A few months ago there was a visiting guest pastor at our church.  He shared a sermon on a topic I had never consciously thought about before.  He said there is one thing, one tool that we need more than anything.  When life is really challenging, this is the one beacon of light we can turn to that will point us out of the darkness.  That one ingredient is hope.  Hope can change a heart, start a business, save a marriage, start a family and save a life. Little did I know how much I would need that truth only a few short months later.  I’ll be honest, I’m struggling.  COVID-19 has shut down our world.  We have been home for 26 days and the uncertainty of the future is frightening. My hubby’s personal training business at the gym closed just over two weeks ago.  Although he does have an online fitness platform that he has been working on, it wasn’t set to be in full-swing yet.  The timeline has changed overnight, just like so much of our world.  I went from being an incredibly busy mama outside of the home, to an even busier mama inside the home.  Juggling homeschooling, taking care of the girls, home, and work.  I’ll be honest, at times it feels like I’m drowning without a life vest.  As I type this, the girls are going on hour number three of watching TV so I can hide in my room and write.  Typing these words that are swirling inside of me is one place where I find my hope.  Bringing my big dream of writing this blog is my hope.  Knowing we are all in this together is my hope.  The fear is so big, but my hope is bigger.  I have to rest in the fact that God has a plan and works all things for good.  He is in control, even when everything feels out of control.  And right now, EVERYTHING feels out of control.  

 

As I type this, I’m really missing my husband.  With the close of his gym, he is working around the clock to bring his vision of an online fitness business to life.  For a guy who I thought was busy before, the bar has definitely been raised.  The result is I’m juggling all three kids mostly on my own as well as work.  The loneliness is settling in and even though I’m trying to keep it together there are days when I feel like I’m holding on by a thin thread.  But I know if I let it, the sadness will swallow me whole.  It’s a choice only I can make, will I let the darkness drown out my light? Or will I light a match? Even a small bit of light can overpower the darkness.  I choose the light.  Even if it means choosing it 100 times a day.  I know this season will pass, we will overcome it.  When the dust settles, I don’t know exactly what our life is going to look like, but I do know that I will still be standing.  My prayer is that if you’re struggling, please know you are not alone.  This is so painfully real and the fear is palpable.  I’m grasping hope with both of my hands because it is the only way I know how to quiet the panic in my mind.  My mindset and focus are my best tools.  Finding moments of gratitude throughout the day, like my girls playing well together, a kind text from a friend and the blessing of food on our table, are all reasons to be thankful.  Sometimes I have to hunt for them, but those sweet moments are there.  As we settle into this new normal for a while, I know I must protect my heart and mind the best way I know how: with hope as my first line of defense.  Tears are streaming down my face as I type this.  It is easier said than done.  My tears are a mixture of ache, exhaustion, hope and gratefulness.  Maybe you’re feeling the same.  For me, my heart finds rest in knowing I’m not alone.  We truly are all in this together.  Our humanity and hearts are connected as we band together from the shelter of our homes.  Together, we can do our best to keep our eyes above the waves and fix them on the horizon that better days are coming. 

                       

 

 

I read something very interesting this morning.  In Rick Warren’s “A Purpose Driven Life,” he says if you know how to worry you know how to meditate.  Worry is thinking the same negative, repetitive thought over and over again. In contrast, meditating is focusing on something positive.  This struck me because I’m really good at worrying. I have literally spent years of my life paralyzed by certain thoughts that have played on repeat in the background of my mind.  At times, they were whispers and other times they were loud, crass and abusive. Over time, I have found the whispers to be more damaging because they become part of the symphony of thoughts I have throughout the day.  So woven into the background noise, that I don’t even hear them anymore. Instead of thoughts to be questioned, they are so incredibly familiar that I don’t even notice them.

 

But all those thoughts bring us down.  The damage shows up. Whether we see it or not, it changes us.

 

For me, I’ve seen the whispers appear in a multitude of ways.  At one point in my life, it was an eating disorder. When the tiny voice had gained so much momentum, my physical response was to drown it out. For years I struggled.  Not eating, bingeing, not eating, bingeing. It was familiar and yet afterwards, I would be flooded with disappointment, anger and shame. Nights were the worst, when my thoughts were the loudest.

