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In all honesty, I don’t remember dying Easter eggs with grandma Ginny at the kitchen table that April 1984. After all, I was only 7 years old.

Here’s what I do remember. Two years and three months later, grandma passed away. I turned 10 two weeks prior to her passing.

Memories of grandma Ginny are few and far between. Grandma sitting in the corner chair by her music box curio. Grandma’s voice. Grandma’s laugh. Grandma sitting politely and patiently at the kitchen table. Grandma’s sister talking to soap opera characters on the television when we celebrated Christmas in California. Grandma at the piano. Grandma inviting me to play duets. Grandma looking through a JCPenney catalog with me at the kitchen table; ordering a baby blue sweater, pants and a striped blouse I swore I’d keep forever in her memory. Grandma rocking in the chair, watching me and my sister play piano before Christmas dinner. Grandma in head-to-toe pink velvet. Grandma’s house. Grandma’s snow white, tangerine orange and cherry red kitchen curtains. Grandma sick in bed while people rotated in and out of her room. Getting news of grandma’s passing when mom and dad picked us up from the Steffan’s house. “It’s okay to feel sad,” I recall hearing as I bent low in the back seat.

This summer will mark 31 years since grandma Ginny passed away.

It’s no surprise that of all four of my grandparents, I have the most longing, the most wishing that I would’ve had more time with grandma Ginny. She passed away when I was so young, years and years before my other grandparents. I never had that grandma when I was a junior higher, high schooler or college student. She never heard about my first job. She never met my boyfriends, nor did she witness me walk the aisle in white. She never knew I was pregnant, nor did she get to meet any of her great grandchildren.

Yeah…for a few years now, I wish I could just sit down and have cookies and tea with grandma. That’s what I long for most. That’s the grandma I wish for this Easter.

Can we just talk about the world, grandma? Can you tell me who you are, and tell me who I am? Can I do anything for you, grandma? Can you play me a song, grandma?

Who are you missing this Easter? Who won’t be there this weekend?

Maybe it’s grandma. Maybe it’s grandpa. Maybe it’s your husband or wife. Maybe it’s mom, dad, sister or brother. Maybe it’s baby you never birthed, baby you still birthed, baby whose grave you’ve visited every year since. Maybe it’s an auntie, uncle, mentor or friend. Maybe it’s a loved one who’s living at a distance. Maybe it’s someone dear who’s no longer in your life. Maybe it’s someone deployed or hospitalized. I don’t know who you’re missing, but everybody misses somebody.

It’s okay to remember. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to long for days that happened and never happened.

It’s okay to look back with fondness at the days we were gifted. It’s okay to say their name out loud. It’s okay to reminisce when the ham and eggs pass.

It’s okay to acknowledge all the feelings, all the memories, both bad and good, brutal and beautiful, vague or filled with detail.

But then, yes then, let’s revel in the here and now.

Sit. Be present. Stand up and acknowledge someone’s significance. Give a hug, a high five. Serve. Receive. Delight. Dive in deep. Be overjoyed, surprised, amazed. Listen when people tell you their story. Listen when people show you who they are. Keep your eyes open for memories that mean the most. And be sure to take photos, lots of photos. For none of us know how long we’ll have with loved ones near and dear. Someday down the road, that photo might mean the world to someone, that photo might fill the gap between now and eternity for someone.

Who are you missing this Easter?

Let’s face it. The 2016 presidential race was brutal and divisive. While so many hoped that the election would put a stop to all the divisiveness, the election of Donald Trump seems to have caused an even greater divide within our great nation, the United States of America.

Will we heal?

Will we hear the other side?

What will it take to bridge the gap between us and them?

Questions loom and linger.

How will we move through and beyond?

Some are grieving. Some are angry. Some are numb now. Some just don’t understand.

Is our country safe anymore?

What will come of our world?

What will a Donald Trump presidency look like?

Will the protests subside, or will they go on for four or eight years?

Will we ever be able to cross the divide?

So many unknowns.

So many uncertainties.

There is no clear or right answer except to remember we are ONE nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.

So what do we do?

