This morning, as we drove the boys to school, Richie in the back seat right along with the rest of the crazies, everyone singing along to The Beatles (my absolute favorite band), reading family scriptures, having family prayer, and then shouting our “I love you’s” back and forth as the boys piled out of the van and bounced joyfully into the world. . . I was filled to overflowing with gratitude and joy.

We’ve worked so hard, Richie and I, to set up our lives intentionally. Early in our marriage, we sat down together and decided upon staunch priorities surrounding what we wanted our life together to look and feel like. (NOTE: It’s no surprise that the majority of those goals centered around the kind of life we hoped to be able to provide for our children).  I’m so happy to report (to myself more than anyone else) that despite pitfalls, roadblocks, discouragement, and outright failures (yes, plural), we’ve remained committed to the things we deemed (together) to matter the very most. Case in point the ability to drive the boys to school—together—in the mornings, and the luxury of picking them up—together—in the afternoons. This is a small example of a bigger picture reality we have worked so hard to achieve.

Not to say that we’ve got it all perfect. We still have SO (so so so so so SO) far to go, but we’re on the right path—the pathway toward our intentional life, and it is so absolutely energizing and fulfilling that my heart nearly bursts with joy just thinking about it.

Intentional living will look different for everyone, but friends, do the work to get clear (about what you want your life to look like) and then get busy (creating the life of your dreams). You CAN do it, and you’ll be so glad you did!

Allow me to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Ms Karen Lamb: ”A year from now, you’ll wish you started today.”

xx,

N

 

 

Baby girl,

When did this happen? Like lightening, really. You are ONE. An entire year has passed since that magical night when we first met!

I’ll never forget the joy on your momma and daddy’s faces. They were smitten, head-over-heels in love.

We all love you so much Haddie, and we thank Heavenly Father every day that you are in OUR family. We won the lottery with you, little one. Yes.we.did.

Happiest first birthday!

Love,

Aunt Nat

. . . and Uncle Richie, and  Raleigh, Cardon and Lincoln, and Grandma and Grandpa, and all your other aunts and uncles and cousins. . . we all love you, Hadley, times a hundred-million-zillion.

 

 

Good morning. Good night.

“You look awful!”

He steps in to get a better look.

“Like, (perplexed pause), you look like you are about to die!”

He leans in even closer.

But before he can find a way to further articulate his horror, we both burst into side-splitting laughter.

“This is what I need him for,” I think, as I look down and realize that I’m still in my pajamas at 7:30. . . PM.

There is a pile of wrappers that used to contain the canister full of dinner mints that have sustained me all day long.

This was . . . a day. Ya know? And if I’m being totally honest, I’ll say that I have a lot of days like this. I’m not the mom who wakes up and has her make-up on before she gets the kids out of bed in the morning. I’ll never be that mom. I wish I were that mom. But guess what? Reality: I’m lucky if I get my make up on before our semi-annual family photo session, forget the drop off line at school. And that’s ok with me. (Sort of. . . . Well, most of the time. OK. A good percentage of the time. Like say, 35%.)

On days when I’m feeling particularly spread thin and frazzled, I remind myself that I’m a part of something. Something that matters. In fact, I’m a part of a lot of somethings that matter, and I get to live them out every day, with my entire soul. That means something to me. It really does. So yes, I’m still in the stars and stripes that I put on at 10:30pm . . . yesterday. And no, I’m not ashamed (I’m a little ashamed) to be admitting that out loud. (Actually, you know what? I did it on purpose. It makes going to bed again a cinch.)

______________________________

Dear, sweet, strong, brave, bat-freaking-crazy, zombie face Natalie,

Every day, as you break up fist fights between your children, stop and look at them (but not for too long, or there will be blood). Stop and really look at them, and remember that they are yours. You made them. And you get to keep them, forever. That’s a something to be proud of. 

As you look at the pile of dishes that is stinking up not only the kitchen but is sneaking it’s way into your living space as well, remember, you survived on dinner mints today because you wanted to, not because you didn’t have enough food to eat. You have a kitchen full of dishes and a pantry full of food to put on them. Why you chose to subsist on dinner mints is a mystery of the free world. But every girl needs to keep a little mystery in her life. So, good on ya! This is all a something to feel very grateful for. 

When your husband tells you you look like the walking dead, wrap your arms tight around his neck, because if it weren’t for him, you would drive yourself right into the ground with how hard you work every day, and you know it. His love and hilarity are the solitary reasons you stay sane and keep your head square upon your shoulders. That is a something to cry tears of joy about.

When you are starting to doubt the wisdom of your 3 month long email strike as you see unanswered messages spilling out the front door and onto the neighbor’s lawn, remember— each one of those emails (except the stupid ones from Living Social and K-Mart) represents one of God’s children that you get the absolute honor of loving on for a few measly minutes of your big bad day. That is a something you need to appreciate as a gift. That is a something you need to remember to love.

When you are losing your mind trying to coordinate all the logistics of your crazy-beautiful life, just look around at all the SPECTACULAR people who are constantly rising up to help, to encourage, to support and to sustain your efforts. YOUR life is FILLED TO OVERFLOWING with not only somethings but someones who love you fiercely. . .far more than you deserve.

 

Above: Discussing Metta (loving kindness) Meditation with Mom after a particularly hard night.

 

 At the end of a long day of hustling like your life depended on it, when your 10 year old asks you to come and not only listen to him practice his drums, but sing vocals for him as well (WHAT?!), remember, migraines.are.awesome. (That’s not a something. It’s just torture, by the way. But it is evidence of a life full of love and belonging. . . and THAT is a something you could never live without.)

