Hills and Valleys

This past new year I set several goals for myself as I’ve done many times before. It was a little different for me this time because I’d been fighting sciatica and didn’t really feel like I was going to be able to meet the challenges I’d set. However, with a few visits to the doctor for adjustments, I was all set. My spring goals were small, run a few 5Ks. Then I wanted to hike some mountains this summer and run a half marathon this fall and lose 10 pounds. I think I’ve done that but it’s funny when you start taking care of yourself the numbers aren’t as important. I also wanted to do an obstacle course, which has not yet happened, but hopefully, before long I’ll check that off as well.

Ever since I started setting goals for challenges I’ve kind of felt like it was “my” thing. If I decided I wanted to do something it was all about the discipline of training then just making a plan to go out and do it.

I had to learn a new lesson.

Everything was going as planned for hiking. I’d done lots of running and walking. I picked a date and a location. We met up with friends (cousins actually) and found a great camping spot. We did all the usual preparations, some of us more than others. I’m a bit of an over planner, but that keeps me from feeling anxious. We camped more primitively than I’ve ever camped before. We didn’t have running water. There was a vault toilet and bear boxes were provided. No hanging our food, I haven’t gotten that primitive just yet. The night before our hike Luke’s cousin raised some concerns about the weather. I was concerned too, but we decided to just go for it anyway. Surely the sky would clear and we’d summit the two 14ers we’d planned to summit.

Grays and Torreys Peaks are unique in that they are both 14ers, with class 1 and 2 trails connected by a saddle. You can easily hike to the top of both in one day. Provided the weather cooperates.

The road to the trailhead is seriously the most treacherous part of the entire trail. It’s only about a mile long, maybe two miles but took us a good 30-45 minutes to travel. It’s very rocky and full of holes. It was after 5:00 am by the time we were on the trail and the rain was starting. Not a good sign. We put on our ponchos and were all silently debating how long we were going to keep this up. The clouds literally rolled in around us. Though a beautiful sight, not what you want to see when you are about to head a few thousand feet up right were storms are produced. The rain continued and so did we.

We were just breaking the tree line, which in this case was just a vegetation line as there hadn’t been a tree for some time when we noticed some hikers ahead of us turning around. One guy had a helmet hanging from his pack. He was going to do a little rock climbing to reach a different summit. We decided if the weather was too much for the guy with a helmet, it was too much for us. We talked to another couple who gave a report of seeing lightning. Sadly, we headed back down. As we walked we considered our options and decided that breakfast at the Mountain Lyon in Silverthorne would hold the answers. After eating one of the most delicious breakfasts available in Colorado, or probably anywhere, we decided that we’d give the hike a go the next day.

As the day progressed so did a burning in my throat, congestion that felt like it was in my chest but surely was just from my head. I was coughing. Walking in the rain for a few hours had aggravated a cold that I had felt coming on. Sleeping outside that night probably hadn’t helped either. By the next morning, I was coughing and uncomfortable but was determined to make it up to those beautiful summits. I felt so bad for the group we were with. They’re a good 15 years younger than us (at least.) I was so slow. It would have driven me crazy to walk with someone so slow. I just couldn’t breathe. Combine the altitude with my congestion and it was just not good. But I walked. We walked.

We summitted both mountains that afternoon and let me tell you, it’s breathtaking.

I couldn’t even talk that afternoon. No temperature but I felt terrible. I haven’t been that sick with a cold in a long time.


On to my next challenge. Running a half-marathon in 2 hours. I didn’t really intend on that to be my goal. It was just what everyone else was doing…it was a peer pressure goal. I joined a running group at my gym and it was really fun to have people to run with. It was fun to get some training and try to run faster. I’d never ran so fast in my life. I mean, I’m not winning an Olympic medal or anything. That’s why they call it a “personal record.” Running is very personal and you can totally just compete against your own best. I was beating my best each time I ran.

Then my foot started to hurt. It would hurt so bad I couldn’t walk.  I know that sounds ridiculous, and a lot of people asked why I didn’t stop running. I just couldn’t stop. I was finally beating my times…it was important to me. So I ran. Two weeks before the race I ran 11 miles at exactly the pace that would bring me into the finish line at 2 hours. I was so excited. But also very worried. My foot hurt so bad I could barely stand that day. After it would warm up I could walk in some shoes…but I felt like that might be the end of training for me. I thought I’d have to tell my team “maybe next time guys.” I’d worked so hard. I was ready for the race. I got a few short runs in and then I ran a slow 8 the next weekend. I was feeling totally defeated and in a whole lot of pain. (I did go to my local running store where I got a special sock to sleep in to help this issue as well as a foot roller. I talked to a wonderful chiropractor who told me to roll my calves. All of those remedies help for a little while. But not long. It was continuing to get worse each time I ran.)

That’s when it happened. During the 8 mile run that I did at a very slow pace, I heard a song I’ve heard before. It’s called “Hills and Valleys.” Take a look at these lyrics.

I’ve walked among the shadows

You wiped my tears away

And I’ve felt the pain of heartbreak

And I’ve seen the brighter days

And I’ve prayed prayers to heaven from my lowest place

And I have held the blessings

God, you give and take away

No matter what I have, Your grace is enough

No matter where I am, I’m standing in Your love

On the mountains, I will bow my life

To the one who set me there

In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there

When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own

When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!

You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Hills and Valleys!

God of the hills and valleys

And I am not alone!

I’ve watched my dreams get broken

In you I hope again!

No matter what I know

Know I’m safe inside Your hand

On the mountains, I will bow my life

To the one who set me there

In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there

When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own

When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!

You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Hills and Valleys!

God of the hills and valleys

And I am not alone!

Father, you give and take away

Every joy and every pain

Through it all you will remain

Over it all!

Father, you give and take away

Every joy and every pain

Through it all you will remain

Over it all!

