Monday, December 28, 2015

2015- A Year of Growth

Looking back over this year, I don't remember feeling a lot of anything. I was in a state of being numb for most of 2015, and I used to think that was tragic. My views are changing. I'm now finally coming to a place where I'm grasping that life is hard, but it's also what you make it. Being comfortable doesn't grow us, shape us, mold us or strengthen us. It keeps us in a safe box where we desperately cling to things that don't force us to change or to open up to possibilities outside of our range of comprehension.

And while I haven't gotten the answers (as much as I would have liked them), by the end of 2015, I'm learning. I'm learning to ask more questions, to embrace my brokenness as a vehicle for change. I needed to completely fall apart this year, to become numb to my surroundings, in order to "survive". It was my way of coping with life. What I've learned thus far is that I've spent the vast majority of my adult life overwhelming myself with a jam packed schedule, saying yes to things I don't have time for, trying to please everyone else, and consequentially, not taking care of my physical or emotional well being.

If this year of hell taught me anything, it's that life is too damn short to not enjoy it, and furthermore, to not be present in the here and now with the people I love. I'm not going to go into this year with resolutions or a list of "have tos". I think they are great tools of motivation for a great bunch of people, but for me, they are another item to check off of my to-do list, another added pressure that will make me feel like I've failed if I don't make a goal in a self-allotted time frame.

You see, I need to stop looking so far in advance to find my happiness. I'll be happy when..... I'll be present once......... Up until a few years ago, I was living life in auto pilot. I wasn't enjoying anything because I was too busy doing and scheduling and checking off. Then, as I was just starting to grasp it, I was finding the happiness in every day, enjoying the small things, being intentional with my time, I fell down into this pit of whatever the heck you want to call it, and I'm searching for what it all means.

I often find it easier to write when things in my life are hard. There's so much more material, so much more that comes from the heart. I mean seriously, how many songs do you know that talk about life as being comfortable and simple and all the happy things? Not nearly as many that talk about brokenness, heartache, and growth. Life has it's constants- birth, death, hardship, pain, beauty, love, vulnerability- and I'm convinced that it's how we navigate through these constants that determines our happiness. It's a heck of a lot easier to say "life is what you make it" than to actually live it in the middle of heartache, but I firmly believe that when I'm treading water through the hardships of life, there is growth not so far ahead.

And while it has been a hard year, a growing year, it's come with its happies. Here are some of my favorite happies from 2015.

One of my favorite things about being a mom (also one of the busiest) is watching all my kiddos in their activities. This year, all my kiddos were involved in sports: basketball, football, volleyball, wrestling, softball, baseball, and soccer (not my favorite). Here is a VERY small snippet of what they did in 2015.

Reconnecting with people I love from my childhood and school days. So glad I get the opportunity to connect with them when it works!

Our 10 year anniversary and a short, but amazing trip to Florida!

Even though it wasn't "our lake", we found a good fill in: Long Lake in Park Rapids, MN. We even took our nieces. It was a fun week of fishing, boating, tubing, reading, and taking in all the beauty of up north.

A class that turned into colleague bonding. With as stressful as the last few years have been, it was amazing to just hang out with some of my colleagues (friends) and talk about life.

Boat days and time with my village- It's not as often now that our kids are more involved, but I wouldn't trade time with these people for anything in the world. I heart them mucho.

RFKC- Another year of an organization near and dear to my heart. I love these kids. I love being the hands and feet of Jesus while we love them up with our words and actions. I also love that I have a camper in my classroom this year. It's been so rewarding. Words can not describe.

Our annual trip to the Ozarks. Love this tradition. Love these people.

Saying yes to the dress- Okay okay. Not mine, but I am honored to be part of Jenni's special day. The bond we have created with her and her sister is one I'm overwhelmingly thankful for.

And even though its luster may have been muted this year, the magic of Christmas and the season with all it's traditions and family interaction still continue to make me swoon. It will forever be one of my favorite times of year.

