When faced with death

My thoughts are jumbled and my emotions are tied in knots.  Fear, sadness, anxiety, hurt, justice, peace and anger all rage war to be the emotion that claims victory over my heart.

I have been in one other waiting room in my life where the patient faced possible death.  I sat with an 18 year old girl in the summer between High School and College when she was supposed to be believe that all things were possible.  I sat there with her and thought, "Her mom is going to come out of this.  They always say there is a chance of death, but it never really happens."

Then the doctor came out, took this young girls hand, and had to tell her that her mother passed.  They couldn't save her.  She was now alone.  Her father died three years earlier, and now, there, on that day, she lost her mother and was alone.  Completely alone.  I understood at that moment the phrase, "the world stopped.  It stops for just a moment."  It's true.  In that moment, the world around you ceases to exists and its like someone hit a pause button.  You pray, you cry deeply with EVERY fiber of your being that you heard them wrong.  Please God, tell them to take it back.  You wonder if you heard wrong, because you know that in that moment the earth stood still for you.  That moment happened eight years ago, but I remember it, I can close my eyes and feel like it was yesterday.

Last week I joined my entire family down in Houston because my cousin Ryan was having life threatening, high risk surgery.  They were removing his lung and tumor, and only one doctor in the country would even attempt this procedure.  If you would like to know more about his condition and story, he is an avid blogger and beautiful writer.  You can read about here www.nobodyfightsalone.com.

Here is a picture of Ryan at his Cycle for a Cure.

I won't recount his story for you here, but I will tell you my perspective.  I had been home eight hours after speaking at a conference all weekend and Little and I were headed to the airport to fly down to Houston to join all of my family in support of Ryan, his wife Andrea and their two small boys.  My focus had been on work, prepping sitters for the kids, food and the new book launch.  I came home, spent a few precious hours with my family and then Lu and I left.  When you have a 2 year old, flying is a big adventure, and so you play games, sing songs and generally live moment to moment.  Paul had told me before I left, "I am concerned that you haven't processed exactly what you are walking into down in Houston."  I ignored him, knowing he was right, but not wanting to dwell too much on it.

See part of the reason we were down in Houston was to say good bye.  Ryan had less than a 5% chance of surviving this surgery, and so according to statistics, this would be the last time we saw him.  But of course you are hoping, praying, and hoping again that you are really there to help with his recovery.  To be there with his wife and parents and kids.  To give your support.  But in the back of your head, in the dark place you don't want to say out loud because if you say it out loud, God forbid it might come true.  We were there to say good bye.

When Little and I got there we were hugging our family, saying our hello's, thankful for the opportunity to see them, and yet, knowing why we were there.  The joy of seeing them was followed by an immediate heavy feeling of the possibility of death.  Emotions were raw.  We were all holding tightly onto our thoughts and feelings not wanting to reveal what we were thinking or feeling.  The goal was to stay positive and create one last night of wonderful memories with all of us together.

The night before the surgery we all gathered for dinner and celebrated Ryan's wife birthday.  It really was great to see everyone, we don't all live close to one another so this was a rare occurrence.  After the meal was over, the emotions shifted.  The energy in the room changed.  I turned in my chair and saw Ryan sitting quietly in his chair, tears threatening to fall.  My first reaction was hard a blow because I have never once seen him falter in his positive attitude towards fighting this cancer.  Now I understand that I don't live with him and there is no way that he could be positive every moment of every day, but as a dedicated reader of his blog, I know that he chooses to be positive as much as he possibly can.  Seeing the reality of what he was choosing to do, seeing his humanity in that moment brought all the emotions I was trying to avoid come flooding into my heart.

Ryan was choosing this surgery to give him the best chance of living cancer free.  But the risks were incredibly great.  The risk of death was high, and in that case, he would be leaving a wife, a three year old and a 9 month old son.  Two children who, if he died, eventually would have no memories of their father.  He had to choose a surgery that meant, he was in truth, saying I can die at this moment and I will accept that.

I watched him in that chair trying not to loose his emotions.  He was surrounded by his family and I would assume was feeling the weight of his choice and potentially his last night with everyone.

How does one even comprehend those emotions and choices?  I found I was hugging my daughter harder that night.  I kept thinking how incredibly brave and courageous he was that night to willing make that choice so that he could against the odds, live a longer life with his family.  He was so brave, and full of courage, and I would assume, so alone in that moment.  Completely and utterly alone in his thoughts and emotions.  Even surrounded by the people who know and love him the most, no one could imagine what he was going through.  He was alone in thoughts.  He was alone in feelings.

And my heart broke for him.  My heart broke for his family.  I hated sin in that moment.  I really hated it.  Call me ignorant, or simple minded, and maybe my faith is simplistic, but I don't get angry at God in those moments.  In the moments of complete and utter fear of the circumstances around me.  I get angry at the fact that sin is apart of our world.  That we invited in.  That we have to live with our consequences on this earth until we are made perfect in eternity.

Please hear me, I am not saying that because of Ryan's sin, God gave him cancer.  I am NOT saying that.  What I am saying, is that we live in a sinful world full of brokenness, disease, death, and tragedy.  No one is untouched by it, and just because you are a child of God, doesn't give you a get out of jail free card to pain.  We are all touched by and live in a sinful place.

And maybe the reason you could call my faith simplistic is because I have personally been untouched by tragedy.  Those closest to me have been inflicted with much pain and disease and tragedy, so I am not a stranger to it.  I don't ever view God as a bystander, just watching horrible events take place.  I never wonder where he is, or question why he doesn't stop tragedy from our lives.  I guess I have always understood that he can't stop it for everyone.  If he stopped death, disease, and tragedy from everyone, than we would be in heaven.  I also understand and have experienced the peace and healing and life giving relationship with God that comes out of such pain and hurt.  I have seen redemption be born out total darkness.  I have witnessed the body of God raise up to their calling and help and be responsible for those who have been broken.  It is the most beautiful thing to behold, watching God's children living as God intended by loving others in their pain.  Experiencing them sacrificing themselves for others.  We don't get those beautiful moments of joy and depth without the pain.

Would I rather see Ryan completely healed and healthy and free of pain.  Of course I would.  I would choose that.  But God is doing something with this story.  He is working in Ryan's life.  He is bringing healing and he is raising up the body of God around him.  There is redemption happening there.

So in my moment of feeling his loneliness, with a lifetime of memories of my cousin, and complete awareness of his choice, all my tears threaten to fall.  I didn't just want to cry, I wanted to sob and cry out and let the emotions take over so I could feel the depth of them, and then let them go.  I went to him, kissed him on the cheek and told him I loved him.  I had no words of wisdom and nothing profound to say.  What I wanted him to know is that his life mattered and changed me.

Then I walked out with my daughter and my dad and sobbed.  The unflattering cry where tears mix with snot and your whole face is wet and red.  I just allowed myself to feel for him, for the hurt of so many others who have been touched by uncontrollable pain.  That night all our hearts were heavy.

How do you live in a reality of something dark and scary, but try to hold onto a little bit of hope?  Those emotions are so conflicting with one another, its hard to let either one win out.  You don't want to hope so much that the reality will be hard to accept.  And you can't let go of any glimpse of hope, because living becomes impossible.

So it brings me back to the waiting room the next day.  I had nice conversations with uncles and aunts and cousins.  I played games with Little.  And the whole time, even though there might be faint smiles on our faces, we were all just waiting.  Waiting for the bad news, hoping for the good news.

We were told to go back to the hotel because his surgery started later than expected and they didn't need us all there.  That's where we were when we got the news that the surgery went very well and Ryan was in recovery.  My grandmother is the only one who cried out in joy and wept.  We sat there.  Completely shocked.  At least I was.  I couldn't believe how much I was prepared for the bad news.  My own history had prepared me for the worst, but the worst didn't come that day.  We immediately came together and prayed our thanksgiving to God and then I wept.  It was a miracle.  There really is no other option.  It was a miracle.

We are all guaranteed death.  We will all in some way experience pain and hardship and tragedy.  The hard days will come, and maybe they are even already here.  I am a believer that God is still good even in these moments.  I have to believe that.  And I was prepared for that.

But we got life that day.  Ryan got life that day.  His boys got their dad that day.  His wife got her husband that day.  His mom kept her son that day.

And postponing the tragedy just a little bit felt good.

It felt good to celebrate life, even just for a little bit longer till the next hard thing.

Thank you Lord.

We can't lose hope

We live on the wrong side of the tracks.

We also live on the wrong side of the bridge.

And on the wrong side of the river.

If people are familiar with Minneapolis, then they usually ask, "Where do you live?"  Our response is, "We live in North" the nickname and location of living on the wrong side of...well...everything.

And their look is always the same.  One of fear, sadness, pity.  That is the most common response.  One I was used to when I would tell people I lived near Detroit.  I've been getting that look my whole life.  Now there are some who love North Mpls.  Just like in any urban dwelling there are friends and neighbors who love to create an urban/hipster/artist/liberal/earth conscious environment in the city. We would fall into that category.  But eventually, every person who lives in an urban setting, and one that is known for its long history of crime and abuse, needs to ask,

How long can I live here and still be safe?

As I sit here and write at 2pm in the afternoon, a dear friend of ours is fixing our back door because our home was broken into for the fifth time.  And yes, we do have a security system.  We got that after our house was cleaned out 10 years ago at Christmas and vandalized to a disturbing degree.  With the system in place, we have had four more assaults. (And this is just the personal attacks, whereas our neighborhood  is a place of high activity for random shootings, murders, robberies and rape.  And by neighborhood, I mean our street and back alley.  It is a normal occurrence for friends at parities of ours to come away with some sort of ghetto hood tale to retell when they leave.)  I hesitate to write this because 1. It makes me feel like the girl in an abusive relationship who doesn't know when to leave because she finds an excuse after every attack to stay.  Or 2. We will have even more people joining the campaign to tell us to leave.  I understand, we should move, but truly, I don't want to hear it.  That isn't what this post is about.  And I don't want you to feel sorry for us.  Everyone has struggles in their life, and currently, our neighborhood is ours.  This isn't a contest to see how scary and sketchy our hood is compared to yours, its just our reality.  Simple.

When we first moved into our home there was a host of friends who lived in the hood.  There was talk about how it was a hard place to live, but everyone had hope that it would it would get better.  Slowly, friends were moving away because the crime was hitting closer and closer to home.  And yet, we have remained.  People have slowly been giving up hope that anything will change in North.  That no matter how many young families move in and improve their home, make a life for themselves, they will eventually get scared off and move away.  The others that stay can't afford to leave and so they hunker down in their homes and don't participate in the improvement of the hood.  That was our neighbors story for 30 years, until the tornado came and claimed their house, forcing them to leave.