On the mountains, I will bow my life

To the one who set me there (to the one who set me there)

In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there

When I’m standing on the mountain aft, didn’t get there on my own

When I’m walking through the valley end, no I am not alone!

You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Hills and Valleys!

God of the hills and valleys

And I am not alone!

You’re God of the hills and valleys!

Hills and Valleys!

God of the hills and valleys

And I am not alone!

And I will choose to say “Blessed be Your name, yeah, yeah”

And I am not alone

I know it’s supposed to be metaphorical. I realize the hills are supposed to be like triumphs in our lives and the valleys like low places where we felt defeated. But, when I heard this song I realized it was a real and living God who put me on actual mountain tops. I was struggling that day and it wasn’t just my own resolve, it wasn’t my training, it was the fact that I have a creator that is good who formed mountains for me to climb, who made oxygen for me to breath and knows my every heartbeat that took me to the top of those peaks. When I was literally in the valley that is Kansas running in terrible conditions with a foot that I wasn’t sure was going to make the miles, He saw me there. He heard my verbal cry and took me to the finish line.

This is my favorite picture from the race. Luke took this one just as I saw him and the girls standing in the rain holding signs. This is just after I thought I’d give up.
This is almost to the finish line. Somewhere along this tenth of a mile I could hear the announcer cheering in the 2-hour pace team. I felt completely defeated. I always look like I’m dying when I’m running.
Shortly after this picture was taken I started crying. Luke was right there and I said: “I didn’t do it.”


So that takes me to the end of the story. The story of the race. Actually, the first day we hiked and the day of the race have a lot in common, mainly rain and cold. Those are less than ideal conditions for running, let alone trying to run a half marathon and PR (or whole marathon for some people, not me.) At about mile 8, my foot really started to hurt. The 2-hour pace group passed me. My running partners were even ahead of the pace group. I was feeling pretty bummed. I was completely soaked, as was everyone. My new shoes…the only ones I can walk in, were soaked. I was cold. At least I’d remembered waterproof mascara and my adorable husband was fighting traffic and rain to be at every possible intersection to cheer me on. He’d hold up his coffee as if to say “cheers,” or take a picture. I’m telling you, get a man that will wake up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday, stand in the rain with an elementary school kid splashing in puddles and watch you do something totally unnecessary while telling you you’re amazing and you’ll be married for the rest of your life. But I digress, mile 8 and that feeling I get in my heel that makes me think I’m repeatedly stepping on a nail was kicking in. I was done. I wanted to just tell the nearest aid station that I couldn’t make it. Then I came up to an intersection to find my family holding signs that read “you’re too legit to quit” and “Carrie runs this prairie.” It was all the inspiration I needed to carry on for the next 5 miles.

I didn’t make it in under 2 hours and I think there’s a reason for that, outside of the rain, cold and foot pain. (turns out I have plantar fasciitis and I can’t run for 6 weeks!) I did make a personal record of 02:02:43 that day and came in 9th for my age bracket. However, before the race I told myself, if I make it in my goal time this will be my last half marathon, but if I don’t make it I’ll run another. God’s not done with me yet. I’m excited to find out what He’ll be teaching me then.

I told my friend about the song and how I felt like God had spoken to me through it. It sounded a little weird to vocalize and I never want to be hyper-spiritual. She said that was now part of my testimony. My testimony is my story, and that’s what I do here, I tell my stories. The story I have to tell today, is that He certainly is God of the Hills and Valleys. I’m so thankful that I am not alone.


Dear Emma: a letter to my newest high school senior

Dear Emma,

I’ve been working on this letter for over a month. I’ve deleted it completely now to begin again. How can it be? Parents say that all the time, but I just really don’t get it. You’re supposed to “always be baby Emma.” That’s what I promised you before Gloria was born. I didn’t want you to feel like you weren’t going to be my baby anymore, and here you are, not a baby at all. I watched you these last couple of years really emerge into this beautiful woman and I just marvel at your strength. I’m amazed by your resilience. You are laughter and wit, you’re love to the loveless, you are practical, sensible and totally spontaneous all at the same time. You’re the life of the party, often times, you ARE the party.

When you were small, I couldn’t walk out of the room for more than 30 seconds without you trying something out. Maybe you’d try climbing to the top of our upright piano when you were two. Or you’d dump a bottle of baby shampoo into the carpet. Maybe you’d see if baby Gloria could eat dog food, or what was inside of markers, or the toothpaste tube. Maybe you’d super glue your mouth shut or eat a bottle of tums. Maybe you’d stand on a plastic chair and do a backflip off the porch on accident only to land on your feet as I moved in slow motion to catch you. Maybe you’d color your entire face with a red sharpie right as we were leaving for Wednesday night church or get put in time out almost daily in pre-school for kissing the boys. (When asked if they wanted you to kiss them, you responded: “it doesn’t matter.”) Maybe you would change your pajamas three or four times throughout the night and refuse to sleep in your bed. Only the floor was good enough for you. I used to say you were naughty, but now I know the truth. You were an individual. As soon as I stopped fighting you being you, as soon as I let you be who you were on the inside, you started to thrive. When you took dance and art and pottery, when you dyed your hair pink for the first time when you were 10, when you discovered how to listen to the music of your choosing I really got to see what was behind all those little crazy adventures. You’re an individual, and there is nothing cookie cutter about you.

You’ve always been a maker. Sometimes you were the maker of messes, but nonetheless a maker. You’ve always loved to get your hands into clay or paint. It’s how your wired, it’s who God made you to be. I just want you to know that now, as much as ever, to be who you are. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. It doesn’t matter what everyone says is “normal.” You’ve never been one to follow the crowd. So why, my lovely, would you start now? I want to encourage you to listen to the little dreams that God has placed in your heart and chase them with passion and purpose. NOW is the time, and often it’s the only time to truly follow after your hearts desires. You know, I’ve never liked the phrase “follow your heart.” I think that is a dangerous plan. Your heart is deceptive. Chase after God’s will for your life. Don’t fight against who He’s created you to be. We’ve never asked you be anything but true to your self and to God. We’ve never asked you to be anything else than what you are. This year, as you approach the crossroads from childhood into adulthood my precious maker girl, don’t start following the crowd now.

