The Uninvited Houseguest

She arrives, usually uninvited, and dumps out a suitcase in your living room. Trying not to let others see the awkwardness of it, you start to unpack what she brought; tears and laughter, nostalgia and despair, and even peace and gratitude.

Grief never tells you how long she is staying, and you’re not sure how long you want her there, either. Sometimes you want to kick her out. But deep inside you worry that with her departure, she might pack up some of your precious memories and strongest feelings.

Grief may be demanding and paradoxical. Sometimes she needs you to spend the evening looking at pictures and sobbing and then the next morning she may need a happy hike on a new trail, or to take on an ambitious new project. Sometimes she goes quietly into her room for long periods and then wakes you up in the night like an armed intruder. 

Grief and toddlers have a lot in common. You don’t get to choose their moods or outfits or how they behave in public. But also, they both mature so quickly that from month to month and year to year, you hardly recognize them. And although you don’t miss the outbursts, you do miss the poignancy of that stage – the raw honesty of it – the singularness, even the sacredness of it. 

Grief is something of a shape shifter. She generally transforms from pain back into her true form: love. But the surprising part isn’t her transformation, but yours. 

The Cost of Joy

More often than I want to admit, I’m counting down the hours, the minutes, and the seconds until the kids go to bed. I love them. But I’m tired. Why do kids so emphatically resist basic life functions like eating, sleeping and pooping? Why do toys explode into every corner of the house? Why is repetition and volume the most powerful tool children have?

Finally, they’re in bed. Their breathing slows and their muscles slacken. Their mischief and squabbling evaporates into thin air. Their round cheeks push against their pillows and their fringe of eyelashes point down to their tiny noses and flower bud lips. Suddenly, shimmering over their tousled hair is a golden halo of innocence that erases the exhaustion caused by their incessant needs. Knowing they are safely nestled and asleep and that there will (most likely) be a couple of hours where no one says my name, suddenly my heart wakes up – hungry for love. So I feed it. My heart feasts on picture after picture and video after video. It nibbles on that photo of Flora wearing a swimsuit at the table with her pudgy feet resting on either side of her cereal bowl. It indulges on the video of Millie who passionately sings her made up songs with charming tune (or lack of). It finishes with a quick scroll back a few years to see what over-achiever Georgia was doing at her sisters’ ages.

Why is it that I was so ready for them to be asleep, but now I can’t get enough of them? During the day, there isn’t a lot of time or energy to relish in a beautiful moment. And those moments are tucked between bills, brawling, bum-wiping, endless chores and requests for snacks. But at night, those beautiful moments are frozen in time, and magnified because there are no more distractions or demands on my energy. I can savor them. Roll them around in my mind. They aren’t tucked between other less joyful moments – they’re the summary of the day.

It takes a lot of schlepping to get out the door. There’s the million trips up and down the stairs to make sure everyone has what they need. There’s the “Get your shoes on. Now. NO. NOW. Go get your shoes on. No, you can’t wear that. Fine, wear whatever you want. Wait, why are YOU naked? I just got you dressed! No. Just get in the car. Okay buckle. The bathroom? I asked you to go and your said you didn’t need to go! Hurry!”

There’s also the mental energy spent in making the plans – It’ll take this long to get there and we have this much time to do the thing and still get home for naptime/bedtime/mealtime. Mental inventory of everyone’s sleep the night before (emotional disposition), most recent meal and bathroom trip, and location of their precious items. Then there’s the complaining and the fighting. Its all just… a lot.

No matter how prepared you are, its still a gamble whether an outing will go well. You could not have anticipated that her eye would swell shut out of nowhere while camping. Neither could you have planned for that beautiful bluebird that we stopped to watch build a nest. You could not have prepared for that spectacular tantrum. Neither could you have foreseen that moment when tiny hands pulled your face close for an eskimo kiss.

All of the joy. All of the really good stuff comes at a price. And a lot of it is really easy to miss.

The cost of joy is work. So so so much work. The cost of joy is vulnerability, willingness, consistency, sacrifice, forgiveness, gratitude… all of that on top of the physical reality of life; jobs, chores, illness, finances, etc.

And yet… joy itself is so accessible, so very simple.

Disneyland is awesome. But so is sharing a bowl of ice cream on the porch. A day free of worry is phenomenal. But so is a day of sticky floors and lost tempers and getting the pink race-car grocery cart and drawing her first family portrait and naming the squirrel that lives in the backyard.

