A quick, post-vacation note…

Hey there! It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? I had intentions to post while on vacation with my family last week, but we were so busy seeing and being together that I just decided to let it wait until we got home. But, I have so many things to tell you about, so many ideas just waiting to be explored in the coming weeks.

Please stay-tuned. New T-shirt ideas, connections to our recent vacation and of course, some new thoughts and images of dear Mr. Rogers.

Thank you so much for reading and staying connected. I’ve missed writing and am so looking forward to putting some more words to “paper,” this week.

Be kind to yourselves, curious and cultivating your both/and. It’s even more necessary in the world than we ever knew. God is good.

Here is a sneak peak!

One of my new favorite images.



Jeremiah 29:11

“Thank you for giving me my life.”

When I met her, I noticed first that she had a brand-new beautiful baby. She expertly carried the car seat on one arm and I was jealous of how at ease she was. Our eyes met, across a couple rows at church and I rose to introduce myself. That Sunday and many following, I couldn’t NOT smile, every time I saw her. Her personality with effervescent, a smile that traversed her whole face. I was newly married, and I have no doubt that seeing how she cared for her baby fed my hopes of having babies in the future. She was capable and confident and even before I knew her, thought she was badass.

Our paths crossed again, on and off again and over a number of years, we became acquaintances. It was a few years later still, that I found myself again smiling, as I listened to her voice on my work phone. I said a quick prayer, acutely aware that God had known that I would have the opportunity to provide support many years later, through counseling.

She is a warrior, this one who has battled through many types of trauma, violation and loss. Her story is not mine to tell, other than, she is one who has taught me so much about the courage it requires to deep dive into your own heart, insecurities and fears, in order to create a healthier present and future. She is stronger than she ever imagined she was and continues to inspire those around her. One of my greatest honors was the moment she hugged me and whispered in my ear, “Thank you for giving me my life.” I tried to tell her that she had given herself every bit of her own life back, but was so moved that I couldn’t speak around the lump in my throat….

She would tell me later, with tears in her eyes often she couldn’t believe that people saw her that way and how she was, in reality, crumbling at that very moment at church. She told me how much “I didn’t like you some days of counseling and was so annoyed with the way you asked questions about things I didn’t want to think about.” She explained how there were days she wanted to yell or even quit, but if she had when things got tough, “I wouldn’t be where I am now.” She asked me to say, on her behalf, “that everyone needs a therapist, and that it is worth all the hard days.”

At another point in my life, I sat with a student whose sibling had died by suicide. Even weeks later, the shock was etched deeply in this student’s youthful face. It was nearly impossible for the student to put more than about 10 words together, instead, shaking their head over and over while whispering, “I just don’t know.” This was one of those unforgettable situations when I learned the difficulty and the beauty of just sitting in the silence when there are not necessarily words that can be said. It is an extremely hard thing, to sit next to someone when they need silence and intentionally avoid filling that holy space with unnecessary words because of our OWN discomfort. I still learn the art of this every day and occasionally feel like I do ok….

Still another, who was both so feisty and also badass, and tender and wounded underneath her carefully crafted tough exterior. She became a mom while still a teen, was bound and determined not to be defined by her age. She was prone to react to anyone who looked or spoke to her negatively, most times reverting to her native language in the heat of what she was trying to convey. My job was to help calm and teach healthy communication. But, true confession? I secretly loved when she switched between the language she had started with and the language she was learning. Beautiful.

 I loved her fire, her laugh and the way she was loyal with every inch of her being, once you had earned her trust, though she did not just hand that out. She and one of her best friends were two of my favorite students that I got to spend time with. When her boyfriend died due to heartbreaking circumstances, I received that middle of the night phone call. I felt capable of so little, but those raw, painful, shocked days allowed some really beautiful conversation. That heartbreak gave me the opportunity to try to show up as I imagined Jesus would. I wanted so badly to take away the gruesome images and even worse pain.

 As I am in the midst of this 28-year career, I am continually amazed, STILL, at the journeys I am privileged to witness and walk beside. There are so many I could tell you about: the ones that I will never know how their lives played out, others I will never stop praying for and still others who have passed away. There are still others beyond that who I get to witness in awe, find their lives again or maybe for the first time.

