Three Words

You are likely reading these words during the peak of America’s turn in this global pandemic, where schools are empty and traffic has dissipated. Many stores are closed and playgrounds are roped off. Or perhaps you’re reading this in the future, in which case…..hey, remember that time there was a global pandemic? Wasn’t THAT crazy?

Someone recently asked me if I would be willing to participate in a writing challenge with her. It felt fun and inspiring to write again, but this time free of the deadlines and judgment (ha, hopefully) that came with my past life season of professional writing. She sent me a list of prompts and the first one to grab my attention was this:

If you had to describe yourself with only 3 words what would they be and why?

Oh boy. It’s the age old question that covers ground all the way from corporate team builders to church ladies’ mixers. And there’s certain answers we are supposed to give depending upon the social climate: perhaps hardworking, ambitious and detail-oriented for the former, or genuine, friendly, and family-oriented for the latter.

But as for life right now, right where I’m at? Here’s the first 3 words that pop into my head: Anxious. Impatient. Angry.

Above all else, this pandemic has made me anxious. In “normal” life, I struggle with anxiety. It’s something I’ve had to give to God time and again. Anxiety caused by flashbacks from trauma. Anxiety from raising the bar too high for myself in life. Fear of missing out or being left out. Now during this time of quarantine, I find myself anxious about the relationships I see changing – friendships I know are fading. Anxiety about wasting all of this free time by being unproductive. Terror every time I look at Royal Stage’s bank account. Just so. much. fear.

The pandemic has made me impatient. I am a planner. I crave structure. I am able to make myself very flexible while traveling and during big events because planning ahead to be flexible is still structure! But this whole sitting around at home situation is just not my jam. I want people around me, places to go, and things to do. I don’t like Royal Stage being on hold. I’m not good at holding still and waiting for things to “just work out” financially and logistically. I’m a doer that has been robbed of my doneness. It is not doing my spirit any good to have this time off and away.

I’m angry. I’m angry that my children lost their last few precious months with teachers they’ve had for 3 years. I’m angry that there are kids and women that depend upon Royal Stage as a weekly escape from crappy home situations, and now they aren’t able to be there. Or at their schools. Or jobs. Or churches. Or Target. (Although Target may very well apply to all of us women!)

I’m angry at our government leaders that lie or can’t get their act together when so many people are struggling and afraid. I’m angry about people defying the social distancing orders and potentially leaving us stuck like this longer. There’s just so dang much to be upset about right now.

Anxious. Impatient. Angry. Those are my 3 words.

But I don’t want them to be.

And it’s within my power to turn it around. During this time of being stuck with nowhere to go, I am aiming to focus on 3 different words:




I can rest in the fact that God is still in control. He’s still on the throne and all of my worrying and attempting to *do* all of the time isn’t going to change the world. I can’t help find a COVID-19 vaccine or lift federal regulations, or explain why so many people are acting the way that they are. I CAN, however, control how I’m acting. I can’t navigate through the sea right now, but I can make sure I’m not adding more water to my boat. God has seen pandemics before. He’s seen political unrest before. He’s seen recessions before. There’s nothing He hasn’t seen or sees coming, and while I’m feeling crazy upside down and turned around right now, what is the one thing they tell you to do if you’re lost in the woods? Stay where you are.

I can choose to trust. Royal Stage is hurting badly right now. For the first time in our 10-year history we have no money coming in outside of our regular monthly support, which covers about a third of our monthly bills. (Thankful for that!). Our landlord is showing no mercy. Seemingly overnight the concern went from how to get our students back into the studio to figuring out a way to still have a studio for them to come back to.

My human eyes see absolutely no way that will happen. But my spirit knows it will work out. And I fully intend to put the work into have a healthy, joyful soul that will stand ready to be a testimony to God’s miracles and goodness. Joy does not always equal happiness. In fact, I’m presently miserable. But joy is knowing Who gets the final say, and knowing that as a loving parent, He has our best interest at heart. Our job is to rejoice in that. I need to stop letting my heart get in front of my head – my feelings wreck me. My mind holds a bank of memories regarding God’s past faithfulness.

