweet husband.

The other was at the very end of that same vacation.

The vacation is now what I like to think of as My Near Death Sandwich – with both crazy experiences being the slices of bread and our amazing trip being all of the good stuff in the middle.

I have a gluten sensitivity, so it’s not a big surprise that my brain came up with this analogy. Bread has never really been good for me.

Anyways – to fully appreciate where I am going with this, let’s start with the first slice of bread.

The ancient airplane

Patrick and I arrived at the airport bright and early, eager to board the plane for our trip to Maui. We hadn’t slept much, but that was fine because we were heading to Maui for nine days of bliss. We would sleep later.

The first leg of our trip was uneventful (as you want your plane rides to be.) We flew to Dallas and enjoyed some breakfast during our layover while we waited to board the plane that would take us the remainder of our way. An eight hour flight to paradise.

Sometimes, when you’ve been up pretty much all night and it’s 7 am in Dallas and you have already had one flight – you make weird faces

I was excited to see what our plane would look like. I had never traveled for that many hours and was confident it would be something luxurious. I imagined it to be a little bigger than the usual plane – with personal televisions and Wi-Fi – a souped-up plane with all of the amenities.

I boarded the plane, looked around and thought, “This is the plane? This is what we will be in for the next eight hours? What? This plane looks like it may have been the first commercial plane. Ever.” All of my WiFi dreams came crashing down in an instant.

Let me paint a picture of our plane for you……

The plane came with ashtrays. You couldn’t open them. They must have been glued shut or something, but still…..ashtrays. How long ago could people smoke on planes anyways? I know I could Google this and find out, but I would rather just ask the question for effect.

And it wasn’t just the ashtrays. It was also the TVs. Yes, it had TVs (so that was a plus), but these were not the cute little personal screens I had dreamed of. These looked like they were modeled after my first ever computer – the Commodore 64. Seriously. They were small, sturdy boxes hanging from the ceiling. The screens were surrounded by a thick off-white border (teetering on the verge of yellow – maybe from all of the years of smoke exposure it had endured.) You know, like the good ‘ol TVs from the past – big and bulky. The opposite of a flat screen.

Oh well. My disappointment quickly passed. So what if it was an old plane? This old plane was transporting us to paradise. I could live with the ashtrays and the sturdy TVs. I am a reader anyways and had brought my own mini library along – a bag full of way more books than any person could read in nine days.

Patrick and I settled in to our seats. We enjoyed a snack. I even watched a movie on the old-time television. A funny one that made me laugh out loud. I read a little and began to do some work. This flight wasn’t so bad after all.

The heat

As I was working, I started feeling hot. It came on quickly and as the heat was rising, it felt like someone was taking all the air out of the plane. It was hot and stifling, like an intense summer day when there is no air movement and you long for a slight breeze to bring a little relief.

Was it just me? I am too young for hot flashes. I know they are around the corner, but I’m not there yet.

I looked up to turn on the air vent and didn’t see it. I saw the light, but no air vent. I must be missing something. I asked Patrick to help me with the air flow and he didn’t see it either. Of course the plane from 1960 didn’t have air vents. What was I thinking?

I touched the window and it was hot. Burning hot. Like fry an egg hot.

I had to get up. Now.

I wasn’t feeling well.

As I got up and began to walk toward the back of the plane, I realized it wasn’t just me. People were beginning to take off layers, they were fanning themselves, some people were beginning to look around uncomfortably and a lucky few were still asleep.

Something was wrong.

The flight attendant who was sitting in the back of the plane was reading a magazine and eating ice. Very nonchalantly. Wasn’t she feeling this heat? This must be flight attendant protocol. Rule Number One: always remain calm. Never panic or look even slightly phased.

I walked up to her and she raised her head from her magazine with her eyes peering at me over her reading glasses. She smiled.

What I wanted to say was, “Is this normal? I don’t think this must be normal. How hot can this plane get? What is the plan here?!” But I couldn’t say that so I said, “I think the plane feels hot. Is it hot in here?”

Calmly, with a slight southern drawl she said, “I know honey. We’ve had some complaints. Something is wrong with the air. The pilot called it in.”

Ok. My mind takes off like a rocket – Something is wrong with the air? What does that mean? We are an hour over the ocean. What do we do? How hot will this get? How hot is too hot? We can’t open windows. There is no air. What do we do?

“I’m just going to stand back here for awhile if that is okay,” I said.

“Sure honey.”

As I’m standing there, more and more people have the same idea and the back of the plane is starting to fill with people who are wanting to know what is wrong.