It is an incredible thing to sit across from someone and support, walk beside and encourage as they plod and weep some weeks, many days want to roll their eyes or even swear at me, grow in awareness and self-worth during other sessions.  It is, hour after hour, of finding the beauty and bravery, acknowledging the whole gamut of human emotion and experiences, the joy of being given the best seat in the house as God reveals his truth to those he dearly loves. Throughout the process of holding others and helping them honor some of their deepest pain, people often share with me, “this is the truest to myself I’ve ever felt.” The thin veil of both/and is a great example of nuance.

Nuance, defined by the Oxford Languages: a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound. I love the learning process of discovering our own nuances, the nuances around us in the world, in our work and how we learn to care. I am fascinated when I can further understand the nuances of the Bible. I hope to learn as much as I can this side of Eden.

I love the depth of Hebrew translation. During a recent conversation with my friend and Pastor, Ross, he explained the Hebrew word, “nephesh.” It literally means “throat” and “as far as human beings are concerned, the Hebrew understanding of the word is, “the entire person, body and soul; It is not the human being has a soul, rather a human being is a soul.” Another part of the definition says, “soul as the seat and support of feelings and sensations.” This particular conversation felt like finally having a word for the fullness of life, the deep resonating sigh and the thought, yes, that is EXACTLY how I feel: that my whole being, belongs to the Lord God; that what I feel, I feel with my whole being because that’s what he intends for me.

For me, to begin understanding nephesh, is to understand love more fully and completely. Always, the tremendous and extravagant love of my Creator that changes and teaches me, guiding my entire being (my nephesh) to love and want more of him. The love of family, friends, the specific gifts we are given, that it how I know how to give and receive love, throughout my whole being.

It is my heart (and nephesh) that is so right, and whole in my calling these days and difficult spaces with clients, bravely facing difficult and complex trauma. It is the richest, holiest work. I get to talk with teens and parents who are entering the weird and wholly world of all things, college. Which one? Where? When? How do I pay for it? The biggest question I get asked and with a lot of frequency is this: “What if I don’t know what I want to do (for the rest of my life?) My answer is typically something like, “that feels like a lot of pressure right now, huh?” Then I usually let them in on a secret: ”you’re not supposed to know yet. It will come, that answer. It WILL show itself. Your job is to get familiar with that voice (some say conscience, some say intuition, still others call it the Holy Spirit) inside you that helps you just figure out the next few steps. Just one, then another. One at a time.”

Nephesh is also, the real-life blessings, both simple (the perfect tea cup, Earl Grey Steep Tea), a good laugh with the kids and the complex emotions: acknowledging that deep fear that flutters in my stomach multiple time a day with the idea of our oldest daughter and senior year. It is the fullness of relationship, a piece of my Mama’s peach/blueberry pie, straight out of the oven. It is the full-body worship of Never Lost, (look for this reference in the previous blog post)and the pure joy of our pups. For me, all of these are gifts from God, an outpouring of his rich, deep love because he is the one who knows me completely, my nephesh.

It is gazing at a one-in-a-trillion, orange, pink and yellow sunset and the surf of Lake Michigan, riding next to the beautiful horses when we bike to Windmill and waiting for them to approach me; their velvet noses, rippling muscles and eyes as deep as inky night skies, evoking deep gratitude for God’s every created thing. My soul leaps, feeling the fully-alive presence of Jesus in hymns new and old; riding in the car with my love, talking about everything and anything, noticing rolling hills and dreamy houses. It is praying hope over the future, watching our kids thrive, grow and learn (even the hard lessons.) It is relishing good food, (ice cream!) laughter, writing and building relationships. It is the safety of authentic lament and the joy of worship.

My soul, my whole soul craves the words, the peace that ONLY comes for me as I quiet down, remember the words, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17.

My soul is full. My being, my life, in the most joyful, peaceful AND the heartbreaking moments, is STILL full.

My soul, my entire being, is what God says it is – strong, brave, broken, sinful, Sprit-filled and not yet all that God says it will be.  My soul IS the now and not yet, all because I have Jesus.