So I'm convinced, not that 2016 will be a good year, but that there will be good in 2016. There will be growth, heartache, pain, beauty, love, vulnerability. All of those constants will be present, and I'm committed to not running away from the feelings. I'm going to allow myself to feel what I need to feel in order to let it teach me what I need to be taught. I'm going to take life one day at a time, look for the good, be present, embrace change, take care of my emotional and physical well being, look forward to the future (but not dwell there), learn from my mistakes, be intentional, love my village more, continue to pare down in order to find simplicity and be grounded and most importantly, not beat myself up when I forget some of those things once in awhile. So here's to a new year, but the same me...just maybe a bit wiser 12 months from now.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Let it Start With Me

I've come back and forth to this page. I've sat down, started typing for awhile, and then deleted all of it. Closed up shop and decided to wait until I was inspired. That's not working, so I decided to show up anyways. I don't have a lot of great things to say. I've kind of let the negative reek havoc of my thoughts and heart lately, and I need to figure out a way to detox a little to sort out the chaos that is my brain. It's hard though. There's so much sadness. So much angst. So much stress. So much worry. It's seeping from my pores, but also coming at me full force from every other direction. People are hurting and sick and sad, and it's unfixable by my hands.

Today a family we know in Sioux Center lost their four year old daughter. One day she was happy, healthy and full of life, and the next, she was gone. I find myself incredibly angry with God, wondering what on Earth could possibly be his reasoning for all of this. There is so much evil out there. Why not eliminate that? People we love are getting cancer or dealing with other health issues. Hearts are broken. Families are ripped apart. You can't look at the news and NOT see war and violence and sadness and political garbage, and I wonder sometimes when is it going to give? In the world and in me? When am I not going to feel sad anymore? When will I find me? How long is the valley this time around? At what point does it get better?

What I realized is that my perspectacles are incredibly biased. When I'm low, it doesn't take much to find the bad. In everything. In everyone. With all of the bad, I forgot that just last week hundreds of thousands of people showed up to be a village, and in 24 hours raised $475,141 for a birthing center to be built in Port Au Prince, Haiti. It will give women the opportunity to give birth safely in much better conditions than they had before. It also is helping refugees fleeing to Germany who haven't yet registered, and are not able to receive any health care. Not only did people show up, but no one was allowed to donate more than $25. Their motto is "Doing small things with great love." I also didn't focus on the story about the young man who took a small chunk of time out of his day to teach a little girl how to skateboard. Really, any article on this page will remind you that there is good out there. We just have to look for it. And on days like today, that's hard. It's hard to have more questions than answers. It's hard not to be able to fix something for people you love. It's very easy to let your perspectacles get foggy.

But here is what I know. I know that it starts with me. If I want to see kindness, I need to show it. If I want to see others helping each other, then I need to show up. If I want a village, I need to be a village. If I want to see love, then I have to be love. There are some things I just can't fix. And that sucks. I can, however, show up. Find the beauty beneath the brutal. I can show love and I can be love, and if I can keep my focus on the good as much as possible, that's one step closer to getting out of this hole while also making the world a better place in the process.

Here's a little Momastery wisdom. It speaks from my soul.

"Lately, more than ever — I’ve turned on the news and then turned it off in what might be called a teeny bit of despair. This is what I usually think:
So much pain. So much callousness. So much hopelessness.
I need to believe.
I need to believe that the world is good.
I need to believe that people care.
I need to believe that the light is more powerful than the darkness.
I need to believe that it is finally time for women to lead. For us to turn this car around and lead us to peace.
I need to believe that I am PART of something bigger than myself.
I need to believe, I need to believe I need to believe…
And then I remember:
Life is about noticing what you need to believe. And then MAKING IT SO.
Leadership is offering the world exactly what you need — before you have it.
I am sitting in my kitchen writing this and the tears won’t stop coming because:
The world is good.
People care.
Light will always will always will always overcome the darkness.
There is no force. NO FORCE greater than love.
Our time has come. 
We are not alone. We are part of something bigger than ourselves.
We can do hard things.
We Belong to Each Other.
Love Wins."
The challenges I have set for myself are as follows: to try my hardest not to complain or be negative. That's going to be hard. I'm pretty sure I won't get an A on that assignment, but I'm sure going to try. One baby step at a time. Also, keep showing up, all messy and imperfect. Even when I want to quit.

I'm going to end this post on a happy note. No better time to start than right now. Here are some happies from the last month in photos.

Honored to stand up for one of my favorite people in her wedding next August.