I can choose to love. I feel isolated. I’m frustrated that I’ve seen so many of my favorite people only from a distance or not at all. Some people are doing fine, while others are more snappy, emotional or just downright rude during this. Myself included at times. But again, I choose what to perpetuate. I can CHOOSE love and that is such an empowering thought. I can stop reading the news and bake for someone, write an encouraging note to someone, throw myself into all of the things the kids have asked to do the past several months there hasn’t been time for – from gardening to starting a YouTube channel. There’s so much life to be living in the here and now – doing little things in love for and with others takes chunks right off of the seemingly insurmountable mountain in front of us.

So what are the 3 words that describe me now? Yeah, still anxious, impatient and afraid. But I’m confident that I’m on the road toward something better and will at the very least have a great story to tell when all of this is over.

Thomas on a Saturday

For the majority of the time I’ve been a Christian, I’ve identified loud and proud with Peter.

He’s passionate. Kinda mouthy. Impulsive. Sort of a coward but goes on to do great things for Jesus anyhow. Peter was, for the lack of a better term, my spirit animal.

This current season of my life has changed my opinion a bit. I’d grown cold and closed off to this year, rolling my eyes and dismissing every life hiccup as 2019’s fault, as this year came out the gate with an awful vengeance.

It’s been a season of crushing and pressing, and I haven’t been able to drum up any sort of motivation to change my attitude.

One of my dearest friends died suddenly and we still don’t know how or why; God didn’t come through for me in particular areas of ministry……in ways I selfishly and unfairly demanded of Him but still left me really disappointed; my depression and anxiety spiraled down into a depth I feared I’d never be able to climb out of; intense marriage/parenting challenges reared their ugly heads; people I deeply trusted let me down…..I’ve felt helpless and useless and defeated, backsliding into old coping mechanisms and unintentionally causing trouble for myself in various life arenas that left me feeling even more torn down and worthless.

And that’s when I realized, I am often a Peter, but if I’m very honest with myself, I’m much more frequently a Thomas.

After the disciples’ big final meal, after the crucifixion, but before the resurrection, there was Saturday.

A silent, gutting pain of a Saturday where Christ’s very public death hung in all their minds as they waited. You could’ve probably cut the tension in the air clean through as they processed all they had seen and experienced. I wonder what DID they do? Was one stoic and another filled with a raging open grief? Did a third just carry on and go back to work trying to push the despair out of his mind while a fourth went home to whatever the ancient equivalent of numbing in front of Netflix would’ve been?

Because Jesus was dead. He was gone, and from their flawed human perception, He hadn’t done what He said He was going to do. On Palm Sunday almost a week prior their Savior had been praised and welcomed – they may have anticipated it was going to be the ultimate smack down of the Roman baddies….and then He was suddenly just gone.

We have few sentences of evidence as to how they coped and processed, but one thing we do know. Thomas doubted.

I’ve had doubts in my faith before. Doubts that God loves me, that His plan of salvation could possibly be for me, that He forgives me. Plenty of circling, agitating thoughts. But this year…..oh man, this stupid terrible year… was the first time I truly doubted the validity of Christ and that He was even with me. I didn’t understand how little I had actually doubted before during all those times I’d shot off my mouth saying how I didn’t “feel” God in my life until I had this anvil drop of a reality check that I really, truly didn’t feel Him anymore. He was gone, I thought. Just gone. And no encouraging clergy words or the comfort of any friend could get me back to Him.

I get you, Thomas. I do. I hurt for you and how you must’ve felt on that Saturday – the in between time – because I lived almost a dozen of them this year where I felt in total isolation and cut off from all my hope and desire to get back on track. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.

In bible study a few weeks ago we read The Parable of the Sower – how some seeds fell upon the good soil and some on the rocky soil – and I contributed to the discussion about how in our front yard we have shrubs that we’ve completely neglected. They were lovely at first, but have since become overgrown, dried from drought and then battered from rain. They sit there dead, ugly and pointless.

What I wanted to scream out in bible study: (but didn’t, because could you imagine what a crazy outburst it would’ve been) I FEEL EXACTLY LIKE THOSE STUPID SHRUBS AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I’M TIRED. I AM CONFUSED. I am supposed to be leading a healing arts ministry, raising kids to have faith, and I’m about to go serve for almost 3 weeks at a Christian mission in India like, REALLY soon, and my heart is a disaster of death and defeat.

