Category Archives: One Word

L1: Month One

Ooh child, things are gonna get easier

E wrapped
We sing the song over and over again.  Those five stair steps; we barely know the words, but we’re learning together.  We have SO much to learn, little one.  The first night home, it was your tiny pajamas that drove me to tears on your bedroom floor.  I didn’t know what you should wear to bed and hormones crashed hard around me and all I could do was cry.  Cry, and call for help.  Aunt Sarah to the rescue.


E funny

There’s bubbles in your belly that make you burp and fart and make silly faces and sometimes we can’t help but laugh at you, Mr. Eggs.  But I know you’re uncomfortable by the way you fuss and stretch your little tummy, and all we can do is try home remedies on the weekend (turns out gripe water is for the birds) and wait for Dr. Kurt to come to work on Monday so we can call for help.


E Dad

One day on week two I lost grip on a diaper tab and the elastic snapped back at you.  Your daddy assured me that you were far more startled than hurt, but you cried a little.  I’m so sorry, baby.  I cried a lot over that, E.  And sometimes my words snap at Daddy and all I can do is cry and say I’m so sorry, and pray for more help, more sleep, more grace.


Ooh child, things will be brighter

E mommy

We sing a lot of songs at night, you and I.  You’re a pretty good sleeper, but you get hungry at midnight and four and seven and I get up with you.  And He is just the same today, all you’ve got to do is trust and pray.  We rock and sing and change your pants (you are a professional pants-filler, sir).  Great is thy faithfulness, oh God, my father.  If I could sing it in all four parts, I would.  I sing blessings over you and reminders to my weary self.  Mommy gets you through the nights and Daddy gets us both through the days.  He has the harder job, I think.  He’s so good, Elijah.  You have such a good Daddy.


E Daddy

I think your Daddy loved you even before I did in those first moments of your life.  I’m the one with the squishy baby hormones – my body tells me you’re cute.  But oh, if you could remember just one thing from this first month, Elijah, I would have you know how much your father loves you.  How fascinated by your tiny little self he is, even when you pee all over him.  The sweet words of silliness and delight he sings over you.  The way he stares at you in utter captivation, the special names he gives you.  It’s a strange thing, to love a little person who has no real means yet of returning love.  But son of ours, may you never doubt your father’s love for you.  It runs so, so deep.


Ooh child, things are gonna get easier

E Mom

A friend asked about my transition to motherhood and mentioned that photos of you make it look like we’ve settled in well.  I laughed and had to cry a little and we’re just doing the best we can, all three of us.  Many days do feel so light and easy and you’re just so darn cute, and some days I’m crying in Walgreens, overwhelmed by the sheer strength of your need for me, or you’re having a sad and vulnerable moment, but your Instagram scrapbook, well, it makes us smile.


E mornings

You eat like a champ.  A sprint champ, that is.  You’re not a marathon eater, that’s for sure.  You latch easily as long as your diaper is clean, and your little fingers already grip my robe and my hair and my heart.  You nurse and nurse again, Daddy changes most of your diapers, and I…eat chocolate. No one told me about breastfeeding cravings, but your mama eats her chocolate so we all go on long walks in the neighborhood as life springs up new around us.


E LaundryYou love the noise of the washing machine and steaming in the shower and flapping your hands, and you really hate having your little arms tucked inside your swaddle wrap at night.  The look on your face is just so sad, but then you settle down into your little glow worm self, snuggle in under my chin and there my heart goes bursting.  The vacuum cleaner, blender and handyman’s power saw don’t bother you while napping, but the soft closing of a door or zipper on my purse make you startle in your sleep. You grunt and snort and raise those eyebrows and give the best side eye west of the Mississippi.


Ooh child, things will be brighter

E Milky

Being parents is harder than we could have ever known, and we’ve learned that nothing is routine except needing to ask for help. Don’t expect a letter here every month, but morning by every morning, new mercies I see.  You are just so fun when you wake up, Squeaks the Squirrel. You are bright eyes and sticky-up hair and tentative milky smiles and endless diapers and eternal laundry. You light up our world in brand new ways every day, Elijah Graham.  Happy one month birthday!  I’m so grateful you made us a 3-family.

E Calvin

One Word 365: Help


Actually, I can’t host Christmas this year.

I can barely get up off the floor by myself.

And I don’t actually know what in the world to do with a newborn, really.

Yes, staying in therapy is the best thing for me.

2015 will be another year of change and uncertainty. We’ll need our community to show up in strong and tangible ways.

What do I have to give?

I believe, help my unbelief.


