Courage and Cliffs

When I was in high school, I loved to go cliff jumping. My friends and I would spend entire summers exploring the natural pools and waterfalls of Vermont. We'd jump off of cliff after cliff, whistling and cheering for each other, laughing and surprising ourselves and one another with our own bravery.

one of the popular cliff jumping spots in Vermont.
As I spent those summers getting lost in adventure, I learned a lot that would stick with me forever. I learned about risk, about bravery, about the power of motivation, about friendship, and maybe a little bit about stupidity too.

But I also learned one very important life lesson each and every single time I stood at the top of a cliff.

The longer you stand at the top looking down, the less likely you'll be to ever jump off.

The thing is, the human mind is both complex and simple. Our thoughts both influential, and simultaneously powerless. We can talk ourselves in or out of anything. The moment we stand up there, looking down is the moment that defines what will happen next. We can either think to ourselves about what might go wrong, or we can jump and enjoy the freedom of the fall. But getting lost in our thoughts and in entertaining doubt is what will stop us from ever knowing the difference.

There is a line in the movie "We Bought a Zoo" that comes to mind:

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

Bravery doesn't have to be your defining character quality. You don't have to look like a knight in shining armor to have incredible courage. You really only need to muster up a few seconds of courage and you can accomplish greatness. 

It's the "taking the leap" that stops most of us. It's the fear of your feet leaving the solid ground behind that keeps us from knowing what it feels like to fly. 

This past summer we vacationed as a family on the North Shore. There are beautiful cliffs there, tall and grandiose, hovering over welcoming deep water. It's been about 6 years since I've gone cliff jumping--explained by the fact that I've been either pregnant or nursing a new infant for the past 6 years straight. But this, this was my summer to jump off another cliff. This year for me has been all about bravery. It's been about taking risks, surprising myself, and welcoming new adventure. It was the perfect time to reconnect with an old adventure and to remind myself that I'm still capable of insane courage. 

I stood at the top, and I hesitated. My feet shook and my heart pounded and I wondered where my carefree boldness had run off to.

But I looked down at the shore, and I saw my children and I saw my husband cheering for me and I knew that I didn't have to muster the courage on my own. My mind didn't get to make this decision. My doubt didn't have a say. I have all the bravery I need to do anything in this life.

My feet left the cliff. And in those moments that I fell through the air, I knew I was powerful. I was free. I was capable. I was brave. 

What cliff are you standing at the top of today? What is your doubt holding you back from in life? Stop standing at the top looking down. You'll never get anywhere that way. 


2015 {The Year of Expedition}

This post has been growing in my heart for months. But I sit here grateful to be sharing it now. No, the words you'll read here are not tied up with a red ribbon--concise, succinct and neatly ordered. But I'm thankful for what they represent.

It's July. Blue sky, warm sun, tall grass, full leaves, bare feet. It's a bit late in the year to be talking New Year's resolutions, but here we are.

This past January, as I do every year--I asked God for one word. One word that would predict my coming year. One word to be my motto, my credo, my vision. This year I heard that word so clearly, it stopped me where I stood:


It was during an icy walk down that dirt road. The sun was shining warmly that morning--but not warm enough to stop the Minnesota cold from tearing right through you. I warmed my hands, looked up at the sky, and heard him say, "Beloved. This year I will expedite dreams and visions in your life that have laid dormant for years. I will call out what has remained silent and I will bring forth what has long been hidden from sight." 

I walked home with a renewed sense of hope. An increased sense of wonder. I had no idea what things God would expedite, but I was ready and I was waiting to find out.

I didn't have to wait long for the first dream to come to pass.

The same day that I took that walk, I received an email from an editor of publishing company. It was a proposition for me to write 100 entries in a 365 day devotional. I would be published, just as I had dreamt for decades. I had begun preparing a folder of writing long ago that I wanted to submit to magazines, online journals and publishing companies. I had told myself that one day, someday, when the kids were older I would pursue my lifelong dream of writing. And one day I'd get a paycheck for it. This dream, that I believed wouldn't happen until I was far more advanced in years, once I had worked tirelessly to be heard, after an assumed pile of rejections letters, and was already in a very different life circumstance-- that dream, the dream I was scared to speak out loud because it felt too big and too impossible, fell into my lap on a January day when I was 25.