What. The. Heck. God.

The disciples saw Jesus when He resurrected, but Thomas missed out. Where the heck was he? I don’t know. But he wasn’t there when it happened.

They told him until they were blue in the face about how they had seen Him. And that stubborn man retorted with “prove it.” He was determined to continue living in his stagnant Saturday. I won’t believe until I see and feel Him myself.

Don’t I know it, Tom my man.

When I was rushing off to work a day or two later, I glanced over at the dead shrubs.

Life. Blossoms coming through what was presumed dead and gone. A superficial thing that God knew full well would stop me dead in my tracks.

God showed Himself to Thomas in a gentle way. He didn’t shout at him or strike him down for struggling – instead He invited him to touch his hand. And Thomas believed.

God invites us in gentle ways to see Him. I had considered my hope to be dead and gone, but Jesus has revived it in the subtlest of ways over the past few weeks. I know it’s Him because in my humanness I often picture Him as looming and angry….so when gentleness comes, I know it must truly be my Daddy.

Things have gone steadily uphill since then. Not perfect by any means. My flaws still remain, and oh do they cling strong. But each day is a little bit better than the last, as I strive to draw nearer and He pulls me closer. Like Thomas, doubt has dissipated into relief and joy. Albeit cautious joy, but I’ll take it.

Because at the end of the day, through all of our earthly pain and disappointment, God kept His promise. He is alive. And if you’re here with a beating heart, you have purpose. Live BIG and use your pain as a step stool to reach His goodness and His love.

God asks us to take a step in faith each day. Not a big one, but just enough for Him to be revealed and seen.

So help Him be seen. Both for your benefit and those around you. Saturday may ache, but Sunday is a celebration. He will arise!

And with His help, so will you.

Whole and healed.

Circling Back.

I’m going to write another book. For a variety of reasons, I swore to myself that after the second one I wouldn’t entertain the writer’s portion of my heart again. I folded it up neatly into resignation letters to my freelance jobs and tucked it away with the click of a button unsubscribing me from my Amazon book sales analytics.

And then my best friend died and I’m suddenly full of words again. It feels like I only need two cliche reasons to write now – I still love it and I’m still alive.

As an ambivert, I navigate relationships in a maddening way. I’m extroverted and charismatic, but then shut myself up into my little shell without notice and some people conclude either they’ve been snubbed or I’m a flake.

Despite this, I’ve been blessed with a strong group of friends that have stuck around in the various pockets of my life – church, my non-profit, mom friends at my kids’ school, and back home in the Bay Area.


Connie was a huge part of home.

And now she’s gone and everything seems upside down.

No wait…not upside down…..because there’s still some semblance of order in a world where things are simply reversed.

Things are rather just a shaken up mess. That’s the best way to describe it.

The sun came out today after weeks of grey rain and I raged. I drove on the freeway sobbing like a lunatic because I knew that today’s weather would’ve made her happy. She was a sun goddess that loved the ocean, running away to it for any occasion from tanning to brooding on her thoughts. Now, the first signs of spring and warm weather feel like a betrayal for my summer loving sister-friend who died suddenly at a cabin in the snow.

She last existed in winter and that seems so wrong.

I feel like I’ve lived a lot of life in many ways, but grief is new. Before Connie, only elderly people and acquaintances had left my circles, but now I’ve had one of very best friends taken away from me and there’s no sense in arguing with the newly sunny sky, demanding it to bring her back.

When we were in high school, I coerced her into going on a rollercoaster that terrified her. She started to have a full out panic attack along the climb to the first drop, and so I led us into the chorus of Staying Alive by The Bee Gees to distract her. She shrieked her signature shriek through the course of the coaster and we laughed and laughed.

That song became the soundtrack of everything that scared us in life thereafter. Breakups. Tattoos. Wedding days. Childbirth. Divorce. Surgeries. Job interviews. Turning Thirty.

Connie, I hate that we still don’t know for sure what happened to you, and I hate that our silly song now has this crushing tinge of irony because you’re gone.