I have so much more to say to you, I could go on for hours but I know that could get a little boring. As I close this letter to you, sweet Emma, I want you to know that you’re good enough for me. I accept you, I love you, I cherish you, I approve of you, I adore you and I’m always, always on your team. I want the very best for you and I love you more than you’ll ever know. I thank God for giving me the privilege of being your mom.

The beginning.



Photos by JWphotograpy check out her FB page. https://www.facebook.com/JWPhotographyWichitaICT/

He already knew.

Warning: if you don’t like my honesty, it’s ok to quit reading. I’ll actually never know.

A while back a friend of mine described a party she gave to one of her children who was an early teen. She told me she looked out the window to see the kids playing tag in the yard, or maybe it was hide and seek. They were all 13 or maybe it was 14. They were innocently playing tag like the children they actually are. She said how glad she was that she was able to protect her children from all the awful stuff so many teens are doing that she liked her bubble. I like it too. I miss it. I cry about it when no one is watching.

Before my kids went to public school I at some point said: “You’ll learn more on the bus than in the classroom.” I don’t remember saying that, but it sounds like me. My freshman reminded me of that this last week and she told me I was right. There is no precious bubble. I didn’t want my kids to know the vulgarity, the perversity that they do. I mean, I guess they would learn it. But, why does a 15-year-old have to listen to boys talk about sexual positions? Why do they have to constantly turn down a vape? (Seriously, these kids are vaping on the bus…like always. It’s called a Juuling for those of you who don’t know. Read this, and take a look at this. They kind of look like little zip drives. Anyway…that’s beside the point.) Everything that you hear about happening in high schools across the country is true. Boys getting a nude picture of a girl and sending it out to a bunch of people, check. Someone bringing alcohol to school in a water bottle, check. Backstabbing mean girls, check. I’ve heard it all and boy do I miss the bubble.

Sweet Gloria
Sweet Emma


I miss hearing about the discussion in Bible class or how they disagreed with a teacher. I miss knowing parents, I miss being a part of that community. But among all that I have learned this school year is that it is not about me.

My kids, as different as they are, have found where they belong. And it’s not because they fit in or because they stand out. It’s because they know it’s where the Lord wants them.

While driving a sweet girl home one day she said “If it wasn’t for Emma, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have found Jesus so soon, or maybe ever.” Emma knows, and I know, it wasn’t her, it was all Jesus. Emma just introduced her friend to Jesus, He knew her all along.

Gloria invited a friend to church, and now the whole family attends. They weren’t going to church before. I don’t know their stories or what they know about salvation. I do know they’re for sure headed in the right direction. But it wasn’t Gloria who did anything. It was all Jesus.

That isn’t even all of the stories, there are more that perhaps I’ll share with you sometime when we visit.

So yes, when I look at your kid’s pictures on Instagram all wearing their age appropriate modest formal dresses I say to my self, “Emma should be in this picture, and Gloria should have been in that one.” I feel actual pain in my heart because I miss you and I miss your kids. I’m still not over it.

My kids are really happy though. They’re finding their footing and establishing who they are, maybe for the first time. It’s actually easier to stand out in a crowd than I thought it would be. Just smile, don’t talk trash and stand up for truth. I gotta say, the bubble was lovely, it’s a lovely, lovely bubble. I miss the bubble.

But my girls are stronger than I thought. God knew.

He already knew.

When you have teenagers you can’t talk about their crap.

When you read blogs written for mothers they are one of two things. They are either super vague or geared toward having young children. There is a good reason for this. When you have teenagers, you can’t talk about their crap.

You can read blogs all day long about potty training and sleep training and teaching a kid to eat with a spoon. But you can’t really read much about mean girls, psycho boys that won’t stop texting your daughter, missing someone so much that it hurts, how to deal with multiple teen deaths in one year, sassy mouths and rumours. I’m going to try to be as vague as possible and as transparent as I usually am.

