The A-Venture Continues

Like many things, in some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago and in others, it feels as if it was just yesterday. This very weekend two years ago, I was putting the final touches on décor and furniture placement preparing to put my house on the market as the holiday weekend would come to a close.

In addition to preparing my house, I spent the previous weeks preparing the mind of my four year-old while I prepared my own heart, in the only and best ways I knew how.

“So, it’s like we’re going on a “A-venture,” the little said. “Like Dora does.”

She was strikingly accurate, and it only seemed appropriate to let her make her contribution, so the name stuck.

“Yep, honey, it’s our A-venture,” I replied, forcing a confident smile, without a clue where we were going, and yet, all the confidence that we would be okay.

If you’d like, you can read the story of how it all began when the For Sale sign was pounded into the yard here.

IMG_8755 (1)

Two years later, the A-venture continues for us, unfolding in unexpected, sacred, beautiful ways, just as it did when it first started. We are self-proclaimed Chicago locals now. And Dorothy wasn’t kidding when she said there is no place like home. Being back in the Midwest with all of the seasons, the snow, the summer thunderstorms and people who drink “pop” has done my heart so much good.

I’ve learned a TON in the last 24 months about myself, about my kiddo, and this game called Life.

It took me a few years and an equal amount of mistakes to learn that I can try to have all the control I want, but things can still fall apart. But even in the falling apart, God is there, has been there all along and sometimes what feels like life falling apart was actually life falling into place.

I’ve learned that my kid will survive if she isn’t bathed every day, eats the occasional popsicle for breakfast or doesn’t always go to bed on time (although I will fight for 8 o’clock lights out as often as I can, mainly because Mommy needs to not be Mommy for a few minutes everyday). But she thrives because of the love, care and investment of people who love her in all her five year-oldness and in so many ways that I can’t even begin to do.

I’ve learned that my five year old can pick out better outfits for her (and me) than I can, and that by the time we can share clothes, I’m going to finally have a sense of fashion.

We’ve been blessed beyond measure on our A-venture, the five year-old and I, by people, our Village, as I call them, who have chosen to love us not because they had to, not because of anything we did, but rather simply because they wanted to. There just aren’t words to explain the depth of gratitude and love we have for you, our friends, our “Framily,” near and far, who have been one part or another of the life we call our A-venture.

But if there is one thing that has stuck out to me the most over the past two years, it’s this overwhelming sense that my whole life hinges on and is being held in the mighty, holy, powerful grip of God’s amazing grace. The more I come to know myself and my humanness the more awe-struck I am at His unending, never giving up, there all along in all the moments I never even knew it, love.

I have a feeling I will spend my whole life trying to sort this one out and will still fall short of a full understanding. And so, with a grateful heart, I look back on all of it – the highs, lows, mistakes and mountaintops. And with a hopeful, expectant heart, I look forward offering praise and thanks to the One who continues to prove that He writes a more incredible, perfect, and awe-inspiring story than I ever could.

I still don’t need to know the plan, Lord. I’ll wait right here until You tell me the next step, and I trust that You’ll give me the courage to take it.

Photo credit: The incredibly talented, Carly Smaha.


Mother’s Day Merry Way

It was a grab a Pop Tart for the little, and oh by the way, did you brush your teeth, race out the door kinda morning.

“Mom, my tummy hurts,” Adellyn said, as soon as I picked her up from her class at church.

No, no, no. Today is MOTHER’S DAY. This is not the day of tummy and unknown ailment aches. It’s not the day of “I don’t like this” or “that’s too spicy.” Today is the day of sunshine and flowers and perfect children with perfect smiles. Today is M-O-T-H-E-R-S. D-A-Y. And we are going to be happy, happy, happy.

“Where does your tummy hurt?” I asked in my most un-sympathetic mom voice ever.

“All over.”

“Well, what does your tummy need to feel better?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“Well, I don’t know how your tummy feels, so you need to either decide what it needs or go over there and find your happy tummy. Today is MOTHER’S DAY,” I said in an exaggerated voice (when are the Mom of the Year applications due?), and I need you to smile for a picture. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yeah,” she said, looking up at me with unsure eyes.

She managed to bring her best smile to a couple pictures and was mostly distracted picking flowers before we headed to the grocery store for a quick errand before our afternoon stop: planting flowers with Miss Dawn.

“Mom, it reeeeeeaally hurts,” she said again as we were walking into the market. “I think I have to go….poop.”