“It’s hot in here” and so on and so forth. Her response is always the same. “I know honey. Something is wrong with the air. The pilot called it in.”

Not too long after we have all gathered, a cooler is opened in the back of the plane so that people could stand by it to cool off. Temporary relief, but not a solution. I was still very hot. I was wearing a dress with leggings and realized the leggings were only a hinderance at this point, so into the bathroom I went to remove anything that could help me to cool off.

I realized I could not stand back there for the remainder of the flight, so I reluctantly made my way back to my seat. I was trying not to pass out, or panic. The last thing needed in that type of situation is for someone to start panicking. There was an overriding sense of people trying to keep their cool – literally. I knew I needed to keep it together and try my best not to vomit or do any of the other things that comes with feeling incredibly hot.

The flight attendants began to push carts around offering whatever comfort they could to the passengers. Even though they were pushing around the carts that were supposed to make people feel a little better, the male flight attendant couldn’t help but to grumble about his long sleeve shirt. I couldn’t blame him. I would grumble too. He was dripping in sweat and his face was bright red.

We still hadn’t heard from the pilot and were making our way across The Pond in this oven in the sky –  headed in the opposite direction that I would like to be heading. After what seemed like way too long – the pilot’s voice finally boomed out from the speakers to let us know the plane was hot and they were having some difficulty with the air. Hmm. Really? He went on to say that it was well over 90 degrees (I believe from the way that we were all feeling that means into the 100s….but he probably couldn’t say that) and it had been decided we would turn around and fly back. Because of the storms in LA, we are headed to San Francisco.

Thank goodness.. I did not want to continue over the ocean any longer in this plane. Unfortunately, the gentleman behind me (who may have started celebrating a little bit early…if you get my drift) did not feel the same way. He was determined to get to Maui and said if we could all just start taking off our clothes, then we could make it. He became his own Maui Flight Pep Rally. He said he was going to talk to the pilot.

Oh no.

A minute later he was back in his seat. Thankfully his talk with the pilot didn’t go as he had planned. I didn’t think it would. The idea of all of us getting naked didn’t seem like something American Airlines would go for. It wasn’t that kind of flight.

We were turning around and I was ecstatic, but still covered in that anxiety blanket of what-ifs and how-hot-is-too-hots and all of that stuff that comes to mind when you are in a plane over the ocean and that plane keeps getting hotter and hotter.

I closed my eyes and began to pray. I prayed for peace. I prayed for my family. I prayed for the people on the plane. I prayed.

The red-faced, sweat-covered flight attendant came back around. I asked him for water and he handed me ice – never acknowledging my request for water. I realized they must be out, or something like that. I didn’t ask, I just took the ice and started eating it and rubbing it on my forehead. The man behind me was persistent and determined and started to ask him why we couldn’t just go to Maui? Couldn’t we endure the heat? The flight attendant calmly reminded him there were elderly people, infants, children with asthma and pregnant women on the plane and they were not going to wait to see what would happen to them.

That was the last I heard the man behind me talk about enduring the heat to get to Maui.

As we turned around and headed toward California the plane did cool off a bit. Not much, but a little. I spent the rest of the flight with my eyes closed. Praying. Thinking. Holding on to Patrick’s hand and realizing that everyone will have a moment that really is their last. Whether this was my moment or not, that moment would eventually come. I became very introspective during the end of the flight and determined to make the most of my life. I felt my blanket of anxiety being replaced with a blanket of peace. I wish I could say that happened the minute something went wrong on the plane, but it didn’t. I got there eventually. It just took awhile.

It’s funny how those anxiety blanket moments are usually blessings in disguise. Like most of life’s challenges.

This is already long, so I won’t bother going into detail about the going up and down as we were supposed to be descending. Or the fact that toward the end of the flight the plane started beeping – and wouldn’t stop. Not a normal beep. More like a warning. Or the fact that when we left the plane the pilot was sitting in the first row of First Class staring at the seat in front of him. He wasn’t standing at the cockpit waving and telling us goodbye. He was sitting there. Staring. Straight ahead. He didn’t look well. I think he was as happy as the rest of us that the plane had landed safely on solid ground.

We walked out and felt the cool air – I had never been so grateful for cool air. I felt an enormous amount of gratitude in that moment. Deep, all-consuming gratitude.

Our trip was starting out differently than planned, but that’s how much of life is. We would get to Maui eventually. But for now, I was just happy to be anywhere at all. I was on solid ground, with my sweet husband, and I could not wait to call and talk to my children.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21



*This is part one of a three part Blog post.






