I Have News!

Friends, I have a little news to share with you.

I am going to have a new……



HA, gotcha. No, I’m not pregnant.

I’m so excited to share with you that my blog is getting a new home!

We (and by we I mean my husband, but whatever—you don’t need those details) have been working hard on an upgrade for this little blog.

So because I’m up for any excuse to PARTAY, we’re gonna CELEBRATE!!!

I feel a little like I’m moving from a studio apartment into a three bedroom cottage with a backyard and a brand new dishwasher. So I’m inviting you to a housewarming party! I’m sorry that, since this is a cyber party, there will be no hors d’oeuvres or drinks. I’m told teleporting food through “the internets” is not a thing yet. Scientists, I love you. But ya got some work to do.

I feel a little like I’m moving from a studio apartment into a three bedroom cottage with a backyard and a brand new dishwasher. So I’m inviting you to a housewarming party! I’m sorry that, since this is a cyber party, there will be no hors d’oeuvres or drinks. I’m told teleporting food through “the internets” is not a thing yet. Scientists, I love you. But ya got some work to do.


I’m bursting at the seams, so let me tell you how we’re gonna celebrate:

  • A brand new monthly newsletter

My hope is that this new website will be a place that offers connection with one another, not just a blank notebook for scribbling my thoughts. I want this to be a home with plenty of space for friends to gather, where it feels like you’ve walked into my living room and that we’re having coffee or Mountain Dew or whatever is your drug drink of choice.

So the newsletter is me, offering you a seat on my couch, and hoping that you’ll write back and cozy up for a chat. These monthly emails will be more personal stories and content that won’t be posted on the blog, because, you know, I’m going to say different things to a friend sitting on my couch than I would post for the world.

**NOTE: I’ll no longer be doing “My Favorites” posts on the blog, but I’ll be including them in my monthly emails, so be sure to join the mailing list so you won’t miss out!

  • A New Devotional that releases February 28th


I wrote this devotional for one simple reason: I needed it. So if you’re feeling stressed, overbooked, and overwhelmed, know that I’m there too, and I’m walking this journey with you. If your life feels a little overloaded, and you need to make time to clear some space in your head, join me.

The devotional follows the six weeks of Lent, with each week devoted to working through different types of “clutter” that get in the way of clear, open communion with God. When Easter arrives, I believe the journey will have left our soul free and spacious with room to breathe.

  • GIFTS!

C’mon. Be honest. Who doesn’t like gifts?! As a thank you for celebrating with me, I’m giving away a copy of UNCLUTTERED: A Lenten Devotional for the Overcrowded Life to everyone who joins the mailing list.

  • Decorations!

Ok, not really. I lied. But in the new home, everything will just look so much prettier. And you wonderful, faithful friends who read my blog deserve to look at something far better than what I’ve offered you thus far. You have earned it, by golly.

I want to say thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for reading my posts, for your feedback, and for being a big reason that I do this. It really means the world to me. So please, come see me at my new home and pick up a gift!



On Hope, Desperate Times, and our Laundry Conundrums

Well, folks. We’ve hit the inevitable point from which there is no escape. It’s that fork in the road of life: the turning point is upon us, and a decision must be made.

When we’ve run out of avoidance tactics, we must finally act. When life’s pressing questions back us into a corner, it’s what we do in these defining moments that forge our true character.


Yes, my friends, I’m talking about laundry. Yesterday I was forced to tackle the epic conundrum: will I go to Target to buy new underwear? Or will I actually do the laundry? This is not an easy decision, especially when you are wearing attire that is decidedly more “Wal-mart friendly” than “Target appropriate.”

All you mommas know what I’m talking about. Even a tertiary glance at peopleofwalmart.com will tell you that no matter if you haven’t showered in weeks and you’re wearing footie pajamas, you’ll be acceptable at Wal-mart. But, sister, you better trade out those baggy sweatpants from high school for some Lululemon or Athleta yoga pants if you wanna head to the fancy establishment we affectionately pronounce “Tar-zhay”. That’s French for “pleasantly-lit retail store where middle class moms inevitably spend more than they plan.”

