Monthly Archives: July 2012

july in pictures

July 2012 marks our one year anniversary in Bahrain–now halfway through our two year tour. This fact has somewhat blindsided me. I can’t believe we’ve already been here a year. I can’t believe what we’ve come through together as a family. I can’t believe that THIS is our life . . . exotic, foreign, isolated in many ways, and filled with adventure (and all that comes with “adventure”). July 2012 also marks my first trip back to the States in one entire calendar year. As I write this, I’m in FL, enjoying some time with family. A fantastically huge gift. Will be in the States for 5 weeks total, so I’ll write more about this little mini-adventure once we’re back home in Bahrain.

For now, here are a few pictures to capture this month’s highlights . . .

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Just thought you’d like to see this photo. It is a good representation of certain areas of Bahrain. IT IS GETTING SO HOT. Can you feel the heat radiating out of this picture?!?!

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Have always loved chicken biryani, but for some reason have been really loving it lately. Delicious marinated chicken buried in that aromatic basmati rice. Cloves and other spices baked in. YES PLEASE.

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Of course I have to show you more rugs. Loved this stack of tribals at our favorite shop. Steve and I went to an incredible rug expo and I just had to capture some of the art.

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Repairing antique kilim. Amazing, right!?!?

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This is in the Bahrain airport . . . the beginning of our 24 hours of travel. My AMAZING mother-in-law made the trip with me and the three kids as Steve couldn’t take off the full 5 weeks from work. Man, do I owe her just about anything she could ever want. That was a HUGE labor of love. Here’s what I’ll say about the trip: we survived. It was exhausting, but thanks to Steve Jobs and the idevices from the people at Apple, we made it. Still can’t believe we traveled 24 straight hours with two 3 year olds and a 4 month old. NUTS.

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And, we now have a 5 MONTH OLD! Can hardly believe baby Elle and her grown up-ness. Her thighs are incredible. As is that darling dimple on her cheek. And that gurgling laugh. She’s all joy.

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One of the best parts of being in FL is Luke’s ability to explore with his older cousin. They both share a love of all things creepy crawly. Here’s Luke’s latest capture: a tiny little lizard. ALL BOY.

IMG_0879And we just returned from a cruise on the Intercoastal. So nice to be on the boat, on the water, enjoying the breeze. Thankful for this break from the Bahrain heat, Ramadan, and a chance to be surrounded by the familiar for a time. A chance to let down a bit.

What has July brought your way? What has been your highlight of this month?

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“hello dear” original print giveaway

As promised, I am ending the month with a giveaway from the beyond-fabulous San Diego based artist, Kelli Murray Larson. Kelli has an inspiring blog and a darling etsy shop featuring her original artwork and one-of-a-kind party invitations. Love.

Kelli is also the lead designer at Jedidiah Clothing and does commission work here and there (in all her spare time!). She is married to Sam and the proud mama of baby Rylee.

I interviewed Kelli back in 2010 for a piece on my blog because I was interested in her creative process. And now I’m thrilled to be able to offer you one of her masterpieces, “hello dear,” a darling gift or keep-for-yourself print. How cute would this be in a nursery?!?!

For a chance to win, leave a comment below about something that has inspired you lately. Summer is so full of sensuality, so tell me about something that has inspired your senses!

Please submit your comment by 3pm, EST, on Thursday, August 2. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Thursday. Good luck!!

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my reflections on elaine

On Sunday and Tuesday, I introduced you to the ever-amazing Elaine Hamilton. If you haven’t had a chance to read my interview with her, please take the time to go back and read those two posts. You won’t be sorry.

For me, a few things stand out from my conversation with Elaine:

First, her reflections back on her early days of motherhood are very validating to me. It’s so nice to “talk” with someone who now has the benefit of perspective. When you are in the fray of young children, it’s just practically impossible to pan back and relax a little bit and let go of the white-knuckled angst. I want to be kinder to myself in this stage of life. I want to make it a priority to take care of myself, especially my mental and emotional health. It’s so good to hear Elaine validating those desires.

I also really appreciate her words on marriage. “Since I’m staying, what do I need to do to move forward?” I feel like there is great power in those words. A sense that we have the ability to stay and to make things better. Sometimes we feel powerless in life, in relationships, and I like how this simple question gives us back a sense of healthy control. What do I need to get unstuck? How can we make this a better place for both of us, since we’re here to stay? I’m not trapped. I’m not a victim. I’m choosing to stay and work things out. So what do I need to make that happen? That concept is really meaningful to me.

