the things fall teaches.

I am a student of the seasons.

Fall especially. There is just something deeply metaphorical about the transition from summer to winter–life shedding its dead and making room for eventual regrowth.

So, I’ve been breathing in the crisp air and listening a little more closely to the acorns as they fall from their branches and crunch beneath my feet all the while wondering what new thing fall has to teach me this year.

fall3I welcomed this particular fall from a hospital room as Sawyer’s first full 24 hours of life landed squarely on the Autumnal Equinox. It was fitting and good for my soul; a new season ushered in a new season.

This has been longest fall I can remember. Many of the trees here have retained their vibrancy (even despite a little rain which you might remember disrupted a baseball game not long ago…) and many others have yet to change at all.

Even so, I’m reminded that it won’t last.

The beauty of fall has to transition into the barrenness of winter.

It must change.

That’s usually what I think about during fall. The implications of change and “letting go” in my own life.

But this year I realized that something has to stay the same.

This season of my own life feels a little upended–a limbo of sorts. Much like fall, we’re in process. We’re letting go of the old way of doing things and making room for the new.

(You know, just the natural order when a baby arrives and shakes everything up for a time.)

And yet, I am sure of this: that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion¹.

Because He is the vine and I am the branch. To abide in Him is to bear much fruit².

I am the vine.pngThe tree stays the same. It remains the constant throughout each season while the branches let go of the dead and make room for the new growth.

I’ve come to learn during each season of my life that change is good and necessary.

But even better is being tethered to something (Someone) life-sustaining during each of those seasons.

And so, I feel okay about the rain that has moved back in. It promises to steal some of our fall vibrancy and usher in the cooler (more seasonably appropriate) temperatures.

Through it all, I know that the important things remain and will give life to all the seasons to come.

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¹ Philippians 1:6

² John 15:5

the one where I turned thirty.

I have arrived, and it feels good.

Now, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’ve been thinking about turning thirty since right around the time I turned twenty-nine. I like to really gear up for things, you know?

But as this particular birthday approached, I found myself more drawn to reflecting on the past than setting plans or goals for the future.

Can there be a more transformative decade than the twenties? (I have no way of knowing the answer to this question.)

I turned twenty about a month after Jake and I started dating. A year later, we got engaged, and a year after that, we had graduated college and were living the newlywed life. I started my “career” as a teacher at 24, had a couple of babies by 28, and had moved across the country to a city of champions by 29 (Jake and I like to take credit for all the various successes in Cleveland since our arrival).

I often ask people when I will start to feel like an adult, but in looking back, I see that it happened slowly over time. I was just a kid when I stepped foot into my twenties, and then each year shaped me or refined me or challenged me in some way. I walk into this new decade a completely different version of that doe-eyed college student who thought the end game was predictability and a white-picket fence.

My twenties changed me for the better, so I processed them the only way I really know how: I wrote about them.

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I thought about each year of my twenties and tried to pinpoint what exactly it taught me. And what I found as I combed through each year of the past decade, is that God has taught me things all across my twenties which have perfectly prepared me for where I am today. Equipped me to continue to take steps forward even if I’m not entirely sure where the road ahead leads.

So, if you’re interested in all those thoughts, you’re welcome click the link below where you will find a PDF file–a compilation of essays I wrote in reflection of what each year of my twenties taught me: 

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It is nothing out of the ordinary. The writing doesn’t contain any real tragedy or nail-biting cliffhangers (unless you’re particularly riveted by things like marriage or car trips across the country).

But I’ve come to decide that even the ordinary needs to be celebrated and acknowledged. It is real, and it gets us to where we are today. And, for me at least, that felt worth writing about.

So, here’s to thirty and all it has in store for me. For us. I like it already.

my kids are teaching me about forgiveness.

I stand by my theory that one of the hardest parts about being a parent is adjusting to the constant ebb and flow of kids. They master one thing, then regress in another. They conquer one milestone, then change their mind on another. In my case, it always feels like just when we’ve found a good rhythm, they up and grab a different instrument altogether.