A decent selfie with my daughter where her smile is somewhat genuine. Love our family tradition of pumpkin picking. 

First marching band performance before the football game.

The place where all our stresses disappear for 72 hours. The Ozarks. Good people. Good food. Lots of laughter. So many memories made over the last 5 years.

Healthy kiddos who are proud of their accomplishments. 

Finally getting the four of us to get some quality time together amongst all of our busy schedules. 

Because Fall is my favorite. 

Go out and find some happy. Show up and be love.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Happy New (School) Year!!!

When you are a teacher, New Year's falls on two dates. One is celebrated with the rest of the world on January 1st, but the other falls on the first day of school. We don't necessarily do resolutions in the traditional fashion like "I will exercise more." "I will stop drinking pop." "I will be more present." "We will make more traditions." Instead, they look more like "I will make more exciting lesson plans." "I will be truer to myself in the classroom." "I will have more patience."

I love the beginning of the school year with all the possibilities and all the new faces I get to meet and make a part of my school "family". It means that crisp, fall weather is ahead which means boots and hoodies and fires and football games. It means apple picking and open windows and refreshing walks in the evening. Fall is by far my favorite time of year.

Of course, along with all of my favorite things, there are also a few not so fun things around this time as well including, but not limited to new schedules, less time at home, more responsibilities at school, a messy house, etc. Last year, I fell apart. I stopped making time for me. I ate out more. I let everything go. I'm trying very hard not to get back there, so I've been a little more proactive. I'm planning my menu to include meals at my dad's house, trying to limit eating out to once a week. I'm setting my alarm for earlier mornings to make sure I get a workout in before school. I'm being intentional about spending more time with my family. I said no to a lot more things such as teaching Sunday School, or church night. I felt a pang of guilt at first, but I realize that in order to be the best version of me for myself, my family and my friends, I need to take care of the mental side of me.

I'm feeling the change. I have been quieter, more withdrawn. I'm extremely exhausted and I find myself going to sleep earlier or going to my room by myself after I put the kids to bed. My sister Amy said this a few weeks ago, and it really resonates with how I'm feeling. My people bucket is overflowing, but my me bucket is pretty low. I'm trying to find some time to just be still where I don't have an agenda, just time alone. I'm sure that as I get in the groove, things will start to snap back into place a little bit. I do feel that since I'm being proactive with a lot of the things that caused me to spiral downward last year, that I will have a stronger advantage this year.

On another note. we are still enjoying. Dan took off this morning with his brothers for the Broncos game in Kansas City, and he will leave Saturday morning with Sawyer to go to a jeep rally in Des Moines. I'm excited for him to have some time to relax and have fun. He never goes away and always puts others first. He deserves it. I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with my kids. I feel this primal pull to be a better parent when I'm doing it solo. Single parents are my heroes. They really are. I think we'll watch the game tonight, maybe put up some Fall decorations, watch Carter play some football, or wing it. We're really good at winging it.

I'll end with pictures because they are totally my favorite. Here are some of our happies from the past month.

Celebrating Rachel's new practice "All Things New" and praying over the space that will help mend people's hearts. So proud of her.

Drew comes home a few times a year, and this time, it was for an extended period of time. I so enjoyed catching up with him and reminiscing about our childhood. Although I wish he lived closer, he belongs in the city. Love him lots.

Traditional first day of school photo. I can't believe I have a 6th grader, a 4th grader and a 1st grader. Where did the time go?

Meeting the child of someone you love. We prayed for this boy, and now he's here. Happy and healthy and loved. 

So a reunion was in tow. These two were bridesmaids, and while miles and life have made it harder to see each other on a regular basis, I love them. It makes me so happy when we get to see one another. Heart full.

It's the year of 30. We are officially not young anymore. Celebrating with childhood friends and their littles. 

When people make me feel special on my birthday

More childhood friendship reunions

Losing baby teeth

Watching my middle little play football 
The pride that wells up when I think about the young lady that my oldest is becoming. Twelve this year people. 1-2

Even though the fall down the stairs wasn't a happy, a good report from the doctor saying that it is healed enough to wear a brace is great news!!

