Favorite Christmas children's books.

My latest post is up on the JellyTelly blog - this was a fun one.  I'd love to know what your favorite Christmas children's books are so I can add more to my collection! 

During these cozy winter nights, one of our family traditions is reading our favorite Christmas books with our daughter before bedtime.  The trick, I’ve discovered, is storing them away the rest of the year and only pulling them out before Christmas so they seem that much more special...{continue reading}


Recapturing "Us."

My latest post is up on the JellyTelly blog, and it's a pretty personal one.  I hope it helps some of you who are struggling or wondering how to continue to make time for your spouse and protect your marriage in the midst of crazy schedules, family changes, and just the challenges of life.

Yesterday, my husband and I drove over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas into our neighborhood as the sun was starting to get low in the sky.  It was just the two of us in our VW Rabbit, and an old-school mix CD blasted “Sing” by Jars of Clay as we cruised with the sunroof and windows open.  As my hair flew all over my face, I grabbed his hand and closed my eyes and felt so thankful for that moment, for the few hours we had just spent away, just us... {continue reading}

Learning to ask for help.

holding hands july 2013.jpg

Originally published on the JellyTelly blog...

I need help.” Three small words so difficult to utter, yet oh so necessary. This, I discovered the hard way.

About 9 weeks ago, my husband and I learned the joyful news that we were adding a new little one to our family. We had been hoping and praying for another baby and could not be more excited. One week later, the rug was pulled from underneath us as a horrific case of “all day” pregnancy sickness kicked in, leaving me reeling and utterly helpless.

This was nothing like what I had experienced in my first pregnancy. Literally overnight, I could barely take care of myself, much less my husband and 3-year-old daughter. I had never felt nausea this debilitating – all I could do was lay in bed in the fetal position and moan. My sweet husband not only handled his more-than-full-time job for our small business and his restaurant consulting gig on the side, but he also took on the burden of grocery shopping, cleaning, and laundry, none of which are his forte, bless him.

During the day though, it was just me and my little girl who wanted her mommy to play with her and take her places just like always, but I couldn’t even go outside for five minutes or open the refrigerator without dry-heaving. There was no rhyme or reason to what would send me running to the bathroom. The best I could do was put on another episode of her favorite show and head back to bed or park myself on the living room chair under a blanket and pray that the minutes would pass quickly.

This behavior was against everything I wanted to be as a woman, mother, and wife. I didn’t want the minutes to go too quickly; I wanted to savor them. I didn’t want others to serve me; I wanted to serve them. I didn’t want my child to have to stay in the house all day; I wanted her to be free to play and run. Everything was topsy turvy. And I felt completely out of control.

In my slightly stronger moments, I was able to remind myself that I was sick for a good reason – because of new life – not because of cancer or a degenerative disease. The powerful anti-nausea medicine I was prescribed was the same medicine taken by people – yes, even young mothers – suffering from the ravaging side effects of chemotherapy. I often prayed for them as I took out the next pill. I tried to keep things in perspective, and I knew the situation could be so much worse.

But we are human, and it’s hard when you’re suffering, for whatever reason. At just the right time, I remembered a book my sister-in-law had recommended and began reading it: Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy by Sarah Jobe. The premise is that “God shows up in pregnancy when and where we least expect it.” The book’s funny anecdotes and scriptural truths spoke to me in such a personal way.

Says Jobe,

“Pregnant women learn throughout pregnancy to trust others for their basic needs. They learn their own limits. They learn to ask for and receive help. They learn to surround themselves with communities of support, knowing that when they most need to, they might not be able to lift their own legs. They learn to trust that God will meet their needs through the people around them. In short, pregnant women learn to live by faith….

Until we are willing to step out on faith and let others support us in our weakness, we will never know the miraculous strength of God within us.”

In my pride and desire to take care of other people all the time, I didn’t immediately ask for help. I’m much more comfortable being the helper, you see. But that was no longer an option. Finally my husband firmly yet lovingly suggested, “It’s time to ask for some help. We can’t do this on our own.”

There are friends who had already offered to take our daughter for the afternoon, and we were so grateful. But sometimes there are people in our lives who are more than willing to help for an hour or two but just need to be asked. The first challenge is asking. The second challenge is receiving and letting go of control. As desperately as I needed the help, it wasn’t easy to watch my daughter walk away from me to be taken care of by another mother, one who was feeling perfectly fine. Ahhh, another great lesson in humility.

Here are a few other important lessons our family learned…

I learned to submit my fears to the Lord. Yes, I feared it would never end. After months of nausea and vomiting becoming my “new normal,” it was hard to remember what it was like to not feel pain, to live a regular day of running errands and taking my daughter to the park. My fears became more and more irrational the longer I sat with them. When I submitted them right away, they lost their power.

