In Remembrance of Bill Bryant

This is the speech I gave at the memorial service to honor my late grandfather, William F. Bryant (1913-2020), on Saturday, January 25, 2020. 


Grace to you and peace from God our Father. These words are straight out of Colossians, and this is my prayer for all of you sitting here today. That the grace of God would meet you in your grief, and His peace would settle on all of us as we remember, honor, and celebrate the life of Bill Bryant, or as I know him, Papa. 

The large photo of him at the front here is one that I took of him, without his knowledge, while he was sitting in his chair on the back porch at his home. I’m not sure what year it was, but I’d guess 8-10 years ago. I typically like to ask permission first before I take someone’s picture, but that day, I remember deliberately being a little sneaky so I could capture him the way I might see him any other time I came out the back door of his house. I love the look on his face. He looks content. Peaceful. I want to thank my brother and his wife, Lucas & Tavia Van Horn for printing and framing this for all of us to have a visual way to remember this man that we have dearly loved. Thank you for honoring his memory in this way.

I am here today with my husband and our seven children, to share a few words about a man that has taught me a great deal. I have a few stories I’d like to share, and a few ideas I’d love to pass on—ones I learned from him, and ones that God is using powerfully in my life to restore broken places in my soul. I can’t help but think that maybe God wants to heal broken places in your life as well, and just as Papa did year after year throughout his life—wherever he could find some ready soil—I want to scatter some seeds here.

Most of you know Papa was a man of few words. At least, I didn’t hear him say a whole lot. Maybe it’s because Grams is so chatty (and I love your chattiness, Grandma), or maybe it was because I also seem to have inherited an overabundance of words and maybe I didn’t give him a chance to when I was with him…but even without saying much, the life that he lived spoke volumes. 

Papa was humble. He was not the flashy type. Never in a hurry, but not slow either. Deliberate, intentional, hard-working. He is what I would describe as steadfast, which is to say he was fixed in direction, firm in purpose, unwavering and resolute about what mattered to him.

One thing that really mattered to Papa: Compost.

I know, so exciting, right? 

Compost is a humble, maybe even a gross thing. Worms and rotting food and…ok I’ll stop. But I think it is an example of how easy it is to miss what is truly beautiful in life. I’m not saying compost itself is this dreamy, beautiful thing. But compost is something that nourishes soil to support seeds that spring up out of the ground and produce fruit…or beautiful flowers. And green beans and cucumbers and squash and corn, all of which were in Papa’s garden. 

And if you were ever privileged to see the things that sprang up there, you might have noticed that it wasn’t just a nice garden. It was abundant. Teeming with life. Bees everywhere pollinating the plants, which was a little frightening for me as a child because I didn’t know how awesome bees are. Nearly all the plants were notably oversized. Generous yields of green beans and cornstalks that grew to be 12 feet or more, when they were only supposed to be 6 feet tall. It was a supersized wonderland of lovely, nourishing, beautiful things because of the effort and care he put into preparing soil, planting seeds and tending his garden with care. Hummingbirds frequently visited the flowers on the back porch multiple times a day to partake of the nectar there.  

As a child, I remember walking through long rows of green beans and it seemed like they stretched forever. I remember him teaching me how to harvest them without damaging the plant. I remember the huge operation of picking beans, snapping beans, packing beans, and dropping them batch by batch into the canner. Every year of my young childhood, we had dozens of quarts of those beans in our laundry room. My mom served them several times a week with our meals. They were probably the only green thing I really liked to eat as a kid, and I know those beans in particular helped my parents feed us kids when we didn’t have a lot of money. 

Papa labored turning his compost, tilling his soil, and tending his plants to fill real and practical needs for others. I know he labored in other ways and other places as well, never complaining, and never leaving things left undone if there was a need to be met. I want to love people like that.  

I am not a gardener, although someday I’d love to get into it. I haven’t ever tried my hand at composting (aside from getting my kitchen scraps to the food waste container the city of Seattle whisks away on a truck), but the principle of composting intrigues me. What would happen if we all gathered up the humble things of our lives (not the yard waste and kitchen scraps, but our attention, care, and love), and invested them thoughtfully and generously where we are planted, in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities. I think we could expect to see beautiful things begin to grow. 

Papa did this alongside Grandma when they started serving community meals for the hungry during holidays. Every Christmas I remember spending with them was here in this church, making tons of food, preparing tables and chairs, and welcoming people from the community for an extravagant meal. I love that what he and grandma did together—those dinners, but really everything—was multiplied to be a blessing to many others. He was a selfless and steadfast servant.

I think this is Papa’s legacy. Papa honored God with everything he had, and the fruit of his faithfulness is abundant. 

John 15:8: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

I want to love others this way. I want to bear much fruit in my life—to not just seek after things I want for myself, but to put my effort into turning over my own “compost pile”…..taking hold of the things God has put in my hands and in my care, and tend them like they are valuable seeds, plunged into good soil, worthy of the labor it takes to bring about a full harvest. 

As you remember this man, I hope you are inspired to love others with this kind of love. 

1 John 4:15 “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in Him. By this is love perfected with us so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.”

I am speaking of God and His love, but as we remember Bill Bryant, I think we can see evidence of this same kind of love flowing from his life. 

The last time I saw him—the middle of August last summer, in the waning hours of sunlight, we joined up with grandma and grandpa at the park in the middle of town. As I’ve added children to my family, it has grown more difficult to visit people at their homes. We come in like a herd of elephants with energy, excitement, and we really don’t fit into a small living room. So we planned our time at the park where the kids could run themselves tired without destroying Papa’s house.

Grandpa sat at the table on the end, quiet as always, but contentedly so. As a little girl, I used to sit on his lap to chat with him, do word find puzzles with the TV on in the background, catching up about life. I obviously didn’t continue sitting on his lap as we both got older, but on this visit I thought about how I might come close to sitting on his lap without actually doing it. I pulled my folding chair as close as I could get it to the bench where he sat and took his hands in mine. 

“How are you doing, papa?” I said, leaning in a little.

“Well…,” he started. “I’m slowing down, Em.”

“I bet that’s been hard, Papa; to not be able to do all the things you used to do in your garden and around your house.”

He didn’t say anything in response, just the slightest bit of a nod and a squeeze of my hand. 

My heart leapt in my chest and I knew I wanted to tell him all the things I might need to say just in case this was our last conversation, because somehow in my heart I knew. 

