Opening Back Up

“It was never my intention to stop writing here, to put the pen down and close shop. I needed a breather, yes, but walking away completely was not the plan….”

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KATE:

In the days following the loss of our fourth child I had so much I wanted to say, so many feelings I wanted to share. Words swirled in my head; words of pain and anguish, words of confusion and broken dreams but also words containing slivers of hope, given to me mostly by other women who had walked in these shoes before me. For the first few days I wore my heart on my sleeve, bearing each and every feeling freely, passionately. I didn’t care that people saw me crying at mass, I was mourning. I didn’t mind sharing every last detail of the moments leading up to and after the loss, I was an open book.

But then suddenly something changed, and changed drastically. My heart didn’t stop bleeding, it was still splayed open and broken, but the raw feelings of pain from losing this baby turned to guilt because in some way my loss didn’t feel like “enough” compared to what other women have had to go through. I suddenly felt like my experience wasn’t worthy of anguish because my miscarriage was an early one. I felt so alone despite the fact that so many women were telling me, “I know. I’ve been there. You are not alone.”

Then, slowly, the confusion and broken dreams shifted and began to turn into anger:

“Why?? What is He asking of us?” I yelled from my office chair as Collin walked down the hall. “Our house, our savings, and now our children?? What? Is God just going to strip us of everything one-by-one? What are we doing wrong?”

He immediately turned around and came back to me, wrapping his arms around me as I collapsed into his shoulders in tears. “That’s not what He’s doing, Kate.”

I knew he was right, God doesn’t punish us like this, but I’ll tell you what, it sure as hell felt like He was in that moment.

That night, after putting the kids to bed, we began reading the book of Job. I was feeling pretty beaten down and battered and my faith was a bit shaken. The words of this book were exactly what I needed to hear to regain my strength.

A couple of days later, with the boys’ help, we chose the name Job Simon for the baby we lost. Job was chosen for obvious reasons, Simon was picked by our oldest son who was preparing to present the Stations of the Cross during an upcoming children’s mass, Station 5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross. The choice was more fitting then I think Keaton will ever know.


EMBER:

Right as Kate was experiencing the overwhelming grief of losing Job, both my husband and I were wrestling with some big work-related decisions. Drew and I had been exploring different job opportunities for a few months, and suddenly we were both in the position of considering job offers at the same time.

At first, it was kind of exciting going through the process together. However, that was really only in those first couple of days when the job offers are shiny and new and flattering—full of all things positive. I don’t think either of us fully realized the added stress and complications that concurrent decision-making would add to the process. During a time when you need to turn inward in order to pay close attention to your heart and your gut for the purposes of your own personal decision, you need to reach outward to support your spouse in their own decision as well. Then, you have to find a way to bring all of those internalized and shared findings into one big, tough consensus. Murphy’s Law of Decision-making also applies. It states that just when one of the vested parties starts to feel a certain way about each of the decisions being considered, the other vested party will suddenly shift their course in the other direction, and your carefully crafted Jenga-structure of a game plan will come crashing down.

Sigh.

We made it through that stressful time of sorting out our individual and family priorities, and, in the end, I accepted an opportunity to return to work while Drew decided to stay with his current employer.

Once those decisions were sorted out, I told myself I’d take a few weeks off from writing at The Sunlit Path—a bit of time to adjust to transitioning back to work, time devoted to scaling that steep learning curve of a new industry and subject matter, time to allow our family to ease into our new schedule.

Then, I told myself, THEN, I’ll come back.


KATE:

Within a month of losing Job, just as I was beginning to engage with family and friends again, just as I was starting to consider sitting down to write, we were blessed with a really wonderful surprise – inside my womb was new life once again.

I clasped my face with my hands in utter amazement when I saw the two pink lines and instantly began to shake. I was so elated and so, so scared at the very same time. I held my breath for the next few weeks and prefaced every statement with “If we don’t lose this one….” Then, on a Thursday morning while the big boys were at school Collin, Nolan and I entered into the ultrasound room and breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the flicker of a heartbeat.

We shared our news privately with those around us immediately but I didn’t feel comfortable sharing publically. My emotions were so jumbled, I was happy and excited and hopeful but at the same time I was still in pain from our recent loss.

Writing about Job and the things I was still feeling made me feel like a fraud when I knew there was a new baby inside me. But writing about the new baby felt like an injustice to Job.


