Alexandra Kuykendall

Live in Denver.
Raise daughters.
Make lunches.
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35 Steps to (Prepare to Go) Camping with a Toddler

(Hey friends this post appears today over at the Hello, Darling blog! Comment here and comment there!)

Camping. It always sounds like such a good idea when you reserve the campsite in February. You are sure potty training will be successful and done and all the sleep issues in your house will be resolved by summer. Now the camping days blocked off on your calendar are here and you are faced with living simply in the great outdoors. Only it’s not as simple as you dreamed when there was still snow on the ground. In the spirit of the not-so-simple camping years…

35 Steps to (Prepare to Go) Camping with a Toddler

1.       Make a packing list that resembles one you’d have for moving to Siberia for three years.

2.       Go back to the list every few minutes and add extra wipes, diapers, sippy cups, special blankies/binkies/stuffed animals as you remember them.

3.       Assess the space in your car and decide there will be PLENTY of space between the car seats, the dog, and the canoe. Because this year you are going light.

4.       Take the toddler to the grocery store to buy all of the non-perishable “camping treats” (i.e. Cheetos and Pop Tarts) you will need to bribe said toddler to be quiet at 2:00a.m. in the campground.

5.       Agree to use the car cart at the grocery store even though it weighs five times more than the regular cart and is likely to swing and hit every grandma at the store because you are the “fun mom”. You are taking your child camping after all.

6.       Call your husband from the store and ask him if you really need to buy for two nights or will you really (i.e. hopefully) be coming home after one?

7.       Unpack from shopping trip and realize that nothing about your nature experience will be “green” in any way. Rather you will be producing trash bags full of dirty diapers, used paper plates, wrappers from recently purchased “treats”.

8.       Pack extra garbage bags.

9.       Decide what time you want to pull out of your driveway the next day for your big trip.

10.   Add two hours to your desired departure time before texting your friends your plans.

11.   Text friends your plans. Including an apology for bringing a leash for your child.

12.   Check weather forecast on your phone to see if you need to bring sunscreen, swimming suits and flip flops or rain coats, extra blankets and tent toys.

13.   Decide to bring it all.

14.   Text your husband who is working extra time (because he still believes you will leave two hours earlier than you know is possible) to make sure he really does want to go sleep on the ground, with mosquitos, to get three hours of sleep and wake up to instant coffee.

15.   Experience a bit of disappointment when he says he does want to go. And he’s excited.

16.   Start packing.

17.   Put in show for toddler who refuses to nap so you can have two minutes to yourself to think through every potential scenario and what you might need for it.

18.   Pack life jackets, extra baby wipes and bear spray.

19.   Chop, cook, sort, bag up food to prepare for campfire meals. Roughing it is a little easier when it comes out of a Ziploc bag.

20.   As you fall asleep, say prayers that it will not rain and try not to think of every bear mauling story you’ve ever heard.

21.   Wake up early to start packing the car.

22.   Make one last run to the store with toddler to get ice for the coolers and a few more “treats”.

23.   Argue with fit-throwing toddler about using the car cart. Fun mom is about to take a bit of a vacation.

24.   Go home and allow toddler to play on the ipad as long as toddler wants while you continue to pack. Toddler will have no screen time for 3 days. It’s totally justifiable.

25.   Make a case for taking two cars. Everything will fit (and you have a not-yet-mentioned, but obvious escape plan.)

26.   Break into the “camping treats”, chewing quietly, trying to hide that fact from your toddler. You must save some for the 2 a.m. emergencies.

27.   Give toddler “camping treats” when toddler discover you are eating something.  Part of camping is the packing time. Right?

28.   Hide in the bathroom with your phone and look up hotels close to your reserved campsite.

29.   Go to your neighbor’s house to ask if the dog can stay with her for the weekend. Who were you kidding? Another peeing creature will not be needed in your tent.

30.   Make some space-based packing cuts. Remember your worst case scenarios from yesterday and decide the canoe is out. But the life jackets and bear spray are required.

31.   Realize you are later than you thought you’d be in the packing process and start throwing everything else in the car(s).

32.   Tell your screaming/starving toddler that you will stop at McDonald’s on the way out of town. Again toddler will be in nature for three days breathing fresh air and likely eating lots of non-poisonous plant life. Totally justifiable.

33.   Yell one last thank you to your neighbor and try to act excited for her and the dog to bond over the weekend.

34.   Buckle toddler in the car seat while whispering continued reassurance of a soon to be Happy Meal. We all know that’s why they’re called Happy Meals.

35.   Pull out of the driveway feeling pleased that you are once again the fun mom.

Last year at a dinner at MOMcon in Kansas City I found myself sitting next to a new friend, Kasey Johnson. Delightful is truly how I describe her. She is a woman about solutions but with a soft edge that is encouraging not guilt-enducing. I knew I could glean some tips from her and I think you will find some guidance of your own in her new book Mom Essentials: 10 Words Successful Mothers Live By. If you’d like to win a copy comment below. Here are words from Kasey Johnson:

I love looking at baby books and I love giving them to other women to complete. I wish I had been better about keeping track of my boys’ growth and early years but I have to be honest – it just didn’t happen. If my boys have to write a report about the first time they walked, talked or rolled over we’re probably going to be guessing at the actual date and time, but I can say with certainty that each event happened and I remember them clearly!

The thing about “firsts” is that they don’t quit happening simply because the baby books stop providing blanks to fill in. My boys create new situations, responses and ideas each day. How I respond and deal with each one is different because sometimes it’s the first time I’ve been in that moment with that child.

Sometimes I think moms need a “book of firsts” too. I remember the first time I let my son cry himself to sleep. My husband and I laid in our bed, holding hands while the tears ran down my face. My baby was fed, safe and clean – but he was sad and away from me and this time I wasn’t running to his rescue…it was a tough first to survive but I did it!

If I’m being honest, I know I have a lot of firsts waiting for me during the length of my parenting career. Things like their first date, first kiss, first car, first dorm…the list goes on and on.

So instead of feeling overwhelmed by my big book of firsts, I’ve decided to get myself prepared.

I can’t predict the future but I can get prepared. I can’t control my children’s every move but I can control myself. I don’t know all the answers but I know who has all the answers – God.

There are three themes within Mom Essentials. They are: put together, shaped up and equipped. I believe these themes are applicable to all mothers because they continue in cycles throughout our lives and they each have their own kind of “first”.