 

Then there was the alcohol.  Shortly after going to college, I quickly learned how my mind could be transformed by alcohol.  My fears, anxiety, anger and frustration could all melt away. I was fun and free. I had courage like I’d never felt before. For an evening, I could let go of all the things I didn’t want to think about.  But it’s short lived. The hangovers were wicked. The memories were fuzzy or non-existent. The weight piled on. My body was exhausted, heavy and incredibly unhealthy. And the thoughts came flooding back.  Anxiety and depression were handcuffs I couldn’t break free from, even if for a short time I didn’t feel them.

 

The time eventually came and I hit my breaking point.  I felt like I was living a double life. There was the happy-life of the party-super positive-sorority girl who was chasing her big dream of being a singer in the big city.  Then there was the incredibly unhappy, anxious and fearful girl that lived on the inside. When I met my sweet college boyfriend, now husband, one of the first things I told him was “this isn’t really me, I hope someday you get to meet her.”

 

At that point, unbeknownst to me, he started praying for me.  Lord knows if he would have mentioned God to me then, I would have RUN away. I wasn’t ready to hear it.  I was too angry. I thought I knew better. I was a wounded animal that would have scared off easily. Here’s the irony of the story.  I tried to break up with this guy. Several times. I went to Europe for the summer to sing. He emailed me throughout the summer. I transferred to a different college.  He told me to go and follow those big dreams.  He visited me, even when that meant driving in rush hour traffic to the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Guys, texting was literally just invented back then. So we learned how to text. During this time, he found me a therapist and being in the fitness business, he offered to train her for free if she would meet with me.  For 5 years, I met with this sweet, beautiful woman who showed me that I am not my thoughts. She called them the “internal inferno.” She taught me that I am not my circumstances or my past. There were things in my past I couldn’t control, but now I could wrap my arms around that little girl in my mind’s eye and reassure her that we grew up and are ok now.  

 

I related to my mentor’s story and I think she saw herself in me.  Sometimes the process was excruciating. Bringing and experiencing past pain felt crippling at times, but I kept going.  Walking through it made me stronger, gave me courage that didn’t include a drop of alcohol and a sense of peace that I did not know I could have.  Justin was there when I broke down, had “aha!” moments and even when I fought him on going. He continued to show up. He would gently remind me that this was good and someday this part of our journey would be a distant memory.  I am so grateful for the courage of my incredible guy to hold my hand and walk with me through that time in my life. The fear and my brokenness were so real and yet God had a plan and a hand in it.

 

I share this story because my negative thoughts became so out of control, I could not pull myself back by myself.  The panic attacks were real and paralyzing.  I felt trapped in a cage with invisible bars.  See, what happens is, negative repetitive thoughts have a tendency to multiply. The more we have, the more we have.  They get louder and gnaw on the mind and heart. When my external life was chaotic, I tend to turn inward. I’ve learned that turning inward leaves me at a crossroads, like having two paths outstretched in front of me leading in completely different directions.  Here’s the beautiful part. There is a choice. Each thought is a choice. It is impossible to have two thoughts at the same time, so we only get to choose one. To see the hope or the fear. It is easy to say, but so incredibly challenging to do. My suggestion is to start with one single thought.  I love the idea of focusing on one single line and saying it in a breath. This could be a prayer, something you’re grateful for, one piece of beauty you observed, one hope or anything else that sets your heart and mind on the positive. One statement at a time, has literally changed my life. For me, I love lines like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil 4:13.  Some of my others are “I’m grateful for my health and the health of my family,” “Today is beautiful,” “I’m worthy,” “I am strong,” “This too shall pass” or sometimes it’s as simple as “I’m still here.” Focusing on the positive throughout the day has been transformational. Pessimism and fear are my knee jerk reactions. I tend to see all the obstacles and problems first. It has literally become a goal to keep my mouth shut when those kinds of thoughts bubble up and want to fly out.  Instead, I’m continuing to try to capture these thoughts first and turn them on their head.