But on the other hand, the day’s to-do list is a tyrannical dictator and every time you head downstairs to switch the load, you are distracted by the million-and-one things that also need your immediate attention (not least of which is your three year old who needs her bottom wiped). And before you know it, it’s bedtime and your kid has no clean underwear to lay out with tomorrow’s clothes. Whoops.

But, with all the odds that were stacked against me, I would just like to share a personal testimony from this very week. I’ll tell it in song-form, because it’s far more emotionally compelling:

“I have decided to do a white load, no turning back, no turning back.”

“This is my stooooory, this is my sooooooong

…shouting the stains ooooooouuut, all the day loooooooong.

This is my stooooooryyyyyy, this is my soooooooong,

…washing the laundry, all the day long.”

You can take a moment and offer a prayer of thanks on behalf of my family, because it was a really close call. Pretty soon we were going to pull the old “turn the underwear inside out” trick. (I’ve never personally tested this method, but my sister-in-law proudly testifies to it’s effectiveness from her experiments in college. God bless all her former roommates.)

I just thought with all the horrors happening in the world, I would do my part to share some good news and inspire some hope on this fine Wednesday. Happy Hump Day, friends! Halfway to the weekend! Soldier on!


photo source: wikipedia

photo credit: J. Patrick Fischer



Go And Do Likewise

Like most of America, and even much of the world, I am a mess of emotions today. I feel like the world is being torn apart, ripped at every last seam we have, and humanity is more and more fractured every second. My heart is breaking, aching, and I know the heart of God is breaking, too. But God’s heart has always been breaking over the suffering of his beautiful world.

In the midst of all this horror, allow me to bring some brightness to your day. I’d like to introduce you to a good friend of mine, Rima (I’ve changed her name for privacy reasons). She lives just down the street from me, and our kids go to school together. I met her this fall when she courageously walked up to a group of moms who were chatting on the playground after school.


With a huge smile on her face, she said “Hello!” and extended her hand to us to introduce herself. “My name is Rima, and I am from Syria.”

I can’t tell you how thankful I am for her bravery in doing this, because she has been a gift in my life ever since. She is one of the friendliest, warmest people I’ve ever met, and she is a friend to everyone. If we were in high school she would definitely be voted most popular. She checks on everyone at after-school pickup, and knows everyone’s names. She worries about me if we don’t see each other for a few days, and she clings to me like we’ve been apart for months when we meet again.

Shortly after meeting, she invited me and another friend over to her house for lunch, and she prepared such a feast as I have never seen.

feastShe began preparing it at 4:30 in the morning. I can’t fathom going to such trouble for my own family, let alone someone I just met. She told us about her life in Syria, about all that she had lost. Her husband’s business, her home, her possessions, all were taken from her. And yet she smiles more brightly than many people I know who’ve never experienced the trauma or adversity she has. Before being granted refugee status and immigrating to America, she was in a refugee camp in Jordan, where her sister still is today. Her mother is still in Syria, and sends cell phone video footage of planes dropping bombs near her house. I’ve seen these videos with my own eyes, and we’ve cried together over the horror. Her mother has running water for one hour a day.

Like a friend mentioned to me the other day, refugees are not a Republican issue, and not a Democratic issue, but a human issue. I want my friend to have hope that her family can escape the hell she narrowly escaped. I want my nation to continue to be a place that offers that escape.

Some say that this is a political issue, but I believe it is decidedly not. And for me personally, it’s not merely a humanitarian issue either, but actually a spiritual one. You see, I follow Jesus. When Jesus was about 2 years old, he himself was a refugee. When Jesus grew up and began his ministry, he taught that whatever we do for the poor, the stranger, the prisoner, the hungry, we are doing for him. He taught us to love God with our whole hearts, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And when asked “who is my neighbor?” he told the story of the Good Samaritan. In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s the story of a Jewish man who was robbed and beaten within an inch of his life while traveling on a dangerous road. Three different religious leaders, men who would’ve been considered by Jews to be very godly and well-respected, neglected to help the man. But then a Samaritan, a man all Jews would’ve ostracized, and even considered a part of a cult or alternate religion, stopped and helped the man. The Samaritan not only inconvenienced himself, but put himself in harm’s way to make sure the man was rescued and nursed back to health.