“There’s the answer! A quick trip to the bathroom, and we’ll be on our merry way,” I thought.

A few minutes later, we took a left out of the bathroom in front of the checkout lanes, headed for the produce section. Merry Way, take 2.

All of a sudden, Adellyn pulled her hand out of mine.

“Mommmmmmm, I feel like I’m going to….”

And right there, in the middle of the grocery store, her pink Pop Tart breakfast came back up not once, not twice, but three times, all over the aisle and all over her for all of the shoppers to see.

There are a lot of things you get used to as a mom. Boogers, spit up, getting peed on, scooping the occasional turd out of the tub. It’s par for the course really, but Adellyn has thrown up- thrown up twice in her life. Today was the second time, and my queezy stomach didn’t love it one bit.

In a flurry, multiple people handed me hand wipes, a wad of paper towels, a garbage bag, and a plastic container for the over-priced roses available for those who stop in for a quick Mother’s Day gift on their way to brunch with mom.

With my hands full, I walked out the door, calling friends to say that plans have changed while wiping Adellyn’s hands and face, and putting the eh-hem…soiled…clothes in a bag.

Normally, I would have called “stomach bug,” and waited for it to pass, but 12 days post-op from tonsil and adenoid surgery isn’t quite in the clear for something to be possibly wrong. After a phone call with the surgeon who said an ER visit wasn’t necessary unless she gets worse, we regrouped and headed back towards Miss Dawn’s. Merry Way, take 3.

I don’t miss many things about being a homeowner, and while I wouldn’t want a yard of my own to keep up with right now, the old woman in me loves getting dirt under my fingernails and spending a springtime afternoon in the garden. So, after some yard work for me, a little rest plus a few wheel barrow rides for A, and a cruise in the Wrangler with the top down for both of us, we had Mother’s Day-ed, praise the Lord!


However, by the time we got home, the little girl could hardly keep her eyes open and was sound asleep on the couch before I finished unloading the car. An hour later, she woke up with a temp of 101.6, quickened breathing and goosebumps all over her body. My momma heart wasn’t going to be able to sleep until I knew there was no infection and she was okay.

Mother’s Day is for things like brunches and walks and feeding the ducks. For bouquets and cards and chocolate. It’s for planting flowers and putting your feet up. It’s not for Emergency Room visits.

“Her throat is healing nicely. You’re dealing with a virus,” the doctor said, and an hour later, we were headed home. Merry Way, take 4.

Yes, the past five months of surgery and strep and sleepless nights and antibiotics and doctor visits have been exhausting. Yep, I feel like I’m losing what marbles I have left from time to time. Yes, I cried on the way to hospital because I’m really ready to be off this ride on the sick-train.

But in the grand scheme, these inconveniences are reminders that I am not, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be so I can stop trying right now, in control. These are the lows that make the highs so much sweeter, and some days, like today, the days are filled with both. These are the moments that make me realize just how much I love this little five year-old and what a holy, sacred, sometimes overwhelming feat Motherhood can be and how eternally grateful I am for a village of rock-stars who I get to call my people. It’s all a part of the Merry Way.

At bedtime tonight, I scooped the feeling much better after a dose of Tylenol and a bath little girl up off the couch and carried her down the hall, like I’ve done thousands of times over the past five years.

“This is how I carried you when you were just a little, teeny tiny baby,” I said, stopping at the entrance to her room. “And I would hold you and rock you and say, shhh shhh shhh, shh shh shhh until you would fall asleep.”

“Mom?” she replied, looking up at me. “Can you put me in my bed now?”

On Strep, Surgery and Finding My Mommy Brave

“Hey, Mom, you have four eyes,” Adellyn said, as the nurse, now giggling, released the brakes on her hospital bed and rolled her toward the large double doors where we would part ways.


It was barely 9am, and just a few short minutes remained before I was going to kiss her on the head as she was wheeled into the operating room. She was going in for routine surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids, a common procedure done thousands of times every year for kids her age. Nonetheless, a scary mommy moment for me.

Clearly her “kiddie cocktail” had kicked in, and she was as ready as she could be, thoroughly looking forward to the popsicles and ice cream that were promised for later. I didn’t have a “kiddie cocktail” to help with my preparation. Heck, I hadn’t yet had a cup of coffee.

