These Moments

When my kids make my heart leap and their laughter fills my soul and I suddenly realize I am so incredibly blessed.


When my husband has a hard day and God gives me peace and shows me how to pray.


When I look in the mirror and am satisfied with who I see, instead of wishing she were something or someone else.


When a relationship starts taking a turn for the better.


When I wake up feeling rested instead of tireder than when I went to bed.


When the house is tidy, but not perfect.


When I let go of the pressure to do, and just allow myself to be.


These are the moments I choose remember…

…when my kids are bickering and arguing.

…when the urge to defend my husband rises.

…when the mirror tells me I’m not enough or I’m too much.

…when a relationship takes two steps backwards.

…when I sleep poorly and am irritable all day long.

…when the house is perpetually a mess and no one is picking up after themselves.

…when all I do is do, and it never feels like enough.

These moments are what I cling to when life shows up and tries to persuade me otherwise.

These moments are the ones that define, shape, mold and transform.

These moments — these God-breathed, peace-giving moments — remind me of Who has everything in the palm of His hand.

“Just as the mountains around Jerusalem embrace her, the Eternal, too, wraps around those who belong to Him— for this moment and for every moment to come.” (Psalm 125:2, The Voice)



Mama & son in field

The kids are tucked in bed dreaming their Lego-and-lollipop-filled dreams and I go downstairs and flop into My Chair and exhale loudly with all my limbs splayed out as far as they can reach. It takes me a few minutes to gather the energy to get My Fuzzy Blanket and wrap it all the way up to my chin, and as soon as I do, it starts:

The rehashing of the day’s activities and the replaying of the hustle and the bustle and my quick transformation into snappy mom and order-barking-mom and the focus on getting things done and the checking of the lists…twice even. And again like clockwork I start beating myself up for being That Mom and try to reassure myself that the script change starts tomorrow.

It’s always tomorrow. The sun and Fun Mom and Dedicated Writer and Consistent Worker-Outer — they will all come out tomorrow. Right?

And then I fall asleep and when I wake up and I forget all about the new script because I have the old one down pat, man. Down. Pat. I don’t need cue cards or a teleprompter or anyone off to the side feeding me my lines. And the scenes unfold exactly as the script dictates they would and the next thing I know, I’m splayed out with limbs askew and I remember that doggone it, today was supposed to be the day.

My husband and I have been talking lately about me having the courage to be who I am and letting go of what I think others expect of me. I’ve been trying to be a great cook even though I hate cooking and meal planning. I’ve been trying to be Holly Homemaker but in all honesty consider it’s a good day if just the countertops are clean. And while eating and cleanliness are important (some would say vital), I’m realizing that putting a meal on the table and trying to be the next Giada are two totally different things. And I’m learning it takes more out of me to try to be amazing at the things I’m naturally bad at, than it does to pour energy into the things I’m naturally good at.

I spent the majority of last year ignoring the things that make me me, and instead poured myself into the things that are the antithesis of me because I’ve been too fearful to fully embrace me. I’m scared of success and I’m scared of failure and I get too easily overwhelmed by the big picture — so instead of starting small I just don’t start at all. And when I do that, everyone suffers — my kids suffer and my husband suffers and my calling suffers and everyone and every thing around me suffers.

And I think that makes God suffer, too.

So this year has turned into tomorrow and now the script is changing because if the script doesn’t change then the show gets cancelled. And the changes started last week and it was so hard to read the new script. The paper was different and type was small and I think it was written in Farsi and it was so very hard. The words were foreign on my tongue and I felt like an inexperienced hack — but I read them anyway.

And I acted my heart out.

On Monday after school, instead of demanding that bags be unpacked and homework started immediately, I scooped my kids onto my bed and we started playing. We had a pillow fight and they pretended they were sumo wrestlers and thank goodness Jaana remembered to make a pillow boundary around the edges so Paxton didn’t fall off. They played Rock the Boat and Bicycle and we laughed and giggled and watching the two of them enjoying the moment reminded me again and again that there’s so much I miss when I’m That Mom. That night as I tucked Jaana into bed she told God in her prayers, “Thanks for the fun we had with Mommy today.”