  1. Mean girls exist. I don’t know why. But, I do believe it’s hereditary.  (Re-read that sentence and let it soak in) Why are the mean girls the ones every one gravitates to? Why is their approval necessary? I say we all stand up to the mean girls in our lives, let’s protest them. (Maybe YOU’RE a mean girl…stop it) Can for just one minute we let each other off the hook? I mean, for real. It doesn’t matter what brand t-shirt any one’s wearing, or shoes…or whether someone’s hair is long or short or curled or straight. It doesn’t matter. Just leave each other alone and mind your own business for a second and maybe you’ll notice you aren’t all that and a bag of chips like you thought? Or perhaps you already know that and that is why you have to treat other people so meanly…think on that. Also, girls…let’s make sure we don’t peak in highschool. This is not the pinnacle of your life. What are you, 16? Give me a break.
  2. Hey moms. Can you please check your son’s phones once in a while? If he’s sent the same girl 93 texts in a row and she responded “haha” or with just a happy face to be nice…please for the love of all that is good in the world help him get the hint. I suspect any moms even reading this don’t have sons that are doing this but help me get the word out. And dude, no means no, even to a date, stop asking to hang out.
  3. I want to go up to mothers of small children and tell them not to get too attached. I mean really. You tell this kid things like “You can be anything.” “You, my precious bundle of blankets smelling like lotion and hope, can be anyone and go anywhere your little heart dreams.” You make them order their own food at restaurants and send them into the grocery store to buy milk alone while you wait anxiously in the car, just to teach them how to navigate the world alone. You let them ride their bike around the neighborhood, then before you know it they drive their little white Honda hybrid right out of state. You don’t know if their precious little head is on the pillow at night or if they don’t feel well or if they’ve eaten vegetables in the last week. You just don’t know. Facetime is nice but you miss their stupid socks on the floor and the sound of them laughing at the TV. I have no advice. Just consider yourself warned.
  4. Yesterday we became aware of the 6th teen death of someone that one of my children has known or is familiar with. I’ve been to the funerals of two 17-year-olds, both in February. I wrote about one but was too sad to write about it again. I’ve watched two mothers, shoulders shaking with sobs and eyes swollen and red. I’ve watched two slide shows of pictures with smiling babies, smiling families, smiling teenagers, whose lives ended much too soon. I can’t stop thinking of the picture board that still sits in the basement that I made for our 2017 graduation and the one I’ll make for 2019. The same types of pictures will be on my boards. That’s what those pictures are for, not funerals. I don’t know what to do with my own kids’ grief. We hold on to them. We remind them that every word they say matters and that every goodbye needs a kiss and hug. We make the minutes count, I think.
  5. If someone finds the cure for teen sassy mouth syndrome please pass it on. But, here’s the good news. I’ve seen this happen twice now, so it must be true. You lose your teen daughter somewhere between 12 or 13. They become something else. Either, with their mouth or behavior, with their privacy for sure. Then between 16 and 17, a transition begins and you get them back. They emerge by 18 a completely new and awesome person. It’s like they go into a cacoon that they’re not really inside of. They have to function while all these weird thoughts and changes are happening. They have to learn how to communicate their feelings and deal with everyone else who is just as weird as they are. But soon, they’ll say “thank you” and want to hang out even if that means loading the dishwasher with you or just sitting with you while you fold clothes. They’ll start to come to your defence when someone else still in the cacoon sasses you. It’s amazing. This isn’t to say that you’ll never see the real them between 12 and 17, you’ll have glimpses of hope. Maybe once a day, maybe once a week…maybe less frequently, maybe more. But when you get that little glimpse just hold on momma…they’re still in there.
  6. Last, rumors always have been and always will be but we’ve got this nice little friend called social media which is the biggest rumor spreading friend we’ve ever known. I don’t know why we keep hanging out. This rumor spreader is likely what brought you to read this novella today.  But, it’s worse now for our kids. There are apps built just for the purpose of spreading rumors. One is called the “after school” app. Get it off your kid’s phone. If my kids even download this app they’ll lose their phone permanently. I will cancel their plan. I finally gave in and let my lovelies get a snap-chat. I hate it. Within the first week, they had all the rumors of “threats” against their school. They lost sleep and even had to stay home one day.  I told one of my people that it will be interesting to see how she handles social media (if it’s still a thing) with her own children since she’s had experience with it as a young person. Most of us don’t know how to handle it because we never had it growing up. We didn’t come into this with a plan. It just keeps getting thrown at us like some cruel game of grown-up dodgeball. Her answer “Oh my kids will never have it.” She didn’t like it when I said I’d take her advice. I didn’t, because bam, I’m out.
That’s all I’ve got for now. This mom thing seems like it’s going to work out. It’s brutal, but I think it’s worth it.
One last thing, If you’ve got teenagers, you can’t talk about their crap. They really hate it when you post about them on social media. It makes them want to crawl into an actual cacoon.

Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours

On the morning of February 2nd, I drove the kids to school instead of taking them to the elementary school where they normally catch the bus. The middles are going to a rural public school this year. I’ll write more about that at some point. One of them was not having the best morning as sometimes happens and I told her we’d stay home a few more minutes to give her time to change outfits…again. Then, I would drive them the 22 minutes to school instead of the 5 minutes to the bus stop.

We were listening to KLOVE on the way and were singing “Jesus, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”

Emma came home not feeling well that day, something she now regrets.

Other than that, it was pretty normal.

Gloria and I attended a baptism service for students at our church. When we pulled into the garage back at home at about 8:45, her phone started dinging constantly, prayer request for a student’s family lost in a car accident.

We came in and told Emma, the family referenced was that of a friend of hers. Texts continued to pour in. Emma grabbed her phone and started texting. The original texts were incorrect, it was not the family but the student who had passed. Emma dropped to the floor and began to sob.

What do you tell a child when someone her own age is gone? There is nothing that will make it ok.

A few months back Emma met a girl named Bella at band camp. Emma had decided that band wasn’t for her, but she continued to notice this girl who stood out from the crowd. It wasn’t long before Emma realized why. She noticed scriptures written on Bella’s arm and they became friends after discussing the scriptures and realizing that Bella attends Newspring on the weekends. Emma volunteers with guest services so, after they actually met, they’d see each other at church on Sunday mornings. They ran into each other at dinner on the evening of Snowball and got to hang out at the dance. Emma was excited to have this new friend that was a fan of the same bands as her and loves Jesus too. It’s hard to be at a new school, Bella was sweet and welcoming.

The next Monday morning, after Bella’s accident, I was writing my schedule out for the week in my calendar. On Wednesday, just like every other appointment, I wrote “Funeral for Bella.” It shared the page with the class I was going to at the gym and the times for youth group that night. I stared at it for just a minute and my eyes filled with tears. I knew that date was going to bring so much pain as a family said goodbye. It is hard to think what it must be like to say goodbye to one’s own child. I didn’t know this girl. I felt guilty for being so sad about it, like I don’t have a right, like I don’t get the honor of crying for her. But, I am so sad for her mother. I have a 17-year-old daughter. I know exactly what it’s like.

I’ve never attended the funeral of a child, I hope to never do it again. So many students were there with their friends. A whole community of high schoolers quietly wiping eyes as they said goodbye to a classmate. I couldn’t let Emma go with friends. I had to be with her. I had to sit and hold her hand, give her tissues and talk it out on the way home. I am fortunate enough to have the flexibility to just be there, and that day, being there was all I could do.

When Bella’s mother walked in, she could barely stand. I wept for her.

It was a beautiful memorial and the pastor preached the gospel.

