Story, So Far.

I used to feel like I didn’t have much of a story. I didn’t realize that the things I’d experienced in my life could add any value to the world around me. 

But as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that we all carry profound wisdom from the things we’ve been through. And by simply becoming vulnerable and sharing our stories, we can change lives and bring encouragement to others. 

I grew up, hungry for a big life. I’m a first generation American daughter of a South African immigrant. And the stories my mom told of growing up in Africa instilled a thirst for adventure within me early on. 

I took for missionary school at 17. Halfway across the country with big dreams of changing the world. I met a boy there who wanted to change it too. We were starry eyed and so young. So we (logically) dropped out of school and got married. 18 years old, I walked down the aisle and said forever to the man I loved. At 19, I became a mama. By the time I was 25, we’d already had 4 kids (all preemies) and 1 angel babe. 

Changing the world got a little diluted somewhere in the mix. We were just trying to keep up with bills and diapers and teething and bubble baths and spaghetti dinners. All of our big dreams got lost in small realities. 

In 2010, somewhere between baby 1 and baby 2, we moved ourselves across the ocean to South Africa. We did some incredible work there with some of the most amazing young people we’ve ever known. But after what wasn’t long enough, our hand was forced and we flew back to the US feeling a lot like failures. 

That was the first (but not last) time I sat back and felt like I’d blown it. We’d tried so hard and fought for what we felt was right for us, and it all fell through our fingers like sand. 

So we did life. Bryan worked so many jobs. Everything from delivery driving to retail sales to construction to remodeling and youth ministry. He did it all to pay the bills, and I carted around those 4 babies I’d had in 5 years. 

That girl and boy that had gotten married so young were getting old faster than the calendar would suggest. One day I looked at Bryan and said... I think we are living defensively. Just reacting to everything thrown our way instead of attacking life with a sense of purpose. So we started seeking out intention. 

Then in summer of 2015, it hit me. If money was the number one thing holding us back from living like the dreamers who married each other as kids, then why not seek out a solution. 

I turned to network marketing. It was the one thing I knew you could make a lot of money doing, without any qualifications. It was perfect for me. So I jumped in. I realized quickly, that while no qualification was required, hard work certainly was. But i wasn’t afraid of it.

I put my head down. I remembered that great things are hardly ever conventional. I ran on pure excitement and grit. And within four months, I matched Bryan’s full time income. 

We retired him before Christmas. Five months into network marketing we went all in. All eggs in one basket, All our bills relying on this crazy dream. And it paid off in a big way. 

By the next Spring, we were making six times our previous income. And we had freedom. Bryan was home. We were dreaming again. We were casting vision and hoping. 

That next spring, a full year later, we escalated to ten times our previous income. All from network marketing. Our heads were spinning and we were still so thankful. 

Then came the news that knocked the wind right out of us. Cancer. Somewhere in our finally perfect world, a screw was loose. And everything felt like it was about to just crash down on us. Stage 4 cancer. My handsome, lively, strong young husband was fighting for his life in a battle no one could see. 

These are the moments you find out what you’re truly made of. Are you actually strong? Or do you talk a big game? Do you actually know the meaning of trust? 

There were lots of days spent on my knees. Too many wracking sobs to recall. Days when we heard “I need to be honest with you. This isn’t good. This could kill you.” and days when we heard “You’ll be ok.” But they were never in a logical order. We grasped at something reliable, but it was all shifting pieces and spinning scenery. He laid in our bed for days. He couldn’t talk for more than a few minutes without losing his strength. He didn’t laugh for weeks. He lost his hair, his joy, his strength, and his optimism. These are the ugly parts pictures don’t show and social media doesn’t tell. I wondered if I’d already lost him. If he’d ever be the same man I married. 

Six grueling months might not sound all that long to you. But I promise I can’t fit all my happy days within those 180 painful ones. They felt like they took everything. 

Then right before Christmas, the same time we’d found financial freedom two years earlier, he was given a positive diagnosis. The cancer was no longer active. It had just gone to sleep. 

It was like someone picked up a two ton weight that had been crushing us. Picked it right up and took it so far away. And simply put, the world went back to spinning. 

Now we are different. We are so much stronger. And younger. Funny how something that should make you wiser makes you younger. Reminding you, you’re not always ready for life. Reminding you you have so much yet to learn. Reminding you you’re not untouchable. 

As we move forward, we are daring to dream bigger. Because life is too fragile to play small. We have to get in the game for as long as we can—and feel victory firsthand. 

Cancer didn’t stop life for us. It started it. 

I’ll leave you here. Because the rest of this story is still being written....