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Today is my Birthday: Lessons from Another Year

Today is my Birthday.

I am one of those people who loves Birthdays. Not just my Birthday. All Birthdays.

A Birthday is a day to celebrate the gift of a person’s life. It is a day to celebrate the unique qualities that make them who they are.

A Birthday is your own special holiday. You can go around all day saying, “It’s my Birthday!” and most people will respond with a huge smile and an enthusiastic, “Happy Birthday!”

When you go out to eat – you get free stuff. When you go shopping – you get discounts. When you check your mail – you find cards. When you look at your phone – you have text alerts and voicemails. When you check Facebook – you realize why you still love Facebook after all.

A Birthday is a day filled with hugs and heart-felt well wishes. It is a day to celebrate.

A Birthday is also a reminder. It’s a reminder of another year gone and a new year beginning. It’s a reminder that time does move quickly and to treasure each passing moment. They are gifts from God.

As I begin my 39th year, I reflect on the joyful moments and lessons learned from another year behind me.

Here are some of the things I have learned in my 38th year:

It is best to live in the moment.

Seems obvious, right? But not always easy to do. I am in a season of my life where it is actually not possible for me to get too far ahead of myself. I have enough time and energy in a day to focus on what is right before me. I have come to appreciate being in this season. It is good to be fully present where I am. I have learned if I try to make too many plans, they often change anyways because there are so many unpredictable variables in life.

It’s okay to not make a bed (until later in the day.)

I had to throw that caveat in because anyone who knows me knows that I couldn’t leave a bed messy all day – but sometimes I have to walk out the door with ruffled sheets and clothes on the floor and that’s okay. I will get to it later. Again, live in the moment and if the moment calls “It’s time to go! Forget about the bed!” Then I better listen.

Sometimes big, scary, uncomfortable choices need to be made.

Choices you don’t want to make. Choices filled with unknowns. Choices that leave you on your knees praying for God to show you the way. We had to make a big, scary, uncomfortable choice this year and it was hard and is still hard and will continue to be hard for quite some time I am sure. On the edge of the unknown lies some excitement. I will try to focus on the excitement and know that God is with us. I know He has gone before us and I trust fully in His plan for our lives. Again, live in the moment and if the moment calls, “A change is on the way, but until then be present where you are, enjoying every last joyful bit of where you are – in the moment.” Then I better listen.

Sometimes the dreams you dream for all of your life do come true.

Like the dream of being able to keep a cottage on your favorite lake where you have a lifetime of memories. Or the dream of being a writer. Sometimes those dreams come true and when they do come true – you do not take one second of them for granted and you look up at the sky and you fall down on your knees and you take a deep breath and exhale with all of your might thinking, “Thank you God. Thank you.” And then you remember, that you should always be grateful. Not just for the big things, but For Everything. Always. Grateful.

Sometimes you need to let go of the future you imagined and open your heart to new possibilities.

Like when the big, scary, uncomfortable choice has been made and you know your future is about to move into a big gaping hole of unknown – then you open your heart to new possibilities and remember it was silly to presume what the future would look like anyway. You know the whole unpredictable variables and live in the moment thing.

And lastly, be kind. Always. Be kind. 

The world seems a little different in this moment then it did at the beginning of my 38th year. It seems a little more divided and a little more unsteady, but my faith is strong and my eyes remain focused on the unseen knowing all battles on earth are truly battles in the spiritual realm. No matter what my beliefs are and how they differ from my brother or my sister I must be kind. Always. Be kind. I need to listen more and try to understand the other side. I need to do more listening and less talking. I must be kind. Always. Be kind.

Today is my Birthday – the beginning of my 39th chapter. A new year with incredible opportunities. To live in the moment. To not be afraid of mess. To trust in the unknown future. To dream big dreams. To let go. And to be kind. Always. Be kind.



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Summertime Bliss

I love summer.

Weeks before the last day of school, I begin anticipating the long stretch of time when the kids and I will all be home together.

I look forward to it every year.  It is a little reprieve from the usual routine.  People can sleep in. We can wake up in the morning and decide what we are going to do that day. We are not bound by a schedule.  There are no lunches to pack and buses to catch.  There is not homework to do.  We slow down.

It is good for my soul.


I woke up last Friday morning eagerly anticipating the first day of summer.  It was going to be a great day.  I could feel it.