My soul aches, yearns for healing, peace and comfort as I do the work I do, or in the midst of friends struggles, or even my kid’s pain that is anticipated, but so difficult in their teenage years. The tears that come in the throes of beloved friends’ divorce, a loved one grappling with a difficult diagnosis, or the unanswered whys; even these…are part of my nephesh. As much as I long for healing, reconciliation, or ease in dealing with unthinkable pain, the belief that He created each of us with the entirety of our whole being and that he will redeem every part of our nephesh is the most important belief I have.

It is all nephesh, to me. God-breathed, God adored, you. He is cultivating, working and loving you through all the hard parts, the parts that take you away from who you truly are.

Another of my favorite verses, ” For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17

I cling to the very thought of HIM, being IN ALL THINGS, FOR ALL THINGS AND HOLDING IT ALL TOGETHER: our nephesh. How we care for each other, how we love (each other and ourselves,) how we stand up for each other, how we worship and how we enjoy every GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT.

May we not be afraid to live into the very way we were created, without fear, being true to our nephesh. May we notice everything from the beautiful, complex, simple and tragic with the emotions they all deserve and may we experience God himself in everything. May we trust him even when it feels impossible….

Lake Michigan shore line
Beautiful, beautiful scenery and magnificent gentle giant.
Appreciating creativity!

Pure JOY!


Colossians 1:17

Who are you, great mountain…that you should not bow low?

I climbed the steep, wooden stairs, trying hard not to think about slowing down those behind me. I looked at the worn wood stairs, instructing my steps one at a time: step up, then again, then again. Some of the planks of wood were worn in spots to the point of seeing the path so many have used over so many years. As my nerves mis-fired, causing my muscles to tense further as I climbed those stairs up to the sanctuary I have seen many times on-line, but never in person, my toe caught on the second-to-last step and I stumbled.

My love was my oak, balanced and steadfast, did not let me fall. And though my face flamed at the thought, he smiled, reassuring me while he also held tight to my hand. We walked through the arched doorway and entered the sanctuary along with our beautiful daughter. My heart opened and I felt the presence of Jesus in the most tangible way…

Before I go further, I need to lift the curtain on the last few weeks….(actually, the last few years).

I wrote my last post on “lament,” a direct result of my own experiences in these last week, wanting to normalize the ache of lament and longing of so many others for peace and so often, at the mercy of an unanswerable “WHY.”

There is even lament this coming season of fall; so many both/ands: the lazy, easy days of summer swapping to the busy, schedule-heavy days of fall, school and sports seasons, the fullness of friendships and the aching desire to ease burdens related to health, crumbling relationships, caregiver fatigue and dessert-size void of grief.

Change, for the great majority of people is something to fear, in and of itself.

Our family is not immune. While I teach and assist with healthy coping, I also get to practice these myself. Did you see that, “I get to?” It is so hard to alter “I have to_____” with “I get to….” in an effort to remind ourselves that all things are a gift and that I do, TRULY GET TO: I get to walk up those stairs, where so many have walked, wanting, trying, pleading to meet God in that beautiful sanctuary. I get to walk at all, a gift not lost on me as I see another CP warrior in the sanctuary, moving in an electric wheelchair. I get to pray for dear friends, fighting infertility, another fighting for their very life in a long-suffering battle with depression. And I got to meet a dear friend who though we’d never met in person, has been the pastor, wisdom-giver and teacher for our family, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For many of us, our relationship with attending and being a part of church communities became much more complicated in the last 5-10 years. While this is not a political post or even a judgement on “church,” the reality in my work and personal life could not be closer to the truth. Between the challenges of church attendance, financial issues and the ever-present fractures in relationships in the last decade for sure (if not before), our sense of safety and community even with church attendance has certainly become more tenuous.

