Monday, January 23

It's Okay to Fail

Stubborn tears streaked down his 7-year-old cheeks. Determination to do as well as his brother at snowboarding had lead to frustration and anger coming out sideways through tears when he couldn’t quite measure up—at least not in his own eyes.

As I locked eyes with my younger son from across the room, I saw a familiar pain in his eyes—the struggle to want to succeed and do well no matter what.

He walks towards me, holding back more tears he hates to shed, especially in front of others. I pull him close, trying not to make him feel like a baby, as I whisper in his ear:

It’s your first time, bud. It’s okay to fall. Donnie’s a lot older than you. You’ll get it. It takes time. You’re doing really well.

He nods as his eyes fixate on the floor, listening to my words. He exhales as he looks into my eyes, finding the reassurance from a mother who understands what it is like to not want to ever fail.

But he’s just learning something it took me years to accept: It’s okay to fail.

Monday, January 9

Life Beyond Your To-Do List

This morning I forgot what day of the week it was. If it weren’t for school and the few activities my kids are in each week, I may never remember the dates as the year rolls on with no clear differentiation between one 24-hour period and the next. At times, life can seem rote and mundane.

My forgetfulness isn't because I don’t have things to do; in fact, if you haven’t heard we’re writing a book. WE’RE. WRITING. A. BOOK. And after having four deadlines this summer and, now, looming edits due to our editor (the second of which just passed, thank you, Jesus), I feel extra pressure to put my head down and whittle away at stories a little at a time. Sometimes I forget the joy, the magnitude of seeing a dream fulfilled with the pressure to actually do the work that it takes to finish the project. (Dreams have a way of being way more work than you ever imagined, who knew?)

Tuesday, December 27

25 Days of Kindness Completed! {2016 Edition}

Once again, we've pulled together the months kind acts as a reminder of all that was accomplished. Thank you so much for joining us this year!

Day 1: Today, the kids and I donated items to our local humane society in honor and memory of our dog Reggie and got to pet some really sweet animals as well!

Day 2: An encouraging note (and caffeine) to a small business owner who is a hard working rock star.

Day 3: I may or may not have teared up a little when chatting with my girls about our military and their families and the sacrifices they make for our safety and well-being.

Day 4: Today was a bittersweet day, friends. We had the honor and privilege of helping dedicate Katie's Wing, a beautifully redone area at Place of Hope homeless shelter that will help give homeless women and kids a place to live. It's named in honor of our dear sister and friend Katrina, who died 11 years ago after a 5-year battle with breast cancer. The funds raised by our family's foundation and the generosity of so many others in the community led to this day.

Tuesday, December 6

Our 2016 Finale: Journals for Katie's Wing

Whew, already partway into the month, and it's already turning into a busy December! If you've been following along with this year's 25 days of Christmas kindness on our Facebook page, this past weekend we revealed via video what our finale will be this year (Kendra is in love with those live videos. If you know how much I hate being in the spotlight, you'll understand why all I do in the video is grin like a fool.)

Attending the dedication
A bit of the backstory first: More than 11 years ago, when my sister Katrina died after a 5-year battle with breast cancer, our family created a foundation in her honor that gave women and girls opportunities in Christian environments that they otherwise wouldn't have. Over the years, one of the places Katie's Club supported was Place of Hope, a homeless shelter in St. Cloud. Last year, Place of Hope announced that their new women's wing would be called Katie's Wing in honor of Katrina and her legacy.

This past weekend, we got to see the fruition of that dream in action. The three of us, along with  friends and folks from the community, attended the dedication of the wing. I could not. stop. crying. With more than a dozen bedrooms for women and their children as well as a common living area, kids room, kitchen and bathrooms, the wing is fully equipped to help women overcoming abuse, human trafficking, and homelessness. It's amazing.

Living room

We are SO excited to be a part of this amazing ministry, and although there are still practical needs to be met, we wanted to take on an item that we hope will encourage the wing's residents to dream.  We'd like to take on one specific item -- journals for all the women who stay in the wing, journals that they can then take with them as they leave the wing to continue their lives. So here is where you come in: We are asking our community and friends to help out by donating a journal. In addition, if you'd like to write a blessing, scripture, or prayer inside for the woman, we would love that!

Ok, I know it's the holidays and everyone is busy but journals are everywhere. I bought three this morning at Marshalls and spent $10 total (who else loves Marshalls?! It is seriously right up there with HomeGoods and Barnes & Noble as one of my happy places). We would LOVE for you to send us a journal, and before you do, write in it. If there's one thing we've learned over the years and believe in wholeheartedly, it's that your words matter. Words have the power to hurt or to heal, and your words of encouragement could be exactly what someone else needs to hear.