Joy is the sound of the smoke detector going off every Saturday morning- indicating that dad is making breakfast – and the 1 year old trying to fan the alarm with a towel, just like she’s seen her sisters and parents do since she was born. Joy is a worn out mom tickling a pile of kids to distract them from their fight over whose identical toy is the one that is broken. Joy is the empathy of a toddler when you stub your toe.

Really, the cost of joy is just the effort it takes to sift out the good stuff and remember it at the end of the day. Because its always there. Every day. No matter what.


At Least You’re Not in High School

Ya’ll know about my superstition of how you should never say things are going well out loud because it invites trouble. Ya’ll know my code words for LIFE IS SO GOOD RIGHT NOW are “Things could always be better”.  Well, for a few beautiful weeks, things could always have been better. I knew it couldn’t last forever. But in my bliss I chose to tempt fate and say how good things were out loud.  (Life being good doesn’t mean perfect or easy, because life is never that. But you know,  when there is nothing catastrophic happening and your routine/schedule seems manageable and you actually enjoy the weather.)

The pro to having a smooth patch is that I regain my strength, I see the beauty all around me, I have capacity to reach out to others, and I can simply breathe easier. Seriously, breathing is easier. (There were a few weeks this summer where I would try to meditate but it was like I was exhaling and inhaling at the same time.)  The cons to having those smooth patches are that I have no creativity. I try to write or paint or something and I just stare at it with nothing to get out. Also, and this is a big one, when things are going smoothly, you think “YES!  This is what life is supposed to be like. This is normal.”


People say “When things calm down I’m going to ___.” or “When life gets back to normal…” I’m realizing that “normal” is actually quite rare. “Calm” is fleeting at best. “Normal” is what we tend to call the ideal. REAL normal is actually pretty hard.

A while back, I was moaning to Harmony about normal, and her genius son Colin said “At least you’re not in high school.”

I laughed. She laughed. Colin didn’t laugh.

It doesn’t matter if you’re on the top or the bottom of the social totem pole in high school. Its a rough few years for everybody. No one comes out unscathed. Colin’s lack of laughter gave me some instant humility and gratitude for where I am in life.

Sure, this stage of life is like running a marathon but never knowing what mile you’re on.  But this stage of life has also given me blessings beyond what I ever dared to imagine.

So I’m going to attempt to define “normal” and “ideal” in my life the way they should accurately be defined. I’m going to stop expecting things to be ideal all of the time. I’m going to embrace that normal is full of unexpected expenses and illnesses, but also unexpected laughter and companionship and self-acceptance.

So many of us are on this quest for happiness, and yet forget that happiness doesn’t always feel happy. Sometimes happiness is trusting things will be okay. Sometimes happiness is a belly laugh after a really heavy day. Sometimes happiness is the satisfaction of knowing you did your best, even if it didn’t work out. Sometimes happiness is pausing amid a mundane task to notice how the light dances on the wall, or how the trees gently sway, or how the warm dishwater feels on your hands. Maybe happiness is the curve of a child’s cheek, or the smell of your clean laundry pile.

Happiness is tucked into every pocket of normal life, not just ideal life. And maaaaybe its even tucked into high school. (But I’m still glad I’m done with that crap.)



Everyone I know is carrying a heavy load. Some are “developmentally age appropriate” challenges like mine are currently. Others are life-altering-yowzers-ouchy like divorce, disease, etc. Everywhere I look, I see people struggling under the weight of their lives.

I’ve made covenants to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”

I genuinely desire to emulate the Savior and  “lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”

I want to “visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction”.

Yes, yes yes. I should and I want to do those things. But today, it occurred to me that I’m looking beyond the mark.

Jesus. Jesus Christ. The PERFECT guy. THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD. He mourned with those that mourned, strengthened the feeble knees, and visited the widow, but He wasn’t everything to everyone. He didn’t heal every person He encountered. He left many needs unmet. He wasn’t in more than one place at a time. He didn’t remove every obstacle for everyone in His circle. In fact, it seems like those closest to Him had more than their share of suffering.

If Jesus, being divine, didn’t do it all, why do I feel like I should be everything to everyone? Somehow I’ve adopted this impossible idea that I must alleviate all of the suffering I see. If asked for help, I cannot say no. “Because I have been given much, I too must give.” I am constantly failing at this absurd duty I’ve given myself as I can barely manage the needs of my own household.