I can count one hand the number of people in this world that know me. Like, know me. The ones that I can just look at them and they understand the depths of what I’m feeling, good or bad. The ones that love me no matter what and there’s just no burden of expectation. I can be either a sloppy disaster or totally winning at life and they like me the same.

The number is small partially due to my weird personality and also because I’ve been emotionally slapped on the wrist by others too many times to be fully open now. I used to be super-outgoing-friends-with-everyone girl, but I am more cautious now. Even more annoying, I never forget a face – I still remember first and last names of everyone I went to kindergarten with.

For years I’ve trained myself to believe that despite my great memory for people, I myself am forgettable. And yet Connie (the one who always remembered me) saw fit to undo me this past weekend.

I went into her viewing with trepidation because I was heading toward a collection of people I’d met from 6th grade onward, and I assumed many wouldn’t remember me. Because I didn’t consider myself to be a bright light like Connie. Remember, forgettable.

I recognized faces – her family and family friends – and instantly could place them into scenes from my middle school and high school years, and yet from some I looked away and didn’t say hello. Who would remember me? What difference did I make?

At one point I sank into a strong hug from her towering uncle I hadn’t seen in decades and felt a little bit of relief. Maybe I am seen after all.

The past two weeks have brought all sorts of life lessons that now cannot be forgotten. I now know how to plan a memorial service. I know you can rent a loaner coffin if you plan to be cremated but still want to make an appearance at your funeral first. I’ve felt the distinct feel of hugging someone who has lost their daughter. Their sister. Their everything. I know the details of how an autopsy goes. I know that Connie and I managed to take dozens and dozens of pictures over the years, and that those photos will never seem like enough now. And I know what a dead body looks and feels like, and will never joke again about someone’s cold hands feeling “dead” because I’ve felt now what a shocking, unfair coldness it is in reality.

These were all the newly acquired lessons I carried into her memorial service the next day. Just before it started, my eyes met someone I knew from early days, and I pulled out of myself a bit.

“I wanted to say hi yesterday but wasn’t sure you would remember me.”

She smiled and assured me that she did, and we moved on through the service and onto a beautiful reception that felt more like a lively soirée than a wake. It was so Connie from top to bottom that I kept expecting her to walk in at any moment.

We ate, we mingled, strangers told me they liked my singing at the service, I sat with friends and family, and all too soon it was time to leave.

I went to say goodbye to Connie’s mom (my honorary mom in so many ways), and the woman I briefly spoke to at the service suddenly grabbed my attention. She told me that she remembered me. That all those years ago there basically wasn’t Connie without me. She remembered us together.

My eyes flooded with tears, as I realized that at the remembrance of my dear friend, my own face had also been repeatedly recognized and remembered. I had no idea that was a need I had, and now the responsibility it brought with its fulfillment was undoing me.

In this world, we count. Connie knew that. She often reminded her friends simply that they mattered, and if I am going to honor her memory properly I need to stop acting as if I don’t.

Every moment that we spend acting as if our words and actions don’t have consequences, we have wasted. Each and every person you meet will never be exactly the same again because of your energy meeting theirs.

It’s my job and my challenge to realize that what I say and do matters, and to make sure my energy is Christ-like and life giving, and now the death of Connie will fuel that for a very long time, if not forever.

Friends, we cannot live as if we are forgotten. Life is too short and I know that I’ve personally spent too long apologizing for taking up space. If we are still alive, we have purpose. And if we are lucky enough to be as bright of a light as my dear friend, our deaths will fight to serve a purpose as well.

As you go through your day today, know that you are seen. You are worthy. You are here to love others and have the means necessary to do so.

Connie was SO seen and SO loving, and maybe we all should’ve told her more often. In her death, the only thing that seems to make sense to do is to live more life than ever before. To live it as someone who is not only seen but fully capable of loving others without condition or expectation. Because we just don’t know how much time we have left.