Pictures of Bella passed by on the big screen. Baby pictures, toddler pictures, preteen pictures and those of a beautiful young woman. These pictures were meant to be glued to a display board for a graduation party, not make a slideshow for a funeral. When it got too hard, I’d look away. How unfair. I get to look away. Her mother can’t ever look away. Her heart will always be broken.

Jesus, break my heart for what breaks yours.

This past weekend our youth pastor spoke to the middle schoolers about dark times in our lives. He spoke of the death of Lazarus and talked about how Jesus wept. His heart broke for what broke the hearts of humans, his own friends. He of all people knew heaven, he knew where Lazarus was, he knew peace. Yet, he wept. His heart broke for Mary and Martha. So I’m going to derive that the pain a mother feels when she loses her child breaks the heart of Jesus. He loves that mother and I think he is sad for her sadness.  Even though he knows peace, even though he knows Bella, his heart breaks for her mother. His heart breaks for her family, for her friends.

Several days later Audrey found the order of service paper with a picture of Bella, sitting on the seat of our car. She asked “Doesn’t Bella miss her mom? How can she be in heaven and not miss her mom?” Sweet baby Audrey.

I answered “I guess it’s like if you got to a party before me. Like maybe grandma’s Easter party, and you aren’t sad. Because you know I’m coming. You don’t miss me because you’re at the party and you know I’ll be there soon.”

Kiss the one you love, lay in the bed with your teenager, rock your crying baby just a little longer. We aren’t promised tomorrow.

Luke is the actual “best dad ever”

Over 18 years have passed since my husband became a father. I watched him hold our little 8 pound 12oz baby in his arms as if she were made of porcelain. He changed every diaper in the hospital. I didn’t change a single diaper until we got home…and that was our first child. He sang lullabies to babies still in the womb, even to those that didn’t live. He’s all in, head over heels in love with his children. Totally committed, totally sold out to loving them.

When I found out I was pregnant with baby number one, we weren’t married. I asked him “What am I going to do?” Meaning, how am I going to raise this kid? His answer “You’re going to marry me.” And that was that. There was never a time he wasn’t going to be part of his kids’ lives. From that day forward he was a daddy.

Kids grow and we’ve learned that baby days are actually the easiest of days. When they out grow being a baby, a toddler and a little kid, somewhere between first grade and grown up they get really hard. When I’m thinking about what discipline we need to throw down he makes the simple suggestion that they need a date. When our kids get really hard and have some kind of behavior issue, he takes them to breakfast. I want to ground them for life, he wants to eat bacon with them. We’ve found bacon works. Sometimes they need breakfast a lot. They may or may not even talk about the issue at hand, but breakfast is the number one way he’s connected with those girls. He’s given them a soft place to fall when I wanted to take their social lives away.  He’s shown love and grace and mercy like I never could. It’s the love only a father can offer and it’s pretty amazing.

His night time patience far out lasts mine. I’ve seen this man laying in a toddler bed, outside the door of a kid learning to stay in bed, barely hanging on the edge our bed because too many kids were in the middle, in the bed of a sick kid, in the bed of a child with a broken heart and in the bed of a girl that can’t sleep because she is terrified of her own thoughts. I’ve seen him pace the hall holding a baby and I’ve seen him comfort a crying teenager in the night. He’s gentle and patient (and sometimes annoying enough) to get them back to sleep. He’s actually the most patient person I know. (Also, if you have babies now, there will be a brief time that you get to sleep between about the ages of 6 and 13. After that everything that needs to be talked about or worked out will happen between 10 pm and 1 am. This is also the time in your life where you will have a very brief window in which you’re actually able to fall asleep. That window will be between 10 pm and 1 am)

My guy shows up. I may be the mom that goes to every game, performance and trip. But he’s the dad in the stands, in the audience whose approval they want the most. He’ll show up with flowers and proudly watch in admiration. He doesn’t clap the loudest or yell from the sidelines. When we’re back to quiet of our home he’ll say “hey, nice rebound,” “Great show” or “You really hit that note you were struggling with before.” Those are the comments they crave, it’s his praise they live for. He shows up for dinner, he shows up at bedtime, he’s there for church, for family gatherings. He shows up for the everyday conversations and the big events. He’s a part of the mundane and the extraordinary.

He’s in love with our kids mother. We go out to dinner out on fun dates. Our kids see us kissing in the kitchen or holding hands on a walk. They also see us argue about whatever stupid thing that is getting on our nerves and then make up because people that love each other always make up. It’s no secret that it’s hard to live with another person and we don’t keep it a secret that we don’t get a long 100% of the time. Our kids have seen what it is like to struggle, they’ve seen us madly in love. They’ve seen us laughing and crying, they’ve seen us arguing and they know when we’re making out in the laundry room…shhh. They know their daddy loves their mom and I think that’s one of the best examples that he can be for them.

Father’s Day couldn’t pass with out me wishing the love of my life the happiest day, because he truly is the actual “best dad ever.”

I know there will be questions

Something unexpected happened this week. I know that many of you will want to know what happened and why our choices have changed. This will probably be a long post, but I need to tell you all the details so that you’ll really understand. If you are a close friend of mine and this is the first you’ve heard of this, I am sorry. There are several of you that need nothing less than the whole story and I hope you’ll understand, as I am sure this is going to be somewhat sad for you.

Our children will not be attending the Classical School of Wichita next year. I love the Classical School. I love the teachers, the kids, my friends. I love the beliefs and the strong Christian principles on which the school is founded. So, in all honesty, my heart is broken. When things changed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this last week, I cried more tears than I have cried in years. I sobbed the kinds of sobs that knock you off your feet and your only choice is to sit, folded over crying into hands that can do nothing to resolve the situation. I prayed, simple one or two word prayers that sounded mostly like, “why,” “help,” and “please answer.”

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.

