Monday, December 5, 2016

it's all a gift.

I've wondered why in the world I, of all people, ended up on this path. I'm not cut out for it in so many ways and I've questioned God why he didn't change the outcome when I was praying for reconciliation. 

I went from living at home, to a couple years of college, to married life. And in those 13 years of marriage, I never saw a bill or a bank statement. I never mowed a lawn. I never had to take care of my car. I signed things when they were placed in front of me and didn't ask too many questions. I knew nothing about how to be financially responsible and manage a home.

I'm a terrible single parent. If there's another adult around I generally have the patience of a saint. But leave me with three WILD, RAUCOUS, boys all alone and my resources are depleted within minutes. I get stressed anytime there's too much noise and chaos and unfortunately that's the status quo with three boys. 

I thought God wouldn't ever allow my marriage to dissolve because he knows my weaknesses when it comes to love and dating. I don't do single life well. I crave love and affection and companionship and had a few rough months last year when I was thrown to the wolves. There are a lot of men out there who will devour their prey. Dating in your 30's is a lot different than dating at 16. 

Too hard. Not cut out for this. I can't do it. 

I was incredibly honored and excited when Lisa Leonard's team contacted me and said they'd like me to be in their family of influencers. I clicked over to her blog and the first thing that popped up was a post called, "The Unexpected Gift". 

Here's a snippet of the words that made tears well up in my eyes: 

“Let the tears come.” whispered God. “Every tear you cry makes room for more joy than you can imagine.” 
The ache in my heart was almost too much to bear. There were times I was sure my heart would break into a million tiny pieces. It was an ache so deep it seemed to come from a place inside me I didn’t know was there.
“I know you’re hurting.” whispered God. “This ache is because I am growing and stretching your heart to make room for a love deeper than you can imagine.”
With time my gift began to change me.
After a while it didn’t feel quite so heavy.
The tears made room for joy. So much joy.
My heart grew and stretched to make room for love. So much love.
As the darkness subsided, rays of light began to break through and something unexpected emerged.
Beneath the tears, heartache and darkness I saw my gift.
Hope. So much hope.
It filled me up. My hope was light and bright and good. It was so beautiful my soul could hardly take it. 
God explained, “You had to walk through darkness to see the light. You had to cry heavy, salty tears to make room for joy. You had to ache deep in your heart to make room for love. This was the only way I could give you my true and lasting Hope.”
“Thank you.” I said. “The darkness has subsided and I can see more clearly. My tears have dried and made room for joy. My heart is bigger and I can love more deeply. I have hope. Hope is a gift more precious and beautiful than I ever imagined.”
This ring on my finger is a reminder of all the tears of pain carving out room for more hope and joy than I could have imagined. It's all a gift.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

a new leaf

Where does one begin when walking through something of this magnitude? I've avoided blogging for the sheer fact that I don't know what to write anymore. (Well, that, and Instagram kinda took over the world.) For a year and a half I was clinging, fighting, clawing, scraping at any shred of hope for reconciliation. My prayers were cries to God to restore and redeem. But what do you do when those prayers you spent so many tear-filled nights praying aren't answered? The only thing I know to do is cling to hope that the restoration and redemption is still to come. It just might look entirely different than the picture I had in my mind. I choose to believe God can do more work in me and through me as a divorced woman. I heard someone say, "sometimes God allows what He hates, in order to accomplish what He loves." I honestly don't know if that is biblically sound. Maybe the bottom line is this world is full of sin and we're all taking detour after detour off the path He originally called us to walk. But I do know God uses the most painful parts of our stories to open our eyes and make us more like Him. And the closer our heart beats to the heart of Christ, the more we will accomplish for His kingdom. So ultimately I do think He'll be able to use me more now that I'm somewhat of a cast-off. An outsider.