Lastly, I love how both Elaine and Rickelle talked about surviving significant trauma by going through it instead of ignoring, resisting, escaping. Participating in our own healing. Wanting to get well and be well. To me, this is the definition of being brave. Allowing myself to be resilient—to get up each day, to keep breathing, to be happy—even when it might seem easier to just disappear.

Thank you, Elaine, for teaching me so much about life and love and keeping it real.

Anything else from Elaine’s interview that speaks to you?

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“since i’m staying,” elaine part 2

If you read Sunday’s post, a continuation of our “Women in the Trenches” series with Elaine Hamilton, you know that Elaine has experience and expertise that speaks to showing up and getting well. Man, I so appreciate her voice. And you’re so lucky because you get a bit more of her . . . Part 2 of Elaine’s interview . . .

You recently started your own business. Tell us a little about it and a couple of the key things you’ve learned from this giant project? I’m not going to lie, there were days before launching my own private practice, The Soul Care House, that I was terrified, half hoping our funding would fall apart so I wouldn’t have to do this big thing.  But a year into it, I’ve been surprised by my own resilience and strength. I’m seeing that all the years of “mommying”, of having to constantly adapt, problem-solve, multi-task, push through when I’m exhausted, have left me with some serious muscles!  I’ve learned that I can rely on myself, that I can be counted on to figure things out even if initially something feels overwhelming or way outside of my skill set.

I’m learning a ton about leading others too.  I’m seeing that my need to constantly collaborate must be balanced with my teams’ need for me to be the keeper of our vision. This means regularly re-visiting that vision and re-directing when we get off track. When I make decisions to keep people happy or to avoid conflict, or because it’s easier, I move us away from our big picture goals. My team needs me to be clear about what is and isn’t “Soul Care”, whether it’s what kind of experience clients have when they walk in our door, or who we invite to partner with us, or how we handle conflict.  I have to be willing to bear the tension of continually pushing us back to our mission and values in order to flesh out what I believe God is calling us to.

Any secrets for making time to fit all of life in? How do you order your life for work, play, rest, family time, exercise, etc? I think the idea of a balanced life is a bunch of whowee.  For example, when you have small children, your life will not be balanced.  You will not have the time, money or energy to get to the gym 3 times a week, plus run 5 programs at church, plus throw fabulous diner parties, plus read and/or write an inspiring book all while running a non-profit from the trunk of your car! People who can do this must be on coke, or blessed with recurring manic episodes!

I think there are many phases of life like this.  Phases where you have to pick an aspect of your life (like raising your kids, or a health crisis, or launching a business, etc.) to devote yourself to and accept that some of the other areas will get a little less attention for awhile.  I think that’s okay.  I think this is a balanced perspective, the understanding that I can’t do it all at the same time.

That said, I admit that I am not good a taking breaks and the things I put on the back burner tend to be my health and my sanity. Maybe because I’m German.  “Work till you fall over, then work a little more”.  That’s our motto.   So, I am learning the hard truth that while I can work like there’s no tomorrow, the quality of my work is more important to me than the quantity of it and so I am practicing, more and more, to value and protect a little time to rest and center myself.

What helps you to stay centered, connected? Paying someone to clean my house!  Maybe it’s silly but if my house is a wreck, so am I. I need my house to be clean in order to relax in it.   Other things that work for me: cuddling with my kids or my husband, my girlfriends, great books, candlelight and a hot bath, a walk in the woods, and, my favorite, a creative project that requires a hot glue gun or modge podge.

Where do you find God? I find God in all the same things that center me.  Anything that brings me back to myself reminds me of his presence.  Books, music, the sound of birds in the morning, being surrounded by trees, candlelight, twinkly lights.  Beautiful things connect me to Him.  In my family, we joke that Anthropologie is my church.  But honestly, when I walk in there, the creativity and beauty, the artistry in the details, centers and calms me.  It’s a reflection of God’s creative hand and it reminds me of his constant invitation to me to do my own creative work.

Being with people I love, sharing, laughing, eating together.  These moments make God feel almost physically present.   Their love and grace help me believe that God delights in me.

What is one product or item you use all the time that you love and think everyone should know about? Deva Curl hair products.  If you’ve got curly, frizzy hair like me, this stuff will save your life!  And it smells delicious!

What is your favorite book and why? Well, I do love me some Anne Lamott!  Nobody lays it down like she does.  When I read Travelling Mercies for the first time, I felt like I had found someone I had been looking for.  She taught me that being a mess sometimes is more normal than tragic and that life is more enjoyable if you don’t take yourself quite so seriously.