Five years ago the Lowry Bridge got shut down for repairs and then eventually was blown up to be replaced by a beautiful bridge that was stronger and sturdier than before.  The Lowry bridge is one of the main veins that runs from North Mpls to NE Mpls.  Before the bridge went down, NE Mpls was considered the crime epicenter of our area.  After the bridge went down, it got locked down and concentrated in North.  Crime has since remained and flourished where we live, whereas, NE has become the "New It" place to be.  It's been interesting to watch the transformation of NE Mpls and how the art scene has exploded there.  Old buildings have turned into art warehouses, co-ops have started, small creative consignments shops have started, coffee shops and local cafe's decorate dozens of corners.  Tourists visit Uptown Mpls, locals who know the inside tract hang out in NE, and many are too afraid to come to North.

You can tell that locals here are excited and anticipating the shift of culture for North.  They are hoping that with the bridge opening, which it did this last fall, that the good things that are happening in NE will make its way into our little area.  The warehouse district is also spreading closer and closer to our area.  We are only two miles from downtown and the warehouse district is the "New It" place to live.  So on the other side of the bridge is the New place to be, and the other side of the Highway is the New place to live.  Old buildings are being resurrected.  Art and co-ops and small business are popping up all over.  New life is being breathed into the areas surrounding us, and we wonder,

Can it infiltrate, or will it just compound and lock the crime into our hood?

Two years ago our neighborhood was hit by a tornado.  Though it sounds terrible, and in the moment it was, it has given a face lift to home after home in our area.  For 18 months what was a war zone has turned into a mosaic of beautiful homes.  In my mind, this can only serve to help North siders feel proud of our little hood.  However, we get nervous to hope.  To hope that things can turn around.  To hope that our little hood in Mpls could be a safe place to be after hoping for more than 10 years.

Last summer was the hardest on our family.  Crime has slowly moved closer and closer to our home.  A few years back a girl was murdered in front of our home on the corner.  Two summers ago, I was trampled down by the S.W.A.T. team breaking down our neighbors door looking for stolen weapons.  Last spring while making breakfast we watched the police throw smoke bombs in the home across the alley from us and bring out 5 hostages.  But last summer, in the middle of the night, gunshots and bullets rang out in our backyard and alley.  It brings on a whole new dimension when your husband dives over your body to protect you from stray bullets.  It's when I truly felt scared for the first time.  Things shifted for me then.

How long can you hold out hope that things will change?  10 years ago things were supposed to be looking better for North Mpls, and yet, to me it just feels like it has gotten worse.  Everywhere I turn in my neighborhood there are bars on the windows, gates on the doors, graffiti on the walls and garbage on the street.  So many homes are boarded up and abandoned.  When I drive my kids to school passing business after business gated to protect themselves, I think, what do my children see?  How do I explain to my children that our home got broken into...again... without inflicting fear in them?  How do I create a safe place for them, when our safe place has been robbed?  When the evidence of vandalism is all over our broken back door?  How do I reassure them that they are OK, when I am not even sure I believe it myself.

Today I realized how often my spirit is ready for battle.  I live in a neighborhood where before I leave the house now, EVERY time I leave the house, I need to brace our backdoor with a 2x4 wood beam.  I need to be on guard to keep my family safe, while at the same time resting in trust that God is bigger than our fear.

I want to hope that things are going to be better where I live.  I want to hope that I could feel safe in my home.  Right now my spirit is uneasy as I look at our open drawers that were rummaged through and my bed that was moved around by men who robbed us.  My personal space was invaded again.  Strangers were looking and tearing through our stuff.  And somehow I become distanced from that because, well, its happened before.

This whole post is jumbled in thoughts.  It is fearful and somewhat hopeful that all the good things happening around us could finally come and be apart of us in our neighborhood instead of always just being slightly out of reach.  We live in this confusing place of protecting ourselves, but trying to let go and trust.  Looking over our shoulders waiting for the next attack, but trying not to let fear dictate everything we do.  And finally raising children who see God's goodness in everything.

Living in the hood felt very personal today, and somehow I had let my guard down.  I want to only see the good things happening around us.  The parkway coming to our street, all the community gardens, the park parties.  But I'm not gonna lie, lately, all I see are the bars on the windows and the drug deals happening in the cars in front of our house.  My heart is heavy with the lack of hope I felt today.

When you start to feel hopeless, you realize how important hope is.  We need to have hope.  We need to be able to believe.  Believe that God is still good.  Believe that people can choose love instead of hate.  Believe that people can change.  Hope that sin and hurt won't overtake a city.

When the kids and I talked about the break in today, we prayed for the young men who broke into our home.  And I guess that is what I am asking from you.  We as a family need your prayers.  Prayers to head God's direction for our lives.  Prayers for my children that we as a family can talk about this, but that they won't live in fear.  Prayers that Paul and I can help our children understand. Prayers that hatred and bitterness would not claim our hearts and home. Prayers that we won't loose hope. But prayers especially for the young men and women, not only in North but all over the world that choose hatred and anger, and retaliation for the hurt they are struggling with.  Hatred breeds hatred.  Those that choose to hurt others are deeply hurt themselves, and need our prayers.

Close friends and family asked me today how I was doing.  They showed concern and I am so thankful for them.  I guess this post is my response.  A jumbled, confusing, scattered response.  But that is how I feel right now.  Jumbled.  Confused.  Scattered.

Update:  Sometimes I forget how far these posts go.  Sometimes I write because I need to process what is happening in our lives, and I forget that there are hundreds of you reading it.  Thank you so much for the outpouring of love that you showed me in the last 12 hours.  Thank you for your prayers, and your kind words.  Thank you to my friend who showed up today at my door to visit with me over coffee.  I love being apart of the Church.  The church that lives in the hearts and soul of the people I am honored to call friends and for those I have never met face to face but pray for us anyway.  I want you to know that God has used you all to encourage me and find strength in my trust in our Lord.

There is so much I love about where we live, and it was never my intent to degrade North Mpls. What I will do is give an honest opinion about the fact that here, in this urban setting, we have the gift of daily surrendering our control to God.  We are taught and challenged to trust.  We don't sit comfortably and safe in our home, but many times I see that as a gift.  Yesterday I just didn't want the gift.  I also want to say that we never moved here to this neighborhood to do "ministry".  We do however believe in living as Christ like examples wherever we are, wherever we live, wherever we work.  So we try to shine brightly here.  And when the time comes and we are able to move, we would like to venture a bit more out into the country.  But even if we still decided to move today, we would remain here until our home sold and all was in order, which means we still live in a tension of fear and trust.

Thank you for being being with us.  For loving us and for walking through life with us.

When there just isn't enough

What do you do when you feel completely and utterly overwhelmed and incapable of actually making it through half a day without everything going to hell in a hand basket?  (And, really, where did that phrase even come from?)

I don't know how to exsist in my own skin when I feel I might burst like I do right now.

I have this amazing husband who I love spending time with.  I love creating a space in our home where he feels warmth and love and encouraged when he gets home.  (notice I did not say clean, I just meant generally happy people he comes home to.)  I long to invest in our marriage where the only thing we want to do in the evening is spend time together, talking about life, dreams and faith.  I never want the spark to leave us.  I want there to be time every day where we can invest in some real way in the foundation of what makes our family.  I also want to be able to support him in his dreams and be on his team for making his dreams work.  I love him and want more time for him.

I also have these incredible, spirited, funny, normal acting out kids that I JUST LOVE TO PIECES!  Good grief, is it possible for a mom to love her kids more than I love mine?  When they came home today from school, we put on an old vinal record and played card games for an hour.  I just kind of want to hang out with them all the time participating in dance parties, reading stories, building snow forts, playing legos, coloring pictures, the list goes on and on.  I want to pour into them spiritually, preparing thier devotions and creating a family structure that is based in God's truth, and his freedom for creating and love.  I want to teach them to lean into God when they need answers so that they know it isn't me or Paul, but He is the one they should seek.  I want to have time to prepare crafts and activities for us to do as a family.  I want time to teach them all sorts of character building qualities that are important for this life.  I want them to have time to play freely, participate in chores, help with the planting and growing and preparing of our food because this is a life skill they need.  I want so much for them it feels overwhelming today as I try to figure out where to put my efforts in my last hour of free time tonight to prepare for them tomorrow.  I love them and want more time for them.

I am blessed to have amazing people in my life.  I mean, really, incredible people where my desire never matches my reality in loving and serving them.  Investing in them.  Knowing them.  Encouraging them and uplifting them.  I want more time to remember all the small and big things going on in their lives.  I want to be the friend they can count on.  The friend they can call in a crisis.  I NEVER want any of these people to think, "She is too busy for me to call".  That would break my heart.  I love them and want more time with them.

I serve on this beautiful board of servant hearted folks that make up the Haiti Mission Project.  I recently made a mistake that will cost one of our members more time and energy than before to help correct my mistake.  My mistake of neglegence.  One of my great fears revealeved.  That I really just am too busy or too lazy to stay focused and committed to this task.  I love Haiti.  I love this ministry.  I am in love with the people we work with.  I am honored to work alongside the other board members.  How do I committ more time or energy to making our dreams and plans happen in this wonderful little country?  I love them and want more time for them.

I believe with my whole heart that God put a gift and desire in my heart for sharing his life giving love with others.  I currently couldn't define exactly that looks like but am in the process of figuring it out.  I know it means writing.  I know it means speaking.  I know I need to do it to feel alive.  But writing my book right now feels crazy.  Planning a small tour seems impossible.  Organizing all the business details to make that happen takes up more time than I want.  So then I should get an assistant and look what it would take to make that happen to free up more personal time, but in the end, paying someone else takes pay away from my family which needs it.  And that all just makes my head hurt.  But I love this and want more time with it.

Then there is my love of reading, cooking, sewing, gardening, working out, sleeping, painting, and writing. I love all these things and want more time with them.

What do you do when you have too much you love and not enough time?  Giving up on any one of these feels kind of wrong.  I know that there are seasons in life and through each season, one love takes the front seat while another the back.  Lately however, they all seem to be screaming "SHOT GUN!".

My head is spinning, and my heart feels like I ate too much at Thanksgiving.  I also know that everyday you survive, you just keep chipping away.  You just try to make a little improvement each day.  You invite God into the process.  You surrender your control and expectations, and let him take the lead.

But today, I felt like my baby spoon was in no way the tool I needed to face the mountain.

And some days are like that.

Some days, you just thank the Good Lord you survived the day. You go to sleep.  Rest your weary body and soul, and tomorrow, see if you can start over.

This is where I am today.  Coming home from a weekend youth retreat where I was incredibly sick for two days, in the game of life, today won.  It kicked my butt to the curb.  But, tomorrow is a  new day.

Thank God for new beginings.

A letter to my husband

My dear sweet husband,

Valentines day is coming.

You wrote a song once about how much you hate this day.  That really Valentines should be a day off from striving to love the ones you love all year long.  Love shouldn't exist within the confines of this one day.

Even though we both agree, it's kind of a silly holiday, we like that it reminds us to appreciate the ones we love.  To celebrate love wherever it exists. And to applaud the courage it takes to stick to love when it moves from a feeling to a commitment.