Just so we’re clear, Rima is the Good Samaritan in this story, not me. When we walk home together, she takes Willa from my tired arms, smothers her with kisses, and holds Audrey’s hand to keep her safe like a mother hen. She drops off clothes and shoes on my doorstep for my kids. She showers me with gifts, and she calls me sister. She is a Muslim. Jesus tells me, “go, and do likewise.”

Jesus also tells me, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So I’ve volunteered with refugee resettlement organizations, I’ve given household items to families who are coming here with nothing and starting over, and I’ve given money so that friends at my church can help distribute supplies in the refugee camps that have sprung up all over Europe. I’m not telling you this to pat myself on the back, I’m telling you this so that you know how I interpret the gospel I follow.

If I were in the midst of a civil war, my very life and the lives of my family in danger, I would want someone to rescue me. At the very least, I would want to know that I had a refuge to run to, that people would welcome me with open arms instead of treat me with hostility. If I were forced to leave my home by famine or siege or violence, I would want someone to offer me shelter. And if that safety net was being threatened, I would want someone to stand up on my behalf and petition that it be kept open. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

Please, friends. Go and do likewise.


My Favorites


I haven’t done a “My Favorites” post in awhile, mostly because I haven’t been making enough time for reading lately. Like most moms, I feel about a cupful of guilt at all times, just as default-mode. But when I actually *gasp* take time to read, I feel enough guilt to fill a swimming pool. But as I’ve hinted at recently, I’m taking baby steps to overcome all that. So, without further ado, here’s what I’m reading and loving:

solitude The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile has been one of the catalysts for my “further up and further in” journey so far this year. (If you missed my post “We Are Loved,” which describes a little sliver of that journey, you can catch what you missed by reading it here.) This book is an introduction to a personality classification tool called the “enneagram.” I received it as a Christmas gift, and I devoured it. It was so fascinating, and so insightful that I desperately want everyone I know to read it. When I was reading about my type, I felt like someone was looking directly into my soul, taking a picture, and then showing me what they found. I would never have been able to describe myself that deeply or accurately, and it’s been life-changing already. (I am not exaggerating–I don’t say that many things are life-changing, but this one has been.) In case you read it, or are already familiar with the Enneagram, I’m type 2 with a 3 wing. For those of you who have no clue what that means, read the book and you’ll know me better than I’ve known myself for 29 years. Enough said.

roadThoughts on Solitude is a collection of Thomas Merton’s reflections on the solitary life. He was a contemplative monk, and his writing on spirituality contains a depth of wisdom that is valuable and timely for me. It’s a little book, but it’s one of those that I’ve savored slowly, chewing on the short chapters for awhile before moving on. It is rich and deep and beautiful.

hillbillyelegyHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, is the story of a man who grew up in Middletown, Ohio, but whose family was from Jackson, Kentucky. If you’re not a “hillbilly,” you won’t understand why it’s important where his family comes from. But he explains all that, so you can read for yourself. In case you don’t know, I spent my childhood in Elliott County, Kentucky, a place that I would still consider a “home” to this day, and those who also grew up there will understand this. Vance’s memoir is nothing like my life (I had a rosy, beautiful, awesome childhood, unlike his traumatic and “colorful” one), but his commentary on Appalachian culture is truly fascinating to me. He’s an insider, so his assessment and opinions can be respected by those within the culture, and those outside it. The feelings this book evoked for me are complicated, but I’m thankful because it’s helped me sort through things within me that I had no idea were a product of my birthplace. At any rate, it’s a truly fascinating story, and if you enjoy drama, you’ll enjoy the book (for better or worse). **Sidenote: If salty language is a problem for you, I wouldn’t recommend reading this. It’s peppered with profanity, but it’s quite accurate. Take it from a girl who attended a public school in rural Appalachia.**

I’d love to get some recommendations from you, too, so tell me what you’re reading in the comments!