So how do I keep my covenant to serve others without taking on more than God intended and driving myself crazy in the process? At Church and in scripture, all I read about is GIVE GIVE GIVE, LOVE LOVE LOVE, SERVE SERVE SERVE! And I believe in this. Truly. But I’m realizing I need to be more mindful about WHERE I do that giving, loving and serving. I’m finite. I have limited time, energy and resources. I’ve covenanted to use them to help others – and I want to. But I need to be able to determine ENOUGH.

Its easy with tithing and fast offerings. Ten percent is a tithe. Fast offerings are the cost of the food you would have eaten (and more if you feel you can). God doesn’t ask us to give our entire paycheck to the Church and then hope for manna from heaven to fall and feed us. We are instead told to be good stewards over our income. Spend less than we earn, and save for emergencies.

When it comes to serving others with our time and energy (and sanity), its not so cut and dried. There is no quantifiable way to determine “enough”. From the greatest saint to the least, I don’t know a single one who feels like they’re doing enough. Many of us not only carry our own burdens, but add to them the weight of guilt for not doing more for others.

Today Valerie was talking about how terrible she feels that she hasn’t done more for an acquaintance whose husband died, she hasn’t provided more meals for her old friends who recently had quadruplets, and she’s feeling like she’s neglecting too many other outside needs. Looking at her life, its easy for me to see that she offers warmth and humor to every person she encounters, she is deeply dedicated to the needs of her family in a very very demanding stage of life, she is consistently and lovingly serving the youth in the Church, and all of this while going to school. She feels guilty for watching something on Netflix before bed (probably while folding laundry or something) instead of feeding the homeless or reaching out to the people she mentioned. It was easy, because its not my own life, to say “Val, God will take care of them. It doesn’t have to be through you. If there’s something specific He wants you to do, HE WILL TELL YOU.”

But it gets cloudy when I look at my life and I see my own list of needs I’m not meeting and think “But if its on my mind, does that mean God is telling me I should be doing something?”

Perhaps this is another one of Satan’s way of discouraging us. He takes some of our limited mental energy and squanders it on feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Perhaps there is some way to stop overthinking everything and taking on burdens that were never meant for us. Perhaps God does have a way of helping us determine “enough”.  I mean, I haven’t figured it out yet. But I think it has something to do with learning to hear HIM instead of listening to the pressures we put on ourselves.

Maybe I need to stop worrying about how much I can do, and just worry about the LOVE I put into what I CAN do.




Ears to Hear and Eyes to See

(Written February 13, 2019 and never completed. But maybe it doesn’t need completion.)

Georgia loves the story about the war in heaven. She often asks me to explain again how Christ presented one plan and Satan another, and how because of Satan’s selfish plan, he and those who followed him will never have bodies, and now their spirits work to make us miserable, who chose Christ’s plan and came to earth with bodies. I’ve told it enough that now she’s asking for stories about Satan on earth… well there are a few scriptural accounts but I’ve also been telling her about times when I’ve been tempted to make bad choices, or did make bad choices, and how Satan works in my life. At the end of each story she gets to yell out “NOT TODAY, SATAN!” or “GET THEE HENCE, SATAN!” and we laugh and laugh.

This perceptive child is a gift. She’s helping me to see things I “know” but don’t really think about. Gospel doctrine focuses so much on following Christ – acting out of love, doing good, being kind, heeding spiritual impressions. For whatever reason, it feels hokey or uncomfortable to talk as directly about the adversary. But I’m learning a little more each day that we need to “Know thy enemy” in order to keep ourselves safe from him.

My dear friend Sarah has been telling me about a workbook she’s doing which focuses on overcoming one’s own (likely subconscious and hidden) racism. I feel drawn to do something like that, but I told myself I shouldn’t because then I’d start ranting and trying to “fix” everyone around me – which would likely have the opposite effect. FEAR stops me. knowing what I know, why would I let FEAR stop me from doing something innately good that I feel compelled to do? Because the adversary wants to stop me. And fear is one of his greatest tools.