We’ve always gotten tuition assistance to send our kids to private school. It’s a long story and one I’m not going to share with the world, but like many one income families private school just wasn’t a choice for us with out some kind of aide. Even with that financial aid we had to cut corners and neglect other things like home maintenance for the girls to go there. Well, Luke has a really great job now and on paper, it looks like we should be able to afford tuition. We got a very small amount of aide, but it wasn’t enough. When we looked at the numbers together, what we need in addition was just too much to ask for. Scriptures reference money more than any other topic (Check out Proverbs 22:7 for example) and we felt like instead of this being some kind of spiritual attack that it was very much God saying “no.” Which, by the way is the worst. When we pray fervently, expectantly, faithfully and the answer is “no”  it is one of the most difficult issues a Christian can face. We feel like this was a clear message that it is time we right the ship so to speak. I especially didn’t want to hear that.

I felt great loss. Loss of community, loss of a Christ centered education. We just attended the most beautiful graduation ceremony ever and I realize my middles won’t get that. What was I supposed to do? Where should they be going to school? Why was this happening? So much sadness.

If you don’t know our family well, then you should know that my life has been dedicated to their education since they were all very small. I’ve been homeschooling them since Madelyn was 4, so 14 years now. At first, that seemed like what should happen. “I guess we’ll just homeschool.” There were many concerns there and the kids were totally, totally against it. Which hurt actually. Our options to homeschool are good. There is a great co-op about a mile from our home. But, issues existed there as well. Sports options were an issue. Tears, tears, tears. I cried, I prayed. Should they go to public school. Our district school is not an option. Not, not, not an option. What choices do I even have? I cried. I prayed. Tears, tears, tears.

Every time I prayed the Lord laid a name on my heart. I don’t over spiritualize things and there have been only a few times in my life when I felt like God “spoke” to me. I’m not saying He audibly spoke but I prayed and I’d think of this name. A dear friend of mine kept coming to mind. She’s the mother of 4 adult children with an age range similar to that of my own children except their youngest is about 10 years older than my youngest. She homeschooled and her kids all went to private school in the 9th grade. Same as us. I prayed, I thought her name. So Thursday  morning I sent her an SOS text of sorts for an emergency coffee date. She met me that afternoon.

She said exactly what I needed to hear. But, not in the just telling me what I wanted to hear kind of way. I felt like the Lord was using her to tell me what he wanted me to know. I know that is super weird, and probably unbelievable to someone that isn’t a believer but let me tell you, I don’t know what people do who don’t know Christ. It is so lovely to have that kind of counsel. Proverbs is full of verses about wisdom. Read Proverbs 12:15. This and many other verses tell us to seek wise counsel. So, that’s what I was doing.

She knows homeschoolers. There is this belief in the homeschool world that the worst thing you could ever do is send your kids to public school. I know that is a secret, homeschool friends, and I just broke the mom code by telling it. You deny it, it’s ok. But, in your heart you believe it, as did I.

My friend vocalized that and it was as if someone were speaking the unspoken secrets of a hidden subculture. She said it was a lie. She told me that no matter what I decided to do with my kids, I wasn’t abandoning them. (Seriously, this is what homeschoolers think) She told me my choices were good, meaning the things I was choosing between were both good things and that God loves my girls and he has a plan for them. She told me there were bad kids every where and that I can’t protect my girls from every bad person. She told me I was a good mom. (Don’t we all need to hear that?) She promised to help put me in touch with people she knows from both the homeschool co-op and those that have had kids attend Circle High School. We talked about the wonderful teachers at the co-op and how that would work in conjunction with classes at home. She wanted me to do some research to feel better about the choices I was making.

What you don’t know is that Thursday morning Luke called Circle High School in attempt to get our kids an out of district exception. Apparently, at some point I had filled out an application online and he, the principal, had already approved it. He had approved it before the call. Do you hear what I’m saying? We were already in. Not only that but he had done a background check on my sweet 9th grader by calling our current virtual school. They “only had good things to say” about our family, so with that information he verbally accepted our 11th grader as well. With no further red tape.

We were going to wait to make the decision. Turns out it didn’t work that way. I started to get information about conflicting extra curriculars and choices had to be made. When I say they had to be made, I mean forms were due that very night and two very good options have important camps the same week. One would be if we homeschooled, one would be if they go to Circle. Decisions HAD to be made.

Based on a gut feeling and the kids desires. We choose Circle High School in Towanda, Kansas.  I never imagined we’d be doing this.

Since then I’ve talked to the basketball coach and he’s excited to have Gloria, I Facebook stalked him…he’s a Christian. I’ve spoken with the band director whom I was getting the hunch was a believer. At some point in the conversation he asked me if I knew a certain person who has kids at CSW. We happen to be friends with that family and our kids are very good friends. Turns out, that’s his pastor. He told me he was surprised that we were accepted into the district, he said it was “very unusual.” I heard “God is at work.” He is concerned about getting my little drummer girl plugged into the band and finding just the right place. He doesn’t even know us and he cares about my kid. He said these exact words “My wife and I were surprised when we moved here that we found a very tight knit community of believers at Circle.”

Next school year is going to look VERY different than what I expected. Honestly, I barely even know what to expect now. In a recent post I said the only thing I’ve come to depend on is change, but this is a change none of us were ready for.

God has a plan. God is in the details. He loves my kids more than I do.



New Normal

A neighbor stopped by last night to drop a card off at our house for Madelyn. He and his wife have 3 small children. Our neighborhood has undergone a shift in the last year, we’re one of the “older” couples on the street. As I chatted with him for just a minute he explained how their family has been so busy and he’s ready for things to settle back down. I told him about “new normal.”

When my kids were little the days were somewhat predictable. We’d be home every afternoon for nap time. Every evening at about 7:00 we’d start the bedtime routine which would ultimately end with kids in bed and mom and dad watching a show. Mornings brought breakfast, laundry and possibly play dates for lunch, all to be repeated again and again. We would do different things, go to different parks, perhaps a trip to the zoo. But, it was all predictable. As the years progressed we became busy with one kid, then the next and the next, all headed in four unique directions. Every season brings new schedules, new activities and new challenges. Just as soon as I feel like we’re settled in with one schedule something ends or something begins and everything changes.