In between the “we’ll see you in Recovery unless there are extenuating circumstances,” and the hustle and bustle of machines and monitors and debriefs and doctors, I found myself overwhelmed for the bazillionth time with love for my kiddo and a hesitant acceptance of my complete lack of control over the outcome.

“Is she allergic to any kind of medicine, including anesthesia?” they asked.

I don’t know. She’s never had anesthesia. What if she is? What happens then?

“Is she healthy?”

Yes. I mean, I think so. But what do you mean by healthy? Should we check or double-check something to make sure she’s okay? Leave it to a medical situation involving my kiddo to make Anxiety Girl show her true colors.

After four rounds of strep throat, 40 days of antibiotics and a seemingly unending cycle of illness, I was ready for whatever it took to end the strep throat saga. As the nurse wheeled the bed with a little tiny five year-old through the double doors, there went my heart, handed over and surrendered to completely capable, yet complete strangers. And as much as I knew the surgery was best, the little girl on the hospital bed is my most treasured possession, and I just needed a moment to find my brave.

I get it, kids are meant to grow up. But it means some really, really hard moments of letting go and stepping back and releasing and trusting and having faith in them and their Maker. They should teach these things in Mommy School. They should have Mommy Schools.

I kinda think it doesn’t matter if it’s tonsils or tendons, sending them to preschool or college or down the street for a sleepover for the very first time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scheduled procedure or emergency surgery, if your child is 5 or 45, if you’ve been through it before a million times or never before. It doesn’t matter if you’re American or Israeli, single-parent, working mom, middle-upper-or lower-class. It doesn’t matter the color your skin or hair, what kind of house you live in – or don’t. What car you drive – or don’t. Raising babies is hard work. And we just can’t do it alone.

There was the nurse who took a minute to chat with me while A was waking up. There was the doctor that stopped by just to reassure me that all was well. There were videos and visits, balloons and books. There were movies and messages. There were frozen treats for the little and coffee and chocolate and conversation for the mama. My mommy-heart was made brave not by anything I could do on my own, but by selfless people who showed up in love.

“Mom, you still have four eyes,” said my groggy little girl two hours later. “And can I have my popsicle now?”

The Holiest Thing

It’s 11pm on a Monday and I’m hanging with my five year old, watching Lego: Friends on Netflix.

Strep has struck again. A dose of antibiotics and a two-hour afternoon nap produced a seemingly endless supply of energy in a little girl who is unable to fall asleep. After she was tucked in and re-tucked in five times, read an extra story, went potty…twice, and had a tummy that “was wondering if it could have some yogurt because it was still hungry,” I gave up the bedtime battle and we are having ourselves a little Monday night party.

In the past two months, we’ve had six cases of strep between the two of us. Doctors appointments, prescriptions, phone calls to nurses, texts to doctor friends, replacing toothbrushes, bleaching sheets, disinfecting doorknobs and countertops and light switches, and last-minute schedule shuffling have recently become a regular part of life at Casa del Clark.

It always starts in the morning when A wakes me up with, “Mom, it hurts really bad when I swallow again,” and I go into strep shuffle mode.

Step 1. Call doctor at 8:02 am. Ask for the earliest available appointment.
Step 2. Check child’s temp to report to doc later, and give child dose of ibuprofen.
Step 3. Begin the schedule shuffle, canceling all non-urgent meetings and appointments.
Step 4. Send SOS texts to all available friends to help with child-care.
Step 5. Take child to doctor, confirm suspicion and keep child quarantined for 24 hours.

Rinse and repeat every 2-3 weeks as necessary.

I like to plan my work and work my plan. When things like a sick kiddo interrupt my expectation of how my day or week is going to go, my tendency is to scramble, trying to muscle my way through it all, shuffling the little girl to and fro, if necessary.

There is that meeting. Or appointment. There is the project. The deadline. The to-do list. And it all needs me, needs attention, or needs to get done.

It’s true, there are meetings and deadlines and projects and responsibilities. There are things that must get done and they are important. They bring great things to life. They create change and momentum and progress. Work and meetings and deadlines make the world go round. But the frequency and force of the two-month sickness strike has made me rethink my approach to these curve balls.

In a world of striving and achieving and constant climbing of one ladder or another, I’ve realized that for me, sometimes the holiest thing I can do is to stop trying and striving and willing my way, and instead, surrender to the unexpected or the unplanned or the interruption.

Cuddling up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea for a whole day. Sleeping in. Taking a different route. Leaving room in the day for the “by the way, do you have a minute” conversations. Hanging with a five year old at 11pm on a Monday watching Lego: Friends on Netflix.

