Who is My Neighbor

I'm doing some writing for our church blog. Check it out here.


Looking in All the Wrong Places

I have long chronicled my struggles with depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Sadly, it is something so present in my life that it has been recorded and I don't see it's presence lessening in any sense of the word soon.

People often think that these struggles are situational. Hell, I have often convinced myself that if only X, Y, or Z - then I would feel better and be a better person. I would be whole.

But the fact of the matter is that my brain and heart are broken.

Moving back home had very little affect on my depression for the better.

I think it actually made it worse.

Aside from gaining the sunshine, I lost an entire community. It's the community that I had painstakingly built over a two year period. I again lost a house. An environment. A town. I lost things. Seriously, I have lost a lot of things in the moving process. My husband and I often joke that we are just not allowed nice things. We either have to give them up because they won't fit in the new rental or they break in transit. Not to mention the "wealth" that we lose every time we move. Moving isn't inexpensive.

I lost connectedness. I also lose a desire to be connected. What's the point of it all anyhow? I have built homes, communities, roots many many times in my life. All to see them ripped from my hands - never really an excited or willing participant. I have always just been along for the ride. Whether it's growing up an army brat or being married and just making decisions that are best for my husband's career - moving is a great adventure. But not all great adventures are happy. Most are terrifying. And my life as I have often seen it is very much battered and bruised if one looks at it from a distance. Large portions of my life are simply collateral damage. I have scars from moving.

Each move. Each new adventure. However you phrase it, reopens the old wounds. It makes the old scars a little deeper. And in a sense - I hole away until parts of me can heal.

The point that I want to hearken back to is the connectedness and the loss of it. I feel its loss very deeply in my current moment. Sitting at a table. Surrounded by my girls. A friend has just come by and brought us a gift. We had an incredibly busy and wonderful weekend filled with new friends, old friends, and church family. And yet, I am so incredibly lonely.

It has nothing to do with the number of people around me or even the number of activities I am involved in. It has nothing to do with a lack of family or friends or my husband or my children.

Why do I feel lonely? Is it to do with moving?

Of course it is. Moving breaks all the constants. It makes all the old reliable muscle memory wrong and outdated and suddenly the light switch is on the other side of the bathroom wall. It is to do with the move, but it is also to do with WHERE I look to for my consistency.

Where is my constant?

Where is my True North?

It's my God. My faith.

And oh.....how I have been seeking to avoid Him lately.  I don't want to delve into the depths. They are too hard. They are too many. They are too dark.

And yet....HE IS LIGHT.

At my worst, I expect God to plunge me into the depths, but He truly does seek to pull me out. He shines light into the darkness and the darkness is overcome. There can be no darkness where there is light.

I know these things. In my head. There are whispers of this truth in my heart.

Communion with God is such a marvelous thing and it can connect me to the world around me. It can make me feel part, known, whole - even in the midst of loss and anger and depression. There is still a sadness and a loneliness when I am with Him. But it is so much greater when I hide myself away and refuse His company.

Turning away from that Communion leads me into those hard moments - those hard journeys - and all is unknown....even my own heart.

I hope that you are each found today in a place of connectedness - whether sustained or fleeting. I hope that you find Communion. I hope that whispers turn into screams and ripples into waves.

Find you in Him.


Kids & Weddings

Welcome to our very first Blog Hop for 2015!
This month we want to help you start the year off by getting organized as you’re planning your wedding or event. Get ready for some great ideas to help you reduce stress and enjoy the planning process as you move along through the blog hop. You may just be starting the blog hop or may have come from 40. Laurie Kuerlemann on Natalie’s Blog Hop. If you get off track at any time, the full lineup below will help you move along from blog to blog so you make sure to see and learn from all of the articles featured here today.


Hey There.

I am not a wedding or an event planner.

I have planned ONE wedding 10+ year ago. My own. So, god speed, ladies.

I do, however, have kids. They are quite the handful.

