Putting the brakes on fear.

Spring break went by in the blink of an eye. This year my family had a one week stay-cation. The days were jammed packed with a visit from Nana and Pap, DIY projects, baseball practices, jumping on the trampoline, bike rides and some brown cows (FYI – it’s ROOT beer and vanilla ice cream). “Yummy!”

Bike riding with my family is always a challenging task because my son is afraid to ride a bike. I remember the day I first decided to take off the training wheels for my twins. I gave my daughter a push and she just kept going. She is the ultimate daredevil. 

 My son, on the other hand, pedaled and screamed hysterically as I let him go the first time. Don’t worry…  I only let go for a second!
We have been practicing since he was four, although he still looks like a baby deer taking its first steps. I try to be patient with him, but there are times my frustration builds because he does not seem to try. Argh!!!  

“Seriously put your butt on the seat and pedal the bike. It shouldn’t be that hard, right?” 

Okay. I could feel it in the air. I knew this week was going to be the week. I could see it happening – he was going to hop on the bike and zoom off down the street. I just knew it.

 As I held the back of him so he would feel safe he was yelling “Please get me off, Just get me off, I am going to die.” “You are trying to kill me.” “Not!” I took Ben off the bike and we sat in the grass and I showed him how flat the road was and how far away the trees were. But to no avail.  

He tried once more but was done, my expectations were shattered.

As I worked with Ben this week I kept thinking about his FEAR. I realized how FEAR can either prevent us from doing things or can challenge us to do better.  

We all are afraid of something. Were my other kids FEARS holding them back from things as well?

On our morning drive to school, I decided to ask my kids what their fears were. Not surprised at all, Ben was afraid of bikes. Natalee was afraid of heights and Sophia had a fear of taking tests at school. (I hate timed tests too, YUCK!)  

But, what was my biggest FEAR? (Hairy Spiders, Heights, Being a Good Mom)

Even better… one of my biggest fears is rejection.  

As a little girl I loved to talk and speak in front of people. As I became as college student I grew to hate it. Each public engagement or job interview I attended felt like riding a bike for the first time. My palms would sweat, my words felt like they were jibberish. The moments blinked before my eyes and I felt like a Mac truck ran me over me by the end. I always assumed the worst.

If there was a show for worst first dates I would have been on it. I always spent time worrying about how I looked. I didn’t ever truly meet the person and take the time to find out about them. I was to busy wondering, “What were they thinking?” Most of the time I rejected them first because I knew the time would come… EVENTUALLY!

I just wanted to fit the mold. If I bought the newest trends then I would be like the girl next door. But, I really just wanted to be me. (College Course : Finding You 101- should be mandatory)  

I have already begun to tackle my fears as I have found some self-confidence. But there are still things I hold back from doing. So now I have to ask myself two questions,

“What do I really want?”

“What is the worst thing that can happen?”

I just took the chance of putting my life on paper for everyone to judge. As I have written personal stories and shared photos, some people have questioned why? Others have enjoyed the posts, even though I have had many flops. By completing this a huge weight was lifted. 

 Some of the rejections in my life have been disapointing.  Let’s face it God never gave me the body of an Olympic Gold medalist! 

With each rejection it has only made me try again. Every single time I was rejected from a job, a piece of writing, or a relationship, I believe it was God’s way of telling me that path was not the right path for me. It forced me to reevaluate myself and learn from the experience.

Nowadays, I am not as concerned with what other people think. I don’t worry about having my makeup on every time I step out the door or the cutest shirt from the local boutique.  

The fear of rejection shows itself today when I say YES to everything to try to make people happy even though it can be at times stressful. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to bring cookies to school. I just don’t bake them – I BUY THEM. And I still might buy those cute shoes someone else is wearing.  But it’s now because I like them.  

Ben and I are now in training together. We all have fears we have to face, it is how we react to a failure that determines whether we are a winner or a loser. If we listen to the FEAR it will completely control us, but if we choose to face the FEAR we keep going forward.  


“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.



What I Learned About Kindness.


Digging through a box of old photographs, I found myself in uncharted territory. Memories cascaded through my mind of my childhood.

