Just Say No

Good, great and beautiful Sunday morning! I love mornings in general, but Sunday mornings? There is just something about those precious few peaceful hours that makes all the world right.

Life continues to be absolutely crazy. A week ago, I finished my fifth MBA course marking my half way point in the program. Then Monday, I rolled right into my sixth class with Computer Information Systems…no rest for the wicked they say. I’ve taken on some new professional challenges, determined to continue growing and move forward with my skill set and work experience. 

We’ve had golf camp, art camp, VBS, baseball and Cub Scouts. After a sedentary year of adjusting to being back in school, I’ve started running again with my sister (see the photo below…I made her run in the rain and then take a makeup free picture 😲…she thinks I’m trying to kill her but she’ll thank me later!). And finally, I’ve started reading again (for fun!). I’ve decided to go back through the classics that I “cliff noted” my way through in high school and to try to actually appreciate them this time. I just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (absolutely fantastic) and am now reading To Kill a Mockingbird.


I feel a shift within myself. There are no more hours in the day today than there were a year ago. But today I feel more productive and happier and thankful for the energy to do all of the things I’m passionate for. This change, these happy moments with my children, with my husband, in my career, in my schoolwork, they haven’t been without a cost.

I have learned little by little to start saying no. Let me clue you in to the fact that I hate saying no. I want to do it all. Be involved, support all good causes, be a strong leader in my community, church and work… But in order to be happy, in order to be content, in order to be the Christian, wife, and mom that I am designed to be, I have learned that I have to pick and choose where I am spending my time very wisely. 

Sometimes the no’s are obvious and sometimes they’re painfully difficult. Some of my no’s were easier than I imagined. I say no to TV today. I say no to social media. The truth is that I  have better places to spend my time, and when I’m focused on television or social media, I losing time on something I find more precious. You may be reading this blog via a Facebook link thinking “what a hypocrite, ” but let me tell you that these are not hard no’s. If my day is done, and my husband has settled into bed to watch a good murder mystery, you better believe I am by his side. If my child has done something adorable (as children often do), I will make a post on Facebook to share with my friends and family. But gone are the days of spending an afternoon on a Netflix binge or blindly scrolling through a Facebook feed while sitting with my family. I’ve turned off all notifications to my cell phone and try to leave my phone put away any time that I know my focus should be on my family, work and/or school. So of all my no’s, this was an easy one. This no has brought me many moments of great joy and peace.

However, there have been other no’s that hurt my heart. I had to resign from some volunteer work; volunteer work that I know is important, that is vital even. But I saw myself swimming…drowning in commitments that I could not follow through. My joy in life was slipping. I was missing out on too many tuck-ins with my kids, too many opportunities to grow mentally, emotionally and/or physically. Right now, at this point in my life, I have to make difficult choices. I am happier today for the no’s I’ve forced myself to say. I am a better wife and mom. I can feel God’s joy in my heart because I am taking moments to just sit in his peace. I can share that joy with my family and friends. That is my number one responsibility in this life. 


When was the last time you had a moment to sit in God’s peace and love? Are you making quiet time to just be? It’s difficult. It’s one of the hardest things in life for me. I also believe it’s one of the most important. Saying no isn’t always easy, but the rewards are exponential. Make today a joyous day. Say no to the things that aren’t on your priority list (and if you don’t have a priority list, make one). Say yes instead, to the things that bring you peace and joy. Here is a list of my “insteads” since I’ve started to say no: a walk with my kids, a bike ride, a run, planting a garden, reading a great book, listening to my favorite podcast, dancing with my children, coloring a page with my daughter, washing my dishes, sitting on the front porch with my husband…the list will continue to grow. I am so thankful. I’m wishing you the best of days over this holiday weekend. Happy 4th of July from my family to yours! 

Turkey Day Everybody!

It’s finally here!!! Thanksgiving…my absolute FAVORITE day of the entire year. Thanksgiving beats out other holidays for so many reasons. 