About a year to the day before the world changed with the pandemic, our family faced a “crisis” of our own related to the church we called “home” for nearly 22 years, for many reasons. It was the church I was a part of since its’ planting, where I became an adult who loves her Savior, rather than a child of my parents who met, accepted and loved Jesus through their beliefs. They laid a rock-solid foundation of community, faith and love for the Lord Jesus. (They still meet with the same small-group of people, after nearly 40 years-absolutely incredible to me!) In my young adulthood, this was the church that gave me community, support and where I met my gift of a husband. It was the pastors here who assisted with the baptisms of our babies, and they were who we called in the happiest and hardest times of our lives.

But as time went on, the landscape changed and about a year before that mind-bending and life-altering pandemic, our church became unrecognizable to us and it seemed overnight, we knew it was no longer the right place for our family. To say that was a grief for me does not fully encompass the loss or the difficulty in finding our next church home. “Church shopping” is one of the biggest, most complex and emotional difficulties I personally and professionally have discussed with so many clients.

A dear friend and pastor told me about “a pastor on Instagram who is doing something on the Psalms, you should check it out.” This was just weeks before the pandemic, when we had begun to put roots down in another local church, but for some reason, I was dragging my feet in authentically investing. I did not look up the Instagram account immediately, even though I have ALWAYS loved Psalms. I was busy with a career, kids, marriage, and so many other parts of life.

Suddenly the pandemic was upon us and the entire world flipped upside down and seemed to zip up in an instant.

We were all a breathless as our way of life shifted in many ways, in mere hours. I was thankful for our kids youth pastor who was diligent about staying connected with students, but our church itself was unable to provide anything in the way of connection, support or even presence. While I felt completely unmoored, I remembered my friend John telling me about Pastor Steve Carter and the evening Psalms. From the first, “Good evening and welcome to the evening Psalms,” I felt the presence of Jesus as I had not ever before. Steve’s words were like the best glass of water, when I hadn’t realized I was even thirsty.

Steve began doing “social media live” videos almost every day, sharing his heart, wisdom, love for words and most importantly, sharing the love and relationship with Jesus Christ. His authentic, non-judgmental and humble presence was a new experience to me. He simply shared with such an authenticity and joy that I drank up those posts with a new desire to know Jesus better. It became my nightly ritual to savor those posts, listening and journaling at the end of my day and chewing on a phrase, verse or new perspective. I would text or call my husband and excitedly share with him new ways I understood the Bible, Hebrew words or some other way God himself was changing me. And because we did not have “a church,” we began to watch the evening Psalms as our church, our little family of five as often as we could.

By all rights, though he had no idea who we were, Steve Carter became our pastor as he wandered the dessert himself. (Literally and figuratively). He taught our growing teens about the “ok-ness of mid-rash,” the mountain top experiences with Jesus: my youngest has a FAVORITE – (emphasis hers). Psalm 8, where Steve describes going to the top of a mountain, covered with snow, spreads his arms wide and yells, “How can ANYONE NOT believe there is a God?” Suddenly, a skier comes flying by, and yells back, “I know, bro!” and sails down the mountain. (Paraphrased just a bit!) My daughter, cannot stop smiling as Steve smiles on the video, describing worship and the love of God the Father. “You get Jesus!” he joyfully states, explaining this relationship as the absolute GIFT that it is.

For two years, our family of 5 has listened, sought God in new and intimate ways because of Steve’s teaching and example. We are profoundly grateful and of course, because I value saying the things, (especially when we think the good things, because we don’t say that enough,) I reached out and shared our gratitude and hearts. We have found a beautiful connection. I joke at home with my family that we are “friends,” because I have so much respect and have learned so much, also because I often “make friends” with many. My family says they can’t take me anywhere, maybe this is my inner “Mr. Rogers, ” making friends in “my neighborhood.”

After this season of church together at home, learning from my friend, Steve, we all began to stir a bit to return to God’s house, to begin finding a “new” in-person church. I will readily admit that I was the one of our five who struggled the most with the “church shopping” ahead of us…for many more reasons than this blog has time for. The biggest, in truth was my fear of being hurt again by “church.” Not God. While many described a dessert or drought in their relationship with the Lord during COVID, my personal experience was very much the opposite. I am by nature, an introvert so the time of sheltering and safety brought in part, the opportunity to rest, to seek and to just be, with our family, but also with God. He used many, but especially Steve’s teaching to show me his pursuing heart in all together new ways.