I remember this little girl.

She loved to play in the woods. She would race the boys at any opportunity and she would win. She was the first to raise her hand in school. She knew all the answers or thought she did.

She challenged her mother on a daily basis. Secretly, she was just like her. She loved to cuddle with her daddy at night. She loved sports and was very competitive. 

I remember this little girl.

She was just like all the other kids, but she looked different.

I brought the box of photos out after my son ask me a question one night. “Mom, why do you care so much about us being kind to other people?” “It’s okay to joke with people and call them names, right.”

A simple answer would have been, “Be kind because I said so.” or “Because God tells us that we have to love everyone.” 

 I wanted them to understand the truth. KINDNESS is huge in my vocabulary. WORDS HURT.

I wanted to show my kids the photos of me that they had never seen. The photos that showed a little girl that was just like them. She was happy and loved cartoons, riding her bike and going to school. On the inside she was just like them, she just looked different. 

Questions swirled through my mind. I wanted to ask them if they saw this little girl, would they be her friend? Would they ask her to play at recess or would they ask to be moved away from her?       

Would my children recognize this little girl in the photo?  

It took me two months to show my kids the photos of myself as a little girl. (Some were very graphic.) I did not know what they would think of the pictures. Would they see their mommy as the same strong person? Or as the little girl that was teased in school. How could I convey to them how important this was to me?

I prayed for strength. I prayed for guidance and faith. 

I finally sat down with each one of my kids and shared a past that only a few people have seen. I told them the story of a little girl who reminded me of each one of them. 

Then I asked them if they would like to see a picture of her.

 I told them how loved the girl was. I also told them how people who did not understand could often be very hurtful and cruel.

As I talked to my oldest daughter her response was, “Cool.” “Can I show my friends?”  and “That must have hurt.” “But, can I go watch Cupcake Wars now!”

Hmm… God! I was expecting a bigger reaction…. (Sigh of relief)

 My son offered a hug and compared the size of our scars. We measured them in inches. He said, “I love you.” “That must have hurt your feelings when someone would tease you.” My youngest daughter did not want to see any pictures of the boo-boos mommy had. I only showed her one picture and that was enough for her to feel sad and scared.

As I looked at each one of my children I could see myself. Ben is caring and questions everything in the world around him. He also has his mother’s competitive spirit. Natalee is fierce with infinite amounts of energy. Sophia is relentless and exercises her right to debate at every given moment.

I showed my children the pictures of myself because I wanted them to be able stand in my shoes for a moment.  In order to be a kind person, you need to have be able to see what other people are going through. I want to see my kids have the ability to show compassion and feel empathy for another person. 

 There are many times when we miss out on the chance to meet someone great out of fear or because we think people are unlike us. I hope we all take the opportunity to step out of our comfort zones. Lean over and talk to the person in a wheel chair, say hi to a person with special needs, and be especially nice to the quiet nerdy girl or guy sitting next to you in class.  Who knows, he or she may be the next President of the United States.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

Courage For Christmas

  When my son Benjamin was about to turn seven, he only asked for one gift. “COURAGE.” And I could tell he was intent on figuring out how to get his gift. “Well, how do you get more courage, mom?” I looked at my husband a little puzzled wondering “Where does he get this stuff?” and “How do we box up some courage?”  I’ve heard of liquid courage but courage in a box may be a bit more difficult to find. I looked up the meaning and by definition courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. More importantly we found out in latin the root “Cor” means from the heart.  

I guess life is tough even in the second grade. As we talked more, Ben explained that he needed courage because the taller and faster boys at school already had it. He envisioned courageous people as warriors with suits of armor, superheroes, army men, and the roughest and toughest boys at school. I assured Ben courage would come if he prayed about it.

I still was taken back that my son was so concerned with physical strength and believed that “COURAGE” was only being fast and fierce. Although physical strength can be an important attribute to courageous people, it is not the only one. I wanted to find a way to teach him what true courage really is.

