“It takes a village to raise a child”
-African proverb

We’ve all heard the quote and probably uttered at some time when seeing a throng of friends and family surround and support their band of children. I’m not sure I really understood the quote until I had my own kids, and promptly realized… I am village-less.

As a working woman and an older mom I never quite got the time (or the rhythm) of making “mom friends”. I was disconnected from that world until I entered it and by then, it was probably too late. I tried, but always fell short and sort of decided I was better off on my own. I’m not sure I still stand by that decision, but… why is making adult friends so dang difficult?! That’s like a whole other blog post right there. 

I was born into a small family and married into a small family. We are spread across the state and now, even across the country. The grandparents are still working for the most part, save for my father who is ill and not capable of care. A few short weeks after I had B, the hubbs went back into law enforcement and so commenced the long shifts, opposite schedules and physical and mental exhaustion. So it has been left to me. To mother, to parent, to raise, rebuke, correct, educate, cook, clean and every other task that composes life. And it is hard. Immeasurably hard and lonely.

I don’t have a sister to drop off the kids with so I can get a quick hair cut. Grandma isn’t around the corner to snuggle the boys while I get some room to breathe. There are no play dates, park outings or coffee dates with girl friends. There are long hours of work which are immediately proceeded by chaotic daycare pick ups, a wrecked home, empty fridge, endless To Do lists, frenzied bedtime routines, collapsing in exhaustion and starting all over again at 5:45 the next morning. The hubbs fades in and out like a ghost who can sometimes lend a helping hand, but more often then not, is headed to bed or out to work himself.

Weekends are not filled with rich family time, but instead attempting to re-set my wrecked home, about 100 loads of laundry and dirty dishes and entertaining the little monsters long enough to squeeze in an overdue shower. There is no free time. No hobbies. No interests. No me time, or “self care” as it is now being called. Oh, how I desire some self care time!

Though this is not meant to be a long, feel-oh-so-sorry-for-me post and I am sorry if it’s coming off that way, it is my commentary on this village concept we are so quick to throw around but so short sighted to accomplish. Motherhood is part of that American Dream thing that everyone talks about. It was that thing that I longed for and that our society told me I needed in order to really accomplish anything in this life. But was it meant to be alone? Was it meant to be so lonely.

I read an article fairly recently that summarized what I feel on a daily basis, “Having It All Kinda Sucks.” Though my day to day experience is a bit different, the sentiment is very much the same. Except, I’m a lot less organized in my thoughts and I pretty much think this having it all stuff is complete BS. Yeah, I have a job, but we still have no money. I have a great husband, whom I rarely get to spend time with. I have two beautiful kids that I adore, but have lost my identity as I have tried to enrich theirs. I have a loving, wonderful family, but they are all managing their own crises’. I have a career, but don’t have the ability to dedicate myself to it because the greater responsibility of holding my family together. From the outside, I may look like I have it all. But having it all sure can seem empty at times.

I do think it takes a village to raise a child. It should take a village. I think that’s how God designed it to be. It’s just really hard to swallow that proverb when the actual model is not available to you.

I beg you, if you have the time, the availability and the compassion, lend a hand to a mother bird you see alone in her nest. She could really use a village. Be her village. And don’t ever take your village for granted.

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2015 will be over in just a matter of hours. I only have one thing to say to that… GOODBYE AND GOOD RIDDANCE. Okay, so that may be a bit dramatic of me, but 2015 was just plain sucky for me. Though I’m not one to air my dirty laundry on any social network (including this blog), for me, 2015 included A LOT of yuck, including many months of postpartum depression and anxiety, major life changes, having to put our dear dog down and my dad being diagnosed with Alzheimer disease. That’s just snippet of the burdens I’ve carried this year. It was just ugly.