First, no gifts….not one single present. I love that…a holiday where no one has to worry about money, where people aren’t focused on what they get or what they give, but instead of the time. Time, being present in the moment, enjoying those around us. That is the focus of this day. 

Second, come on now, the food! I’m a total glutton…so this is my day. The greenbean casserole is in the oven. The pumpkin caramel cheesecake is in the refrigerator. Yes, you heard that right…PUMPKIN. CARAMEL. CHEESECAKE. Exciting, I know. And before we eat, we pray. A prayer of Thanksgiving, my favorite moment of the whole wonderful day.

So on this day, I hope you can look into your heart and find deep gratitude for all of your blessings. Be thankful…thankfulness is a true gift and it allows us to see life in a totally different and amazing way. Be thankful today and everyday.

Today and everyday, I’m most thankful for:

  • My relationship with God through Jesus
  • My husband…my unbelievable, sweet, loving, funny, amazing husband
  • My children, for all their joy and innocence. The light that they bring to this world 
  • My family. My mom. My dad. My sister, brother-in-law. My brother. My mother-in-law and father-in-law. My sister-in-law. My nieces and nephews. My aunts and uncles. My cousins. For the memories we’ve made. For the memories yet to come. For always being there. For being such an awesome and joyous part of my life.
  • For my friends. For the ways they make me a better person. For the laughs. For the tears. For the special place they hold in my heart.
  • For my career. For the way my employer has helped me to grow professionally. For the opportunities I’ve been given. For the way they help me provide for my family.
  • My education. For the way it has opened my mind. For the way I’ve grown and continue to grow. For the future it provides for me and my family.
  • My home. To have a place that is comfort. A place that I am always happy to come home to.
  • For my pets. For the way they are always happy to see me. For the way they’re never put off by sweatpants or morning breath. For their enthusiasm. For their love.
  • For so many things. Too many to name. For all of the blessings I’ve been given. For the pain that’s help me grow. For the moments that have made me stronger. For everything.

I wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings today. Eat. Talk. Nap. Eat again. Be thankful.

An Open Letter to my Children 2016

I am thinking tonight of all of the things that make my children so special to me. How some of those things are the same as they were a year ago…or two years ago. But some of the things have changed. Some of the little idiosyncicies that I cherished have slipped away as they have grown and I don’t even think of them anymore. And dare I say that I’ve even forgotten???

So tonight, in this world of crazy election chaos, violence and hatred, drought, famine, and all of the other hard, unbearable things this world throws at us, I’m going to take a minute just to tell my kids how much joy they bring me in the midst of the madness. Because if they’re not old enough to know it today, I hope someday they look back and read this and realize, they were made just for me, and I for them, to love and care for, nurture and grow together. 

For Jace, my son:

You are seven. You are in an awkward stage where you’re missing half your teeth and you haven’t grown as big or tall as most of your friends. Scary movies are your absolute favorite (I love that about you…they were my favorite too). You love steak…LOVE steak, and ice cream, Pringles, orange tic tacs. You discovered Steph Curry this year and fell in love with basketball. You also grew in leaps and bounds in your baseball skills. You are learning to read with confidence. You are also learning to speak with confidence, although it is difficult for you. You second guess yourself almost always but I’m always happy to stand behind you to give that gentle (or not so gentle) nudge. You have a quick wit and sharp sense of humor. Your laugh is maybe the cutest sound I’ve ever heard and I wish I could hear it all the time. You pick on your sister incessantly but you also cherish her when no one is looking. You tell me every day that I’m the “best mom ever.” But you really can’t understand yet that being your mom is my greatest blessing and just how much I love you. Thank you for being just the person you were meant to be and for filling my heart so full. 