I was stunned. I sat down at my desk and I cried. I wept. And I prayed. I asked God to speak through me and touch the hearts of the women who months from now would read my words from a hardcover book in their own hands.

Tears rolled down my cheeks many times as I spent hours upon hours typing and backspacing and typing and reading my own words out loud again and again.

Receiving that paycheck was the most rewarding moment of my life. Knowing that I had been recognized, hired, and compensated based on my own deepest passion was unmatched--except perhaps by the feeling of holding that first printed copy in my hands and read MY words on the glossily printed pages.

(if you would like to purchase your own copy of this devotional you can do so HERE! it is also available wherever books are sold, after August 1. I wrote the months of March, July and November)  

When that project was complete, I asked to contribute to yet another devotional which will be released in October. I'll share that link with you all when it comes out!

Needless to say, expedition was happening.

Then in June, Bryan was offered a business opportunity that we couldn't refuse. When he got off the phone with his potential partner and explained the conversation to me, we looked at each other and knew, this was clearly God's hand in our lives.

Throughout all of these fulfilled promises, another more subtle thing was happening. Both Bryan and I felt something we hadn't felt so strongly in five long years: permission to dream again.

I don't want to paint a picture that's partially unseen. As you all know, it hasn't been completely smooth sailing this year.  I rang in the New Year on January 1st in a hospital room. My baby girl was suffering with pneumonia in both lungs. The same baby girl I'd seen lying in the NICU only months earlier. Those same lungs that needed so much help in her first days of life again needed life-giving treatments. A few short months later, we went through testing for our daughter for Cystic Fibrosis and were sent home without answers--answers we still don't have. We sold our house when Bryan accepted this new business opportunity only to have the buyer back out 2 weeks prior to closing, leaving us with a lease on a town-home and a mortgage on a farmhouse. We've been stretched beyond what I thought we could ever endure. We had both vehicles break down within a week of each other. We've changed somewhere around 6 flat tires. Money has been extremely tight.

But what I want you to see from all of this--from everything I'm saying--is that God is faithful. 

Whether the sun is shining or the rain is pouring, whether your song comes easily or your tears pour freely, he continues to be faithful

July has been a month of ups and downs. I woke up one morning last week and I felt desperate. Desperate enough to know I wanted to do something about it. So I took a risk. I know enough now to know that in order for God to continue to expedite things in my life I have to have a certain level of bravery. I have to step out of my comfortable boat onto uncertain waters. I can spend all my time in the boat wondering whether I'll sink or swim, or I can just take swing my legs over the side and find out.

I started my own business with the incredible company It Works! Global. It Works is a Christian company that's been changing lives since it's conception. It's health and wellness products offer results that are nothing short of remarkable. For the past year and a half I've been following the story of a girl who was an independent distributor for It Works. I watched from the sidelines as she took her small family from a place of complete dependence on government assistance to a place of total freedom where both she and her husband are stay at home parents each making a six figure income. For a year and a half I played the skeptic role well. I saw her success, and of course, like anyone--I wished I had it. But I didn't think it was actually possible for me. But that one morning I was desperate enough to find out if taking a crazy risk would end in a crazy reward.

The possibility of success became more important to me than my fear of failure. 

I made the small investment--which, to be honest, was a big one for me. My team leader--that same girl who I'd been following from afar for so long, has spent the past few days pouring her heart and soul into helping me start this business off successfully. That initial investment came back to me in just two hours. I'm well on my way to helping my family move forward in an EXPEDITED fashion. God is continuing to remain true to his word that he will expedite my dreams and sustain me.

I don't only rejoice in the successes we've had thus far in 2015. I also rejoice for the hardships we've had--and are still having. Because through each and every experience I have learned, I have leaned and I have grown.

In 2013 we lost a baby. It was a wilderness for me. But oh, how I learned to lean on him there. 2014 was a year of humility on my face before the Lord and expectation of the day when he would raise me up again. 2015 has been the year that God has decided to stand me to my feet and to expedite the things in my life that I believed would take years to accomplish.

Nothing that has happened in my life this year, or in years past would have happened without God. He has never left me, he has never once stopped taking an interest in every part of my life. His is the name I whisper in the darkness when I've given up hope. His is the name I shout with a smile when I triumph and I succeed. His is the name in which I go forth in 2015. I am ready for whatever he wants to do in the second half of this crazy, beautiful, unexpected year of expedition.