You, sweet husband of mine, are really good at giving presents.  Thank you for always trying to find something special that's just right for me.

This year though, I thought we could put aside the gift giving.  I don't want the candy or flowers or fancy dinner out, even though we've never done those things.

I don't want you taking your time away from us shopping for something that you heard me say I liked six  months ago because you know it would surprise me that you remembered.

I don't want you worrying about money, and trying to find the right thing that says, "I love you".

I thought I would make this easy for us, and just tell you what I want.

I want you to see me.  I mean really see me.

I want you to see past the sweat pants that I wear all winter long because its too cold to wear anything else.

I want you to see past my fabulous outfit that I put on to go out.

I want you to see past the mom who is in charge of the house and lives under a check list.

I want you to see beauty in  my aging, child bearing body, because those my dear are the trade offs of living a life time with someone and experiencing the joy of our children.

I want you to see beauty in the wrinkles on my face, because you caused most of the laughing ones and some of the worry ones.  Those are the scars you left on me.

I don't want you to say "I think you're wonderful", I want you to tell me WHY you think I'm wonderful.

I don't want you to say "I love you" I want to know WHY you love me.

What is it about me, specifically, that makes me amazing, or cherished, or lovable by you.  What sets me apart from every other woman you encounter.

In telling me WHY, you communicate that you still see me.  You see my goodness and you see my pain.  You see me every day, but do you notice me?  Do you notice the little things?

The other day you came into the kitchen, tugged at my hand to pull me away from the counter where I was prepping food.  You danced with me, right there in the middle of the kitchen.  You knew I was stressed  I had been in there all day, and you brought me relief.  You pulled me out of my crazy place, and put me in your arms.  You said nothing, we danced till the song was over and then you released me.

I felt seen in that moment.

You are good at noticing the little things and always thanking me for all I do.

This letter isn't written because you are bad at seeing me.

I write this letter because it is easy to go unnoticed behind the mom uniform, the chef's hat, the speaker's dress, the servants sweat pants, and the tired eyes.  It is so easy to get lost in those things.

Your words and encouragement seep into all those tired and broken down places.  When you see me, when you really see me, I feel...well, I feel like me.  Bright eyed, lovable, young, in love, appreciated, cared for.  I feel alive because someone sees me.  I am no longer the invisible frame that moves about the house making everything work for everyone else.

So, please, I don't want a present this Valentines day.

What would mean the world to me, is if you took a moment to see me, and told me again, why you picked me.

Your Wife

Stopping the cycle of dysfunction

***Yes, you probably noticed the blog is different.  I tried to update it a little.  There is still some work to be done, but I am happy with the progress.  Maybe in a couple weeks, my blog and website will be in one spot.  Simplify right?***

Back to this blog...

I wasn't blessed to have faced all of my demons before marriage and incidentally before having children.  So it has become their burden as well to walk this life with me, broken, struggling, full of mistakes.  Just as  my husband hasn't laid down his dark spirits either, but I walk with him through dark times.  Our sweet innocent children haven't had major heartbreak yet, so their time will come.  I am not talking about sin, I am talking about the issues in your life that tear at your spirit, the ones you live with and are afraid to let go of.

For years, I  didn't want a daughter. I was scared she would see the demons.  In true honesty, I am more terrified I am slowly revealing the demons to her and handing them to her in a fun package that will weigh her down for the rest of her life.  I am handing them to her in the things I say, in the way I talk about myself, in the way I talk about other people.  Dark things that don't reflect confidence, or security.  Negative self talk, eating issues and one of my greatest downfalls, comparison.  Always seeing the better in others and the worse in myself.

The first day I had both my boys in school I cried a lot because I missed them.  I was a wreck for awhile, seriously, I didn't think it would be that hard.  But on that first day, I had a friend trying to cheer me up, and she said, "You get all this time with Little.  You have this rare three years of just you and her, and you get to teach her what it means to be a girl.  To be a woman."

My fear and insecurity and treacherous negative thoughts enveloped me at the thought of teaching someone else how to be something I don't even know how to be.  I am to be her role model.  Her example of a woman.  A wife.  A mother.  A christian.  A girlfriend.  A girl.

I took this picture the other night when I was up late, and Little woke up sad.  I pulled her out of bed and crawled on the couch to snuggle her and rub her back till she peacefully drifted back to her dreams.  I laid there looking at this face and just praying to God that I wouldn't screw her up so deeply that even He couldn't fix her.  How do I love her enough to hopefully not pass along all my issues, all my faults, all my insecurity about what it means to be a woman?

And then God slowly spoke in my ear..."give them to me.  You can't give them to her, if you've given them to me."
(what I love about this picture is that by just looking at it, you would never know the doubt, fear, control issues and insecurities that lie deep within someone.  Everyone is more than skin deep.)

See in order to teach Little how to love herself for who God created her to be, I need to face my issues with who I am and love me because I too belong to my creator. It's easy for me to say to my children, "I don't love you because you got a golden ticket at school, or you learned how to tie your shoe, or helped wash the dishes."  The same is true for the mistakes they make.  I don't see the good or the bad, I just see my kid, and I love them because they are mine. (I know they are God's and I do pray that my control issues will always allow me to understand that and not hold on too tight.)  But really, its just because they are apart of me, they are mine.  That is why I love them.  And I know that God would express the same opinion  about me if I dare ask that question and open my ears to hear the answer.

I love that face.  I mean I really love that face and the personality that goes with it and the girl that she is.  I am wholeheartedly in love with my daughter.  That night while she laid on my chest, I just wept.  I want the most for her life.  I want her to love without abandon.  I want her to have real confidence, the kind that comes from knowing that no matter what, she belongs to God Almighty and no make up or boy will ever change that.  I don't want her to be a people pleaser, always bending for the approval of others to the sacrifice of herself.

I deeply wish she won't be a perfectionist like me, never pleased with what she creates because it won't ever be good enough.  I don't want her inner dialog to be negative thoughts that tear at her character and value in this world.  I want her to live a life outside of guilt, unlike her mother, who is a struggling recovery addict to guilt.  I want her to feel comfortable in her body and skin without make up and a dress.  That she could love herself just as much in sweats as she would in glitter.

I deeply desire that she would know that her beauty is far more greater and goes much deeper than her skin. She will be told she's beautiful her whole life, because she is, and I am terrified that it will take her a lifetime to realize that it is her heart and character that make up her beauty.  I don't want her to use her beauty to manipulate people like her mother did in High School.  I don't want her to use her beauty to obtain privileges that aren't rightfully hers just because she has big stunning eyes.

I don't want her to think she has to perform for us to gain our acceptance.  That she needs to be funny, outgoing, creative, exciting all the time, but that truly we love her without those things.  That she could be whoever she wants or needs to be and that is all we ask, for her to be true to herself and in tune with the creator who made her.

I desperately want her to realize that I don't want her to be me, but I want her to be her.  I desire for her to forge her own path.  To find out what being a woman looks like for her.  To love and respect who've I become, but look at me and say, "I want to do things different."

Helping her means having to face my own demons.  Helping her means letting go of all my baggage.  Teaching her means forgiving myself.  Guiding her means loving myself.  Respecting myself.  Believing in the woman I have become.  It doesn't mean perfect, it means respect.  Respect for the mistakes I've made and the forgiveness and understanding I've gained.  It means respect for my body and how it ages.  How I talk about myself will speak directly into her self talk of what a woman is.  Oh man, I am one respect away from quoting the song, so I'll stop before my inner Aretha comes out.

So far this girl has her own strong opinions about everything.  Her clothes, the way her animals should go to sleep on her bed, her hair, her toys, her books, her food.  She has nothing short of the strongest will I've ever seen.  I don't want to break that with giving her my issues.  I want to help train her in how to use that.

I want to help her embrace her life.  I want her to always love food, art, music, people, books, God and her family.  I desire for her character to run deep and her faith to be strong, so that when she is faced with trial, she can confidently stand in the grace she has known all her life.  I prayed a lot that night with my daughter tucked in tight with me.  I let go of my fear and insecurity of raising her.  I held on to my other issues, because apparently I'm not done with those yet.  But I don't look at her with fear anymore.  I look at her with hope.  I am hopeful because I know God is capable of healing me and helping her.  I have hope, and in that hope, I can love my daughter with abandon and fearlessness.  I don't know what "a woman" is supposed to look like, but I look like me, and I'm what she's got, so we'll start there.

And the thing I pray over Little every night is, "Let your insides match your outsides sweet girl."  And I believe God answers prayer.

The Food Journal Project

So I confessed much to you yesterday and it feels good to be starting a brand new day.  My rhythm, however, is that I can have much success with my first few days/weeks, and then I falter.

Since I have laid my insecurity and weakness bare to you, I can also tell you that my husband, who is the biggest Texas meat and potato lovin man I have ever met, has started on our diet as of Jan. 1.

Here is a photo of my handsome man and me at Christmas just a couple weeks ago by our tree.

We have had over a year and half of changing our mindset around food.  Always striving to be healthy eaters, it was a whole new idea and hard concept to wrap our head around what gluten/wheat, casein and sugar does to our bodies.  We watched in awed silence as our son came back to us, but even more so, after months of being on the diet, we would watch the transformation happen right before our eyes as his whole personality changed when Big would eat something off his "Stay away from" list.  Big was the reason we started the diet, but we have seen the immense benefit to all of our health by eating the way we do.  All except Paul.  We have spent many hours talking about the changes in me when I adhere to our "joy free" diet.  We both experience how I speak more gently, I have more patience with the kids, I don't seem so down all the time and struggle to be motivated.  I'm not so easily angered and my emotions don't swing so much.  I am not as easily offended, and I find joy in so many more things.  I actually enjoy so much more of my life, and the kids sense it too, and it improves their behavior as well.

I had told Paul once that I would love for him to try being on board with our lifestyle for a few months.  Paul also struggles with many of the same things I do, being lethargic, mood swings, discontentment, depression, anger, sugar cravings, you name it. I was curious to see, since all of our children have issues with food, as do I, would Paul find the same kind of freedom and joy that we have?   I had this dream of wondering to what extent our home could experience peace and joy if we all fueled our body the way it needed.  If our bodies weren't at war with itself, then they would have time to heal themselves and there would be more time for joy and understanding.  I know that this many sound crazy to you, but even after one week of cutting gluten/dairy/sugar our of our diet, I have experienced already a change in my behavior and attitude.  This is not to say that I don't get frustrated, or that Paul and I didn't have a small fight last night.  What I am saying is the way I handle myself, feel about myself and others is completely different.

I say all of that to say this, our eating and food lifestyle over the next month or so will become my blogging project.  Though I am not an expert by any means, many have come to me seeking advice, recipes, tips, information, websites, and resources.  So even though I have always blogged about many different things, and most likely, there will still be a fun and  random post thrown in, my focus for the next month will be sharing with you what I have learned in regards to food and resources.  I will share our menus, recipes, websites, tips and encouragement.  I will be forthcoming and honest about where we are at as a family, and keep you posted on our progress.