I slept in a litte later than usual, because it was summer.  I poured my cup of coffee and relished in the fact that two of my children were still sleeping. The house was peaceful.  It was good.  My heart was filled with summertime bliss.

The other kids woke up and breakfast was served. We were off to a great start.  For a few seconds.  And then the demands started.  And the arguing.

And more arguing.


I wanted to yell, “Don’t you realize this is the first day of summer?!  You are ruining this moment!  This is my time, people!!”  But, if I would have done that they would have looked at me like I was crazy. Really, this was their time wasn’t it? Their summer vacation.  They would have thought I had gone a little batty.  So, I refrained from yelling about my summertime bliss that they were destroying with each “That’s mine!”  “Don’t touch that!”  “That’s my seat!”  and so on and so forth.

We ate our breakfast and went about the day.  The arguing was not going to stop me from enjoying this much anticipated first day of summer.  No way. No how.

This day was going to be fabulous.

And then, the moment when I wished I had Take-Two happened.

You know the thing that says “scene” and “take” with the little arm that drops down to signal that was horrible and you need to start over. That thing.  I needed that thing.

I wish someone would have stepped in and yelled, “CUT! We need to start this scene over from the top!  Let’s go back to the moment before this woman lost her mind and reacted like a five-year old.”


Honestly – calling myself a five-year old may be a little generous.

The moment began when I walked around the corner into the family room where I found my son and daughter sitting next to a pile of papers they had ripped out of a coloring book.  The papers were crumbled and covered with pencil holes.  Someone went to town on these pages.  There was not any evidence coloring had taken place.  It was more like a coloring book mutilation.

And it was my coloring book.


My beautiful coloring book that I had received as a gift for Christmas.  The one I had taken with my daughter on our date to Starbucks. The one I had taken with my sister and my kids when we went out coloring.  My fabulous coloring book.  It was all mine.  And now it was in pieces on the floor.

They had their own coloring books! Why did they need to go Freddy Krueger on mine?!

So what did I do when I saw my beautiful coloring book mutilated on the ground?  What any reasonable mom would do I am sure.  I yelled about how you cannot destroy things, and especially things that don’t belong to you. And then I asked them how they would feel if that happened to them?  All very reasonable.

And then – it happened.

I saw one colored picture on the ground.  I picked it up and looked my kids in the eyes and ripped the picture apart.  Just like that.  Beautiful artwork destroyed.

Take that kids!  An eye for an eye.

As soon as the ripped papers hit the ground, my daughter started crying and my insides started turning.  I felt a little bit sick as I looked down and thought, “What in the world did I do that for?”

Can I please get a “CUT!”  Can someone right this wrong?  My reaction was no different than a child’s would have been.  I was mad they destroyed my book, so I was going to destroy something too.

What happened to the first day of summer I had been dreaming of?

I picked up the pieces of the coloring page and found the tape.  Piece by piece I put the picture back together.  I handed it to my daughter and told her how sorry I was.  I explained that mommies make mistakes too, and that I never should have treated her beautiful artwork that way.  I told her just because someone hurts us, it doesn’t make it ok to try to hurt them.  I told her I was wrong.


We hugged and she told me she forgave me.  I forgave her.

We all make mistakes and there are no Take-Twos in real life.  I guess it’s how we handle those moments when we have done something that makes our insides turn that really matters.  I know I have learned my lesson and I think my daughter learned hers.

I talked to a friend that day and she said, “Well, the summer can only get better from here.”

She was right. It has gotten better. This week has been a great week. Summertime bliss is upon us.










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There is a Reason

After doing some thinking about what I wrote last time, I decided that my last post needed a follow-up.  A sequel.  I was just a tad bit judgmental, and it’s time for me to right my wrong.

I realize that the victim of my judgment was a fictional character.  I realize that writing another post about Finding Nemo may be overkill.  Even with these realizations, I am moving forward.

As a tribute to a character that I have grown to appreciate.  Marlin.

I promise this isn’t the beginning of a long string of Blog posts about my psychoanalysis of fictional Pixar characters.   There will not be a prequel, or a threequel, or anything else like that. It stops here.

With Marlin.


Marlin is the epitome of the overprotective “helicopter parent”.  His life is ruled by his fears.  If there was ever a candidate for some anti-anxiety meds, it’s this guy.

He cannot move forward in his life because he is plagued by his past.  And consequently, he cannot let his son move forward in his life either.

The movie starts with a scene where we see a care-free Marlin having fun with a wife that he obviously adores.  They are about to have a family. They are coming up with names for their children, and dreaming of their seemingly bright future.