 

Disclaimer: This is so dang hard. It takes time, courage and awareness. My friend, I’m working on this right along-side you because I certainly don’t have this mastered by any means. But here’s what happens when we do stare fear in the face and lean into our courage, we take away its power. And little by little, the more we do this and train our brain to reach for hope first the more second nature it becomes.

 

Here is one more bombshell that completely blew me away the first time I heard it, your thoughts are not necessarily true.  They are a mash-up of your perception, emotions, your past, other people’s words and opinions, the media, the world, the mean teacher you had that embarrassed you in class, the jerk bossed that yelled at you in front of everyone on your floor (yup, that is one of mine), the coach who didn’t pick you, the friend that hurt you, the fear that our nation is experiencing as a result of Covid-19, and so many things we are not even aware of on a conscious level.  My sweet friends, you are not your thoughts. You are beautifully, wonderfully and purposefully made by a God that loves you. Those negative, hurtful, hate-filled thoughts in your head are not you. There are so many things I have told myself over the years, that I would never dare say to anyone else. So why do we think we can say them to ourselves?

 

I love action steps and once I have knowledge, I want to implement it. So, what do we do next? As I’ve mentioned, I am not perfect at this.  Capturing my thoughts is still really hard at times. But here are some ideas that have helped me. Get the facts. Reading the Bible has helped reveal that God doesn’t do anything by accident, especially in making each and every one of us.  If you are breathing, God isn’t done with you or the beautiful plans He has for you. It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but I promise He has a purpose even when we can’t see it or it doesn’t feel that way. Another way to gain perspective is to talk to someone you trust.  For me, this has looked like a kind and compassionate therapist, incredibly thoughtful and wise women in Moms groups, MOPS groups & at bible study over the years, confiding in a trusted friend and my precious, courageous husband. Lastly, limiting or completely cutting off exposure to the things that bring you down.  Sometimes this looks like an unhealthy relationship with a friend or family member, listening to the news 24/7, engaging in negativity on social media, etc.  

 

Please note, abuse in no uncertain terms is ever acceptable.  Verbal, physical, emotional, mental abuse is real and intolerable.  Your safety is paramount and non-negotiable. It is vitally important that your physical and mental health be preserved even if that looks like removal of yourself from the abusive situation.  My heart breaks knowing how much suffering happens and if this speaks to you, I want you to know my prayer is that you will know how deeply loved you are. You are not the abuse. Your story is the beautiful soul inside, the incredibly purposeful breath in your lungs and impact you have on the world just by being you.  We need you here to share your beauty because there has never been and never will be another you.

 

Sometimes, in real life or virtual life, people say things that hurt our feelings and in those instances the best advice I’ve gotten was from my wise therapist.  She said imagine someone put you in a giant plastic bubble, like a hamster ball that crashes around the house. Even though he’s bouncing off walls, it is keeping that little creature safe.  When you’re inside the plastic ball, you can still see the world and hear what people are saying. However, the words can’t reach you. They can’t penetrate the plastic. Instead, they hit the barrier and slide right off.  You heard them, but don’t feel them. They don’t stick in your mind on replay. You observe them and then they wash away. Friends, this has taken me years to get more adept at. It’s a process and please know that even a tiny step forward is still moving you in the right direction.  Even crawling on your hands and knees is still forward motion. A huge piece of this journey is learning and practicing forgiveness. Forgiveness made me angry for years. Why should I forgive someone that hurt me? Don’t you know what they did? Why should I forgive them? Forgiveness is a must because it isn’t about them.  It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about letting go and healing. I used to think forgiveness was a one and done. I wanted to believe that I could forgive once and walk away with the hurt lifted and clarity gained. But that’s not how it works. Sometimes it’s a 100 times a day process that feels endless and frustrating and so dang hard that you want to scream and give up completely.  But I’ll tell you the freedom of the weight being lifted is beautiful. The daily work adds up and at some point the burden doesn’t feel as heavy. When the fear and anger want to seep back in, attack them with a positive thought. Even something as simple as, “I’m breathing” can shift the mindset. 

