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I stood alone, staring at a display of brightly-painted clay women in that Dominican Republic market. Who knew I’d find myself here? Now. For such a time as this.

Moments earlier, I’d been giddy over a painted canvas I’d purchased from the upper level of hidden gems nobody seemed to have found. But joy eventually subsided, and I found myself drawn to the front of the store, to a dusty row of clay women.

I picked up the figurines, one by one, analyzing for beauty, for message, for heart and soul. Each was unique. Their colors, postures, heights and weights told stories of who the artist thought they might be. Some held flowers, some held clutches, some held bellies, and some stood pristine. Some were royal. Some were plain. All were dusty. And I wondered. When did someone last ponder the purposes of these beauties?

Our minutes in the store were numbered. I was bound and determined to find a figure that matched the state of my soul. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I just knew I’d know her when I found her.

After a while of looking, my heart panicked a bit. They were all so beautiful and many would suffice. But the one was yet to be found.

My fingers were dusty, dirty in fact. The figures weren’t in pristine pretty rows anymore. Dusty glass marked the places they once stood. I kept my favorites to the front, but kept reaching back, further back.

There she was.

Golden. With white and red accents. And long brown hair.

She was clutching her belly just like the figurine I purchased in Haiti and adore on my dresser every morning before I wake. There was something contemplative, ready to be birthed in her.

She was the one.

From the moment I picked her up, I noticed her imperfections. Her dress was chipped at the bottom. Her long brown hair revealed hard clay beneath.

I decided I’d take her anyway. After all, if there was one thing I’d learned, it was that perfection wasn’t getting me anywhere. I might as well take her, imperfections and all. She was beautiful, even so.

$8. A bargain, I thought, for such beauty.

They wrapped her up and our group parted the market within moments. I carried her around the rest of the day, then back to the hotel by my suitcase for our last night in the Dominican.

In the morning, I began packing. I’d carefully set aside miss beauty until the end. I wanted to reserve a specially-padded place for her in my suitcase, or maybe in my carry-on. She was wrapped quite well, but still.

I’d packed nearly everything. She was last to go except a few strays for my purse.

I stepped back, and crunch. I’d broken miss beauty in two.

Apparently, she was too fragile to withstand the blow. I lifted her up, opened the bag and unwrapped her goodness from layers of tissue paper. When I stepped back, I’d literally broken off her head. She’d lost her head. On my account.


I laughed. Yes, I was a little heart broken. But I laughed anyway.

What else could I do?

This beauty I spent 20 minutes selecting the afternoon prior had lost her head already!

Was it a complete waste, or maybe meant to be?

I told my roommate about the accident, and packed that clay beauty right back up in her tissue. I’m quite sure others would have tossed her straight into the trash. After all, she was only worth $8 with her head on! But something told me she was meant to go home just like that. Broken. With her head off once and for all.

You see, I’d been broken that week. I’d completely lost it on that trip. The dream I’d had for four, nearly five years – to write on behalf of children living in extreme poverty, FOR Compassion International – had come true. But my husband had just been diagnosed with eye cancer. And whether I wanted to admit it or not, life was going to be impacted. The trip was going to be impacted. Yes, I’d lost it. I’d lost my head. All the plans, all the purposes I’d ever envisioned, all the ways I’d write every day and everything would flow perfectly just like it had in Haiti? Well, it didn’t happen quite like I envisioned. God, in fact, had a better way in mind. He emptied me, broke me, then filled me with a new kind of grace. It was a humbling place.

Today, miss beauty stands in all her grandeur on my table. She looks perfect just the way she is – with no head.

I know it’s a little weird. (Maybe a lot weird?) I get it. Some of you think I’m a freak for overanalyzing this random figurine with no head. But hear me out for a minute. This is how I think, this is the way I process life. I’m a firm believer that there’s purpose in everything. Every. Thing.


For me? I needed that trip to the Dominican to bring me to a place of surrender. I needed to lose my head. I needed to stop overanalyzing, to stop planning and purposing my life my way. Kris was right, my “five point plan [wasn’t] going to work anymore.” I needed to surrender my life so God could take it and do immeasurably more than I imagined.

So here I am. 2 1/2 months later with a beautiful statue sitting on the table in front of me. Her head is broken off. But she’s still oh so beautiful.

The day I left for my Compassion trip, I told you I was empty. Completely empty. And several days after that, I told you I was broken. Wholly broken.

I’ve never been the same.

I thought Haiti changed me forever. Now I know Dominican changed me forever in a whole new way.

I’m still empty. I’m still broken.

But I’m more sure of God’s Spirit, God’s sovereignty, God’s ability to work it all out than I’ve ever been.






The world has rewarded my boxed in living.

Be safe.

Be good.

Do what’s right.

Be as perfect as you can be.