·         In order for God to put me together I first have to recognize that He gave me certain skills and traits that are exactly what my family needs and God’s not done putting me together – piece by piece.

·         Some people say the first step to getting in shape is admitting we don’t have everything perfect already.  Allowing scripture and God to shape my life brings me freedom to be real and to enjoy the growth process.

·         Most of us feel equipped to complete a job after we’ve been trained.  The thing about parenthood is that training happens WHILE on the job! When I allow the promises of scripture to train me and help me care for my family I can enjoy a new kind of confidence and strength.

My children aren’t finished with their “firsts” and neither am I. I can take this one day at a time, knowing God is on my side and He’s going to help me stay focused on the essentials without being distracted by the extras.

Kasey Johnson is learning daily how to ignore the extras in life and focus on the essentials. As an educator, author, speaker, blogger, wife and mother, Kasey understands the balancing act we sustain as mothers. Visit her blog, www.smarter-moms.com, to learn more about her ministry. And don’t forget to comment below for a chance to win a copy of her new book Mom Essentials.


Walking in the Shadows of Heroes
Sometimes travel takes you to sacred ground, a place you don’t realize is part of you until you arrive. This is a story of one of those places. Where this American girl knew her history was interwoven with the world’s history. From the section Legacy, chapter Heroes from my book The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir on this 4th of July:


Before we took the train to see my father and his growing family, we wanted to make one small detour. To see the beaches at Normandy where Derek’s grandfather, Papa, had landed on D-Day many years earlier. A World War II battle scene would never have been on my travel schedule in the past, but this was our trip and this spot was the one thing Derek wanted to see. It was only a few hours by train off our route, so how could I disagree?
***
“Here, take this with you.” Months earlier, Papa had handed Derek a patch with an Indian head inside a star. Papa sat in his recliner in the living room of the assisted living facility in rural Colorado where he lived with his wife of sixty years, Eva. A retired physician, he’d served as a medic in the war. “It was from our infantry.”
Derek looked down at the patch and wrote down a few numbers as Papa talked. The infantry division, platoon number, regiment—it all breezed through my brain, but Derek wanted to have his homework done when we got there. Papa was in his nineties, and though usually slow getting out of his recliner, he was mentally sharp, as able to make jokes about the current president as he was to recall the details of waiting in the boat to go up the beach.
“I was one of the oldest ones,” he told us—already married, a trained physician when he’d enlisted. “Some of those boys lied about their age so they could go fight.” His eyes watered. “We were all so seasick. We were delayed a day out there on the water because of the weather. Boys were throwing up over the sides.” As he hunched over in his chair, I saw history alive in front of me.
A few years after that, my father-in-law would stand at the top of a ramp at Union Station in downtown Denver. He would point to it and tell me that was where he met Papa as a two-year-old boy. Where he met his daddy for the first time as he returned on the train from war. I imagined a young, handsome Papa walking up the ramp in his uniform, taking his boy in his arms. And a young Mama so relieved her doctor husband was home.
***
We carried our backpacks through the cobbled streets of Normandy to the youth hostel we’d emailed weeks earlier. Flags from around the world hung from the second stories of stone buildings. Later, as we walked to the center of town to book a tour for the next day, signs greeted us in windows. In English they read, “Veterans welcome here.” Tours were based on language and country of interest. Those standing in line to purchase the German tours shifted their weight from side to side. We splurged and signed up for a small-group semiprivate tour for Americans.
“Do any of you have a personal connection?” the Frenchwoman driving the van called over her shoulder as she turned down the road that would take us toward the Normandy beaches. Her dark hair and obvious French accent reminded me of my father’s girlfriend.
The three middle-aged couples who shared our van shook their heads. Based on their ages and collared dress shirts, I suspected they fit the profile of the typical tourists in this history-saturated town.
“My grandfather was here on D-Day,” Derek spoke up. The attention in the van shifted toward us as the other couples stared at him, a little bit in awe.
“Oh! Did he come back for the anniversary?” Our tour guide talked to her rearview mirror as she drove. “I got to host a group of veterans for the week. It was fantastic!” (pronounced fantastíque).
“No. He came back. But not for the anniversary.”
“Oh.” She lowered her voice. “Well, tell your grandfather ‘thank you’ from us. We owe him our freedom. Do you know what regiment he was in?” The pep was back in her voice. “I could take you to where he landed.”
My cynical side guessed her friendly nature was her attempt at a bigger tip at the end of the hour. But her enthusiasm didn’t seem contrived. Maybe some French could tolerate Americans.
Pulling the piece of paper from months earlier out of his pocket, Derek started throwing out numbers. Our tour guide shook her head, saying, “Non, non.” I could tell Derek was frustrated, disappointed. He thought he’d written the numbers down just as Papa had said, but the tour guide insisted, “There was no regiment with that number.”
Then Derek pulled the patch out of his pocket and handed it to her over the seat. “I have this.”
She pulled the van to the side of the road and stopped, took the patch in her hand, and turned it over to reveal the Indian head symbol.
“Oohhh!” No need for translation, this universal exclamation said there was meaning behind what she held. The entire group was now looking at her with eyebrows raised, leaning in with expectation.
“This is for the 2nd Division. I know right where they landed.”
I expected everyone in the van to start giving each other high fives. Papa was no longer just Derek’s grandfather; within minutes he had moved into the position of van hero.
“Shall we go there?” she asked our group. There was no question as everyone nodded furiously. The tour had quickly changed to a personal interest story that we all wanted to claim as our own. Our tour guide did a U-turn, and we headed south along the rocky coastline.
In a way, Derek’s story was becoming mine. And mine his. Our lives were not just crossing, they were melding, creating a new legacy built from both our histories. This trip was evidence of that. Unlike the other passengers in the van, I had a special claim on Papa’s story. He was part of Derek, so in a two-lives-becoming-one kind of way, he was part of me.
Pulling halfway up a slope, our new French friend stopped the van and put the parking brake on. Turning around in her seat, she looked Derek directly in the eye.
“Here we are.” She motioned to the van door with her hand. “They walked from the beach up this hill.”
We looked out the window to see a small stone marker with the now familiar Indian head symbol on it. We climbed out of the van one at a time, and the wind wrapped around us and snapped of men who had died climbing on their bellies up the hill. Derek stretched his long legs out of the van and stopped. He looked down at the ocean below with its gray water and churning waves. He turned and looked up the hill with the grass blowing sideways. Tears began sliding down his cheeks, and he looked down at me. I smiled back between my tears.
The other members of our group stepped aside to clear a path between us and the stone mini monument. Derek faced it with the ocean in the background, picturing his grandfather waiting an extra day past the breakers in the choppy water, scared for his life. He looked up the hill, imagining Papa crawling between downed soldiers to see if he could help.
It was a moment where history of country, family, and self came together and created a sacred place. I watched Derek’s face and heard the rhythmic crashing of the waves in the distance.
There is a reason we say they stormed the beaches at Normandy. They didn’t simply run or meander or stroll. They charged with a passion for country and freedom, knowing their lives would likely be sacrificed for a greater good. Standing on that hillside, I saw part of the legacy my future children would be born into.
Neither one of us wanted to get back in the van, but we were shivering from the wind. Our van mates were patiently waiting in the vehicle, watching us through the windows. A few of them wiped tears from their cheeks.
As we drove away, one of the other passengers, a rotund Midwestern kind of man, broke the silence. “Tell your grandfather ‘thank you’ from us too.”
As I looked up at my husband, I thought I might explode from pride.