I told him I had such wonderful memories spending time at his house when I was young. I felt deeply loved by him, and I learned so much from him. Especially how to work hard and not fuss about it…to see the beauty in spending myself on learning how to tend my life and family like a garden. I told him everything I wanted to say. I didn’t hold a thing back, because sometimes you just know it’s not the time to be timid, it’s not the time to respect the invisible lines of someone’s comfort zone. I let the words of my soul pour out. When I looked up, he had tears streaming down his cheeks. 

I said, “Well I didn’t mean to make you cry, Papa. But some things need to be said.” 

He borrowed his hand back from me to push his glasses up a little.

“These darn glasses keep slidin’ down my nose,” was all he said in reply.


The only thing I didn’t say then that I wish to say now is, “Papa. Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done. My life is much more beautiful because of what you’ve sown into it, and I thank you.” 



1571. safe travel and great conversations, 1572. the blessing of being together, 1573. memories in old buildings, 1574. technology doing its job, 1575. simple and beautiful service, 1576. military honors ceremony and presentation of the flag, 1577. grandma’s hand in mine, 1578. norm’s jokes, 1579. seeing my people, 1580. pizza night time together with family

Reflections from Recent Weeks

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 12/52

It’s a lazy day of waiting for a green light, for a little man to make his arrival. The excitement is palpable among the younger kids who “just can’t wait” to meet their little brother in the coming hours. I slept soundly last night, drenched in peace and calm like I haven’t had for weeks, waking only to ease the aches in my hips, visit the bathroom, and take the last self-administered dose of heparin before delivery.

A friend from out of town arrived last night and has mercifully had a gentle introduction to looking after our many kids while we’ve been waiting for the invitation to head over to labor & delivery. Daddy and I went out for an impromptu date at one of the area’s most delicious breakfast joints and caught up on some of the conversations we haven’t been able to have in the midst of the last week. The dish I ordered was the absolutely most perfect one I could have picked, tasty and satisfying. Don’t you love it when you make the right decision in a restaurant?

Since then, we’ve been at home while children play board games, read books, and continue asking when we are going to go to the hospital to get the baby out. It’ll be today, but I have to wait until the charge nurse gives the signal. We’re all excited. I’m passing the time by stopping in here with some of my last reflections before everything changes forever, which is what always happens when a new baby arrives.

I’ve been to the doctor’s office twice a week for the past several months, having routine non-stress tests, extra ultrasounds, lab work, and other appointments to monitor both my health and medications, as well as the baby’s heart rate and movement. Both the baby and I have been fine, and the care we have received from the maternal-fetal medicine clinic has been top notch. On the cusp of induction and a shift in many of the facets of my health, I am eager for the start of a new season even though it means there will be a new round of sleep deprivation and adjustments to life with another newborn. In the past few weeks, I have grown weary of all the fine details involved in the care I’ve required to get through this past season, and I’m grateful all the conditions I’ve navigated are each temporary. Between the many appointments, timed and monitored eating, regimented medications, and a few rounds of unpleasant illness, I’ve had to make peace with the reality of being in a high-needs, low-productivity season.

I’ve tried to enjoy these last weeks of pregnancy despite the discomforts. The baby’s movement is something I never tire of, and I have treasured the time during these seemingly long days of quiet contemplation about the transition before us. There have been layers of struggle, but also, specific and definitive gifts hidden between the layers. I’ve had many tears, boiling frustrations, aches and pains, and I counted up the number of injections I’ve had to give myself (between blood thinners, insulin, etc), which now numbers near 1500 in the past 8 months. It has been an exorbitant number, for sure.

Still, I feel deeply honored and abundantly blessed to have the opportunity to give birth to this child, to see this pregnancy through despite the extreme ups and downs I’ve experienced. I grieve for the mamas I know about who have said goodbye to their babies–even in the past few weeks–far too soon, and I recognize there is no amount of discomfort that overshadows the magnitude of this gift. It is worth every bit of the hardship I’ve encountered.

I’ve learned much about myself, gained perspective about my role as a mother, witnessed my family take on new dynamics as they’ve learned to work together as a team, discovered the beauty in vulnerability and welcoming in the support and encouragement of the community around us. I know I am richer for the experience I’ve had since September when I was first hospitalized–even though I have privately struggled in many ways.

In a few hours’ time, we will begin induction so we can welcome this little boy in a predictable, managed environment. I’m 38 weeks and 6 days. It is surreal to be at this point and see all of the challenges in the rearview mirror: how I spent 8 weeks sleeping upright on the couch in our living room while healing from my pulmonary embolism, the overfull sharps containers and personal pharmacy beside my bed, the first names I learned in visiting the clinic twice a week, the low-glycemic foods I have eaten for the past twelve weeks to keep my blood sugars in check. So many moments have been heavy, hard, unpredictable, and not at all an experience I expected, but I’m grateful for them anyway.

A few weeks ago during a particularly high-anxiety week, I had a 24-hour period when I felt like I was staring into the black abyss, contemplating all the ways things could go sideways and horribly wrong. It was the culmination of months of low-level anxiety and intermittent fears of the unknown coming together in one dramatic day of letting my thoughts really go there, to the scary places. Without overspiritualizing, it was like God led me to the precipice of the abyss and invited me to take a look down there and really consider what was there.

“Let’s go look and see what’s there,” He prompted my heart.

My heart raced and I cried several different times. My sleep was restless and fitful. I considered all the big scary thoughts I’d been afraid to acknowledge. What if? What if I can’t? What if I don’t? What if everything goes careening into the black?

“What if?” came the response.

“Have I not held you? Have I not sustained and carried you? Have I not repeatedly shown you fear is not a reliable source of information? Have I not delivered you through many trials and snares in the past?”

The truth is, fear lies. I can say, I’ve seen the abyss and it’s just not any match for the love that holds all things together.

So I march forward in love, free from fear and so eager to meet this little boy.


“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in all things He may have preeminence. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.” Col. 1:15-23



1561. delicious breakfast together with my guy, 1562. surrounded in prayer, 1563. care for our big crew during this induction, 1564. blossoming trees along our street, 1565. enthusiasm of the kids, 1566. the cusp of a new season, 1567. leisurely morning, 1568. the power of encouragement, 1569. solid care team 1570. seattle weather

On the Struggle for Peace

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 11/52 (yes, I skipped a week)

“Your plate is full,” she said after I spelled out the particular challenges of the past few months. “Like, I think you might need some more plates.”

