A house/A home…

I have the heart of a true dog lover…

When Chw and were young and a bit crazy, and two new kids living in upstate New York, we grew our little family with an adorable little roly-poly Golden Retriever puppy named Makaila. Makaila became the very best friend of our little Gen, when she came home to us.251415_10150202049326277_874492_n

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When Makaila was five years old, an adorable little newborn black and barely white puppy fell into our laps. We named her Paisley, for no particular reason other than I had dreamed of getting a puppy named Paisley the night before. Paisley was tiny and dependent and bonded to me very, very deeply. As she grew, my heart wrapped so tightly around that precious little dog.

In August of Makaila’s ninth year, we learned she had bladder cancer and in a very short amount of time she made her way across that rainbow bridge. We had her cremated and her ashes were scattered at a Christmas tree farm, which I still think is the loveliest of things…

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A couple of months later Paisley was lonely for a canine companion and we foolishly jumped at the first puppy we found. She is called Emma and she is a character. She and Paisley never hit it out. Emma can be funny, but she is seldom sweet and often her soul is more fire than love (in a sassy and prideful way, of course). She is the most un-dog any of us have ever known, she has made home what it is and we love her quirky ways all the same.

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Ironic as it seems, this past August was Paisley’s 9th year and she too found her way to the Rainbow Bridge. It was sudden and gut wrenching and a piece of me went with her. I think a piece of all of us, even little Emma, went too. She was the epitome of love in a dog. The most pleasing, comforting, loving, accepting, reassuring creature I have ever known…

Emma has had a tough time recovering the loss of the other canine presence. She lost herself a bit and is finally emerging. My husband assures me there will be no future dogs for us. My heart both sighs with relief at his words, and aches to beg for another.

I love my kids and they make the two of us a family, binding us together and bringing about rhyme, reason and purpose… But our dogs, our dogs have made our houses home. They’ve breathed life when the darker times convinced us there was none. Their wet noses have whispered love into the loneliest of moments and often been the only things that dragged me from the pits of a depression hell in the dark days.

Dogs make the world a better place…

Tell me about any pets you have loved?

Thanks to the release of the new film A Dog’s Purpose (based on a WONDERFUL film, of the same name), which opens on 1/27, I am happy to give away a $25 Fandango credit to one reader! The giveaway ends at Midnight on 1/26! To enter simply comment here with your story of a dog you’ve loved.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer. And just in case you missed it, here’s a link to a post I wrote about their charity support.

A dog’s purpose…

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You guys… I am so excited about this movie! I read the book, years ago, and loved it so much. As a dog lover, it is the sort of book that just stuck with me. The movie looks amazing, and emotional, and it seems like a healing balm for my sweet Paisley, whom I lost a few months ago. (She definitely served a purpose!)

I wanted to share the trailer with you, just in case you haven’t seen it, or are just wanting some Friday dog love!

Also, because this is super cool, if you click here, you can upload a photo of your dog and celebrate their purpose in your life! It is a wonderful, interactive way to brag on our furry loves a bit! In addition to bragging on our dogs, we can make a donation to Best Friends Animal society! Even better, for every donation, Universal is matching them up to $25,000! So not only is this a heart warming movie, but their using their film to make an awesome impact!

To move to…

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Early on, in 2016, I created a spotify playlist entitled To Move To… As anyone who knows me knows, I am one of the worst “namers” in the history of naming things. To me, at the time, it seemed a clever way to label my workout list. As the year progressed however, this playlist morphed into my motivation for many areas, not just fitness. It is pretty amazing that this long-ago list worked it’s way into birthing the only word which made any sense at all, for this year.

MOVE.

It is a powerful word. It means a vast degree of many things. It reaches into every area of my life, from health and fitness, to writing, to education, to parenting and marriage. MOVE. Stagnancy kills. MOVE. Even if it’s a step in the wrong direction, it is better than nothing at all. MOVE. Move. move…

My word for this glorious fresh and unwritten year is move.

This isn’t my image. It belongs to Vimeo actually. When I saw it though, I knew it fit my vision for this year, my heart for this year, in a thousand different little ways. Move. To move in such a way that the place where my feet were is left better after my time there…

I do not do resolutions. I commit to goals. Typically, but not always, these goals stem from my word. With a word as huge as this year’s, I don’t think there is a goal that would not apply, somehow.