It is during this moment of great joy that something horrific happens.  Marlin’s wife is brutally murdered while she is trying to protect her children.  Marlin, in the process of trying to save her, is knocked unconscious.  He wakes to discover his wife and all of his children, but one, are dead.  He promises in this moment to never let anything happen to his one remaining child.

Fast forward a few years and we see a completely different Marlin.  A Marlin who is consumed with anxiety.   His son, who we learn was born with a birth defect, is grown and about to go to school for the first time. 

Fast forward a little bit more and we watch as Marlin’s son is kidnapped.  Again, Marlin is powerless and unable to stop this atrocity from happening.  He watches and can do nothing.

This fish is anxious, but it makes sense.  Doesn’t it?   He has been through an incredible amount of pain and suffering in a short period of time.  His wife and children were murdered.  His son has been stolen from him. The entire movie is about him trying to find his kidnapped son, while encountering one dangerous situation after another.  This is a petri dish for anxiety.

There is a reason he behaves the way he does.

Until we know somebody’s story, we may not know why they behave the way that they do.  Like Marlin, there is probably a reason.  A reason that they are angry.  Or scared.  Or sad.  Or anxious. Or over-protective.

It isn’t our job to judge. Judgment does not help a situation. Instead of offering judgement, offer love. Offer encouragement. Offer to meet people in their pain and suffering.  Offer to love them where they are.

That is what Dory does for Marlin.  We all need a little Dory in our lives.  Someone who helps us to move forward when we are afraid of what lies ahead.

And it always helps when we are able to recognize when somebody has been through a lot in life.  It is helpful when we can come along side them, while allowing them the time and space to heal.

I went through a period of time in my life, years ago, when it was hard for me to move forward from my past.  I was afraid that if people knew who I was, or the choices that I had made, that they could not possibly love or accept me.

Over the course of time, God has taken away those fears.  I have come to realize that His love for me never changes.  I have also come to realize that not everyone will like me. Some people may judge me for past choices I have made, and that is Ok. I am not ruled by the fear of what people may think of me.  I am no longer consumed by my past. It is a part of me. It is a part of my story.  It does not define me.

We all have a story.

We all have bad things happen in our lives. We all make bad choices.  It is part of living in this fallen world.

The next time I encounter someone who seems a little bunched up and Marlin-like, I hope I remember to offer them a smile and a word of encouragement.  I hope I remember to say a little prayer for them.  I hope I remember that I have not walked a day in their shoes and have no idea what they have been through, or may be going through.  I hope I can be like Dory and encourage them to just keep swimming. I hope I can remember that there is often a reason that people behave the way that they do.  I hope I will always love people in their Marlin-moments. Because that is how I would want to be treated.  And my next one may be right around the corner.












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Just Keep Swimming


I believe that Dory, from Finding Nemo, is one of the most endearing characters of all time.  She is eternally optimistic.   Repeatedly, she finds herself in very difficult situations.  She suffers from short-term memory loss and her traveling companion, who she is with 24/7, is a pessimistic fish named Marlin who suffers from severe anxiety.

What she endures would cause many fish to throw in the towel, but she does not.  She keeps moving forward.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie is when Dory is faced with another seemingly impossible situation, and her response is to sing.  She sings as she swims into the darkness.  She sings and believes.  She believes that everything will be Ok.

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming. What do we do? We swim. Swim.”

She does not know what is ahead of her, and cannot remember what is behind her.  Unlike Marlin who is paralyzed with fear because of the memories from his past, she is fully present in the moment. She does not move with fear. She moves with confidence. With faith. With joy.

I feel like I can learn a lot from Dory.

The past couple months of my life have been busy, to say the least.  I have felt like I was moving from one thing to the next at warp speed with no time to breathe in between.  I was getting a little bunched up and Marlin-like.  It was hard for me to be in the moment because I was consumed by what was ahead of me, and a long list of what-ifs.  What if I can’t get this all done? What if it doesn’t work out as I had planned?

When someone would say, “how are you?” I would inevitably list off all of the things that were going on.  I would list off the things that I needed to accomplish in that day.   I’m not sure how that answers the question, “how are you?” Other than tired and maybe a bit over my head in commitments.

I often say that I feel like, with four young children and all that comes with raising a family, I cannot think past “the next big thing.”