Here’s to my best friend of 27 years. The ups, the downs and the sideways of adolescence and adulthood. To pool parties and 3am deep talks. To homemade crepes and popcorn musicals. To Apple Hill and beach trips. To the Casa de Fruita cup flipper and the creepy mime at Disneyland. To Benihana and honey with your McNuggets. To Smashing Pumpkins and fender benders. To getting stuck on the Golden Gate Bridge and blowup arguments on ice skates. To your bajillion different hair colors and my never quite fully executed anything when it comes to my hair.

I have no idea how I’m going to do this life without you, but know I’m going to give it my all.

Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now……

Standing Still in July 

As I write this, it’s the final hour of July 10. I’m almost a day away from having minor heart surgery (not planned), and tomorrow is Free Slurpee Day (very planned and anticipated). 

Those are the two extremes in my head right now.

As my children sleep soundly with visions of cherry slush dancing in their heads, I realized it’s been over three months since I’ve blogged, and there’s somehow both so much and so little to say. 

My children grow. C is 6 now and S is turning nine on Sunday. NINE. He’s sweet, caring, creative, and can be a real A-1 jerk on a regular basis. People have told me that nine is the new three, and it seems we’re hurtling full speed ahead into this renaissance of toddleresque stubbornness and pride. 

BUT how sweet he can still be! And his little sister, too. They LOVE me, even when I fail them, and I am reminded daily what a blessing and honor it is to be a mother. To be entrusted with two beings specifically assigned to me, but 100% belonging to God. 

Mid July is the time of year where summer seems to stand still. Autumn is too far away to reasonably dream about, and yet conversations about the hot weather and Halo Top ice creams are definitely losing their novelty. 

We’re all kind of stuck. 

A Living Sacrifice. 

For the past few days, I’ve been getting horrible anxiety attacks.  I haven’t gotten any since last fall, and I sort of forgot how to be “good” at them. All of my logic and “this too shall pass” idealogy went right out the window as my heart repeatedly tried to  pound its way out of my chest. 

I’m still catching my breath. My throat still feels tight and my body feels tingly and numb. I’m still dizzy and on the brink of tears, and while all in my life is still and stable, internally all systems are reacting as if I’m being hunted and about to lose the chase. 

It’s feels so dumb to live life looking fine on the outside, while inside you’re screaming with terror and exhaustion. It doesn’t seem fair. But nothing ever is from our perspective – it’s exactly why I’m so grateful for God’s. 

We’ve been studying the book of Jonah at church. It’s one of my favorites – it’s one continual story, so straightforward… fact, it ends so abruptly that it’s almost humorous. God puts Jonah in his place, and then…… *mic drop.* 

I have uncomfortably seen so much of myself in Jonah the past few weeks. Like him, I am bold for a moment, and then crumble into histrionics. I’m stubborn and brave, sure of what God wants – only to then be surprised as to what He actually does. 

(Oh, and side note……I’m really thankful that I’ve so far avoided getting swallowed up by a giant fish). 

Jonah is SUCH a brat. And regretfully, so am I. It’s easier for me to whine and complain, allowing comparison to snatch away all of my joy. It somehow makes sense to me to despair and freak out over circumstances God has gotten me through time and again instead of just letting life happen and trusting God to make all the pieces come together. 

Another part of Jonah’s story that I never want is when God sent a “scorching east wind” to force him into the safety of Ninevah. (Just read it – it’s super short!) He didn’t want to go. He was angry and it seemed too difficult. 

I know that when it comes to dealing with this chronic, likely lifelong struggle, I need to place myself in locations of joy, safety and love. And if I’m honest with myself, I have an abundance of them in my life. 

Now, sitting here listening to the rain, I’ve moved past Jonah and stumbled across a familiar verse in my beloved Romans. 

Once again, for the umpteenth time this week, God is reminding me to just hang on and make good choices. 

“Give your bodies to God…..a living and holy sacrifice…” 

I’ve always viewed this verse from a youth group perspective:

✔️ Keep yourself pure until marriage 

✔️ Don’t drink in excess 

✔️ Don’t do drugs

But what if it’s something more? Like Jonah bound for Ninevah, I believe that right now there’s a few things God wants ME to do physically to stick close to Him:

✔️ Be in church. Consistent, regular fellowship. (I really don’t want to do this sometimes). 

✔️ Stay out of bed. Just. Get. Out. Of. Bed.