Goals:

  • To read two books (minimum) per month.
  • To learn one new thing, every month.
  • To complete my passion project More.
  • To complete and self/indie publish my novel.
  • To lose those 50 last pounds I need to lose.
  • To literally move to a more conducive home for the next phase of my life.
  • To expand my freelancing/writing income.
  • To enjoy my family intentionally, in simple and life affirming ways.
  • To visit somewhere I have never been before.
  • Find my writer’s tribe and flourish within it.

Move.

Where are you seeing yourself, this year?

Even when… {And interview with Taya Smith, of Hillsong United}

This is a collection of really awesome people who have a real passion for God, for loving people and for living lives that both honor God and share tremendous love with people. You can find them on twitter, you can find them on Instagram and you can get to know them a little better in Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, a documentary (being released on blu-ray/dvd tomorrow) which chronicles their journey as a group, as well as their life journey’s individually, which led them to this place.

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There are several members, so an hour and a half movie sort of only touches on bits and pieces of their stories. It is really lovely, and moving. (So not the point, but I had to say it because it’s true.)

As I mentioned yesterday, earlier this week I had the chance to sit down and talk with Taya Smith, of Hillsong United. While I could have taken a few minutes to share with her my own Hillsong journey/experience, I really wanted our time to be about what she felt led to share and say. I prayed so much about what to ask her and for our call.

(A little back story, if you haven’t seen the film. Taya left home and moved to Sydney on a total leap of faith. She went to church at Hillsong and knew that was where she needed to be.)

I considered weaving our call into an entire post all creatively, but in the end decided to share the interview, as is… (And also, to point out my flaw as an interviewer. I like to say “absolutely” way too much.)

So, if you haven’t already, meet Taya:

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Hi Taya, thank you so much talking to me today. I am such a big fan and am grateful for this chance.

Oh, thank you so much. That’s very kind of you. I am so happy to get to talk with you.

Thank you! I would love to ask you a few questions.

Of course, go ahead!

Like my own, Hillsong experiences, so many fans have some really personal moments. I was wondering what have been some of your favorite fan stories or moments that people have shared?

It’s really special when someone shares that through what you’ve got to be a part of, like through the music that our church produces that it just draws people closer to Jesus and that they have even felt like they’ve been given words to sing in a really hard season when they haven’t known how to express things to God. They’re wanting to continue to believe him and believe that he has good things for them, but they might be in a really hard season. So getting a chance to, as in the latest United record Empires telling someone that sometimes things in life hurt actually so bad that it’s like hell, but yet we still get a chance to praise God and we still get to choose that He is good that He is faithful. It has been really encouraging to hear people’s personal stories about what it has meant for them, and maybe for them it’s a confession that they’ve needed to sing for the season that they’re in. That’s always so encouraging because you know, you’re obviously writing for everyone, but you’re also writing for the ones- for the people- that are actually facing real things. You don’t want to just write songs for people to just swath over and say ‘that’s a really pretty melody’, but you know, the real seasons that give people opportunity to say the things that they need to say to God, and to maybe remind themselves in that season.

Absolutely! In the movie, several different people (other United members) talked about their WORST days and how God really moved in them and met them in those places. Do you have a WORST day where God really held you together and moved you forward, when you didn’t think you could do it?

Yeah, I feel like you’ve just got to live life long enough for life to happen and for things out of your control to happen. You know, God is so kind in those moments because, I mean I can think, of the top of my head, it would have been when I was seventeen and we were coming into the final year of our high school. After that first week of our final week, five of my high school friends were in a car accident and four of them passed away. I had grown up in church and grown up knowing about Jesus and loving worship music and music in general, I kind of really saw the sovereignty of God and how he brought two friends from a different school. One who wasn’t really walking with God but had before but maybe kind of walked away, and then a friend who was super strong in what she believed and in her relationship with Jesus and I just saw how, at the time where it felt like nothing made sense and I didn’t understand it and I was completely broken because I had lost my best friend and other friends as well. I saw how God had, the year previous, brought along a friend and planted these two people in my life, to the point where when everything went to crap, I had someone further along in the journey who was encouraging me to keep pressing in to God and then I had the other friend who wasn’t really in a right relationship with God but I got to encourage and I guess, like, and ask the hard questions of ok, this is really showing me that I needed to have my relationship right with God because we’re not promised tomorrow. We’re given today and you just never know what’s going to happen.