What is your one wardrobe staple? My Steve Madden boots.  They make me feel like that girl I used to be is still in there.

What’s one thing that helps you stay married? Perhaps it’s kind of dark but this is what I do.  When I’m having a really, really bad day, when we are really distant or angry with each other and I’m wondering if I can do this forever, I ask myself, “Are you really going to leave him?”  And I picture what life would be like for me, my kids, my husband if this family fell apart.  I picture how painful Thanksgivings and Christmases would be, how lost all 4 of us would feel.  And then I ask myself another question, “Since you are staying, what do you need to do to move forward?”

***

Yowz. That last one is a zinger. SO good. On Thursday, I’ll be sharing some of my personal reflections from Elaine’s interview. Be sure to stop back by for my debrief.

What is one insight you’ve gained from Elaine today?

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“trust that my love was enough,” elaine part 1

We’re continuing our “Women in the Trenches” series this week with Elaine Hamilton.

I think of Elaine as my very young aunt. My dad was an only child and my mom’s only sibling passed away when I was young, so I didn’t really grow up with blood aunts and uncles after Aunt Judy died.

When Elaine came into my life, we were both in the early stages of writing books for Zondervan, and we began meeting weekly to share our writing and, what has turned out to be, our lives.

Through those meetings, Elaine became family to me.

Elaine is the author of Church on the Couch: Does the Church Need Therapy? a book about authenticity in the Church—where it’s gone and how we might get it back. What a resource. Elaine is always both compelling and practical. Love this about her. Not just theory with her; always something useful.

She has also restored two old houses recently. One in the dreamy Pacific Northwest and one in a fabulous little enclave of San Diego that houses her practice, The Soul Care House. Gorgeous.

Elaine has been through hard things and survived. She is wise and funny and visionary. She has beautiful curly hair and amazing style and she knows had to decorate a room on a shoestring.

Soak up every word this woman has to offer.

Here’s Elaine . . .

Age: 53

How long you’ve been married: 26 years

Names of children and ages: Katie 21, Josh 19

Where do you live? What’s great about where you live?  San Diego.  Love the indoor/outdoor living.  Don’t think I could go back to wearing long underwear half the year! (Necessary in my homeland of Canada!)

What is your job and why were you drawn to that particular field? I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist. I love spending my days with people who are pursing wholeness and healing in their lives and relationships. It’s an honor to be a part of that process in someone’s life. Their courage and resilience inspire me every day.

What is the best piece of parenting advice you can give? Small children are like dogs. Teenagers are like cats. When kids are young, they can’t get enough of you.  They are always excited to see you, want you to be everywhere they are, hang onto your leg when you try to leave them.  And you think, this is what it’s like to be a parent.  You get used to this devotion.  Then out of the blue, somewhere around junior high, a horrible, tragic turning occurs.  Suddenly, this loving child who adored you just yesterday, becomes aloof and withholding.  Now our singing, our jokes, our breathing, our very presence is “ruining everything!!!”  You know this can happen, but you just didn’t expect it to happen to you.

This is not your fault.  Or theirs.  It’s just part of the deal.   This is also what it’s like to be a parent.  Best to accept that, for a while, you must tread carefully.   I find it’s helpful to think of them as cats during this period.   If you chase them, they will run from you. If you try to hold them too tightly, they will scratch you to get away.  But if you sit very still and pretend you are very busy doing something very important, they will work their way over to you and silently lay their head on your shoulder or your lap, because a part of them knows they still need you.  You will ecstatic but please, for you own sake, do not make a big deal of this.  Do not shout for joy.   Do not start to cry because you’ve missed them so badly.  Just soak it in.    Cherish this moment.   Let it nourish you. There’s no telling when it will come again.

Comfort yourself with the truth that, someday this phase will be over and you will all be grownups together.  And ask yourself this question:  “What kind of a relationship do I want with my kids 5 years from now, and are strategies I’m using right now going to help me get there?”

Looking back at the season when your kids were younger, is there anything you’d do differently? Where do I start?!!  But mostly I wish I had been kinder to myself.  I love the theme of your writing right now about being a companion to yourself rather than a critic.  As a young mom, I was always judging myself:  Was I creating enough structure, enough fun?  Was I trying hard enough, was I willing to sacrifice enough for them?  Every book I read, every parenting tip I heard, was added to the pile of things I should be doing.  I couldn’t meet my own expectations and I couldn’t let go of any of them.  If I could do it again, I would be kinder to myself.  I would relax more, play more, take better care of myself so I wasn’t always running on empty.  I would spend more money on babysitters and let things go a little. I would trust that my love for them was enough.