I don’t ever remember her saying a prayer of gratitude that I made her do homework the minute we got home from school.

As soon as we walked through the door on Tuesday afternoon, the kids yelled, “race you to Mommy’s bed!” and off we went to play and pillow fight and laugh together. On Friday we played Headbandz and Guess Who? and Twister and watching Paxton trying to put left foot on green while right foot was on red is something I will carry deep in my heart forever and ever amen.

The next morning as I was still sleeping, Jaana snuck in and put breakfast by the bed with a precious note that said, “Dear Mommy, you are such a great mom! You’re a good writer. This is a gift for everything you do. Love, Jaana”

That note is my very own Academy Award.

Working off a new script meant some things just didn’t get gone. Our meals were Anything But Gourmet. The house was Just Kinda Sorta Clean. I only vacuumed once and forgot about that load of laundry in the washing machine.

But the new script brought a lot of peace. I wrote some. I ran even more. We ate and didn’t go hungry. I enjoyed my kids and my days and I enjoyed my week. I looked ahead at next week’s scripts. I felt more fulfilled and more satisfied and inherently more me.

And I think that’s what it’s supposed to be like — this journey as parents and this journey as Christ-followers and just this journey as sojourners. I adore the Amplified version of John 10:10, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” Not just have life for the sake of living, but to enjoy life. Not just have it in abundance, but until it overflows.

Life that is to the full and overflows isn’t a life of tasks and to-do’s and days spent with doing. It’s life full of relationship and being and I truly believe that includes being with my kids and enjoying my life with them. Life that is enjoyed is life spent being who God created me to be. Being a wife and being a mom and being a writer and being a runner.


Click to grab this

And the overflow of that Wife/Mom/Writer/Runner Being pours into meals that are mediocre and a house that needs to be dusted again. It fills the holes and turns the just-okay into more-than-okay. Because that’s how things work in God’s economy. When that script is weird and uncomfortable, that usually means God wrote it. (<= tweet that)

So as I sit here full and content and satisfied, I rehearse next week’s script and allow those foreign words to roll around on my tongue so when it’s time to say my lines they aren’t as awkward:

  • Take the kids to the park and leave my phone in the car
  • Give grace to Jaana and not insist her room stay clean because after all, she’s a pretty amazing kid in a million other ways
  • Go outside with the kids and play

And lastly,

  • Just BE.


Fan of Prayer?

I’m honored to participate in our pastor’s current sermon series, “#1 Fan?” as a guest writer. Here is the fifth installment:


It had come as a shock. She simply placed her hand on my arm and with sympathy in her eyes and her voice barely above a whisper she said, “I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.”

I choked back a sob and then tears silently streamed down my face and I spent days in depression. At church one Sunday during worship, I was singing without really worshiping because I knew if I really got into it even for a second, the tears wouldn’t stop. So I stood singing at a whisper begging my eyes to stay dry. And I heard in my Spirit

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)

And I choked back a sob and then tears silently streamed down my face but I suddenly felt peace. And when depression and despair threatened to overtake me again, I used my sword and repeated back out loud

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

I prayed it over and over and over until my heart caught up to my head.

Months later I had another shock. This time it was another woman but the words were the same, “I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat.”

I didn’t cry immediately this time but hen the tears did come, the were followed by anger, not sadness. And one day I decided it was time for God and I to have it out. And I sat at the coffee shop with my hat low and my Bible open and forced myself to read even though I didn’t want to. And as I poured out my heart in my journal and absorbed these words from Job, God once again brought peace.