That’s how I’m feeling, too. Except I can’t add too many plates, because I only have so many hands, and my children already outnumber me half a dozen times over. I do currently have a belly-shelf where my very full plate can rest when I’m seated, at least until our son is born in a few weeks. The plate does get kicked and knocked around by his vigorous movement in there, but to see him active and healthy in spite of our complicated journey makes me smile in the midst of the struggle and uncertainty constantly swirling around me.

I sit at the dining room table amid the remnants of the meal my children have left behind for the activities they’re off doing around the house; chicken burgers and a pasta-veggie combo from the frozen aisle at Costco. I haven’t been eating meals with my family most of the time because it takes extra time and intention to prepare the custom gestational diabetes-friendly food I currently require. By the time I sit down, most or all of the kids are on to other adventures.

My bowl of chicken salad and sizable plate of veggies are satisfying, but they also speak to the constant loneliness of the season I’m in—with real and present challenges no one else fully knows. I miss our simple family dinners when I could make one meal and we could sit together for half an hour, laughing about the quirks and joys of the large collection of personalities around this table.

I have moments of joy, but I have many more moments of other, more troubling emotions.

The recipe currently comprising my life is one part anticipation, two parts struggle, and easily three parts uncertainty mixed up with anxious thoughts. In many moments, it feels difficult to suck in a satisfying breath and let it out again, and whatever nebulous layer covers the surface of my big emotions seems dangerously thin nearly all of the time.

Alone at the table, I am close to tears. When I’m not in motion, not powering through the momentary challenge in front of me (which of late has been simple things like tying my shoes and mustering the energy to rise from a chair for any task at all), the weight of everything presses me forcefully toward random and uncontrollable weeping.

(read the rest of this post over on


1551. induction in 4 days, 1552. peppermint lifesavers, 1553. naps, 1554. tender moments, 1555. finding peace, 1556. friend check-ins, 1557. baby laundry done & hospital bag packed, 1558. made blankets for baby – hawks & planes, 1559. grace in the midst of canceled commitments, 1560. slow pace & quiet home days

Welcome to the Real World

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 9/52

The weirdest part about our shelter in place experience was returning home. We walked through the front door and, surprise! Life plodded on with startling familiarity. I cleared the counters and figured out a dinner plan, despite the many other things on my mind.

My husband flipped on the news so we could maybe find out more details of the situation. We had already learned from online sources what was first said to be an active shooter situation was an unlawful/accidental discharge, and it was at the other end of the mall from where we were. By God’s mercy, there was no rampage going on down the way, but we didn’t know that until well beyond our departure from the mall. I was grateful no one was hurt, but don’t know if it was terribly comforting to know it was “just an accidental discharge” in a public place full of families. Public gun situations are becoming more commonplace (it boggles my mind to say so), but we frequent public places so rarely, I honestly never expected to encounter something remotely like this in my lifetime.

I bustled in the kitchen, trying to focus on the task at hand when my husband stopped in to let me know that at least one of the kids was in and out of weeping and asking some hard questions about what we had experienced as the evening settled in. He often leaves the more involved communication to me, since I rarely have any shortage of words. He’s the best choice for all-consuming, life-giving hugs, which he doles out freely to all of us. We agreed he would handle getting our toddler to sleep at bedtime and I would sit with the bigger kids gathered around to help them talk through the experience and answer all the questions I could. I prayed for wisdom about what to say.

The kids have been taking classes twice a week at a nearby school. It is technically a public school but set up to serve homeschool families with support, oversight, and a bunch of awesome classes we just have to show up for (less work for mama). It’s the most “school-like” environment my kids have been in since our oldest entered kindergarten. They have done earthquake, fire, and shelter in place drills on campus, but none of them have ever connected the dots as to why the drills were necessary, or really, how they are all different from each other. I’m not sorry I haven’t splashed all the news stories before them prior to this experience. They range in age from 3 to 12 and one of us parents is nearly always with them even at school, so I haven’t felt the need to fill their heads with fears about what could happen in a social situation gone sideways. I’m sure they’ve seen snippets of new stories here and there. We’ve never intentionally tried to hide the real world from them, we simply haven’t brought the tragic things close in an effort to protect their sense of wonder and childlikeness in these precious years.

As a hyper-aware child myself, I was very aware of any an all dangers that could ever befall me and spent a good portion of my childhood worrying about all of the above–well beyond what would be seen as normal. I never slept with my bedroom window open (not even one time) because I was certain if I did, someone would come through it to kidnap me. Before I was ten years old, I knew to be aware of where exits were in public places, always studied the faces and body language of strangers to see if they might be a threat, and took every precaution in every situation I could to avoid any perceived danger. It has taken me years of painstaking heart-work and prayer to untangle irrational fear from my everyday life. Situational awareness is a needed skill, but having lived the life I have and discovering the crippling effects of rampant, unchecked fear, I’ve grown to believe childhood is a fleeting time that can and should be protected whenever possible. I realize many children are not given this opportunity, which grieves my mama-heart, but in no way deters me from wanting to do what I can for my children and the ones in my sphere of influence to preserve their innocence as long as I can. I invest deeply at home precisely because I want to guard these years of wonder and delight for as long as I can.

The kids gathered after their bedtime routines and we talked for a long time. I started by asking them if there was anything they wanted to talk about or ask regarding the experience. In turn, they each chattered out what they remembered hearing and seeing, what frightened them, what they didn’t understand, and tossed out their questions.

“Do lots of people shoot up malls and public places?” came one of them.

I wanted to be careful with that one because the answer is hard to acknowledge. “It does happen, and it can happen anywhere,” I replied truthfully. I mentioned that it is not something I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime, and they may never again either, but none of us know what will happen in the future.

“Do you remember how during the whole experience, we didn’t know much about what was going on, right?” I said. Sudden inspiration came to slip in some possibly useful lessons.

“One important thing to do in an emergency is to remain calm. If you’re not calm, you won’t be able to take in the clues around you about what is going on, and you won’t be able to make thoughtful decisions about your next steps.”

This turned our conversation to a stretch about how to respond in different kinds of emergencies. I explained how a shelter in place is different from a fire. In one, you stay-put and out of sight. In the other, you get out of the building without hesitation and go to the designated meeting spot. In both, you remain calm and try to collect clues about what is going on as you make decisions regarding what you need to do in order to be safe.

We talked about how troubled people sometimes make choices to hurt others, but that there are also lots of people who want to help others, even in the midst of dangerous situations. We talked about what heroes really look like (as opposed to the Marvel variety), and why “bad guys” aren’t quite as simple as they are portrayed to be in movies.