In your opinion, what is the biggest struggle women face today? How might we engage in that struggle? We have a hard time being on each other’s side.  We desperately need a group of “sisters” to do life with but we are so tormented by our obsessive judging and comparing, our fears of rejection and abandonment that we can’t really let down our guard with each other.   This is tragic because the only way to let go of those fears is to take them on, find some safe women and tell them the truth about you.  Your insecurities, your secrets, your longings.  All of it.  And inviting them to do the same.

In your opinion, what is the biggest struggle men face today? How might men engage in that struggle? I work with a lot of men who have been told over and over, in many ways, by many people, particularly women, that no one cares about their feelings.  We just want them to take care of things for us, to get the job done no matter what it costs them, and to make us happy because we don’t know how to make ourselves happy.  This leaves them cut off from their internal world and vulnerable to porn addictions, workaholism or other self-medicators to stay numb.

Change often happens when they decide they have had enough of staying silent and feeling dead inside and they go after their own freedom.  Healing occurs as they begin to explore what they have been through and how it’s affected them.  And as they open up to themselves, they become more connected to the people in their lives as well.

You’ve been through some significant traumas, including sexual abuse as a child. How have you found healing in your life? The last thing we want to do when we are dealing with something painful is devote time to exploring it, feeling it, and understanding it.  But I’ve found over and over that trying to push away or ignore horrible things never works for long.  It always finds some way to surface and torture us.  So I do what I know works.  I talk to people I trust, who get me and validate me and aren’t afraid to see me cry.   I read, I journal, I beg God to show me how and where he is in this.  And after a lot of time has past and there’s been a lot of thrashing about, I feel myself coming up for air.  And I begin to see that while there is pain and loss and suffering in my life, there is also a lot of beauty, and meaning and a lot of love.  And that helps me bear it all.

***

Beautiful and rich and real. Thank you, Elaine.

On Tuesday, Elaine will be back with Part 2 of her interview where she’ll be talking about starting her own business, life balance, her spirituality, her best marriage advice, and even a couple of her life staples thrown in! I’m telling you . . . come back for more Elaine!

What’s one insight you gained from Elaine’s words today?

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my reflections on rickelle

If you didn’t catch part 1 or part 2 of Rickelle’s interview this week, I encourage you to go back and read her tender story of loss and grief and waking up.

When Rickelle first sent me her responses, I couldn’t make it through her story about Lake in one sitting. I had to put it down and come back to it a couple of times. Because it just pierced me. Not only because I love Rickelle, but because I am a parent, too.

As a parent, this is the deep fear lurking around us, hovering. The kind of fear we can’t talk about because it is so grizzly. The fear that your child would be taken from you.

“There really are still no words for the magnitude of that heartbreak,” Rickelle wrote.

That sentence says it all and has stayed with me since I first read it. And yet, throughout Rickelle’s writing, you can see the smallest sliver of hope . . . that we can survive unthinkable grief, that we can believe again, breathe again, get up and face the day again.

In Rickelle’s story, I see a secret. The secret that we all need to be let in on. We must get up and face today . . . taking it step by step, fighting for our hearts, learning to breathe again, SHOWING UP. And then waking up and doing it all over again tomorrow. Even if it means wearing a hoody and listening to reggae, wielding a power tool. Rickelle participated in life even when life was unthinkable.

The only way across is through,” she wrote. And that is gospel truth. Worthy of taping-to-the-mirror status, if you ask me.

Am I participating in my own life? Showing up in the best way I can today? Living “through” the mess instead of trying to escape it?

Thank you, Rickelle, for opening your heart in the most personal way and sending your story to us with honesty and hope. Please be sure to tell Rickelle—through your comments—how much her words have meant to you. She is so very brave!

May we all be brave enough to wake up . . . write “I believe” on our palms . . . and face the day . . . as Rickelle and Caleb’s story so poignantly invites us to do . . .

Believing,

Leeana

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“the only way across is through,” rickelle part 2

We are continuing our “Women in the Trenches” series today with the second part of Rickelle Hicks’ interview. Get to know Rickelle a bit better in Part 1 from Sunday’s post.