I talked in my last post about BRAVERY. (which, if you haven't entered that giveaway yet, it's not too late! Head over and enter NOW!) 


Brave. {A DistinctlyIvy Giveaway}

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be brave.

Life has thrown some pretty tough things my way recently, and I've continually felt less than courageous in the face of their oppositions.

I've wondered if I really am "made of sterner stuff" or if I should just curl up in the fetal position and forget about trying to fight back.

But what if I were brave?

Bethel's song "You Make Me Brave" has been on repeat in my home lately.

"You make me brave. 
You have called me out beyond the shore into the waves.
You make me brave." 

If those words are true--and if he's already called me out onto the waves, and I'm already walking on water in his grace, then I AM brave. 

Because I need bravery. I need to be brave enough to jump headfirst into my own life. I need to fight back. I need to stand up and face my problems with strength and resolve, and a God right beside me who strengthens me and who upholds me and who emboldens me.

I am already brave. I just have to remember that I am. 

What better way to remind myself of my own bravery, than by wearing something that daily reminds me that I am brave?

The incredible store Distinctly Ivy made this stunning, personalized necklace for me. I haven't taken it off since I received it in the mail. It's a poignant reminder for me to live bravely in my own life. Every single day.

Distinctly Ivy is an Etsy shop that creates stunning, hand-stamped, one of a kind pieces of jewelry. Each piece is uniquely created by their incredible artists and shipped out in one business day. They are committed to creating a piece that you will love and cherish.

Their shipping is FAST, FAST, FAST! If you need a last minute gift that will still be thoughtful, unique and treasured than Distinctly Ivy is absolutely the right place for you.

And these necklaces are not only beautiful, but they are well made! More than a few times my kiddos have tugged on the necklace and my sweet Mia has even pulled herself up by it! DistinctlyIvy does quality, beautiful work without compromise.

I'm so excited to tell you that DistinctlyIvy wants to GIVE ONE OF YOU one of their personalized necklaces! I'm so happy to be teaming up with them for this incredible giveaway. They have a huge selection, not limited to bar necklaces-- so head over to their site and browse the selections! Comment and let me know what your favorite item is for 5 entries!

And if you decide you want to go ahead and buy a piece from their store (you won't be sorry!) please enjoy a 15% discount through the end of the month with the code CHRISTMASinJULY 

Best of luck! I hope you win :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Water isn't Concrete.

God has been working with me on trust, waiting and patience. After nearly a year of not knowing what our next step in life would be, one whirlwind weekend determined our path and settled our minds. We accepted a great job opportunity, sold our house and packed our belongings over the course of one week. It was exciting and relieving after a season of dancing through trust and fear with the Lord. But days after we unloaded our belongings in a new rented town home, the sale of our house fell through. It felt like a punch in the gut. Feels like a punch in the gut--if I'm being honest.

But something that was spoken to me about a month ago keeps coming to mind. My friend and I asked an older lady in our church if trusting God and having His peace ever gets easier the longer you've been serving Him. This was her response: "When God calls you out of the boat, to walk on the water with Him--you can't expect to step out on to solid ground. Water will never be concrete."  Her words resonated in my very core. Why do I expect to step out in faith onto concrete? Why am I surprised at the raging waves that at any moment could sweep me under? The circumstances in life are never going to be a sure thing. Our plans are never going to go off without a hitch. After all, we're trying to walk on water. But if we keep our eyes focused on His, we can walk across even the most tempestuous waters, as if they were simply solid ground beneath us.

I'm not sure how, or when our circumstances will smooth out for us. But I know one thing's for sure. I'm walking on water. And the going is rough sometimes. And I'll get nervous and I'll look down and I'll begin to sink--but I have the best lifeline I could possibly have. I have a God that is unchanging, that is faithful, that's got it. It's not going to be easy. It's not going to be comfortable. But it's going to be worth it. And that's reason enough for me to get out of the boat.


Two Years

It's not easy to write from the most painful places within yourself. But when you feel deeply about something--enough to want to put pen to paper--you write anyway. You write through the pain, and through the difficulty of it all.

Our precious glory baby would be two.