Where do we start?

Perhaps we need to step back in time.

This week, my offering to a world that’s in awe, a world that’s divided, a world that’s uncertain and in need comes from my 4-year-old daughter.

In the midst of my grief over what’s transpired during this deeply divisive presidential election, my four year old has shown me what it means to love and live, through and beyond the turmoil.

When asked who was running for president of the United States, my four year old was able to name Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I think she would probably be able to name them if she was shown their faces. But that’s it. Nothing more. She knew their names and that they were running for president. I’m quite sure she doesn’t even know what President of the United States means. But one thing’s for sure. My four year old has taught me what it means to love and live, purely and simply, even when the world’s going mad.

Let’s learn. Let’s turn our ears towards the young. May we learn something profound, something our soul’s forgotten.

LESSON ON LOVING & LIVING #1: Find ways to compliment people and love on them even if you disagree with them.

This week, my 4-year old daughter wanted to write cards for her friends. She got out a piece of notebook paper and had me fold it into four. Then she got some post-it notes out. She wanted me to help her write notes to her friends, Sydney, Henry, Edry and Rylan, on the post-it notes. I wrote as she dictated. It was pure and simple. One sentence or two. That’s it. A compliment. A way to show her love to her friends and neighbors. Then she signed her name after each one.

Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a four year old’s simple and idealistic world.

Find ways compliment people and and love on them even if you disagree with them.





dsc_1777LESSON ON LOVING & LIVING #2: Surround yourself with diversity.

As I was driving to the gym with my daughter on Thursday, she randomly shared this story. “I have brown hair. My friend has white hair and a white face. My other friend has black hair and a brown face.”

“That is so awesome!” I replied exuberantly. “I’m so proud of you that you have all kinds of friends. It’s fun to have lots of different kind of friends, isn’t it?”

What was most notable about this conversation was that my daughter made that statement with NO judgement. It was a matter of fact. Pure and simple fact. She recognized that her friends were diverse, that they had different physical traits. But she didn’t place any judgement on those differences. There’s something refreshing about that to me. We can recognize differences without casting judgement.

It’s hard to admit, but it’s sometimes easiest to hang out with people who look, act and think like us. But hanging around a monolithic group of people who think, act, and behave EXACTLY like us  doesn’t do anything to expand our worldview. The more we’re able to surround ourselves with diversity or AT LEAST open ourselves up to seeing and hearing the other side, the more likely we’re able to expand and diversify our worldview. Diverse perspectives and worldviews are critical to bridging the great divide.

Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a four year old’s simple and idealistic world.

Surround yourself with diversity.



This week, my 4-year-old daughter brought home oodles of art from preschool. Handmade cards with drawings. Colored pages with paper punches lining the sides. Red, purple and pink pieces of construction paper cut into mountains, hills and rectangles. I’ll be honest, I usually throw away a bunch of this stuff because a mom can’t keep everything or it’d lead to boxes upon boxes of memories. But I’m keeping every single one of my daughter’s art pieces from this week. They’ve been gems to me in a week of presidential, political and personal turmoil.

If you make any sort of art, you MUST continue creating during these days of uncertainty. The world desperately needs your art, your perspective, your unique way of expressing love and joy, despair and destitution, anger and peace. The way you see life, the way you express it through your art? It’s important. It’s noteworthy. It’s crucial and life saving. We must continue making art, even when it seems completely pointless. We must continue making art, even when it seems like everyone’s too busy to see it. We must continue making art, even when the world’s gone mad. Keep making art. Keep creating. Keep putting it out there. We need your art more than ever.

Sing. Dance. Paint. Write. Photograph. Collage. Decoupage. Knit. Crochet. Quilt. Sew. Garden. Decorate. Build. Woodwork. Mosaic. Make jewelry and pottery. Whatever it is you do to create art and beauty in this world, do it and keep doing it! We need art now more than ever.

Perhaps we can glean wisdom from a four year old’s simple and idealistic world.

Create art.

Bridge the great divide.