Lately I’ve been trying to deepen my relationship with Heavenly Father through sincere prayer. It hasn’t been going that great. I keep having flashbacks to a decade ago when I had some very powerful experiences with prayer which gave me very sacred insights into the personality of Heavenly Father.  The fact that I’m not feeling so connected leads me to feeling guilty that I can’t recreate those experiences. Satan is telling me I’m less spiritual, less worthy. Finally today I felt prompted to consider that I’m looking for God to communicate with me in the same ways he did before. I’m different now. My situation is different now. Maybe if I listen, I’ll discover He’s communicating with me in different ways now. Satan knows that I know God is talking to me. So Satan tells me I’m incapable of hearing.

What I need is EYES TO SEE and EARS TO HEAR.

Kid Friendly Trails near Ogden

I know this type of post isn’t that valuable for the bulk of my many readers (I think we are up to like 10 of you now. ha ha.) But I often have neighbors or others ask me about trails, so I finally typed it up for an easy-to-share resource.

This list is by no means complete, but its a good starter. I’ll update this over time and add some pictures. Bookmark it if you want to use it as a reference.

Stroller and Bike Friendly:

These routes are just over Three miles but you can always turn around sooner to make it shorter:

Botanical Gardens to Dino Park: Paved and goes uphill with a headwind (you’re walking towards the canyon) until you turn around. 

Park at the Botanical Gardens and head toward the mountains! The trail follows the Ogden river and has many shady parts. It passes the gardens (a great spot to loiter at afterwards for a reward), then you go under a road-bridge and come out at Big Dee Sports Park where the trail loops around. Stay straight. If you go right, its lovely and takes you through the exercise stops, but its not worth it with kids. You’ll cross the road where its marked and then walk on the outside fence of Dinosaur park and be able to see plenty of dinos. Keep going past Timbermine Restaurant and a small farm and then stop at the Dino Park Gate (across from Rainbow Gardens) and turn around. This trail has lots of little rewards and mountain views. 

(You can also park at the gardens and head west under the little tunnel. The trail eventually connects to the trails below. You’ll pass through the fairgrounds, Lorin Farr Park, and lots of other interesting/sketchy locations. Kinda fun, but makes me a little nervous sometimes.)

Fishermans Trailhead: Unpaved and mildly hill and dale. 

Get there from Adams Avenue (turn left right after the toll) or from Lower Uintah if you don’t want to pay a dollar. There are  generally a few cars parked at the gate, but the trailhead isn’t super obvious. The trail follows the Weber river and has some shade and some exposure. There is a lot of noise from I-84, but you’ll still see a lot of birds, and other wildlife. There are gorgeous river views. We generally turn around at the wooden bridge, where it connects to the route below and you can actually go for miles. Once you cross the bridge, its paved.  This trail gets used a lot in winter too. 

Riverdale North or South: Paved and mildly hill and dale. 

Park in the lot just past the Riverdale City Offices (behind Super Walmart). There is a fun little Balance Bike course that kids love to play on, too. 

South: This route follows the river and passes through a frisbee golf course. There is a variety of views on this section of the trail. It is mostly exposed. We generally turn around at the wooden bridge. 

North: This route has some odd crossings, but also has a lot of shade, and fun wooden bridges through swampy areas. From the parking lot, go right on the trail and cross the bridge by the city offices. Pass the bizarre tree stumps carved into penguins?/dolphins? and you’ll have the river on the right and the car dealership on the left. You’ll pass a mobile home park and go under Riverdale Road (look for Mud Swallow homes in spring!) The trail does get better. Once you go through the gate, you’ll see exercise stations and start hitting the wooden bridges and other nice scenes. This route sounds super weird but it is surprisingly nice the further you go. We generally turn around at the little tunnel. 

These are shorter but you can do a few laps:

South Ogden Nature Park Trail: Paved, little shade, hilly (not great for little legs on bikes). One mile loop, so we do three laps. 

Park at the playground just past the Ogden Athletic Club. You can take the loop either way. We generally start going right so that we END on a downhill. Going right you’ll see jets going in and out of the base, then go uphill facing the mountains. In the shady spot on the southeast corner there is a manhole that is painted like an avocado half (a great spot for little ones to do the Sesame Street Guacamole dance). The center of the loop has a little stream that feeds into the swamp (lets call it a riparian habitat to make it sound classier). There are several plum trees around the trail that are delicious in the autumn. For adventurers, there are dirt trails along the rim of this trail. Plan to play at the park/splashpad after (splashpad opens at 10am June 1 – Sept 1) 

Lake Street to the pipe waterfall: Unpaved and flat except one hill, shaded by the mountain early in the morning but otherwise exposed. Roughly 2 miles. 