Hallway and a bedroom
Plus, how amazing would it be to say, "I know this person is a stranger to you, but they've been praying for you and will continue to do so"?! If you'd like to send us a journal, drop it in the mail (you can even send it media mail, which is cheaper, since it's a book!) to us at: 1704 Red Fox Road, St. Cloud, MN 56303. Thank you for joining with us, friends!

P. S. If you're interested in donating to some of the other practical needs of the wing, you can certainly still do so! A few of the items on their wishlist include sheets, curtains, and new windows, although there are other things they need as well. Donations can be sent to: Place of Hope, 511 9th Ave North, St. Cloud, MN 56303. Just designate your gift for Katie's Wing.

Monday, November 21

25 Acts of Kindness {2016 Edition}

Wow, it's now been five years since we began incorporating kind acts into our families’ holiday activities—acts that have now weaved themselves into family traditions, right alongside decorating the tree and hanging stockings.

Sometimes the simplest of ideas can produce the most profound change in us and in those around us, in ways we’d never have known when we’d first begun. For us, these acts of kindness have become so much more than just something we do during the Christmas season. They have become the catalyst that has shifted the way that we see people, needs, and even the way we see God.

We now notice so much more of the pain and suffering that is occurring in our world—but instead of quickly averting our eyes or ignoring it, we walk towards the pain, extending out our hands with what may seem on the surface to be one small act of kindness, but turns into so much more. An altered perspective; a lesson for our children or ourselves. A willingness to be vulnerable even when it hurts.  And, on the very best of days, a small glimpse of the way in which God's grace can bring light to the dark places in this world. 

Saturday, October 15

Waiter, A Table for One

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Image by Cesar Acebal via Flickr

As I pulled into the parking lot of the small cafe on the shores of Lake Superior, the parking lot full of cars gave me pause. The quick, one-night get away to the North Shore for the hubs and me had turned into a quick solo trip due to circumstances beyond our control. I had a speaking engagement at a nearby church in the morning, and I found myself facing an unexpected afternoon and night of forced solicitude.

I'd thought to sneak into our favorite cafe for a late lunch/early dinner at 3 p.m. and had hoped to find the place empty - primarily so I could hide in the corner for a quick meal - wondering if my favorite salad was back on the menu. Following the hostess further into the dining area, I suddenly realized my secret, solitary meal was still going to be solitary, but while sitting at the table in the very middle of the cafe at the intersection of every walkway - the one place where I would be on display for every couple, every group of women out for a girl's weekend to eye curiously.

I raised an ironic eyebrow heavenward. It seems that God's sense of humor was on full display.

Instead of leaving or hunching miserably in my chair, hiding in my phone, I ate the most delicious brussel sprout leaf salad with a confidence and peace that was partly faked and was partly fueled by the determination that eating alone was simply not going to bother me.

As the embarrassment at being solitary faded, it occurred to me how afraid we've become at being alone - alone with our thoughts, alone with God - that we'll do almost anything to avoid it, even to the point of choosing to be jolted with electricity rather than sit with our thoughts for 15 minutes (seriously, here's the article).

There is nothing to fear from time spent in quiet solicitude with God, whether its strolling along a rocky beach listening to the rhythm of crashing waves or curling into a hotel bed, realizing a bit wistfully that my early-rising son won't be shouting "MOM" across the hallway at 5:45 am to see if I'm up yet.

My current season in life is that of encourager, listener, finder, fixer, correcter, cooker, snuggler, driver, and laundress - and it is chaotic, loud, and requires a constant balancing act of being mom, wife, attorney, and follower of Christ. And it's all wonderful, good stuff - especially when I know that I only have these few short years in which to mold and launch these two funny, sweet, loud, crazy fledglings currently living in my house.

But, sometimes, I forget me. I focus on the woman defined by loud labels describing what I do for others so much so that the quieter labels describing who I am get swept under the proverbial basement couch, forgotten and gathering dust bunnies.

As I met and walked with God in that solitary space, I rediscovered me - the woman who quietly exists aside from the labels describing what I do for others. And I also rediscovered God - who He is, and what He says about me.

It is only in the stillness, in the solitude, in the time spent quietly in God's presence that we re-calibrate His magnificence and our role in his kingdom. And it is only in the stillness that we find ourselves, the one who exists separately from all the roles we play.

Heavenly Father, for those of us in a season filled with chaos and noise and being pulled in a million different directions, help us find afternoons and mornings and lunch hours and moments in which we can turn off all the distractions and simply sit in stillness before you. Remind us of the women we are separate from the labels. And for those of us who find ourselves in a season with too much solitude, whisper into our hearts our worth, our value, and place us in spaces where we can pour your love into the lives of others. Amen.