For instance, all summer, the girls have been waking up at 7:30 a.m., a time everyone in our house felt really good about. Then, suddenly last week, they decided 6:15 a.m. would be more appropriate. Even better is that they have decided it’s best to just stay in bed and yell angrily until someone comes and gets them. They started beating a drum just when we had gotten used to the soothing sounds of a string quartet.

I did not handle this change well. And as I worked to adjust, I realized that I had this innate need for the girls to know that they were inconveniencing me. I wanted them to know how terrible it was to wake up to angry screaming, and I wanted them to feel bad about it.

As it turns out, guilt trips are not a highly effective means toward change when it comes to small children. Go figure.

Anyway, it has me thinking about forgiveness, an act that is much more difficult to come by when the offending party hasn’t actually asked for it.

I err on the side of over-sensitive and easily wounded. I’ve certainly come a long way in this regard (mostly thanks to Jake’s magical prowess with reasoning), but I can still pinpoint times in my life where I had to move forward from something without an apology. Parenting included (let’s talk about how irrational I can get when inadvertently head-butted in the face or made late to something because of an ill-timed tantrum).

And, lately, it’s in each one of these moments that I’m always reminded of what God says to Jonah after Jonah is whining about how unfair it is that God showed mercy on the people of Ninevah.

“Do you do well to be angry?”

Loving kids is to understand sacrifice. Sometimes it’s just easier to be mad. But in these moments, that simple question has started whispering in above the beating drum: Do you do well to be angry?

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The answer is always no (even if there is a strong justification for the anger¹).

The principle transcends parenting, really; it’s just another example of how this whole being-a-mom thing is refining me into a better person or whatever.

So here’s to burying the anger, the self-pity, and the other bummer qualities that distract us from better things. Good things. Important things. Refining things.

At least, that’s what I’ll be telling myself at 6:15 tomorrow morning.


¹ For the record, I don’t think a 6:15 a.m. wake-up call is reason to justify being angry. It’s not such a bad time to wake up; it just happens to be the most recent change that has me reeling a bit. And, It’s not my fault that I’m so tired in the morning. I blame NBC, Eastern Standard Time, and Simone Biles.

what finding things taught me about lost things.

I’ve been thinking about lost things today.

This train of thought started a few weeks ago when Lily found an opal stone in our driveway.  The stone had fallen out of my grandmother’s wedding band six months earlier, and I had given up hope of ever finding it. (I’d like to emphasize that this tiny, white jewel sat on our driveway for an ENTIRE WINTER of snow and ice only to be found by a three-year-old one warm, summer night. It was incredible.)

Then, this week, I lost one of my favorite earrings. I realized it was missing long after it had fallen out, and again assumed it was lost in one of the various cavities of our house.

Last night, Lily swooped in yet again. She picked up a very tiny, silver arrow stud from her bed and said, “Hey mom, is this your earring?”

(That kid notices the small stuff, let me tell you.)

So, I’ve been thinking about lost things today.

I love a good metaphor (old English teacher habits die hard), so I’ve been wondering in the broader scope what exactly the lost things in my life are. What are the things that need to be found?

That question took me to Luke 15 and the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and prodigal (lost) son. Every story follows the same structure: Something is lost. Something is found. A party is thrown in celebration.

Those lost things? They are people. Those lost who are now found.

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About five minutes after I read those parables, I got a text message from my friend, Breanna, with an excerpt from Interrupted¹  by Jen Hatmaker (which seems to be wrecking her life much the same way it wrecked mine a year ago). Our conversation ultimately ended with her sending me this quote from The Tangible Kingdom² (as referenced in Interrupted):

Change must be about new, which to us means “fresh, bright, something that intuitively feels right, that causes us not only to dream but to move on our dreams.” That kind of new is good if it compels us into a world of faith again where we can battle fear and despondency with action that makes a difference. That kind of new is okay, but it really isn’t new. It’s just been hidden, or covered, or we’ve been distracted from it…

This type of new is about a returning. Returning to something ancient, something tried, something true and trustworthy. Something that has rerouted the legacies of families, nations, kings, peasants.