Park at the very top of Lake Street, or 26th Street.  Head north on the main trail. The mountains loom to your right, with valley views to the left. Eventually there is a small steep drop that goes right back up. At the end/top you can stand on the boulders and look at the pipe waterfall at the mouth of Ogden Canyon. 

Beus Pond: Paved loop with dirt trails on the mountainside. Super short. Lots of shade. 

Great for Sunday afternoons and winter boredom. Ducks, geese… We have even seen Osprey, Wild Turkeys, Sage Grouse and other fascinating fowl. DONT FEED THEM BREAD! If you want to feed them, take seeds from the pet store. The dirt trails on the mountain side are fun for exploring. There are little docks to overlook the pond. On the West side there are spots where you can take off your shoes and get into a stream that feeds the pond. 

21st Street Pond: Paved, some shade, very flat. About a mile. 

Truth be told, the trail itself is alright, but the homeless population that sometimes camp here can make it feel a little sketchy. There is a decent trail that circles the pond and has some offshoots that go into very pretty areas. 

Hiking with Kids:

There are plenty more options than this. Any trail is a ‘kid’ trail if you let them choose the pace and distance! 

Beus Trail:(Not to be confused with Beus Pond. Totally different trailheads about a mile apart.) Moderately steep with lots of shade. Distance: As long as your kids want it to be. Well trafficked but never crowded.

The trail is nicely wooded and joins the creek with excellent views and spots for kids to play in the water (if you’re willing to let them). On a motivated day, we turn around at a wooden bridge (perhaps 1.5 miles up?) Often, though, we turn around after they have drenched and exhausted themselves in the stream. When I’m smart, I don’t let them do this until we are on our way back! 

I also love this trail in the winter and it’s often tramped down enough you don’t need snowshoes.

Adams Canyon Lower Falls: Moderately steep but fairly short (2ish miles round trip.) Shade only at the waterfall unless you go early. The parking lot gets CROWDED but everyone is hiking to the upper falls. We rarely ever see anyone on the lower falls trail. 

The trail itself isn’t the most enticing, but the shortness and the destination make this my kids’ favorite trail. You gain elevation fast on sandy switchbacks. Just after the switchbacks the main trail continues on to an arduous hike and gorgeous waterfall. Do that without kids sometime. Instead, at the top of the switchbacks, take a right at the lone bench. The trail gets more beautiful as it winds around the mountain and drops down. Keep a close eye on your kids as there are steep drop offs and rocky scrambles at this part. Your first time there, it will be a bit confusing where you drop down to the waterfall. (Pro tip: Stay to the left). The final part where you actually climb down to the waterfall IS TOTALLY DOABLE for my 3 and 5 year olds, but I’m always carrying my 1 year old and would recommend two adults be there for the first time. Bring a small towel to dry off little feet. Plan to take off your shoes (or wear hiking sandals) and play in the refreshing/freezing cold water. Its gorgeous!! There are nice valley views on the way back. 

Gibbs Loop: A couple of miles, pretty shady, not very steep. You can park at Mount Ogden Park (which has nice playgrounds) or the Gibbs Loop Trailhead (if you don’t want to get your kids distracted before you even start).

This trail doesn’t have any extraordinary features but its a good length for kids and is a nice trail. Just like all of the trails on the East Bench, there are lots of trail crossings that can get you ‘lost’ if you don’t look for signs. Of course, because so many trails cross over each other, you can always find your way back and/or create your own ‘loop’. 

27th Street Trailhead/29th Street Trailhead: There are several great hikes (i.e. Waterfall Canyon) that start at these trailheads that are great to do without kids, or with super ambitious kids or babes that are exclusively in carriers. Some are steep, some are hill and dale. We often create our own routes using the networks of trails that zigzag around here. If we are lucky we find the “pond” up on the mountainside where a spring comes out and there are rocks lining the area before it streams down. 