Hoping you have your own happies! I'd love to hear them. Happy Thursday friends!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Guest Post: Receptions and Rejection

I'm super excited to welcome my good friend Mikkelle to the blog today to talk about a topic I think many of us are familiar with. In fact, if we are being honest, we've probably been on both sides of the coin a time or two. When I was at camp a couple weeks ago, a bunch of us girls would get together late at night when we didn't want to go to bed, and we would just talk and laugh. A few of them talked about what it's like to be a "transplant"- a term they used to describe themselves as not being from around here. Living in this area my whole life, I've never really known what it feels like to be "unknown". This can be good and bad for many reasons, in my life especially, but I've grown up really having lots of friends and family at my disposal. So I don't often have to think about some of the struggles they do with meeting new people and starting from scratch. We talked about how hard it is to be transplanted into this place when people already have established their friends and don't feel like they need to expand their groups, especially to those who think differently than them.

You guys, this is a real thing. And while I don't know what it's like not to know anyone, I do know what it's like to not fit in with the crowd. As you read Mikkelle's post, I challenge you to see where this rings true in your life. Mostly, I hope that it convicts you as it has convicted me. We've all done this. We've maybe even been on both sides of the spectrum.

So without further adieu, welcome to the blogging world Mikkelle! Here is her story:

I was recently at a wedding reception from my husband’s side of the family and it absolutely did NOT go according to plan. Let me just give a brief history about us/me:
We’ve been married for 3.5 years.
We have a couple of cute kids.
We live in a house. 
We drive on roads. 
We clean up pee when our youngest pees in her sister’s closet.
We eat food for dinner. 
We do pretty normal people things.
We are pretty nice people also. 
* We do not sacrifice small animals and children to the flying spaghetti monster. 
** We do however, eat spaghetti. A lot.
I live in a small town. I’ve always lived in a small town but now I live in my husband’s home town, far far away from MY small town. And let me just tell you, it’s the HARDEST thing that I’ve had to deal with thus far. 
I do feel like I have to confess for the sake of the “wedding reception story” that I have a very strong tendency to be a hermit. I can go days without leaving my house or talking to another human that doesn’t live in this house. I wasn’t always “hermit-ish” not even in the least. And I don’t much like this tendency either. I have a social anxiety and an unrealistic fear of people that just reared its ugly head a few years ago.. The grocery store=bad. The gas station=bad. School= bad. Home=gooooood. Some days/weeks/months are better than others, and its work. 
I’ve been married and living in this small town for almost 4 years and I know no one. I know a few names and faces (mostly my kids friends parents) but no “I need a wine night pronto” kind of friends. I’ve heard  “you don’t ever talk to anyone so you can’t really complain” and I do get that… but the wedding reception story pretty much sums up my last 4 years and it’s just…… not okay.
My husband and I went to a wedding reception for his family member. I decided before I left for this event that no matter what I was going to talk to at least 10 women. TEN. That seemed impossible, but I was GOING to do it. After all, they were mostly family anyways, what could go wrong. We got to reception, we went inside. I didn’t even die. We sat at a table. Wine. Dinner. Wine. Wine. The dance started. Ten women. By this time a had a  little more courage thanks to wine. :)  I tried. I really did. The first person I talked to was someone I kind of knew who she was.. so I introduced myself.. she responded with less than 5 words then turned around to someone she knew. They took about 5 steps away and started chatting. Crash and burn, man. WHAT HAPPENED? My first thought was 
“HOME.” Home. 
 I was a little shocked, is this the middle school lunch room? Oh, yes it was. It totally was. That happened a few more times. I tried engaging in two women that I’ve seen a few times at events, they said less than two sentences to me, turned around and started chatting amongst themselves. Am I the black plague? Do I have garlic breath? Wait, I didn’t have garlic… black plague it is. It happened again. And then again. The only women that would actually be NICE were the women twice my age( Thank you, sweet women for that!)… But I was on a mission to talk to women my age, moms… with kids who are around my kids’ ages. Is that SO bad? I talked to one woman but once she found out my kids didn’t go to her kids school it was all over.. hit and miss again. I didn’t even know that was a thing, “You’re not wearing Gap, you can’t sit with us”, but now it’s about our kids and where they go to school.
 I give up. Totally. I went back to my husband. Told him I was ready to go and he had no idea what had all just taken place but he wasn’t even the least bit surprised when I told him about it later.
 I don’t know what is worse: the fact that it happened or the fact that it didn’t even surprise him? 
Throughout the whole night I think I only talked to two women that I didn’t know previously that gave me the time of day. Two women, that didn’t know me, that treated me like I was actually a human and not the black plague.  Two. 
This is NOT okay. This is not the way I want my daughters to treat other girls at school, after school, in their 20’s.. 30’s…. ever. This is not the way I ever want to act or be perceived. This is just not okay. Kindness matters. People aren’t talking to me because I didn’t grow up here? Is that it? Or is it something else? I need to know? Did I do something? Do you not want to talk to the new person? Is it a comfort thing? Because I can understand a comfort thing, it would have been sooo much more comfortable for me to smile and nod and not say a word to anyone but I went out of my comfort zone just to have grown up Mean Girls reenacted? I don’t want this. I want to laugh and connect and be around good energy and give off good energy. I want good examples of what a woman and friendship looks like for my children and their spongy minds. And of course for me and my sanity because lets be real; motherhood can be lonely. 
The night wasn’t a complete loss for me, my husband looked super handsome. The bride looked gorgeous and her new husband looked absolutely smitten looking at her, which is a sight to see! People in love are by far my favorite sight. I also got to see a few of my husband’s family members who are just awesome and a total blast to be around.  After my incident at the wedding reception, I will definitely be that woman that smiles even if you don’t smile back. I will make my best effort to include everyone in the conversation.  I’ll try to make people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations.  If you’re sad, I’ll try to cheer you up and I’ll listen. I will listen to you.  I’ll try to make sure to never make anyone feel the way I felt that night. I just need one thing. I just need to know you.  I’m here for the ones who need someone, a coffee break, a playdate, a drink.   Being mean isn’t cool. Being clique isn’t cool. But being kind… yeah that shit is pretty cool. 
---------------------------The Black Plague.