2015 was not kind to me and I wish I could say that I was better, stronger, and that I “chose joy” more often than not, but that would be a lie. And, if I am one thing, I am no liar. To be utterly raw and real and vulnerable, I really hated this year and struggled to find some lesson and truth in everything that God allowed to cross my path. I wanted to be healthy and happy. I wanted our lives to feel stable and safe. I wanted my sweet dog to live forever. And I certainly wanted my daddy to not have to endure a terrible and terminal disease. But that is not how life goes. I’ve accepted that and I’ve struggled to not allow these circumstances to define me, but rather to draw me closer to God. More than anything, I have struggled not to give up hope, and to keep dreaming and planning for my future and the future of my family.

For that reason I continue to plan my annual goals (I don’t call them resolutions, because I approach these things differently than a blitz of effort followed by a crash and burn). For the sake of accountability and just to breathe these goals to life, I thought I would share them. 2016 Goals

  1. Commit to weekly time spent practicing my photography and other creative pursuits. This was the first thing to go when life got really busy with two kids and work and everything else that fuels each day. I miss it and I find I am much better mentally when I get a creative escape.
  2. I am still sort of embarrassed by this fact, but we’ve never taken a family vacation. We’ve taken trips and my husband and I have escaped together, but not without first dropping the kids off at a grandparent’s house. This year, I really want us to go somewhere together, and I really want my kids to see the ocean for the first time.
  3. Read more. That one is that simple. I love to read. I don’t make time for it. I want to this year.
  4. Take charge of my health, both physical and mental. I feel like motherhood has wrecked me in more ways than one, but I’m really starting to feel it in my body this last year. I have no energy or motivation… and I have very active boys, so that is not going to cut it long-term.
  5. Simplify. I am probably the most excited about this one. Our house has been a holy wreck since the boys arrived and I have just about had it. It’s not just that it’s messy, it’s that there is no peace. There is no peace because of the clutter and excess of “stuff”. I am so over “stuff”. This year will be all about simplifying EVERYTHING.
  6. Friendship. I have said it before, but I don’t have a whole lot of friends, and that is mostly by choice. But the ones that I do have are the cream of the crop. The best of the best. I really mean that. I fear that because of the chaos of my life in recent years that I have not been the best friend to them. This year, I want to be a real friend.
  7. Write more. Same as #3. Love it. Don’t get to do it. Want to do it more.
  8. This is a tough one, but this year, I really want to focus on my marriage. Again, without airing dirty laundry and disrespecting my husband online, our marriage has taken a real hit this year. It’s not surprising when you factor in depression, anxiety, new jobs, illness, two children under 3.5 years, etc. But I’m ashamed at the lack of effort I’ve put forth in fighting for a better relationship with my husband. I am going to work hard this year to restore and build it up.
  9. The difficulties of this year did do one awesome thing this year and that was to bring me much closer to the Lord and to really strengthen my prayer life. This year though, I need to focus on words of truth. I want to really commit to spending time with my bible. Not just reading, but really studying. Really living it. Breathing it. Believing it.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year and pray that 2016 brings blessings, new and awesome opportunities and growth. I would love to hear some of your goals for 2016 as well. All my best, friends.

Herz auf dunklem HolzuntergrundI was just 13 years old when I had my first “boyfriend”. I put it in quotes because it’s laughable to even think a real relationship can form at that age or that we even knew what the terms boyfriend and girlfriend meant. It was innocent and somewhat stupid. It was seemingly just a title. We never held hands. We never kissed. We never even spent time alone. I mean, how can you when you’re 13 and you rely on your mom to drive you to the mall for an afternoon of entertainment with some friends? But it felt special nonetheless. To feel wanted. To be identified as someone’s girlfriend. To my tender 13-year-old heart, it mattered.

Looking back, I never knew how damaging that attempted step into adulthood would be for me. I wish I could grab my 13-year-old self by the shoulders and say, “Stop this. Slow down. Take your time and be a kid. Don’t be in a hurry to grow up.” But I can’t and what happened still lives as a tiny, but permanent scar on my heart.