EMBER:

I’m not sure when I thought THEN would be. As though I’d be able to recognize it: flashing T-H-E-N letter lights, alarm blaring, as if it were shouting, “Time’s up, Ember! Your latest life transition is now complete. Please resume your regularly scheduled activities.”

Life happened, as it tends to do, and instead of things calming down after that initial craziness of starting something new, the intensity only seemed to grow around here. Work, certainly, kept me busier than I’d expected (isn’t that always the case?), but all of a sudden there was another potential client…and another…and then the girls’ school year was coming to an end…and all the end-of-year activities were upon us.

The month of June, the beginning of summer, was basically a blur. Just when it felt like we should’ve been slowing down from all the end-of-year craziness, everything ramped up, all at once. I had three product releases hitting in the span of two weeks. Drew had to travel for work. My Mom and Dad set out on a 3-week road trip out west to see family and friends, which meant transitioning the girls into full-time daycare during that time. Ah…life. It was an intense few weeks, but we made it through.

The 4th of July holiday felt like a deep breath. A much-needed one, caught just in time—when I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding mine all this time. A long, shaky inhale; a cleansing, steady exhale.


KATE:

I’ve had several months now to process and sort out my feelings and what this experience has taught me, once again, is that it IS possible to experience sorrow and joy simultaneously. I mean, I know that, but when you are in the midst of life and loss these emotions somehow feel incompatible. I have struggled with finding the words to convey exactly how these experiences, the miscarriage followed immediately by new life, have impacted me. While I tend to be an over-sharer in regards to my feelings surrounding our current life circumstances this time I feared that sharing too much of anything would give people the wrong impression, or worse yet, be unintentionally offensive.

As I type this the little girl (It’s a girl!) in my belly, now 22 weeks along, is kicking furiously.   It still brings me a bit of pain to know that she is only here because of the child we lost, but her life has brought renewed hope and fervor to this house. After a period of feeling like we were stuck in a thick patch of fog we have started to live fully again. We have a few months yet to go, but we are all eager for her arrival and eager to become a family of six.


EMBER:

The thing about breathing, if you can slow down long enough to actually do it, is that it’s pretty reliable about gently reminding you what’s important, what you might be missing out on, what you’ve clenched up and hidden deep inside and need to let out into the open.

I’d be less than truthful if I talked about life these past few months—the newness and busyness of it all—as being the only reason I stopped writing.

I admit that I’ve been scared to pick back up and write again. There were times when I allowed myself to bleed out onto the page in front of me, and the vulnerability I’d feel after hitting “Publish” was at times too much for me to bear. It didn’t matter if only a few people read it—or hundreds. As an introvert, it is inherently against my instinct to share my innermost feelings with anyone other than my small circle of best friends.

Fear begets fear, and I felt mine grow—little by little—with each new blog post. Fear of judgment, of inadequacy, of over-sharing, of being perceived this way or that; of wanting to connect with others, but fearing I’d be misunderstood…that my words would instead only push people away.

Life keeps happening, as it tends to do, and a truth I stumbled upon for a season might shift beneath the already shaky ground, transforming into something else entirely. What I thought and wrote about yesterday may not be what I’m starting to believe today. There’s something that feels fraudulent and frightening about that to me. It’s growth, I realize, it’s part of the process of living and writing, but it is often difficult to do “out loud.”

Despite the fear, I still feel that urge to write. I’m somehow not fully able to work through what I think or how I feel about what’s going on within me and around me until I let the words unfurl. And I really miss making that meaning.

When I sit still long enough, hushing out the worldly noise, I can hear the words prickling beneath the surface—feel them squirming and impatient beneath my skin—yearning to march up to my fingertips and hop out onto the keyboard. These words may be jittery—helter-skelter—scattering every which way except the way I intend, but I’m going to bite my lip and let them shakily find their way out nonetheless.


There’s no perfect time for us to return here. No clean break from the grief or deadlines, life changes or fear. Now probably isn’t the best time to start writing here again for myriad reasons, but it’s good enough. The perfect time was probably a couple months ago, or couple months from now, but you know…LIFE.

When we touched base with one another over the past few months about The Sunlit Path and whether/when we’d return, despite our never-waning life obligations, we’ve always come back to this underlying truth: We want to do this.