When I say “the next big thing” I mean the next vacation, or Birthday, or holiday.  I cannot be working on too many things at once. There is just not a whole lot of extra time and energy left at the end of the day.  Just the regular events that happen on a daily basis are enough in and of themselves.  I have learned it is best for me to stay present in the moment focusing on the tasks at hand, while also working on “the next big thing.”

But what happens when each weekend is filled with “the next big thing?”

It seems that what happens is I rattle off lists to every person who makes the mistake of saying “how are you?”

And I break out in hives.  Yep. Hives.

I actually am still breaking out in the occasional hive.  I’m not sure if I was just so stressed that my immune system went haywire, or if I am actually allergic to something.  I will find out next week when I have my allergy testing done.

What I found in the past months of being all hivey, stress-bally, and overly-listy, is that this seems to be a predicament that many people find themselves in.  As soon as I was finished rattling off my to-dos, many of my friends would list off their to-dos.  It seemed that myself, and many people I knew, were drowning in piles of to-do lists.

So, what do we do in these moments of being pulled in too many directions?

I can choose to either be like Dory’s traveling companion Marlin who is constantly in a state of freaked-out panic, or I can be like Dory who sings her way through life.

When I do as Dory says and “just keep swimming,” I will often find a wonderful gift from God awaiting.  When I stay in the moment without fretting about what is ahead, or focusing on what is behind, then I am at peace.  During the painful times in life, and the busy times in life, and the times when it feels like I am drowning in my to-dos, there is always something wonderful happening too. Something to be grateful for.  Every day is filled with wonderful gifts from God.  It is just a matter of what I choose to focus on.

For me, during this busy time, the gifts came in the form of people that I love.

It was the joy of celebrating a friend’s upcoming marriage.

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It was the joy in seeing my daughter’s face during her Birthday party.


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It was the joy of watching our daughter play a sport she had been wanting to try for a long time.

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It was the joy of having family at our house on Easter Sunday.




It was the joy of being with family on a short vacation over Spring Break.



It was joy of making the trip to our college town to spend the day with great friends.

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It was the joy in standing next to a dear friend as she said her vows.

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It was the joy in seeing the look on my daughter’s faces when they saw their new rooms.




The many nights of staying up late to complete tasks ultimately ended with great joy. It was worth it.

Now, I don’t recommend moving at this pace often.  It would not be healthy to be that busy all of the time. But sometimes, because of life’s circumstances, it is inevitable.  Sometimes you get life on steroids.

Slowly, over the past couple of weeks, things have started to calm down at our house.  We are slowly getting back to normal.  And at the end of the craziness, God gave Pat and I an unexpected gift. We were able to take a short trip to Florida together.  It was a time of rest and relaxation.  A rainbow after a storm of frenzy.   It was exactly what we both needed.  We were able to push the reset button.

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Oftentimes, if we “just keep swimming” we will swim into something completely beautiful, and unexpected.  We may get a little Marlin-like along the way, but that’s Ok.  That is where grace comes in. We are all works in progress.  I hope as I grow older, and wiser, that I will become a little more like Dory and a little less like Marlin.  A little more able to trust. And believe. And move forward with joyful confidence.  In my experience, some of the roughest waters I have swam through have lead me to the most wonderful places.  I always need to “just keep swimming.”







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Unexpected Lessons

Last week, I learned a few unexpected lessons.

In my experience, some of the best lessons I’ve learned are the ones I’m not expecting. The show up, unannounced, with trumpets blaring demanding my attention.

My unexpected lesson began as I was in the chair at the orthodontist office with my mouth held open by some contraption that pulled uncomfortably on both sides of my cheeks. While I was laying back with every nook and cranny of my mouth exposed, the woman who was taking care of me kindly stated, “We forgot your sunglasses.”  Of course. My sunglasses.  That will complete this crazy look.

The rest of the appointment consisted of gadgets and gizmos, pressure, and attempts to swallow that weren’t always that successful. Thank goodness I had on my sunglasses.

By the time the appointment was over, I had my braces.  And, a new perspective.


I was excited that this moment had finally arrived, but the braces seemed to be coming with a price.  Pain.  My teeth hurt.  My mouth hurt.  And, when I opened it to talk I sounded just like Sylvester the Cat from Looney Toons.  I was spitting and “Suffering Succotashing” all over the place.


Fortunate for me, in the most sarcastic voice imaginable, that night was the Winter Carnival at the elementary school.  I tried my best to talk to other parents without bathing them in a shower of spit.  I could feel my mouth moving awkwardly over my braces as I spoke.  And the more I spoke, the more my mouth hurt.