To me, true courage is not just physical strength of super heroes using brutal force to attack an opponent. It is not the fiercest player on the team who scores every goal, but ignores the other players on the field. I explained to Ben a courageous team will come back and play again after it is defeated.  It is the runner who determined to win, but will stop to help someone who has fallen.

  • The first part of courage is being brave, persevering and overcoming obstacles. 
  •  More important the second part was whether or not a person had heart and compassion.

As we are surrounded with love from others, we build up an abundance of strength. Our family, friends, and church give us this love and support. Then in turn loving deeply is courage. With love in our hearts and God by our side we can persevere and overcome the obstacles that we face. Courage is having compassion for your friends and your family. It is always being humble. Courage is being unashamed of the scars we live with. It means we were stronger because of them and have overcome. When we walk with courage we share a voice and a smile. Our hearts are always open to the people around us.     

This Christmas I have had caught a glimpse of true courage that touched my heart. I met Richard at church about 100 times over the past 2 years. I always got a smile but never knew his story. One night I shared my story with the youth at church and met his children Caleb and Kaleigh. Now it was Richard’s turn. Richard shared his story of his wife who just passed away and Caleb who was diagnosed with All Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Caleb is 13 years old young man with a heart of gold. Like any boy his age he likes playing his video games and being silly with his friends. I have never seen Caleb without his contagious smile. He has been poked, prodded and has shown tremendous courage through rounds of chemotherapy. This week, Caleb will be receiving a bone marrow transplant from his sister Kaleigh. This family’s journey is one of faith, family, love and TRUE COURAGE. True courage and unabiding love are gifts that most people search for their entire lives.

Dear Richard,

My friend, you are stronger than you think. I walk by you smiling and poised. I will never express to you that I know what you are going through. I know that you are about to walk onto the battlefield. I see how proud you are of the courageous young man you have raised. Two amazing and blessed children. First daddy, then doctor. As I teach my son about courage, Caleb is the role model he will see and has heard about. Someone who is humble and selfless. His contagious smile has touched so many along with my heart. As Caleb sends bags of love to kids in the hospital, he has now put the “cor” in his courageous journey. Richard, I see how strong your faith in God is and how your children care about others. Let your strength come from the prayer warriors who love and support you. Trust in God’s plan and know that this journey has impacted the lives of so many people.  

I now can teach my son the most important lesson about courage. “If you’ve got “cor” you are cool!” The person that lives courageously follows their heart. Courage can be seen everywhere. We see courage in the military in men that fight for our country, in veterans, and of course superheroes. Although the unseen heroes, the ones that overcoming the obstacles they live with each and every day, are also courageous. Caleb and Kaleigh are examples of courage that show not only perseverance but heart. That have overcome the obstacles that have been placed in front of them and are still smiling. They are still humble and giving to the people around them. 

This Christmas Ben wrote his letter to Santa. He asked for Skylanders and Pokemon cards and on the back he made one request to Santa stating: “Santa, if you know God could you ask him to bring me some courage this year for Christmas.”   

My prayer this year is that we all look at the courage of Caleb. I hope that when our children are opening gifts on Christmas morning, we look at what the real gifts are sitting right in front of us. Each day is a gift and every moment is a blessing.   

“Be Strong and Courageous. Do not be Afraid or Terrified because of them, for the Lord God goes with You.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Faith Family and A Side of Stuffing

Well, it’s official. I am a Yankee and in five days I will be a homeowner in the Deep South. 

Unlike all of the recent birth certificate scandals, mine is quite dull. I was born and raised in the small coal mining town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was undoubtedly North of the Mason Dixon line. 

It was not until after college that I got my first taste of Southern living (or what I thought was the South). I worked as a teacher in Fairfax, Virginia. I heard phrases that I thought were made up for the movies. The librarian habitually wanted to “Bless My Heart” and I realized there that peaches must be a considerable fruit because she compared me and the students to peach pie on a daily basis. Even on the worst day she would bring out a smile. 