And so, we will.

Thanks for walking with us.

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Stumble

Stumble

The thing about The Sunlit Path is that, when you’re traveling along it with someone, you sometimes find yourself navigating twists and turns that you wouldn’t have necessarily taken if you were traveling alone.

This space we’ve started here—a place to share our dreams and vulnerabilities, our triumphs and heartaches—has been integral to healing and renewal for us both over the past several months, and we hope it will continue to serve that purpose.

Our blog is called The Sunlit Path, but we all know firsthand that this path called life is often overcast by loss, hardship, and the winds of change, which can make it hard—seemingly impossible at times—to regain your footing…and to see the sun through the clouds.

As you all know, Kate has recently been traveling down a dark stretch of The Path with the loss of her fourth child to miscarriage, and because I’ve been down a similar road before, I can’t help but find myself traveling beside her, at times, reliving the sorrow.

Also, in a somewhat sudden turn of events, I have recently gone back to work, which requires my family to adjust to a new schedule/routine.

We just want to thank you all for your patience with us right now, as we regain our footing from the stumbles that inevitably occur through loss and life changes. We hope to be back here soon, writing and sharing more about the ways in which our lives are unraveling…according to His will…and in His timing.

Thank you all so much—as always—for walking with us.

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A Letter to my Baby

Dear Baby Kono 4,

BABY KONO 4!!  I am over-the-moon excited that I am finally saying these words! We have been patiently waiting and praying and hoping that someday the timing would be right to add another child to our family. When I saw the two pink lines my heart nearly leapt out of my body; I was overcome with joy!  I had planned on surprising your Daddy with a dinner of baby back ribs, baby red potatoes, and baby carrots but in that moment I could not keep the news from him for another second, much less a day or more (those ribs were still frozen, you see) and so instead I wrapped that little test up and presented him with a Monday morning present.

“What is this?” He asked.

“Oh, just a little something.” I could not hide the smile on my face.

When he opened it he was a little surprised, “really?” he asked me; your timing wasn’t completely ours, but it was entirely God’s. I nodded and he took me in his arms, giving me, giving us, a hug.

I’ve told a couple of people about you but for the most part your presence has been a secret just your Dad and I have shared. Not that I haven’t wanted to shout it from the roof tops, believe me, I have! Your Dad has had to talk me down more than once already and we finally agreed that we’d share the news with your grandparents and aunts and uncles on Valentine’s Day – the day of love, of hearts bursting with joy – it seems appropriate.

Your Dad is convinced you are a girl.  He just knows it, he is sure.  I don’t argue with him on this stuff because usually when he has “feelings” about something he is right.  I do not have any overwhelming feelings about whether you are a girl or a boy, I am just so happy you are here, nestled inside of me. I can feel my body responding to you and I am already so madly in love, October can’t get here soon enough.

While we haven’t shared the news with your big brothers yet it’s almost as if they can sense your arrival.  They have been asking for another sibling for quite some time but recently their requests have become almost incessant:

“When can we have another baby, Mom?”

“I want THREE girl babies!”

“I want a boy AND and girl.”

Your Dad and I share a smile each time they ask and while I can’t wait to tell the world about you, I mostly can’t wait to tell your brothers about you.  They are going to be so excited!

Of course with any big news like this I have some fears, mostly around money and affording maternity leave, but each time these fears creep in I repeat the phrase “I trust you, Lord.” And I do, even though we don’t always understand God’s plan or know how the details will work themselves out He always, in some way, provides.

God’s plan is always better than mine.

I’m trying hard to remember this.

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I trust you, Lord.

I trust you, Lord.

I trust you, Lord.

The words roll around in my head over and over. I sound like a scratched record that keeps skipping… skipping… skipping…

I trust you, Lord.

I force myself to say them even if I’m having a hard time believing them.

It is snowing and blowing and I can hardly see. I am on my way to a meeting just 15 miles or so from our house.  I get within a mile of my destination when I whip the car down a dead end road and make a U-turn, heading back the way I came. The GPS is confused and keeps trying to tell me to turn right, turn right, turn RIGHT! You are going the wrong way, TURN RIGHT!

I feel really bad for skipping out on the meeting when I said I’d be there but in that moment I know I need to be home, laying in bed. Your Daddy and brothers are in shock when I walk back in the door; as I am taking off my boots your dad comes in the coat room and I collapse into his arms in tears.