Rhythms and routines are good. I thrive on them. But I’m finding there is adventure to be had and life to be lived in the interruption. The slowing down for a minute can be crucial. And sometimes, the very best memories are made in the most unexpected moments.


A few months ago, I finished and returned a borrowed copy of Love Does by Bob Goff, making a mental note to buy a copy to have on my bookshelf because it was just that good. Fast-forward to today. I walked into my office this morning to find, lo and behold, a brand new copy of Love Does sitting on my desk with a cute little red bow.

I knew exactly who it was from. Audrey, a colleague and friend from work, was recently at an event hosted by Bob, called The Livingroom.

As I opened it, there was a beautiful note on the inside cover:

Kelli, THANK YOU for all that you are doing to impact so many young lives…” Love, Robyn from NYC

I don’t know any Robyn’s that live in NYC, so I turned the page…to find another note from Rory. And the next page had a note from Kaity. And the first chapter had a note from Audrey and Bob Goff, himself. Throughout the book, cover to cover, 60 people who I don’t know and who don’t know me wrote little notes of encouragement, hope, and love. Sentences from the book were underlined. Specific chapters had notes on them. I could hardly hold back the tears.

“Audrey, what in THE world? Thank you! I have no words. What is all of this about?” I asked her.

“You’ve offered me so many great opportunities and I just wanted to get you a little something that would brighten your day. So I took this book with me to California and I just told people about you and asked if they wanted to write you a little note and everyone got really into it!” she explained. “I’m glad you like it.”


Like it? That book and the incredible kindness from strangers will forever be etched in my heart, and those 60 people will never know what a difference they made in my life and how much their words mean.

Perhaps we make it all a little too complicated sometimes. Perhaps we underestimate how powerful a kind word or act of love can be. Perhaps we hold back and tell ourselves that it won’t matter. Perhaps we don’t do anything because we can’t do it perfectly.

But as I was so humbly reminded today by Audrey, Bob and 60 strangers turned friends, perhaps our words are needed. Perhaps our actions will make a difference. Perhaps life is all the more incredible if allow love to lead and do what it says.


Before dawn broke on Monday morning, I arrived at the hospital for non-emergent, minor surgery to repair a tear in my abdominal wall. Since the doctor doesn’t know the cause, I’ve decided it’s because of all the hard-core (pun intended) ab work I’ve been doing lately. Jokes, jokes. While I don’t and likely won’t know what caused it, I did know that even minor surgery was going to require something that, if I’m being completely honest, I still don’t love asking for: Help.

Life as a single, working mom has required me to get comfortable asking for things like help with the occasional school pick-up, or someone having the 5 year-old over for a couple hours on a random evening, or someone to take her Christmas shopping for my gifts. But in the midst of the asking, in the back of my mind, I kept a running tally, without even realizing, essentially rationing help. I made sure not to ask too much of one person, to plan activities spaced out so that I could manage them without having to ask anyone else to get involved too often, being sure to ask for the minimum I needed to get by. I was comfortable asking for “help,” just not too much of it.

So, when the surgery recovery orders were to sleep as much as possible, no driving for a week and no lifting anything heavy for three weeks, I still had a five year-old with school and activities and life things that needed to go on. To make it through the week, I had no choice but to lean into my people like I had never done before.

I needed people to drive me to the hospital and talk to the surgeon post-op and get me home after surgery, people to decide who was taking my kiddo to gymnastics, to decide what was for dinner and to prepare it and clean up after, to make sure the laundry got done and the homework was completed and garbage was taken out. I needed someone to make me a cup of tea because the tea kettle was too heavy to lift. I needed someone to do after-school pick up and bedtime routine and getting the kiddo out the door in the morning.

And that was just for me.

Then, mid-way through the week, Adellyn walked into my room and said, “It hurts really bad to swallow, Mom.” After I took one look at her throat, I knew it wasn’t a virus this time. Then I needed someone to drive us to the doctor to find out that it was indeed Strep, and then to the pharmacy. I needed someone to be available during the day to take care of her so that I could sleep and make her lunch because I can’t reach the plates. I needed ibuprofen for her and Tylenol for me and would it be too much to ask for some peanut m&ms, because this week has been a heck of one? Everything was delivered with a smile at 9pm, because that’s how my people roll.

In the midst of all of this chaos, I felt…desperate.

