Step by Step

You have big dreams or big tasks or both. Either way it can be overwhelming. It's so easy to look at all that is involved and be exhausted.

But before you give up and sleep through life, let me remind you that throughout history people have done great things...
  • Indian Emperor Shah Jahan build the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved wife who died giving birth to their 14th child
  • Canadian Housewife Jennie Butchart supervised her vision of 55 impeccably landscaped acres come to life --  the Butchart Gardens
  • Parisian Engineer Gustave Eiffel designed the Eiffel Tower
  • Russian Novelist Leo Tolstory wrote War & Peace
  • American Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon
  • Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci scored seven perfect 10s in the 1976 Montreal summer Olympics
We all have big stuff to do and challenges to overcome. The same advice holds true for the baby learning to walk, the rehab patient, and everyone in between:

One Step at a Time

So begin today, with your goal in mind, and use your sticktuitiveness, your creativity, your courage, your mental fortitude and take the first step.

The way to complete the project, attain the dream, or finish the marathon is one step at a time.


Falling & Rising

It's easy to want to give up sometimes, to just stay down after you've tripped. Falling is embarrassing, scary, exhausting. Falling hurts.

But you get back up. It's easy to say and hard to do sometimes.

However this resonates for you today, know that you have the strength and courage to do it. We all fall down sometimes, but the bravest among us get back up and keep going.

Falling down isn't failing. It's not defeat and it's not the end. It's just a temporary set back.

Just get back up today. Once you're standing, you'll find the right way to keep going.

You have all the strength & courage you need for this!

Book Review: Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes

Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes (Sisterchicks Series #8)

When I was in my teens I loved Robin Jones Gunn's series' for young girls. I loved them so much that I packed them up in a box to save, just in case I someday had daughters. I now have two daughters, and my oldest, Hannah, who is seven, is already looking forward to reading "the books Mommy saved in case she had girls."

Having said that, I had never read any of Robin's Sisterchicks books, written for women.

Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes was my first choice. Tulips are my favorite flower and I am fascinated by all things European. Last year my family and I went to two tulip festivals, where I got a taste of Dutch things. I would love to visit Holland someday.

I read this book slowly, in and around other books, savoring my little virtual vacation to Holland. I loved Robin's descriptions of everything from sampling Gouda cheese and Dutch hot chocolate, to Pannenkoeken, Dutch pancakes.

While Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes was, on one hand, a light read that delights the senses, it also brought a depth that leaves the reader thoughtful.

The story, in a nutshell, is about two long-time pen pals, Summer and Noelle, who have never met. When Summer receives a scary test result, she takes a spontaneous trip to the Netherlands to spend a week with Noelle. The two visit museums and churches, Corrie ten Boom's house, enjoy restaurants and the beach, all the while learning new ways to view the world and God.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is going through a valley in their life or faith, or who values the gift of friendship.
*Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.


Never Alone

Please know you are never alone. No matter where you find yourself today and what obstacles you are facing, there is someone out there who understands. Surround yourself with the positive people in your life, and wean yourself from those who are toxic.

There will always be people who just don't get it, and don't know how to build others up.

You are not one of those people.

Remember to reach out, even when you feel alone -- especially when you feel alone. Focus on the positive and find ways to cope with the hardships.

You are a one-of-a-kind, and no matter what challenges you are facing, there are ways through and around and over. Ways to grow, ways to be a stronger person, ways to use your creativity to better your world.

Don't give up!


Guilt and the Chronically Ill Parent

From the age of three I longed to be a mother, and it never occurred to me that for reasons beyond my control that might prove difficult.

I have lived with chronic pain since before my oldest daughter was two years old. By the time she blew out five candles, I'd been to the Operating Room five times.

Throughout my life, despite a loving, stable family and good upbringing, I have encountered health challenge after health challenge. Just as I had prior to motherhood, I fought to rise above and not let my health overcome the person I wanted to be and the life I dreamed possible.

I searched for treatments that would fix the problems and continued to fight to overcome, or at least diminish, the pain so I could be the best mother I could be, not offer my daughters only a portion of my attention, love and energy.

Sometimes it feels that as soon as I rise above one problem, another surfaces. When my oldest was six and my youngest three, I was diagnosed with a disease that had also attacked my father when I was a child, Ankylosing Spondylitis.