NOT Green Pond Trail: This is off Trappers Loop on your way to Snowbasin. The Green Pond parking lot is on the opposite side of the road as the trail and I’ll update this when I’ve actually done that side with kids to see how they do. But the trail on the same side as the parking lot is great for kids, I just don’t know what its called. When it first splits, you can go right and it will get to a more exposed trail. If you go left, the trail winds through aspens, meadows, and pines. You’ll see wildlife (moose!) and birds and have a lot of shade and wildflowers in summer. It pops out on the old Snowbasin Road where you can continue on and connect to Wheeler Canyon. We turn around by then. Its all uphill on the way back, so make sure you gauge your kids’ energy level properly. This trail is gorgeous for many seasons but I might often pass it up for trails that are uphill first and downhill last. 

Discovery Trail/Parcourse Fitness Circuit: The trailheads are east of Weber State. No shade. A couple of miles – hill and dale. 

We often do these trails in Autumn, as they get pretty hot in summer. They’re very accessible and because the trails criss cross all over the mountain, you can make this shorter or longer. There are nice valley views. The trails themselves are mostly scrub oak and grasses, but there is still something appealing about it. Watch for snakes, but don’t worry. You’ll be totally fine. 

Birdsong: Less than half shade, about two miles, some steep sections but not bad.

Park at Rainbow Gardens and the trailhead is in the back right corner. At first its wooded and then you cut across the side of the  mountain with a fairly steep slope so watch little ones there. The overlook is dry and exposed but still fun. The trail then winds around and gets back to shade and in spring there is some water there. The final climb gets you to the most spectacular CHURCH PARKING LOT! Seriously, the least thrilling destination, so I always turn us around right before you see the church and just pretend it isn’t there. Its a popular hike simply because its so short. 

Bonneville Shoreline Trail by Rainbow Gardens: No shade, hill and dale, distance flexible. The trailhead is right at the mouth of the canyon.

Of course there are bajillion of sections of the BST to hike or run and this one isn’t the most memorable. But its nice. It has a different feel than a lot of the Ogden trails (especially the ones nearby) as its not wooded and is mostly dry grasses and open views. Watch for snakes, but you’ll be just fine. 

Wheeler Creek: Some shade, hill and dale, a few miles.

This is in Huntsville so its a bit more of a drive. But its really a great trail for kids to explore and there is a fun spot where the river goes under a bridge and the kids can play in the water. 

Coldwater Canyon: Shaded, moderately steep, a few miles.

The trailhead is up Ogden Canyon right by the Smokey The Bear sign. Its a gorgeously wooded trail with streams and pines. Because of the steep sections, Its not one where I let my kids get out of my sight. There are two trails from this trailhead so watch signs. This is one is classic Utah beauty. 

Moose Loop Trail at Snowbasin: Shady, a couple of miles. Hill and dale.

Honestly, its been a couple of years since we did this one. But I remember 18 month old Georgia sprinting through this trail and loving it. And Snowbasin is stunning in fall, and a bit cooler than ogden in the summer, so its a nice getaway. They also have the playground near the base lodge, which is a great spot for a picnic. 

Cleaning Up

In a former life, showering was an act of meditation for me. It was where I relished in the sensations of warmth and clean smells and often where I received spiritual impressions. Now, its where I generally share the small space with one to three children, begging turns with the sprayer so I can get the job done as quickly as possible without slipping on one of the small creatures around my legs.

Today, though, I showered in solitude. When the girls were playing together, I slipped away quietly without them noticing. Mondays are when I clean bathrooms, so I scrubbed and polished the sinks, mirrors, toilets and tubs, then finished up by showering myself – trying to hustle before I might be found. But I wasn’t. I lotioned up and got dressed. Still no one. The house was eerily quiet. I hollered downstairs “Is everyone okay? Where is Flora?” They shouted back in near unison “We’re all reading books!” A small trill of happiness went through my body as I imagined the scene downstairs – three little sprites in semi-damp swimsuits from their morning kiddie pool/water balloon fight, wrapped in blankets and lounging on the ground in a pile of books.

Fast forward to lunchtime. As usual, I’m grumbling as I ask each girl for the nth time to return to their seat and JUST EAT YOUR LUNCH. Then, in my state of irritation, I notice the family room. The couch cushions are in disarray. Blankets, books, toys and goldfish crackers are strewn around the floor as if it was all part of a glass snow globe that had been shaken up and then settled. I try to take a “cleansing breath” as I’ve been taught to do in meditation, but instead it comes out as a heavy sigh, and I use the oxygen I took in to lecture the children on how they should be more responsible with the crackers and not dump them everywhere ALL OF THE TIME!