And this week, my community showed up, as they always do, going far beyond what I need. When canceled flights and illness forced a change of plans, my tribe rallied to fill in the gaps. People slept on my couch to make sure we were okay. When groceries were delivered, they came with bouquets of flowers. When the Gatorade was restocked, so were craft projects to keep the kiddo occupied.

While I’m grateful that most of our days and weeks don’t require this amount of intervention from my tribe, what I realized is that I…we, are made to depend on our people. We are made to be there for each other and to be desperate for each other, desperate for a loving God to work things out on our behalf, desperate for love beyond what we can repay. And while everything in me wants to be able to repay what is done for me, there is something holy and humbling about just not being able to. Grace is what they call it. Amazing, awe-inspiring, drive me to my knees, grace.

I think this is how Jesus wants us to rely on Him. I think He wants us to stop rationing what we ask for or hold back on telling Him what we need or limiting the number of times we come to Him with hands open, asking for His goodness, guidance, wisdom or will. I think he wants us to need Him for the things that are out of reach, in the daily routines, in our coming and going and in the midst of our once in a lifetime moments.

Because just like our people, I think He’s ready and able and eager to show up with more than we need, He’s just waiting for us to say the word.






When We Would Rather Not Wait

“Mom, can I open just onnnnnne present?” asked the five year old….for the 484th time…within the same hour.

FullSizeRender (2)“No, honey,”…I started to explain (for the 485th time).

If you’re a parent or you’ve been around children this time of year, you could recite what came next. “We can’t open the presents until Christmas. We have to wait.”

I have said that line at least a thousand times, but as I said it, I heard it for the first time: We have to wait.

Here I am, frustrated with my daughter, slightly extremely annoyed at her impatience and unwillingness to agree with what I’ve just told over and over, when, many times, I have the exact same attitude when it comes to waiting. I used to hate, hate, hate, loathe, loathe, loathe waiting for anything. Lines at the grocery store. Somehow I always choose the same line as the customer who prefers to write a check. Ohhhh my gosh. I just can’t even and yet, I seem to be like a magnet to them.

Lines at the grocery store are one thing, but then when it comes to the harder things like choosing to pass up a good opportunity because something in my gut said, “Wait.” Or waiting for the right job, when something convenient was at hand. If I’m honest. I didn’t do a good job of this for a good part of my life. I didn’t like to wait, so I just didn’t. I made decisions and blazed my own trail, and if the answer I was sensing in my spirit was, “Wait.” I just went about what I wanted in another way.

There is a quote by Maya Angelou that rings so true for me. She says, “I did then what I knew to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” After a few mistakes and some fairly difficult lessons, I realized that my approach to life and relationships and decisions didn’t make sense and didn’t work unless there was some element of waiting in the equation.

My sweet friends, if I could just offer this little nugget of a life lesson: There is power, life and purpose to the waiting. Some of my most significant moments of personal growth and faith have happened while I’ve been in a season of waiting. Something about the waiting helps you see just what you’re made of.

And, ironically, the undercurrent of this holiday season is waiting.

Whether you’re a child…or an adult, because let’s be honest, we adults want in on those gifts just as much as the kids, waiting to open the presents under the tree. Or you’re celebrating Advent and the time of waiting for Jesus to be born. Or you’re maybe you’ve tied a knot at the end of your rope because 2015 was just not you’re year and you’re waiting for a fresh start, a clean slate and the promise of something new in 2016. Or maybe you’re waiting on that new job, that big break or that final test score.FullSizeRender_2

Here’ something to consider. It was 700 years after a guy named Isaiah told the world that Jesus would be born as the savior they had been waiting for. In the waiting, people back in the day had the same reaction that you and I have in our own waiting: doubt, frustration, anger, sadness, fear. 700 years went by. Some of them never saw the prophesy come to pass, but in the waiting, those same people lived out stories of bravery, courage, faith, perseverance, and hope that are still talked about today. Also in that waiting, God proved Himself faithful, trustworthy, and the able, intentional perfectly-timed orchestrator that He is. And he’s writing a bigger story, a story that spans eternity, not just the length of our lives.

Sometimes it feels like I’m waiting 700 years for things to come to pass in my life. But what I’ve learned is that the waiting is often times necessary for us to be fully prepared for what’s next, and that when I realize that my little life is just part of a larger, more significant story, I’m okay with the timing and the reality of waiting being a part of life.