For Jera, my daughter:


You are four. I sometimes think you’re a love gremlin, sent here to snatch up all of my hugs and kisses. You never seem to get enough, even stopping for a squeeze and a crawl into my lap several times throughout supper every single night (God, help me not take this for granted). You are, without a doubt, the most loving soul. You love Tom and Gerry but mistakenly refer to the cat as “Tomen” because you don’t realize the show is called “Tom AND Gerry”…not “Tomen Gerry”. That one makes me smile every single time. You’re scared of the dark, and spooky movies, and loud sounds…you’re actually a bit of a fraidy cat but I love that about you. You have such a big, outgoing personality and you will talk to anyone, anywhere. You’re never scared to make a new friend. We’re battling food allergies with you and you stop to ask if I’ll read the label before trying something new. That makes me proud of you. You are thoughtful in the most unexpected ways. You love bedtime stories and watching Netflix in the bathtub. You love wearing dresses. You insist on wearing winter boots in the dead heat of summer. You are too beautiful for words. Thank you for being a ray of light and hope for me. I love you with all of my heart.

Love always and forever,

Your mom πŸ’•

For my readers:

Take the time to remember, to write down the things that make your heart swell. Life is so busy. There is so much negativity. Take the time to focus on what really matters. Be grateful. It truly is the little things. Don’t let them slip by and fade away.

Room for Doubt

My faith has become a center for my life.  My marriage, the way I raise my children, my friendships and even my career are heavily shaped by my faith and where I feel I fit into God’s world.  I have talked friends through times of crisis.  I have pushed myself and my family through times of grief all on the back of my sturdy and solid faith.  But I have to share that I’ve had moments where my faith fell.

I hesitate to write on this because it feels a bit taboo as a Christian. Is it okay to say I have moments of doubt? Is it okay to admit that in my life’s darkest moments, I have felt the terror of wondering if I am alone? Does this make me a bad Christian?   

It was nearly a month ago that I found myself in this dark place. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My happy, peaceful little life was turned on its head. My plans were interrupted. The things that had been important the day before, suddenly had no significance. And with this swift turn of events, I felt incredibly weak in my faith.

I struggled in my pain and confusion and I wondered, is my God real? This idea of a soul, is it more than an elaborate, hard-wiring in our brains? Are we nothing more than the most amazing computer that biology ever evolved? The feelings I had in those moments with my thoughts are hard to describe. I don’t think I can find a way to write the emptiness of doubt.

I have heard of people hearing an answer from God. I mean actually hearing. There are Biblical stories and those experiences my friends have shared. But those have always been just stories. Something that happened for someone else, but not me. I have cried out in loss to God and felt resentful at the return of silence. But this time, in the silence of my doubt, I could hear for the first time.

I received an answer.  I heard a clear, calm voice and it told me, 

“No. This life is not it.  You are more than your personality.  You are more than your intelligence. You are more than the way you feel about one another.  There is more to you than the way the world perceives you.  You. Are. More. Than. The. World. Can. See.”  

I was astounded in my heartbreak.  How did I never understand this?  I had thought the soul was so simple. I have explained it to my children time and time again saying, “Our soul makes us who we are…why Jace is funny…why Jera is stubborn…why we feel and cry and think.”

But suddenly I knew with absolute certainty that that isn’t it at all. We can change the way the world sees us.  We can mimic another’s behavior.  We can pretend to be someone we’re not.  We can fool the world. We can make the world love us. We can make the world hate us.  But only God sees who we truly are…only God has access to our souls.  Only God knows us, the deep down, secret parts of us.  The parts that we don’t show our lovers and our friends.  The parts that our family never knows.  The part that we might not even recognize.  The part that is tucked away and is only for God, our Creator.  

This part of us knows only God. Our soul doesn’t create a persona. It doesn’t design an interesting human being.  Our personality is certainly a gift to us. It is a tool that can be used to do God’s work.  And our relationships and the way we relate to one another, again, are separate from our soul. These bonds are again, a way for us to show God’s love to one another in this life.  But our personality and our relationships are not US.  They do not determine who we are and without them, we are still us.  

If tomorrow something happens in this life, my memories are taken from me and you can’t recognize me as the often bubbly, sometimes overly serious, too guilible and always passionate person, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend that I have always been….God will still know me. He can see past all of the qualities that the world uses to define me. He can see what I’m made of. 