✔️ Use my daily allotment of energy to joyfully clean, care for my children, cook healthy meals and be a faithful/grateful wife, mother and friend. 

THESE are other ways to offer a living sacrifice. To physically honor God and fight fully against the things that hurt me daily……that in the end won’t matter in eternity.

Thank you, Lord, for a second chance to be something a little less complainy and problematic than Jonah.

Finally, An Update! 

I prayed for God to use me. To use my hurts, use my complicated past, use my ambition, and use my energy (which is officially used up!) 
You guys, Royal Stage is going beautifully. It is such a wonderful, amazing feeling to know that I am right where God wants me.

BUT (there’s always a “but”, right?) we are also really struggling. 

We have outgrown our building, and it’s also falling apart. I am the biggest fan of rain ever, but there are so many leaks that our sound system is in danger of getting water dumped on it, and our hallways smell like mold. Ick.

And here’s how the rest of the studio looks, on the bright side! 🙂 

I am SO thankful that God has brought us students – around 150 amazing ones, in fact. About 85% are female, and around 60% are on full scholarship. 

Another plus? We have the best teaching staff we’ve ever had. I love ALL of them! Some are still trying to get back on their feet – we have a recovering addict, a single mom, and quite a few abuse survivors on staff. It’s challenging, but it’s worth it. Always.

With all of these awesome kids, ladies and our very important boys & men, we are sardines. This building is grating on everyone’s nerves. It’s causing us to lower our quality of instruction and professionalism. Our counseling rooms are no longer usable, so we have people meeting in the wait area, which isn’t conducive for confidential sessions. Our benevolence fund is non-existent because it’s been all used up (praise God!) We have a sweet homeless mom with 3 kids sleeping in our prayer room at night. It’s crazy over here and God is excellent. 

All of this to say, we really need to raise more support. We need to renovate the building and/or move elsewhere. We are blessed with a space and then we outgrow it. 

Summer is coming quickly and we NEED to update these rooms and welcome the community to summer camp. We need to get more funding in for these improvements. 

Will you please pray with me? First of all, thanking God for his generosity and his goodness toward us. And secondly that He will give us wisdom and guidance as we raise more funding. Which is never fun, and yet again….worth it. 

Thank you friends! 

Oh and p.s. – Frank and I still like each other, the kids are bright, happy and healthy and life is grand. In case that’s the news you came here for 🙂 

2,016 Reasons 

I feel like Christmas is coming too soon this year. I’m not ready for it. Oh, all the obligatory things are finished – presents purchased and wrapped, plans for the weekend finalized, Christmas lights have been seen and cookies have been baked…..and yet, I’m not ready to greet Christmas Day because then I’ll have to say goodbye to the quiet warm sparkle of this season. I love how the world slows down at Christmastime and I’m not ready to leave it. 

A lot of people have complained openly about what a terrible year 2016 has been. I know friends who have suffered with loss and devastation personally, and our nation is certainly in a precarious position……and yet, I find myself defying the norm and really reflecting upon 2016 as a wonderful year I must remember to be thankful for.

I’ve Been Covered – This was the first year Royal Stage really received the helping hands it needed. A wonderful group of women have come alongside me eagerly completing many tasks from organizing studio supplies to serving on our board and leadership. They have been a complete and total answer to prayer. The way they have covered my shortcomings this year in ministry has helped me experience and understand the covering of Christ so much more easily. 

I Appreciate the Intimacy of Friendship – I heard a powerful quote the other day – “Don’t set yourself on fire trying to brighten someone’s day.” That sums up my 2016. I spent so much time this year chasing after acceptance, approval and friendship. The end of this year I find myself really learning how to breathe, let go and really dig deep in discovering the value of a smaller selection of friends who actually want to know me as much as I want to know them. 

My Kids Are a Blast – They are loud, messy, dramatic and frustrating, sure….but can I also just say that I am loving 8 and 5. Sam is creative, spirited, hilarious and has really come into his own in a lot of ways he hadn’t until this year. Charlotte is still little enough to want cuddles and mama time, but is also turning into a kid that is busy, active and honestly just someone I like a whole lot. I never expected my daughter to play sports, but watching her at gymnastics and soon softball has become my midweek joy. I never expected Sam to get to a point where we can just hang out and chat without constant motion and crazy. These children…..are just cool people that I love so much. 