Today, I’m sharing a very tender piece from Rickelle who went through an unspeakable tragedy just two years ago. In response to my questions about her journey through grief, Rickelle decided to write you a letter. I share it with you on the wings of a prayer that it might reach into your heart and speak to your need today:

Dear Reader,

On march 31st, 2010, I went into see my midwife for our routine appointment. I was 25 weeks pregnant with our first son and it was my husband, Caleb’s, and my anniversary.  Cal is a teacher and he was at school, so I went to the appointment alone. My midwife, Anita, went through the usual proceedings with me…weight check, measuring the baby and then checking the heartbeat. She squeezed the gooey gel and placed the doppler on my planet of a belly. She couldn’t find the heartbeat right away; she closed her eyes and said she thought she heard it. She kept the doppler there, but then couldn’t quite find it again. I could see her expression tense and I could see her concerted effort to not let me see her concern. She checked again and again and then again and finally said, “Let’s go across the hall and do a quick ultrasound.” Even at that point, I was sure everything was okay. I asked her if she was concerned, she said it was strange we couldn’t find the heartbeat as quickly as previous times but that everything was probably fine. I lay down in the dark room as the fuzzy screen came up. “There’s our baby,” she said and moved the wand around my belly. It was then that I could feel the oxygen leave the room.

Those next moments are full of white noise and a descending weight so heavy I can palpably feel it even now as I write, over 2 years and 1 baby later.

She said, “Rickelle, there is no heartbeat.” I could not contain or understand her words. I went into full-fledged panic attack mode. My sweet, wise, insanely cool midwife just held that space with me. The next moments were a blur of the doctor coming in and confirming what we already knew; nurses asking me Caleb’s phone number so he could come and me utterly helpless in the shock of it all.

The baby, our sweetest Lake, 6 months old in utero, had been gone for 3 days.

I delivered him the next morning at 2:14 a.m., surrounded by Caleb, my mother-in-law and my own mom. Caleb watched the birth as the moms held my hands. They held me up. Lake had gone to be with Jesus. I wished so many times that I had held him so much longer. Two days later we had a memorial for him in our backyard and just this last April, we spread his ashes in a rushing creek underneath a cherry blossom tree.

There really are still no words for the magnitude of that heartbreak.

I write to you with all tenderness on this subject of grief.

Maybe as you find this letter, you are in the very first days of a loss. Maybe you are years down the road. Or maybe you know someone who is in the throws of grief. Its ridiculously hard, this grief thing. Seemingly impossible, really. I don’t know what your loss has been. I wish we could sit together and share our stories and say to each other all the things grieving people need to say, “What the hell; How am I ever going to survive this; How can I even keep going; What will life look like on the other side of this” over a cup of coffee or a really strong margarita.

Since I don’t know you or your story, however, my prayer is that sharing our journey might breathe something into your loss. That one sentence or phrase or thought might bring a tiny shade, an inch of fluorescent color to a black and white backdrop.

{breathing in and out}

The first days after losing lake were a blur. There was the all encompassing fog of that first stage… shock, no sleep, no appetite, a flurry of flowers, sad cards with white lilies and italic writing, meals and family and the sounds of people clanking around in our kitchen. I just breathed. In and out. They say it’s a blur. It was. I wrote every single messy, tangled, unraveled thought that would be strung out later like a ball of yarn, knit into something with order and meaning. But at the time, I just wrote.

{breaking}

In many moments, there was absolutely no solace and I could not see past the hand in front of my face. It hurt so much seeing my husband hurt. Everything echoed and my world had turned gray; the color sucked out and I could not imagine feeling anything different. Ever. It felt like there was a blanket between me and the world and I imagined all the worst things, that our marriage would fall apart, that I would never ever get to be pregnant or have children, that there was something terribly wrong with me. I am a bit prone to catastrophic thinking anyway, so needless to say, it was all compounded. I felt like I had lost my naivety and innocence, I was quieted and sobered by the vastness of what can happen here. What we can live through and survive. I took Tylenol p.m. to get a few hours of sleep, I drank protein shakes and tiny bits of food, like a little chipmunk.

I was irritable, and oh so raw and at every minute I felt sadness in my bones, right down to my toes. It was impossible to bear.

And in the midst of that flurry, something very real was streaming steady just under the surface, something I would not have words for until later.

{learning to swim}

In those weeks that followed, I swung on a large rope from a great height. Grief is so sneaky. In some moments I would be surprised by buoyancy and light. In others I had never known such pitch black.  I started planting in our backyard. I watered our flowers and I got a tiny orange kitten named Everett. I needed things to nurture. I longed for that baby; I was ready for him. So I needed something alive to take care of. I wrote, “I believe” on my hand every morning. I got out a big power tool and sanded and painted and distressed furniture in my hoody listening to reggae.

Reggae? I know. Those first days, just do the things that soothe you and that are life giving for you. Listen to your heartbeat and just do whatever makes you feel even an inch closer to putting one foot in front of the other. Anything that reminds you there will be beauty from the ashes.