There are days or weeks when the waiting is hard. It just is. But just like Christmas will come and the presents will get to be opened, just like Jesus was born exactly as the Bible explains that he would be, just like January 1 of a new year will arrive and we can start afresh with another list of resolutions, the seasons of waiting will also come to an end in our lives, and from that time, we will grow stronger, more patient and more comfortable with the waiting.

So, my wish for you this season is that you find hope and promise and peace in the waiting.

A moment of Peace

Tis the season, friends. December is upon us.

If you’re world is anything like mine, you may have taken a quick peek at your calendar and found yourself a taddddd bit overwhelmed with all of the decorating and all of the parties and all of the gifts for the teachers and the friends and the kiddos and the families, and the festive performances and cookie exchanges and church services and making time to watch all your favorite holiday movies and do all of your favorite holiday traditions. At my house, there are also things like keeping up with Twink, our Elf on the Shelf who’s around to ensure that the five year old has tip-top behavior because Mommy’s taking the month off and letting Santa deal with the shenanigans.

Some mornings, I jolt awake with anxiety about my to-do list compared to the number of hours in the day. I think and overthink and plan and over plan what needs to be done, only to feel like the proverbial water is rising, and instead of getting closer to shore, I’m barely able to catch my breath before the next wave crashes on my head. But then, ironically, I spend the day and the season wishing things like peace and joy onto others.

What about peace for me? What about peace for you? What if there is a trick to the season that has nothing to do with making and keeping and checking all of the lists. What if there is a way for us to have some of the peace we eagerly wish upon those around us?

IMG_4556 Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

At my house, we celebrate Christmas. So for us, all of this hoopla throughout the month of December is because we think it’s pretty fantastic that a holy God chose to show us how much we are loved by sending a baby boy named Jesus into the world so that we can live with hope and in peace. We celebrate Jesus being born, a royal birthday party, if you will, on Christmas Day.

But the preparation for Christmas requires all of the things throughout the month, and here’s what I’ve learned. It isn’t ever going to just magically not be a high-stress month. It’s just not. The kids want presents. The parties are fun. The cookies must be baked. The traditions must continue.

So instead of trying to wish them away (not to be all Grinch-y), but also not allowing the entire month to crash on my head like big ocean wave, I’ve changed my perspective and my approach just a bit.

FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_1

I decorate my tree one strand of lights, one ornament, on bow at a time…with Christmas music turned up loud and hot cocoa in hand. I shop for gifts one at a time. I make my list and check it twice, but as best as I can to stay present in each party or performance with the people who are with me.

My goal isn’t any more about how much I can get done this month, but rather, about how peaceful I remain each day. Because when I’m peaceful, I notice the wonder on my daughter’s face when she looks at the sparking lights. I am humbled by the grace and the gift and the perfectly orchestrated plan of a most Holy God and overwhelmed with the story of a baby born in a manger who would go on to change the world. I find joy in friendships and conversations at holiday gatherings. I savor and enjoy the food that I’m eating. I stand in awe of the miracle of the season and forget all about making a list and checking it twice. And it’s in that place that I find myself grateful for the abundance in my life. Grateful for the people in my village. And grateful for the season.

Wishing you peaceful moments this month, friends.


IMG_4596With the eve of Thanksgiving upon us and full Thanksgiving preparations now underway in homes across America, there are likely as many turkeys defrosting in kitchen sinks as there are elastic-waist pants drying in dryers.

Holidays are kind of a tricky thing for our family, but I actually think that there are some part or parts of the holidays that are tricky for all of us. Maybe its relationships not being what we hoped or what they once were with people in our lives. Maybe its dollar sign stress because we need to buy all of the presents for all of the people and the December paychecks don’t allow for that. Maybe its gaining the dreaded 20 holiday pounds and not wanting to go through the dreaded new year dieting drama…yet again. Or the unmet expectations or not finding the perfect tree… or… or….or.

At any rate, I have to give myself a little holiday pep talk about this time each year to get myself in the right frame of mind to endure the upcoming, rather chaotic and somewhat stressful, despite all attempts to the contrary, weeks.

This year, LOVE is my goal. At places like the grocery store when I’ve been to three stores and they are all out of fried onions for the green bean casserole. Or at the gas station when the lines are four miles long and I can’t stomach another round of I-Spy with the five year old while we wait.  Or at the mall when the madness ensues as the shoppers get what they need before they rush home with their treasures, I will remember to LOVE.