This life, it works. But there’s more. Much more.

The kingdom’s been calling. God has better for me and this life of mine.

His desires?

Repentance. Forgiveness. Healing.

Holiness. Righteousness. Humility.

Grace. Abundance. On earth as it is in heaven.

Trust. Faith.

He calls me, beckons me to chart new territory, swim deeper waters, tread by the bounty of His grace.

I wrote this post on June 10, 2014. It sat, unpublished, in my drafts folder until today, February 20, 2015. I’ve chosen to publish this post in honor of a writer friend who’s been doubting her words. She’s not sure they’re good enough. I relate. All too often, I’m convinced that my words are too much for people to handle. This post is short, for sure. But the words hold great meaning and are worthy of sharing. NO changes were made to the original post. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder for eight months…until today. Our words are enough, friend.





The plan was perfect.

We scheduled our annual family photo shoot with the photographer we’ve used since 2009. Hubs ordered a sweater, I got a necklace and boots, and we put some outfits together for the kids. Everything was ready to go.

That is, until a toss-and-turn night found me sleeping on a chair in our bedroom. The next morning, our toddler came into the room, wondering why I was sleeping in the chair. She flung her body back hard with the intention of lying next to me, but instead banged my eye up big. It hurt. It swelled. I cried. And I had a black eye for two weeks.


Our perfectly planned family photo shoot was down the drain. We canceled, because truth is, I still had a black eye the day we were scheduled to shoot.

The photographer wasn’t available for two weeks, and we didn’t want to take any chances with winter weather on its way. So we decided to do our own make-shift family photo shoot. I’d just purchased my dream camera two weeks prior. Why not use it?

The plan was perfect.

We’d get all dressed up, just like we would’ve for our family photo shoot. And we’d use my brand new camera to take pictures of each other. Sure, we’d miss the family photograph of all five of us this year, but we’d get all the other pictures we wanted!

Off we went. The day was perfect. The sun was shining. The temperature was just right. The leaves were golden yellow. We couldn’t have asked for more.

That is, until things started going wrong.

The baby got crabby.


And I couldn’t get the lighting right (not to mention the tree coming out of her head).


Kids didn’t sit when they were supposed to sit.


Then it was windy.


Our pre-teen boy cooperated at first, but then got irritated with this process.


We moved to a new spot and he started cooperating again.

But apparently it takes more than two weeks to master the perfect balance of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture in the live context of a photo shoot, so we experienced more lighting issues before we found our happy spot again.



When I finally got the lighting JUST RIGHT, baby started getting extra crabby.


There was this.

DSC_0882Then this.


Yeah. We wrapped this shoot with more bad lighting and more baby crying.


This is how mama looks when baby’s standing on the ground screaming and clinging to mama’s legs, and daddy’s determined to finish this photo shoot properly. (This one seriously cracks me up. NOT cute.)


Daddy dashed for the car with said baby crying. I stayed to try to get a few more good shots of our two oldest. But they were clearly fatiguing. It was time to go.

All five of us got back in the vehicle. A few words were said. Then I put my dream camera away, looked out the window, and cried.

Our PERFECTLY PLANNED family photo shoot was NOT PERFECT.

When we got home, I was still quite upset.

I could’ve given up. I could’ve given in to the lie that we’d just experienced the most catastrophic disasters of family photo sessions in the entire world.

But I knew better. I knew there was still hope for this thing. I knew we’d taken some good shots. And I knew there were still a few good ones to be taken in our backyard.

So I put my brave on and got that camera back out.

Within 20 minutes, I had a handful of great pictures of our son, and 15-20 awesome shots of our oldest daughter.

After everyone went to bed that night, I spent two hours weeding through the day’s photographs, 350 a rough estimate. I made a list of every photo worthy of being transferred to a disc, checked it twice, and burned it baby.

“Fall Family Photo Shoot 2014”

We were doing this. We were choosing to remember the good that happened that day.

Three weeks later, I received an email from Shutterfly with some crazy deal, like 30% off holiday cards + another 40% off that! The offer expired the next day, so we knew we had to take advantage of it.

That night, we pulled out the CD from the NOT-SO-PERFECT family photo shoot. We selected seven pictures we LOVED and wanted to share on a Christmas photo card for family and friends.

And just a few days ago, we received the big orange Shutterfly box in the mail with 130 photo cards in it!

What were the words that came out of my mouth when I saw the cards for the first time?

“I love these! They turned out awesome!”

Life isn’t perfect. And typically? Family photo shoots are far from perfect.

But if we’re persistent, positive, and willing to look twice through those all those “horrible pictures,” we might just find a beautifully imperfect family, a beautifully imperfect life, and perfectly beautiful photographs waiting to be shared with loved ones.