{diving in}

And then slowly, slowly

I just started sharing the mess.

We had a particularly dear couple that made a mandatory Tuesday dinner date with us.  We had to come barring a catastrophe. Week after week, we shared meals around a table. I remember trying to show up put together and then just collapsing on the couch with my sister in her living room, sobbing like a child. Our friends just held that space for us with a colorful table set each week; sharing meals and sharing the details of that season with food and wine and presence.

And one of the single most important things I learned during that time was to

say it out loud.

Inviting others into the mess has never been my strong suit.  Quickly, there had never been anything more important. I had to say things out loud every single day. The fears, the tiny bits of light, the longings and disappointments. I could not show up pretty and skinny; I was a mess, a train wreck, the scary grieving girl, prone to break down at any given moment.  Some days, I felt I was employed full time with the task of grief.

We don’t pick our friends out of a Nordstrom catalog; they aren’t perfect, they can’t deliver us, but a tribe to fight for you is absolutely essential. Oh, how I learned who my tribe was during that time. Who our people were. They simply showed up and they believed for me when I could not believe for myself.

{battling the current}

Never in my life was it ever more important for me to fight for my heart. And that is something I wish I could type up and put on your mirror.

Your heart is at stake, brother, sister. I deeply believe that you are on holy ground when you are mourning.

There is no greater time to engage in the battle for your heart than when you are raw with grief.

I think whenever we lose something dear to us there’s the temptation to start to see our world or tie up our identity with that loss, i.e. I’m the girl shit happens to. This is not truth. Keep a very short line on your thought life and when these self deprecating, toxic thoughts arise, say them to someone you trust to tell you the truth about who you are and to refuse to accept the lies on your behalf. To remind you that you are going to make it. You are going to get through this. It might mean counseling every week or a grief group or putting verses or quotes on your mirror or in your cupboards where you will see them every time you do the dishes or brush your teeth.

Fighting certainly means being intentional in every way you can to stay afloat. Do anything that reminds you that it won’t always feel this way.  Invite a friend in, chant the truth, make some coffee, sob your eyes out, get your pen, plant a flower, put on your running shoes. Keep moving, keep feeling it. I wrote on my hand words I had to stare straight at everyday to remind myself of what was true.

I can say with complete confidence, although there may be nothing inside of you that believes these words right now, that this very thing that happened to you. This unthinkable thing. Is the very thing that will give you keys to something you would not have otherwise been able to open.

Whatever it is, this crisis is a turning point, a trajectory changer, a catalyst, the very thing Jesus wants to use to use to make you new.

{trusting the water}

Leeana asked me to write about how this affected my faith. Such a great question. I think I can try to sum that up by saying that before our loss I knew Jesus but I don’t think I really believed Him until that spring. Because He was there.

He simply showed up. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He fought for me and my family and if I know anything, I know He will show up for you. You don’t need to fight any harder right now, you just need to live and walk and breathe. Let go of what you can, lay it down. Lean into Him; press into Him, walk it out.  I found so much comfort in the fact that the Word is so full of people losing, grieving, mourning and that Jesus himself was a man of many sorrows. He was not unacquainted with any one- tiny-single thing I was feeling. And in that, I felt safe.

I believe now in the abundance of God’s economy. He doesn’t leave us bankrupt. Well meaning people would say things that I didn’t agree with, “God has a plan. This is His will.”

What was true is that He is the author of life, not the author of death.

In our losses, He doesn’t leave us withdrawn. He’s always making us more whole, using our shattered pieces to draw us closer to Him as He puts us back together.

{treading}

Even now as I write this, some days and some months I am so poignantly affected by our loss that I feel like I have gone back to square one with learning to swim. Like I forgot all the things I worked so hard to gain and that I’ve lost all the ways I have changed. And that it’s all doomed. The darkness threatens to steal every ounce of joy and truth from my day and I feel like I’m treading in deep water. Keeping my head just above the surface.

Our son, Gunnison, is 10 1/2 months old now. I love him so fiercely it sometimes scares me. I am definitely triggered by the loss of our first baby in the day-to-day ins and outs of being Gunn’s mama.  I have to fight the lies of the economy of deficit. I have to hang things on my mirror and say them out loud.  I have to be ridiculous and irrational and let my tribe in. And then I have to pick up my sword; I have to start right back over. I have to be brave. I know somewhere, even on days like today that are so hard and the sun hasn’t come out, that I am strong. Absolutely safe. I am taken care of.