There have been many times that really hard times have happened. Like, I had something that was very hard in my personal life two weeks before we were in studio to record Empires and when we’re in the studio two weeks later Joel (Houston) hands me these lyrics for this song called Even When It Hurts and I’m looking at him going ‘I feel like you’ve read my diary and you’ve written everything that I want to say to God. This is so hard right now, how do you expect me to sing this without crying?’ and he says ‘It’s okay, you can just cry.’ There’s something so nice in just being real with God, He is God and he knows all of the little thoughts that come into your mind anyway, so you may as well just be honest before Him. I feel like when you are honest with Him, and you’re honest with yourself, I feel like that gives Him room to then speak. You’re like ‘ok, this is real and this is crazy’, but again I wish to see the sovereignty and goodness of God in all of those moments, nothing is a surprise to Him. For me, He has always put people around me before anything has ever happened so that if something does go crazily wrong or completely out of my control, He’s been so kind and has put people around me that are going to speak into my life at that crazy time. They’re going to be a voice of reason or they’re going to be a voice that encourages me to press into God and encourage me to know that I can’t control this but what I can control is my attitude and response. Just bring and be people that speak life, no matter what else is going on. I just think if you look hard enough, you can see God in anything, even in the worst situations, He is still God.

Absolutely (ugh!), In the movie you talked about your leap of faith and how you came to be a part of Hillsong. I was curious, before you felt like you were being led there, where did you see (or plan for) your life heading?

Well, I was at a youth camp when I was younger, I went to them a lot because I grew up in a Christian home and it was awesome.  I just remember calling out to God when I was like sixteen, and seventeen and eighteen and just going, ‘God, use me, use me, use me and I love to sing!’ and I’m pretty sure that’s all I said. I didn’t put anything on it. I didn’t say it had to be secular, or that it had to be ministry or anything like that, I just said ‘God, use me, use me, use me, and i love to sing!’ Yeah, and- I’m sorry, what was the question again? I feel so bad.

No, it’s fine.

I’ve only had one coffee, I probably should have another one. 

That’s funny! No, I just wondered where you thought you would be before God intervened with Hillsong?

Right! Well, I always knew it was music. I always knew that my heart was in singing. And I’ve probably said it too many times, but it’s so important the people you have around you. I remember when I was younger, I had said to my parents- and I’m going to warn all of the children if they say it, and for parents just to hold lightly to it and not too tightly- I said I wanted to be a doctor, and my parents held on to that like nobody’s business. They were thinking ‘she is going to go to medical school and she is going to be the doctor of the family.’ I wasn’t like, well, I did pretty well in school through quite a few years, but I just, well we had that crazy car accident with some of my friends and that final year of high school I just really struggled to study and to keep my focus. It was just a horrible year, kind of. When it got to the end of the year, the fact that I even passed- you know, I did pretty well in some subjects, but not all subjects- the fact that I passed was amazing. I just didn’t want to apply to go into medicine or anything like that. One, i didn’t have the marks that I needed, but two, I didn’t want to get into debt when I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to do that. I had a friend, and that’s what I was saying about how it’s so important to have the people that speak into your life, and she just said to me ‘hey, if you don’t sing in some shape or form, something inside is going to die, you just need to do it!’ It was kind of hard-hitting at the time because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what do you mean by that?’ but I realize that there is something about music and there is something about being able to sing and to express that, even if it’s just to God and I forget about any one else being in the room. There is just something so special about that, and I feel like it is how I was created and it’s how I am a creative. Having someone call that out in you, I just feel like it kind of gave me strength to be able to say to my parents ‘I’m not going to apply to go to University or College, I want to sing.’ It was hard for quite a couple of years because I was staying at home and I guess my parents were like ‘what are you doing with your life if you’re not going to uni? You should at least get a degree behind you.’ And I do see the reason for that and my parents are lovely and they never had some of the opportunities that I’ve been given, even to study, so I can see why and where they were coming from and everything. When I moved out of home, to move to Sydney, it was one to kind of look like I knew what I was doing and also to get out from under there and just kind of breathe and go ‘okay, so now how do we do this?’ but I always knew that I would sing, it has been in the kindness of God that it has been in the way that it has happened and the people I’ve had around me. Also, I feel like in an industry that can so easily pick up and chew, and spit out, even like young men and young women who are trying to figure out who they are, in an industry like the music industry in general, it can be pretty harsh, I feel like I’ve been a little bit protected in a really lovely way with the fact that now I’m in ministry in a way that I never imagined. It’s pretty special and I feel the kindness of God in that. 