I think this was part of my fears with returning somewhere to traditional worship, sometimes engaging with many at a time is challenging, both for my body, but also for my emotions. I am not a “floater on waves” but rather a “scuba-diver” in social interactions. I wantto make those I am interacting with feel any important and be heard. Truthfully, I am terrible at small talk…

God gently and consistently reminded me that there was a church waiting and kept putting my former childhood church on all of our minds. I am a bit ashamed to admit, I was resistant at first. I think most of us would like to distance ourselves from our “weird and awkward” younger selves, once we’ve become adults, would you agree? But God certainly had a plan and such a beautiful one.

The first Sunday of Advent did find us returning to the church I grew up in. I held my husband’s hand and his wise advice was, “walking in and finding a seat is success.” Success it was! The sanctuary was beautiful with an early December glow, we were greeted by my former pastors with hugs and genuine joy that we were there and instantly welcomed by acquaintances and a few special loved ones.

We have plugged in in beautiful, surprising, and holy ways, from our youngest (also an introvert) spontaneously asking to join the worship team, our teens finding community in the youth program, and for us, the blessing of new friendships that only God could orchestrate. This path is one of the richest and holiest of my life so far…

Steve Carter returned from he and his family’s own sojourn and is now preaching in Illinois. We’ve tried a few times in the last year to make it to his church and finally meet. It has been difficult to make a date work between our kids many activities. Until this past weekend.

My husband and I were taking our oldest to a college visit about an hour from Forest City Church. When I messaged Steve, he was indeed scheduled to preach. Throughout the college visit, time with our girl and listening to God’s leading over the weekend especially, I felt so much gratitude. I so thankful as well, to finally meet this friend who has so blessed our life.

He stood out in the sunshine, greeting guests as the three of us walked up. He leaned around the man he was speaking with and the recognition and smile we received was nothing but a gift. We all three understood the the blessing of spending a few minutes together. He offered coffee, directed us upstairs to the sanctuary and then went to get ready to share his heart.

Remember the beginning of the blog today?

Walking into the sanctuary after navigating those stairs had my heart beating a bit harder than usual, if I can be honest. I was afraid I would be “fan-girling” upon meeting our friend Steve, but truly, I think I was fan-girling more about how God himself just orchestrates every single step of our journeys for our good. To sit in that sanctuary, I was so humbled to know and love my Jesus SO much, to be in this space and could almost feel an intense anticipation at what the morning could bring. God took over my over-firing muscles and insecurity about climbing those beautiful but steep steps and almost whispered to me, “just wait, it’s going to be SO. GOOD.”

Oh my goodness. I don’t even have words. Worship was so full and tangible that I thought the roof was literally going to come off that decades old building, with beautiful arches, stained glass windows and scads of history. The first song had me in tears – Never Lost. But a few lines just leveled me.

“The night cannot whisper away what he said in the light.”

“Wind, listen to the sound of power on my lips…

“And who are you great mountain, that you should not bow low?”

Oh my Jesus, please remind those that need the biggest reminders, that the darkness is not stronger than even your whisper in the light – even when the dark feels so, so powerful. Please remind us that even the mountains, both majestic and daunting, MUST also bow to you. Remind us that even the wind, beautiful, frightening and fierce, CANNOT remain against how powerful you are.

The community, the worship and yes, Steve’s preaching was a blessing upon blessing. I am overjoyed that we able to be a part of it all, that God continues to put words and music from Sunday on my heart. I cannot stop singing, “never lost,” even the title of the song seems to be God’s way of whispering to me, “no matter what, I’ve GOT. YOU.”

Gratitude to Forest City, Elgin, for hosting and sharing all the beauty of your community. Steve Carter, thank you for being faithful to your calling, for being a pastor to our family. Hope to catch up again soon! You are a gift. To our dear “new church family,” you may never know how much we needed you and our gratitude for embracing us. Mom and Dad, for your love, legacy and faith that you pass on to each of us, I will never be able to say thank you enough.

Jesus, you are everything. Thank you for leaving ALL, never lost.


Psalm 8