 

Forgiveness is also about forgiving yourself.  It is one of the highest forms of self-love.  The guilt, shame, hurt and pain for what you have done or haven’t done needs to be released.  By punishing yourself for your past, it is almost impossible to see light in the future.  And if  you can’t see if, how in the world can you live into it?  We are all human and by definition, we are imperfect.  We make mistakes, say the wrong thing and even hurt the people we love.  We don’t follow through, we blow presentations, and sometimes even blow-up relationships.  Even in our missteps, we have an opportunity to seek the wisdom that is wrapped up in the experience and learn from it, or we sink like an anchor being thrown off a ship and use it as an excuse to keep us stagnant.  Sometimes, the person we need to forgive most in our lives is staring at us in the mirror and the most courageous thing we can possibly do is extend our heart and accept the forgiveness.  What a beautiful picture of love.  I promise, you are worth it. 

 

Lastly, I want to add that I can’t say enough good things about walking through these kinds of emotions with a professional.  My therapist illuminated the darkness, gave me words I didn’t know I needed and gave me tools to bring about positive change. There is no shame in asking for help.  Friend, I applaud you. I’m weeping happy tears for you because I know how transforming it has been in my life. We all have areas of struggle because we are human. We are not meant to live life in solitude or shoulder our burdens alone.  The darkness can be destroyed by a single match and sometimes we need someone to light the flame. Dear friend, you are so loved. You are immensely important and your story needs to be told. Why? Because you are the only one that can tell it.  We need your voice, opinions, beauty and light because the world wouldn’t be the same without you in it. The thoughts in our minds can be a catalyst to push us forward into our greatness. Here’s the really incredible part. Our positive change is contagious.  Every time we choose hope or joy, it changes us and that affects everyone around us. The way we treat our kids, spouse, neighbor or the person in line behind us at the grocery store. The point is, what we think matters not only to our own well being, but to everyone we touch in person and virtually.  When kindness is literally spilling out of us we can’t help but share that joy. And that influences someone, who influences someone, who influences someone. The ripple is endless. There is an incredible study I read about in a book I absolutely adore called “The Seven Decisions” by Andy Andrews were he references a theory that shows how closely connected we all are.  The theory is called the Butterfly Effect and it explains how one small change in initial conditions can create a significantly different outcome.  The theory explores how a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world can greatly alter the entire world.  How that one small change over a certain time period could essentially affect our weather patterns and create things like tornados.  I also think this theory highlights how deeply interconnected we are. The mood of one person is easily transferred to another. Our actions, positive or negative, can have a huge impact on the people around us, who then in turn affect the people around them.  It is worth noting that all of our actions start with a thought. Here is where I get super excited. Through our filter, we can screen our thoughts. We can question, discard and reject those thoughts that don’t serve us. We also have the ability to highlight, hand-pick, illuminate and live into those that do.  Inside of those thoughts are creativity, solutions, compassion, hope, peace, love and joy. They unlock our ability to fuel greatness not only in ourselves, but also in others. Once those floodgates are open, just imagine the incredible possibilities.  

 

As I’m writing this we are on day 15 of self-quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Fear is prevalent and widespread. Life has been completely disrupted and the future feels incredibly uncertain.  Sitting amongst the chaos, I’m reminded that I have a choice of how I respond. I can’t control what is happening, but I can take inventory of my thoughts.  I know my kids are watching me and developing their own skills on how to cope with life’s challenges. They are listening to my words, observing my actions and reactions, and subconsciously taking notes on how adults handle a crisis.  Right now, my three girls are in the backyard playing. They are laughing, singing and running gleefully through the grass. Hair is flying wildly in the windy spring afternoon. They are filled with joy and it brings a smile to my face. Their happiness is infectious.  I can’t help but be filled with feelings of gratitude for these precious little people. In this moment, the uncertainty of the times fades a bit and as I watch them play. I’m reminded of the beauty that is present even in the midst of hardship. We don’t know how this global crisis will unfold or the health or economic toll it will take.  I can’t tell you exactly where we will be standing when the dust settles and we emerge from this confinement. But here’s what I can tell you, during this time I will be doing my best to seek out those beautiful moments of gratitude, no matter how fleeting they might be. I named this blog seeking roses because roses are my favorite flowers.  There is something about their beauty that just makes my heart happy. We also have a game in our family where we ask one another what the rose and thorn of your day were. Sometimes around the dinner table, on the car ride home from school or when we are tucking them into bed at night. The rose is the highlight of the day and the thorn was the challenge.  To me, seeking roses means being intentional in looking for the highlights and celebrating our everyday moments. Right now, as we grapple with this new normal, it feels more important than ever to find joy in the small things. Even through social distancing, we have no idea whose day we might touch and brighten.  On many levels that knowledge brings me deep comfort to know we are not alone.  That we truly are all in this together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have always been a morning person. I love the quiet and the feeling of new possibilities that come each day. How yesterday’s struggles can be distanced and put in the rear-view.