I read a Jen Hatmaker quote back in March that gave me permission to open my hands and let go.
"That broken thing you keep trying to put back together can't even compare to that beautiful thing waiting to be built. Doesn't hindsight tell us this is true? Sometimes we go back to the same well and try again, but sometimes we lay it down, acknowledge our lessons, grieve what is just not going to be, and move on to something new and healthy and beautiful. No matter what we've lost, we can still build anew." 
Please hear me on this--this quote is not an excuse to give up. I never gave up. I was in it 100% until the bitter end. I never stopped doubting we'd be restored until that door was firmly closed. But there comes a point where no amount of praying, pleading, and apologizing will change another human's heart. I believe God is sovereign and I'm trusting that if there was still something to fight for, He would have given me at least an inkling of hope. I'm thankful my boys have two parents who are committed to put their well-being first, which often means laying hurt and frustration aside and making room for peace. And that extends out to both sides of the family because we are not the only five people affected by this.

Starting next week my life will look very different than it did a few years ago. I'm moving again, into a smaller house. This will be the third move for me in a little over a year. I'm not excited about the process of moving again (that's putting it politely. I have lots of curse words in my head.) but I'm excited about the new little house I'll be in with a beautiful kitchen and screened-in porch. This house in the woods has been a beautiful retreat and has so much potential but it's too much for me. This house was initially supposed to be ours to work on and grow in together as a family of five. It's completely impractical for a single mom. I will miss my porch swing and the beautiful views out every window and the cozy cabin feel. I will not miss all the bugs and mice inside my house or the appliances from the 1980's. Thankfully it will still be a part of the boys' life since their dad will live in it for the foreseeable future.

I'll also be starting a full-time job on Monday. And because I know some of you will ask, I'll be the executive assistant to the general manager of a golf and country club. I had a couple interviews that didn't work out when I was first searching. It was mildly defeating and very overwhelming to have to find something I could support myself on. I answered several Craigslist postings and this was one of them. It checked every single box I had in my head for my ideal job. None of the others I was applying for even came close. And just to heap on some extra blessings and reassurance that God's got my back, I'll get to eat lunch and dinner at the country club with the staff every single day. 1/3 of my meals completely covered every week. I obviously have very mixed emotions about leaving my role as stay-at-mom and being away from my kids so much but I'm mostly excited. I haven't been a good mama to them. As the stress in my life has built up around me and affected my mental, emotional and physical health, I haven't been able to handle the stress of parenthood. And I know they're suffering for it. I'm looking forward to quality time with them, rather than quantity.

I have not handled all of this separation and divorce stuff perfectly. I've said things to the kids that I've regretted. I've acted selfish and entitled about my time alone. I've often turned my back on God and instead distracted myself with anything and everything to fill the void of loneliness. I've doubted God's ability to satisfy my aching and parched soul. The list is endless and ugly.

And yet. 

And yet time and time again He has extended his hand and waited for me to grasp it. And even when I've refused to hang on, He says, "No matter. I love you all the same. And I'll show you just how much you matter to me and just how trustworthy I am." I received a brand new professional camera as a gift from a dear friend just a couple weeks ago. This was something that would have taken me months to save for but that I've desperately needed to push my business to the next level. And I know it wasn't a gift that was easy for them to pay for. It cost them something. I know they had to give something up in order for me to receive it. But all I had to do was accept it for what it was. Love. I pulled it out of the box and I felt the weight of it in my hand. And then the tears just started streaming down my face and didn't stop for a long time. It was such a physical reminder of all that God has done and will continue to do for me. I felt the weight of his love for me in that moment.

I will forever wear the title, 'divorced'. It's not some shiny badge people admire. There is so much judgment that goes along with that. I know because I used to be one of those people, judging away and making assumptions about those people's lives and kids and walks with God. And as things have gotten more public, I've had to accept the fact that people are going to assume a lot of things about me that aren't true and people are going to talk. People are going to blame and choose sides and it often hurts. But in those moments I've learned to tune out the lies. And tune in to God's voice about who I am in and through Him. I am beautiful in His eyes and fully loved and fully forgiven. I'll just mentally stick that badge right over top of the big D-word. I'm going to keep making mistakes. Every day, every hour. I will never live a perfect day in my life. But that sin doesn't separate me from God. It makes me aware of how closely in step I need to walk with Him. He's fully aware of our humanity and He's not mad about it.