This is my answer. This was my experience. My gift in my time of doubt. I’ve never felt so certain of anything in my life.  In my darkest moment, in my doubt, God was listening and he provided my answer.

I still went to sleep that night with a troubled and heavy heart.  But I knew I was not alone.  Difficult times are not over for my family. Over the past month, God has shown himself to my family and to me…little, undeserving, doubting me…again and again.  I hope to tell the world about God’s work in my life.  It is my greatest responsibility to share it with you. 

I hope you read this and know that if you doubt, it’s okay. We are only human. I never thought I would react with doubt in a time of desperation…but I did. And my faith grew in leaps and bounds from this experience. Our faith can grow from our human experience. It should. I’m starting to realize, that’s the whole point. And when you doubt, God will love you anyway.

Family Fodder

My family is big by any standards. My dad comes from a family of 12 and my mom comes from a family of 9. For the most part, each one of my aunts and uncles have 2-3 children and now my cousins and I continue on the legacy of what my grandparents started all of those years ago. This is nowhere close to all of us…if we were all in the same place at the same time, we’d need a much bigger photo!


Family…what an amazing and incredible blessing. Our very own modern day tribe. The very best friends I’ve had in my life, those I’ve grown up with, those I continue to grow old with, the ones from the beginning who will still be there in the end, they’re my family. My best memories are those made with my aunts, uncles and cousins. A bond made strong by shared laughs, countless sleepovers, hearty German meals together and the realization that there are other humans in this world that not only have shared many of my experiences, but also who are truly a part of who I am. Genetics are incredible and when I spend time with my cousins whom I don’t see nearly enough, I find myself feeling right at home. I know it’s more than the late night secrets shared 25 years ago that keep us close after all of this time. We are cut from the same cloth…how can we not be thankful for this gift of family?

I am in awe for the way we’re all connected in this experience of life. It makes me want to build the same thing for my children. How different my life would be if I didn’t have this safe place where I will always belong…family. I’ve made a good start, for my kids I mean. Although they spend most of their time arguing with one another at the moment (like most siblings do), they also love each other like crazy. And thankfully they also have cousins who are already their best friends. They keep secrets from us lame adults, they giggle over things we don’t understand, they spend endless hours playing games that they’ve designed and no one else gets….they know one another in a way someone outside of this circle will never understand. I couldn’t be happier or more grateful. 


So here are the experiences I hope for for my children with their God-given best friends, their cousins:

  1. Late night whispers and giggles together after I’ve tucked them in and demanded they go to sleep RIGHT NOW!
  2. The building of forts, the telling of stories, the dreams of modeling or becoming the next Steph Curry, the desire to take on the world together in adventure after adventure
  3. Excited secrets of first loves…first kisses…and the tender understanding needed from a true friend after their first heartbreak
  4. The passing on of the advice that I, as Mom, am not ready to give…it was a cousin who told me Santa wasn’t real, it was a cousin who showed me how to shave my legs and even passed on all of the feminine necessities when I reached that magical age of womanhood
  5. Days and nights of too much fun shared with the people that care enough to let them know when they’re out of line. And the knowledge that when they’ve stepped over that line, they’ll always have a friend that sees them for who they truly are, not for the mistakes they’ve made
  6. Celebrations of graduations, weddings, children and all of the other amazing gifts in life
  7. The shared decision one day down the road 25 years from now, when it’s easy to drift apart, that their friendship is so worth the effort…and the discovery that things between them are just as easy and joyful as when they were five.


Have you thought about those special people in your life? The ones who have always been there? Give thanks for the way they’ve shaped you as a person, thanks for all that you’ve shared, thanks to have someone in this world that just gets you. Don’t forget to make that extra effort. Go the extra mile. There are some things that time and distance will not change; the bond of family is one of those unchangables. Let’s never take that for granted. I read somewhere the other day “Find Your Tribe, Love Them Hard.” Some of us are lucky enough not to have to look too far. My tribe has always been there and they always will be. I give thanks for that every day.