Learn more at One Word 365.

Claiming words

il_570xN.510319143_gulu (image credit)

This little one who has claimed residence inside me has made me want to clean and organize and purge all the things.  A strange new addition to my body, a strange new addition to our family – what old can I get rid of?  How do we make room?  How do we do this?  I lean against you and you lean against me and we are held together.

I was cleaning out my Google Drive because why not, and found these words prayed over us that day as we said our vows.

Gratitude for the love that has brought these two together. Commitment of ourselves to love, support and celebrate their lives. Grace and favor of God on their lives.

Isn’t that perfect, what Tim claimed for us 3 years ago? And today, in these thin places, these tight spaces, in this season that feels so unknown so often, they’re ours still.  I claim these words for the times when my tears and words fall harsh, when my wifing isn’t done well, when things just. feel hard.

I claim gratitude – for you, for your strong and steady hands, for the ways that you love me big and small, for your hard work and big dreams and how you make me laugh.

I claim commitment – to those who love us and hold us up, to those who stood witness to our vows, to those who witness our every day, to our community far and wide, to our own 2-almost-3 family.

I claim grace – I claim redemption, I claim all things new, I claim abundance, I claim beauty, I claim you & me, I claim faith and life and grace.

I love you.  I still do.

The pursuit of God in the company of friends

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

24. Attempt to join a Journey Group.  Our schedule may make this difficult, but we’re big fans of intentional community.


company-of-friendsSince last July, I think there have been maybe 4 or 5 weeks total that we’ve actually been in Omaha for the whole week. Every week we’re in a different barn, in a car, in a meeting or three, or in an airplane (and definitely still in love).

What we’re not in?  A Journey Group.  Small Group, Community Group, Bible Study, Life Group, whatever.  We’re not in one.

I could pretty easily call this 33 Before 33 goal a failure.  We didn’t try to join a group this year. Not even a little bit.  Mission not accomplished.

But what we did do?  Stay invested in the lives of many people whom we love.  Have drinks and dinner and celebrations and make time for long conversations and Big Life Moments and laughter with people who love us and fight for us and pray for us and hold us up and ask hard questions about faith.  In the words of evangelicals these days, we did life together.  We’re not registered in any church’s database, but we do community.  We do grace.

Chad and I travel many (many, MANY) miles in a car together. But we do not journey alone.


In 2014, I’m reclaiming (and writing about) the word GRACE with OneWord 365.  Read more here.

Our family – the messy beautiful

Legs touch and sheets tangle under stolen covers.  Socks tumble all mismatched in the dryer and when do you think you’ll have kids?  When will you start a family?il_570xN.426248888_pfj4

I don’t know.  When do you think we’ll have kids?  We’re already a family.  We’re already all a family. 

I’ve been known to roll my eyes at the empty “It’s so great!” responses I hear from newly marrieds.  The smiles and sugar frustrates me to no end, but I get it.  They don’t really want to hear the truth.

The sweet lady that stops you in the hallway at church doesn’t really want to hear that you fought on your honeymoon or you ruined your husband’s favorite shirt in the wash or actually, you cry when the lasagna burns, thank you.  Your well-meaning relatives don’t want to hear that marriage can be lonely, that a sharp word from or about your mother-in-law brings around that thick tension again, that your own precious childhood memories threaten to rain on the holiday parades.

Do they really want to know that the thought of having children is utterly and completely terrifying, that you’re afraid of losing yourself, losing your connection with your spouse, becoming someone you don’t recognize?  That some days you can barely hold your own self together; how can you manage to hold a tiny person?

And then.  Sometimes? You find someone that wants to know.  Grab those people and hold on tight, you guys.  That’s a miracle.

We’re two and a half years into this thing, and I know that in fleeting moments it can feel easier to do it on your own and I also know that it’s ten kinds of impossible to do it on your own.  It’ll probably be 20 kinds of impossible if we have kids.  That’s life.  Married or not married, kids or no kids, that’s life.  We need our family – our siblings and our parents and our single friends and our married friends and our community of truth tellers and grace givers.  Blood relatives or not.  We need you.

We need people who ask us the hard questions, who open their homes, invite us to their tables and extend their hearts.  We need you, who befriend and befamily with laughter and wine and prayer and grace, who want to talk about the mess.  You make the beautiful and the mess even more lovely.


I’m linking up with the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project – to learn more or join us, CLICK HERE.
Learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback.



In 2014, I’m reclaiming (and writing about) the word GRACE with OneWord 365.  Read more here.