ShutterflyShutterfly is running an awesome sale on Christmas photo cards through Sunday, November 16th! Just enter promotion code JOY2ALL at checkout, and receive 50% off 6×8 flat and 3/4 folded cards OR 40% off 5×7, 5×5, 4×8, 4×5 flat, 5×7 trifold, or 5×7 folded cards. And don’t forget free shipping on orders $39 or more; just enter code SHIP39 at checkout! This is one of the best sales Shutterfly runs on Christmas cards, and is the one our family typically takes advantage of every fall.

One more thing before I go…I’m excited to announce that I’ve recently become an affiliate for Shutterfly! That means that if you make a purchase from Shutterfly through the links in this blog post or any Shutterfly link on my blog from here on out, I’ll receive a small commission which will help cover some of the ongoing costs associated with the blog.

Wishing you patience and a sense of humor as you search those family pictures for one that represents your beautiful family.





P.S. This, of course, ISN’T our seven-picture Christmas card. But hey, I thought I’d give you a little sneak peek of one of the good photos and share one of Shutterfly’s cute designs!

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 1.08.45 PM

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on the link and purchase something from Shutterfly, I will receive an affiliate commission. Having said that, I promise readers my highest of integrity in that I will only promote products I use, love, and believe will add value to your lives. I’m disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


I’m not sure when it was. Maybe a year ago, maybe two.

She said those words. And I knew they were true.

“You’ve been sprinting through life. You’ve burned yourself out.”


It’s true.

I can’t deny.

Life’s a marathon. And I’ve been sprinting.

First it was tennis, tennis and more tennis. I played morning, noon and night, it seemed. I’m pretty sure I burned out long before I was aware. I knew in my heart that winning wasn’t my goal, so I snapped at the coach at an inopportune time, then kept on playing as big as I could. I played once or twice in college. That’s it. My heart was never in it from there on out. I haven’t picked up a tennis racquet for 16, 18 years.

Then it was flute. Now that I’m a mom of a not-always-excited-to-practice band student, I’m convinced I practiced like a good girl should. I never second guessed the proper amount of time I should put in to perfecting my art. I just did it. It worked for me. I must have loved it, or I wouldn’t have done it. I did band. I did lessons. I did private lessons. I did recitals. I did solos and ensembles. I won awards. I was honored for my achievement and my art. I even did wind ensemble through most of college, even when I didn’t have to, even when I was one of the only non-music majors. And when my best friend asked me to play flute at her son’s baptism, I did. I hadn’t played for three years, and it felt good. I was better than I remembered. Yet, after that day, I didn’t pick up a flute for another 12, 13 years.

Things changed a little when I became a full-fledged adult, a full-fledged wife and mom of one, two, and then three. The race venue changed. But I hadn’t.

I went to graduate school. Let’s just say I burned out before I even finished. My mom can attest to that fact. But I pressed on anyway and got that master’s degree.

We did young married couples’ bible study. With good friends, GREAT friends, for five years straight. Nearly every single week we met, traveled across the metro to another young married couple’s house. We bundled our son, and when our daughter came along, we bundled her too. I loved it and we did it for five years, but after a while, this beautiful bible study thing started to feel a little like a burden, a commitment that wasn’t working as well as it once did. The constant bundling up and heading out with two little ones on cold work and school nights was feeling like too much for this family to bear once a week forever. Yet I knew “good Christians” attended weekly bible study, wouldn’t complain or feel burdened, and would never consider a break. Then we moved. The increased travel to and from was too much more than it already was. We knew it was time to say good-bye to that not-so-young-anymore married couples’ bible study. So we called it a day.


I told her I wanted to run for city council. Perhaps I thought I was superwoman. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I wasn’t superwoman at all. Yet, I offered myself for an open seat on the planning commission anyway. The fit for my gifting and personality? It worked. Fine. I did my job and I did my best. I read every note. I studied and understood as best as I could. I sat in that seat for three years, one whole term. But I knew, this city government stuff wasn’t for me. Plus, I had elsewhere to focus. I’d started sprinting in a new direction.

Wife. Mom of two, then three. Private practice owner. Speech-language therapist. And planning commission.

It wasn’t enough.

I added non-profit board member to this sprint through life.

But at this point, I must’ve known in my heart of hearts. I needed to be CALLED to something rather than just DO it for the sake of doing it. Because all my sprinting was beginning to take a toll, and I hadn’t even begun to identify the problem yet.

So I thought and prayed over the opportunity to join the non-profit board for NINE months before I finally agreed to do it. A series of events led me to believe, very clearly, that I was being called to join the board. So I did. For three years I served diligently as board member. I gave 110%. And my God-given gifts were utilized. To this day, I believe God had called. I obeyed. And it was a beautiful thing. But when my three-year term neared the end, I knew it was time to go. I was growing weary. I knew it was time for fresh faces to step in. And since I started my term on the board, I’d also begun this blog. It was time to focus my efforts here, where I was feeling a strong call to be.