This is an excerpt from The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir published by Revell Books in 2013.

Walking in the Shadows of Heroes

Sometimes travel takes you to sacred ground, a place you don’t realize is part of you until you arrive. This is a story of one of those places. Where this American girl knew her history was interwoven with the world’s history. From the section Legacy, chapter Heroes from my book The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir on this 4th of July:

Before we took the train to see my father and his growing family, we wanted to make one small detour. To see the beaches at Normandy where Derek’s grandfather, Papa, had landed on D-Day many years earlier. A World War II battle scene would never have been on my travel schedule in the past, but this was our trip and this spot was the one thing Derek wanted to see. It was only a few hours by train off our route, so how could I disagree?

***

“Here, take this with you.” Months earlier, Papa had handed Derek a patch with an Indian head inside a star. Papa sat in his recliner in the living room of the assisted living facility in rural Colorado where he lived with his wife of sixty years, Eva. A retired physician, he’d served as a medic in the war. “It was from our infantry.”

Derek looked down at the patch and wrote down a few numbers as Papa talked. The infantry division, platoon number, regimentit all breezed through my brain, but Derek wanted to have his homework done when we got there. Papa was in his nineties, and though usually slow getting out of his recliner, he was mentally sharp, as able to make jokes about the current president as he was to recall the details of waiting in the boat to go up the beach.

“I was one of the oldest ones,” he told usalready married, a trained physician when he’d enlisted.Some of those boys lied about their age so they could go fight.” His eyes watered. “We were all so seasick. We were delayed a day out there on the water because of the weather. Boys were throwing up over the sides.” As he hunched over in his chair, I saw history alive in front of me.

A few years after that, my father-in-law would stand at the top of a ramp at Union Station in downtown Denver. He would point to it and tell me that was where he met Papa as a two-year-old boy. Where he met his daddy for the first time as he returned on the train from war. I imagined a young, handsome Papa walking up the ramp in his uniform, taking his boy in his arms. And a young Mama so relieved her doctor husband was home.

***

We carried our backpacks through the cobbled streets of Normandy to the youth hostel we’d emailed weeks earlier. Flags from around the world hung from the second stories of stone buildings. Later, as we walked to the center of town to book a tour for the next day, signs greeted us in windows. In English they read, “Veterans welcome here.” Tours were based on language and country of interest. Those standing in line to purchase the German tours shifted their weight from side to side. We splurged and signed up for a small-group semiprivate tour for Americans.

“Do any of you have a personal connection?” the Frenchwoman driving the van called over her shoulder as she turned down the road that would take us toward the Normandy beaches. Her dark hair and obvious French accent reminded me of my father’s girlfriend.

The three middle-aged couples who shared our van shook their heads. Based on their ages and collared dress shirts, I suspected they fit the profile of the typical tourists in this history-saturated town.

“My grandfather was here on D-Day,” Derek spoke up. The attention in the van shifted toward us as the other couples stared at him, a little bit in awe.

“Oh! Did he come back for the anniversary?” Our tour guide talked to her rearview mirror as she drove. “I got to host a group of veterans for the week. It was fantastic!” (pronounced fantastíque).

“No. He came back. But not for the anniversary.”

“Oh.” She lowered her voice. “Well, tell your grandfather thank you from us. We owe him our freedom. Do you know what regiment he was in?” The pep was back in her voice. “I could take you to where he landed.”

My cynical side guessed her friendly nature was her attempt at a bigger tip at the end of the hour. But her enthusiasm didn’t seem contrived. Maybe some French could tolerate Americans.

Pulling the piece of paper from months earlier out of his pocket, Derek started throwing out numbers. Our tour guide shook her head, saying, “Non, non.” I could tell Derek was frustrated, disappointed. He thought he’d written the numbers down just as Papa had said, but the tour guide insisted, “There was no regiment with that number.”

Then Derek pulled the patch out of his pocket and handed it to her over the seat. “I have this.”

She pulled the van to the side of the road and stopped, took the patch in her hand, and turned it over to reveal the Indian head symbol.

“Oohhh!” No need for translation, this universal exclamation said there was meaning behind what she held. The entire group was now looking at her with eyebrows raised, leaning in with expectation.

“This is for the 2nd Division. I know right where they landed.”

I expected everyone in the van to start giving each other high fives. Papa was no longer just Derek’s grandfather; within minutes he had moved into the position of van hero.

“Shall we go there?” she asked our group. There was no question as everyone nodded furiously. The tour had quickly changed to a personal interest story that we all wanted to claim as our own. Our tour guide did a U-turn, and we headed south along the rocky coastline.

In a way, Derek’s story was becoming mine. And mine his. Our lives were not just crossing, they were melding, creating a new legacy built from both our histories. This trip was evidence of that. Unlike the other passengers in the van, I had a special claim on Papa’s story. He was part of Derek, so in a two-lives-becoming-one kind of way, he was part of me.

Pulling halfway up a slope, our new French friend stopped the van and put the parking brake on. Turning around in her seat, she looked Derek directly in the eye.

“Here we are.She motioned to the van door with her hand. “They walked from the beach up this hill.”