 

It was here that I said Absolutely a few more unnecessary times and we said our good byes. It is also, at this point, once the call had ended, that I exclaimed how adorable Taya is. Yes, this is on recording and my awkwardness is there forever to remember. Even as I have dissected our conversation, while typing it out for you to read, I am once again struck by the humility and the ordinary relevance in everything Taya said.  There is not one aspect of her life, feelings or journey which she discussed that we can not nestle into and admit we know exactly what that feels like. (Can I get an Absolutely!?)

I am also struck, just now, with how my word for 2016 was CONNECT. All along this journey, this year, I have learned lessons on Connecting (and what it means) in ways that I could never have dreamed up. To be so near the end of the year, and for me to get the opportunity to personally connect with a voice and member behind music that has meant so much to me, is not lost on me. Taya is right, when we really look we can see God in everything. Even when…

(If you haven’t entered my awesome Christmas giveaway, I hope you’ll go do that right now because time is winding down, and if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I really encourage you to.)

The journey…

I have been fairly transparent, on this page, regarding my journey through 2016. In that, I have touched a little on how the band Hillsong United has been a part of that journey. To other people this may sound a bit ridiculous as they are a band and I do not actually know them. It all began with a very broken Sunday morning in church, and a song whose lyrics seemed to dig into my vulnerability in a way I had never experienced before. Through a discussion with a friend, and a chain of events which unfolded from there, I ended up resting my aching, tired spirit to music from Hillsong United. Through each leg of the journey, this year, a new song would reach me, balm me and grow me forward.

I had a very selfless, special friend who had really helped me out and I wanted to do something for her so I bought us tickets to see Hillsong in Boise, in May. I was in a very raw time, my youngest had nearly died from alcohol poisoning, 2000 miles from where I lived. My marriage was at it’s lowest point and while my tendency would have been to feel hopeless about the future, I found myself content to rest exactly where I was. Things could not have been more uncertain for me, and yet for the first time ever, I was ok with whatever were to happen.

I walked into that show, excited to hear the songs performed, which had meant so much to me. I left that show moved in ways I could not have imagined. Things had been said and spoken on that stage, and within the crowd, which led to personal healing and grace (from me towards myself and others in my life) like I had never experienced. I did not walk out those doors, on that starry night, the same person who had walked in them.

A few months later I was able to give tickets to a reader, and see them again in Chicago. While it was a different experience, it was no less meaningful.

Earlier this week I was honored to get to have a phone call with Taya Smith, of Hillsong United. While yes, I am a huge fan (and do follow her and several other members on various forms of social media) I also really admire and respect her as a person. Over the years I have sat across from many celebrities, interviewing and talking, but where Taya is concerned, it felt completely different. My respect for her is more human and less celebrity awe. I think a lot of this, honestly, has to do with their transparency as people. Anyone who has seen them perform, or who has even seen their documentary, can tell you that they aren’t performers as much as people living their passion and loving others. There is a difference…

My call with Taya was a really great, and fitting end to this leg of my journey and the part that she has played in my growth and healing. I would love to play the audio for you so you can hear the sincerity in her answers. Instead, on Monday, I will post the write up of our conversation. I really contemplated a series of nine questions and knew that, while I would not have time to ask her all of them, I could let it flow organically and go to the questions which seemed to naturally flow. I was able to get in three. Much to my daughter’s sadness, I did not get to ask the Justin Bieber question that she believes her future/marriage/and happiness were riding on. (Oh well, Next time.)

So come back Monday, for the interview… In the meantime, enjoy this video of Taya singing, and be sure to enter my super awesome Christmas giveaway!