“I just need to go lay down.”

I grab my rosary and my prayer books as I head to bed; in my heart I know what is happening.

I trust you, Lord.

I get snuggled in and your brothers join me, each one flanked to a side. I feel like I should kick them out of the room, tell them Mommy needs some quiet time, but a weird sense of peace comes over me and I know they are meant to be here, together with us, as we say goodbye.

The cramping comes almost instantly and my body withers in pain. My insides feel as if they are being wrung out like a wet rag, my body is trying to expel you while my heart is trying to hold on for dear life. I feel so helpless and I grasp for you because I’m not ready for you to go….

Hail Mary, Full of Grace…

Your brothers listen as I repeat the prayer over and over, louder and louder each time as if somehow raising my voice will stop the inevitable.  As your big brother Hutton nuzzles his head into the crook of my neck I close my eyes and a shiver runs through my body. Deep in the recesses of my mind I see your heavenly Father, a bright light surrounds him and his presence in my mind brings the slightest sense of peace to my aching heart.  Gently, and ever-so-reluctantly I place you, swaddled in a beautifully crocheted white blanket, into His hands.

The next morning the doctor calls with the results of my hcg quant test and confirms what I already know is true, I’ve lost you.

Oh sweet child, I am so sorry.  I am so sorry that I failed to protect you.

My most recent positive pregnancy test is still sitting on our bathroom counter; the word PREGNANT blares at me each time I go in there. I’m not sure why I haven’t thrown it away yet, I think it’s because it’s the the only tangible thing I have left of you.

Your Daddy and I are hurting so much.

I am so angry with my body. I am so worried that I did something to cause this.

But mostly we’re sad.  We’re so sad because in your short time with us you filled our hearts with so much joy. So much joy!

Sweet angel of mine, please know you are so deeply loved and will be forever missed. I’m holding on to the knowledge that some day we will be together again.

Until then….

All my Love,

Mama

One-on-One

I swing open the garage door and thrust my arm out at shoulder height, my pointer finger aimed straight at the passenger side doors: “Get in the car!”

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I spent the early part of the morning snuggled up with my oldest on the couch, he was watching a Nickelodeon show while I did some reading. It was a perfect start to the day.

But as soon as the middle and youngest came bounding out all hell broke loose, as it has a tendency of doing.  Any combination of two of these boys seems to be just fine, but when all three are together the bickering and fighting and screaming turns up a notch.  Scratch that.  TEN NOTCHES. It was not even 10 am and already I had broken up at least a dozen quarrels between these guys.  I was done! I’d had it!

I would have sent them all to their room for a breather, a time-out, but that wasn’t an option.  After two failed hearing tests and a perpetual diagnoses of “just a little fluid on the ear” Keaton had a follow-up appointment with the audiologist at 10:20 am, followed by an appointment with the ENT.

___

As he climbs to his seat in the back I shut the door gently and walk around to the driver’s side.  Before opening my door I take a deep breath: inhale vitality, exhale tension (thank you, yoga). I get in the car, adjust my seat, and look into the rear view mirror, “after your appointment I’ll take you out for a special breakfast, how does that sound?”

His eyes light up, “to the place with the milkshakes?”

“Yes, to the place with the milkshakes.” I smile back at him as I put the car in reverse; Denny’s is magical when you are a child.

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Keaton’s appointment went well.  For the first time in two years his hearing improved and there was no sign of fluid on the ear.  The ENT was happy with the results from the audiologist; she was a bit surprised he was able to clear the fluid in the middle of winter.  We happily left the office with a clean report and an order to come back if the concerns happen to arise again.

___

“Two?” the waiter asks as we walk in the door.

We are seated at a booth towards the back of the restaurant. I untape the crayons on the children’s menu and slide it across the table; Keaton immediately gets to work. It’s penguins again, maybe it’s penguins every time? No matter, he colors and I look over the menu.  He already knows what he wants: chocolate chip pancakes with sausage and a side of scrambled eggs.  Oh, and that milkshake, can’t forget the milkshake. I decide on the Veggie Skillet and Keaton giggles when I order a coffee alongside my milkshake.