Before I move on tomorrow with more specifics, I need to make one thing abundantly clear.  Food is not my salvation, nor the way in which I fulfill living in the fruits of the Spirit.  I deeply believe that God is the one who heals our bodies.  He is the one who gives knowledge and insight and wisdom in how to take care of ourselves.  What I also believe is that he knows our bodies better than we do.  We knows what it takes to fuel it, make it work, but more than just make our bodies exists, he knows how to make us thrive.  Eating an all natural, no processed diet gives us the ability to receive all these gifts.  To live in a way where we are more open to his leading.

I have more thoughts on that later, but I just wanted to give you an insight in what I will be blogging about over the next month.  I am not your expert, but I am your doorway into resources that can help.

Please feel free to ask questions, correct me, or share what you know.  I want this to be a place where people can find good, truthful information about how we take care of our bodies and thrive in our lives.  Please join me this month and be encouraged.  We can all start over.

Confessions of a food addict

I have to say up front that I have an eating dysfunction.  This is different than an eating disorder.  A disorder is a disease that you can't stop yourself.  You need intervention and outside help.  I may see the line, but I never cross it.  I just like to get real close, let it control me for awhile, then step in and reclaim my life.  But I have been on this crazy roller coaster, my whole life and I need to call it like I see it and own it.

I use food as my reward, my consolation prize, to fill time, because I had a bad day, because I can, because I did stuff for everyone else today and eating this cake is for me, because I am sad, I am lonely, I am anxious, I am happy, I am angry, I am depressed.  It has become my habit to eat when the kids are sleeping in the afternoon and at bed time.  I eat when I am alone, and when I am at a party because I will start my diet tomorrow and I never get to eat this kind of fun food.  I eat because I am in front of the TV and because I worked out, now I can have a treat.  I eat to reward myself and to punish myself.  I keep eating once I have fallen of the band wagon, because well, I am already off the band wagon.  Sometimes I eat till I hurt because then maybe I'll stop, because I can't stop on my own.  I will eat the whole box of cookies because you can't leave any in there, because then I'll just eat them tomorrow and I am starting a new diet tomorrow, so I'll eat them all today.  I'll eat after dieting for 4 day's because I DIETED FOR FOUR DAYS!

Food has become my response to everything.  It is my idol.  It is what I think about all the time.  Trying to avoid it or overcome it or resist it.

When I say this, I can already hear the comments, "It's that way for everyone.  You aren't the only one.  So many people struggle with the same thing.  It's normal."  Even if all those things are true, I don't want that to be my normal!  First of all, having idols is against God's design for our lives.  It's actually the first of the big 10, "Have no other God's before me."

I say this to you because over the last year and half, as my family has radically changed their diet, I told you that I was committed to our healthy eating lifestyle.  I made the change because I believe in supporting our children.  I have also come to realize much about the food we consume, and have come to understand that this is truly the way we were intended to fuel our bodies.  We really shouldn't be eating any other way.  I didn't want my children to feel alone, and so I made the change.  Things went really well for the first few months, and then I started to struggle.

Because I am a normal human being with struggles and emotional baggage and I'm not perfect.  I can't  tell you how many diets, or new eating plans I have lived through.  The hard thing with this was it was supposed to be a forever change.  Then life happened and my coping mechanism is to eat donuts from the store when I  go grocery shopping.  My poor eating habits have years and years of deep rooted patterns.  I can't just erase them because I want to.

One thing I have realized is that once you cheat, the promise is broken and it becomes insanely easy to cheat again.  Then add to that, friends and family, all meaning well, saying "well, you can have the Lasagna  it's just your kids that can't really eat it.  Well, you can eat this cake, this cheese, this, fill in the blank,"  It's all the encouragement a food addict needs to fall or stay off the band wagon.

And so it has been a long year and half.  It has been far from perfect and has had many ups and downs.  It has had its success' and it's tragic failures.  I will go a month or two at a time and then hit my emotional wall and fall.  My biggest struggle has been feeling like a fake, a liar and a cheater.  I have felt this way with my children and also with you, our support system, because I haven't been totally, truly honest.  I am sorry for that.  I am sorry for deceiving you and keeping my struggle from you.

You may think this post is unnecessary, but I have voluntarily invited you into our lives and I have intentionally led you to believe one thing, while living a different way.  I am telling you now because I want to be done with the lie, the lie of omission.  I want to invite you into my struggle to pray for me and encourage me.

I am also inviting you into this because now that I have exposed myself, I am asking for help.  I don't want to cheat anymore.  I want you to offer me things I shouldn't eat, but I need you not to.  I desire with my whole heart to eat this way for good, from this point on.  I wish I could explain to you the difference I see in myself when I eat a vegetarian, all natural diet.  My ability to love my family, my patience level, my understanding increases and my anger, depression and frustration and lethargic behavior greatly decreases.  It feels like by just changing my diet, I possess the potential to be the person I dream I can be.  I want the best version of myself for me, my husband and my family.  I deeply, desperately want this to be a lifestyle change and never go back.

Another little tid bit for you is that Paul has committed to eating according to the diet till April 15.  This is a whole family affair now and we need you.  We are five days in and having wonderful success.  Yeah, yeah, I know, it's only five days, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Thank you for listening.  Thank you for walking with us.  Thank you for believing in us.  Thank you for praying for us.  We need you.

Update:  I thought I should let you all know that my issue with food can't just be solved by changing my diet with will power.  I believe in the Spirit of God being able to transform my heart and my habits.  A friend of mine and I are starting a wonderful God centered food redemption program called, "Thin Within".  This is a program that focuses on God being the center of your life and when tempted with food you turn to God for help and strength and wisdom.  This is truly the only way to find freedom.

Believing the lie part 2

So everything I wrote yesterday in this blog was true.  But there was more to say.  There is more to say because sometimes when we don't speak up, speak out, say what we need to say, or essentially live our lives, there could be other things at work as well.

We can remain silent in words and actions, living quietly hoping that no one sees us because are afraid to be ourselves.  When we allow others to control our decisions, we have handed them power over our lives.  I don't speak up because I believe you think my thoughts are simple, silly and non important.  I choose not to act because I have given you the power to silence me.  You have become my authority, my master, dictating what I say, when I say it, and how I act or behave.

As a Christian I believe I serve one master.  Well, let's be honest, scripture speaks to only being able to serve one master, as a normal human being, I have not perfected this.  My goal is to try and rededicate myself every day to the one opinion that matters, God's.

After I wrote yesterday's blog, I heard from a friend who confessed to also struggling with these same thoughts.  She heard God speak to her, "just write".  It reminded me of the first time I spoke publicly as a professional.  It was in front of 800 junior high students and I was terrified!  Terrified enough to cry continuously, confess constantly at my lack of being ready, and fear that I had made a huge mistake.  I readied myself that day repeating this mantra  "If one child hears how deeply they are loved by God, then that is why I came.  Just one child."

And then it was as clear as if God was standing right next to me.  I heard him say, "I don't care if all 800 of these students walk away not getting anything.  I brought these 800 students here for you.  I wanted you to trust me.  I wanted you to follow me, and start this journey.  I brought them here so you would say yes to me and trust me to walk you through this."

We so easily forget that we only have one small piece of the puzzle.  That God in his infinite wisdom and direction is doing many things in our lives and in the world all at the same time.  We are but one small piece of the masterpiece.  But our piece is important and our voice is needed.  Our voice and our life is needed because God does work that we do not see when we live our lives trusting him.  I may think what I do is small compared to so many others working to fight AIDS, Hunger, Poverty.  I get down on myself and believe the lie and stay quiet.  Then Satan wins, and I don't play my part.  We aren't supposed to know the effects of each of our actions, we are just supposed to live and trust God to work.  When we stay silent we harden our hearts to the kind of love and trust and faith that God has so sacrificially given to us.  We say no to the greatest gift ever given.

The last thing that really struck me as I was thinking about that post, was how easy it is to live quietly.  I think many people, including myself, are scared to live big lives.  Lives that are full of real strong opinions, or lives that take risks and chances.  Lives that pursue dreams or stand up for what we believe in.  It is terrifying to put yourself out there.  When you put yourself, your thoughts, your opinions, your beliefs, your heart, your soul out there, you leave yourself open for judgement.  Now everyone can really see you, who you are, what you are about. They will see all of you, not just the clean version of yourself you portray to everyone.  Living a big life doesn't mean starting the next big thing that will change the world, it simply means being the truest version of yourself you can be.  It means trusting your voice.  Loving yourself.  Living for God.  That is living a big life, and that my friends can be terrifying.

So there isn't just one lie to believe to keep you chained down, your heart hidden away, dreams tucked in your childhood treasure box.   There are many lies, many fears to fight through to have confidence in your voice, your life, your faith, your heart.

Let's fight the lies my friends.  Let's slay the dragon and move on.  I don't know about you, but I need more alive people in my life, and I can wait for someone else to start, but that would just be another lie.

It starts with you.
It starts with me.

You have a voice.
I have a voice.

Believing the lie

I have kept to myself quite a bit these last few weeks.  I know some of the reasons, which I will write about tomorrow in a new series of blogs for January titled, "The Food Journal".

One reason is that when it comes time to pull out my computer and work, I would rather sit on the couch with Paul and hang out, or sew, or clean, or cook, or read, or sleep.  Lately I am not that interested in being on the computer, I would rather just do life.

Another reason, which is most likely the biggest reason, is I have let myself live in the lie that my voice doesn't really matter.  We live in a time when everyone shares every thought they have.  There are more blogs and articles out there on the internet than there are stars in the sky.  Seriously?!  Who needs my two cents about my family, our life, food issues, crafts, sewing, traveling.  I am an expert in none of these things so why tell you how we wrapped our presents this year, or what we had for dinner.  I can point you to other great blogs already doing and communicating those things already.

When it comes right down to it, the statement in my head is "Who really cares? Why would I write that?  No one cares.  Everyone is already saying all those things, you don't need to say it too. We as a family or me as a speaker don't do things the best way, we just do it our way."  Even writing this makes me anxious because I think its silly.

And so I don't write.  I keep my thoughts to myself.  I get down on myself and belittle my voice.  This angers me the most because it is part of the reason I travel the country speaking to youth and young adults.  I believe that every voice matters.  I deeply believe that when we share our thoughts and hearts and ideas, amazing things happen.  You have no idea what might inspire someone else.  And so I never want to hear students say they don't matter, or that their life isn't that important.

I won't accept those words from others, but its so easy to accept them for myself.  This here in lies the problem.  So often we can believe in others more than ourselves.  I can believe that God's grace is for others, but not for me.  I can believe that others can loose weight, but not me.  I believe that others can be forgiven, but not me.  I believe others can make a difference, but not me.

I wonder if it's because when we believe in ourselves the way God see us, we know our lives would be different.  We would be inspired, and moved to make a difference.  Our lives would be more intentional and we would be held accountable to the things we believe.  We would actually believe in ourselves and the things we say and do would matter.