For two years we've missed having her in our lives. Missed rocking her to sleep, missed kissing her little nose, missed knowing her sweet spirit.

Many days I don't think of her. It may sound strange, but that's the way of grief as it weaves into one's life. Her memory is always there, just beneath the surface. But the thought of her is readily brought forth with any trigger. Her due date on the calendar. Every Thanksgiving-time... the season we lost her. Each time my six year old tells a stranger she has four siblings; three here with her and one "up heaven".

I cannot live my life without commemorating hers. Such a brief time in my womb, such an impact on my soul.

I can remember laying in bed a few nights before I lost her. I was cradling my womb and singing her a lullaby.  Her only lullaby. I knew in my spirit something was wrong. I somehow knew I'd never hold her my arms, never rock her as I sang this same sweet song. But oh, how I treasured that moment. Knowing that no matter what the future held, she was there inside of me--alive and well.

Two weeks before our loss, Peyton had a dream. "I saw Jesus, Mommy." I asked her what he looked like. "He was lovely, Mommy. And he was holding a little lamb. Our little lamb." I closed my eyes and prayed, No God, please. Please, don't take my baby. But the same dream that brought me fear also brought me peace. He would hold her. The baby I could never hold.

Two years without my glory baby. Two years that she has danced with Jesus and been sung lullabies by the angels. Two years that she's been waiting for me to come home where she can hold me and wipe my tears and heal my heart.

Someday soon, my baby.



Here in Minnesota, spring has been teasing us--playing a little game of catch and release. We've had a couple of balmy, sunny days that have awakened our senses to the freshness of spring air and promised us the hope of an end to winter. But then we've fallen into bed after hours full of mud puddle parades and happy laughter, only to wake again to a white blanket covering our mud pies and lawn chairs. It's a dance the seasons do every year, but for some reason that doesn't make it easier to wait out.

Yesterday was one of the sunny days. I got my kids up from their naps and we marched our selves out the door. I set up a chair, grabbed a book and relaxed while my kids joyfully played around me. It's funny, something about the end of winter puts life right back in your veins. Don't get me wrong, there is magic in the winter season. I love the first snowfall, or even a nice big blizzard: you know the kind where you huddle up in doors under a warm wool blanket with a cup of cocoa and your loved ones. But something about the winter grows long up here. Something about having to hide out within four walls that makes you feel trapped and overwhelmed.

That's why yesterday when the sun was shining, I felt so renewed. That's what the word spring means, by the way. Renewal. As I sat in that chair and looked up at the sky I was awestruck by the beauty I saw. There was a moment where the sun disappeared behind the most billowy clouds. And as the sun was hidden from view, I saw those gilded clouds speeding past. They were teasing me with the strands of the great light they were hiding. Then when at last the sun re-emerged, it burst forward almost animately. I felt it's warmth rush over me. If I was a photographer, I definitely would have captured that moment with my lens. In fact, I wish I was, because it was a beautiful sight. But, since I am a writer I do my best to capture it with my words.

There was something in that moment that reminded me of the process we go through every year with this inevitable transition from winter to spring. It's impactful, as evidenced by the hundreds of statuses on Facebook, the tweets and the blog posts about the seasons change. There are winters in our lives. I realize that's not an original idea-- I know that it's been said and I'm not attempting to present it as a unique impression. But our lives have winters, don't they? Seasons where we feel cold. We feel hidden. We feel trapped. We feel buried under the proverbial snow of circumstance. In those seasons, the clouds around us almost entirely hide the sun. We look up and all we see is darkness and we feel is cold and the absence of clarity, warmth and light. But if we looked closer, perhaps we could see the rushing of those clouds. Perhaps we would notice the gilded outlines that promise there is hope just past their edges. And though winter can be long, and the cold can cut deeply, that moment when the sun reappears... it's a moment that bowls you right over. It releases you in a blinding instant and as it's warmth covers you and its hope engulfs you, there is no doubt that cloud is gone.

Spring is teasing us. And maybe it'll arrive for good very soon, or maybe it won't. But the moments when the sun breaks out from the clouds have to be enough to give us hope. To keep us going. And to remind us, that behind every cloud, the sun is shining; that for every winter, there is a spring.