I get dirty stares taking them into public places where it should be completely acceptable to act childlike. So, imagine the sweaty, itchy, neurotic mess I become when I envision my children having to sit in a completely silent church whilst a beautiful white-dressed "princess" {the 2-year-old equivalent of Bono} stands dangerously within reach of that glass of communal wine {the 2-year-old equivalent of paint}.

{Oh, those scenarios have never played out in your mind? Well, you probably don't have children.}

These are the crazed faces that can totally take your perfectly planned day off its rails.

Let's visit the angst-ridden tight rope that one must walk during the process of wedding planning that can only be referred to as:

"Children at major events that in no way were designed for young, small, noisy, and possibly poop-covered humans"

It's a working title.

There is one basic question to begin with as the bride {that's you, lucky lady}:

Do you WANT kids at your event? 

Here's the truth, no one is twisting your arm and if they are, cross them off your guest list {unless it is your soon to be mother-in-law because that is just not a good way to start}.

My hubs and I did not invite children to our big day. We were planning on a budget and wanted more cash for music and food. We also didn't know a ton of people with kids. It was an easy call. We did have family children IN the wedding and these kiddos also came to the reception {because we got to call the shots and loved having them there}.

Now, for the advice parts.

If you choose NOT to have children:

Did you think you were going to get out of having to plan for kids? Ha. That's funny.

Make it Clear. Address your envelopes and word your invitations in such a way that there is no misunderstanding: this is a "no kids" event. There are lots of elegant wordings out there that won't come off too harshly.

Don't forget your guests who may be traveling with kids. I'm not saying you should make an exception, but certainly collate and provide a list of possible caretakers in the area OR better yet, hire a childcare worker(s) for the wedding and reception times to stay at the hotel with the kiddos. If your guests are traveling 2000 miles for your wedding and can't bring their most precious cargo along to the big event, be a gem and take the time to do some legwork for them. Again, you don't have kids. Ask around. Churches often have childcare workers {with completed background checks} that they hire for Sunday mornings. Call daycare centers or ask the girl who works in the kid area at your gym {all will have had background checks - HOLLA!} If you just can't seem to make contact, try some of the online services - like Care.com

If you choose to HAVE children at the wedding and or reception:

During the Ceremony {and I say this in all serious} make like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Elsa from Frozen - Buy gifts for all the little girls and boys, put them in cute baskets, and then "Let it Go."

Kids don't have a long attention span. Do you know what helps? Straight-forward, no-nonsense, Bribery. This is best accomplished in the form of a goodie bag or basket. Be sure to include:

Edible Treats: Gummy Bears or lollipops that can be shoved into their mouths mercilessly. You can also do healthier fruit snacks (mom will thank you), but do avoid chocolate (Mom will straight kill you with dagger eyes when she has to wipe down a well-dressed toddler with chocolate face, hands, feet...it gets everywhere).

Toy: This can be simple. A hot wheels car, a little tub of play dough, a kaleidoscope, a small plastic animal. You just want to make sure that it does't make noise.

Pipe Cleaners: These suckers are brightly colored and easily bendable. They give fidgety kids something to do with their hands. SCORE.

Coloring Book and Crayons: This is pretty self explanatory, but it keeps kids busy and quiet and engaged. You can even get some pictures of you and your fiance and the church and have a custom coloring book just waiting for them.

A Back-Up Plan: Sometimes you have a colicky baby or a two-year-old who is more of a bridezilla than your friend, Marcy {and you know how SHE was}. So, have a little mercy on your guests and see if the venue has a room that can serve as a "cry" room. A lot of churches have these already and they are life savers. If everything is going downhill real quick, mom or dad can scoop up their bundle of joy and make a graceful exit to an already designated, fairly comfortable locale. {Make sure there is good signage and have ushers inform guests with kids as to its whereabouts}

Now.....the Reception:

If it is a formal sit down dinner: WHY ARE YOU INVITING CHILDREN!? If you have little dinner guests, make sure that there are high chairs. Also, crackers, quiet games, and an activity place mat would be appreciated. Kids don't like waiting for their food. And like your Aunt Edna after a few drinks, they will let everyone within screaming distance know it.