Most of the time it is just easier to believe the lie.  When we believe the lie that we don't really matter, we are off the hook.  We aren't challenged, we aren't dedicated to a more fulfilling existence.  We can just get by, because we don't see that others see us.

So today I try to stop believing the lie.  I believe that when we share our lives with people, our souls feel connected and great things happen.  This blog has revealed to me a deeply rooted issue I wasn't ready to face, my own self value.

And so my road to reclaim my value and believe in God's stamp on my life begins again today.  My voice and my life matter, and so does yours.  Don't believe the lie.

Have a blessed and wonderful day.

A moment to let go

I went out to the bonfire tonight to burn some of the many heavy duty card board boxes we have.  I had a lot to do inside the house, but I could tell, my heart was calling me to spend a little time outside, in the quiet, pondering over a roaring fire before the weather turns prematurely cold.

Sometimes when I am faced with time alone and I want to pray, I never know where to start.  When things have been hard and my heart feels full of doubt and questions and angst, I just don't know where to start.  What part of the mess do I start unpacking?

When I sat down with a cool breeze on my back and started warming my hands, this is how my prayer went;

I feel so lost.
I feel so overwhelmed.
God I don't know what to say.  I don't know where to start.
I don't know how to be a speaker and a mom at the same.  Giving 100% to my husband, my kids, my passion for sharing the gospel as a speaker.
I don't know how to give my kids three nutritious home cooked meals and not spend all day in the kitchen.
I don't know how to have differing opnions in raising our kids with my husband and still feel like we are on the same team.
I don't know how to live in North Mpls and not raise my kids to live in fear when I live in fear myself.
I don't know to live on a budget.
I don't know how to let go of the little things, but realize in the little things, special happens.
I don't know how to try to be healthy in our lives and not let organization take over and rule me.
I don't know how to pursue my dreams and stay content with where I am.
I don't know how to take breaks and feel like its OK.
I don't know how to have a relationship with you Lord and not still be a little afraid of what you will have me do.
Most of the time I feel like I don't know anything.

I just don't know.

And as I sat there, feeling sad at my true confessions and wishing it wasn't my struggle, a quiet peace started to make its way into my heart, and that's when I heard,

"If you had all the answers and knew how to do all those things, then you wouldn't need me."


"If you had all the answers and knew how to do all those things, then you wouldn't need me."

And again I was reminded that it isn't about doing it right.  That there isn't a perfect way to do any of these things.  That part of walking through life with Christ at your side, means struggling through these things, but inviting God into this conversation and seeking his guidance and counsel.  Independence is a sin that cuts God out and takes his place.  It felt wonderful and hard to confess that, but so peaceful to live in the absence of that struggle.

I wanted to share my moment with you in case you needed this today too.

I have to believe we all have moments like this every now and again.

A dream come true

It may sound silly to you, but it has been a dream of mine for quite some time to know how to can my own food.  When Paul met me I was idyllic and dreamy of growing my own food, cooking and sewing and painting and creating.  I couldn't cook anything but Mac and Cheese and didn't know how to sew a button.   It was bad and my dreams felt pretty out of reach.  I didn't even know where to begin.  Let's just say, Paul has eaten his share of throw away meals in the last 10 years.

There has been something in me for a long time that struggles with my complete dependence on everyone else for my survival.  I would think to myself, "If anything happened that took away grocery stores, communication, anything, I really wouldn't know how to take care of myself."  I saw strong survival qualities getting lost on our generations.  I saw people who work, but don't know how to live or take care of themselves.  It really bothers me.  We make money, but don't know how to take care of ourselves.

Fast forward eight years, and now looking at my family's need for healthy food, locally grown and organic, it just makes sense.  The time felt right.  I tried my hand at a vegetable garden a few years ago.  We ended up with a few cucumbers and some peppers.  Not that great.  I think I grew more weeds than food.  Last year, I increased my garden double in size,  I had Paul cut down three trees in our backyard for more sun exposure,I built my own fence and had the neighborhood kids come over and help me plant.  I went all out and was so excited for my garden. 

Then a tornado dropped a garage on my garden and I was left with nothing.  For all that happened and was destroyed, I was saddest for my garden.  Heh, I would randomly say to Paul when we were fallling asleep last summer, "I miss my garden".  He would just laugh at me.  It was pathetic.

Well, I was ready this year.  We re dug our plot and planted away.  I was diligent in my weeding and watering and was so impressed with the food coming out of our garden, and the fresh food we were eating, but we couldn't keep up, and the point was to preserve the food for winter. 

Well, I don't know how to do that.  Remember, it was my dream, not my reality.

Thank you dear Heather for offering your mom's hobby farm and her time to help me out!  Spending time with my mother in law in Texas showed me how much knowledge can come from sharing a kitchen with someone.  Yes, you can follow a recipe and search the Internet for answers to your questions, but nothing beats having a teacher/mentor in the kitchen with you.  That's what I wanted for all my questions about food, and how to can it, how to preserve it, what other options I have.  I wanted to share the kitchen with someone who has spent years figuring it out.  Well, Heather's mom saved the day!

Two weekends ago, my sweet friend Heather and I drove my three kids, a huge box of food from our garden and our adventurous spirits 45min north of the cities to her mom's house where we had a blast for two days.

We showed up on a Friday afternoon and the kids went right out to play and run around the acreage.  Probably the best feeling ever to just let your kids run around outside for hours knowing they won't get taken or lost or learn to curse.

Isn't it just perfect?  I couldn't resist taking this photo.  It feels safe and warm and like home.

Here is Big and Little playing catch with Emit, my friends dog.  And yes, Little is acting like a princess.  While they were playing catch, and middle was digging in the sandbox, Heather's mom and I were pealing and boiling two HUGE pots of tomatoes for Spaghetti sauce.  I went to work right away in that woman's kitchen which was exactly what I wanted.  We had big plans for all we were going to can and cook in two days.

Here is her chicken coup where she houses over 20 chickens.  And she was so kind to send us home with two dozens fresh eggs.  BEST GIFT EVER!

With all the fresh food we were preparing and eating, the kids got to feed the chickens all the time and loved it.  I'm not gonna lie, every meal felt like we went to the garden and picked our meal.  We ate fresh from the garden beans, corn, squash, zucchini  for bread, eggs, tomatoes, and watermelon.  The chickens loved that we were there.

After peeling and coring all the apples and piling them in the huge pot and doing the same with the tomatoes,  we took the kids to the lake while food cooked.  It was hot and the perfect time to cool off.  The kids spent their time digging for great rocks and shells and playing with all the dogs that showed up.  Great fun.

After a yummy supper, we enjoyed fresh warm apple sauce around a fire.  We burned pine cones, sticks and needles.  We also got to pick fresh apples off the three trees they have on the farm and enjoy those around the fire.

A beautiful photo of the front of the vegetable garden.

While in the kitchen working on grading zucchini to freeze, Little enjoyed the tire swing.

When it started to rain, Big improvised and drove around inside the barn.  I could have left him there and he never would have missed me.

Little got to be pushed around in a vintage stroller.  Yes her shoes don't match, that is the price you pay for empowering your children to dress themselves.  But she is wearing my pants from when I was 2.  She's so old school.


My friend Heather took this photo of my dream coming true.  She said she had to capture the moment since I had been wanting and waiting to can for so long.  In the end I love that she take the picture.  It may sound silly, but dreams come in all sizes and they take on different shapes and colors.  This was a dream of mine, and I love that it came true.  Heather's mom gave me her weekend, her time, her kitchen and let me ask dozens of questions, let me kids run around her home, and she taught me to can my food.  She was this huge gift in the process of giving us a healthier, happier, self sufficient life.  She gave me a tool to help love myself and my family.  A way to protect and preserve heritage traits and talents.  I am so grateful to her and Heather for helping make a dream come true.  It's a big deal to make room for dreams, whether big or small.  It was such a fun weekend, full of joy, laughs, learning and conversation.


Look what we did! 9 cans of spaghetti sauce, 5 cans of apple juice, 5 cans of apple sauce, and 12 bags of frozen zucchini for breads and soups.

At the last minute, we sent the kids out in the rain to collect as much Basil as they could.  Heather's mom had already collected as much as she wanted so the rest would just go to waste.  All the green in front of the kids is basil, and they picked a ton for me.  We made four big jars of pesto before we left Saturday night.  No matter how organic, locally grown pesto is, it will always include cheese.  We haven't had pesto in 18 months, but now.... Now we can have pesto twice a month if we want!  We are so excited if you can't tell.  Pesto noodles, pesto pizza, marinated pesto chicken, and homemade pesto gnocchi.

I had a small dream come true.  My kids got out of the hood for the weekend.  We had good, unscheduled fun with animals, plants, water and toys.

Thank you Lord for refreshing our weary souls and providing ways for dreams to come true.

A new chapter

Thursday marked the day where two of my kids are in school all day.  It is just me and Little at home now.

Its odd to be in a moment that you know you will remember for the rest of your life and have an authentic feeling about it.

You have the voices of parents who have gone before you and what they experienced, and you have thoughts of feelings that you think you should be experiencing.  So many thoughts.  So many feelings.

I have a 7yr old. 

I have two children in school now.

I have been surrounded by children and chaos for 7 years.  Before that I was working full time.  Before that, I was in college.

I have so many plans and ideas for my time, and yet I feel paralyzed and don't know where to start.  This is what I have been asking for for years, more time.

I cried all day.  I would be standing in my basement, cleaning and organizing, (I started with the big project first) and I just felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness, and fear, and loneliness, and like part of my body was missing, and excitement, and timidity, and anxiousness, and joy, and peace, and fear, and....


That was my word all day.


I had a dear friend call me, and I was verbally onslaughtering her and I finally said, "I just feel weird.  I don't know how to be alone."  And then I started crying again. (No I haven't forgotten that I have a small child at home, its just that, she is so easy, and going from three kids to one it does feel like you are alone.)

She came right over.  Pulled me from my basement, made iced coffee and we sat on the couch.

Then I started all over in what I was feeling, what I was afraid of, what I was excited for, and my total not knowing where to start in how to live this new life I have.

We went through all the things I was feeling, and she talked me off the edge of each negative one, and pushed me to embrace the good ones.

I know how to be Dani who has three crazy kids that I manage each day and prepping the house and the food, and planning activities.

I know how to be Dani Tietjen the public speaker.

I don't know how to be Dani who has time to pursue an organized healthy life.  A creative life.  Time to daily devote, time to read, time to volunteer, time to paint, time to write, time to sew, time to research, time to work, time to plan great activities for the kids, time to budget our money.

I am excited for my kids.  I am so grateful for their opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese fluently.  I am excited for time with my daughter.