It happened slowly. New Normal would last for 6 months or a year at first.

But now, New Normal happens every few months.

As I watch these kids grow and manage their own schedules, their own social lives, their own work and play what is normal for me is constantly changing.

There is no bed time, we try, but I think our kids are nocturnal.  We bought a fan and lock our door. Don’t talk to me until 7:30am. Teenagers sleep weirder than babies.

The kitchen is always open. Clean up after yourself (they don’t actually do this.) Don’t leave food in your rooms or the basement (they also don’t do that.)

Friends are always welcome and are often here.

I finally got a chalk wall which works amazingly well with helping us manage schedules. But, as soon as we’re used to the craziness of teenagers we’re going to have adults living with us or not here at all. That transition is already beginning. I’m going to cling to this summer, the last “normal” summer I’ll ever have. Then we’ll have “New Normal” summers. Those will change every other year for a while.

So, what I’ve learned is there is no such thing as normal. There is no routine to settle in to, there is no consistency to depend on. I am a creature of habit so I’m always looking for what I can count on. What I’ve found that to be is change, it’s the only thing I know for sure.



The time is now (Senior mom series)

There are so many clichés about being a high school senior. People will say, “This is only the beginning” or “The adventure begins here.” The quotes go on and they are all the same, it’s great to be a senior. You’re leaving the nest and stretching out your wings. You’ll still depend on your parents for a few things but those will become less and less until at last, you’re your very own person. It’s exciting and scary, and new and different. But, mostly exciting. 

Unless, of course, you’re the mom. I’m not one of those moms who has awful kids and can’t wait to kick them out the door. These kids are great. All of them. But for now, I’m going to focus on the oldest, because alas…the adventure begins here.

Madelyn hasn’t always been easy. Matter of fact she was a difficult baby. She cried a lot. She wanted to watch TV in the middle of the night and I was so sleep deprived, I’d let her. That’s before she was even 1! I wasn’t the worst new mom, but I wasn’t winning any awards. She saw herself as my equal from very early on. By the time her first sister was born she surely felt like we were co-parenting. At the age of 2 she stripped her previously sleeping 4 week old sister down and was attempting to change her entire outfit, diaper and all, while I showered. Once baby Emma was big enough to play on the floor Madelyn would drag her by the ankles out of my sight to change her clothes. By the time Emma was one and a half and I was pregnant yet again, Madelyn took it upon herself to potty train her sister, which of course required removing all her clothes, every time. I guess she saw being a mom as a lot of changing clothes. She would brush Emma’s teeth and even taught Emma how to climb out of her crib. Once when she was about 4 Madelyn loaded the dishwasher herself and started it with regular dish soap instead of dishwasher detergent. It was a bubbly mess, which we of course played in. By the time she was 9 I was bringing home sister number 3 and Madelyn started babysitting before her 10th birthday. She would be caring for other people’s children at 11. I’m pretty sure she has felt the burden of raising children since that first sister was born when she was 2. Thus is the life of the oldest girl. We used to have a lot of conflict until she realized she was one of the kids too and not here solely to be mommy #2. I know I gave her a lot of responsibility also, she didn’t just take it all on her self. I needed her help and she was willing and able, but that made her, for a time, feel like she was in competition with me. We worked that all out by the time she was about 9 or 10 (about the time she did mini cheer) and it’s been pretty smooth sailing ever since. When she was 11 she started CYT and that gave me time with her away from her sisters for a while. I spent hours upon hours curling her hair, driving her to rehearsal and volunteering at shows. It gave us something that was ours and was really one of the best things to happen to us. She really started to shine there, she fell in love with performing and made great forever friends. After homeschooling most of her elementary years she went to high school at the Classical School and it seemed then things had changed forever. It was sad for her to be gone all day but CSW was the best educational decision we could have made for her. She was challenged more than I could have challenged her at home and she was exposed to a new way of thinking that I didn’t feel like I could offer her. Travel has been a highlight of her high school career. Even as I write this she’s in a different time zone. ICTFlight Showchoir brought her out of her shell and helped her sharpen her performance skills, leadership skills and voice talent. I don’t think her high school experience would have been as rich with out that group. 


So, now, here we are at the beginning…but I feel like it is the end. I’m not sure how quickly things will change but only that they will. She’ll be moving away in August and the thought of it pains me. For 9 months out of the year my sunshine will be in a different state. She’s my sweetheart, my cuddly kid, she calms me down when I’m irritated and that dimple can make me smile no matter how frustrated I am. She’s funny, smart, loves Jesus and is a delight to be around.

I want to go to all the moms I see holding little babies and say “Don’t get too attached.”

It’s like postpartum depression. Everyone experiences it and very few people talk about it. It’s like it’s not ok. Is it ridiculous that I’m sad my kid is leaving me that she’s never going to be a kid again? I won’t come home to her backpack contents, and uniform pieces strewn about the kitchen. I won’t trip over her shoes. I won’t have to complain about her music being too loud or that she hasn’t washed her laundry. Her room will be left neat and tidy with only the non-important things left behind. I will feel like one of those things, I’m too big to pack, and quite unnecessary, plus it would be weird.

I want to say that this really kind of sucks. I have to be happy, and I am…I really am. I know it’s the right thing and I’m happy for her, but I’m sad for me. I’m sad I’m not a young mom any more. I’m sad I don’t have car seats and sippy cups. I’m sad that though for her this is the beginning for me it feels like an end.

That had to be said. You have to know that. When you look at your little kid and they are so frustrating, they don’t listen and you feel like you can’t reach them…keep trying. You want to have the kid that you cry about when they leave. You want that to be your kid. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want my kids to break my heart. I want them to be the kind of person people want to be around, not just that I want to be around but someone you would enjoy.