“From out of a storm, the Lord said to Job: Why do you talk so much when you know so little? Now get ready to face me! Can you answer the questions I ask? How did I lay the foundation for the earth? Were you there? Doubtless you know…” (Job 38:2-6)

And when anger and frustration threatened to overtake me again, I used my sword and repeated back out loud

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Why do you talk so much when you know so little? Doubtless you know…

I prayed it over and over until my heart caught up to my head.

Months later yet again, the shock was in seeing an incredibly strong and vital heartbeat. The words this time were “Congratulations! Everything looks great!”

And I choked back a sob and tears silently streamed down my face and I was thrilled and scared all at the same time. And from that day forward, the most difficult part of the pregnancy was mental as fear tempted to overtake me at every turn. Each appointment, each ultrasound and each night I feared the worst. And when my thoughts plagued me, I had to conjure up all the scripture I could and pray over and over. I fell asleep countless nights praying Psalm 139:13-15

You are creating his inward parts and are knitting him together in my womb. I praise you — regardless of how you make him, he’s made by you — fearfully and wonderfully. His frame is not hidden from you. You are weaving together the fabric of his being intricately in the secret place. I choose to believe this and I choose to believe you…I choose to believe…I choose to believe.

It wasn’t until Paxton was born and safely in my arms that I could rest that he was okay. And I held him and poured over him and thanked God continually for giving and not taking away this time.

Praying scripture during this season didn’t answer questions I had of God. I still don’t know why God allowed me to get pregnant twice if it was going to end in miscarriage. I don’t know why Paxton came perfectly healthy and beautifully into the world. But what praying scripture did do was make it okay for me not to know. The more scripture I read and the more I prayed, the more it didn’t matter why things happened the way they did. It gave me permission to trust blindly. It gave me permission to feel sadness and depression and anger and fear, but showed me I don’t have to remain stuck in those dark places.

There was power in those dark places. But I had to reach up and out to get to it.

“Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how!” (Ephesians 6:18, The Voice)

Five Minute Friday #21 – JOIN

I link up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays, where writing solely for the fun of it is the priority: “On Fridays over here a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes. Unscripted. Unedited. Real. Your words. This shared feast.”

Today’s topic: JOIN


The pool was still icy cold, but I bounded down the steps and in anyway. The minute my breath was sucked away by the cold she quickly laid out the plan. Her name is Angelina and she’s a mermaid I find at the beach. She’s a young girl and I’m a young girl and my name is Pen and we become friends but my parents don’t want me to be friends with a mermaid. She gives me an orange sparkly pretend fin to wear that lets me swim like her and has the magical powers that also let me breathe underwater. We swim and we pretend and then Angelina’s family moves her to another ocean in Hawaii and she wants Pen to come visit someday but it’s too far and too much money to go.

We play and we pretend and we play some more and one day we have a snack bar in the neighborhood.

The tractor was covered in dew from the morning which made all the dirt extra dirty which he loved. He climbed up and climbed in and climbed around it telling me where to go and what to do and where to sit. He decided he had to do work on the tractor so he pretended to fix a headlight and wipe it down and I still had to just sit in the front seat because that’s what he told me to do. Then a dump truck drove by and he was covered in dirt and I had on white pants, but I knew it would make his entire day to watch the truck dump out the old asphalt. So I sat him on my lap and got dirt all over my white pants and we watched as God gave him the coolest bulldozer and dump truck show an almost three-year old could want.

We play and we pretend and we play some more and another day we have a neighborhood car wash.

This parenting thing is so much harder and easier and enjoyable than anyone can tell you to expect. The disciplining is hard and the intentionality of molding is hard and the character-building is hard. But the reward of all the hard is the joining in we have the privilege to experience with them. It’s a gift to be invited into their play and be an equal participant and yet sometimes I forget that. And as I watch my girl grow up and develop her own website and become a full-fledged tween, I realize if I don’t join in now she’ll never ask me to join in later. And if I don’t get dirty with him now he’ll get dirty with someone else later. So everything else stops and has to wait because right here, right now, I’m joining in and cashing in on the rewards I’ve earned so far. And it’s worth every bit of it.