One lesson that my dear friend helped me learn, is that just because my kids are in school, doesn't mean we have to jump on the American band wagon of activities.  I dread that hamster wheel, and I don't want it for my family.  It is really, really difficult to not join activities.  That may sound silly, but here in the cities and at a very cultural forward school, there are so many great activities to get your kids into.  Music, art, sailing, sports, chess, so many!

But that just means more stress on the pocket book, on the schedule, and for our family.  So we only do school, and come home and play and do chores.

I learned other fun things about myself and this new adventure with my friend that day.  But those are other blog posts.  Posts I am hoping to have time to write now!

Even though I still feel weird not having my little people around me, Little and I are going to embrace our first week together at home with fun things planned.

What I realized when writing this is, is that one would think my children were my whole life.  But I have a wonderful speaking career, I have healthy friendships and a very healthy marriage that I invest time in away from my kids.  I have hobbies and workouts that I love to do. 

But when you are used to the constant chatter of your kids, their help when cooking, and they are around to have adventures with on the spur of the moment, you really miss it when its gone.  Yes they fight, and they are loud, and they seem to spill everything and make a career out of making messes, so not having to deal with that each day all day is helpful, but mostly I just miss them.

So, cheers with me to this new stage of life and my children becoming smarter and more worldly than me each and every day.

Boys in thier uniform for the first day of kindergarten and 1st grade.

My little helper dressed herself today.

The beast of Cancer

Hey all,

This post is a little out of the ordinary for this blog, but still very near and dear to my heart.  My cousin Ryan has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  He and his wife and 2 year old son and new baby live in Lansing MI.

This is his story.


He has asked that anyone with a platform that can help him spread what he has learned through countless hours of research should do it.  In no part of my heart or brain can I understand what he and his family are going through.  Constant daily moments that have you facing life and death day after day.  How do you live and appreciate each moment when you live facing death and need to plan for your family to go on without you?  How do you live in a place that is thankful to God for the life you've had, but angry at him that it might end too soon?  How do you live in hope for recovery, but have to live through discouraging progress reports?

I know nothing except that cancer and death and accidents and disease doesn't care who you are.  I also know with all my heart that a limitation we have as humans, is that we see just one moment.  We see one damaging event that happens and we cry out to God and ask why.  We wonder how he can be so heartless as to give someone wonderful, with two small children, a loving wife and passion for life, cancer.  Maybe we wonder why he is so distant that he won't step in and take it away.  Or maybe we wonder why he is so uninvolved in our lives that he doesn't care what happens to us, but just allows us to reap what we have sown in regards to sin.

We have to remember that it is our mistake in trying to be God.  As humans we see but one moment at a time.  God however, sees all things past and present and future.  He knows what was and what will come.  He knows our lives do not stand indepently of one another, but they are all intricately combined.  With each one thing that happens to us, whether good or bad, it has a continual effect on everyone around us.  God is never just doing one thing at a time with one person at a time.  He is always doing hundreds and thousands of things all at once, weaving and designing in our lives.  There is hope and despair in the same moment.  There is death and life, healing and breaking, good and bad, right and wrong, broken and whole, hard and easy.  God does many things in the moments  of our lives for us, but also for others.  My life is not about me.  My life is apart of the community of life, of humans, together on this one planet.  I may not understand why this very terrible thing has happened to Ryan.  We may never know, but we do know that God is not done doing what he's doing or can do in this moment.

Above was a link to Ryan's website where he shares his story.  He posts often with updates about his progress.  He speaks beautifully with encouragement for us all to make the most of our moments and our relationships.  I deeply encourage you to look around his website and read old posts, you will be so inspired by Ryan.

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with cancer, I urge you to read this post. 


Information is key to recovery, and a plan for your future.

Thank you for letting me share this story with you.  If you feel moved by this, I encourage you to share his website and more specifically the information on research with those you know.  You never know who you might reach.

Thank you Ryan.  I love you.

Celebrating LIfe!

Yesterday was my birthday.  I love my birthday.  This year I am 33, the Jesus year.  I don't really know what that means, but people keep saying it to me.  Does that mean it will be my year of greatest trimuph or greatest heartbreak?  Only God knows.  I just pray I will handle my year, my circumstances and my troubles and joys with grace and eyes set on Christ.

Yesterday was my Birthday.  My mom always made sure that we felt very special on our Birthday.  It was our day and our day alone.  What I realize more and more is how I want to celebrate other people on my birthday.  To be surrounded by the people who love you, put up with you, listen to you, walk through life with you.  Hold you up when you fall miserably, pray with you when you are broken, cheer you on when you are inspired, encourage you when you are doing well.  My community gets celebrated today because they love me, invest in me, and make me who I am.  Yesterday we celebrated God's intimate design of our lives together.  Thank you for being here with me.  Last night we celebrated with cake and a bonfire and cocktails.  All food recipes come from www.thespunkycoconut.com.

Celebrate Life today!

This cake is THE BEST Vanilla cake I have found.  It was moist and fluffly  and amazing.  Totally made my day.

Who doesn't want a side of fresh berries and cream?  The blue and white dish came from Paul's grandma and the yellow dish I snagged at a pop up sale here in the cities.  So happy it lives in my home.
Terrible photo, amazing pie.  Mint coconut freezer pie with chocolate crust.  Recipe can be found at Spunky Coconut blog.

The candles were free from a friend.  The holder was found recently in our garage attic by another friend and the lace table cloth was purchased at an antique store for $3!  You heard me right.  I layered it on another yellow table cloth and the effect was perfect!

Peach and Cherry cocktails served in mason jars in an antique milk carries that I snagged at a shop with mom years ago.  I love bringing out small pieces that we don't usually use for special occasions like this.

Sangria served out of a large glass container usually reserved for oatmeal.  There wasn't much of this left over by the end of the night.  Perfection.

This beautiful addition was fond for $10 at a thrift store over a year ago and it was its first appearance tonight.  I did notice it has a small leak, but I hope to fix that.  I added fresh mint from the garden to freshen the water.  It was delish.

Mmmmm.... A slice of both cakes plus fresh berries.  I decided that since the yellow cake is made out of beans with no sugar and the mint pie is raw, I was in good shape to have two pieces.  So good.

I found old Terra Cotta pots in my garage, filled them with dirt, added more free candles and topped off with glass hurricanes that my mom and purchased for a $1 a piece at a garage sale.  Such a steal!  I placed them around our plants in our garden for more mood lightening.

Since we were eating and drinking, I brought out our TV trays and drapped them in fun scarves or fabric I had around the house.  I made small bouquets of mint in juice glasses for a table topper and lit a few candles.  The draped tables added to the effect of my garden party.  So did these ladies dresses.  They fit right in and made it perfect.

I made sure to have a wine table stocked with glasses.  Cocktails were popular, but we all ended our evening with a wonderful bottle of red.

For some reason, I love having wooden chairs around a campfire.  These were salvaged from a heap out back of a house that was severely damaged after the tornado.  To far gone to be kitchen chairs, but perfect for outside.  I love free chairs.

We had twinkle lights, a bonfire, amazing food, even better drinks, and wonderful laughs and memories shared.  This birthday truly was a blessing.  Even though we live in the hood, and the neighborhood noises reminded us of that, it did feel like a set a part garden party.

Candida and me

I apologize now for all of my random thoughts from my previous post.  Like I said, I have a lot in my head, and a lot on my plate and sometimes it comes out all jumbled and I forget to complete full thoughts or give you a better understanding of what I'm doing in this diet, or what's going on.

A short while back, maybe a couple months ago, I went to see Dawn at New Dawn Health, the woman we go and see for Big.  This was kind of my "spa day".  For months I had changed my diet at first for my son and then to be healthier, but I was curious.  What was going on inside my body?  So when I had the chance to do something just for me, I went to go see Dawn and get tested.  I have struggled with headaches and lots of random stomach pains, so I knew there was something going on.

Now I understand that to some, seeing a naturalist is a bit out there on the crazy scale and maybe you have lost respect for me.  But really, if I was living my life to please you, it would look different and I wouldn't be happy.  I believe that all people are made up of blood, bones and muscle and energy. (And your soul and spirit and finger nails and what not) I believe that you can find out what's going on inside your body by looking at and testing the blood, urine and energy of a human.  Yes even your energy.  Every living thing has energy.  Ever walk into a room and feel immediately the tension that comes from two people, or the chemistry?  Remember when you were that person who had tension or chemistry with someone else?  It's all apart of our energy.  You might call it a vibe.

Well when Paul and I got Big tested and we heard the results, we were not immediately convinced.  In fact, we weren't convinced at all.  But we had no other choice.  There were no other options on the table at that time and continuing to live as we were was most definitely NOT an option.  So we changed the diet in hopes to see a difference.  We didn't start as believers, but we were willing to try to see if something would change.  We wanted to be proved wrong.  At some point in your life you are faced with a choice and when you choose, you have to jump and see what happens.  So we jumped on board with the diet waiting to see what would happen.

It was so amazing to see what changing a diet did for our son.

So, back to Candida.  I was told when I went to see Dawn that there was a strong vein of Candida in my system.  Not really knowing at all what that means, I saw my high chemical levels, and told her I was interested in detoxing.  So about two months ago, I did a two week detox.  It was a version of the Candida diet and lots of pills to pull the chemicals and Candida out.

I stuck to my diet for 1 week and 6 1/2 days.  The last day of the diet/detox was a really fun wonderful photo shoot where Paul and I got to be a bride and groom.  If that sounds fun, they also had cake.  A big beautiful wonderful delicious looking cake.  My emotional laps is always this, "I've been so good for two weeks and the diet is over in a couple hours anyway.  This is award winning cake!  It would be OK to eat a piece.  A couple hours won't make a difference."  I have a tendency to reward my good behavior with food.  And so I did.

The thing with Candida is that if it isn't completely killed off, it comes back with a vengeance.  The yeast does this because for the last couple weeks I was starving it.  Well, my system only registered that it needed more sugar.  The other thing with Candida is that you can't just enjoy one carb/starch/sugar item.  You CRAVE, you NEED, you HAVE to have more.  So I couldn't stop at one piece of cake, I had four.  Yeah you heard me right.  And thus started my downfall and spiral into a highly toxic diet again.

So I have been doing some reading and lots of research and now have a much deeper, well rounded understanding of Candida and what it takes to get rid of it. (much like I was eating Cashews and carrots and mushrooms on the previous detox and those items aren't allowed.  To be honest, nothing but veggies are allowed the first week.  whew.)  And its not a two week diet, this is looking more like a couple months of hard discipline ahead of me.

People want to know if I've gotten officially tested and the answer is no, if you mean. do I have a blood test by an official doctor.  However, I can see signs and symptoms and I do believe Dawn.  I also am highly addicted to sugar and carbs.

So, the reason I brought up Big before is I am starting this new diet to see if it works.  I am fascinated to know if I can live life without sugar cravings.  I want to know if when I have a cookie, I'm not obsessing about how to get another one or feeling guilty that I had the first one.  I want to know if I can say no to sugar with confidence and not regret.  I would love to know if I can survive nap time without a carb/sugar snack.  I want to know if its possible to not plan grocery shopping runs around my cravings/need for chocolate.  Cause if I plan it right, the kids won't be with me and I can buy whatever treat I want.  I don't want to live like that anymore.