Stress Mess

I’m heading out of the office for the day…I must make it down two flights of stairs, through three sets of doors (one which I need to enter a passcode to open) and across the parking lot to my car all while carrying :

  1. my planner (aka “my life in a little leather book”)
  2. a few emails I have printed so I don’t forget to do task a, b and c later in the evening…or week….or month…or whenever I get to them
  3. a carton of cookies I will be delivering to my mom
  4. my lunch bag still filled with lunch (since I forgot to grab it from the fridge as I headed out of the office on break)
  5. a ziplock bag with two hard boiled eggs (don’t ask about my odd eating habits…I’m currently eating “clean” or something like that).
  6. 2 lbs of raw ground beef that I picked up from the grocery market over my lunch break (taco night…woot woot)
  7. hanging awkwardly from my shoulder is my purse… with my shaker cup hanging dangerously out of the top
  8. hoisted against my shoulder and leaning on my forearm is a box filled with summer sausage, cheese and crackers.

This is me. This mess, this crazy amount of chaos, this balancing act is me…all the time…every day. Did I mention I’m wearing 3″ heels???

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So I rush to my moms to pick up my kiddos and I’m down one box of cookies, but I’ve been raised one backpack and 3- and 7-year old bodies of pure energy. We pull in at home and it’s unloading EVERYTHING from the car, making supper, practicing piano, homework, stories, bedtime and I. AM. BEAT.

I’m thinking of my coming week and I know I have a Sunday School class to prep for, a Boy Scout meeting to plan, a holiday party, a wedding, my son’s first day of bowling…and I’m feeling overwhelmed. Sound familiar? You can relate, right?

As I was leaving work today, hands full, looking like a hot (hopefully at least halfway decent πŸ˜‰) mess, a friend of mine followed me out of the building. She just eyed my struggle and smiled…she’s been there. I shared with her that I feel like I’m constantly feeling like I’m swimming in chaos. I see these other people go to and from here or there and they’re hands are empty. They look relaxed. How do they do that??? My friend looked at me and said “You wouldn’t have it any other way.” Whether I like it or not, I know she’s right.

I tend to walk a very fine line between blissfully active and anxiously overwhelmed. Β At times I’ve slipped right off the edge and landed square on my rear. These are the times that I start to count my burdens, my worries, my anxieties. I start to count and recount, I begin to list, I can’t sleep and I can’t move forward and somehow I can’t seem to get a single thing accomplished. Stress is like a thick fog. If you let it surround you, you can’t move in any direction with confidence. You’re stuck. The good news is I’ve learned something along the way. I’ve learned a new way to carry my load. A way to turn bricks to feathers and it all begins with gratitude.

Today I’m overwhelmed.

So I begin to think of what I have to be thankful for. I’m so thankful to be healthy today, for the ability to move and be active, to not be limited in my energy and capabilities. Sometimes being grateful starts very simply. The more stress I feel, the simpler my gratitude list needs to start. Sometimes it’s the air in my lungs, my feet on the floor. When I start with the simplest things that I normally take for granted, I can gently roll into the bigger, more obvious things in my life. That small bit of gratitude can grow into a warm, glowing, large sense of thankfulness for my children, my husband, my family and home. The realization comes to me that all of these blessings come with responsibility. That feeling I was previously interpreting as stress, I can now see as my privilege. How fortunate am I that these are my problems?

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Gratitude is an amazing gift. Developing an attitude of gratitude is like removing a blindfold and seeing the sun for the first time. When I am focused on the stress and the to-do list, I’m wandering in the dark. But when I start to focus on gratitude, I am able to not only handle the stress…I am able to be thankful for it. Because after all, these things are not stress, they are my greatest blessings…my children and their activities, my church and my growth in and with God, my home and my household, my career and my professional goals. It is truly a matter of perspective. And I have decided I will be thankful.

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What do you have to be thankful for? Consider what is stressing you right now. Can you look at those stressors from a perspective of gratitude? Can you transform your brick into a feather? I encourage you to give it a try. Trust me when I say it takes some practice. But once you get it, the first time you remove the blindfold, you’ll gain a true understanding of the power of gratitude.