I'm not out of this winter season. I won't be for some time. These days are still extraordinarily heavy and hard. Every day of my life has felt like a struggle for nearly two years now. But they've been sprinkled through with just enough blessings to keep my head above water and filled with people who have loved and supported me so well. I love Colossians 1:11 and I want it to radiate from every fiber of my being but I'm not quite there yet.
We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul--not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory strength God gives. It is the strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. 
Angela Thomas' book, My Single Mom Life, was one big gulp of fresh air. I couldn't get enough. Every single mom needs to read it. If you know one, send it to her. 'Cause she probably can't afford it. ;) I'll end with her words that lift my spirit in an instant:
Hey, you with the heavy load. Lay it down. Just put it all right here in front of Me. All your dreams and your insecurities and your pain. Everything those kids want you to be. All your worry and the responsibilities that are too much for one woman to bear. The disappointment over how life turned out. Your weakness and your weariness and your aching body. The constant needs that never go away and the little battles that just rip out your joy. Lay it down and come to Me. Come in your ordinary. It's OK. I do extraordinary work with ordinary women like you. These circumstances will not win. Love has the final say. 
Yeah. That.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

creek days

If you need us this summer, we'll be here. Who needs pool passes when you have this across the street? We ate supper on our covered porch and then spent the evening in the creek. I kinda wanted to pinch myself because of how idyllic it all felt. Which was such a relief considering the two previous weeks I'd had after my father-in-law's sudden passing and some gut-wrenching realities with facing divorce, I needed a rejuvenating breath of fresh air. I could say so much more but I'd rather just stare at these pictures of my man cubs and revel in all the good stuff for now.

He had clothes on at one point. I guess he wanted to go skinny dipping but changed his mind on the dipping part.

Its Lord of the Flies around here. You best bring a weapon if you want to survive. Ipads and cookies also work well.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

easter weekend

A weekend in pictures. This day was deceivingly warm but when we got to the lake, the wind was whipping and it was quite chilly. But these pictures right here are why I will always and forever be in support of picking up the camera. Any negative aspects of the day completely fade away and I'm left with these images that warm me straight to my core. 

And Sunday was spent with cousins on the other side of the family. Almost all of the big kids changed out of their Easter clothes as quickly as possible. Dawson put back on his Aquaman costume that his Nana made him. Sunday morning was the only time he didn't wear it in a span of about ten days. I didn't make my kids take any posed pictures with me. Maybe it was so I could use that as leverage later on to get them to give me some of their chocolate. 

 I caught this teenager sneaking a beer in the back of his grandpa's truck.
 Kidding. It was Ginger Ale.

Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. 
You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don't see him, yet you trust him--with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you'll get what you're looking forward to: total salvation.   
1 Peter 1:7-9 The Message
 Jesus, you are the reason I sing. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

waiting for spring

I haven't been blogging lately. (Besides my occasional mini-blogs on Instagram.) Its hard to write about life when I know what people are hoping to hear and I just can't report that. It makes me want to hide a little bit. But God has brought me this far and I know He's still moving. I don't need to be ashamed and hang my head because I haven't experienced redemption in my marriage.

You know this season we're in right now? The literal season? I like to think of it as The Great Thaw. Winter's over. Spring is slowly and steadily making her presence known. The weather's a bit all over the place. The temperatures still drop to uncomfortable levels and we might even see a bit more snow before all is said and done but the worst is behind us and so the cold days just don't bother us nearly as much anymore. We survived that bitter winter and we get to revel in that fact another year. Not only did I survive it but I even thanked God for it every now and then.
What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?                                                                                                          -John Steinbeck
I really felt that and believed that this winter. I knew it wouldn't last forever and I wanted to appreciate it for what it was and for what it does for our spirits. Not in spite of the weather but because of the weather. We have to dig deep to truly feel thankful for it and we have to search hard for beauty that isn't obvious to most people. But it's possible. And our character becomes a little more beautiful because of it. (This may sound a bit melodramatic to some, but then you surely haven't experienced several years of a Midwest winter.)