I also want to see if its possible to live without all these crutches.  I want to be free from all those things and more.  I want to see what happens to my body if I eat carb/sugar free for a couple months.  (even on our gluten/dairy/sugar/soy/port/potato you can still have sweets and carbs.)  I am so curious to see what happens to my skin, to my attitude, to my anger, to my motivation, to...frankly... all of it.

I have often wondered at highly disciplined people in regards to food.  I feel like they would be unhappy resisting temptation all the time.  But most of the time they look really happy and satisfied.  I want to know if that is real and if it can be real for me.  I have never fully lived life without wanting, craving, needing highly sugary food.  I can only survive for a short time and then I cave.

I am curious.

Does this work?  Can I be free?  And when I mean free, can I enjoy a treat in a couple months and leave it at that.  How much mental space can I free up by not thinking about food all the time?  Can you live life apart from sugar?

I don't know.  But as far as I can tell, this detox and diet are my best chance at finding out.  So I am embarking on this journey.

For the last week I have starved off fruit, coffee, alcohol, all carbs and all sugar even natural.  If I'm not making it, I'm not eating it.  Tomorrow I start the detox drinks and the diet gets even more intense for about nine days and then eases back to where I am now for a couple months.

Whew.  I know it will be hard, but if I take the next couple months and compare it to the rest of my life.  It kind of feels worth it.  I know its worth it.

stop what you are doing

Today I received some very difficult information about someone I love.  Information that is sad, no, not sad, more than sad, devastating.  Life altering.  Heartbreaking.  News that challenges your faith.  News that makes or breaks you.   This someone isn't close to my physically or even emotionally if we are talking about how often we speak or see each other, but someone I love all the same.  Someone who has shared life with me.  Someone for whom even though life gets busy, I still love.

Someone who's life is at stake.


I just spoke at a Prayer Shawl appreciation luncheon and the woman who spoke after me lost her son in a terrible, horrific accident.  When we were speaking together after the event, the thing that sticks out the most to me is when she said, "God may be good through it all, but at least you're all still together.  You are still together."  She was referring to my family and that my children are still living.  That my husband is still living.

Every day we wake up and our family or friends are still with us, it reiterates this false sense of security.  It confirms what we knew to be true the day before, we are still all here.

But the truth and reality is that we won't be.

We won't always be here.

Our spouses will not always be here.

Our parents will not always be here.

Our children will not always be here.

Our dear friends who become family will not always be here.


Sickness is a part of life.  Accidents are a part of life.  Handicaps are a part of life.  Death is a part of life.

I have a lot on my list.  Things to do, life to make happen, projects to accomplish.

But today...today I just sat with my kids.

My heart is full of sadness, and I cry at really random times.

But if learning about the heartbreak of one family can teach us even a very small thing for our own life, it is this.

Stop what you are doing.

Stop what you are doing and tell those that you love that you love them.

Hug them, embrace them, kiss on them, and spend time with them.

Spend time with them.

You never know when the time will run out.

We've all heard it before and it sounds so cliche' but really, when you are at a loss for words and don't know what to do with heart break, they are the words that remind you of what is important.

Go ahead, hug someone and spend time with the people you love in your life.

And while you are embracing those that you love, please pray for the families that are facing life and death decisions.  Pray that faith is renewed and strengthened and that they see God.  Pray deeply that in the face of heartache, they can see God.

A fallen time

So admitting this means I have to admit defeat.  It means that I have to confess to not being stronger than I think I am.  Confessing this means I am human.  In being human, I fall, I make mistakes, I look at what I do and feel ashamed, and then just like any fallen person, I have to choose.  Do better, or continue in my sulking and sinning.

This weekend I broke the diet and broke it hard.  Sorry to all of you out there who had better faith in me.  I realize why I did it now, and I have noticed a books worth of repercussions.

This weekend we had strong weather advisory.  There was a strong tornado path that was coming and going from Friday - Sunday.  The thing is, Paul was gone till Sunday at a gig.  Chad our renter was gone most of the weekend at a wedding, and Jeromy, our saving grace last time was with Paul at the gig.  So all my people were out.  It was just me and the kids.  What I realized as I watched my son grow more and more anxious at the wind, that I too was very anxious.  I always masked my nerves by associating them with the kiddos.  What I needed to admit myself was that the tornado left a long impression on me as well.

The thing about me and stress is that we have a complicated relationship.  When I feel stressed or overwhelmed, I eat.  That is my M.O.  I eat.  But to make sure that no one can see that flaw in my D.N.A. I secretly eat.  If no one sees you, than it doesn't happen right?   For some reason I suppose my ability to eat whatever I wanted made me feel like I could control one thing in my life.  Which is kind of ridiculous if you think about it, since it really means that the cravings actually have control over you.

I couldn't believe my lack of control.  I couldn't believe how easily I fell.  The wind and the storms made me nervous.  The fact that my security team wasn't here totally unnerved me.  I wasn't sure what I would do without those three men here, and it would just be me and the kids if something happened.  And so I ate to relieve the stress. (And when I mean eat, I mean ice cream, cookies, hamburgers, etc. When I binge, I do it all out.)

This is what eating terribly for a weekend revealed to me:

1. It is almost impossible to eat healthy when you are eating processed sugary foods.  Who the heck wants salad and asparagus when you can eat a burger and fries and it tastes SO good?  There is no room for eating healthy when you are graving grease and sugar.

2. I was having these flash backs to my previous life when I would do is obsess over food.  I understand that I am always thinking or buying or preparing food, but I don't obsess over it.  I don't crave it.  I don't feel guilt over it.  I don't calculate it.  On our allergen free diet, I enjoy food.  I eat a wide range of food.  I always feel satisfied, but never over indulged.  I never feel guilty.  I have freedom from the pains of food, from the dysfunction of food.  But binging this past weekend, it threw me right back to all those unhealthy places.  I would eat cereal and then I couldn't get enough.  After I ate icecream I just kept thinking, when could I get my hands on another treat?  I felt like I walked right back into prison.  My mind and body wasn't free from cravings or addiction to sugar anymore.  I let it own me.  I couldn't say no to processed sugary food.  And my body felt gross.  I felt so gross, bloated, heavy, guilty, all of it.  Eating process food only made me want more of the processed food and none of the healthy food.

3. I couldn't believe my emotional response to food.  I have often talked about how Big's response to food has been all emotional and behavioral.  It reshaped my understanding of food's role in our life. Now, I was watching myself firsthand and paying very close attention to my behavior and emotional response.  It floored me.  Eating unhealthy processed food, along with gluten/dairy/sugar/soy I became more on edge than I usually am with my kids.  Where I was able to easily get out of bed before and embrace my day, I had to drag myself out of bed.  I didn't have any energy.  I was lethargic, slow, empty, and kind of depressed.  My energy zapped, my taste for fatty food the only thing in my mind.  I was sitting and watching TV at night and not doing anything.  I was ready terrible fiction and it was consuming my time.  I was getting swallowed by own lethargic self.  I had no motivation.  I didn't care about much.  I was cranky and angry with the kids.  I was more my old self than I have been in over a year.  I couldn't believe how much eating my old way effected me.  Effected my behavior.  Effected my emotions.

4. When I am eating healthy I have the capability to choose.  Even in a quick moment, I know I have a choice in my behavior.  This is what I keep explaining about Big, so I don't know why I was so surprised to see it in myself.  I would pray and pray for the patience to deal with my kids.  To help them, to parent them, to train them and guide them.  God has shown me much in what it means to be a healthy parent.  It was astounding to me though to realize how much food effected my mood.  Eating a ton of processed food took away my ability to choose.  I would INSTANTLY react.  There was no second for a quick choice.  My emotions were directed by the sugar and fat I was putting in my body.  It was almost an out of body experience.  I watched myself loose control.  Get frustrated easy.  Go right to directing behavior instead of encouraging character in my kids.  When I live on our new diet, I have been amazed at how God freed me from instant reaction.  I have this capability to choose in a second how I want to respond.  I am not as stressed out or filled with anxiety.

5. I realize that many people see our life and think it is overwhelming.  They come to think we live in this food prison not getting to enjoy all the things they get to enjoy.  Not getting the convenience of processed food.  But I have to say.  When you see our life and it looks like there are bars in the way, I think you are looking from the inside out, not the other way around.  My life may look high maintenance in regards to food and you may feel sorry for us, but don't.  This past weekend has taught me in spades that I will do the hard work and get the sugar out of my system again because I don't want to live in this space anymore.  I feel like I openly walked into this prison of addiction and guilt and I want out.  I want my brain back.  I want my energy back.  I want my evenings of getting real rest, quality time with my spouse and the attention to work on projects back.  I want my life back.  I want a deeper, richer life that is free from guilt, shame and addiction.  I have had a taste of my old life, and I hated it.

I hate that I fell.  Clearly I have some deep rooted habits that still need to be worked through emotionally and spiritually, but I'm getting back on track.  Wish me luck, detoxing and clearing sugar addiction out of your system is hard work, but like I said, I want my life back.

And selfishly, I want to fit in my pants better again.  Man I forgot how easy it is to gain weight when you eat like crap!

Living between fear and trust

I wasn't sure how to start this blog.  Some of the things I want to share will concern some of our family.  Others may think I am overreacting.  And if I hear one more person tell me that we should move, I may start scratching myself on the arms till I bleed.

We live in North Mpls.  Is it the most dangerous place to live in the Twin Cities?  No, but we sure are close.  We call it the hood, not the ghetto, the hood.

Over the years, all sorts of strange things have happened here, some of them dangerous.  On average we call 911 once maybe twice a week.  More often in the summer.

We live in the city and for the most I love it.  We are close to so many things.  We bike all over, walk to the store and thrive on doing all sorts of artsy fartsy things.  We love the variety and accessibility of food and theater and music and art and parks and trails.  It's wonderful.

We choose to live where we do because we couldn't afford anything else.  We choose to stay because we can't afford to move. Within the first month of moving in, my husband got jumped in the park one block from our house.  It is "our park" according to our kids because we walk there all the time.  We have been broken into a handful of times but no one was ever injured.  We have a two bedroom house where our space is limited, but we love that it forces us to live more simply, although I think it just forces me to be more creative in how I stash our stuff!  We have tried to move once, and then the economy tanked.  Like thousands of others, we ended up being tens of thousands of dollars under our mortgage.  The bridge that linked us to NE got blown up and since then, what was the riskiest place to live in regards to crime, shifted to where we live in North.  NE is now the art hub of the cities, weird right?  Then a tornado hit, demolishing already run down houses.  Where we sit now, we'll never be able to move.  I couldn't believe a houses value could sink quite as far as ours did.