{resurfacing}

Lake’s life was and continues to be, a powerful gift that now, I simply cannot imagine my life without.  For us, grief was our story of waking up. Our grief woke us up out of a long winter’s slumber. We rubbed our sleepy eyes and chose to open them wide.

My prayer for you in your journey of grief is that you will tenderly allow yourself the process, eyes wide open. The only way across is through, you have to let yourself feel. The temptation to shut out the hard emotions out will be great, but if you let yourself feel the pain and let it teach you, the healing will be more whole. You are capable of this. Oh, how you will never, ever be the same and you will never forget because you have been changed, refined, broken in that surf. Beauty is wrought in the soul when we let ourselves feel the pain of grief and walk through it and refuse to shut our eyes.

Fight for your heart; share the mess. You are irrevocably changed because of what you lost; let Him show you who you are because of that…what you are gaining and the beauty that will be wrought in your soul.

You are a warrior – strong, able, fit and ready even on days when you are sure that is not true. This is your story; your journey. There are soulful gifts of grace, bravery, wholeness, hope, healing, and love there to meet you.

You will make it.

Rickelle

***

Think of someone you know who is walking through grief. What could be more beautiful than to send them Rickelle’s words . . .

Is there a line from Rickelle’s letter that resonates with you?

Join me on Thursday for some of my own reflections on Rickelle’s interview.

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“an ADHD creative approach,” rickelle part 1

rickelle corrected

Meet Rickelle Hicks, the first honored guest in our “Women in the Trenches” series.

I wanted to do this series as a way to introduce you to some women I admire, women who are in the trenches of faith and love, women who are really showing up to life.

Rickelle and I were friends in San Diego before life took her back to her beloved Colorado. Rickelle is one of the rare, true beauties. She’s creative, transparent, free-spirited, and she has a depth that I have always been drawn to.

Rickelle has survived an unspeakable grief, and I wanted her to share some of her story with you in the event that just one of you out there needs to hear how she has made it through to the other side.

First, here are a few questions Rickelle has kindly answered for you to get to know her a bit better. Please come back on Tuesday to read Rickelle’s story of loss and grief and waking up.

Here’s Rickelle . . .

Age: 32

How long you’ve been married: 5 years

Names of children and ages: Gunnison, 10 months

Where do you live? What’s great about where you live? Grand Junction, Colorado. The rivers – we are surrounded. The climate makes the growing season longer on either end so it’s a great place to plant and garden. Its very hometown, not crowded, warm and kind of nerdy in an up-and-coming way.

What is your job and why were you drawn to that particular field? I am a marriage and family therapist, working mostly with kids. To me, relationships are what make the world go round, so this is the thing I can get up every morning and do because it just makes sense to me. It matters deeply to me.

I love your creative spirit. How do you nurture that in yourself? Gosh, this is a great question. I don’t know that I’ve ever specifically thought through this before. I guess for me it comes down to this: “If you are made to create, you won’t feel whole and healthy and alive until you do” {Shauna Niequist}. So, I do know that it’s totally crucial for my sense of wholeness and feeling alive and truly me. But a lot of the time, I don’t make space for it, especially in adjusting to being a new mom. So its the choice to do it and to show up for it even when I don’t feel like it. I try to just do what intuitively inspires me at the time, which is kind of an ADHD creative approach. For example, I have a quilt, a knitted blanket, a dress, a charcoal painting and a hypothetical book all in process. But when I show up at the screen, at my sewing machine, with my knitting needles just seeking beauty and inspiration, I always walk away fuller and feeling more awake.

You have talked to me about your love for writing. Tell me more about how writing plays into your life. How do you find time to write consistently? Writing is a companion for me. It helps me unravel what is tangled. I am always able to make sense of things when I process it on the page in a way that I can’t otherwise.

What fills you up or inspires you? Relationships are probably the number one thing. It’s my very favorite thing to sit with a steamy cup of coffee and just talk and talk about life with my friends. Also, anything beautiful….

Where do you find God? On the river, in beauty, in relationships, in times where I’m creating, in the quiet.

What is one product or item you use all the time that you love and think everyone should know about? I love Benefit’s dandelion brightening face powder. It’s described as “ballerina pink,” and that’s exactly the color; it’s a little shimmery too.

What is your favorite book and why? I will have to name a few or I would take ages on this question, changing my mind back and forth…. The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran; Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott; Walking on Water, Madeleine L’engle; The River Why, David James Duncan; East of Eden, John Steinbeck

What is your one wardrobe staple? Right now, it would have to be my new Matilda Jane pants. They are oh so soft and have a huge whimsy ruffle on the bottom; she comes out with different colors with new lines. The beauty is I can wear them out to dinner with enough accessorizing but can also lounge around in them.