On to music…


Well, in keeping with the “hillbilly” theme, I’ve been loving the album Southern Family. It’s a collection of songs by various artists like Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert, and Chris Stapleton. If you’re into Americana or folk or REAL country (emphasis on the real), you might like it. If not, peace. I understand. We hillbillies are an acquired taste.



In the words of Monty Python, “…and now for something completely different…” James Vincent McMorrow’s latest album, entitled We Move, is unique from his others, and I absolutely love it. It’s less “singer-songwriter” and more “alternative,” heavy on the electronic sounds and synth, but with his signature smooth falsetto. It’s beautiful. Give it a listen if you’re into that sort of thing.

allisnotlostThe Brilliance is a band I discovered a couple years ago, and I’ve been so thankful for their music ever since. The lead singer is Michael Gungor’s brother, and I told my husband last night that it seems unfair for God to put so much talent in one family. I’ve enjoyed their newest album, All Is Not Lost, immensely, especially the song “See the Love.” I hope you enjoy it, too.

Well, friends, that’s all I’ve got for now. Let me know what you’re listening to and loving!

We are Loved

My theme for 2017 is “further up and further in.” I expect many aspects of this theme will emerge and teach me this year, but for now, I’m certain of this: “Further up and further in” means the pursuit of truth. The journey inward toward our true selves is also the journey deeper into who God is. I know God wants to show me in a deeper way who I truly am—the “me” I was created to be, and the deeper reality of who God is.

My particular personality has a dark side that has been plaguing me in greater or lesser degrees my whole life, and it’s basically rooted in this belief: “I am loved ONLY for what I do, and the minute I stop performing successfully I will be cast aside by those I love.” I have, at different points in my life, extinguished the light of truth ignited by God in my soul with this very lie. I have listened to false gods, living the way of shame, striving, performing, instead of the Jesus Way.

The “Jesus Way” is a life lived completely at home and secure in one’s own identity as a child of God. The “Jesus Way” is being perfectly at peace in the albeit tumultuous world, knowing that one is loved absolutely and supremely, merely just for being oneself. I cannot do anything that will earn more love from God, and the “love” I seek by my constant performance is a false love, not love at all. Maybe it’s momentary approval, maybe it’s the ego-stroking experience of impressing someone, but it has nothing to do with love. Love can only be fully experienced, especially for someone like me, when I’ve done nothing to earn it and it’s given freely anyway.

I was standing in the hallway of my apartment. It was 2006, and like all sane, healthy humans, I catalogue my life in failures. So this was the great failure of 2006. (*Please note the sarcasm. Don’t be a nut job like me. Don’t catalogue your life in failures. Until recently, I thought everyone thought like me, keeping a log of failures and spending most of life trying to do penance or strive to outweigh them. You can imagine how happy and fulfilled a person I was. Mmmmhmmm.)

I had asked my boyfriend to come over, because there was something we gravely needed to talk about. I had to break the news that I was, indeed, a failure, and that he should feel free to go and find someone who was not so pathetic or despicable. I nobly intended to do this swiftly and honestly, so as not to waste his time, but not without the appropriate amount of groveling for what was undoubtedly an offense of catastrophic proportions.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “OMG. She cheated on him.” Actually, the conversation went something like this:

Me: “I have to tell you something.” I was already tearing up because obviously life was over.

Boyfriend: “Ok.” The concerned look on his face only served to give me more anxiety, and yet more certainty that our relationship would be over shortly.

Me: “I, well, I’ve been having some issues….long explanation….blah blah blah….sickness….too late to drop….blah blah blah….impossible advisor….blah blah…lots of tears and blubbering…blah blah…I misunderstood that paper….blah blah blah…. *SO MANY TEARS* ….I failed.”

BF: “Ok.” Where his look of concern had been, now there was only a blank stare. Picture it.