I know he is hungry because he didn’t eat breakfast before his doctor’s appointment, but he’s a trooper. We spend our time reading penguin facts, answering penguin true/false, and putting together a penguin mad lib. He laughs audibly when I read it aloud to him and my heart swells.  I love spending time with this little boy. I can’t help but become a little nostalgic….the years, they’ve gone so fast. He’s already six. Just last night I was telling each of the kids the story of their birth; it feels like yesterday that the nurse shouted out to us in the wee hours of the morning: “you have a… Keaton!” My heart bursts at the thought, oh, I love him so!

Finally our food comes and he digs in.  I’m amazed at how quickly he eats. I pull the third pancake off of the plate assuming we’ll take it home but quickly put it back and cut it up into small pieces.  He downs the pancakes, sausage, and half of the eggs and I slide him a glass of water to wash it all down.

As he places the glass back on the table he looks up at me and smiles, “thanks mom, I needed that.”

I smile at him and I can’t help but think: No, thank you. I needed that.

___

When the demands of parenthood and sibling squabbles become more than you can bear so often a little one-on-one time spent together is far more productive then issuing another time out.

{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama, one of our favorite bloggers: “{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”


A moment from Wisconsin…

keaton & Nolan reading


A moment from Michigan…

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{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama, one of our favorite bloggers: “{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”


A moment from Wisconsin…

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A moment from Michigan…

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Life in the Small Things

Small Things Quote

When I was a little girl, I loved to collect little, itty-bitty things. Charming little figurines and porcelain dolls, books and notepads, rocks and seashells, necklaces and barrettes, and colored pens and pencils (to name a few).

Each new and exciting little object (found in nature or purchased with my hard-earned allowance) would be assigned a place of honor on my dresser or bookshelf— often atop a doily crocheted by my Grandma Bea.

My tiny treasures.

They brought me so much joy.

I’ve recently started remembering all of my dear little childhood collections because my daughter, Lucy, has inherited a similar affinity for all things miniature and novel and pretty.

Lucy discovers—and immediately finds a fitting place in her bedroom for—any new-found treasure, right there alongside her previously-discovered ones, always adding to her little collections.

I love watching her during her process of discovery—the dogged search, the moment of wonder, the fierce and immediate admiration and attachment.

I love to watch how her little mind works as she carefully ponders where to display or store these treasures. My little curator: how lovingly and thoughtfully she treats them all.

Watching my daughter brings back so many memories of happy times, of care-free days, losing myself for hours in the joy of similar small things.

As I let my mind wander…remember…I come full-circle back to the present.  A question begins to form…a realization unraveling.

Where along the way had my focus shifted from daily admiring and savoring the small things—the intricate, wonder-filled details—to mostly gazing (longingly) in the direction of the sweeping, grandiose “big things” in life?  When had I traded in my macro lens for a wide-angle view, panning out and skimming past all the small things?

For years, I’d been spending so much time working towards the so-called “big things”—you know, the announcement-worthy events that are usually cause for celebration: that promotion at work, launching a cool new product, finishing a master’s degree, getting an article published—that I hadn’t stopped as often as I should have to enjoy or celebrate the small things.

Those little moments in life that cause you to spontaneously smile when you remember them.

Those acts of love and kindness that make you tear up with joy and thankfulness.

Those encounters that underscore our natural tendency to believe that life is precious and sacred.

Small Things Collage

Of course, it’s easy to savor the small things when they come gift-wrapped in pretty packages: counting the petals on a daisy, watching a caterpillar climb a tree, a random “I miss you” phone call from a friend, learning to “pump” on a swing…

What’s harder is not becoming weighed down by the not-so-pretty small things in life: piles of laundry never shrinking, children who refuse to nap, an apparent snub by an acquaintance, a muddy entryway that won’t stay clean…

In the same way it was easy for me to get lost in the drive to achieve or earn or produce or perform, it’s easy for me to get discouraged by the unending chores, the seemingly mundane string of days, and uncooperative kiddos.

The question is: How do you savor the small things without “sweating” the small stuff?

There’s no easy answer to that question, of course. I know for my own hard-headed self, it’s a daily “re-set and try again” type of activity that will never be easy. I’m daily striving, stuttering, failing, picking myself back up, and starting again.