We looked out the window to see a small stone marker with the now familiar Indian head symbol on it. We climbed out of the van one at a time, and the wind wrapped around us and snapped of men who had died climbing on their bellies up the hill. Derek stretched his long legs out of the van and stopped. He looked down at the ocean below with its gray water and churning waves. He turned and looked up the hill with the grass blowing sideways. Tears began sliding down his cheeks, and he looked down at me. I smiled back between my tears.

The other members of our group stepped aside to clear a path between us and the stone mini monument. Derek faced it with the ocean in the background, picturing his grandfather waiting an extra day past the breakers in the choppy water, scared for his life. He looked up the hill, imagining Papa crawling between downed soldiers to see if he could help.

It was a moment where history of country, family, and self came together and created a sacred place. I watched Derek’s face and heard the rhythmic crashing of the waves in the distance.

There is a reason we say they stormed the beaches at Normandy. They didn’t simply run or meander or stroll. They charged with a passion for country and freedom, knowing their lives would likely be sacrificed for a greater good. Standing on that hillside, I saw part of the legacy my future children would be born into.

Neither one of us wanted to get back in the van, but we were shivering from the wind. Our van mates were patiently waiting in the vehicle, watching us through the windows. A few of them wiped tears from their cheeks.

As we drove away, one of the other passengers, a rotund Midwestern kind of man, broke the silence. “Tell your grandfather thank you from us too.”

As I looked up at my husband, I thought I might explode from pride.

This is an excerpt from The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir published by Revell Books in 2013.

It is a true treat to get a preview of something the world will love. That was the case with Emily Wierenga’s new book Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look that releases today. Emily and I have crossed paths in real life and writing life (you can find her as a regular contributor over at the MOPS blog, Hello, Darling). And because of our intertwined paths I got a chance to read this book’s manuscript months ago. You will see my official endorsement at the end of this post, but know as you read this excerpt that Atlas Girl is a raw and honest journey that doesn’t shy away from pain and always circles around grace. Enjoy some of Atlas Girl here.

Atlas Girl, an excerpt

By Emily T. Wierenga

For some reason I always said a prayer for her when it was dark. Mum.

Not really during the day, but always when it was night and maybe because she was like a candle. We didn’t talk a lot and we were opposite in temperament and so, we yelled a lot, and yet I missed the way she smelled of lavender and would hold me when a boy dumped me or when Dad wouldn’t listen to me.

The man with the alcoholic breath was whimpering in his sleep and I felt sorry for him and annoyed and I had a crick in my neck. No one seemed to notice this blond girl with the man asleep on her shoulder, but that was the way I wanted it. No one seeing me, all hunched over with my Margaret Atwood novel and my Walkman.

I was listening to Journey. “Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world… she took a midnight train going anywhere…”

Closed my eyes against the jagged yellow of the road and buried my nose against my cardigan. It smelled of Fuzzy Peach perfume from the Body Shop. Of the mission trip to Atlanta, Georgia, to the Olympic Games; of the 21-year-old boy who had given me my sweet sixteen kiss.

It smelled like home and my room covered in Michael W. Smith and DC Talk posters and the floral quilt with Cuddles, my bear. And I didn’t remember Dad ever entering that room. Mum sometimes slid books under the door, books on sex and why not to have it before marriage and sometimes my sisters would come in and watch me do my makeup.

Ever since the anorexia—me starving myself from the ages of nine to 13 and ending up in a hospital where my hair fell out and my nails curled under—they’d been a bit scared of me and I didn’t blame them. Mum didn’t let them visit me very often because I played secular music from the radio, stuff like Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams, stuff that made the insides of my legs ache a little.

I twisted the silver purity ring on my ring finger and it wasn’t coming off, not until my wedding day and it was the one thing my parents and I agreed on.

But I would have pulled the Kleenex from my bra, and the bra from my body, for Seth Jones.

For the scratchy way he’d said my name and the way his brown hair hung over his eyes, but I hadn’t. And Mum had knocked on my bedroom door that day, roses in her arms and she’d sat on my bed and held me, the day Seth had dumped me in the courtyard of the school. The day he’d said I was too nice. Which really just meant I wouldn’t get undressed for him.

But then Mum had given me a bouquet of roses and my fingers had bled from the thorns. And I’d known I wasn’t too nice, just too afraid of sin, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what kind of fear, so long as it steers you right.

I didn’t know why I was waiting except that sex was a big deal, even bigger than drinking, and it was only allowed after marriage.

Not that marriage meant much with my dad sleeping on the couch after staying up late on the computer and Mum getting jealous over the ladies Dad talked to after church in his long minister’s robe and his face full of laughter wrinkles, the kind of wrinkles we never saw at home.

“Edmonton,” the driver’s weary voice crackled over the speaker and the man on my shoulder was sitting up now, rubbing his eyes and yawning. As though he did that kind of thing all the time, as though we were lovers or friends, and I shrugged.

The bus was stopping and the Ojibway man inching out of his seat.

And I stood up, and my heart fell out of my chest and I couldn’t breathe.

For all of my 18 years of not being able to connect with him, I missed him.

My father.

***

This is an excerpt from my new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, releasing July 1 through Baker Books. I am excited to give away a copy of ATLAS GIRL today. Just leave a comment below to win.

“Atlas Girl is about the layers of life that matter: generations and care-taking and love and grief. It is here, tucked in these layers of Emily’s stories and heartbreak, that Jesus is found. We see that to be a child, a grandchild, a parent, a spouse, a friend is to be a citizen of this world. And though our feet are planted here on earth, no matter our location or our circumstances, the kingdom of heaven is palpable and near. Travel with Atlas Girl as she unfolds the layers of her journey around the globe to the center of her heart.”

Alexandra Kuykendall, leader and mom content editor, MOPS International; author of The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir

From the back cover:

“Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents’ rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else–anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time–in the place she least expected it.

“Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a very personal story of a universal yearning for home and the assurance that we are known, forgiven, and beloved. Readers will find in this memoir a true description of living faith as a two-way pursuit in a world fraught with distraction. Anyone who wrestles with the brokenness we find in the world will love this emotional journey into the arms of the God who heals all wounds.”

You can find Emily at emilywierenga.com and you can find Atlas Girl on Amazon.