And when you didn’t get dinner on the table, and your house is nearing disaster status, and your laundry is taking over the bathroom, and said bathroom smells like number one, and you are exhausted on a cellular level, and despite going a million miles an hour—all.day.long—you really aren’t sure what you even accomplished . . . remember, you have opposable thumbs, and that is neat.

Hang in there, sister. Your life is beautiful.

xo,

Self

PS Want to join me in an upcoming something that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of? Come see me and two of my most treasured and respected friends (Tamara Lackey and Jen Bebb) in Brooklyn, Nashville or LA for a day of encouragement, straight talk and practical, sustainable application that is sure to get you from where you are now (10:45pm in yesterday’s pajamas?), to where you truly want to be (10:45 pm in yesterday’s pajamas, but eating ice cream too??).

All joking aside*, this event is not to be missed. Find (real) information here: What If Conference | The Day Camps.

*Note: this is my last scheduled speaking engagement of 2013.

When you really love something, when you really, truly, madly, deeply, passionately LOVE something, it’s always shocking to wake up one morning and realize how long that thing has been gone from your life—how far away it feels—how foreign—how . . . irretrievable. When you finally find the courage and resolve to go after what you’ve lost, when you finally realize that life without it is worse than the horrifying reality of what will be required to get it back, there’s a part of you that believes that once you “jump back in,” you’ll be simply overwhelmed by the utter rightness of it all. “I’m home!” your spirit will cry!

Here’s the truth that I have found: It will hurt, this process of righting wrongs, of chasing our bliss, of restoring what was lost, of building what we hope has the potential to be. Once you’re in the thick of all the searching, it will be hard, and it will hurt. You’ll feel clumsy and unsteady, insignificant and small, and the journey will feel very, very long and unyielding. To paraphrase Robert Frost—the woods will seem dark and deep and there will be miles and miles (and miles) to go before you’ll sleep.

But where there is love, there is light. And light, my friends, is ALWAYS worth fighting for. Once you get back in the ring, the entire universe will begin to conspire together for your good—in absolutely miraculous ways. And out of nowhere, you’ll start receiving signs. Trust them. These signs will validate the stirring in your heart, and they will give every ounce of the courage you need. My sign was delivered to me by a stranger. In the exact moment my heart needed it the most:

“Please come back to the web. If only you knew all the people that you were encouraging, lives you were touching, the way that God uses your pain to shape others lives, to comfort those who feel the same. I know you will probably never know the depths of the way that God is using you, your story, your writing, your talents, your gifts, your trials, your sufferings….but I do hope and pray that you come back and process more with us. There needs to be more hope and truth out here on the internet….and more voices like yours. Thank you for all you have done here…you are a gift and a blessing and a teacher and a mentor and even in a way, a friend. Thank you.”

I’ll be back to writing (blogging) tomorrow (well, and today, as it would seem).

(Deep inhale, soft smile.) I’ll see you soon.

 

A fog has rested upon us all.

We want to rejoice, we want to be merry and bright. Yet we find ourselves facing a largely unfamiliar solemnity, a collective ache, an inescapable undercurrent of pain. . .

Because their stockings are still hung by the chimney with care.

Because their gifts still lay wrapped tenderly beneath the tree.

And there will be no eager footsteps in their hallways come Christmas morning. . .

_______________

Felix’s brave momma, Jenna, elected to give birth to him at home. . . with the help of only a midwife and a few trusted friends. (Her husband, Brian, was away on deployment and took part in the experience via Skype.) When I arrived at the home where Jenna was preparing to welcome her son into the world, it was the middle of the night. The stars burned bright in the Scottsdale sky (I mention it only because it was the kind of sky you never forget your entire life through). The lights inside were dim, and there was a tangible tenderness in the air. A room full of women. . . Jenna in the middle. . . slowly, confidently breathing her way through the excruciating pain. As the night wore on, and Jenna’s pain increased, there were moments when it was nearly unbearable to watch. Tears spilled from my eyes, and I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms around her. I would have done anything to help bear her pain, and I know my feelings were shared by every other woman in the room that night.

And things went on this way.

For hours.

The intensity of pain Jenna was experiencing lasted all through the night and well into the afternoon of the next day. All the while, there was nothing any of us could do—except for love, encourage, support and stay by her side. All we could do was make certain she knew we loved her and that we weren’t going anywhere.

After Felix was finally placed into his mother’s eager arms, I listened to her genuinely and adoringly thank every woman for their presence through her pain. I listened as she told every one of us, individually, that she couldn’t have survived without us. We had done nothing to ease her pain. Nothing. She brought that baby into the world on her own. She suffered through every breath of anguish. And yet, somehow, our love, our simple presence had made a real difference for her. Jenna’s gratitude was unforgettable, unbelievable and extraordinarily sincere.

So, where do we go from here?

There are so many in this world who are writhing in emotional pain, laboring through overwhelming fear, sorrow, horror . . . and loneliness that cannot be described.  For many, and certainly those of Newtown, CT, Hell is a matter of every day life.

Where DO we go from here? I’m afraid I don’t have a perfect answer. I can only explore the question right along with every other member of the human family. . . But I imagine the answer lies somewhere near the region of LOVE. A love that is more complete, more open, more unconditional—a love that is not bound by pretext or restraint.

We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ, with genuine charity and compassion and, if necessary, shared suffering, for that is the way God loves us…. We need to walk more resolutely and more charitably the path that Jesus has shown. We need to ‘pause to help and lift another’ and surely we will find ‘strength beyond [our] own.’ If we would do more to learn ‘the healer’s art,’ there would be untold chances to use it, to touch the ‘wounded and the weary’ and show to all ‘a gentle[r] heart —Howard W. Hunter

May we come together, as members of the human family, irrespective of race, political affiliation or creed, and let each other know that we are here for one another in complete charity (love) —and we aren’t going anywhere.