There is a saying in our family that gets tossed around, mostly for the laughs, because it was first tossed out in a family conversation innocently by our spunky middle child. It has become a well-timed quip, heavily laced with sarcasm, and always cracks us up. Anytime someone complains about having to do a chore or notices weirdness out in the world, someone pipes up with the phrase, “Welcome to the real world!” Sadly, this shelter-in-place experience was a more serious introduction to the “real” world. I’m not sorry it happened, but I do wish I would have walked my kids through some of the particulars of handling an emergency of this nature before this situation happened without warning. More than a month later, my sensitive girl continues to struggle with anxiety, bad dreams, and unfounded worry about all kinds of things since, and she is the one I feel would have possibly handled it all a little better with some information up front. I don’t know for sure if it would have changed how she experienced this, but I find she is typically really coachable ahead of other potentially uncomfortable or stressful things.

I share all of this because I know so many mamas who, just like me, don’t want their children to have to know about the more tragic side of the human experience any earlier than necessary. How can we talk about these things with preschoolers and early grade-schoolers? I’m fumbling through that myself.

I don’t have tidy answers to offer, but I do think it helps to thoughtfully explain various types of emergencies and possible courses of action. We had previously talked about fire safety and evacuation, but never shelter in place drills (not more than a passing comment anyway), and I am giving some deep thought to what else we may need to discuss on the sooner side just so the hard lessons don’t have to show up in moments mixed up with confusion, panic, and hysteria.

More than anything, I want my children to know whatever they need to know without fear set loose to rule their lives. I’m grateful no one was hurt. I’m grateful we have all learned from the experience. And I’m grateful for the perspective shift it has given me to more conscientiously prepare even my younger children for unexpected situations they may encounter in the future.


1541. new stroller, 1542. misc. baby items order, 1543. anticipation, 1544. precious movement, 1545. familiar songs streaming through a tiny speaker, 1546. teamwork, 1547. episodes done, 1548. slow roll into a new season, 1549. conversations, 1550. quiet

Shelter in Place

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 8/52

I wasn’t prepared for an emergency situation to unfold on our quiet Monday afternoon. We were on a mission to figure out the best options for our new stroller/travel system since our car seat and stroller situation from the past few babies is not going to work for the next season. We need a mobile home-base-on-wheels to carry us through the summer and especially going into the school year next fall when I take seven kids to our weekly activities spanning four days of the week. 

We went south of Seattle to a giant baby store—once a Bed Bath and Beyond—which still looks like a BBB but is filled with baby clothes, cribs, toys, storage solutions, feeding supplies, and fully assembled strollers you can push, breakdown, and lift to experience the functionality of each system. We didn’t buy that day but we did figure out what the best solution will be for us when we’re ready to order it.

We’d already made the drive south, so on a whim, we decided to stop by the mall to fill out clothing needs for the kids and the upcoming season. Everyone has been short on pants because their legs keep growing (don’t they know it’s easier if they just stay the same size so we’re not having to buy new clothes all the time?) JC Penney is usually the department store of choice because we can often find when everyone needs under one roof. 

As you can imagine, shopping with six kids is a bit of an endeavor. We decided to split up for a stretch, me with the girls, sorting through a collected pile of sale items to see which pants would actually fit them. To keep our rascally toddler occupied, I handed him daddy’s phone with the Incredibles 2 movie to watch as he sat in the corner of the dressing room, and Dad took the older boys to look in their section. One of the two refuses to wear anything but athletic shorts or maybe some baggy sweat pants, but I was hopeful they might find some nice-looking and nice-feeling pants to satisfy their desires and the mama as well. 

They’d been gone for 10 minutes when the girls and I had made our selections, so I gathered the ducklings, the extra phone, the items we wanted to buy, and we set out to find the boys.

Parked outside the boys’ dressing room, two little girls swung their feet over the edge of a slightly-too-tall-to-reach bench, older sister strolled around nearby racks, and the little guy puppy-dog-eyed me to start up the iPhone movie for him for the second time. My husband called me back to the oversized room where the boys had been trying on their stuff so I could give my stamp of approval.

The little guy came with me and I handed him the phone once again while he huddled on the floor, so we could get through this last bit of decision-making. I didn’t want the girls hanging out without one of us, so I sent Daddy out to be with them while I checked the fit and practical use of everything the boys wanted to buy. A couple of minutes went by, pants went on, pants went off, and I sorted the pile between what we’d take and what we would leave.

Outside the dressing room door, I heard a bunch of running, a slammed door down the row, some hushed whispers and a variety of other sounds that didn’t seem quite normal. At that moment, my mind was in 5 places. Girls out on the floor, toddler with phone, boys and pants, what were those sounds?, and man, I’m tired.

More frantic shuffling and door-slamming, and I tried to figure out what was going on with the very few clues I had.

“GET OUT!” He hollered down the way. “WE HAVE TO GET OUT. THERE’S A SHOOTER.”

It was my husband. I thought about his words and it took me a minute to register what he had said. My first thought was to stay put. Dad had the girls. I needed a second to get oriented and figure out how to take two boys with no pants on, and one toddler with a phone in his hands—out of there. I’m sorry, but you need pants on to leave a dressing room, so I ordered them to drop the merchandise and put their pants and shoes on.

“QUICK!” I whispered insistently. I took the iPhone from my toddler and pulled him to standing. A siren started going off, which startled him, and I yanked the boys out the door down to the entrance into the store, searching for my husband’s bald head to know where we were to go. Because I had both phones (mine with me and his with the toddler), we couldn’t afford to get separated. Emerging into the store, I  looked around aisles and displays trying to figure out if we should be ducking, crawling, running, or what? I couldn’t hear any gunshots, but I saw people rushing to one corner of the store with terrified faces. My husband and daughters are right there, my husband visibly upset and all of us looking bewildered about what to do.

My husband asked for his phone and I felt around for where I might have put it because I did not think hard about it when I took it from the toddler, who was whimpering and protesting. It was in my back pocket. I haven’t been able to carry the kid easily during my pregnancy, but I slung him up over my shoulder because I couldn’t have dealt with the chase if he wriggled away from me in the commotion. It strained my back a bit, but you do what you have to do.

I barked orders for the kids to hold each other’s hands, and I counted them compulsively every few seconds while we hurried along to who knows where? A JCP employee started waving customers into a back stockroom, where the sirens were twice as loud immediately overhead, and there was barely any room to stand because of the over-packed racks and the dozens of people already crammed in there. Once inside, we stood shoulder to shoulder with other shoppers who similarly did not know what was going on. The kids worried, my husband tried to find any kind of information he could from his phone about the unfolding situation, and my sensitive #5 child started crying while holding her hands tightly over her ears because of the loud alarms.