Me: “I failed two of my classes this semester.” My face was already the color of a tomato from all the ugly crying, so don’t picture that. It wasn’t pretty.

BF: “I’m sorry, babe.”

Me: “No, I’M sorry. I’m SO SORRY!” *SO MUCH UGLY CRYING*

BF: “Um, is that it?” And now his face was one of utter confusion.

Me: “Well. YEAH. I completely understand if you need to take some time to think, or if you’re having doubts about our relationship, or if you can’t be with me…” *again with the tears*

BF: *Silence* He’s now looking at me like I’m a cat wearing a speedo while playing an accordion, something that’s so insane it makes no sense.

Me: *Silence* I can’t bear to face him, so my eyes stay glued to our dirty, cream-turned-greyish carpet.

BF: “You failed two classes, right? Am I missing something?”

I finally met his eyes and had the shocking realization that he might not be through with me. In fact, he actually seemed to see no reason to leave.

It’s not until now, ten years later, that I recognize the weight and transformational power of that moment for me.

You see, from as early as I can remember, people have told me I was smart. (Ugh, the nerve, I know. Obviously I had a very difficult childhood. Maybe someday Oprah will give me a car.) I learned to read early, and from the moment I started school I enjoyed it and it was easy for me. Because it just happened to be what came natural to me, I won accolades from teachers without really trying. I was enrolled in the “gifted and talented” program and I won competitions on the “Academic Team.” My parents— being the emotionally abusive people they were, geez —told me they were proud of me when I got a great report card or won first place at a competition. Those jerks. My grandmother bragged to her friends and siblings about how intelligent I was and how I was headed for greatness.

Now, let me clear. In all seriousness, this is not a story of a kid being screwed up by her family, obviously. I just happened to be wired with an extreme predisposition to want to please the people I loved. And it seemed that the people around me liked it when I excelled academically, so I decided long ago that’s what I had to do continually to belong. To be accepted, loved, and be a successful human being, I needed to be to prove myself as being intellectually extraordinary.

Fast forward over many years of striving under increasing pressure and increasing academic competition (I started out as the proverbial somewhat bigger fish in the teeny tiny pond), and there I stood: in that dimly lit hallway, feeling as if I had fallen to the depths of human depravity, and that it would probably be better for everyone if I just didn’t exist.

But he surprised me. He stayed. In fact, he didn’t even glance toward the door. And I began, ever so slightly, to believe that it might be possible for someone to love me for who I was, rather than for what kind of grades I earned.

That boyfriend has stayed for over eleven years. No matter what my transcript looked like, no matter what I looked like (and let’s be honest, two babies later I look a lot different than I did at 19), no matter how angry or depressed or anxious I got…no. matter. what. He’s still here. Still surprising me with me with the gifts I would never dare to buy for myself, still barreling through the walls I put up, still slowing me down to dance with him in the kitchen. He’s never once glanced toward the door, even in my darkest, ugliest moments.


photo credit: Hope Jewell

That boyfriend-turned-partner-for-life has been showing me for years what God is always trying to show us: We are loved. Period.

We are loved. We are loved. We are loved. We are loved. We are loved. We are loved.

We are not loved for what we do, but for who we are. God will NEVER leave us or forsake us, because we are God’s. God is freakin’ obsessed with us. He is overposting on social media about us. Because we’re God’s kids. We will never spend a millisecond of our lives not being loved, and it has nothing to do with anything except who we are. So rest in that today, friends.

Don’t be like me. Don’t live believing that you have to “do” to be loved. It’s simply not true.

What are some ways you’ve been trying to earn love? What do you need to lay down today to rest in God’s unconditional love for you?

Give Thanks

In 1990, three years after the Berlin wall fell, my dad was at a conference, listening to a man speak about his 17 year ministry behind the iron curtain. After 2 hours of hanging on every word, he asked God what he should give in the offering that was being taken up. He was ready to empty out our checking account, and that’s when he was overcome, doubled over, weeping. To his surprise, he heard God say: “Don’t give a penny. I want you to go. Learn the language, learn the culture, and go.”