A couple of months ago I was rifling through the shelves of a bookstore when I saw it. The newest book from one of my favorite authors. I'd been thinking about ordering it for weeks. But it felt heavy. Like it was meant for another time or season. My life felt light. Happy. I'd had my heavy times already. My moments of brokenness. My loss. My grief. My rending of the heavens and wrenching of my soul. I wanted to read happy things. Shallow things. Words that felt easy and echoed my joy. This wasn't the book for my season.

In the checkout line, I couldn't stop thinking about it. "The Broken Way". Brokenness. Oh, I knew brokenness well. I'd walked many valleys and felt my spirit crushed before. But surely now wasn't the time for that. I had overcome. Loss was in my past. Images flashed in my mind: Leaving the mission field feeling like failures at the one thing we always thought we were made to do. Our son lying in that hospital, dependent on a machine to keep him alive. Me sobbing in the hospital room alone. My body ready to care for a baby that wasn't in my arms. Then one year later, losing our fourth child. Alone in my apartment with birth pangs for a baby I'd never know. The grief I had felt then and the grief that was still so near when I close my eyes.

➰Surely, the strength I'd gained from the things I've weathered was enough to carry me forever.

But life isn't balanced. The path to abundant life isn't paved with convenience. The stuff of grace is painful and messy and confusing. It's beating your chest and asking why and fighting until you surrender. But it's also being rebuilt. Piece by piece a mosaic masterpiece. And every tile tells a story only you fully understand.

I handed the book to the clerk. Secretly hoping I'd never again know a season where I felt the need to read about brokenness & suffering. It sat on my bookshelf, closed.

Until that day in the middle of June when my husband came through the door with tear stained eyes. He stood in our living room where our laughter and our dreams and our plans ring out and he said "They think it's cancer." And I held him and I cried and I wondered why would brokenness come again to our home after we've finally become so familiar with joy.

And I opened the book. Because there is a path to abundant life, and while it's not a pretty one, I know the end is worth the journey.


Coming Back Again

It's been forever, hasn't it? But if the new look is any indication, hopefully it won't be quite as long before the next post.

I've missed blogging. Becoming a business owner has been incredible. And it's become "me" so quickly. I've naturally transitioned into this new role and I couldn't love it more. But--being true to myself begs me to continue writing. And for now, this is the best outlet for me to do that.

So here we go... again. Writing my heart out in this little corner of the web. Thinking on "paper" which has always helped me to process. I've thought time and again about changing the direction of this blog. Making it fashion focused, or satirical, or strictly inspirational/devotional. But, as I've said a million times, this blog has always been for me more than for anyone else. And if I'm being true to that, then I can't box it up. I've got to keep it unrestricted so it can follow my heart while my fingers simply plonk out the words.

I might be rusty, so grace would be appreciated.


I just did it...

I’ve been taking a lot of writing projects lately. They’re good for me, you know. A task, a guideline, a direction to take. And I’ve enjoyed them all. They’ve grown me—honed my craft a bit. But there’s always something so much more pure about me, just sitting with a blank page and no rules. Just writing what’s in my head and on my heart. 

I haven’t done enough of that lately. It’s probably why I’ve been in a funk. Sometimes I don’t know what’s in my own mind until I write it all out on paper and read it back to myself. I’ve always been that way. 

When you feel like you might be losing yourself in the thick of it all—in the routines, the schedules, the “have to’s” then make sure you take that time to go back to the thing that makes you, you. 

Writing has always been that for me. Since I was a little girl. Funny, I have pages of scratchings from the time I could hold a pencil. I was an early talker. Early reader. Early writer. Had a lot of words in me, I guess you could say. And it’s no wonder, really, I’m from a family of writers. Every single one of us. We live for long, deep conversations and philosophical exercises. You could always find us on a Friday evening, in the living room, just talking it out. We weren’t afraid to disagree—we did understand the value in healthy debate. But it was intelligent. I had to work to keep up. They say that one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to be the least intelligent person in the room. I suppose I was set up for success then if that’s how we’re measuring it. 

I miss that. I miss the long conversations and the genuine asking of, “How are you?” while knowing that the one asking it truly cares to know the answer. We live in a world where we’re all clamoring to tell everyone how we feel, but none of us are fighting to ask it of anyone else. We want desperately to show our worth, but no one is readily offering to instill our value. 

Anyways, I won’t talk your ear off tonight. I guess I just needed a few minutes to let my fingers put some tangibility to these thoughts. I’ve been meaning to blog again—but time keeps running away with me. Today I thought I’d do the one thing I know how to do when I’m not getting around to something. I just did it. 

Here’s to a weekend of taking my own advice, of remembering to make time for the things that make my time worthwhile. And for seeking out the greatest of conversations, and the people who make me feel valuable. 

Until next time. 


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