The homes around here are looking great including ours.  A true blessing if you ask me.  Improvements that never would have happened without the force of the tornado.  The bridge opens at the end of June and I am curious to see how things shift again in regards to crime and shootings and deaths where we live.  Our area of Mpls was also chosen out of dozens of cities across the United States to receive a special improvement grant for our side of the Mississippi.  They will be cleaning up the north side of the river, adding trails, parks, businesses and making it a go to spot when traveling to the cities.

We live in this juxtaposition of good and bad, as most people do, it just seems to be kind of extreme.

In the last couple weeks, I have seem what usually is a whole summers worth of police cars.  A whole summers worth in the last couple weeks.

Eight cop cars and an ambulance brought out a man from a home on our block five doors down.  There was all sorts of screaming at the cops while they took the gentleman away.

Four days ago a young man was riding his bike to deliver a meal that his mom made for a friend three blocks away.  Two boys shot and killed him taking his bike in the process, two blocks from us.  Mindless, ruthless hate.

I wrote about the cops coming and arresting and searching for someone in the home right behind us.

Detectives have been searching our alley corner, including our yard for evidence to God knows what.

Twice in the last two weeks I have come home to different routes being blocked off by the police because they are looking for someone.

Three times I have come home and there have been drug deals/exchanges happening between cars right in front of our home.

Two years ago there was a girl shot and killed right in front of our house because she was at a party where there was angry gang activity.

That was the first murder that started a string of gang related murders over the next couple weeks causing that to be the most murders that Mpls has seen in over 20 years.

One year ago a party let out and while everyone was walking down the street they decided to smash our friends window while jumping on the hood of their car.  (Gheezz, writing all this together makes me a little nervous.)

I get it.  It happens everywhere.  I know that to be true.  Maybe it isn't as obvious where you live, maybe it is, but the murder of this boy on his bike has kind of been our last straw.  Mindless, senseless killing.

Before there was this sense of false security that if you leave "them" alone, "they" will leave you alone.  We call it targeted violence.  We lived in this belief that the main stream of violence happened within circles of people defending their territory, their family, or proving to themselves or to friends that they were dangerous enough to pull of "said" crime.  We know it happens around us, but our lives don't really intersect to bring us face to face to life altering violence.

There have always been random acts of violence.  A rape at our park at dinner time, a child dying by a stray bullet that was shot in the air, but now this.  Killed for his bike, two blocks away.  This poor boy did nothing wrong and his family will suffer forever.

The crime here seems to be escalating.  Other good friends who live in the hood have been feeling this constant low hope dread feeling as of lately.  They say they feel like they have to always be looking over their shoulder.

So now we are presented with a choice.  We can't move.  That isn't a choice, at least not right now.  So our choice is to live in fear or trust God that whatever happens can be worked to his glory, even if that means one of children suffer death or a permanent life altering handicap because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I don't know how to live in that place.  A place that allows my children to still play outside because their kids and they need to be outside without making myself sick worrying about their safety.  Do we always have to fear the person walking down the street?  That creates unfair judgement and fear to everyone involved.  What does that do to my faith and my heart when all I do is wonder and worry about things out of my control?  Perfect love drives out fear right?  In otherwords, that means trust.  I trust in God's love to be enough.  Trust his ability to work good out of all situations.  Trust him that even while my kids ride their bikes, that if a stray bullet hits one of them, he would still be good.

That feels like a tall order.  I don't want to be lazy in my parenting, and I want to be smart in listening to my gut, paying attention to what is happening outside and making smart choices.  That is how I make responsible choices for my kids.  That is how I make healthy choices for my family.  But for all my being responsible, accidents still happen and I don't control what goes on in my neighborhood.  In the middle of the day, while I was out with my kids, we were run down by the SWAT team. No way of seeing that coming.

So, we live in a scary place.  It feels scarier to me now more than ever anyway.  We make sure we are in before dark.  I am always outside when my kids are.  And I pray everyday that I could trust in God's ability to take care of us, even if something happens.  I pray for my ability to believe in his goodness.  That I wouldn't give up hope.  And I pray that he keeps my kids safe.  And if something should happen, that I would still have faith that he is good.

I'm not sure if a lot of this makes sense, mostly I just needed it out of my head.  The juxtaposition of living in a scary place and trying to be safe, while ultimately trusting that God will be enough.

There are many things I love about living in the city, but I'm not gonna lie, my heart is ready for my old brick farm house on acres of land.

I choose to trust that God is good.

Please keep the families of this young man in your prayers.  They have a lot of hate and frustration they need to work through.

a fun idea for the future

All these thoughts are running through my head:

1. A conversation I had with my friend Pastor Graf about the idea of modeling behavior and disciplines.  I don't have a lot of people in my life who walk alongside me that model behaviors that I want.  I don't have a mentor in my spiritual life, in my family life, as my role as a woman/wife, as a speaker, or as a cook.  Jesus was a model in behavior, yes I understand, but what does it mean to have someone who's life looks like mine to model behaviors that I desire?  To learn from?  To ask questions from?  To gain wisdom from?

2. Sitting in my kitchen with my friend and wishing we had more time together than we normally do.  She was asking questions about what I was cooking and I thought, man wouldn't it be great if she moved in here for a couple weeks and I could teach her how to cook?  I could show her my meal plan, where I shop for diet restrictions, things I have learned in the past year and how to cook allergen free on a budget.

3. My sister has been sick for a long time and I wanted to bring her here so that she could be seen by Dawn at New Dawn Health, and we could explore a different approach to looking at her health.  For 10 days, we detoxed her, I cooked for her, we shared recipes, we went to the grocery store and looked and talked about food.  I am sure it sucked for her, and was way more than she bargained for and felt very overwhelmed.  She is on a new diet of gluten/dairy/sugar/soy/pork free.  But for me, I LOVED it!  I loved having her here while she sat in my kitchen and we just talked.  We talked about faith, life and friends, and while we talked, I was slowly teaching her how to cook.  She doesn't cook at all, so I got to walk her a long in small ways learning the way around the kitchen.

This became a dream of mine.  Someday in the future I want to run a modeling house.  A place that thrives on health for the physical and spiritual soul. I want to bring people in for a period of time and sit with them, listen to them, talk with them, cook with them, pray with them.  I want to teach them what I know and have learned about healthy living. I want to help walk them into a place where they can cook and enjoy food without gluten/dairy/sugar.  I want to set them up for success in wanting to live this way.  I do NOT know everything there is to know.  I am NOT an expert.  I am NOT a doctor.  I am a mom who transitioned her family into a healthier way of eating and living and I have taken LOTS of notes.  I have journaled our progress a ton.  I feel like I could help others transition out of a heavy starch/meat diet and set them up for success and freedom from unhealthy food .

The idea of modeling life.  Christ lived with a few to model life to them.  I get that I have that with my children and I love that.  But I think, when they are grown a bit more, why stop with just them?  There are so many who suffer physically and long for a better, healthier life.  We have knowledge to share.  Health and life to share.  I want to do that for others in a cool camp like, sit in my kitchen and lets drink wine and gab and cook kind of way..  How does that not sound like the best idea ever!?

I got a taste of it with my sister and I love this idea.  It is only a dream and an idea right now, but I made tons of lists with notes of how to do it better and set my time up for better success next time.  It was wonderful.

I have a dream.

It has to start somewhere

Let me start by saying that I am exhausted. My five week stretch of speaking weekends, vacation, and having company have caught up to me.

My husband is also exhausted.

My kids are just trying to keep up.

All this leaves us little energy to love each other the way I think we truly want to and the way God desires and command we do.

This evening my husband and I had an issue with the way the other person was handling bed time. Silly, I know, but when your energy is zapped and people don't behave the way you are willing or expecting them to, it gets irritating. So we irritated each other.

I am usually a pusher. I don't like confrontation so I push through the issue till things are better. Tonight, I decided to own my fault, apologize, and sit on the basement stairs and just cry.

Sometimes a good cry is what makes it all better.

I had a phenomenal weekend. Truly, maybe one of the best all year. And then reality came, as it always does.

So I sat on the stairs and just wept. Wept for no reason and wept for real reasons. Wept for real hurt and wept for unjustified anger.

As I sat there, I just cried and thought, "why?" Why does this feel so hard? Why can't we be nice to each other? Why does no one in this house have nice words for each other, including myself? I'm not even proud of the way I am speaking to my kids or my husband. Why did we do this to ourselves again? Why did we think we could pull this off without coming out the other side wounded? I cried for all those questions and for the questions I didn't even know how to ask. I pleaded with God to give me something. To speak some of truth into my heart to help me gain wisdom.

As my heart started to settle, I heard two things:

Spiritual Warfare is real. As my husband and I discuss parenting issues, we sometimes find ourselves on opposite sides of issues. Some of that has come up recently (that's another post) and all of a sudden I saw how we were just kind of at each other about small things. It resonated with my heart that Satan (forces, whatever) was trying to keep us divided instead of forming a strong team to lead our children in their walk with the Lord, each other, and the community. We have let our prayer time together, our family meeting and snuggle time fall to the wayside due to the schedule of the last month. All of these things together weaken us as a family and makes feeding on our weakness even easier. I am not usually one to immediately think of Spiritual Warfare, so the fact that it was first thought made me pay attention. I knew immediately I needed to go and pray with Paul.

The second thing that came to me was actually my own words that I spoke to the youth this weekend; it starts with you.

I don't know about you, but I HATE when my words come back to bite in the arse. As soon as I heard it, I tried to fight it.

I don't want to be the one to change their attitude to inspire everyone else in my house to be better. I don't want to try to be humble and see my mistakes and not someone elses. I don't want to give up being cranky while everyone else gets to be. I am tired and I want someone else to do it.

I want someone else to reign in their feelings and try to be better. I want someone else to take a breath and wait before they speak. I want someone else to start thinking of others. I want someone else to serve me. I want someone else to give up their selfishness.

But the words were: It starts with you.

Forgiveness starts with you.
Love starts with you.
Patience starts with you.
Serving starts with you.
Mercy starts with you.
Self Control starts with you.
Laughter starts with you.
Playing starts with you.
Goodness starts with you.
Joy starts with you.
Understanding starts with you.
A good attitude starts with you.

It starts with me.

I couldn't escape it. I know it's true. It starts with you. With me. And I just challenged 500 youth and adults to live this way because I believe and know it to be true. But in the midst of the challenge of life and in the moment of weakness and tiredness, it is hard to hold onto that inspiration. To let that truth move me to action. To let that truth be bigger than my weakness. To let that truth be bigger than my frustration. Bigger than my hurt. Bigger than my pride. Bigger than my control.

That truth needs to move me into selflessness.
That truth needs to move me into love.
That truth needs to move me into humbleness.

Paul and I usually only conflict when we are tired, empty and have nothing to give to the other person. This is where we are.

This is where I need to step up the most. To love him when we have nothing to help move us out of this place. To not let the hard part separate us.

We all have a choice. Its hard. But I am going to try, because I challenge you to try.

It starts with you.

It starts with me.