Ten reasons why turning 40 is better than turning 30
Last week I hit a milestone, well actually a milestone toward a milestone. I hit the month countdown to my 40th birthday. Now in a matter of weeks plus a few days I will have a birthday that honestly I am dreading. Why? I’m not totally sure. I love my life. Every. Single. Part. Of. It. My marriage, kids, work, home, friends, family, all of it. And yet the grey roots have a brilliance they didn’t a week ago,  the last few days by the pool have brought out all of the spots I hate on my face (a hangover from pregnancy mask two babies ago), my clothes shout dowdy to me from their hangers in my closet.
I realize these are all issues of vanity. And I confess in some ways vanity has never had a stronger hold on me than it does now. But the truth is in so many ways it doesn’t. So in an attempt to get myself psyched for the big birthday (and because writing is cheaper than therapy) I’m making a list of all of the reasons turning 40 beats turning 30. And that’s pretty incredible because my 30s have been my best years yet. So here’s just a start at that list.
Ten reasons why turning 40 is better than turning 30:
1.       My family size has doubled. Our household was a total of 3 people when I turned 30. It is now 6. More people to love with, laugh with, argue with, forgive with, play with, eat with. All of it. There’s more. And had I known a decade ago that I would be a mom of four girls, all so different from each other I would have felt part disbelief, part ecstatic, part exhausted at the thought. Good thing I didn’t know and I just lived the goodness of it step by step, child by child.
2.       I will never be pregnant again. I am beyond thankful I’ve had four healthy, successful, full-term pregnancies. AND I’m happy to not have swollen feet, heartburn, leaking breasts and Braxton Hicks contractions ever again. I love my girls. I didn’t love being pregnant.
3.       I buy quality. I’m not talking Armani or Lexus, but more not heading straight to the sale rack JUST because it is the sale rack. This is hard for me because I have cheap in my veins. If something is cheaper well it must be a better bargain! But after four decades of wasting money on stuff I don’t need, I’m learning to spend money on fewer things that will last (which in the end really saves).
4.       My friendships are deeper. The truth is if I had a big party next month I’d invite a lot of the same people that were at my birthday party ten years ago. But we’ve lived a whole ‘nother decade together and with less and less pretense. I don’t have the same freedom I did ten years ago to sit for hours hangin. So I tend to get to the meat faster.
5.       I don’t care as much. I promise the little rant about my grey hair isn’t an indicator of my overall confidence. The more life I live the more I know almost everything that stresses me out is temporary. So I’m better at letting things go. I wear pajamas to drop kids off at school, let my kids eat rice krispy treats as an appetizer for dinner and try to forgive myself for so many years of holding onto rules that didn’t matter.
6.       I break the rules more. (This is really an extension of the last one.) If I’ve learned ANYTHING this last decade of life there’s rarely a “right way”. Which means this rule-follower has let loose a little and changed things up based on needs rather than shoulds. Oh the freedom!
7.       I’m taking better care of my body. Okay this is where I risk sounding pre-old lady, but the truth is my body ain’t doing what it used to. So I’m working out on a regular basis. Something I haven’t done since I was in my early twenties (when I didn’t have kids and oh by the way…WHEN I DIDN’T NEED TO). And I’ve been to the dermatologist three times in the last few months to get things removed (I warned you, inappropriate old lady over sharing medical info. here).
8.       I’m learning generosity. This whole holding things loosely in terms of stress has helped me hold everything with a little more give. My money, my time, my attention, my talents. I am getting better at moving my plans for God’s plans. And to not hold back when I’m needed.
9.       I say “NO”. Okay this is a big difference from ten years ago and really does go hand in hand with generosity. Just as I’m more in tune with when to give freely, I’m also growing in my confidence to say no to the things that don’t hit my must-do list. I know who I am, how I’m wired, and who I am not.
10.   I laugh at myself. Maybe it’s my subconscious awareness of my mortality kicking in or simply a combination of the first nine reasons on the list, but I’m done with my infatuation with me (despite the fact that I just wrote a post all about me). As I learn that I am not in fact the center of the world I’m able to laugh more often knowing how much I once thought it did. So much better this way.
I’m still in shock I’m old enough to write this post, but here I am. Knowing that life is good in all of its stages, even the ones that have always felt too far off to be real.
What wise friends would you add to this list?

Ten reasons why turning 40 is better than turning 30

Last week I hit a milestone, well actually a milestone toward a milestone. I hit the month countdown to my 40th birthday. Now in a matter of weeks plus a few days I will have a birthday that honestly I am dreading. Why? I’m not totally sure. I love my life. Every. Single. Part. Of. It. My marriage, kids, work, home, friends, family, all of it. And yet the grey roots have a brilliance they didn’t a week ago,  the last few days by the pool have brought out all of the spots I hate on my face (a hangover from pregnancy mask two babies ago), my clothes shout dowdy to me from their hangers in my closet.

I realize these are all issues of vanity. And I confess in some ways vanity has never had a stronger hold on me than it does now. But the truth is in so many ways it doesn’t. So in an attempt to get myself psyched for the big birthday (and because writing is cheaper than therapy) I’m making a list of all of the reasons turning 40 beats turning 30. And that’s pretty incredible because my 30s have been my best years yet. So here’s just a start at that list.

Ten reasons why turning 40 is better than turning 30:

1.       My family size has doubled. Our household was a total of 3 people when I turned 30. It is now 6. More people to love with, laugh with, argue with, forgive with, play with, eat with. All of it. There’s more. And had I known a decade ago that I would be a mom of four girls, all so different from each other I would have felt part disbelief, part ecstatic, part exhausted at the thought. Good thing I didn’t know and I just lived the goodness of it step by step, child by child.

2.       I will never be pregnant again. I am beyond thankful I’ve had four healthy, successful, full-term pregnancies. AND I’m happy to not have swollen feet, heartburn, leaking breasts and Braxton Hicks contractions ever again. I love my girls. I didn’t love being pregnant.

3.       I buy quality. I’m not talking Armani or Lexus, but more not heading straight to the sale rack JUST because it is the sale rack. This is hard for me because I have cheap in my veins. If something is cheaper well it must be a better bargain! But after four decades of wasting money on stuff I don’t need, I’m learning to spend money on fewer things that will last (which in the end really saves).

4.       My friendships are deeper. The truth is if I had a big party next month I’d invite a lot of the same people that were at my birthday party ten years ago. But we’ve lived a whole ‘nother decade together and with less and less pretense. I don’t have the same freedom I did ten years ago to sit for hours hangin. So I tend to get to the meat faster.