Thanks Mikk!

I challenge you to break this mold. Where can you extend kindness and love today? Is your circle sotight that you can't open it up to someone else. If nothing else, get out of your comfort zone, talk to someone you don't know. Smile at a stranger. Be the light. 

You can find Mikkelle on Instagram at mikkelle16

Happy Monday friends!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

That Camp Life

As I said before, I really wasn't sure how camp would go with all of my dysfunction being all sprawled out on the floor and stuff. My heart wasn't in it like it was last year. I wasn't hearing God say "this is your path" as loudly as I'd heard him say it before  which made me doubt that I had ever heard it correctly the first time. Being still to wait for God to talk to me is not as easy as I'd like it to be. It might be because I'm a little selective in the hearing department. Either way, I had a little anxiety before leaving for camp.

As always, God had it under control. As I was sitting in Missy's car, heading to camp, I gave it up. I silently said, "Okay God. Let this week be what it will be. Show me why I'm here." And He did. He always does. Last year, I think I came to camp with a little arrogance. We are "fixing" a little bit of their lives I thought. Nope. We weren't. God was working and healing and using us, but we weren't fixing. We can't. What I realized was that God brought me there to show up. To love them. To love the others that were volunteering. To be love.
Camp Roomies reunite! Love these girls and our amazing friendship started from last year's camp. 

It doesn't sound that glamorous, I know. But I have very few talents people. You have to throw me a bone here. I was never an all-star athlete. My family cringes when I belt out "Shake it Off". I'm a horrible public speaker. I really don't have that much going for me. I do have a few talents. I do food like it's nobody's business. I am a GREAT talker. Most of all, I love well. Not perfectly. But well. I think that my job was to show that last week. So I tried. I gave lots of hugs and affirmations and me toos. I know they say that camp is "all about the kids", and it IS the focus. It so is. The ones who were on the front lines were AMAZING. They poured their heart into these kids the way I couldn't at this point in my life, but in order to have the front lines in best working order, you need behind the scenes. I rock behind the scenes. Behind the scenes is totally my jam. In order to keep everyone else going, there needs to be behind the scenes people encouraging, swooping in to give well needed rest, and love. That was why I was there.
Rach and I after the Color me Happy night. Such fun!