Despite my shortcomings, I want to share a couple Bible verses that have recently helped me find more peace within my current Life in the Small Things…

“Who dares despise the day of small things?” – Zechariah 4:10

I read this verse recently as part of a daily devotional for Moms. It really resonated with me, because I find myself griping so often about the small things I don’t like doing. When I become weighed down by that not-so-pretty small stuff, I try to remember that there’s meaning in even the most mundane and seemingly unimportant tasks. As annoying and never-ending as household chores can seem, for instance, trying to view them as acts of love and kindness for the ones we love the most can help ease some of the burden.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” – Colossians 3:23

This verse has comforted me in so many different circumstances. In that sucky job. Or with the sucky boss. The not-so-glamorous projects and tasks and obligations. Whether you’re unloading the dishwasher, making lunch for your kids, updating a project plan, or dialing in to yet another conference call, the important thing is you’re doing what you feel called to do (for now—it might not always be this way). You are providing for your family. Or nurturing your family. Helping others. Helping your team. Whichever. There is meaning and purpose and lessons to be learned in all of that, even when it feels repetitive or unimportant or unnecessary.

The season of life I find myself in now has re-ignited my own process of discovery in finding joy in the small things…and I feel so blessed to be learning this lesson I so desperately needed.

In the past few months, I have doggedly searched for joy in the small moments—the shiny and the shabby ones—and I’ve often been surprised by the moments of wonder, admiration, and attachment that I uncover.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and ye shall find…” – Matthew 7:7

This macro view of life I’ve been gifted has brought the little things—the blessings, now closer and larger—back into focus.

And, of course, time with my two most precious little treasures is the best part of this Life in the Small Things.

They bring me so much joy.

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{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama, one of our favorite bloggers: “{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”


A moment from Wisconsin…

Nolan racing


A moment from Michigan…

Sissy kiss

 

Be Still: Kate’s Thoughts on “Strive” for 2015

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I never officially declared a word or phrase for 2014, but in my heart the word that guided me through last year was perseverance. I came upon this word while doing a devotional reading one bitter cold morning last January.

Not only that; let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope. ~ Romans 5: 3 – 4

The past few years have had their share of hardships. I think it would be fair to say that 2012 and 2013 were our two toughest years yet. After rebuilding our lives piece-by-piece following our house fire, 2014 started on the heels of a significant financial loss. Had we suffered just one of these losses I think I could have held it together but two, in such a relatively short amount of time, broke me. Although we were through the worst of it by the time the calendar flipped to 2014, I knew I was still very battered and bruised, and truth-be-told the only thing I desired for last year was to make it through. I just wanted us to keep chugging, to not give up, to persevere.

2014 had its share of struggles, that’s for sure.   Not once, but twice we had to make major decisions concerning Collin’s career, I contemplated a job change, Collin had to have emergency dental surgery, he also ended up in the ER with a weird virus and threw his back out, which laid him up for over a week (actually, he kind of had a tough year). We also unexpectedly lost a loved one and Collin’s dad suffered a heart attack. The heart attack was what impacted last year most significantly, and on Christmas Eve the severity of the situation truly hit me for the first time. As Papa helped the boys with their chicken dumpling soup, a wave of fear washed over me, we could have lost him.

But we didn’t. Papa didn’t suffer a heart attack he survived a heart attack. While 2014 had its struggles it was most definitely not the worst of years.  We persevered and we made it though, and that’s all I wanted.

But with the dawn of a new year upon us, I hope for so much more in 2015. I don’t want to just make it through; this is the year I want to see some real change.  Collin and I sat down together on New Year’s Eve and wrote out a list of goals and objectives for the coming year and together we’ve decided that 2015 is the one we want to look back on as “the year we turned things around.” By the end of this year my hope is that we (individually and collectively) are thriving, not merely surviving.

Our list was broken down into four categories: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial.  I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that #1 on the list is Get Healthy: exercise regularly and eat better.

I know, I know, this is the go-to resolution, right? Everyone declares this at the beginning of a new year!

Here’s the thing, getting healthy has to be our first priority.  While mentally and emotionally I am so much stronger than I was a year ago, physically I’m still a mess; bad habits are really easy to start and really freaking hard to break. If I don’t get my body healthy, no other aspect of my life is going to be healthy, because every part of our being is intertwined. When I lack discipline here, I lack discipline everywhere.  So not only am I currently overweight, I am also extremely disorganized, unable to focus, and my ability to procrastinate is at an all-time high.