As difficult as it is to be elderly and stiff, in pain, and have trouble getting around, imagine those problems when you are 30, with a job, a household, and small children. Arthritis, unfortunately, does not only effect the old. Diseases like Ankylosing Spondylitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis typically strike between the ages of 15 and 50.

And so it is that I am raising my young daughters in constant pain with a body that operates like it's 80.

Determined not to feel guilt over the worry and strain my disease places on our young marriage and family, I become very clear on exactly what I want my daughters to remember, on the childhood memories I want them to have, and most of all, the mother I want to be, and then I work twice as hard and resolutely to be that mother, to create those memories, and to make the love I give so strong and the legacy I leave so rich that it overshadows the pain and the slower pace with which we must live life.

Guilt is easy to feel when you are a parent and even more so when you are a parent with chronic pain, but I will continue to do what I do best: love my girls. True love defeats fear, defeats guilt, and will defeat chronic illness. I will be a good mother because I will make it my biggest priority to love well.


Finding the Balance with Chronic Disease

It can get discouraging -- the spectrum of pain and ability (or dis-ability) my health can span in a single day. Yesterday, despite raging back pain, I was able to dress nicely and go to church, chat with friends and draw encouragement from church members who took the time to thank me for my writing and even a family friend / deacon who always notices when I make it to church, and as he is aware of the challenges of my disease, will say to me affirmingly, "Nice to see you vertical!"

It is truly amazing sometimes, the amount of pain I can be in and still appear "normal." Ankylosing Spondylitis, especially if the patient does not use a walker, cane, or wheelchair to get around, and is not yet fused into a curved, stooped position, is truly an invisible illness. I look normal, but inside inflammation rages through my spine and joints and I experience the pain others can't see.

One normal day for others is like a marathon for me. I am so tired and being out and about tires me with systematic efficiency -- draining me of energy and pumping up my pain levels. Something as routine and simple for most people as grocery shopping, can leave me too exhausted to speak, feverish, and in severe pain.

It's really frustrating that people can't understand. It's awful to think that people around me may think I am making this up, faking it, or that my pain is really just some mild aching.

Pre-diagnosis, I enjoyed an outdoor walking routine. Never one to enjoy exercise or athletics, I discovered walking offered many positive benefits: increased energy, decreased stress and anxiety, improved posture. I loved my "artful walks" -- enjoying the skyline, backdrop of pastel sunsets to black tree silhouettes, music in my ears thanks to my MP3 player, fresh air, and the scent of laundry detergent from neighbors doing their laundry. Sometimes I paused to capture one of these images with a camera, or to jot down a snippet of a sentence in a notebook. Inspiration was all around.

I became unable to continue my walks about a year ago -- three months before I was diagnosed. The walks caused a spike in the pain and limping, and elevated my low-grade fevers.

This week I determined to try again. According to Arthritis Today magazine, walking is an excellent form of exercise for arthritis. Walking lubricates the joints, releases pain-fighting chemicals... It sounded great to me.

The first day I walked 1.5 miles, divided into two walks.

It was wonderful! I was back to my old routine. The beautiful afternoon or pre-sunset skies, the fresh air, the drifting laundry scent hovering in my neighborhood right along with a very real sense of hope. I was strong, I would prevail, and I would show Ankylosing Spondylitis who was in control!

The next day I went out again for another 0.75 miles. Not that far. The walk increased my spinal pain, and by the end I had knee and hip soreness. Oh well, I mused, I was strong and I would walk through it and soon I would be better.

By the end of the next day I could barely gimp through my tiny house, my hip on fire with inflammation, the ligaments and muscles that support the joint feeling pulled and bruised.

My spirits and hope sank.

What if I wouldn't be able to reclaim my walks? What if walking for exercise aggravated my hip joints to the point that it claimed the ability to walk even the small bits I need to maintain my life? I just don't know what the future holds for me with this disease. I don't know if I may be one who needs to have hip replacement surgery, or ends up in a wheelchair.

I'm 32 years old. I'm not prepared to choose a cane or use a wheelchair for trips to the zoo or the mall.

It's a very isolating sense of worry; a very isolating pain. I thank everyone in my life who takes me at my word when I say I am exhausted or in severe pain, even when I "look normal" and am smiling.

So while I take a day or two off from my walking and turn to research to try to find the answers to my questions, I cast out the proverbial net and pull in my thrashing, fighting hope, and know that tomorrow may be better than today.

I will keep fighting to find the balance.