So after that night, he and his partner in ministry went to the nearest university and signed up for Russian class. Like you do.

3 long years (and a bunch of crazy stories) later, he found himself in Vishni Volochok, a village halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg, where only 10% of homes had running water. They were halfway around the world with only a tour guide and a translator, both of whom likely thought they were crazy, and beginning to feel a little discouraged. After a tour of the village, he and his partner returned to their hotel and began to pray, crying out to God for their next step, because they didn’t have one. At 10 o’clock that night, while they were still praying, they heard a knock at the door. It was their translator (who was an atheist, and high up in the Communist party) and a pastor he’d found who agreed to come meet the crazy Americans. You can’t tell me God doesn’t answer prayer. Pastor Leonid looked my dad in the eyes and said, “It is OK. We believe in Jesus as you do. We are having a birthday party. Please come and join us.”

What began as what many would call an elaborate fool’s errand became a deep, lifelong friendship with the families he met there on that first night. My dad and our family have made numerous trips over the years, both to Russia and to Minneapolis, where some of our friends eventually immigrated. That translator later gave his life to Jesus, and came to visit us in our own “village” of Sandy Hook, Kentucky. Sergei and Ginadi also came on a separate trip, along with our dear friends Victor and Vera. Vera would bunk in with me, so I got the privilege of having “spendies” with a Christian woman who had lived through persecution, and who had risked her life just to go to Sunday School. I’ll never forget that.


Please excuse the low quality photo. In case you’re wondering, I’m the brace face on the bottom, second from the left. I was in the awkward years, clearly.

If you were an evangelical church kid in the nineties, you know what a praise chorus is, and if I start singing one I guarantee you’ll be able to finish it. Ok, let’s play a game. this’ll be fun, promise…

“Our God is an awesome God he reigns….

….in heaven above with wisdom, pow’r and love…”

“I’ve got a river of life flowin’ out of me…

…makes the lame to walk and the blind to see…”

“Jehovah Jireh, my provider…

…his grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me…”

“As the deer panteth for the water so my soul…

…you got this. I don’t even need to give you a second line.

Aaaaaand you’re welcome. Now you have dated church songs stuck in your head. I promise this does have a point.

Let’s do one more:

“Give thanks, with a grateful heart. Give thanks….

…to the Holy One…”

This song was part of the soundtrack of my life as a child. We sang it at church and on road trips, gathered around the piano, guitar, or the dinner table. It so happened that our Russian friends also knew the song, so we often sang it when we were together. We’d sing in English, they’d sing in Russian, and I felt like magic was happening. We lived on the other side of the world from each other, but we were family.

When I was a kid (because I was totally normal and not weird at all) I took a blank journal and wrote down all the songs my family used to sing together. Music was a significant part of our lives, and it was important to me, apparently, to always remember the music we shared. I found the journal a few years ago while cleaning out my parents’ house, and in it was “Give Thanks,” both in English, and in a phonetic spelling of the Russian version. Our friends had taught me to sing it in Russian, but I had no clue about the Russian alphabet, so I scribbled it in our letters as best I could. Tears filled my eyes as I silently thanked my 7 year old self for recognizing the importance of this, enough to write it down. My kid-self was a little wiser, I think, than my adult-self sometimes. Sometimes I need gentle reminders from her.

The other day I was sitting on my couch, having my morning time with God, and thinking about my life. I was feeling pretty drained, and completely frustrated with a great many circumstances. I began to talk with God about it, not so much in words, but in the abstract lifting of my heavy heart up to him, silently.

Without warning, the words and melody floated up from somewhere inside me, and my heart was reminded.

“Give thanks with a grateful heart.

Give thanks to the Holy One.

Give thanks, because he’s given Jesus Christ, his Son.

And now let the weak say I am strong.

Let the poor say I am rich,

because of what the Lord has done for us.

Give thanks.”