My hope is by placing our attention on our health first the results will trickle down into other areas of concern and free up some space/time to spend on the fun parts of our list, which include taking up some new hobbies and enacting a monthly date night.

All of these goals should be achievable if we strive to make the best decisions day-by-day, but the boldest move I made on that 2015 list was including this: Become a stay-at-home-mom.

Whew! Just typing that here makes me hyperventilate a bit.

As our lives stand right now this goal appears impossible.  I shouldn’t say that, it appears possible but not probable as it would require a lot of things to happen first: get the house show-ready, list it, SELL it, find a new property, etc. etc. etc.

We have talked this over a million times—considered different scenarios and crunched the numbers—but every discussion ends with a deep sigh of regret as our heads tell us the only way to make this work is by selling the house.

However, it dawned on me the other day that in all of these different equations there was one thing lacking from each and every formula: Faith.

And in its place was a whole lot of doubt.

I’ve witnessed miracles happen in other people’s lives, I’ve seen hopes and dreams (ones that did not seem at all possible) come to fruition, why would I doubt that could happen for us?

I’m lacking faith.

My mind is constantly churning, seeking happiness, making plans and searching for ways to achieve my next goal. My mind is rarely quiet. It is rarely still. But if I do silence it for a moment I know that the only way to truly find happiness is to follow God’s will. If it is God’s will that I be home with my children and I am open to it (I am!), I know it will happen. I may not be able to envision how it could happen, but I have to trust that it will because He “is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us.” ~ Ephesians 3:20

But if it is not His will then no amount of planning or seeking ways will make it happen, or at least, happen successfully.

Although I’m leaving “become a stay-at-home mom” on my list of goals for 2015 (because it truly is the deepest desire of my heart) since writing that list on December 31st my mind-set has shifted a bit. This year, instead of constantly busying myself with making plans for our life and then struggling to achieve them, I will strive to silence my mind and listen to His call. But more importantly, I will pray that I have the courage to follow His guidance and the strength to accept His will.

Happy New Year!

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Be Thou My Vision: Ember’s Thoughts on “Strive” for 2015

Happy New Year! Kate and I are starting off 2015 here on The Sunlit Path with a theme word for the year: Strive. After much reflection and discussion of this past year, we kept coming back to the word strive as feeling “right.” Today I’m sharing what strive means for me in the context of the year ahead, and Kate will share the same for herself next week. Stay tuned! And, as always, we invite you to Come and walk with us!

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So, here we are. It’s 2015.

I’m so happy (relieved?) to see that calendar page turning. I’m giddy, almost, at the thought of plunging right into the new year—icy tingles baptizing the year ahead with a dazzling aura of all things refreshing and shiny and oh-so-doable.

Along with my excitement for a fresh start, however, comes some fear. The fear that comes with having been here before. Of knowing the drill, but not loving the outcome. I know, from years past, how quickly that tingle of excitement fades.

The shininess dulls. The taste bitters.

Life happens, and the things that earlier felt—looked, through rose-colored glasses—so easily achievable, are suddenly…well…not so much.

“How did I ever think I was going to get to the gym 5 days a week with my schedule, plus cut out carbs? I’m as angry and tired and hungry as a bear who forgot to hibernate, and I wonder why…?”

Momentary lapses of sanity. Over-optimism at what we’re able to handle. Rose-colored glasses while drafting our “to-do” lists…goals…resolutions. We all over-estimate what we (realistically) can do. Or how quickly we can change a habit and have it “stick.”

Sorry. I’m not trying to burst anyone’s “It’s still early in January and I’ve totally got this!” bubble here.

And don’t get me wrong, I am optimistic and joy-filled at the thought of this year ahead (truly!).

But I want to approach 2015 differently than I usually approach a new year. Without “set in stone” goals or lofty resolutions that I’ll look back on late in December and feel regretful about, because I failed them. Again.

There are so many things I want to do this year, focus on, STRIVE for…

But resolutions they will not be.

I am not going to do that to myself. To continue to set myself up…to then hate myself. To continue the cycle of self-disappointment.

…I don’t need the self-loathing come Valentine’s Day when I decide to eat a few squares of the Ghirardelli chocolate Drew brings home, because he knows it’s my favorite.

…I don’t need to look at myself in disgust once again when the scale has only inched down slightly (if at all!) by the time t-shirt weather returns.