By the time we got home, I had developed a decent cut on my inner lower lip and was starting to form one on my upper lip.

This was not what I had in mind when I eagerly hopped into the chair that morning.  All that I was thinking about at that time was how great my mouth would look when this was all over.

My how my thoughts had changed.  Now all I could think was, “is this worth it?”  “Will I be in pain for as long as these braces are on my teeth?”

Of course not. But when you are in pain, it is hard to see past the pain.

I was told it would only last a few days and then subside. In that way, I was fortunate.

What about people who live with chronic pain?

What I learned in those few days of pain was that when you are in pain, it is hard not to think about the pain.  It is always there.  It lurks in the back of your mind. The awareness of the pain exists along with the pain itself.   It stinks.

As C.S. Lewis states in his book A Grief Observed, “I once read the sentence, ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache, and about lying awake.’ That’s true to life.  Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.”


And with this pain came my lesson, trumpets blaring.  Through my pain I learned a lesson in empathy.

When my children wake up in the night saying they have a leg ache and I am snuggled comfy in my bed, not wanting to move, I hope that I may be more sensitive to the fact that they are in pain.  Instead of mumbling, “drink some water….try to go back to sleep…that will  help” when I know that it won’t, I hope that I will get out of my comfy bed and get them a heating pad and some Ibuprofen because they are in pain.

When they come in with a scraped knee and need my attention, I hope that I may be more likely to run over and give them a big hug and put a bandaid on them instead of saying, “wait one minute while I finish folding this laundry” or “be there in a second” or “oh it looks Ok, you can get back out there and play.”


I want to be more sympathetic.  Not just to physical pain, but emotional pain.

Being in pain, whether it is physical or an emotional wound that is struggling to heal, can be exhausting.

This is not to say that God can’t use that pain.

It is often through experiencing pain myself, whether physical or emotional, that I learn how to relate better to others in their pain.  He took my pain and reminded me to better care for those around me who are hurting.

The next time I see one of my children laying back in the chair at the orthodontist, I will better understand what they are going through.  As a result, hopefully my attitude will be more empathetic, more kind, more quick to offer a hug and less likely to think, “oh come on…it can’t be that bad?”

Because maybe, just maybe, to them it is that bad.

I pray that this lesson will not fade slowly over time.  I thank God that I am no longer experiencing pain, and I pray for those who are.

I am thankful for lessons learned at unexpected times, in the most unexpected places.  I am thankful that a simple trip to the orthodontist has the potential to be so much more. Thank you, God, for using ordinary everyday experiences to grow me into the person that you desire for me to be.

Thank you God for unexpected lessons.





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Reality Checks

Sometimes I need a reality check.  Or two. Or three.

Sometimes more.

I am a stay-at-home mom.  I realize that this is not for everyone. Every family needs to decide what works for them. This was the desire of my heart, and my husband’s heart, and we were committed to making this work. We also knew, God willing, that we desired to have a large family.

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Having a large family and one income would require sacrifice, but this was a sacrifice that we were willing to make.  We knew that we may not have the finest things, and we were Ok with that.

In October, 2009, my husband and my very pregnant self, along with our three-year old and 20-month old daughters, moved from an area that is located about ten minutes east of downtown Indianapolis called Irvington to the suburbs of Westfield.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about being in the suburbs at first. My husband and I had a lot of conversations prior to moving. We liked the idea of being close to downtown.  It seemed so much cooler.  I still think it is cooler. 

But, coolness aside, it wasn’t a great fit for us anymore. For many reasons, including the location of his job, it made sense for us to move to the north side.

So, that’s what we did.

We found a foreclosure that was a wonderful fit for our expanding family.  I felt very blessed that we were able to move into a house that we otherwise would not have been able to afford. Along with the feeling of gratitude came the reality that our blessing was another family’s misfortune.  I would think of the family often, especially in the first year.  I would wonder about them.  And pray. 


About three weeks after we moved into our home, our third daughter was born.  We began to settle into our new location.  At first, I did not think much about moving to such an affluent area.

When we lived close to downtown, we were surrounded by the rich and the poor.  Very nice homes were located just blocks away from poverty-stricken homes.  Our cozy little yellow bungalow sat across from the golf course.  Just a few blocks from our home was a street known to be a hangout for prostitutes and drug dealers.


We went from living in this melting pot to living where we live now.  We live in Hamilton County. According to a recent article posted in WTHR, Hamilton County is now ranked as the seventh wealthiest county in the nation.