Before I left for my trip to Haiti in February 2014, I grabbed the ridiculously overpriced “Penny For Your Thoughts” journal my husband received at work somewhere along the way. We’d kept it safe in its original packaging on a shelf in our entryway closet for months. Perhaps we’d donate it to a silent auction. Perhaps we’d give it as a gift someday. After all, the price tag said something like $54. Even I, a lover of words, couldn’t imagine why ANY person would pay $54 for a journal. Yes, I grossly underestimated the worth of that journal. When I got to Haiti, I randomly scrawled notes here and there as the mission necessitated. Prayer requests from our two sponsored children. Info about another child we began sponsoring nine months later. An inspiring quote about Compassion International beneficiaries being “sleeping giants.” Notes here and there. As IF I was never going to use that journal again. As IF it was only good for its paper.

One month after I returned from Haiti, I opened that journal back up, turned to the first page, and began by writing insights I gleaned from rereading journals from my past. I was on a blogging break, and desperately needed to figure out where I’d been and where I was going. Nine months later, I stopped working as a speech-language pathologist to focus on writing and photography, and take advantage of time home with my children while they’re still somewhat young. Today, there’s only ONE blank page in that “A Penny For Your Thoughts” journal. I’ve carried it around everywhere, through everything, for the past 2 1/2 years. Who knew?!

I’ve adored that journal. It’s been my companion through days of transition, days of unknown, days of heartache and chaos, and days of dreaming. But the timing couldn’t be more perfect. It’s time for a new journal!

Knowing I was going to be purchasing a new journal soon, I took time to page through my “A Penny For Your Thoughts” journal last week. I’m compelled to share something significant I learned from rereading one of the pages.

Listen, and listen closely because this is profound.

Over the course of the past 4 1/2 years, I’ve learned to dream. I’ve learned to dream BIG DREAMS. 

In all honesty, it’s crossed my mind that I’ve gone mad, or that maybe I’m losing my mind bit by bit. But the truth is, I didn’t dream BIG enough. 

Yes, you heard me right.

I didn’t dream big enough.

The first quarter of that “Penny For Your Thoughts” journal is filled to the brim with dreaming. I allowed myself to go there. In fact, the ultimate purpose of those first pages was to put all my hopes and dreams down on paper. I looked back through the past, tried to piece together the bigger storyline of my life, and used that as a foundation to dream about what the second half of my life could look like. This was an intentional exercise. Nobody was judging me. Nobody was silently critiquing. I didn’t care if my dreams were totally out of line or totally achievable. I just wrote them down as they came to me. Yes, I allowed myself to dream big all over those pages.

Yet even in my grandest and freest state of dreaming, I didn’t dream big enough.

On one side of the journal page, I wrote down my “Big Picture” vision. It’s fairly vague to the naked eye, but still spot on. The vision I have for the second half of my life has never wavered.

Here’s the kicker. I didn’t dream big enough in the details.

On the other side of the journal page, I wrote down all the details of my dream as concisely as I could. There were 10 points. Keep in mind, I thought these were long-term goals, goals I could reach or see the “beginnings of…within the next 4-8 years” if everything went perfectly as planned. As of today, I have already achieved 5 out of 10 of those detailed dreams. I’m working on #6. And I was seriously close to achieving #7, but the outcome was largely out of my control.

Needless to say, reviewing my journal was an incredibly eye-opening exercise.

I didn’t dream big enough!

I didn’t dream big enough.


So what’s the point of sharing this with you today?

The likelihood is that none of us have ever DREAMED big enough! The likelihood is that none of us have ever BELIEVED enough.

So how do we move from disbelief to belief? How do we get from here to there? How do we move from today to tomorrow? How do we move purposefully and intentionally towards the ultimate vision we have for life? How do we fulfill our God-given purpose here on earth?

Take time.

Sit down.

Get quiet.

Listen to the still small voice.

Think long and hard about WHAT we love, HOW we can best help others, and WHY we’re here.


Get quiet again.


Dream even BIGGER.

Pray again.

Then mark it all down. Write it. Speak it. Share it. Remember it. Revise as needed. And don’t ever forget.

In the meantime, trust that God works ALL things together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.