I Can Shake Off Old Hurts – My relationship with certain members of my family is complicated and fragile. It just is. So is my perspective on the church as a whole. And I’m learning to not let it hurt me. Wounds are still there, but I now know how to prevent them from being reopened. People aren’t always ill intentioned and I don’t need to assume the worst of every person who hurts me. A lot of times it’s unintentional. I can choose to love and allow others to love me without expectation. And through that, I can expect to experience God. 

God is So Kind – In the year 2016, I can easily come up with 2,016 ways God loved me and blessed me. And not because I’m special – His kindness and mercies are for everyone. 

As Christmas approaches and this year comes quickly to a close, I am going to step out onto a sparsely populated limb and say aloud, “Thank you, 2016, for being you.” 

Growing Traditions 

My mother was the queen of making Christmas morning magical. For the first few years I lived in Sacramento, it was so hard to not be at home. 

The holiday season that I dreaded as a child became something I missed desperately as an adult. 

Now that we have our own children, I’m   really big on traditions. Most are originating in our home and I hope they will be passed on. A few are my favorites from when I was little. 

 I’m thankful for the opportunity to enjoy a slowed down pace of life and spend time with those aforementioned littles. 

Best of all, both of the kids are old enough now to anticipate our little holiday routines and excitedly remind me of their favorites. 

Baking & The Birthday Cake 

On the night of Christmas, we sing and eat birthday cake we make earlier in the day for Jesus. Actually, His official dessert varies each year – we’ve done brownies, pie…..but usually it’s a cake with candles. 

My Italian grandmother’s cookie recipes are also a must during this season – frosty fruit bars and spice cookies. The kids also get to pick out a cookie recipe to try – this year Charlotte chose snowman cut out cookies and Sam wants to make thumbprint shortbreads with marmalade. 

 Christmas Eve Pajamas 

Frank buys Charlotte’s. I buy Sam’s. Sam buys mine and Charlotte buys Frank’s. Right? Whew. I take the pairs for the kids and bundle them with hot chocolate and peppermint sticks. Right after we get home from church on Christmas Eve, we open our new jammies and enjoy our warm treat while Daddy reads the Christmas story.

The Tree Hunt 

Cutting down our own tree…..totally Frank’s doing. I’m fine picking up a tree in the EVER so woodsy corner lot off the freeway. But no. We trek up to Apple Hill now and cut one down. It’s cold. And hilly. But the kids love it and so it’s three against one. I love Apple Hill, and I’m thankful we live less than an hour from great little places like this…..but brrrrr!! 

This year was extra fun because our tree cutter’s name was Sam. I’m sure you can guess who was stoked about that. 

The Lights 

Dovewood Court is a must every year. As is the Fab 40s in East Sacramento. Just as I could do without the tree adventure, Frank could do without the lights – because….traffic and people. But he goes and we love him for it 🙂 This year I’m also looking forward to the Bayside Lights. I love Christmas lights, parades, glitter, fanfare. Bring it on, the gaudier the better!! 


Every year, my sister-in-law gives the kids chocolate advent calendars and it’s a BIG deal. If she ever forgot, I’d be in so much trouble. 

This year I also made a homemade advent wreath and we are celebrating each candle together as a family. Sam helps read the scripture and devotions – he just lights up with this special responsibility. 

Angel Tree

Each year, we go to the mall and the kids pick out a tag off of the Angel Tree. They choose a child their age and gender and enthusiastically pick out a gift for them. I love giving to our kids, but I love watching them give joyfully even more.

Family Christmas Party

Frank’s office is incredible about being family oriented. There’s an Easter egg hunt and a summer picnic on a lake each year. The true highlight though is the Christmas Carnival. They pull off an elaborate theme and everything’s free. Unfortunately Sam was too sick to go this year so Frank just took Char, but hopefully next year we can all go again. 

These are just a few of the things that our family loves about the holidays. I pray my children will make these little things their own one day. 