After having kids and especially starting a business, my need for time to myself became that much more apparent. I found that if I woke up when the kids did, or worse yet–was woken up by them, I was immediately in reaction mode. The endless “Mom, I need…” demands were fast and furious not to mention the running to do list in my own head of all the things I was already behind on. It trickled into the rest of my day which caused me to feel like I was constantly playing catch up. The madness had to stop.

As mentioned I love mornings and once my babies slept through the night most of the time, I felt like I could start loving my mornings again. Disclaimer, if you’re little darling is still getting up at night–this post is not for you, yet. Sleep, my sweet friend. Whenever you can, however you can. The day will come when they do sleep through the night, trust me on this. If it’s your first kiddo, you might be shaking your head. You might even shake a fist, cry some well-deserved mama tears or throw some swear words at me. It’s ok, I understand. My oldest child was a terrible sleeper. I truly thought that I was going insane and I felt so sorry for myself thinking this was my new normal. That I would literally never sleep again. Now, 10 years later, this kid actually slept in until 10am yesterday! Crazy, right! Hang in there, mama. And side note (I could go on all day, but I’m going to attempt to keep this short), all the things that you think you need to do, you don’t. The laundry, dishes, mopping floors, home cooked meals…Precious Friend, here’s your assignment, did you keep your baby alive today? Did you take care of that sweet lovebugs Mama? Done! You did it. I wish I would have been easier on myself in those early months with a baby in tow. I literally cried over my need to vacuum (the hormones didn’t help!). Even if your baby isn’t a newborn, sometimes you just need to give yourself grace and space to love on those little people and that’s enough. Take-out, premade meals, delivery services for as many things as you can. Amazon is a dream. This ideal that I thought I had to live up to was so hard for me to let go of and yet absolutely impossible to attain. I would just love to encourage anyone else that might be struggling with this that you are not alone.

Ok, got that out of my system. Let’s get back on track.

My morning routine is what saved my sanity. Here’s why. When I get up before everyone else does, I have time to actually think without any interruptions (cue the chorus of “Mom!!!”) I can fill up my own cup, literally and figuratively and enjoy the sweet quiet.

Here’s what I do.

I get up between 5am-5:30am just about every day. I actually don’t use an alarm clock. I found that I would wake up well before it went off because I was afraid it would wake up Justin. In the beginning, you might need one. Side note, I don’t sleep in the same room as my cell phone (more on this later), so a bedside clock is what I use.

Once I’m up, I literally fill my cup. I used to drink coffee, but after realizing how much damage the acid was doing to my body and the caffeine was messing with my mind, I switched it up and now drink an energy fizz drink and detox tea with a splash of vanilla coffee creamer. Pick whatever works best for you. If you love coffee, go for it. Have a tea you adore, drink it. There’s something about a warm mug that just makes my heart happy.

Next, with my cup in hand, I pray. I ask God to guide my feet, hands and heart. To set my intention for the day so I can do His good works. Next, I read. I usually start with a short devotional of some kind. Nothing fills up my emotional cup better than Jesus. Right now, I’m reading through Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.” After I read a few pages of that, I’m onto my next book. I’m a personal development junkie and at any given time, I’m reading 1 or 2 books about personal growth. I love that I can gain so much insight, knowledge and wisdom from the comfort of my own home. In the year and ½ since I committed to reading like this, I have seen it play out in my life. Because I am more grounded, I can deal with my life, kids and work better. I see hope and possibilities, where I used to just see problems. Right now as I type this we are on day 13 of self-quarantine due to Covid-19, the pandemic sweeping the world. When left to my own devices, I easily fall down a rabbit hole of fear, pessimism and self-pity. It has been through praying and reading that I have gained a much better perspective on how to navigate life better. And gosh, that is being tested right now.