There’s a reason we’re here. Let’s live out every detail, every dream we have for ourselves and best yet, every dream God has planned for us.

I don’t know about you, but I have some work to do. In the next three weeks, I’m going to purchase a new journal. I’m also going to buy a planner. My goal is to write down that vague, but spot on lifelong vision all over again, but this time, I’m dreaming WAY bigger about the details. I’m going over every area of my life, I’m getting still and praying over everything, and I’m not holding back. I’ve dreamed MANY dreams in the past 2 1/2 years that have never been documented anywhere. In the next three weeks, all those great big dreams are going to be written down. I don’t care if they’re crazy or impossible or if everyone would say “Whatever, that’s totally dreaming and never happening.” Then I’m going to take that planner and I’m going to map out my days more intentionally to ensure I’m prioritizing the things I want and need to prioritize.

I’m 40. But If I live as long as my grandfather, I could have another 56+ years of life on earth. It’s time to dig deep and dream bigger. There’s a reason I’m still here. There’s a reason you’re still here.

So how about you?

Do you need to dream a little?

Do you need to dream a little bigger?

Perhaps you need to sit still long enough to hear…

You’re here for a reason.

There’s more in store for you, beloved.

What will it be?


It’s been a bit breezier here this week. A slight chill is in the air. Fall’s just around the corner. The annuals are looking worn and torn from the dry, summer heat. Our garden is still vibrant for late August, but plenty of plants are overgrown, beyond bloom, and in need of a hearty prune. The kids have their school supplies. My youngest received a letter from her preschool teacher. Nine days from now, we’ll be operating on a September budget, which will include hot lunches, cold lunches, field trips, and more school clothes and shoes. Yes, we’re in the final days of summer now. I can feel it. I can sense it. I know it in my bones.

When I looked through my photographs from the summer this past weekend, it alerted me that I hadn’t taken nearly enough summer photos of my children. Having taken photographs obsessively since I was 10 years old, there’s a certain threshold in my mind as far as when an occasion has been properly marked or NOT marked with photographs. This summer has NOT been standard by any means, nor has it been properly marked with photographs. This summer’s photographs show a lack of routine, instability, inconsistency paired with utter craziness. Where are the beach photos? Where are the sidewalk chalk photos? Where are the “I love gardening” photos? Where are the fun summer stuff photos? Where are the easy, breezy, airy photographs of kids without a care in the world?

If there’s one thing I’m reliably good for under any circumstance, it’s a photograph. I have my camera with me most all the time, only this summer was a little (lot) crazier than normal, a little (lot) more out-of-routine than normal. My photos reflected what was happening, but they didn’t necessarily reflect what I wanted my children to remember as they paged through the photo albums I need to catch up on someday soon. (Yes, I’m 4 1/2 years behind on those photo albums!)

This morning, two of my children played with a Fisher Price doll house while the third spent an hour or more organizing her school supplies and getting them packed in her backpack. It was a poignant moment, for sure, one that brought tears to my eyes when I stopped long enough to look.

Summer and school.



I love summer. It’s my favorite season by a landslide. I’m quick to admit to my husband (and hesitant to admit publicly) that I don’t love summer quite as much when it comes to being a mom. I’m torn. I don’t know. I love summer with kids. And I don’t love summer with kids. Part of me longs to treasure this time, these days with my kids while they’re little and somewhat-still little because I know there won’t be many more. But part of me sees the kids bored, longing for friends and routine, stimulation and more interesting things than me and my not-so-fun mom ideas. I’m the kind of mom who’d fully embrace a year-round school schedule with more frequent 2-3 week breaks throughout the year. I’m the kind of mom who’d thrive in a hot, dusty village with kids chasing balls, and moms gathering greens and cooking all day.

Yeah, I diverted a bit. Back on track now. Sorry about that!

So when I teared up over one kid organizing school supplies and two kids playing doll house, I knew I needed to do MORE to wrap up summer good and tidy in my tender heart.

This is the ONLY summer my children will be 4, 11 and 13 years old. There’s no getting this summer back. And it’s not lost on me that five years from now, my oldest will be IN college.