Some thoughts on grace


The days pass and the online furor settles like so much dust on a window sill.  A casual passerby might not notice but it’s my house, and that dust weighs heavy on my heart.

We can talk about freedom and we can talk about theology and labels and where do we all fit and how will anyone ever see Jesus?  The local church?  Really, God?  That was your plan?

We say we love Jesus and we build walls, we shove people out, we use kids to advance our position, we deny opportunities, we fling mud and hate in all directions.  That World Vision mess got real, real messy.  And I don’t imagine it’s really over for anyone.

I’ve yelled a lot these past few weeks and cried a lot, too, but last night I realized.  In all the mess and ugly, I’ve seen grace.  Two voices in particular, one on either side of the hedges, have sang to me – notes of broken beauty and hope and olive branches extended, and in the lines and between the lines, I’ve heard the song of grace. And the broken places hurt just a little bit less.  And isn’t that what this year is about for me?  Experiencing and extending grace?

It’s with a tender heart and nervous hope that I invite you to consider these bits of grace, too.

We found ourselves standing together on the beautiful core conviction that shame is not of Jesus. We lamented over the obsession[…]Christians have regarding any and all sex. Grieved over our Bible, the way it had been sharpened into a shank against every one of us.” – Benjamin Moberg

I find it so ironic as a Bible teacher that the Savior of the world boiled down the kingdom to such a simple formula while me and mine exegete everything within an inch of its life. When I get bogged down, I always remember Jesus: Love God and love people. There you are. Do this and you will live. The end. I love Him.” – Jen Hatmaker


In 2014, I’m reclaiming (and writing about) the word GRACE with OneWord 365.  Read more here.

Everyday love

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

33.  Love my husband everyday.


Our love looks different every day, doesn’t it?  Maybe that’s why Paul gave it so many words.  I can hardly manage patience and kindness and holding my tongue all at the same time, but I hold onto grace in each moment and know love covers it all.  This is supposed to be about me loving you and I just keep falling back to how you love me.  


When the snow blows hard over the road, they say it’s a ground blizzard. Your tail lights keep growing smaller in the distance as I follow you.  You drive faster than I want to but I keep up, trusting.  Tired, scared, I can’t talk to you on the phone or the tears and fear take over.  But you know these roads and you know me and you believe in me better than I do.


The harsh words boil over and pour out and I wonder which grandparent’s stubbornness is showing in me today.  It runs real deep and it’s hard to shake.  But I know you’re right.  I can’t look at you and I don’t want to talk to you and you always manage to make me laugh when I’m mad and do you know how maddening that is?  You look at me and your grace and patience wash over me and the joy I feel for you just can’t help but bubble out.


When I’m feeling a little sorry for myself, wondering if you notice what I do, if you notice me, if you see me for who I am and you walk through that door. Gifts aren’t either of our primary languages, but so much love spills out of that bag of dark chocolate-covered pretzels you have for me you don’t even know.  A little bag full of surprise love and grace.  My favorite.

You’re my favorite.


In 2014, I’m reclaiming (and writing about) the word GRACE with OneWord 365.  Read more here.


I don’t know what it’s like to be you

K has invited you to join a Facebook Group.

Only one or two names were familiar to me in the group of nearly 1,000 women, but I was intrigued by the invitation, so I joined.  It’s a group of women from Omaha, Lincoln, Chicago, Seattle, Iceland, Tokyo, and I suspect many more know each other than know me.  The women live all over and their lives have been all over.  Some of the posts make me wonder if they sometimes feel like life is over.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a 22 year old single mom, worrying about how I’m going to pay the heating bill or put diapers on the little one.

I don’t know what it’s like to plan an intervention for an alcoholic father.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a lesbian in a conservative city.

I don’t know what it’s like to experience assault at a local bar, only to be ridiculed online and shamed for reporting the situation.

My life looks very different from that of many women in the group.  My parents modeled frugal living, faith clinging and practical decision making, and for the most part, I’ve walked a similarly stereotypical straight and narrow. Some might call me boring.

Some might call me lucky.  Some might call me privileged.  I can only call it grace.

I read posts and pleas for help about learning to love your body, about celebrating college graduation while working full time, about babies and bras, about favorite lipsticks and homemade skin care, about abortion and abuse and atheism, about feminism and faith and what’s for dinner, about fighting through misconceptions and bias, about pets and parents and postpartum depression.  They’re all posts about being a woman, about life.