Something that has caused hundreds of thousands to give up security, reputation, and their lives…What we need to dig up, recover, and find again is the life of the kingdom and Jesus’ community..the church.

So, to summarize: I asked myself what the lost things in my life were and, 15 minutes later, I had all that sitting in front of me.

The answer to the question is people, most certainly, but, I think it also comes down to uncovering a life that brings me to those people. In the times when I start to get comfortable, God reminds me to dig up and recover the life of His kingdom now. To return to the true and the trustworthy which is really about finding ways to love people well each day.

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It really is about rerouting. A willingness to give up security, reputation, and even the comfortable life.

Not easy. Easily worth it.

I’ll start by throwing a party in honor of all my found things. You’re all invited (and can hopefully help me find the library book that went missing a few weeks ago. That’s the one thing Lily is yet to uncover.)


¹ Hatmaker, Jen. Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. NavPress, 2014.

² Halter, Hugh, and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community: The Posture and Practices of Ancient Church Now. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

finding value in the hard things.

If you’re like me, you can pinpoint all the hardest moments of your life. These are the moments that strip us down and force the raw pieces of ourselves to rise to the surface. In my life, these times are marked by seasons of change. Seasons when the dependent variable vanishes, and I’m left with new, uncharted territory.

The beginning of college. My first years of teaching. The journey through medical school. The birth of babies. A move across the country. Residency. The unpredictability of toddlers. Mornings when you realize you’re out of coffee.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my responses to these moments when life strips me down to the nitty-gritty. I’m certainly not trying to make a case that my life is harder than anyone else’s (We’ve got a lot of good things going for us here. My espresso machine, for instance, came through with the win on this coffee-less morning.). But, it seems an unavoidable fact that each season of life comes with its own various challenges. And, the more of them I come up against, the more resolved I am to face them well.norah sandA few months ago, I was dialoguing with a friend about prayer, and she sent me this clip of a Francis Chan sermon from like 8 years ago. It starts with a song, but Chan’s commentary at the end is what has been on repeat in my brain for the last month. Here’s what he had to say:

When we pray, we’re always praying, “God change things” rather than, “God change me.” We want God to change the circumstances and take away all this pain, all these trials, all these hardships rather than God’s plan which is, “No, I want to put some of these things in your life and you need to be praying for yourself that you would grow through these things.”

You see, whenever we have decisions to make, we want God to make it easy, [so we] say, “God why don’t you close all the doors and just leave one open?” [Instead we should say], “God, why don’t you make me incredibly wise, so I know how to make a good decision?”

When trials come, we say, “God, why don’t you change them? Why don’t you fix the situation and take away all the pain? [Instead we should say], “God why don’t you use this time to grow perseverance in me?” […]

Yes, there are times when God changes the situation, but so often, more than anything, God wants us to change and we should be praying for these circumstances that God allows in our lives as opportunities for us to grow in our character and our person.

I can’t get this tiny shift in perspective out of my head.

I know my tendency is to pray for the hard things to end. For ease and consistency and predictability. That bedtime battles will be replaced by compliance or that sibling fights will turn into happy conversations. But what if instead I prayed for patience? Or compassion? Or wisdom to parent my kids the best that I can?

I can’t always change my situation, but I can always change the way I respond to it.lily sand2 This, I am finding, is making all the difference. The realization that I was never promised ease or comfort and the reminder that, if I will let Him, God will use the hard things I face to sharpen me into a better version of myself. It’s not easy to shift perspective in the moment, but it is always worth it when I do.

Now, excuse me while I go attend to the screaming toddlers in the other room. Please send coffee.