Sometimes this season of littles everywhere feels like forever. But it isn’t long.

I told the kids we were going to do some special things these last two weeks of summer. Some simple summer things. A day at the park. A day at the beach. A picnic. More time outside. Maybe ice cream one random afternoon. I don’t know.

So yes! The plan for today was picnic at the park, a special park we hadn’t gone to this summer. Because sometimes the simplest things in life are the best things.

I loaded the three kids in the car + 1 friend for my daughter. Heck, a good summer day’s never complete unless my oldest daughter brings a friend.

We drove 25 minutes to grab a bag full of sub sandwiches. Then we drove another 5 minutes to the biggest, grandest, most modern park in the area. We ate our subs and chomped on chips at a picnic table, and the kids played their hearts out for an hour, maybe more.

I followed the kids around the playground like only a good mom would, and carried my camera around like only a photographer would. Kids climbed ladders, spun in circles, glided across zip lines, spun in virtual spider webs, and hopped on giant ladybugs. Moms, nannies, child care providers and day camp leaders watched and followed children casually. It felt good. It felt right. It felt like summer. The kids were being kids. And I was being a mom. Just a mom. In summer.

There wasn’t anything glorious, super special or incredibly poignant about that picnic and trip to the park, but it was exactly what we needed.

A little more summer before school starts.

A few more photos to properly mark the occasion, “The Summer of 2016.” 

A few more moments together before those routines start back up again.






The 13 3/4 year old was the first to say he was ready to go.

The 11-year-old girls followed suit 10 minutes later. “We’re bored. We wanna go home now.”

The 4 year old was much more hesitant to leave the park. “NO! I wanna play more!” But after a while, she was ready to go home, too.

Nobody argued.

Nobody fought.

Everybody ready in their own due time.

As we left the park, my son even said “Thanks for bringing us to the park and getting us lunch, mom.”

This afternoon, he played XBox live with friends and is now outside playing with a neighbor boy. My 11-year-old daughter is playing with her friend. And our neighbor girl just rang the doorbell, asking if my 4-year-old daughter could come out and play. The doll house is out on the porch. There’s an empty water bottle blowing across the driveway. A bunch of boys played football in the neighbor’s yard. A little one rode by on his bike, another on a Hot Wheels. And that little neighbor girl who rang the doorbell? She called me “Maisie’s mother” and asked if I could raise my daughter’s bike seat.

It’s summer here for now.


The days are long.

The days are getting shorter.

Can she use my bathroom “really quick?” Can they play water guns on my driveway? Can he balance on the retaining wall running through our garden? Can he ride her bike? Can she hang on your porch? Can they scream, shout and fight? Can they eat an applesauce from our pantry or a popsicle from the neighbor boy?

Yes. It’s summer.

School’s soon enough.

Do whatever you need to do to wrap up summer good and tidy in your tender heart.



I have to be honest. I’ve been struggling with something significant these past three months. Today, I would like to share that struggle. Some of you might relate.

Recent life circumstances have caused me to think HARD about the definition of WORK.

What is WORK?

I “stopped working” at the end of December 2014 to stay home and pursue writing and photography.

Since then, I’ve been through two months of eye cancer with my husband, two months of spring cleaning, three summer months of caring for our three children, four months of crazy-good chaos, and three months working on four books I hope to have published someday. Add to that daily care of our children, tending to and working on our marriage, kid paperwork, homework and activities, household chores, keeping up with finances, a sister who’s battling schizoaffective disorder-bipolar type, a dad who’s going through testing to determine if he’s a candidate for a lung transplant, and a mom who’s trying to help them all. Add to that a small photography business launched in hopes of it becoming something bigger, editing someone else’s book, and now, volunteer work on a mission advocacy team at our church.

I earned VERY FEW DOLLARS in 2015.

I haven’t earned ANY DOLLARS in 2016.

I’ve struggled with this definition of work, this WONDERING if I’m WORKING, this WONDERING if I’m WORTH anything, for three months hard now.