If this is a more free-flowing event: Spoil the kids at your wedding with a little play area. It can be a simple kids sized table with books, disposable cameras, paper, crayons, cupcakes, candy, and other kid-friendly food. You can also lay down a beautiful blanket or rug and set toys, puzzles, and board games around it. This just allows them to have an area that is all their own....and it gives mom and dad an "out" if they are unable to entertain lil' Billy for another second. But don't worry, kids love the dance floor and loud music and cake. Your ceremony was probably their personal hell, but your reception is the BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY EVER.

{More Great Ideas}

I can't reiterate this enough: DO NOT STRESS . Something will go wrong that day. It will MORE than likely have nothing to do with that small {poopy} human who can't seem to grasp the concept sacred vows....and will most definitely have everything to do with that one piece of hair that is out of place or that the peonies are more Pepto in shade and less the desired blush color. You will have a meltdown at some point - just like the kids who may or may not be coming to your nuptials.

Happy Planning.

**Please take time to scroll through the complete list for a little special message from me**

The next stop is  42. Melissa Pepin on Natalie’s Blog Hop! Thanks for visiting and I hope to see you again next month!
1. Natalie Bradley at Natalie Bradley Events 
2. Katherine Shorter at Creating Awesomenessity 
3. Kristi Richardson at Bloomed To Last 
4. Chantal Benoit at Chantal Benoit Photographer 
5. Elizabeth Batte at plainjane designs 
6. Andie Freeman  at Andie Freeman Photography 
7. Brenna Fields Taylor at An Elegant Affair LLC 
8. Irene Tyndale at Irene Tyndale Events 
9. Sharon K Hyatt at Weddings with Sharon of Awesome Designs & Weddings 
10. Tessa Marie at Tessa Marie Weddings 
11. Peter Merkle at Chicago Wedding DJs 
12. Anshwa Lewis at SwaLaRue Events 
13. Deborah Ashe at Rev. Deborah Ashe 
14. Angela Christoforo at Elite Wedding and Event Planning 
15. Liz Coopersmith at Silver Charm Events 
16. Amber Peterson at Cheers Wedding & Event Planning 
17. Maggie Evans at Maggie Evans Designs :: handmade bridal couture 
18. N’neka Scruggs at Images by N’neka 
19. Kelly Snyder at Southern Charm Weddings 
20. Cindy Clearwater at Something Blue Virgin Islands 
21. Kimberly Parks at KP Photography 
22. Simone R. Ross at Lil’ Tux N Tiara’s Event Sitters & Entertainment 
23. David Osborne at Sound Insight Productions 
24. Nicole Hill at Flora Bond 
25. Shaun Cox at A D.I.Y. Affair Weddings and Events 
26. Katrina McCullum at Made of Honor Weddings 
27. Sandy Salle at Hills of Africa Travel 
28. Rachel Huntoon  at Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast 
29. Daphne Simpson at Elite Design 
30. Kishana Highgate at Kishana Highgate Photography 
31. Loraine McCall at Mojica Photography 
32. Teresa Rhodes at Nearly Nesters  
33. Andrea Freeman at Andrea Freeman Events 
34. Nikki Michel at Ciao Bella Weddings 
35. Kelly King at Affordable Wedding Invites by Gossett Printing 
36. Christine Ringuette at Down The Aisle Wedding Planning & Design 
37. Myiesha Antwine at Kiss and Tell Weddings 
38. Ashley Rae at Ashley Rae Events 
39. Laurie Kuerlemann at Platinum Party Events Entertainment, Inc 
40. Lydia Wells at Writer Mom  
41. Melissa Pepin at Melissa Pepin Photography

Follow my blog using the link to the right hand side and you will be entered to win a set of custom coloring pages for your big day. One lucky winner will be announced January 26, 2015. If you don't win, no worries. Contact me if you are interested in custom coloring pages for your wedding - complete with coloring pages of the bride, groom, cake, and venue. MENTION this blog post for 15% OFF!