With all of that, here’s the big reveal. My sweet Madelyn competed for and was awarded a full tuition scholarship to Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, near the Georgia, Tennessee state line. (It’s called the Maclellan Scholarship.) We are so blessed that she was offered this scholarship, I just know she’s going to thrive there! 

She graduates next month, the summer will fly by and my girl will move away. She’ll do amazing things.

Senior pictures by Melissa Dinsmore. Check out http://www.melissadinsmorephotography.com/

Reconnecting with a friend after 17 years

I’ve been waiting to post this picture until I had just the right words to say. I was going to post it on Instagram or Facebook, but I decided it was worthy of a full on blog post. This is a special picture and though I am sure there are no words I’m going to type some out any way and you’ll get a thimble full of the thousands of words this picture is worth. (If I know myself at all it will be a couple of thimbles at least.)

In the fall of 1983 my family arrived at our apartment in Izmir, Turkey. I was 6 years old and had already lived in 6 different houses in 3 different states. This would be my 3rd new school. It was an American school. We wouldn’t be learning a new language or culture in school, which looking back I guess is a little unfortunate. We did learn quite a bit about the Turkish culture living “on the economy” as they would call it. In our same building an American family was getting to transfer back to the U.S. They had packed up all their personal belongings and had rental furniture from the Air Force, the bare minimum.

It turned out that this family and my family had a lot in common. Their kids were similar in ages, they were Christians, they were Americans living in the same apartment building.

For the six or eight months we lived in the same building we were inseparable. Our parents would spend hours together in Bible study and lively conversation. Amy, their first grade daughter, and I would play dolls and house for long hours. We would eat large family dinners together, we’d sleep in the same bed. Our families became very close. They had a son, older than Amy and a daughter, younger. We all played and laughed and ate and slept. We rode the bus to school together and were in the same 1st grade class, until she moved.

Amy’s dad had been stationed to a base in Georgia and we wondered if we’d ever see this wonderful family again that we had grown so close to.  This was long before the internet, before social media and free long distance phone calls. We sent very literal letters in the mail, which could take weeks to arrive.

We left Turkey by the time I had completed half of the 3rd grade. We moved to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. I finished the 3rd grade at my grandparents in Mississippi while my parents went on to Illinois. I think it was only 4 or 6 weeks. It felt like an eternity. Then, we moved to Belleville, IL, where I attended half of the 4th grade. Then, we moved on base where I would be in the same school district from the second half of 4th grade through the end of 9th grade. Nearing the end of 5th grade we go great news. Amy’s dad was getting stationed to Scott AFB!

6th grade was a little rocky. Amy was much cooler than I was and it was a stretch for me to chill on the attitude and be her friend. People didn’t like me as much as they did her. But she was kind and we were friends. Our friendship raised my middle school social class level.

We started both playing the flute in the 5th grade. Much of our middle school years was spent “practicing” for duets and going to music competitions. We spent hours looking at sheet music, laughing and talking about boys. I was crazy about boys. I’m not sure if she was as crazy as I was as I am certain no one has ever been as crazy about boys as I was. Amy lived on the other side of base so we didn’t ride the same bus home but as often as we could we’d ride home with each other to spend those long after school hours doing homework, playing the flute, doing flips off her bunk bed, eating cookies and talking about boys. When we didn’t go home together we’d spend hours on the phone….HOURS. I have no idea what we talked about. When I think how some of my kids text for so long I think about those hours I spent on the phone with Amy and I’m pretty sure it’s comparable. We had a code for the boys in our class and we’d call them by their code names so no one would know what we were talking about. We’d write notes and fold them origami style and slip them in each other’s lockers. It was middle school bliss to have a best friend, though I spent many lunches in detention, we had a great time in and out of school.

Then, after the 8th grade, Amy moved again. This time to Germany. I promised to write her every day. Which I did, for a while. Then it dwindled down as things like that do and we’d write once a week, once a month. But we stayed in touch.

We moved to Colorado, she moved to Kansas.

She graduated from Derby High School after only attending there for one year. Her graduation was at WSU. My family drove from Colorado Springs to Wichita, and on the morning of her graduation, Amy woke up to her best friend whom she hadn’t seen in 4 years. We laughed we cried. We spent the next 2 or 3 weeks together. My family took her back to Colorado with us and she attended my graduation, she was there the day my long time boyfriend broke up with me. It was perfect.

We met her parents somewhere, and she went home. We went on to college in different places. Amy back to Iowa where her family was from, me to Mississippi where my family lived. I got married, had a kid, coincidentally moved to Wichita.

Then, She got married in the summer of 2000. I was in her wedding, pregnant, toddler it tow. That was it. That was the last time we saw each other.

Facebook helped us to reconnect. I’ve seen pictures of her kids and wondered how she was. We’ve sent messages but I’ve long since broken my promise to write every day.

I was blessed with the opportunity to travel with my daughter’s showchoir this year, the same daughter that was a toddler at Amy’s wedding. I realized that one of the competitions might be close to Amy, and it was. She drove an hour to have lunch with me then watched my girl perform.

I didn’t know how it would feel, how it would be to see this special individual after so many years. She pulled up to the school I was at in her minivan, because that’s what we do now…drive minivans…she got out and hugged me and I swear she hasn’t aged a day. She’s the same little girl I played dolls with, who played her flute better than me and got A’s on everything I got a C on. (“A for Amy C for Carrie” we used to say) She was the same girl that cried with me the day my boyfriend broke up with me (thank the Lord) and who screamed in the back seat of my parents car with me when we almost got struck by lightening on the road back from Cripple Creek. So many memories so many giggles and tears it all came back in a rush and she looked beautiful.

We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant which was oddly good for Mexican in Iowa. She watched the show, and that was it. Happy/Sad.

I love her. I hope our paths find there ways wondering back together again.

We almost didn’t take a picture, but I’m so glad we did. So many words said, so many left unsaid. For words cannot encapsulate the love for a friend you’ve known your whole life.

Happy Birthday Amy, I love you dearly!