Georgia. Sweet Georgia. In the most innocent voice, she asks me “Mom, did you get enough sleep last night?” “Yes, I got plenty of sleep.” (I know where this is going. I’m half irritated she isn’t understanding why I’m bothered, and half amused that she is imitating me so well.) “Well, you seem grumpy. Do you need some fresh air?” My amusement evaporates and again, I lecture the kids on cleaning up their messes.

Clearly, I’ve forgotten that they’re 1, 3, and 5 years old. Clearly, I’ve forgotten that I showered alone and was so delighted picturing this very scene.

After lunch I put Flora down for a nap, and put Millie and Georgia to work cleaning up the family room. I worked alongside them for a bit, then began picking up debris around the rest of the house. I knelt down to gather up abandoned clothing and was stewing over how I am constantly cleaning up the same messes, alone.

Then I was hit by a spiritual punch to the gut.

Christ spent his ministry teaching how to “clean up messes”, and demonstrating how to do it. Then, in Gethsemane He knelt down and gathered up all of my sins and pain. Without any resentment or frustration, He toiled under MY burden. It was not a mess He created, but that of a well-meaning but easily distracted ME. He felt alone and wished there were another way, but He finished the job. MY job. He made me clean. He made me whole. Christ, in LOVE, did what was needed to make progress possible for me.

Now I’m no Christ. But perhaps I can see it as a symbol of Him when I clean up after my kids. Perhaps I can replace my resentment and irritation with love. I can remember Him voluntarily doing my work. I can envision how, after toiling on my behalf, He would gladly embrace me, not lecture me. Like Christ, love won’t make the burden easy, but it will make the work more holy, and it will give me more love for those I serve.

This Is Love

When I hold her, she looks just like me 

When he holds her, she looks just like him

Either way, we’re never not holding her

She and I count down the minutes until his arrival

My aching arms are relieved of their sweet load

and suddenly able to furiously work and tick off to-dos

Her laughter bubbles and erupts as he handles her 

like a cuddly piece of sports equipment

Even as I’m grateful for the space, I’m envious of their touch

The way her limbs curve around our frames in natural comfort

The way her flesh takes on the color of ours

She is a living embodiment of our oneness in every way. 

And yet she is so uniquely her own. 

I crave them in this deep-down-in-the-belly way 

that sometimes feels insatiable and tempestuous

And other times I just want an hour alone to miss them

This is love. This is love. This is love. 


Subsidized by Love


When I was pregnant with Georgia, some dear people threw me a baby shower. I was delighted to celebrate the miracle growing inside of me with my friends and family, but the whole ‘gift’ thing made me so uncomfortable. It felt unnatural to have everyone gather around me with brightly wrapped packages of useful items intended for someone none of us had met. Even though it was fun to be surrounded by all of that love, I would have gladly skipped the whole thing and just paid for all of the baby items myself. Not because I wasn’t grateful, but because it just felt weird. I felt similarly about wedding presents, but at least I didn’t have to open them in front of people.

Those gifts, though, became memories. I still think of Elisa when I put the freshly washed floral sheet on Flora’s crib. But I also remember each of my babies round cheeks smashed against that soft fabric, their fuzzy head framed by flowers. Whenever I size-up the clothes for Flora, I spend an hour folding clothes and putting them in the dresser in a wave of nostalgia as I remember what the other girls did in those clothes; she wore that at the parade, she wore that when she took her first steps, she always picked that one out. Sometimes I pull out pictures to compare all three girls in the same outfit.  I am amazed that I remember who had originally picked out almost everything.  To see the givers unique choice of style on my child makes me smile. It’s a beautiful thing to clothe your babies in the love of others.

Since then, we’ve become the beneficiaries of another type of gift: Hand-Me-Downs. Clothing, household items, art supplies, decorations, clothes, bikes, furniture, even extra garden vegetables and PLANTS! With shocking regularity, a box or an item will arrive at our home with a casual “I thought maybe you could use this!” And you know what? We totally can. Sometimes its something we really needed and I’d been budgeting for. Sometimes its something we wanted but didn’t have the extra cash for. And sometimes its something that wasn’t even on our radar, but becomes a necessity or a treasured item.