I counted the kids again to make sure we had everyone.

My first concern was staying together as a unit. I didn’t feel especially panicked at the moment because I had a mom job to do. I needed to remain calm and we had to gather information by keeping our eyes and ears open to what was going on around us. It was confusing, upsetting, and more than anything, it was difficult to answer the steady stream of questions from the kids because we really had no information.

“We’re ok,” I reassured them. “When we figure out what is going on, I’ll answer all your questions.”

They took in all the clues around them as well. They overheard people talking about a shooter and police response and all the other rumblings of the crowd around us.

Within a few minutes, we were directed out another exit from the stockroom to get over to an elevator out on the floor. More than a hundred people were gathered, waiting for a turn down the elevator to the basement since only 15 or so people could fit in it at a time. A stressed JCP employee was shuttling people up and down to the basement, where everyone was being evacuated to. She tried to reassure the nervous kids and make sure the right buttons were pushed on the elevator. It was really weird to stand there in a crowd of people, many holding their phones up to capture video of the scene around us or looking down into their screens while trying to find information about the situation. The exterior doors were all locked, and the door to the main mall entrance was pulled down, securing the store. The kids all took turns muttering about how they didn’t ever want to come to this mall again, and when would we be able to get out, and why were we getting on an elevator?

I kept counting them, reassured them and kept hold of the 5-year-old’s hand while she struggled to process the sensory details of the ordeal.

Within a few minutes, we were down in the basement on our way to the employee lunchroom area, beyond double doors that are usually off limits to customers. Several hundred people were packed inside, sitting, standing, and filling all the corners of the room. We made our way to a little corridor near the back of the room where we could all stand together near a row of vending machines. The sirens were off, the first relief from blaring noise in ten minutes, and we settled in there. My husband kept searching for information on my phone, and the toddler was once again engrossed in Incredibles 2 on his device, with a few siblings leaning in from the sides. My oldest leaned against a vending machine, chewed on her nails while holding back tears, and I sat on the floor with my five-year-old sucked close to me.

In the most heartbreaking way, the little one sobbed out, “Mama, how does this even happen?”

I smoothed her hair and pulled her closer, trying to comfort her without much to go on. “I don’t know, sweetheart. We will just stay together until we figure out what to do next. Right now we’re safe.”

We had long-since abandoned the items we intended to buy back at the dressing room, but I saw a few people carrying around arm-loads of merchandise they wanted to purchase. It was a weird juxtaposition for me, holding my distressed child and seeing other customers clutching material things they didn’t own yet, but weren’t about to set down.

At the time, we had no idea how long we’d be in that room, but about a half-hour in, we were told the situation had been diffused and we should make our way to the first floor (street level) to leave the building through one open exterior door. We filed out of the lunchroom to an escalator and made our way out to the parking garage and into our van.

There was more chatter from the kids about how they never want to go to that mall again, and why do people have guns and what really happened back there anyway?

My husband and I were quiet in the front seat for a few minutes while navigating out of the parking lot.

He said quietly to me, “Are you ok?”

“I’ll cry later,” I said, trying to keep the bulk of my emotions in since my sensitive girl was still in my line of sight and she was watching me. I did feel the tears welling up, but instead of spilling them out, I just returned the question.

“What about you, are you ok?”

“No,” he said emphatically. “That was not ok at all.”

I grabbed his hand and we drove the 20 miles home trying to silently process what we had just experienced.

*More on the aftermath of this experience coming soon.


1531. reaching 36 weeks, 1532. compassionate care, 1533. help with our clutter, 1534. last writing day before baby, 1535. hot cinnamon tea, 1536. spring temps, 1537. cleaned out car, 1538. fellowship time, 1539. new (free) shelves, 1540. extra sleep

Snow Adventures

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 7/52

I’ve been radio silent here, unable to make the posts happen on the schedule I had planned. Everything is going well, it just happens to be taking every extra ounce of energy and focus I have available to keep our household on the rails, get to the appointments (several a week just for me & baby), handle the daily things I must do to keep myself in a healthy zone (eating well at timed intervals, blood sugar values, injections for blood thinners and insulin, and charting all of the above), and the layers of needs among multiple children that never cease. While I’ve been publicly quiet, I have been privately capturing bits of the past few weeks I will slowly roll out to the blog–whenever they arrive. I have still been taking photos of our family each week, so look out for those in the coming days and weeks along with thoughts about the ups and downs of this recent season.

The snow has been gone a few weeks now, but it did leave its mark on all of us. At first, we had a few thrilling days; maybe six inches total, which everyone was excited about. The kids suited up in their odd and mismatched not-really-snow gear for a little time in the front yard. They made snowballs and snow angels before returning to the warm house ten minutes later, which is about how much time any one of them lasts in the cold. What can I say? We are used to mild weather. It was fun and games, smiles and glee.

Temperatures warmed enough to mostly melt the snow over the following few days, but news outlets kept reporting we might have another winter storm on the way, including predictions of record snowfall for our area. At first, I didn’t think too much of it. Having grown up in Central Oregon where all seasons are a bit more pronounced than Seattle’s ever-mild weather, the prospect of a few more inches of snow did not faze me at all.

“You might want to stock up on food,” the radio blared more than once that week. I hadn’t really planned on stocking up, as our normal weekly routine is to shop at Costco on Saturdays, and aside from running out of the ultra-convenient just-warm-it-up foods week by week, we have a fairly impressive running supply of staples that could get us through a longer stretch if needed even if I didn’t pick up a thing.

On a Thursday, I went to a morning OB appointment after sending all the kids with Daddy to school for their art, language, and engineering classes they do twice a week. The preschoolers went along with them for the morning and I came to pick them up a while later after the OB visit. The appointment went mostly fine, but I did end up with an insulin prescription I needed to fill at the Costco pharmacy, after discussing the baby’s current development and how I’d been faring with my blood sugar readings. I opted out of the oral drug I was offered to control blood sugars because the doctor said while it is considered safe in pregnancy, it does cross the placenta, and they do not actually have long-term studies regarding how it affects babies beyond birth. That was enough to convince me that insulin injections were the only way to go. I’d already been giving myself twice-daily injections following the blood clot in my lung last September, so I had already dealt with my needle-aversion. I fetched the little ones and headed over to deliver my prescription to be filled, planning to send Daddy there later to pick it up on the way home from school.