Many women offer advice and helpful suggestions and encouragement.  In a world where women are often our own worst enemies, this group is a bright spot.  And I enjoy participating, I do.  Need ideas about what to give your mom for her birthday?  You want options for what to do with your new food processor?  Book recommendations for Christmas break? I’m your girl.

But the rest of it, I come up empty.   I’ve got nothing to offer in terms of advice for most of these girls.

So I’m learning to listen.  I’m learning to pray.  I’m learning to offer sympathy.  I’m learning to cheer on.

I’m so sorry you’re going through this.  That must be really hard. 

You matter.  Regardless of how this situation turns out, know that you matter and you are deeply loved.

I’m proud of you.  

These are the lines I’m practicing over and over.  I’m learning to simply offer grace.  And if I’m honest with myself, I’m learning to see individual faces and strong, beautiful women where I’ve sometimes struggled to see past a stereotype or circumstance or bad decision.  I’m learning to see these women.

I don’t know what it’s like to be you.  But I know you’re teaching me to love more freely.


In 2014, I’m reclaiming (and writing about) the word GRACE with OneWord 365.  Read more here.

Three Special Steps

Three special steps, that’s all you need!  Three special steps and you will succeed.  Step one: Fill an ice cube tray with juice!  Step two:  add toothpicks!  Step three:  freeze your juice pops!

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My niece’s little song played over and over in my mind as I sat in the waiting room.  It’s virtually impossible to get unstuck from your head.  Sorry about that.  If only it was all as easy as making juice pops, right?

I took a big, brave step this week.  A different step than I’ve taken before.  I started counseling.  It’s not unique, it’s not earth-shattering, but for me, it’s big.

It’s a step towards shaking off this unwelcome weight of anxiety that’s been hanging around lately.  A step towards replacing the tapes, to not listening to the lies I believe about myself.  A step towards pushing back against all-too familiar feelings of self blame.

I’ve noticed for a while some reactions and trends in my thinking that don’t feel healthy. I’ve noticed some places feel a little more broken and bruised than usual. A little more tender and raw. And honestly, some days I feel stuck there. So it’s time to take a step. A step towards caring for myself a little differently.

A step towards learning a different way to claim grace and growth and truth for my life.


In 2014, I’m reclaiming (and writing about) the word GRACE with OneWord 365.  Read more here.   

Reclaiming grace

The pretty Native American girl stared back at me from high on my sister’s bedroom wall, the feathers in her headdress tightly stitched with embroidery floss.  Tiny Xs of thread formed her little smile.  Smug, I thought.  My insides twisted unpleasantly.

Sarah meant “Princess.”  Of course.  My perfect older sister with the pretty princess name.  Anna felt so plain, and the generic child clutching a blanket stitched on my own wall seemed to match my name’s ordinariness.  “One of Grace,” my wall hanging read. It was so simple, so old fashioned and boring. I felt anything but graceful with my knobby knees and double-jointed elbows.  I would never be a cheerleader or ballerina.  Jealousy clutched at my heart.

I was clearly an Enneagram 4 even as a child.

* * *

Time for our yearly action plans at work.  Cue all the eye rolling.  It was a busy season, with deadlines looming and projects overwhelming.  Sunday rolls around every week and if I don’t get my work done, things fall apart.  Just do my job – that’s action plan enough for 2011, I thought.  I stared at the bright empty form on the screen, little cursor blinking back at me.  Just get it done.

My fingers flew on the keyboard then, quick ideas and requisite industry jargon filling the pages.  The last question halted me.  A personal tag line for my life the next year?  I don’t even know.  I sat and thought for a few moments.  To experience and extend grace.  It sounded nice.  I typed it out, emailed the form to HR, added the phrase to the About page on my blog and didn’t give it a second thought.

* * *

The One Word 365 project has always called to me.  In 2012 and 2013 I considered joining, but never did.  But for 2014, I’m all in.

The best thing about One Word is that there are no rules.  One of the lovelies behind the project did lay out some personal guidelines for choosing her own word, though, and I found them helpful as I thought through my word choice.  The word should promote growth and courage.  It shouldn’t be too narrow, should be able to be interpreted in a variety of ways.  The word has to resonate.

So in 2014, I’m reclaiming grace.

My parents gave me the name Anna, and spoke truth into my life with it.  One of Grace.  This year, I’m choosing to believe that it’s not old fashioned or boring, or just a quick phrase to finish a project.  This year, I’m reclaiming grace for my life in ways big and small.  I’m choosing to believe that grace can really make a difference.

May grace be the lens through which I see the world. May grace be the strength behind my love. May I really learn to let grace transform my life.  Yes and amen.