…I don’t need to keep telling myself I’m only worthy of love and acceptance when I’m __________. (Thinner, more productive, earning more money, working at that job with the impressive title, etc.)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: What I see when I look in the mirror these days does not make me feel very good about myself. I’m world-weary, and it shows. Loss—of loved ones, of my confidence, of feeling worthy— has drained me, wrinkled and dimpled me. I’m worse for the wear on the outside. It’s true.

But you should see the beautiful swelling of my heart when my 3-year-old asks if we can go lie down on her bed and read books together—her favorite pastime these days.

Or when my almost-5-year-old kisses me goodnight and says, “Mama, I had fun with you today.”

Most days, I have to remind myself that these visions of love are what matters, more than my reflection in the mirror.

Still, I don’t want to neglect my own self-care with the excuse that there’s no time for it! Because I’m caring for OTHERS!

I know all too well that the days (weeks? months?) that I’ve neglected taking care of my body, mind, and spirit leave me ill-equipped to care for others fully.

With this knowledge in mind, for me, I think the word “strive” will take on a two-pronged approach this year.

I want to be, all at once, more forgiving to myself—that is, full of self-love rather than self-loathing—while striving to be more, to fulfill my potential without the self-defeating thoughts and excuses that I often put in my own way. I want to scale those roadblocks, jump those self-imposed hurdles, and sprint forward without the fear of stumbling (though I know stumbles will assuredly occur).

I’ll admit it: I have a lot of internalized goals for this year. A “list” (if I’m being honest) of things I would like to accomplish.

And I think that’s good. I think it’s natural always to be looking to better ourselves as human beings. It’s God’s will for us to daily strive to be more like Him—kinder, gentler, more loving, hard-working, etc.

But it’s also why I’m changing my thinking for this year. I’m trying to reframe what I want this year to look like: not focused on self-centered achievements, but on continuing to seek God’s will and peace in my life.

Here’s an example: I want to get healthier this year. Losing weight is a part of that, of course, and I could write a self-focused resolution to “Lose 30 pounds this year.”

But, like I mentioned, I don’t think that’s the right way to frame it.

Instead, I’ve been contemplating what the Lord’s will is for me—to treat my body with reverence and care, to be a reflection of His creation—and have that be my “become healthier” focus.

Making sure I move my body at least a little every day would help support that “getting healthier” goal. (Instead of: Do the Daily Shred every day in January.)

And, it leaves me some wiggle room. Because I know from experience that on Day 3 of the Shred I’ll be sore, and the last thing my body is going to want me to do is that. same. workout. Instead, I could walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill, loosening up those tight and sore muscles, and not completely “throw in the towel” when how my body is feeling doesn’t align with the goal I created for myself.

Nourishing my body with mostly whole, non-processed foods would also support that same “getting healthier” goal. (Instead of: Go back on the South Beach Diet, which I know I’ll get sick of after two weeks, then binge-cheat on french fries on a day I’m feeling particularly stressed out and need comfort.)

You see, if we can seek out living life more like God intended us to live—mindfully, intentionally, generously, and with more self-love and grace toward ourselves and others, we’re well on our way to achieving the right kind of goals in 2015.

As you contemplate this time of new beginnings and what you want to fill your life with this year, remember that those goals—no matter what you end up producing or how you end up performing—should not be set up to make you feel worse about yourself if they don’t quite go according to your original plan. Remove your “self” (ego) focus from the goals and re-frame them through the lens of God’s will (which is to “prosper you and not to harm you…” -Jeremiah 29:11).

I’m writing this as much for myself as for anyone else. My vision so often becomes blurred by seeking the wrong things in life: validation through other people’s opinions, ego inflation and accolades, money or possessions…

But when I step out of my “self”—out of those selfish longings for outside approval—the things that should have my attention easily regain focus.

The following hymn just came to mind as I write this:

Be Thou My Vision

(A traditional Irish hymn, select stanzas)

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

 

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;

Thou mine inheritance, now and always;

Thou and thou only, first in my heart,

High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.”

My hope for you, whatever it is you’re striving for this year, is that you’ll try to see yourself and others as God does: not only as worthy of love and acceptance exactly as you are right now, but also capable of “…immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” through Him. Let Him be your vision along this path.

Happy New Year!

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