Next I jot done the top priorities for the day, usually three things and no more than five. Then I’m on to focusing on the rest of the crew. I put on music that makes me feel happy and I dive in.

Up until two weeks ago, my next step was to finish getting myself ready, fix lunches, whip up a protein shake, glance at my emails and see if anything needed to be addressed right then, make breakfast and get the kids up and ready for school. We would leave by 7:35am to get everyone where they needed to be on time. With self-quarantine, our days have drastically changed. My goal now is to write and then exercise for 30 minutes. Truly, I never thought the day would come when my girls slept past 5am (not only did Hailey not want to go to bed, she was also an early riser like her mama. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep for the first year of her life).

My morning routine absolutely saved my sanity. I was a happier, more relaxed wife and mom. I felt like I had a piece of my day already checked off my list. My mind ready and focused. Plus I was already caffeinated!

Right now, I feel like I need the routine even more. To have some kind of structure and normalcy even when the world feels like chaos. There is so much I can’t control, so holding onto something I can feels incredibly precious.

Do you have a morning routine? How has it helped you and your family?

Last thought: Why I don’t sleep in the same room as my cell phone.

I have struggled most of my adult life with anxiety. Of balancing my endless to do list with perfectionism. With feeling overwhelmed at times by completely unrealistic expectations. One day I was at bible study and very wise words were spoken about the drawbacks of having our cell phone in the same room that we sleep in. A light bulb went off and I moved my phone to the kitchen. That night I slept better. In the morning, by not checking my phone right away, I wasn’t in reaction mode. I realized that by responding to the world first (emails, social media, texts) that I wasn’t in control of my day. Instead I was thinking about how I was going to react to everyone else. By putting my phone in another room, the temptation to check it late at night or early in the morning was gone. I was actually able to give my mind a break. Right now this feels paramount. Covid-19 is all over the news and can easily be all-consuming. By setting parameters, especially right before bed (I try not to use my phone 1 hour before sleep) my mind is able to regroup from the day. And by not checking first thing in the morning, I’m able to focus on my priorities first and respond to everything else second. My mental health is definitely better for it.

What do you do to limit your screen time? Would love to hear your thoughts.

I am not in control.

 

Right now I feel this more than ever. I am a control freak by nature and there is nothing I want more than to be the one calling the shots.

 

The last time I felt this way was almost 7 years ago when my sweet and incredibly stubborn husband wasn’t feeling well and yet didn’t go to the doctor.  By the end of the week he finally agreed he wasn’t getting any better and he finally went in. From the walk in doctors office, he went straight to the hospital where he stayed for 7 days.  He called me from the ER and said I think you need to call my parents to watch the kids so you can come to the hospital.

 

He had appendicitis and during the course of the week, his appendix had ruptured.  They weren’t even able to do surgery right away because his body was completely poisoned.  I was terrified. It was surreal. I felt like I was watching a scene unfold in a movie. That first day, as the ER doctor was explaining what was happening it seemed like life just stood still.  Time simply stopped. The day before I was convinced he had a bad case of the flu. Maybe he was dehydrated and needed rest. As words like surgeries, MRI’s and septic filled the air I felt like I could barely breathe.  See, my husband is not someone that gets sick. He’s a personal trainer that is in really great shape. He exercises, plays tons of sports and is a super active hands-on Dad. How could this be happening? How did I not see it? Why didn’t I push harder for him to go to the doctor sooner? Every question and feeling bubbled to the surface.  Guilt, fear, and more fear.

 

Then I went into action mode.

 

What do we do next? What procedures? Next steps? I took copious notes, practically interrogated the doctors and knew the nurses by first name.   I quickly realized that I was going to be the glue to keep everyone on the same page. Doctors had questions, nurses had questions and I had answers.  When Justin was so out of it, he couldn’t speak, I spoke for him.  