Since January, I’ve been working so hard on our budget. I’ve been counting every penny we spend on day to day living so that we could save up for certain big projects. When these items show up at my house, I get a lump in my throat. I feel seen and loved. Not only by the giver, but by God. He has put us in their hearts and minds and strengthened a bond. They make us feel like we’re doing them a favor by giving new life to their object that was simply taking up space. But For me, I feel like we are being subsidized by love.

The financial benefit is huge. But even more than that, I get the greatest joy by looking around my house and seeing evidence of the good people in our lives.

When I water the plants, I see Aunt Ginny’s hostas, Connie’s ice plant, Heidi’s blue spruce sedum, TONS of Jodi’s plants, Rose’s violets…

When I look in the garage I see bikes from RJ’s colleague Nicole, a cozy coupe from my brother, wiggle cars from Jan, a storage cubby from Jill…

When I look in my home I see decorations from Barb, a slide from the Shaws, a crib from Sadie, hand-me-down China from RJ’s grandmas, original paintings, even sheets from Val’s aunt…

In every single room of my house there are items that represent GENEROSITY. Even things that aren’t things! I can walk through the house and see how friends and family have served me in my home. Each month, the girls and I have a great time writing thank you notes to someone, but I don’t think they have any idea that truly, they are surrounded by, sometimes fed by, and often clothed in, the goodness of others.

Part of me feels bad that I’m not in a position to give to others in the same way that we currently receive. But I want to live every day in a way that shows gratitude for what we’ve been given, and that gives in a way that I can right now. It may not be hand-me-downs at this stage – but perhaps I can give a kind word, or a baked good, or if nothing else, a heart full of  thanks.


The Parable of the Talents

I don’t have much time to carefully craft this post, but this scripture story keeps popping into my head and I’ve got to write about it before I lose my thoughts.

Mathew 25:

14  For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.

17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.

18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Work With What You’ve Been Given

All three servants were given talents according to his ability. Some are more naturally capable than others, but HOW MANY they were given didn’t matter. What mattered was what they did with what they were given. Two doubled their money and were given the same great reward. One hid his away and lost it entirely.  When I am wishing I’d been given different abilities, I devalue what I do have, and tend to hide it away. When I confidently work with what I’ve got, the Lord blesses my efforts in a ‘Loaves and Fishes’ sort of way. My small efforts yield greater rewards than they deserve because I’m consecrating them to the Lord.

You Find What You Look For

The ‘slothful’ servant perceived the master to be harsh and punitive. That is what he experienced. The other servants perceived the master as generous, and that is what they experienced. In our interactions with God and our vast universe, when we look for and magnify the good things, the good things multiply. When we are grateful for the blessings we currently have, we become magnets for EVEN MORE BLESSINGS. In a grateful state, we enjoy life more and see God’s hand in all things. We also bring positivity and blessings to those around us. But when we are focused on what we don’t have, we easily succumb to negative thinking and see God and the world through a limited lens that is clouded with envy, fear, and pessimism. Not only do we rob ourselves of joy, we likely take others down with us.

The importance of RISK

The slothful servant didn’t dare take chances. He lived in fear rather than faith. He was so sure of failure that he didn’t even TRY. And of course, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. In order to make a profit, the two wise servants had to take a risk. They had to invest with a chance of failure. We don’t know from the scripture, but perhaps there were ups and downs in their profits before the master came back for the reckoning. Perhaps they lost a little, gained a little in a predictable rate, or perhaps there were even huge swings in their losses and gains. I’m sure there was uncertainty. But they worked, they risked, and they ultimately came out on top. How much have we missed out on joy and growth because we acted out of fear, not faith? Ups and downs are inevitable when we try. By not taking risks, we guarantee we never experience the ups.

The Burden of Success

The slothful servant lost his only talent to the servant with ten. When you do a good job, you end up getting more responsibility put upon you. Why is it always the same few people who carry the bulk of the workload in an organization? Why is there the adage “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”? Being successful rarely provides you with more leisure, but rather, more responsibility. The more we give of ourselves, the more seems to be required of us. But with that responsibility comes increased capacities, increased perspective, increased experiences. Sure, it’s more work. But I’ve learned time and again that the blessings come to those that SHOW UP.


I see myself as much in the slothful servant as I do in the wise. Some days I act in faith, and others in fear. But I’m trying. I’m risking. And I believe in a master who is generous. And you know what? Day by day, thats what I find.