I will:

  • Laugh, celebrate and sing (only with my hairbrush, don’t worry). I will laugh often until my stomach hurts, celebrate this beautiful life that we get to call our own, and sing, because Joy to the World! What’s life without laughter, friends and a good melody?
  • Offer intentional gratitude often for the abundance in my life.
  • Vow to spend more time being present with my loved ones than buying presents for them.
  • Extend to myself and the people in my life, the grace that Jesus was born for me to have. I will cut myself some slack when all the things don’t end up getting checked off all the lists. I will suspend my expectations of “perfect” holiday meals and the visions of sugarplums that dance in my head.

I will laugh, offer thanks often, vow to be present, and extend grace to myself and others. I will LOVE. It’s corny, it’s cute and it’s just what I need for this holiday season.

Sure, I will try to eat as many veggies as I eat cookies (not gonna lie, that may or may not happen). I will try to remember to move Twink, the Elf on the Shelf, each night, but the reality is that, heck, I’ll be winning if I remember to get her out of the box this year. Tis the season, friends. Tis. The. Season.

As you prepare for Thanksgiving and this upcoming holiday season, I wish you peace. I wish you joy. But most of all, I wish you LOVE.

Running Strong: Inspiration from the Chicago Marathon

It was cold, dark, windy and early when we dropped the runners off at their gate. With one girl on the top of the stroller, one in the actual seat and one perched on the foot rest, we quickly became Chicago’s Finest Spectator Mobile, off on our own adventure.

After months of training, my dear friend, Jayne, and her husband, Matty, were in town to run the Chicago Marathon.

While they would spend the next 4.5-5 hours running, I was responsible for keeping their two girls and my kiddo alive, safe and in one piece. Confession: I may have laid awake from 3-4am wondering how the morning was going to play out. A 3:1 kid to adult ratio with energetic girls under the age of 6 in a huge city with 45,000 people running through the streets just sounded a tad bit overwhelming.

IMG_3674 IMG_3677

IMG_3672 FullSizeRender

Nevertheless, I put on my brave that day and headed down Michigan Avenue with one Bob stroller, three girls, two blankets, a plethora of snacks, an activity bag filled with crayons and coloring books, three posters, one iPad with kid shows pre-loaded because sometimes we all need a little mental break, and a partridge in a pear tree, for good measure.

Panera became our base. It was warm, comfy and served kid food and coffee. God bless those saintly employees. Every single one of them helped me with all of the water cups, all of the extra bowls and extra spoons and I’m so sorry, but can I get one more GoGurt, and all of the door holding (getting a stroller piled with 120lbs of children in and out of narrow doors is no small task).

IMG_3692 IMG_3708

I’m pretty good with kids, but little things can suddenly get very tricky when you’re out-numbered 3:1. For example, potty breaks. After catching a quick site of our runners at the two-mile mark, everyone needed to go potty. Back to Panera we went.

“Quinn, go ahead and wash your hands, but stay in the bathroom, okay?”

“Adellyn, it’s your turn. Remember to wash your hands when you’re done.”

“Maeve, come with me, honey. We need to go potty.”

I was so in the throws of shuffling the girls through the potty process, that I hardly noticed a lady standing against the wall, making her way through her own potty process, quietly observing our little potty-stop.

“Excuse us,” I said, trying to shuffle one of the girls out of her way.

“No worries at all,” she said, smiling perhaps one of the most encouraging smiles I’ve seen in a while. “We are all running our own marathons today.”


Indeed we are

Indeed I am. Indeed you are. All running our own marathons. What a statement.

FullSizeRender_1 IMG_3740

I don’t know what your marathon is today or this week or in this season. I don’t know which mile you’re at or how you’re doing. Maybe you feel like you’re sailing along or maybe the next water stop can’t coming fast enough. Maybe you’re nearing the finish line or maybe you’re doubting your ability to see this thing through to the finish line. Maybe you’re the runner. Maybe you’re the spectator.

The marathon requires endurance and a steadfast commitment to grinding it out, one step at a time. It requires resilience. Determination. And the will to just keep going.

The beautiful thing? When we run with each other, with our communities, with the people who love us no matter what through all of the things for all of the years, we find the strength we need for each race. Sometimes you’ll be the runner, sometimes the spectator, but always a critical part of the team.

Whatever marathon you are running today, run your race strong, my friend. The finish line is just ahead.

*Jayne and Matty, this post is dedicated to you. Biggest congratulations on a great race!