 

I’ll never forget the day he had his PIC-line put in.  I was in the hallway, holding back tears and all of a sudden I felt peace.  I’d like to think it was God giving me a warm hug. In that moment, I knew I would be ok.  I didn’t know what ok was going to look like going forward, but I felt comfort for the first time since this nightmare had started.

 

One more piece to the story, prior to that moment, my greatest fear was that I was going to walk out of the hospital a 30 year old widow. At the time our girls were three and one.  My precious preschooler was suddenly asking about colonoscopies and IV’s and during that time my one year old became very sick with a double ear infection and incredibly high fever.  My guilt soared because I was living at the hospital and couldn’t be there to help my baby. It was definitely one of the most stressful times in my life. All I wanted was control. To have certainty that we would walk out of all of this stronger instead of destroyed.

 

Fast forward a year.

 

By the grace of God, Justin survived.  Later, doctors told me that there was absolutely no medical reason for him to still be alive.  People that come in, in that condition, die. After countless surgeries, infusions, medications, sleepless nights, ER visits, prayers, tears and full on scream sessions, we all made it through.  I didn’t see or know how we would, but we did. I’m very grateful for the brave nurses and the incredible doctors we had. The battle scars on my heart remain as reminders, but just like how our bodies heal and become stronger, so did my heart.  The blessing of our youngest daughter, Paisley, is truly evidence of our healing.

 

As I write this and reflect on that time in life, I’m reminded again how helpless I felt.  How badly I wanted to go back to the week prior, back to “normal” life. It feels very similar now.  It definitely makes normal feel precious and something to be treasured.  

 

For me, I can’t let the fear creep in for too long.  The whispers want to pull me in, but I can’t go there.  It’s a rabbit hole of “what if’s” I’m not willing to acknowledge.  I don’t have the answers, I have no control. But I do have my faith.  God is my rest when the world feels like it is falling apart.  

 

Right now my Dad is 72 years old and has cancer.  I have three babies ages 9, 7 and 3. I have a husband that has an immune system that was compromised when he was sick and although he is much better now, I still fear the possible lasting effects and implications. 

 

We all have stories, we all have fears and I so badly wish I could flip a few pages in God’s playbook, see what the future holds and tell you all about it.  But what I can tell you is that when I focus my mind on what I’m grateful for, it makes the moment feel a little easier. 7 years ago some of those images included gratefulness for Starbucks coffee in the cafeteria, for many of Justin’s clients who came to the hospital and gave him checks even though he wasn’t able to train them (remember, he’s my fitness personal trainer and at that point, our sole source of income), for dinners that family and friends dropped off so I wouldn’t have to cook, for the kindness of our families in watching the girls so I could take Justin to get infusions, for sweet texts from friends reminding me of life on the outside. 

 

Typing this now, I am so grateful for technology.  My kids are able to go to school on Zoom, Justin is building an online training business and I am blessed to work from the comfort of my kitchen table.  I’m grateful for our incredible medical community, for all our pharmacists, grocers, delivery personnel. For all the people making our take out food and for our community leaders.  I’m also grateful for the sun shining through the window as I type this, for my kids’ laughter as they climb on my sweet husband’s back for “one more pony ride” and for this hot cup of tea.

 

Be well, my friends.

Remember when you were a kid and needed a permission slip? It was like a golden ticket.  If Mom signed it, that meant the field trip to the pumpkin patch was in your sights. Way better to spend the day running through corn mazes than practicing multiplication.  Permission slips were a promise, a signed document, a binding contract that held our fate. As kids, we were at the mercy of our parents to sign it and our teachers to check us off the list.  Our responsibility was in the transportation. To make sure all parties were properly notified. And nothing was sweeter than the escape that a field trip promised.

 

 

Then we grew up.  And we become the permission granters.  To our kids and even to ourselves. Yet often times we forget we have that kind of power.  Especially power over our own lives.