The Mothers of All Battles

The leave of absence was granted with full enthusiasm, both by the colonel and me, the Good Soldier. I needed not only time away from the battle, but time to regain strength to carry on.

I returned to duty expecting not to get completely exasperated the first day. After all, isn’t a Good Soldier trained to endure? To not be swayed under pressure?

Yet immediately, the grenades were thrown: “MOM! Paxton threw a ball and it hit me in the eye!!”

And the mines erupted beneath every footstep: “MOOOOOMMMMMYYYYYYYY! Sissa won’t let me watch a show!!!”

I had stolen a few minutes to talk on the phone to a friend, and she had the privilege of hearing me respond to each with typical soldier rhetoric: “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTT?!!”

My friend, a fellow Good Soldier, quickly realized I needed to engage in battle and hung up the phone. And I proceeded to break all the rules of battle — I didn’t assess the situation or stealthily sneak an attack. No, instead I pounded through the kitchen and up the stairs as loud and as fast as I could, guns a-blazing, so as to instill a holy fear in them before I arrived.

Hark! The Mother of All the Battles approaches.

There are days I pound up the steps like an attack on Normandy, and other days I’m willing to exit my house with hands clasped behind my head in full surrender…waving a juice-stained white flag.

I sometimes think we’d all be better off — this whole bunker — if I hired a Ghost Mother. Someone to come in and take over the duties, writing the story of my kids’ childhood for me, while I still get the byline and the credit. And if that’s not possible, maybe I could just find a foxhole to climb into until an ally comes to fight for me, so I can walk out without scars and wounds.

In the words of Combeferre,

Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Somewhere beyond the barricade of potty-training and pre-tween-ness is a world where I’m not losing both the battles and the war.

Wars are neither fought nor won alone. Each side has thousands of fellow Good Soldiers, all focused on the same vision. Soldiers who immediately jump in to rescue when a sister is down. Or down and out.

I need partners in this War of the Kids’ Worlds. Women who will be strong and stand with me. Women who don’t offer yet another battle strategy or tactic, or compare how much worse their battles are than mine, or (God forbid) judge me silently — but women who will link arms with me and help cover my back with prayer. Women who won’t leave me to hide in my foxhole, but will simply say, “Chin up, soldier. ‘No Woman Left Behind’ is our motto.”

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” (Proverbs 17:7, NLT)

Women who encourage me to remember I get to start over tomorrow.

I need this woman, and yet I don’t think I am this woman. I fear I’ve neglected the motto and get too focused on only me and my bunker…oblivious to all the battles raging around me and the other Good Soldiers’ cries for help.

“But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Thess 5:8, NIV)

This thing we do — this Motherhood Warfare — can’t be won with just artillery or might. It isn’t a just battle of brawn. It can’t be. It has to be a battle that engages our spirits, minds, souls and bodies. Because we, almost like Jesus, pour out every bloody ounce of ourselves in desperation that our children be saved. Saved spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. A pleading escapes our souls that their lives would exceed our own. That they would become Great Soldiers one day, not just good ones.

This long-term war can only be endured in communion with God the Father.  A daily pre-dawn intake of Bread and Water, so that after the sun rises and the battle is underway, we won’t faint with fear, anxiety and worry. So that we’ll stay sharp, focused and be able to strategize with intention and purpose.

And it can only be endured in communion with each other — where we share the Bread and share the Cup and remind each other that this parenting thing we do is in remembrance of Him. In remembrance of The One who poured all of Himself out for His children.

I promise to stand with you, praying and cheering and rescuing you from the foxhole when you need it. I promise to enter into communion with you, helping you remember you get to start over tomorrow. Will you join me in my crusade? Will you be strong and stand with me, too?

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT)

 A triple-braided cord — you, me and Jesus. Now get out there and do this thing.