When we arrived in the parking lot, there were no open parking spots anywhere, even though it was a random Thursday at 10:30am. I spend more time at Costco than anyone I know, so I’ve got a fairly developed sense of roughly how much traffic to expect there based on the day and time, and that morning was especially nuts. I did score a parking spot in rather short order, so the little two kids and I made our way inside to the even-more-nutty sight within the store.

I’ve never seen anything like it. The storm was predicted to arrive Friday afternoon, and here we were a day and a half early, with crazed crowds filling their baskets with all kinds of stuff. Because I’m on a pretty stringent diet for gestational diabetes, I really only had one thing in mind – make sure to pick up a rotisserie chicken for my meals the upcoming week. I can make 6-8 different easy meals for myself with just one chicken, so that has been one of my personal staples through this season. All the aisles throughout Costco were packed with people, but the line for rotisserie chicken was longer than I have ever seen. People elbowed and crowded their way to the front to get a golden brown bird fresh out of the oven, and even the employees behind the counter were incredulous at the demand. I was fortunately not in a hurry, and I waited patiently, even though half a dozen people side-eyed me as they cut in front of us. One lovely woman who waited beside me for a time asked if she could nab a chicken for me, (being a little more mobile without a cart and two children), and I thanked her as she set it carefully in my cart.

At the sight of this mayhem, I decided maybe there was something to this stocking-up craze that was going on, so I started doing what everyone else was doing–filling my cart with supplies we might need if there was indeed a snowpocalypse, as predicted. I felt a little silly, because I’m not usually one to fret about this sort of thing, but man, watching hundreds of people swirl around the basic necessities: milk, bread, bananas, and the like will make you think you really need some of that stuff too. It was really challenging getting through the store and all the way around to the pharmacy just to drop off the prescription. By the time we were ready to go, I hadn’t yet picked up the filled prescription, but the checkout lines were longer than I’d ever seen. We ended up in one sort of by accident (because it started so far back in the store) and within minutes there were dozens of people behind us. I felt like if I left the line, I’d never find my way to the front again. Serendipitously (or ahem…by God’s provision), there was a woman in line directly ahead of us that I knew from my weekly bible study group. I asked if she would hang with my kids and my cart while I raced (in waddle-like fashion) over to the pharmacy counter to pick up my stuff. She was so gracious and played a huge part in us making it out of the store in one piece, with everything we would need for the next week. I made it back to the line as she was loading our cart’s contents onto the conveyor belt.

The next seven days were slightly more traumatic. First of all, my husband was on a business trip, so it was just me and the kids hunkering down at home by ourselves. We were unable to leave the house at all because the snow had come so heavy within a day, and the plows had so thoroughly built up an embankment of icy dirt-mound on the street-side of our big passenger van, we couldn’t dig our van out of the gravel area where we park. Ironically, we have probably the easiest place to park along our whole street…until of course, there is a 2-foot embankment to knock down.

The temperatures warmed and refroze the embankment in a few days’ time, and by the time we tried to shovel it clear, it was not an easy job. I tried kicking the snow-walls down with my big leather boots on so I might diminish the height enough to drive out to the bare street. I’m pretty sure I looked like a drunk penguin while doing so, and I made very little progress with that method. We don’t even have a snow shovel of our own (which tells you about how much snow we typically get in Seattle), so a friend mercifully came by to drop one off for me. I gave that a quick try, but with my size and mobility (as I already hinted at, I’m at waddling stage), I tried for all of 30 seconds before I came to the conclusion it was not going to happen. We had to wait a few more days for a little more snowmelt, and the return of my able-bodied husband to get free of the snow trap. We did, however, have all the food we needed thanks to our earlier Costco stop!

The kids had a few snow-play sessions in the yard, but as the snow piled up, it became clear there were some really unsafe conditions outside. One tree in our yard (a small, deciduous one) was so heavy-laden with snow that the whole tree bent over nearly to the ground, because of the weight on its branches. The tall pine trees in our side-yard were dropping big branches and hunks of icy half-melted snow blocks without warning, and despite the protests of the kids, I couldn’t let them out to play on those days.

By the end of the week, the kids’ energy was out of control and they were antsy to get back to school to see friends. My nerves were pretty frayed by that point, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never been so relieved to see my husband return from a trip as I was at the end of that week.

It’s all a distant memory now. In the past week, we have had sunshine and temps in the 80’s, and as far as I can tell, there are no remaining snow remnants like there were for a few weeks where it had been piled high by plows and shovels.


1521. the sunny side of a dark night of the soul, 1522. well-timed support from cherished friends, 1523. visit from mama, 1524. online shopping and stuff that fits, 1525. easy returns, 1526. sandals for my pregnant sausage feet, 1527. steak & spinach salad deliciousness, 1528. collage night and the one I made for my ledge, 1529. birthdays, 1530. new writing opportunities

The Life of a Gatekeeper

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 6/52

She stood at the door of the gym, facing away from me; wide stance and crossed arms, scanning the floor for unsafe behavior or toddlers who might be wandering into the path of well-meaning capture the flag players. The weather through the winter months doesn’t always allow for outside play, so indoors, the whole bunch sorts out the abundance of energy each seems to have (save the mamas who hustle around and make the magic happen). 

Some are in classrooms, preparing lessons and supplies for when recess is done and all the kids file into their assigned classrooms.

Some are cleaning up from lunch, where over sixty children eat on picnic blankets laid atop the midnight-blue carpet stretched across the church’s basement floor. Only after the flock has moved over to the gym can moms gather stray lunch items, collect wrappers and the uneaten bits left behind. Blankets are folded and carried outside to shake out the crumbs, and industrial strength vacuums are trusted to take care of the rest. 

Some moms tend their littlest ones who have come along for the ride, changing diapers and feeding in peace while their big kids play. 

One mom is in the kitchen, rinsing out the tea and coffee cups that have been used throughout the morning by all the women who have brought their children to this one-day-a-week thing we do to spark a love of learning and awe for the threads of hope and wonder woven through history, science, and the Bible. 

It’s our homeschool cooperative, and it is a haven for all of us. 

The circle we form in the morning is a beautiful joining of hands to pray for the most present and pressing needs in each of our lives. We come with joys and sorrows, petitions and praise. We stand shoulder to shoulder, each familiar with the sobering responsibility of raising children to know truth, to see connections between the physical and spiritual realms, and to apply wisdom in real-world situations. 

As the end of recess draws nearer, kids come to the door, hoping to sneak by to stop at a drinking fountain or find their moms. But experience has taught all of us if you let one cross the line prematurely, the deliberate boundaries fall, and confusion and chaos take over. 