This isn’t the end of my sprinting story. There are parts I’ve left out. Intentionally. Because I’m not ready to tell the whole story yet. And I’m sure you get the point, anyway.

What I’ve written is vulnerable enough for today.

I’ll leave the rest of this story for another day.

This is the only thing I really wanted to say.

I’m no longer willing to sprint through this marathon called life.

It’s time I admit this, now.

It’s time I confess this, now.

Because sometimes life feels short, but more often? It feels like a marathon.

I’ve done things by “the book.” I’ve sprinted with all I have towards the finish line. But if God has me running a full life? I’m not quite half through “the race.”

I’d better start pacing myself.

I’d better start focusing on the things God’s called me to do instead of the things that would be good to do.

I’d better start living instead of sprinting.

So today, I slow myself. Intentionally.

I commit to living slowly, thoughtfully, and gracefully in this writing space. I commit to keeping my heart engaged. I commit to feeling connected. Always. I commit to listening to God’s call for every step. And I commit to staying and doing the hard work even when the journey feels bumpy, unsteady, fully unknown. I commit to giving myself grace and freedom to be and write like me, even when the voices tell me I should change, quit, be realistic, more practical, whatever. Burnout isn’t an option in this place. It just isn’t.

I commit to living slowly, thoughtfully, and gracefully in my living spaces. Yes will no longer be my default. No will be an option. And maybe will be just that. Maybe. We’ll see. I need to stop for a break, clean up the rubble, gather unnecessary things I’ve lugged on the sprint, and toss them out once and for all. For more is not better. And faster’s not always effective. So let me stop, please. Then I’ll pick up the pace, this time slower, with more intention.

I commit to living slowly, thoughtfully, gracefully for the loving faces. Because I’ve loved, but not enough. I’ve been vulnerable with a few, but guarded with most. I’ve lost all trust when all I really want to do is gain, and more. I’ve wanted to connect, but I haven’t known how. I haven’t had time to sit, haven’t had time to be, haven’t had time to linger, with you. A part of my heart has grown cold along the sprint. Cold, believing everyone’s sprinting, that nobody has time, that everybody has their own agenda and nobody’s interested in real relationship anymore. What if most of us are sprinting? What if we’re all burning out? What if we just need to slow down and linger longer, and that’s all we really need for our hearts to burn brighter and lighter again? So I commit. Whether I’m bad at it or not, to slowing and lingering. For the sake of connection. With you.

Life’s a marathon.

I’m slowing.

I might even have to stop before I pick the pace back up to a jog.

But you better believe this.

I will sprint no more.



Dear Little Me,

I know you, sweet one.

You want to achieve. You want to do your best. You know how to do your best.

You’re pretty good at achieving, aren’t you?

But girl, you’re worth far more than your achievements.

Your achievements are what you do, how you perform, how well you’re able to complete tasks according to the world’s standards.

Do you see yourself here? You’re quite literally hiding behind your achievements.

You did just about everything, and you clearly did it well. In just one swoop, you made muffins, cookies, a homemade television toy, a stuffed bear, a tote bag, and a multi-page book for children. And it looks like you won awards for them all. Good job, sweet pea. I am proud of you. You can do lots of things well.

But dear, oh dear. Do not hide behind your achievements. Don’t let those blue ribbons determine your worth. You are worth far, far more than a ribbon.

Girl, you don’t have to be the best at everything. Just be the best at some things, or a few things. Or maybe even one or two things.

God didn’t make you to be the best seamstress, and the best cook, and the best child development expert, and the best children’s literature author all at once.

Which one of those things made your eyes twinkle, little one? Which one made you light up? Which one made you smile like no other? Or maybe a better question is this. Did any of those things bring you great joy?

Girl, this is what I want for you. Pick one of those things. Or pick none at all. Find what it is that brings a sparkle to your eye. Find what fills your heart. Find what’s calling your name. Find why you were made.

You don’t have to do everything.

You don’t have to do what everyone says you should do.

You only have to do what you know in your heart you were made to do.

Forget all the rest. And rest.

I see you behind those achievements.

I know you.

You are more.

You are loved.

So put away the awards and achievements.

Lay down the ribbons.

Light up that smile. And let that twinkle shine.






*This series is inspired in part by a blog post I wrote in January 2014 titled “Go. Like It Matters. Go. Like It’s Your Life.” And in part by Bonnie Gray’s new book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace. For more information about WHY I’m writing this series, click here to read the first post of this series titled “Restoring the Little Girl Voice (Part 1).”

  1. Tara Dorn says:

    You seriously need to publish a book with these in them!

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