It was a long hot Southern California summer filled with pool parties, beach trips, backyard bible studies and fun. Just a bunch of junior highers living the high life… and unfortunately just starting to learn to be mean. This boy and I had only been “dating” for a few weeks when the pivotal moment that changed everything happened.

It was a normal Sunday morning, heading into youth group when I was cut off by a mutual friend of the boy. He handed me a small wrapped package and told me to open it. I quickly tore off the paper which revealed a small pin with a smiling walrus figurine. Puzzled, I looked up and asked, “I don’t get it. What is this?” And that’s when he uttered the words that would shatter my heart and echo in my mind for years to come. “{The boy} wants you to have it…. because that’s what he thinks you are.”

A walrus.

I felt the wind escape me as I gasped for breath and ran to the bathroom with my best friend in tow. I kicked open the stall door, chucked the pin into the toilet and flushed it away, collapsing on the floor into a mess of tears. My best friend and I sat together on that dirty bathroom floor, clutching each other tight and weeping.

I didn’t know it then but just a short time later, that very same friend would end up critically ill from an eating disorder and nearly dying. I didn’t know that I would cry out for help on her behalf in order to get someone to intervene and save her life. At that moment, we were just two broken little girls that had just been exposed to the ugly demon of self-doubt and insecurity. A demon that would attempt to tear us down. A demon that would never leave our sides.

Prior to that moment, I had honestly never really had feelings of insecurity. I didn’t think of myself as fat or thin. I was a bit taller than most girls but coming from a family of tall people, I thought nothing of it. I wasn’t particularly pretty, but I wasn’t ugly either. I was just a gangly little 13-year-old with messy blond hair and freckled cheeks, on the cusp of puberty.

That moment was pivotal for me (and obviously for my best friend). It was like being slingshot into adulthood before we were ready. It was ugly and painful. The voice of that stupid little 13-year-old messenger turned from a shaky whisper into an all-out roar that would ring in my years well into adulthood.

You’re a walrus. 

Fat.

Ugly.

No one wants you. 

No one likes you.

No one ever will.

I wish I could say that was the worst of it. The cruelty of those “church” kids still astounds me. Unfortunately, my beautiful best friend took the brunt of it. I can’t even type out the horrible things they called her. Tears roll down my face even now as I think of that time. Somehow everything they said just reinforced the dark lie that had been placed in my mind about myself. A lie that would cast a shadow on my confidence and ride along with me day by day, snatching any bit of joy that came when I looked in the mirror and in a rare moment, felt good about myself.

I share this story as an attempt to share how very dangerous words are. Words cause permanent damage. They truly are weapons when used in the wrong hands. I’m not sure if that stupid junior high boy ever thinks about that moment or even realized how truly horrible that simple act was, but I think about it all the time. I wish I could stop thinking about it. I wish I could erase that moment from my history and erase it for my best friend as well. But words, once spoken, cannot be taken back. Once they are spoken into life, they cannot be killed, and instead often become the seeds for other thoughts to bloom and grow.

My greatest worry and greatest hope is to raise my boys differently. To teach them to speak life into people. To teach them not to fall into the pressure of the world to “look cool” or to step on others in order to feel better about themselves. Most importantly, to treat women with respect and to offer them kindness and protection. May we will start a counter-cultural movement and use our words wisely and as tools to build each other up, rather than weapons to knock each other down.

I am still on my journey to gain back my self worth and confidence. I have found the best medicine for the scar on my heart is to speak words of truth into my life. To read words of truth. To surround myself with people who believe in speaking that truth and love into each other.

I found a photo of myself earlier this week. I think I was about 13. In it, I look tall, and much leaner than I remember. My shiny blond hair is wild and dancing around my face. I still have the freckles of youth and bright, blue eyes. I have no makeup on and somewhat crooked teeth. For the first time in any time that I can even recall, I looked at that photo and thought I was beautiful. That I am beautiful. And that no words can take that from me.