It takes attentive vigilance to guard the door. The gatekeeper must oversee what happens and guide the kids through the transition of what will happen next. 

I’ve stood in that doorway before. It’s a job that easily overwhelms. There are other moms inside the gym that keep an eye on the bathrooms and monitor the activities, but the door job is still a bear. Kids come near, expectantly hoping the rules don’t apply to them, so they can pass through to whatever their heart desires to do next, but it can’t happen without bringing on a tidal wave of children who also think the rules do not apply to them.

Kids are smart, they watch and see what everyone else is able to pull off, what they can get away with. They know the gatekeeper is there, they know the expectation that once they’ve gone in, no one leaves the gym until it is 1pm. Ah, but if one breaches the invisible barrier, they think it gives them automatic permission to go themselves.

A gatekeeper must be firm but kind, holding the boundary for the benefit of everyone.

Being the gatekeeper of our homes is similar. Every time I set a limit, there is an attempt to breach. There is a test, a stepping in with tip-toes. Will this work? Can I get away with it? I’ll bet I can if I just keep testing. This is why vigilance is exhausting. This is also why it is needed. 

What do limits provide for our kids? I’ve grown to see limits as a loving thing. Only with limits can our kids learn to navigate freedom with wisdom. When in the gym, they can play whatever they want. Capture the flag, basketball, or tag. They can choose which friends they’re going to spend their time with, what conversations they’re going to have, and how active they’re going to be. Is it a mental decompress time or a physical exertion time? The child decides—but within the boundary. 

The gatekeeper isn’t a micromanager, just a watchful eye, compassionate guidance, and firm boundary-enforcer. As I learn more about my own limits and the freedom I find within them, the more committed I am to being a diligent gatekeeper of my home.


1511. a stretch of chill days, 1512. flexibility, 1513. new writer friends, 1514. insulin, 1515. episodes recorded, 1516. hodgepodge snow gear (photo coming next week), 1517. protein trail mix, 1518. honesty, 1519. safe winter driving, 1520. last-minute library return

Listening in the Kitchen

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 5/52

When the heart is quiet and the ears are open, there is much to hear.

I seem to discover important things in the most unlikely places. Today, I stood in my kitchen, reeling in a compounded mess: life on the go with a large group of children who would much rather stack paper plates on the counter with metal forks between them than sort the stuff, and ditch the trash upon first pickup. We’re still working on some things. They also seem much more interested in using every glass in the house over the course of two meals than making use of their reusable, color-coded water bottles.

I filled a plastic tub with warm, soapy water so the few things needing a bit of a soak could loosen food debris while I tossed napkins and individual plates in our family-size food waste bin. I didn’t really want to be there in the middle of that mess, just like I don’t really want to be here in the last trimester of a surprise pregnancy with multiple diagnoses to complicate things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for the baby coming, but the health challenges I’ve encountered, and extra layers of complexity it brings to my household have not been my type of fun.

I like things to be easy. Some (weird) things come fairly easy to me. Pregnancy has typically always been a time where I’ve felt a deep sense of purpose, joy, and even in the discomfort, I could offer a whole-hearted yes, I am in. That’s not to say I haven’t struggled through some long, dark stretches, but I’ve found a lightness of spirit, or at the very least, I mostly remember the more positive parts from days gone by.

This has not been one of those weeks. I’ve been diagnosed (on top of my other diagnosis) with gestational diabetes. I’ve had it once before. It’s not entirely unfamiliar, but it has been entirely discouraging me this week. It’s like all my efforts to get an A on this test have landed me exactly in D- status (I won’t claim an F, as honestly there is so much out of my control here), and now I have this huge red slash through my paper.

I will be fine. The baby will be fine, but there are swirls of worries and what if I can’t manage this without medication? thoughts (which I really don’t want to add into my already high-maintenance daily routine), and how will I maintain an ultra-strict diet and disciplined exercise schedule on top of everything? I still have seven other people to feed. I already have to keep a sort-of nutty schedule in order to keep in our household on the rails.

I’m still struggling to embrace what it looks like to care for myself in the most basic ways when I’m so used to charging through walls without a thought to what my body and soul really need on a daily basis. It is a top-tier struggle to put my needs on the list at all, let alone near the top of my priorities.

I’ve always loved the meaning of names and have taken extreme care to choose names for my children that reflect lovely or poignant meanings. I’ve always had mixed feelings about my own name, not because I don’t like it, but because the meanings I’ve found for it could lean different directions based on some changes in context. For example, one meaning is “industrious, or striving to excel”, which is great if you’re talking about awesomely impressive productivity, not as great if you’re talking about “tries way too hard at most things and doesn’t know when to quit”.

But today as I stood in the kitchen—doing one of my least favorite jobs and preparing food I wasn’t all that thrilled to be eating in order to hopefully keep my blood sugar in check—I randomly remembered another meaning of my name that I came across some years ago.

Emily also means diligent one. 

Sometimes names are reflective of someone’s characteristics, and sometimes, a name is something that can whisper to your soul a small reminder of who you are and what you’re called to.

All week, I’ve been asking myself, how can I possibly do thisstay on top of injections, blood sugar checks, stringent meals, regular movement, reasonable bedtime, running a householdfor three more months? 

The whisper back was, be diligent, one day at a time. 

I am industrious. I am productive and striving and proud of how much I care about things, even if its annoying to other people who would like to see me chill out. But I am not diligent in lots of things—only those things that land on the top of my priority list, which as I already mentioned, often doesn’t account for my daily personal needs. Certainly not in things requiring deep grit and perseverance that don’t come at least somewhat easily to me.

For whatever reason, body-related things and physical care for myself is something that just isn’t easy for me. For years, I’ve practiced needing as little as possible, and have convinced myself I can sleep when I’m dead, I can get in shape later, and I can get through the right-now challenges if I handle my life a little more efficiently, or simplify whatever requires a little too much effort from me.

Well, not this time. There is no coasting through this, and with this little whisper—an invitation to rise to the meaning of this one little word. Can’t go over it, can’t go around it, but you can bet, I’m about to go through it…I’m going on a hunt to learn how to value my body as deeply as I value my soul, and apparently, muscles only grow strong if you use them again and again.

I’m about to flex my diligence muscle as I prepare for the arrival of my new son.