What is one thing that has helped you stay married? I think for us, playing together and being involved in what’s important to the other one has been the most important thing.

***

Please come back on Tuesday for the second part of Rickelle’s interview. She’s written a personal letter about the tragedy she went through just two years ago. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and will whisper some of life’s secrets to you . . .

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emboldened

Celebrating an important voice today.

This morning, my English-teacher-for-25-years mom sent me the news that today—July 11—is the anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird . . . which was first published in 1960.

She also sent along a few quotes from Harper Lee. The following was my favorite in the bunch:

“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.”

Harper Lee took 2 ½ years to write To Kill a Mockingbird, reportedly getting so frustrated with the manuscript at one point that she threw it out her window into the snow below. (Her agent made her go out and retrieve every last page.) TKAM went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

The most fascinating part of Lee’s story, to me, is that she never published another novel.  To Kill a Mockingbird has never been out of print since its publication 52 years ago, and yet it was her one and only.

Today, I’m saying thank you to Harper Lee for her beautiful book . . . for pushing through the many barriers she undoubtedly faced to get it into our hands . . . for freedom-fighting.

Here’s to the voices that keep ringing in our heads . . . the artists who bring life alive right before us . . . who keep us brooding . . . who bring us back to beauty. Harper Lee is certainly one of those voices.

To all of us who have thoughts and ideas and freedom-fighting of our own that we’d like to birth into the world . . . let’s think of those voices who fought against the madness . . . and let’s be emboldened to do the work that is before us.

I believe in you. Now get to work.

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a little more like evelyn

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I recently saw “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” playing for free in our little two-theatre cinema on base. In the movie a handful of aging Brits decide to leave their country and move to India to live out their twilight years as ex-pats in this “refurbished” hotel/retirement community.

Each has a story as to why they have come—some out of financial necessity, some seeking adventure, some looking for love, one for health reasons. They arrive to find that their accommodations were a bit over-sold, and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is very much still in the “early stages” of becoming the vision its young owner/manager is wholeheartedly trying to cast.

Each character responds differently to the “adventure” they’ve been thrown headlong into.

Judy Dench’s character, Evelyn, is widowed and realizes after her husband’s death that she really had no clue about their financial situation and her husband’s debts, to be exact. She must sell their apartment to pay off his debts and finds herself with no where to live. One of her sons offers to have her come live with him. But she decides this will be the time in her life when she strikes out on adventure. For the first time.

She moves to India, to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where she can afford to live, and gets a part time job training telephone operators in “cultural relations.”

Evelyn begins a blog when she moves. In one of her entries, she writes, India is like a wave. If you try to stand firm against it, you will be knocked over. But if you dive into it, you will get through and come out on the other side.

Of course, many of the other characters don’t respond with her dive-in attitude. Some are terrified, heartbroken, unsure, lost, angry. Or just plain whiney. Wishing everything were different.

I loved the movie mostly because it cast a needed light on our days here in Bahrain. Too soon, they will be coming to a close. We will be preparing to move on to our next duty station. Life will move us along. And I will look back at this time with the feeling that we have really been through something.

Am I embracing the adventure of today? Am I diving into this crazy wave before me?

We are swept up in an adventure here in Bahrain. Some days that is hard, though I wish it wasn’t. Some days I wish for a less adventure-y kind of place to be.

Because I’ve learned that . . .

Adventure is not convenient.

It’s not comfortable.

It’s not on schedule.

It’s not predictable.

It’s not hygienic.

It’s not neat.

It’s not immediately pretty.

It’s not ever like we planned.

It’s not always pleasant.

It’s not quiet.

It’s not easy on the stomach.

It’s not always safe.

It’s not tranquil.

It’s not glamorous.

It’s not easy.

And if you try and stand up against it, adventure will knock you over. BUT, if you dive into it, you will get through it and come out on the other side.

Perhaps these words apply to all kinds of adventures. The adventure of marriage, of parenthood, of getting well, of showing up, of writing or engaging in your particular vocation, of military life, of loving.

I wrote on facebook the other day: it feels good to make a commitment to yourself and follow through. Not in a punitive way but out of respect, honor. It’s empowering. Courageous. A way we learn to trust ourselves again.

May we all commit to the adventure, whatever it might be, that’s in front of us. And follow through . . . even in the craziness of it all. This is a way we honor our stories and our place in the grand narrative. Here’s to diving in!

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