Yes, my husband is a Yankee as well. Who could imagine leaving the hometown we both adored? But, when industry shuts down the railroad company sent us packing to Roanoke, Virginia. My daughter now smelled like roses and she was “as purdy as a peach”.  I knew otherwise, she smelled of formula or cheerios, but I would smile at every kind remark that came my way. “Yes, Mam” and “Yes, Sir” were now part of the daily vocabulary.The food was unfamiliar. A pig in the blanket was now a hot dog wrapped in a crescent roll. Really? I grew up with hamburger and rice wrapped in cabbage slow cooked in a tomato sauce. Where was the perogi isle? No pierogis. That is a sin in itself. In Pennsylvania we eat frozen perogi, homemade, church cooked and no one knows what a perogi is. I want my fish Friday, some halupki, halushki, perogi, and a cheese steak! That’s it. But now I am being fed white gravy for breakfast, beans with most meals, chicken stew, and lots of barbeque. Although the barbeque has grew on me after nine years, I still look at those buckets of chitlins and I have not bought one yet.    

“What do you think about moving further South to Alabama?” “Hell, no!” I believe that was very close to my answer. “Are you crazy?” was in the same discussion. It was not an option. But I have been here for two years and I suppose one can say we compromised. I thought leaving what I knew would be devastating but prayed for faith, strength and huge doses of daily patience. After living in the South for nine years now, I realized that the Confederate States have so much to offer.      

Faith is probably the biggest part of who you are in the South. The first two questions people ask you are “What church are you a member of?” and “Would you like to visit our church?”.  At first I found this almost intrusive. “Why is someone asking me about my religion?” As I lived here longer I understood the value placed on church, family and community. The people are the church. It took a long time but my faith grew along with my love for the South. From the Bible Belt in Virginia to the Tennessee River in Alabama there is a church on every corner and sweet tea served every Wednesday night.  

The meaning of family is especially important to families in the South and this gives me a greater appreciation for my own family. The people are loyal, humble and extremely faithful. I often giggle at the grocery store because everyone says hello, how are you or have a blessed day.

The problem with such gracious hospitality and religion is that it can sometimes seems false or overdone. I am not one to raise my hands in prayer or pray out loud in public but Southerners are comfortable with all of these acts. The people I have met and befriended authentically want to pray with you or for you. They are happy to bless your family and freely talk about God. As a person of faith I have grown to fall in love with this.  

I am not sure of how long you need to live in the South to consider yourself a Southerner. I can’t tell you how many years my family will reside here. But what I can tell you is I will enjoy all of the moments the South has to offer while I am here.

I am happy to give hugs to people I don’t know when they ask for “some sugar”. 

I will smile when the little kids call for my son “Bin”(Ben) with that sweet Southern drawl.

I will love on my babies even when they are “being ugly” or having “hissy fits”.

I will joke with my neighbor each and every time she is “Fixin’ to do it”.

I will even say Y’all because I can.

I have been blessed with a large and wonderful Yankee family that My husband and I miss each and every day.  This year I will miss passing the stuffing around the table with my mom, dad, aunts, uncles and stepchildren.  But this holiday my family will share the blessings we all enjoy.  Well, maybe not the dressing. The South is not for everyone but I think we may stay and check out the view for a while.  


A Letter From Heaven

The 45th presidential election is finally over. One side has claimed a long awaited victory. The other side has suffered the agony of defeat. This race was for many a long and hard battle fought with struggles along the way. In my eyes both candidates persevered by displaying their dignity and ability to try to unify our nation. During the next few months there will still be many challenges our country will face. There will be ongoing times of grief, anger, healing and joy as new challenges arise. We all face challenges throughout our everyday lives. For most of us, no matter what the challenges are, you will become a stronger person if you allow it.
One of the biggest challenges I faced occurred in college. College was a transitional time as I entered a new and uncertain world. It was a time to foster new friendships and learn to see the world through a different lense. It was a time of self- discovery and trying to find where I belonged in this world. God was not my top priority. My daily prayers consisted of:

“God, can you please get someone to quit taking my parking spot.”

“Lord, I know I did not study for this test, but if you let me pass, I promise I will study forever.”

“Jesus, can you please send me just one date? Maybe someone that has a job or doesn’t believe The Great Gatsby is in Arizona.”