5.       I don’t care as much. I promise the little rant about my grey hair isn’t an indicator of my overall confidence. The more life I live the more I know almost everything that stresses me out is temporary. So I’m better at letting things go. I wear pajamas to drop kids off at school, let my kids eat rice krispy treats as an appetizer for dinner and try to forgive myself for so many years of holding onto rules that didn’t matter.

6.       I break the rules more. (This is really an extension of the last one.) If I’ve learned ANYTHING this last decade of life there’s rarely a “right way”. Which means this rule-follower has let loose a little and changed things up based on needs rather than shoulds. Oh the freedom!

7.       I’m taking better care of my body. Okay this is where I risk sounding pre-old lady, but the truth is my body ain’t doing what it used to. So I’m working out on a regular basis. Something I haven’t done since I was in my early twenties (when I didn’t have kids and oh by the way…WHEN I DIDN’T NEED TO). And I’ve been to the dermatologist three times in the last few months to get things removed (I warned you, inappropriate old lady over sharing medical info. here).

8.       I’m learning generosity. This whole holding things loosely in terms of stress has helped me hold everything with a little more give. My money, my time, my attention, my talents. I am getting better at moving my plans for God’s plans. And to not hold back when I’m needed.

9.       I say “NO”. Okay this is a big difference from ten years ago and really does go hand in hand with generosity. Just as I’m more in tune with when to give freely, I’m also growing in my confidence to say no to the things that don’t hit my must-do list. I know who I am, how I’m wired, and who I am not.

10.   I laugh at myself. Maybe it’s my subconscious awareness of my mortality kicking in or simply a combination of the first nine reasons on the list, but I’m done with my infatuation with me (despite the fact that I just wrote a post all about me). As I learn that I am not in fact the center of the world I’m able to laugh more often knowing how much I once thought it did. So much better this way.

I’m still in shock I’m old enough to write this post, but here I am. Knowing that life is good in all of its stages, even the ones that have always felt too far off to be real.

What wise friends would you add to this list?


When A Shooting Is In Your Place or How to See the Invisible
There is something as a mother about hearing of a gun in a school. A mother about to send her first baby to middle school. Something that makes my jaw tense and my fingers twitch.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the shooting in Santa Barbara. Because of the connection the story had to my sorority. And then Seattle Pacific University felt even closer, where I have so many overlaps of faith and place. I didn’t think it could get more personal unless it was here in Denver (and we’ve had plenty of our own school shootings to claim). But then a few days ago in Troutdale, Oregon, tucked along the Columbia River between Portland and Hood River, Reynolds High School.
For two years I walked the halls of Reynolds High School, a staff badge around my neck. Despite the fact that I didn’t actually work for the school, I had access to students, my own room with El Programa Hispano on the nameplate in the hall and my own phone extension in the building. My job was funded by a grant to tackle the huge dropout rate of children of migrant workers. The berry farms of Troutdale and the orchards of Hood River had been bringing migrant families to the beautiful river valley for years. And then twenty years ago many of those families stopped being migrant and started putting down roots and the school district was not prepared for them.
So there I was at Reynolds, a white Christian bleeding heart whose expensive private college education landed her a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, translating for school counselors and teachers when they couldn’t communicate with students or their parents. Kids who weren’t even on the margin, they were hiding in the shadows and they didn’t want me to drag them out. They wanted to remain invisible. And I was insisting that they know they were seen. Because my paycheck came from Catholic Charities I felt more free to say that they had always been visible to their Creator.
Toward the end of my second year at Reynolds, Columbine happened. My strongest geographic tethers to this world include Colorado and the Pacific Northwest, where I’ve lived back and forth most of my life. And so it’s been with my connections with the school shootings. Fourteen years ago I watched from states away as a Denver news reporter standing in the middle of a Littleton street covered her mouth to soften the sobs and said, “I’m sorry. I’m thinking about my own kids.” I watched as teachers ran out. And I kept thinking, That could be me. That could be Reynolds. Those could be “my” kids.
My last weeks at the school I’d find myself sitting in my room considering my escape plan. Or in the principal’s office making a phone call to tell parents their son couldn’t wear a trench coat to school. There aren’t words for this kind of madness in my native tongue. In my second language the craziness of the talk was even more obvious as I stumbled to choose words about shootings and copycats and boys not giving the wrong impression. Parents who were used to being confused by our culture and our ways lumped it all into the same ball of American craziness.
And now jump ahead. I live in the land of Columbine and Reynolds High School is back on the forefront of my mind. I again sit states away and wait for the local ten o’clock news to cover the day’s school shooting and am dumbfounded it is not the first story of the night, or the second or even the fourth. Because it almost isn’t even newsworthy anymore. I snuggle in the dark with my two-year old on her mattress on the floor waiting for her breaths to slow and become regular and memories swirl of the gym where I went daily, the front office, the security guards, the parking lot. My morning routine so many years ago where I’d say my prayers of protection as I walked through the mist, my travel mug in hand, into the building to see the invisible kids.
And now the pundits debate gun control policy and mental health resources and armed guards in schools. And I think about the pain. The pain these boys are in to act out to make their invisible hurt public. The pain that screams “NOTICE ME!” and yet goes unspoken until the shots ring out. While others debate important questions of policy my heart centers on how do we bring the invisible into the light, so kids know they are truly seen?
In her new book A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness, Marlena Graves writes
“We should ask ourselves if we are ever guilty of rendering another invisible. Are there people we choose not to see?…What do we fail to notice on our normal treks to and from home? In what ways are we like the priest and the Levite on the road to Jericho who passed by the man beaten and bruised (see Luke 10:25-37)?”
I’m sure there is a mom out there who can tackle the gun control issue, I am overwhelmed and therefore paralyzed by it. I focus on what I can do. The children in my own house. Their friends. The kids at their schools. How do I not pass by them beaten and bruised? How do I notice that which I’ve failed to notice before? To be that woman that whispers through my actions “You are not invisible”?
Again Marlena,
“We can become a part of overcoming evil with good in our own spheres and by lending whatever kind of a hand we can to those in other spheres. Indeed, one way we know that God sees us is through others. And one way others know that God sees them is through us. We become part of God’s seeing, God’s eyes. And we impart a God’s-eye view to the world.”
And now, where I can, to impart a God’s-eye view to the world.