A couple weeks ago, I took a short walk with one of our neighbors. Our kids rode their bikes while we chatted. I don’t remember the details of the conversation, but one thing stuck with me. At one point, my neighbor said “Oh yeah, you don’t work anymore, do you?” I responded with “Yeah, I don’t.” The conversation continued.

I didn’t correct her, nor did I correct myself. But I should have.

Her question and my response hit home hard.

None of it was ill-intentioned.

It’s just awfully coincidental that “You don’t work anymore, do you?” was the question swirling in my mind prior to her asking. HER question confirmed MY struggle.

“Oh yeah, you don’t work anymore, do you?”

Honestly? I didn’t give her the right answer.

The better answer would have been “Yeah, I stopped my work as a speech therapist, so I’m not getting paid right now, but I AM working. I’m home watching our kids full-time. I’m also a writer and I’m working on four books I hope to get published someday. I also launched a photography business last summer and plan on doing a lot more photo shoots this spring, summer and fall.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to give my neighbor a better answer because I haven’t been 100% confident that my WORK is WORTH something.


I’ve been asking big questions…

Is WORK only WORK if it’s paid?

What about all the stay at home moms?

What about the worker who’s laid off and actively seeking employment?

What about all the people who do volunteer work? Don’t they call it “volunteer WORK” for a reason?

What about all the retired folks who “don’t work anymore,” but are active, fully-functioning, contributing members of society?

What about the spouse who’s providing endless hours of care for her failing husband?

What about the grandparents caring for their grandchildren?

What about the artist who’s yet to be discovered?

What about the writer who’s working on her first novel?

What about the musician who’s playing the streets of Nashville for coins in a guitar case?

What about all the staff at orphanages around the globe who work for little to nothing but a meal and maybe a place to sleep?

What about anyone else who knows in their heart they’re doing hard and worthy WORK, but aren’t getting paid for it?


What is the definition of WORK?

Is WORK only considered WORK if it’s paid?

Are we only WORTH something if our WORK is paid?

Turn these questions personal, and here’s how they sound…

Am I working? (Because I sure feel like I am.)

Does my work only count if it’s paid?

Am I only worth something if I’m PAID for my work?

Notice the difference between question two and three. ONE is about the worth of my work. The second is about MY worth. I have begun to confuse MY WORK with MY WORTH. I have begun to believe that my WORK only has value if it’s paid. Culture and recent experience tells me that WORK can only be defined as WORK if it’s paid.

But my gut, my heart? They’re revolting against this notion.

I KNOW I’ve been working these past 15 months. I know I’ve been working these past three months as I’ve been writing and battling these questions of WORK and WORTH. In my heart, I know WORK has a much broader definition than the way it’s typically defined in our culture.

I’ve not arrived yet.

But I’m beginning to realize it’s up to me.

I get to decide.

I have to decide.

Am I working, or am I not?

Is my work worth something, or not?

Am I worth something, or am I not?


I looked up the definition of work this morning. I had to.

Type it in.

Just do it.

Type “definition of work” in Google search.

(Then make sure to click on “Translations, word origin and MORE DEFINITIONS,” which is immediately below the first two noun and verb definitions of work.)

See what you find.

I thought I’d start this post with the various definitions of WORK. Little did I know, there’s not enough room in this post to share all the definitions of work. I’d have to plagiarize because there are SO many definitions, noun AND verb. “Earning an income” is just ONE of MANY, MANY definitions of WORK.

Yes, I had to do it.

I had to KNOW if WORK is more than earning an income.

I had to do it for myself.

I’ve barely been paid anything for 15 months now. But I know I’ve been working. I know I’m working.

My heart tells me so.

In this season, I’m learning about the hidden, the unseen, unpaid WORKER. I’m learning for myself, and I’m learning so I can become an advocate.

We’re working warriors.

Culture tells us our WORK isn’t WORTHY unless it’s paid.

I beg to differ.

The value of WORK is more than a paycheck.

The value of WORK lies within us.

The value of WORK lies in what we have to offer the world.

I decide.

We decide.

God decides.

Work it. Paid or unpaid.


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