As I headed into my senior year, I was eager to begin student teaching. My college professor observed as I taught daily lessons. Life was good! Three of my roommates were also teachers, so you could imagine an apartment filled with puppets, toilet paper animals, construction paper, tape, and lots of elmers glue. Each one of us secretly owned one of the horrible teacher sweaters with a giant moose plastered on the front that our parents gave us for Christmas. I was proud of the work I was doing and happy with my new title “Miss”.

With all of the hard word and late nights studying, cutting, correcting, and lesson planning came the excitement and anticipation of being in the classroom. With the first weeks of teaching first graders, I realized a few things key things…

1. A big part of your day is Getting Drinks and Going Potty!

2. First graders need Shoes Tied all the time!

3. They love to ask Why and Did You Know repeatedly throughout the day.

As we all know kids are very curious, and they wanted to know all about me as well. Most importantly, they wanted to know, “How did you get all of your scars?” It became the question of the day. I was thrown off guard so my first my response was I would tell them later. Maybe, I thought they would forget or maybe I didn’t know what to say. Now that I have kids of my own, I realize kids don’t forget, they need an answer. If they don’t get the answer they will keep asking. And that is exactly what kept happening.

I am not sure why I did not know how to answer the questions about why I looked different. I was teaching in someone else’s classroom and my mind was blank. Was I even allowed to tell the children personal things or would a parent be upset? These were questions for my advisor.

That afternoon I went into her office and posed this question to her. “The children are curious about my burns and I want to know what you think is the best way to handle it? Should I just sit them down and tell them what happened one time or am I allowed to answer questions only when they have them.”  

She responded, “If you don’t know the answer to this question you should not be in this field, you should QUIT!”

I was absolutely shocked. I was not going to quit. Although, she was powerful and intelligent. Maybe she was right. She was strong enough to plant the seeds of doubt in my heart. My insecurity was beginning to take over in my thoughts. I now had doubted everything I worked so hard for. I would quit – I did not want to do something I was not good at. I had one semester left and I told the division that I would not be finishing my degree. I was no longer on the right path but had taken a U-turn.

I did not want to pray about it. God had failed me before (or so I thought), why would I pray now?

I was perfectly content to be unhappy and sulk about it. I could get used the idea of just being in my room watching lifetime movies with my endless supply of Ramen noodles! But… The truth was I was miserable. I let someone choose my future for me.

I few days later, dressed in my best pajamas, I went to my mailbox and I found a handwritten letter. I did not recognize the name or address, but it was postmarked from a city I recognized about one hour away. I opened the four page letter from a women named Sara. She told me she had been praying for me in her church group. The letter stated that one of my professors goes to her church and mentioned my situation. At first, I was mortified. “I am such a loser”, with a capital L. People need to pray for me, I must be seriously screwed up. But, I read the letter again and again and again. Sarah was a mom, a teacher, and sent me a message I could actually relate to.

She told me never to give in to the pessimists in our lives. They see the difficulty in every opportunity in life. She told me to listen to the words of Langston Hughs.

Hold Fast to Dreams
For if Dreams Die
Life is a Broken- Winged Bird
That Cannot Fly.
Hold Fast to Dreams
For When Dreams Go
Life is a Barren Field Frozen With Snow. -Langston Hughs

Sarah told me that God has my back. She told me that God had a plan for me and it is not in my past it lies in the future.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your path. Proverbs 3: 5-6

 I cannot tell you that God saved me that day. I cannot even tell you that I prayed. But on that day, someone was praying for me. After break, I chose to go back into my classroom and I told the students my story. I believe Sara’s letter was the boost I needed to step out of my comfort zone and be confident in myself. The kids were excited to hear and learned a lesson at the same time. As for my professor, she had the opportunity to see awesome possibilities but became Dr. Glass Half Empty. She challenged me but I became stronger because of her. The greatest part was the smile I could give her at graduation.

Sara’s letter eventually became my saving grace. It took a long time but I eventually realized God works through each one of us. The letter is still next to my bed. Every time I face a new challenge in life I read the letter she wrote me on that day. Her one act of kindness and compassion gave me the strength I needed at a difficult juncture in my life.