This is the exact season I feel like I'm in right now. I feel like The Great Thaw is happening in my own life. I haven't tasted the sweetness of spring yet but I feel the pokes and prods of hope slowly making their way up through the hard, frozen, bitter soil of my life. Life still feels like a struggle. It's still hard and sad and lonely. But I feel the thaw. There were eighteen months that felt like a living hell. So I'm guessing this pre-Spring season won't be over any time soon. I'm sure my days will still be all over the place, just like the weather. The good ones will be mixed with dark ones that leave my heart clenched and my face tear-stained and my prayers just a cry of, "why me? Why this?" But those days are fewer and farther between.

My boys seem to be doing better these days too and I'm sure that's directly correlated to their mom remembering to smile more, and that silliness is always the best cure for the grumpies. I'm enjoying them again and enjoying being their mom again and that feels really good. I could look back on the mom I was for a year and a half with guilt and shame and regret or I could look back on that version of me with grace. I can say to her, you did a damn good job loving and caring for those boys when you felt like the life was sucked right out of you and getting out of bed was a victory in and of itself.

To that person at the beginning of your desert season, just take the next step. Just make it through the day today and thank God for every single little victory along the way. Like, maybe you remembered to brush your teeth. Or you fed your kids a vegetable today. ;) Unclench your fists and open your heart. Its gonna hurt like hell but there's a beauty in your heart that hasn't been revealed yet. And when it is, His love will shine through you so much brighter than you could have imagined.

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.                                                                                                          Romans 5:2-5

Monday, March 16, 2015

Wild + Free

I had the incredible privilege of attending the Wild + Free conference in Virginia Beach last September, thanks to the generosity of my dear friend Ainsley. It was mainly geared for homeschooling mamas but the conference was applicable to non-homeschooling moms as well. The bottom line was to connect mamas from all over the country who are focused on intentional parenting; moms raising kids passionate about learning with a heavy dose of nature and literature. Most of us adopt the "free range kids" mentality and push them to explore the world around them. My focus is on bravery more than safety and creativity more than comfort. I think these things will serve them well into adulthood.
Ainsley wanted the Wild + Free movement to extend even further so she encouraged anyone who wanted to to host a local gathering. There are two things I'm passionate about: opening up my home and getting to know people. It was a no-brainer. There were nine moms, including me, and nineteen kids total. I knew half of them already and half of them I was meeting for the first time. We chatted while the kids played and then we all spread out blankets and had a picnic lunch in the breezy sunshine. We just so happened to land on the warmest day of the year so far and it was just glorious. It was a joy to spend time with so many smart, creative and talented women. I think we'll be parked out here all summer. Come on over anytime. ;)

Yes, that is my third born child wearing pajamas. I had clothes picked out for him to wear but he was NOT having it. Evidently short sleeves are a form of torture in his book. He only wanted pajamas. And the king gets what the king wants.


Sunday, February 1, 2015


Hi! Is this thing on? (tap, tap, tap) Easing my way back into blogging after a holiday/moving/no internet/broken computer sabbatical with a quick photography post. Here's my latest work.

An impromptu session with my sister and her girls on Thanksgiving. Cutest little outfits and gorgeous snowy backdrop made for adorable pictures. 

A few favorites from a family session I did right before Christmas. (Don't worry, it was unseasonably warm outside. Baby didn't freeze ;)
I went out on a morning shoot with a group of local photographers. They get together often for sunrise shoots to practice and for those with less experience to ask lots of questions. It was a really fun time of low-pressure shooting. 
The next few are from a girls' weekend getaway my friends and I had in Galena, IL. Megan and Katie are professional photographers and Ally's just the best sport so we spent one incredible afternoon taking photos at this amazing frozen waterfall.
A little blurry but this one sums this girl up. Pure joy. I leave happier whenever we're together.  
This beauty just moved to Florida this week. Our little tribe isn't going to be the same without her. She has such an incredible heart and is always pointing us back to Jesus. I hope we can all reconvene on a beach in her neck of the woods very soon. 
One of my nearest and dearest here in my town. This girl's got my back and I love her for it.
See a few more photos from our trip here

New house post coming soon(ish)!