Our daughter learned a greater sense of compassion. At the beginning of my sickness, she didn’t understand and got frustrated when I was in the bathroom bent over the toilet again. She would bang on the door, or if I left the door open, she would come in and try to pull me away. But my husband and I used these situations as teaching opportunities on how to be kind and compassionate, especially to those who are suffering. One day shortly after, she came into the bathroom and patted my back saying, “Don’t give up, Mommy. It’s going to be okay.” Another time, she stood there quietly balling up pieces of toilet paper and then gently dabbed my tears away.

We learned to give each other grace. Nothing was going to be neat or perfect in our house for a long time, and that was going to have to be okay. My husband didn’t do the laundry or the dishes like I do. But you know what? He did his best, and he did it out of love. And that’s enough. In the same way, I needed grace from him to love and accept me in my weakest moments and to remember that my most important job was taking care of the baby inside of me.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, says that the two best prayers she knows are “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I have to say I’ve experienced both of these extremes so deeply in the last few months. After finally crossing the threshold into the second trimester, I do still have some nausea and sickness, but it’s improving everyday. This week, I was able to take my daughter swimming again, and with the sun on my face I must have whispered “thank you” a hundred times for such a simple joy.

I can now look back with greater clarity on how God has used and is using this trial for His glory and my family’s refinement. In my helplessness, I was humbled and completely dependent upon Him and others.

What’s your struggle? It may be completely different than mine. But in our faltering, feeble places of weakness, I assure you we can find holy ground. Even on the bathroom floor.

Music Review: Rain For Roots: Big Stories For Little Ones

My latest post is up on Club JellyTelly - a wonderful website with positive programming for kids.  They have a subscription-based service (kind of like Netflix but only $5/month) for unlimited viewing of all their shows. 

These days, the moment I hop into the car and get my almost-three-year-old daughter buckled in, we start playing our current favorite kids’ CD, Big Stories for Little Ones by Rain For Roots, an enchanting collaboration of four Nashville songwriters, young mothers, and friends...

Continue reading here.  Enjoy!

Let's dance.


This post originally appeared on the JellyTelly blog...

I have a challenge for you.  Try not to crack a smile while dancing the Running Man in your socks on the living room floor.

See?  It’s impossible.

And that’s why in our family, we’ve started having impromptu in-house dance parties – 45 minutes to an hour of completely free, heart-pumping movement to upbeat music.  I tell you, it’s one of the absolute best remedies for a host of things: a mom who “doesn’t have time to exercise,” a bored child, a rainy afternoon stuck indoors, or just a discouraging day.

Admittedly, on many tough parenting days, especially as we walk through the “twos” with our spirited daughter, I want to retreat.  I want to put on a movie or TV show for her and go do something “grown-up” like catch up on emails or read a book.  Some days I do just that, as I am human.  But on the days when I can choose to combat my frustration by engaging with my daughter in a positive way rather than retreating, we do something fun like have a dance party.  As I dance next to her, or pick her up and spin her round and round, the day turns from sour to wonderful pretty quickly.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Turn on a peppy CD or playlist or your favorite Pandora or Spotify station.
  2. Start dancing.

Yup, it’s that simple.  And by “dancing,” I mean, just start moving.  It doesn’t matter if you jump and twirl in place, do the twist, or try the Moon Walk.  This is your chance to let go, be silly, release some of that bottled emotion and adult sensibility.  This is not the time to care about your hair getting messy or to be shy about the fact that you haven’t danced since seventh grade.

On a chilly evening over Christmastime when my parents were visiting, we decided to have one of these impromptu dance parties in our living room.  Of course our daughter was thrilled and immediately donned her headband, turquoise tutu, and tap shoes. We opened Pandora and listened to everything from country to praise music to the “Kidz Bop Kids” station.

Within mere minutes, the adults were not only wearing huge smiles but sweating profusely.  At one point, I looked over at my 66-year-old mother who was completely oblivious to anyone else around, doing a crazy “dance move” that seemed to be a combination of squatting and rowing a boat.  And I burst out laughing.  I couldn’t help it – I was just so full of joy at that moment, so grateful for my mom.  Yes – dancing can be the best medicine for everyone from babies to senior citizens.

There are also many references to joyful dancing in the Bible.  In 2 Samuel 6, David rejoices over the ark of God, and Scripture says he was “dancing before the Lord will all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14).  I absolutely love that image.  It’s how I feel sometimes in our living room with the music blaring, my eyes closed, allowing my body to jump and sway and twist, pushing my muscles to their limits.  For me, it’s about embracing the moment, enjoying being with my family, and practicing thankfulness to have arms and legs that work and a body full of energy.  Besides, I want my daughter to know I’m never too old to dance with her, just as my mom has clearly shown me.

So try it sometime – dust off your socks and your pride, gather your kids, and turn on the music.  You might be surprised what a little silly dancing can do to raise your spirits and enhance the connection with your children.