1501. new bag perfectly suited to what I need to carry around these days, 1502. support from unexpected people, 1503. evening showers, 1504. clear sinuses, 1505. prayers by kids, 1506. favorite snacks, 1507. painting with toddlers, 1508. marital teamwork, 1509. kids presentations done, 1510. little hands slipped in mine




The Futility of Making Plans

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 4/52

I’m returning to the Write 31 Days series I started, but never finished, in 2017. Redemptive Motherhood: How My Children Have Changed Me is pretty much a chronological exploration of how we welcomed child after child into our family, and it is a personal goal and longing for me to write down and preserve the rest of these stories. You’re welcome to read the first half of the series, or jump in right where I’m at, beginning with this story of discovering I was pregnant with our third child.


He was a chunky little fellow with rolls upon rolls filling out his limbs, and a resting stern-face which was pretty funny for a kid of his age. He was just under a year, and his older sister was two and a half years of spunk and wonder, never without her eyes wide open and a few stray curls sticking out in odd directions; a perfect reflection of her wild imagination and quirky personality. It was an especially simple and beautiful time—our young family camped out in a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor of graduate family housing complex while Daddy was living the grad school life. The kids and I lived our own version of it, spending long hours just the three of us trying to pass the time Daddy was at the University without losing our minds. Or maybe that was just me. 

I hadn’t quite figured out how to be out and about with both kids regularly. Logistics were not in my favor. Our front door could only be accessed by stairs, and getting little people, any bags with supplies or groceries, and my tired mama-self up and down those three flights was no small task. We kept a small stroller in the trunk of our little tiny sedan in the distant parking area because we couldn’t store or move a larger stroller between the apartment and the car, and it was in that season that grocery shopping became a family affair because I simply couldn’t do it—with the kids—by myself. I hadn’t yet figured out how to pack a reasonable-size bag of toddler supplies and snacks that could just live in the car, or easily sling over my shoulder, so we mostly stayed home. 

I have sweet memories of those days, but I also remember being bored out of my mind, longing for connection, intellectual stimulation, or any small escape from the mind-numbing mom-of-toddlers-stuck-on-the-third-floor thing I had going on. 

Everything felt hard. 

Life on a graduate school stipend in an expensive city is not exactly a recipe for financial success.

We were thrifty and economical, spending exactly zero unnecessary dollars, mostly because we didn’t have any. We had food, and our cozy little home, each other…and not much else. 

We had every intention of waiting a few years before trying to have another baby. We had one boy, one girl, and it was the first time of many we would have an even boy-girl split, the picture-perfect family and according to some, many sensible reasons to not have any more children. Given the length of the grad program we were there for, we discussed savoring life with our two fun little people, finishing school, and then—maybe later down the road—we might have one or two more kids. once we were settled and on a profitable career path. It’s funny to think about it now. 

I would say, I was generally happy with how things were going. It felt stressful to navigate the needs of a blossoming family, but we had a plan, and at the time, I put a lot of hope in that plan.

Somewhere in mid-February 2009, I slipped into a funk. I was exhausted, feeling kind of blue, and unable to shake a stewing, brewing, smoldering frustration with life. I shared with a friend that I was really struggling to find motivation to even move.

“Are you pregnant?” she asked. 

“No way,” I said without hesitation. Pregnancy was the last thing on my radar, and we had been very actively and carefully avoiding it since my cycle had returned.

“Are you sure?” she repeated, and I am pretty sure I looked at her like she had two heads. 

I was really sure—until I saw the pink lines that proved otherwise.

I could not believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I was seized with fear about how we would survive, as we were already spread as thin as I could imagine. I questioned why God would allow such a preposterous thing to happen at this juncture of our lives. Didn’t He know we were at our max for the season? Didn’t He know we had a really great plan to do this…later?

For several months, I wrestled with the reality of having a third child well before we planned to. I was eager to welcome and love the child, but not too happy about the timing, and not too sure how on earth we would manage.

As I look back on that season, I can see exactly what God was up to. 

He was giving us the very best surprise of our lives. That child remains a delight and a gift in the greater dynamics of our family, and that pregnancy tipped off a number of dominos that led us to wrap up grad school early, move back to the Pacific Northwest, and so many other details that have unfolded beautifully in our lives since that time. 

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
~Proverbs 16:9

I still like to make plans. Having a plan helps me sort out a sense of vision for where I’m headed, and a sense of peace in knowing that when decisions fall in my lap, I’ll know how to navigate them according to plan. But I am much more comfortable than I once was with the reality that many things are out of my control. As I’ve seen blessing after blessing unfold in our lives, I have become convinced that control is overrated…sometimes the ride, the surprise, and the unexpected bring about better things than I could have imagined. 


1491. generous wise input on a shift in direction, 1492. a lemon gift, 1493. (multiple) rooms full of sweet friendships, 1494. collaborative brainstorming, 1495. dental cleaning, 1496. hand-me-down baby boy clothes, 1497. outsourcing chores, 1498. clarity, 1499. homeschool planning, 1500. the abundance of comfort in Christ


A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 3/52

~ For Lynne ~

You said to be still and know that You are God

I have known for many years
exactly Who You are

Still I thrashed and panicked with every wave
For ever so long

You said when going through waters, You would be with me
You were there, but so was fear

Speaking louder and more convincingly in my ear than Your still, small voice

You said in the valley You would lead me beside still waters

I could hear the water, but could not see it
So I trembled at the unknown, Walking in darkness

Afraid of what I could not see and what I could not control

You were both before and behind me
Not far, not disinterested

Not disappointed in me

As we walked, I discovered Your patience and kindness
And started knowing in deeper ways

Your faithfulness does not depend on my performance

You said I would not hurt, would not struggle, would not weep–in vain,
And would not any of those forever

By the might of Your outstretched arms encircled around me have I been held still
In the waves, in the darkness, in the pain and loneliness 

So firmly and gently 

So faithfully 

The water is washing me through
The night is peace for my anxious thoughts
And the discomfort and uncertainty of any day after this one is not my burden
But my joy and honor

Stillness is trust

Trust that You are loving 

Trust that You are Able 

Trust that You will keep what I have committed to You

You have set in motion redemption that cannot be taken
By fear, by sorrow, by suffering

By anything 

For nothing shall separate me from the love of Jesus  

This is stillness 

Remembering what You’ve said to be true

Clinging to those promises

As the sustenance of my soul


1481. little steps, 1482. what a beautiful name on the radio, 1483. sensitivity, 1484. the sanctuary of home, 1485. rolls and nudges, 1486. the honor of quiet things, 1487. cracking a new book, 1488. plans for connecting spaces, 1489. a full five days, 1490. mercy headphones