Right now we are all facing a tough time in our country. These challenges can help us grow together in unity or fall apart. If we choose to spread God’s love by the things that we do for one another we will be stronger. We all need encouraging words from time to time and most of us need a prayer. So even if you are not ready to pray for yourself take the time out today to pray for someone else.

“For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13  


Imperfect Perfection

I have discovered my favorite moments with my kids are at night. These are the moments they tell me all about their day. This could go on for hours, if I wouldn’t flip the light off. I love to hear what was challenging to them, what made them happy or why they were sad.

I was sitting in bed with my daughter, Sophie, a few weeks ago as she was especially chatty about a new book that had caught her attention. She was reading Wonder. With her pre-teen dramatics in full flare-up, she explained to me the plot of the book (which I already knew). She was very upset because the main character of the book was being bullied, just because he looked different.

“Auggie loves Stars Wars just like me, mom. These kids are just cruel!”
She was getting it. I want my children to be empathetic. I want my daughter and all of my kids to understand how to treat all kids, no matter what they look like, with love and kindness.

I was about to be thrown for another loop, without any hesitation my daughter says, “Mom, when I get older, I probably don’t want to look exactly like you. It would be a little scary to look like you.” Her hand touched my nose as she said, “if my nose was crooked, well, the kids in my class would make fun of me.”

After a momentary loss of words, her head was still tilted down to the bed as her eyes searched for my response. I quickly changed the conversation to humor, “well no one wants these fangs” and I pretended to bite my victim with a sinister laugh. I turned my head and walked to the closet with tears rolling down my face. I quickly leafed through shelves of clothes for yet another day. I gave each of my girls a kiss goodnight and my daughter looked into my eyes as if she knew my thoughts. “What’s the matter, mommy?” I simply replied, “The cat must be making my eyes itchy.”

For an instant I wanted to tell her “I want to look like all the other mommies, but I never will. I am sorry if I embarrass you.” I wanted to tell her that I want her to want to grow up and emulate her mom in every way. But I simply said “goodnight”.

I went as quickly as I could to my bathroom and looked in the mirror and looked at the reflection staring back at me. I covered half of my face and I saw a beautiful reflection, then removed my hand to see the other half which is full of scars from a childhood tragedy that was part of my past. I squinted my eyes hard enough and saw a blurred reflection, a photoshopped like image that made everything look better at that moment in time.

In that moment, I was taken back to church when I prayed to God as a little girl. I would hear the words in service “I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and you shall be healed.” I remember praying, “Jesus, maybe this week you will say the words to heal me.” I was not sure what the words were but maybe God could heal me. Quite possibly, God would snap his fingers or if I closed my eyes tight enough when I opened them “POOF!”.

As a 38 year old Young woman, I have somehow come to realize that although this “Poof theory”, as I call it, would be quite lovely it doesn’t exist. I have this sneaky suspicion that Jesus saves his miracles for more important things.

That night, as I looked at myself one last time, I realized that I am exactly the imperfectly perfect image that God has created. As I look in the mirror at each imperfection there is also strength. Jesus has healed me by giving me the courage and determination through adversity. He has shown me love and given me love to share. By trusting in God, I have had the opportunity to see that true beauty lies within and a beautiful heart is more powerful than outside appearances.

With new breath, I walked back upstairs and told my daughter three things that night:

BE KIND – Don’t ever say words that would hurt someone else. Only say words that you would want to hear. Just like Auggie – words hurt and once you say them you can’t take them back.

YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL – You have a beautiful heart and that is more important than what you look like, always. Do not judge anyone on their looks or their differences.

BE YOU – Make good choices, let God help you because he is always with you.

I never realized how I would feel after a short conversation. The fact is our past is part of us and makes us who we are today. I believe that we all have had moments of wanting to be more beautiful, smarter or even wealthier. My prayer today is that we find peace and beauty in recognizing the strengths we have.

“God will make everything beautiful in your life in his time. He will drop flowers of Grace in the garden of your heart so all will see the beauty that is your life in Christ.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11-14