When A Shooting Is In Your Place or How to See the Invisible

There is something as a mother about hearing of a gun in a school. A mother about to send her first baby to middle school. Something that makes my jaw tense and my fingers twitch.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the shooting in Santa Barbara. Because of the connection the story had to my sorority. And then Seattle Pacific University felt even closer, where I have so many overlaps of faith and place. I didn’t think it could get more personal unless it was here in Denver (and we’ve had plenty of our own school shootings to claim). But then a few days ago in Troutdale, Oregon, tucked along the Columbia River between Portland and Hood River, Reynolds High School.

For two years I walked the halls of Reynolds High School, a staff badge around my neck. Despite the fact that I didn’t actually work for the school, I had access to students, my own room with El Programa Hispano on the nameplate in the hall and my own phone extension in the building. My job was funded by a grant to tackle the huge dropout rate of children of migrant workers. The berry farms of Troutdale and the orchards of Hood River had been bringing migrant families to the beautiful river valley for years. And then twenty years ago many of those families stopped being migrant and started putting down roots and the school district was not prepared for them.

So there I was at Reynolds, a white Christian bleeding heart whose expensive private college education landed her a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, translating for school counselors and teachers when they couldn’t communicate with students or their parents. Kids who weren’t even on the margin, they were hiding in the shadows and they didn’t want me to drag them out. They wanted to remain invisible. And I was insisting that they know they were seen. Because my paycheck came from Catholic Charities I felt more free to say that they had always been visible to their Creator.

Toward the end of my second year at Reynolds, Columbine happened. My strongest geographic tethers to this world include Colorado and the Pacific Northwest, where I’ve lived back and forth most of my life. And so it’s been with my connections with the school shootings. Fourteen years ago I watched from states away as a Denver news reporter standing in the middle of a Littleton street covered her mouth to soften the sobs and said, “I’m sorry. I’m thinking about my own kids.” I watched as teachers ran out. And I kept thinking, That could be me. That could be Reynolds. Those could be “my” kids.

My last weeks at the school I’d find myself sitting in my room considering my escape plan. Or in the principal’s office making a phone call to tell parents their son couldn’t wear a trench coat to school. There aren’t words for this kind of madness in my native tongue. In my second language the craziness of the talk was even more obvious as I stumbled to choose words about shootings and copycats and boys not giving the wrong impression. Parents who were used to being confused by our culture and our ways lumped it all into the same ball of American craziness.

And now jump ahead. I live in the land of Columbine and Reynolds High School is back on the forefront of my mind. I again sit states away and wait for the local ten o’clock news to cover the day’s school shooting and am dumbfounded it is not the first story of the night, or the second or even the fourth. Because it almost isn’t even newsworthy anymore. I snuggle in the dark with my two-year old on her mattress on the floor waiting for her breaths to slow and become regular and memories swirl of the gym where I went daily, the front office, the security guards, the parking lot. My morning routine so many years ago where I’d say my prayers of protection as I walked through the mist, my travel mug in hand, into the building to see the invisible kids.

And now the pundits debate gun control policy and mental health resources and armed guards in schools. And I think about the pain. The pain these boys are in to act out to make their invisible hurt public. The pain that screams “NOTICE ME!” and yet goes unspoken until the shots ring out. While others debate important questions of policy my heart centers on how do we bring the invisible into the light, so kids know they are truly seen?

In her new book A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness, Marlena Graves writes

“We should ask ourselves if we are ever guilty of rendering another invisible. Are there people we choose not to see?…What do we fail to notice on our normal treks to and from home? In what ways are we like the priest and the Levite on the road to Jericho who passed by the man beaten and bruised (see Luke 10:25-37)?”

I’m sure there is a mom out there who can tackle the gun control issue, I am overwhelmed and therefore paralyzed by it. I focus on what I can do. The children in my own house. Their friends. The kids at their schools. How do I not pass by them beaten and bruised? How do I notice that which I’ve failed to notice before? To be that woman that whispers through my actions “You are not invisible”?

Again Marlena,

“We can become a part of overcoming evil with good in our own spheres and by lending whatever kind of a hand we can to those in other spheres. Indeed, one way we know that God sees us is through others. And one way others know that God sees them is through us. We become part of God’s seeing, God’s eyes. And we impart a God’s-eye view to the world.”

And now, where I can, to impart a God’s-eye view to the world.

Last week Derek and I were invited to a retreat about generosity. I went mostly because it was a night away at the beautiful Glen Eyrie retreat center next to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. For two days a small group of us talked about holding things loosely because everything, EVERYTHING, here and in our care belongs to God. Much of the conversation revolved around being generous in areas of finance, but I spent much of my time thinking about what it means to be generous with my talents and to have a generous spirit in everyday interactions with people. That I want a generous heart with my attention, not just my stuff.

There is a thing about generous people, they give and they make you want to give too. That’s how it is for me with author Kathi Lipp.

I met Kathi a few years ago at the MOPS office. She did a talk for the staff, a preview of sorts before MOMcon and I was an instant fan. Kathi is engaging and warm and made me feel like I was her new best friend, though I was one of many in a crowd listening to her. And when I talked with her after, it was confirmed I was willing to be her BFF if she would have me. Because she has a generous spirit!

And in the years that have followed every interaction I’ve had with this woman has been genuine and encouraging. She is generous with her attention and her heart. I’ve watched as she has been surrounded by women who connected with her during one of her talks and she has made each one feel noticed and special. Because she DOES notice them and she knows they ARE special. So in lots of ways I want to be more like Kathi because Kathi is more like Jesus.

So I was thrilled to hear the title of her newest book: I Need Some Help Here: Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. I knew I’d be hearing from a seasoned mom (of both the old fashioned and step variety) who had my heart in mind. She is generous you see and she wants us moms of youngers to know God’s reassurance when our kids (or really life) doesn’t go like we think it will.

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Even from the introduction she reminds us moms that she is in it with us. In Kathi’s words:

“Like you, I want the best for my kids. I would lay down my life for them. (Alex here, okay so she gets me right off). I want to take every pain away, to stop every potential issue before it happens (Alex again, does she REALIZE I’m about to have a child in middle school?!), to keep them safe and healthy. And I want them to grow into men and women who love God and live by his word.(Yes! This woman reads my mind and I’m sorry this book was written just for me, but keep reading.)

But, frustratingly, sometimes the next step isn’t “do”. Sometimes the next step is just to be still and know that he is God.”