Muffin Theology

Natalie & I were making muffins today. I was giving her little jobs to do, as she likes to help. She put the paper liners in the tin, then asked if she could stir the batter. As I added in the ingredients, she stirred, careful not to slosh the mixture over the edges of the bowl. "If I do a really good job, Mama, do you think you will give me more things to do?"

Oh Precious Girl.... This is what I want my heart's cry to be too: "If I do a really good job, Father God, will you give me more things to do?"

If I use my small amounts of faith and patience, will You give me more?

If I give my time and talents, will You give me more?

If I do a really good job loving those You've placed in my life, will You give me more love?

You know what is great? Not only does He tell us that when we are faithful in small things, He will give us more, He also says even when I do not do a good job, even when I go and mess things up badly, He always has more love and more grace to give.


Only Dad

"Only Dad's allowed in. He's my helper," Natalie (4) explains, guarding her blockaded bedroom door. She plots and schemes and dreams, and she wants her dad to always be included, and I inhale inspiration. This is how I should be too.

Later, Daddy leaves a note for the girls on their art easel, and this inspires me too, because I know God gives us signs that He loves us. I've seen them before and I'll see them again, and I want to always remember to look.


At the Feet of the King

Arthritis creeps into my feet and for a long week and counting they hurt incessantly. Trying to keep up with active little girls and domestic chores requires a lot of time on one's feet, and my feet aren't up to the challenge.

I try anyway -- to walk the good walk, fight the good fight, smile through the pain, and remember every moment how very blessed I am.

Because, you see, I have feet. Some people don't. I have medicine. Some people don't. I have a wonderful husband, and some mothers with chronic conditions do not.

At the end of a long week, after a grocery shopping excursion that leaves my feet feeling like they're on fire, I sit in a chair and put them up, because I just can't walk anymore.

My husband makes dinner, bathes our 4 year-old, and because he's not already busy enough, serves me strawberry lemonade.

After I hug them goodnight from my chair, our little girls in footed pajamas are tucked into their beds, kissed, and prayed over.

Jonathan returns and says, "Hey, don't you have a little inflatable foot soaking tub?"

Ten minutes later, he has arranged my chair, crafted a platform out of a Rubbermaid storage bin, draped a towel across the platform, and filled my (now inflated) foot tub with warm water and lavender scented Epsom salts.

My feet slip into warm water and when they emerge, the pain is all but gone.


Jesus once did something similar. He filled bins and knelt to wash His followers feet, and I bet that when their  feet emerged from the water; when their eyes met His eyes of love and grace, their pain (both of the flesh and the heart) was gone.

In this life, I may not win the chronic pain battle. People we love will die. But I think often of the day when I will look up and meet His eyes, and my pain (physical and emotional) will be gone. In that Holy presence, all peace, all hope, all love, all grace, all things good will soak through to the heart of His children and I can't even imagine what that will feel like.

I will sit at the feet of the King, and I can't wait for that day!

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; their shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things are passed away."
{Revelation 21:4}


The Story of Live Art.fully

The year I turned 30, between two trials in my life, I adopted a way of looking at the world. It is a perspective, if you will, that is much more than two words can contain. I dubbed it Live Art.fully.

To Live Art.fully, bare bones, is to live fully, using art. But how do you live fully? And what if you're not an artist? Then what?

I spent most of my life convincing myself I was not an artist. I was creative, yes. I was a writer, or at least wanted to be. I doodled, wrote poetry, and scribbled endlessly in spiral bound books. I read voraciously. I loved hearing people's stories and at times, liked to tell my own, especially through the medium of writing. I loved drama & acting. I dabbled in music, learning three musical instruments and singing, but mastering none. I liked taking pictures. Through school, personal, and professional endeavors, I learned elements of design, layout, formatting, writing, editing, and publishing.

But I was not, absolutely not, an artist.

What I have learned is that what I do, all those outlets of creativity, is art. My life is an artful life.

Everyone faces obstacles in their lives, some more than others, and everyone has their own tragedies. I am not exempt from that, and have experienced many things in my life that were painful. You have read about some of them in previous posts.

What I learned, and still learn nearly daily, is that growth is a choice. We can take these hard things and let them help us grow. It's not easy. It's not pain-free. It's very difficult sometimes. But I can use my...






writing & art

...to heal, to grow, to process, to learn, to truly live an artful, authentic life.

If and when I fall, I get up. And so do you.

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