My Best Christmas Gift 

There’s no denying (and who would want to??) that Christmas is just around the corner. 

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t like? Oh, it’s awkward if you are opening it in front of the giver.

During my pregnancy with Sam, they told us initially he was going to be a girl. It was confirmed later on that he was all boy, but I guess some people didn’t get the memo – at my baby shower amidst a sea of blue, a dear friend gave me some adorable pink little girl clothes.

I didn’t know how to navigate that situation. I didn’t really take it out of the bag, just sort of looked in and thanked her, trying not to embarrass either of us. In hindsight, I probably appeared ungrateful in my attempts to avoid awkwardness. I should have taken the gift fully out of the bag and proudly declared, “To save for when Sam has a little sister!” Which he in fact did get a couple of years later.

Many of you know that I’ve really been struggling lately. Yesterday I reached my breaking point, in the middle of a bank, with one of Charlotte’s classmates and her mom watching. 

People tell me all the time that I’m too busy. That I should slow down. That I take on too much.

But riddle me this – I recently quit freelance writing, and the kids seem to be growing more independent by the day. I’m probably the least busy I’ve been in years.

And then I got worse. 

The awkward gift in my hands right now is a profound mental/emotional struggle. Medication takes the edge off. So does exercise. So does prayer. But still, it’s always, always there. Even in times of reprieve, it’s still very present – it just quiets down sometimes. But I’m never allowed to forget about it.

This Christmas season, I have an amazing opportunity. I have the chance to fully accept this painful gift with a gracious heart. 

Sitting in the center of this excruciating storm, I know that God hasn’t changed. Try as I might, it’s impossible for me to look at my life and the world around me, and somehow come to the conclusion that God doesn’t know what He’s doing.

Right now, the gift in my hands is wrapped in depression, anxiety, compulsive and suicidal thoughts, and some really epically bad memories. 

But the contents inside? 

A loving, consistent husband.

Two hilarious children.

An incredible, rock solid support system of friends. 

A thriving ministry where I can daily funnel my pain into helping girls who have also been touched by the same traumas and circumstances that make up most of my gift’s outer wrapping.

It’s been a hard life, but it would be very unfair for me to not also acknowledge what an amazing, beautiful life it has been. 

So, I surrender. I will accept the least wanted gift with grace. Because without it, I wouldn’t have so many of the things, people and opportunities in my life that I do. 

God knows what He’s doing.

Today I’m going to be proactive. I’m going to take steps I don’t want to take in order to get better for a life I don’t necessarily want to live right now.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what decisions will need to be made, but I do know that for the sake of all that God has called me to do, I need to do everything I can to be the best me I can be – despite any gift I’ve been given that seems rotten from the outside. 

Because, Christmas. 

Jesus came to save us, and boy do I ever need to be rescued. 

And yet, through His son, God provided a safe and secure lifeboat. We don’t need to panic and choke in the water.

I don’t love feeling this way. I don’t enjoy my thoughts, my struggles, my pain. I hate some of the experiences I’ve had.

But I need to truly try this Grace thing 100%. I believe that God can take what seems like the most unwanted gift and make it something that shines.

Leaning In. 

Charlie Brown ended yesterday, and my thoughts on that experience found fill an entire other blog post. 

In a nutshell: All of the kids did fantastic, and we all lived to tell about it.

Today we began my favorite week of the year: Thanksgiving week! 

With the show done and the kids out of school all week, other things have taken priority.

This week’s anticipated accomplishments are very different from last week’s, and yet they are just as satisfying and seem so welcoming after all the recent crazy. 

Monday-Friday Goals

Bake a lot. We already got started with some seriously delicious homemade banana bread tonight. We have enough to make a second loaf tomorrow and have a special cupcake project planned, too. 

Clean and purge. I want this castle clean and cozy. I can’t relax when I know there’s chaos in my closets.

Take pictures. Of the kids, not me. For Christmas cards.

Go up to the Flower Farm for some marmalade toast and good conversation.

Help decorate the church for Christmas.

Happily eat a lot.

Finish our family thankfulness tree. 

Soak in a lot of time with Jesus. Repeat. 

Desperately seeking renewal this week. Leaning into the changes of autumn. ❤️