The longer we have lived here, the more I find myself comparing our lifestyle to others and feeling like I am not living up to some type of standard.  The longer that I have been surrounded by wealth, the more my perception on how people live has erroneously changed. My idea of what is normal is becoming skewed. I am comparing my lifestyle to the lifestyles of some of the wealthiest people in the world. This is one of the challenges people face when they are living in the land of plenty.  I am beginning to understand why the term “keeping up with the Joneses” exists. This struggle is not unique to me.  One of my favorite movies is about this struggle that many Americans face, fittingly called The Joneses.  It is a thought-provoking movie that I highly recommend.


Now this is not a knock on the suburbs, or the people who live in the suburbs. This is not a knock on being wealthy, or having nice things.  Those are wonderful blessings that God has bestowed on people.  I really enjoy living here, and feel very blessed to be where we are.  This is just commentary on my ridiculous, absurd, insane thoughts.

I find myself forgetting about the early years in our marriage when we talked about having less and being Ok with that.  I find myself feeling like what I have is not enough, but here is reality:

I have an ample amount of everything that I need.

I am not hungry.  I actually have the ability to choose, daily, what I will eat.  I am able to make food at home.  I can go out to eat.  I can eat fast food.  I can sit down at a restaurant.  I can search Yelp and see what sounds good to me, and go there, and eat.  Everyday, I have an overabundance of dining options.


I have water.  Clean water.  I have options of what kind of water I want. Tap water. Filtered water from the fridge.  Bottled water.  Flavored water. Water from the hose.  I can drink water. Shower in water. Bathe in water.  And when I drink the water, I don’t need to worry about if it is going to make me, or my family members, sick.

I do not worry that my children will die from starvation, or dehydration.  Thank you, Father.

I have a roof over my head.  I am warm in the winter.  I am cool in the summer.

I have clothes on my body.  I have a pillow to lay my head on at night and blankets to cover myself with.

If my children are sick, I can take them to a multitude of doctors and grab them medicine from a plethora of pharmacies.

To many people around the world, living in our home would be like living in a mansion.  It is all about perspective.

That is reality.  We are blessed beyond measure.

But, here is a secret of mine.   I am sometimes embarrassed by the cars we drive.  Yep. True.

We have a 1997 Toyota Avalon that we have had for years.  It is paid off and runs fine.  We have a Toyota Sienna that is also paid off and runs fine.  We own two working vehicles.  True, one of them is more like the car you get when you turn 16, but who cares? It works and it is paid off.


When we first moved here and had our third daughter, we did not have the minivan yet.  I would load all three kids into the back of the Avalon. That was my car.  I thought nothing of it.  Now, I have become increasingly embarrassed to drive that car.  I actually will go out of my way  to be sure I will have the minivan when I need to go somewhere because I don’t want to be seen in the Avalon.

Do you know how crazy that is?!  There are people who don’t have food, and I am caring about being seen in our paid-off second vehicle.  Something isn’t right here.

Thankfully, God has been showing me the ridiculousness of my thinking.  He is teaching me gratitude.  He is giving me reality checks.

This year, at our Christmas dinner, I looked at the overabundance of food on the table and in that moment God did something to my heart.  I felt like He said to me, “Look.  Look at this blessing before you and be grateful.”  I was struck in that moment by the fact that I was able to feed my children.  I could feed them without any fear of where the food would come from.  There was so much food on our table that some would go to waste.  My heart was grateful, and it was also very convicted.

I have carried that conviction with me into the new year.  When I find myself thinking about the things that I want, I quickly remind myself of all that I have.  When I find myself thinking about wanting a new car, I remind myself that we have all that we need right now.  When I find myself feeling embarrassed, I remind myself to be grateful.  I do not need to impress anyone.  And, really, nobody cares what kind of car we drive.  Our friends care about us, not about what we have.  The way that I feel has nothing to do with people saying, or doing things, to make me feel this way.  It is just my own stinking thinking.  The thought that we need to have more, or be more, to prove something is just a lie.  It is a lie that I am not buying into anymore.

I am on week four of my 52 weeks of donations and it has been a wonderful experience thus far.  I do not think that it is a coincidence that I am embarking on this at the same time as I have been struggling with these thoughts.  As I clean out our home, God is cleaning out my heart and my mind.

I am thankful for the work that God is doing on my heart.  I am thankful that He is patient with me.  I am extremely thankful that I do not need to worry about how I will feed my children tonight, and I pray for those who find themselves in that situation.

I am thankful for abundant blessings.

I am thankful for reality checks.













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