Now sure, my title was Bible teacher, and I was on the drama team. I LOVE my drama team. I needed their love and their support just to get through the week. See how this works? We all pitch in. We all build each other up. To be honest...I struggled with my role last week. In fact, one day I went to my room after chapel and cried through lunch, and then I took a nap because it's easier to forget all the sadness when you are sleeping. I felt like I had no business telling these kids about how much God loves them and how God has a plan for them when there are many days when I can't love myself enough to actually believe that God has big plans for me. What I discovered is that being Bible teacher was just one tiny facet of why I came to camp. God doesn't say "show up when you're ready". He just tells you to show up. He'll do the rest. So I did. I don't know if I did exactly what I was supposed to do this week or if I even did it well, but I showed up.
My incredible team. Love the friendships made!

Typical planning sesh

Sometimes I think that's all we need to worry about. Showing up and doing the next right thing. People need authentic and real even when it's not pretty. These kids need people to show up, even if it's just to love them. They don't need all the bells and whistles, but it was fun to give it to them. What they needed was love, and I think we did that well.

Moral of the story? Show up. Even if you aren't ready. God will use you if you are willing. :)

**For those of you who want to know more about camp, you can follow the Royal Family KIDS of NW Iowa Facebook page. You can also check out my post  with some of my thoughts from last year's week at camp.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quiet Moments

 First of all, I need to just say an overwhelming THANK YOU after my last post. The moment I hit publish, I regretted it, worrying that I had made a mistake. I had made myself incredibly vulnerable, choosing to wear all my insides on the outside. What I wanted was for more people to feel free to come out and say "Me too". I wanted others to be able to share their stories and know they weren't alone, but I immediately began to wonder whether people would assume I was posting to get attention or to play the woe is me card. But you didn't. My inbox was flooded with people saying "Me too", "Thank you", "You aren't alone". People stopped over to give me a hug. Cards came in the mail. It was more than I could have ever possibly imagined. I know I'm loved. I never doubted it, but all of your comments and words of affirmation reminded me that my village rocks. You can never tell someone you love them enough, and I felt it. So THANK YOU!

I wish that meant that the bad days would have stayed away for awhile, but summer seems to have exacerbated the feelings. Sadness is taking over headquarters this week unfortunately. I shipped my kids off to camp this week. Jaedyn and Carter are there all week, and Sawyer is only home at night. Having too much time to myself forces all the feelings to come to the surface. All the thoughts. All the emotions. All the guilt, shame, and fear that I'm not good enough. So I'm wrestling. It's a good thing. I need to let myself feel things, and it's easier to be sad when you don't have to hide from anyone. I'm working through it, and it will be alright. My village is working hard, and I'm grateful for their presence. I'll see the doctor today, and hopefully she will have some wise words as well. Right now, I've gone MIA. I'm not me, and so I'm fighting like hell to find her back. I know she's in there. I've just got to keep searching. I think that means that more quiet moments are in my future. I won't find her hiding at the pool or running errands. She won't be in the glass of wine or in the queso dip. I'll find her when I'm still and when I'm ready to hear her.

 Writing has become therapy for me. I write this blog for my kids and for my friends and family, and anyone who might be able to take something away from it, but I also write it for me. I find clarity once I've thrown up all my feelings onto a blank page. I definitely don't feel like I need to publish everything I write, but I've always been an open book. It's who I am. I've lost too much of myself to throw away the rest of it, so I hope you all can understand that I can't always write the happy. This is the season of life I'm in, and I'm going to try to embrace it as much as I can. And my hope is that in the process, I find myself.

But I DO have some happy to share. We celebrated my dear friend Melissa's birthday a few weeks ago. I LOVE birthdays. I love celebrating with them and reminding them just how important they are to me. So we had birthday pedicures, birthday pool dates, birthday boating, and birthday wine tasting. It was awesome.

Birthday pedi date

Sunday sips and swings at Calico Skies

Part of our crew at the Garden's for Lis's birthday
Next week Dan and I leave for Royal Family Kids Camp. I'm super excited to serve these kids next week but also a little anxious that I won't be able to get it together next week. Please pray for my heart and soul to be there next week so I can focus my attention on the reason I'm there. Thanks friends! You are amazing. :)