And there. Bam! Right from the start she hits us with the hard part. We must trust God in all circumstances. Yes ALL. And not just the wayward child who has made bad decisions (and I don’t use “just” lightly there, I’m thinking there may be no deeper pain than a child we believe to be self-destructing in some way.) What I mean is there are ways our youngers are “not going according to plan” as well.That Kathi’s definition is broad and includes unexpected life that impacts our kids.

For me it was a child’s hospitalization. Which over years turned into five emergency room visits that developed into longer hospital stays. Or the split-second just last week at preschool that is forever seared on my heart at the devastation on my daughter’s face when a group of girls turned their backs on her and left her out. Kathi’s words are generous because they have my heartache in mind. They are all about God’s promises that he loves my girls in the midst of their pain. In the midst of them growing up in a world that is not as it should be. This side of Eden.

So here’s the thing about generous people, they give and they make you want to give too. So let me be as generous as I possibly can through written words on a screen, you have my full attention as I say this, life hardly ever goes according to plan. Parenting even less. We need to remind each other that the only unchanging factor is God’s nature. Kathi’s book is this week’s reminder for me.

God sees you. He knows you. He loves you. Regardless of how your day is going and how your kids are doing.

Hear it. Believe it. Absorb it my friends.

To get Kathi’s book visit her site (because Amazon just sold out) and to win some fabulous prizes because she is so generous in that way too visit her launch party.

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I learned this weekend you can take the girl out of the sorority, but you can’t take the sorority out of the girl

I’ve been out of the college life a long time now. Sixteen years of marriage. Four children. Lots of jobs. Those years of pins and letters and secret handshakes are not even full memories, just whispers of a younger, more slender woman.  My brain filled with car pool schedules, grocery lists and parent-teacher conferences doesn’t have time to reminisce about late night studying, big sis/little sis parties and quiet floor policies. It’s of a different world. A different life. A different me.

Until Sunday.

I’d heard Saturday morning about the shooter at the UCSB campus and beautiful town of Santa Barbara. The story caught my husband’s attention, in part because of the horrific nature and “Not again!” internal cry. But also because of our Santa Barbara connection, a place where both my sisters-in-law attended school (Westmont College) and where Derek and I honeymooned. We could picture the California ocean town with its pier and bars and shuddered at the horror of a lovely Friday night gone wrong. As parents we grieved. Because now we grieve when anyone’s child is hurt.

But Sunday the story expanded for me as we learned about the sorority house where the gunman banged on the door for a minute, no one answered, so he turned and shot three girls on the front lawn. The YouTube videos where he named this particular group of college girls and his determination for blood shed there. A bad horror movie plot with a real-life Hollywood connected killer.

And again the location is what caught my attention: the Alpha Phi house.

Sorority means sisterhood. And I felt the sisterhood Sunday despite the years and life I’ve lived since I’ve been an active sorority girl. The tudor house on Warner St. in Tacoma, WA flashed in my mind. Where a hundred of us crammed into our basement meeting room on Monday nights to attend to chapter business. Where living with a bunch of girls had drama, but also true acceptance. It was a safe place in lots of ways making its mention in context of this news story that much more shocking.

My sorority experience didn’t mirror the stereotypes. I can say with complete assurance that I always felt supported by my “sisters” in a developmental time when doubts were more plentiful than self-confidence. I still credit my sorority experience to preparing me for the small talk required to be a grown-up (where else do you learn tricks on how to remember people’s names?) and the ability to participate in and run a meeting when I entered the workforce. But I also had a connection to the past, a history of women who attended college long before it was the norm who came together to support each other. None of those were reasons I joined Alpha Phi as a college freshman, but we often gain unexpected benefits in unplanned places.

And now a mother of four girls I’ve found myself wondering if sorority life is really what I want for them. I don’t know. I automatically default to those stereotypes of mean girls and college craziness that now makes me feel a full-blown prude and old. But I do know I want sisterhood for them. In friendships and in motherhood and in the workforce and in church. All places where I’ve found it.

What surprised me Sunday is the allegiance I felt to these college girls who certainly are living a different life than I. Who aren’t thinking about mortgage payments and retirement plans. Who Friday afternoon were likely thinking summer internships and returning home to a few months of mom and dad’s rules. I grieve that they now have to think about blood stained sidewalks and potential copycat aggressors.

I grieve because I’m in the sisterhood of motherhood, where I see every person now as someone’s child. I grieve because I’m in the sisterhood of Jesus following women who pray to the Prince of Peace.

And I grieve because I’m in the sisterhood of the ivy and lily of the valley, of Alpha Phi, and I stand Union Hand in Hand.

AOE dear sisters.


Summertime is different schedules. Different food. Different bedtimes. And for me it can also be different friends. I don’t dump my usual ladies and take a break for the summer, we just often miss each other because of the change in our routines. The moms I see in the playground or at MOPS aren’t at those meeting spots, and either am I! But I’m still mothering. Still praying. Still wondering. Still needing to talk things through
For six weeks this late spring/early summer (in)courage, a site all about encouraging women in their friendships and faith, is hosting over seventy (in)courager groups. These are private, on-line groups of up to thirty women that will delve into just as many topics as there are groups. I am co-leading the group on Raising Daughters with my friend Ashley Larkin. Want to join us? Or check out the group for military wives? Or one on moms working from home? Just click over here to explore ALL of the possibilities. Registration opens May 19, so today’s the day to look into it.
Our summertime life might look different from the outside, but our inside-heart need for friendship doesn’t take a break. Join me in making some new friends, in a safe and encouraging place over at (in)courage.

Summertime is different schedules. Different food. Different bedtimes. And for me it can also be different friends. I don’t dump my usual ladies and take a break for the summer, we just often miss each other because of the change in our routines. The moms I see in the playground or at MOPS aren’t at those meeting spots, and either am I! But I’m still mothering. Still praying. Still wondering. Still needing to talk things through

For six weeks this late spring/early summer (in)courage, a site all about encouraging women in their friendships and faith, is hosting over seventy (in)courager groups. These are private, on-line groups of up to thirty women that will delve into just as many topics as there are groups. I am co-leading the group on Raising Daughters with my friend Ashley Larkin. Want to join us? Or check out the group for military wives? Or one on moms working from home? Just click over here to explore ALL of the possibilities. Registration opens May 19, so today’s the day to look into it.

Our summertime life might look different from the outside, but our inside-heart need for friendship doesn’t take a break. Join me in making some new friends, in a safe and encouraging place over at (in)courage.