He Sustains Me

“I lay down and slept. 
I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.” 
-Psalm 3:5

I have loved this verse since I was a little girl. The words of the verse brought me so much comfort and peace in the night when I would get fearful. This verse speaks volumes to me about the grace of God: the protection and safety of His hand. But the verse says more than just peace and comfort—it speaks to the POWER of God. We only wake up because of the sustaining power of God. If God didn’t want me to wake up tomorrow morning, I wouldn’t. He is that powerful. When I trust and believe in this same God who possesses the power of life and death, what do I have to fear? My entire life is in His hands. I can’t change that fact. I might as well rest in it.

This past month has been a difficult one for our family. I am 27 weeks pregnant with our daughter, Mia Brielle. At the end of February we found out that Mia has a marker for several chromosomal disorders. We were tested for a variety of abnormalities including Down Syndrome, Trisomy 13 & 18, Cystic Fibrosis and various viral exposures. When the doctor looked at me and listed the possibilities for our daughter, something inside me screamed. Could this be reality? Could we be starting a journey into a life changing diagnosis? Could my child have a life altering disease? I excused myself to the bathroom, and breathed deeply, fighting tears. A million images crossed my mind. Children I’d met with Down Syndrome. Stories I’d heard of precious babies being lost only hours or days after birth to Trisomy 13 or 18. I wracked my brain to think of what Cystic Fibrosis even was. I clutched my womb and I wept. I wept for the possibilities for my daughter. Over the next few weeks, I had so much blood drawn that my right arm was visibly covered in needle marks. We endured test after test, a re-test, and weeks of waiting by the phone. Mia tested negative for viral exposure, for Down Syndrome and for both Trisomy disorders. We thanked the Lord as we passed each mark. Then we got a phone call informing us that I am a carrier for Cystic Fibrosis. It felt like a jump in the wrong direction. I wept and I worried over this news. I researched Cystic Fibrosis. I felt powerless at the words I was reading on the screen. 

Then one day I decided to stop. To stop worrying. To stop researching. To stop questioning. I decided to feel peace. I remember sitting alone in my living room one evening. The house was dark and there was just me and Mia. She was rolling around in my belly, kicking and thumping against my body. I was listening to worship music and the most amazing song came on: 

Christ the Rock
by Kim Walker-Smith

On Christ the solid rock I stand.
No double minded shifting sands.

On Christ the rock I plant my feet
A firm foundation for me.

On Christ the rock I place my heart
And trust in who You say You are

No circumstance that blows my way
Will ever move this solid place

On Christ the solid rock I stand
Leaving behind the fear of man

With Christ the truth I will agree
Forsaking lies that come for me

On Christ the rock I lay my dreams
Come with your fire consuming me

With Christ the rock I make my plans
Partner with your purposes

You are Holy.

And it hit me then. There in the darkness, the final bars of that song still streaming over my speakers. In that moment I realized with such blessed release that Christ would take care of my Mia. No matter what her portion in this life—no matter what her story will be—God is her rock. He sustains her. 

I remembered that verse from my childhood. The one that I used to whisper into the dark night in my room from where I rested my head on my blue daisy pillow case. “I lay down to sleep… I wake up again because the Lord sustains me.” 

The same God who sustains me, is sustaining my little girl.

One of my best friends said to me, when she found out about the tests we were undergoing for Mia… she said, “Claire, Mia didn’t come into existence because you and Bryan made love. Mia came into existence because God wanted her to be. He just happened to use you and Bryan to make her.” 

Mia’s name means, “MINE”. But that’s just it, isn’t it? She’s NOT mine. She’s HIS. Beautifully and perfectly created and crafted by His own hand. With His own love. She is HIS. And He holds her in His hands. HE SUSTAINS HER.

Today we had another appointment with a specialist for Mia. We are waiting on more test results that will tell us whether or not my husband is a carrier for Cystic Fibrosis also. The marker that was there before is still there, though not as drastic. She is growing, she is healthy. There are still unknowns about her health… unknowns that may not become known even until months after her birth. We can only trust. We can only believe that when we close our eyes to sleep, we will once again wake up. We can only rest our souls, our minds, and our bodies in the hands of Him who has the power to sustain us.

I can’t sustain my daughter. Though she lives inside of me, I don’t control her formation. All I can do is trust the one that is forming her.