Lydia is a writer/illustrator/mom who in no way envies you in the planning process, but thank goodness for this informative blog hop. 


Privilege and Voice

I'm very white and very privileged.

I grew up the youngest daughter of a couple who broke their respective cycles of poverty, illiteracy, and abuse.

My parents placed a lot of emphasis on education. My dad and my mom are both well-educated and educators in their own right.

I've never been pulled over by a cop and treated unfairly. I've never had someone attempt to take advantage of my illiteracy or poor education. The only time I have ever worked a minimum wage job was while I was a student in high school. I have never been truly hungry. I have never been abandoned. I have never been under constant threat of physical, sexual, verbal, or psychological abuse. I have never been looked down on because of my nationality, race, or class.

I MAY have been judged for my gender or because I identify as a Christian...but never to the point that I have truly felt discriminated against.

I am the epitome of privileged.

My husband is. My daughters are. Most of the people I know are. So, when I talk about social justice issues and equality issues - it is not from a place of total understanding. I can't truly understand what the oppressed and disenfranchised feel or experience on a second-by-second basis.

However, I can use my very white, upper-middle-class, privileged voice for good. And I have tried to on a few occasions.

So, today. I am meandering in my writing after having read an article in the Washington Post concerning the killing of possibly thousands by Boko Haram in Nigeria. I am heart broken and stunned. I am saddened and enraged. I feel helpless. The past months alone have brought stories into my news feed that can only be attributed to wickedness. Men, women, parties, peoples wanting to make themselves bigger, more powerful than the weak and using violence in an attempt to do so. Stories that center around systemic corruption, discrimination, weakness, and just plain hate are what I read on a daily basis. Plain ugliness: Mass shootings, the race tensions in the US, instability across the Middle East, Africa beings tormented by Ebola and terrorism.

Because I write a small little measly blog with a grand total of 17 followers. My small voice doesn't reach the ears of the upper echelon or those who are currently in power. My voice doesn't even reach the masses. My voice reaches my circle. My small, little circle of influence. What's a heartbroken and confused first-world, white girl to do? What are WE to do?

I am praying. I am praying for those who are not ridiculously privileged like my completely undeserving self. I'm praying for peace, for justice, for God's Kingdom to be brought to earth through His people doing the right thing.

I am giving. I am researching and giving to organizations that I think are truly working to help the oppressed. International Justice Mission and Compassion International are among a few that I support.

I am looking locally. We just moved, but where can I be a voice locally to work towards change? How can I get involved? How can I use my skill set?

I am thinking about the BIG picture and calling on people in power to lift up their eyes. Open your eyes and see the injustice that is all around us! You, governments and kings, lift up your eyes. Who do the big policies and the big corporations and the big lobbying groups speak for? They do not represent the people.

I know this isn't my general shtick. It's not my generally niche. But My heart hurts for the thousands, no millions, of lives that have been lost to oppression and hate and discrimination. I'm not at a loss, but I am at a boiling point.

What else can we do?


Good Reads: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The first book that I chose to tackle this year was one that my sweet husband has been begging me to read for the past year or so.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This book in particular has a special story as to HOW it came into our house. Neil Gaiman is one of my husbands favorite authors and a good friend from Portland might have purchased the book and then stood in line just so that it could be autographed with a special message and under the tree for Christmas day. He's a really good friend. 

So, who is this book written for? 

Everyone. I don't care who you are. This is a beautifully written story about a young boy growing up in the English countryside. The darker themes that present themselves are beautifully interwoven with light moments of whimsy - it calls us back to the days of reading childhood fairy tales... 

...But the real fairy tales that didn't involve musical interludes or happy endings. This is the stuff of great stories that leaves us pondering and thinking and questioning. I can't promise you will leave with a song stuck in your head or warm fuzzy feelings, but you will leave feeling touched, affected, moved. 

It's a really great story. 

Practically, it's a super quick read. So, you can totally knock in out in a day or two (just reading after having putting the kids to bed). 

So, what books have you fell for lately? What should I read this year? Give me your thoughts!