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!

Connected…

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As I was plugging right along with everyone else, moving toward the beginning of 2016, it was hard to catch my breath. While everyone else seemed to be swimming and gliding along, just fine, I was drowning. I knew that every area of my life was in complete disarray, it was completely unmanageable and I knew the only answer was to let go.

Somehow, amidst the depression, thoughts of suicide, long days of sobbing and aching in my bed and the overall absence of self, I began emerge and realize how disconnected I was. It was on January the fourth, 2016, that I finally realized what my word was supposed to be. Connect…

At that point I identified as a Christian, yet had no actual connection to God. I was technically a wife, yet my husband wanted nothing to do with me. I had a hard time finding anything that defined me outside of motherhood, and my kids were all three spread out over the country, and terribly far from me. I had not seen my son in two years, I was as disconnected as humanly possible from the very small girl I had raised into the 16-year-old she was. I was of no value or worth to the most important people to me, and it was on this tide that I had floated until my life became something more akin to nightmare than what I had hoped for/dreamed of/worked towards. I remember telling whoever would listen, in those early January days, that I felt like every morning waking was like waking to a nightmare rather than from one. I wanted to sleep all of the time because sleep held dreams with my husband, with my kids, with moments which had once been true but no longer were… Awake rhymed with ache, which was all I did and let me tell you- it was excruciating. In my 40 years of life I have never known anguish like I did in those days.

How would I connect? I did not know. What would it mean to me? I could not say. Was I terrified? Absolutely.

Today, on December the 30th, I can’t help but look back.

Important things to note:

  • I no longer feel like that upon waking.
  • I no longer need to sleep to be.
  • I no longer struggle to know who I am, outside of being a wife or a mother.
  • I am both a wife and a mother, by choice. It may aid to define me, but I am something more.

When I was least expecting it, still drowning a little, I found my way to God. It was raw and ugly because I was ugly and raw. It involved Sunday mornings in church alone, (something I had never, ever done before) and these Sunday mornings always involved tears. Words were sung and spoken which reached deep inside of me and began to stitch and sew me into something new, deeper and better. I began meeting and praying with someone who, alongside of me, dissected me, my depression, my need to take care of others and cast aside myself. I bared all to her and she met me there, without judgement and together we trudged through. (This is something I had never, ever done before.)

Slowly I allowed my need to control the perception of others and just let go of that too. It didn’t matter what they thought. I evaluated, with honesty, whose opinions of me truly mattered and the list was very small. As time passed I began to let go of the toxic ones I thought I’d needed. My relationships with my sister and a few friends grew deeper because I found I was more able to engage in those ways, when I wasn’t tugged in unhealthier ones.

Still I ached for my marriage and my motherhood. As the other things seemed to clear and grow me, these two things seemed to kill me more. It was a journey. A necessary journey which I probably could have gone through while still in my family, but life played out differently and I went through it alone. I learned a lot alone. I learned about me, my motivations, patters, limits… These were things I had never really known before. Being the product of a society that touts sentiments such as Where there’s a will, there’s a way, I had naively believed if I could write it on a to-do list or if _____________ over there could do it, I could too and if I didn’t I was lazy and worthless. I grew to not only admit, but fully accept that I am not _______________. What works for them may not work for me… I am a woman whose body has had a hard life. I have a chronic condition which gives me limits and in order for my body to last many more years, (and my heart, and my soul, and my mind) I need to have grace for those limits. They too, do not define me.

I was able to see my son and spend time with him; take an emotional road trip which led to confrontations, endless laughter and healing; I was able make a handful of precious friends; I worked in two entirely different job fields which each taught me a lot about myself and my goals/heart; I reconnected with my mother with whom I’ve been estranged for what feels like a lifetime; I came home and am working on my marriage (something that felt impossible 9-12 months ago); I was there for the birth of my grandson and cut his cord (something I was certain I’d miss so far away) and have been able to spend endless amounts of time loving on him; I was able to fulfill a life long dream of exploring New England in the fall; I reconnected with an old friend who had severely wounded me some 11 years ago; I got back in touch with the writer inside of me who had been buried under so much gunk… And it goes on and on and on… The people I’ve had the chance to meet, the unexpected experiences I have been privy to. Along the way, every second of this journey I would say to myself over and over again: Connect. Connect. Connect. Connect… And I did.

The lamp is worthless unless we plug it in. I had been for years, like that socketless lamp. I am no more.

My word for 2017 is MOVE. The depth of how far this word can reach is intimidating. I knew weeks ago that it was meant to be my 2017.

How will it look? I don’t know, but I am ready…

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.)

Dearest Mr. Kringle,

In my November/December Newsletter I shared a gift list with suggestions for people you may be shopping for this Holiday season. I am a stickler for details and observant, to a fault, so throughout the year I collect ideas for things. It brings me great joy when a subscriber emails me to tell me they purchased one of the items for a loved one. (this has happened about a dozen times since my newsletter went out!) I love helping others and often dream of being a personal gift shopper because, let’s face it, giving gifts is THE BEST!

My daughters were begging me to get a list together for Chw. He’s kind of the worst at making a wishlist. When I pointed this out to him, he said that I hadn’t exactly presented him with one. We aren’t really exchanging gifts this year and my daughters both know what I would like, and wouldn’t, so the idea of making a list myself seemed ridiculous. Then, as if by magic, a long time reader emailed me and asked when my wishlist would be up. Weird right? See, every year, around December 1st, I tend to post a “dream wishlist”. It’s not a big deal, and it’s just for fun. We all have those things we’re dreaming of getting, but know we won’t. Well, apparently she looks forward to this list at the start of the holiday season, which is super cool and pretty funny, to be honest.

At any rate, after careful thought, I’ve decided this place could use a light-hearted/fun post so here it is…

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1.) Drake Tufted Sofa I mean, seriously… is this not the most beautiful sofa? This color… The tufting…
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2) If I haven’t complained on here about my current kitchen, please be amazed. It is my least favorite kitchen in all of the kitchens. This little kitchen set is SO adorable though and whenever I see it, i just grin from ear to ear! My kitchen needs some love.

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3) THIS recipe box. Do I need a new one? No. Not really…  But recipe boxes tend to be among those things that are typically pretty ugly and never really “fit in”, but this one… Well. :)

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4.) This Vase is gorgeous. Among my favorite things, in all the world, are fresh-cut flowers. I love them. I imagine this vase filled with flowers and my domestic little design loving heart soars…

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5.) These food prep boards… I mean, imagine the love these would bring to my kitchen. (remember my woeful kitchen confession above? *sigh*)

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6) This PTR face mask sampler is something I drool over every single time I’m in Ulta. PTR is my FAVORITE “something essential, yet special” skin care line, and with my Mask Monday stuff, this is PERFECT!

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7) I have been on the hunt for this Palette for what feels like ever. I have dreamed of it… Someday. (maybe. Hopefully. If only…)

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8) It is amazing. Enough said… 65-loews-spa-day-massage-or-facial-reg-125-2250482-regular

9) A spa day, complete with a facial, deep tissue massage, pedicure and glass of wine.

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10) a private jet. I miss my kids like crazy and soon Gen won’t be home either. (college) my closest friends live insanely far away and sometimes a “quick weekend” somewhere warm sounds perfect…

So there you go! Of course, I don’t need any of these things. The best parts of Christmas, for me, have nothing to do with what I unwrap. It is all about who I am surrounded by and the joy that lights up their eyes, along with what I can possibly do to make that a reality… What are you “wishing” for?

P.S. A quaint little Inn, in Cape Cod, Ma… :)