And just like that, all the memories came back to remind me what I’d forgotten: that even in the midst of the darkest times (which, for the record, is NOT what I’m experiencing right now—my life is cushy and bursting with blessing), God is abundantly good. I have SO MUCH to be thankful for. I closed my eyes and I was back in our piano room. (**Yes, where most people had a dining room, we instead housed my mom’s grand piano, because music was THAT big of a deal to us. Eating, music. You know, same difference. And before that, it took up the entire living room of our single-wide trailer. This shows you our priorities.**) I was singing my little 5 year old heart out, looking around at faces singing back to me, faces telling the story of great pain, loss, and struggle, and yet of overwhelming gratitude.

I’m so thankful those words were woven into me at a young age. I’m so thankful they still speak to me and show me both my own selfishness, and God’s infinite grace.

God, forgive me. God, thank you.

Today, let’s take the perspective of those who have lived through great tragedy, and yet who thank God—the one who rescues us, gives us life and hope and a new identity. Let’s look at our lives through those eyes, and maybe then we will live like our lives are a gift. Because they are.

A Tale of Two Women

Friends, I’d like you to meet two women. Though they are very different from one another, they each have my respect, and maybe even affection. They are both mothers, yet each has her own expectations for life, and each has her own unique perspective. In order to avoid distraction from the point, I am renaming each woman. Let’s first introduce “August K.” :


The picture above was captured by her wonderful and talented sister-in-law, and you can check out her photography (and book your session) at her website: http://www.hoperenaephotography.com

Just look at her. Taking a walk with her family in heels. Isn’t she cute? Let me tell you a little about her. She has just moved to a new neighborhood, and she is ecstatic about it. She finally feels like she has a found a “home,” a place where she can put down roots with her little family. Her youngest is about to start preschool, a sweet little place within walking distance of her house. Her oldest is about to start first grade at a new school, also a short walk from home. As she plans and prepares for fall, she envisions all the sweet morning walks she and her children will take together, much like the one pictured above. In fact, these walks will be so refreshing that she determines she won’t ever really need to drive her children to school.

She plans how their mornings before school will go, because after all, “If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.” Here is a picture of her schedule:


Foolproof, right? The makings of a perfectly smooth school year, right there. Looking at the photo of her, again, she is blissful and expectant. Her hair is fixed and she is wearing a lovely, classic outfit. I think she’s just darling. Naive, maybe. But, you know, adorable.

Now, meet “January K”:



Now “January K” is on fleek. I mean, I hate playing the comparison game, but that outfit? Really puts “August K” to shame. Look at that luscious hair bedhead and makeup freshly awakened bare face. Flawless. (Pay no mind to the Target bags in the background. They are from yesterday’s last minute shopping trip, after which she just could not be bothered to put away any of that hand soap and bleach and such.)

Any who, back to the introductions. This gorgeous woman has been living in her home for 7 months, and it is now the dead of winter. Her oldest has just begun her second semester of school after a great first semester and a lovely, relaxing winter break.

Her expectations are slightly, um, adjusted from those of “August K.” Though the fall was great, there were definitely some rough mornings, even when she followed a carefully planned schedule. Sometimes her human children awoke with less than stellar moods. Sometimes they *gasp* forgot to brush their teeth. They implemented a cute little idea called “hair & prayer” (see schedule pic above) approximately 7 times. (Ok, maybe 5. We don’t need to get hung up on accurate numbers here.)

“January K” has spent many chilly mornings walking her children to school, but after one unfortunate occasion where her oldest’s fingers were turning numb, she has decided that occasionally taking the heated car is not a horrible idea. Especially yesterday, when she woke up exactly ten minutes before departure time. (God bless the inventor of Eggos.) That was also true today, when she weighed her priorities, and decided breakfast seemed more important than details like “real pants.”

Can we go back to that outfit for a minute? Because dear lawd. Not everyone can pull off multiple prints, but those two plaids are on point.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting these two lovely women. I also hope they have taught us all that life is full of unmet expectations, and that that’s ok. As both “August K” and “January K” tell their children, “roll with the punches.”

And also, give yourself boat loads of grace and kindness. You are truly beautiful and deserving of so much love.