 

 

 

For five years I was apart of this life-giving Mom group that met at our church.  It was truly food for my soul. I met some amazing friends there. Throughout the years, many speakers have come through the doors but one in particular really resonated with me.  The director of women’s ministry shared this incredibly powerful message about permission slips. She said that as women we carry the weight of many responsibilities. We run families, businesses and marathons.  And through the course of life we define ourselves in many different ways and bear the weight of those responsibilities. Those burdens can leave us exhausted, depleted, frustrated, depressed, the list goes on. But what if we gave ourselves permission to loosen the grip on our lives and let something go?  Or what if we gave ourselves permission to finally rest? Or add something wonderful that was like letting sunshine into a dark room? Then she asked us, what would you give yourself permission to do or not do?

 

That was a hard question to answer.  I felt like my plate was full and life was jam-packed with all the things this stage of life with young kids can bring.  Things like homework and sports and making lunches and dance and volunteering at school and storytime and laundry and washing dishes and and changing diapers and more laundry and dinner.  Oh, dinner…again. Things that make life go ‘round and yet the constant “on the go” was starting to really drag me down. I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the tempo I had set for my life.  My sanity was on the brink most nights and I felt like I was losing my joy. I wasn’t a happy mom, wife or human. I was going through the motions but the light inside me was flickering at best.  

 

When I heard this talk…I was floored.  Tears welled up in my eyes as her story was my story.  I was crumbling under the weight of trying to live this polished life.  I’m not saying any of these things are bad. But in that snapshot of time, I couldn’t do any of it very well.  With a one year old under my feet (or scaling the kitchen counters) and two big kids who very much needed me, a husband who worked long hours and this perfectionist mentality relentlessly pushing me forward, I was left exhausted.  Completely worn out. And I was in need of asking the questions:

 

What is my permission slip? What do I need to give up? Or add? Where do I need to give myself permission to seek joy in this life?

 

Staring at the paper, I felt my shoulders tighten a little.  Felt my jaw tense up. This was hard. I wanted to do everything well.  I wanted to say “Yes!” I wanted to be the fun Mom with the best snacks and Pinterest worthy birthday parties.  I wanted to be in great there’s-no-way-you’ve-had-three-kids shape. I wanted to cook healthy meals every night.  I wanted to go on dates with my hubby to fun new places and have girls nights on the regular. I wanted a beautifully kept home.  But real life happens. Kids get sick. Husbands work late. A well intentioned healthy meal turns into frozen pizza after doing homework and shuttling two kids to and from soccer practices.  And the baby…destruction is her jam. I laugh at the word phase! We’ll see when she outgrows this one. She still really enjoys squeezing applesauce on the rug. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with those pouches!  The point is the unexpected, unintended life is often the life we live. It makes for those beautiful unexpected baby smiles when you lock eyes and wonder if it’s their first “real smile” or just gas. Either way the result is melting.  

 

So I had to let my perfectionism go.  It was a struggle. Like an arm wrestling match I so badly didn’t want to lose.  But in the end, my sanity had to win out. I had to take a step back and realize that life isn’t about creating beautiful moments it’s about celebrating the beauty that is already in front of me.  It’s about enjoying my kids and their shenanigans even if that means they don’t get to bed on time. Or we each grilled cheese, again. Or the clean laundry sits in the dryer one more day. Sorry, no budging on teeth brushing.  This one is non-negotiable.

 

I want to tell you it was easy.  That once I made the decision, everything just fell into place.  But that’s not the truth. The honest answer is that I still very much struggle.  I have to remind myself daily to be gentle because I’m not perfect. I know I’m doing the best I can and that is good enough.  I am allowed to prioritize, strategize, ask for help and rest (even binge watch some reality TV!) Because we all need a break. And that is not only OK, but it’s good for us.

 

I look at my now two year old who amazingly told me right before nap time today, “Me tired” and then proceeded to lay her sweet little blonde curls on her pillow.  Here’s to striving to being more like my toddler and listening to my own needs a little more closely. She even took a two hour nap and woke up so happy! My hope and prayer for you (and for me!) is to give ourselves permission to embrace whatever stage of life we are in, listen to our own needs a bit more closely and have the courage to cut out the things that stand in the way of our joy.  I’m still very much on my journey and would really love to hear about yours.

 

Where do you struggle? What do you need to give yourself a permission slip for?  How do you handle the stresses of life? Please share! I look forward to hearing from you.