Hosting Pain.

There are some who, willing or not, have the task of hosting pain.
With or without permission, the cries of the world take root in our chests.
The tears wash through any deception in our blood that life is bliss.
We feel deeply. It is our calling perhaps.

Our own pain is significant, but we also taste the despair of others.
We possess the ability to see and to know the depth of human suffering….maybe because we have encountered it ourselves, even if only internally.
In the dark alleys of our hearts, are shadows of rejection, isolation, and death that are mysteriously our friends and enemies simultaneously.

Like the Thestrals in the Harry Potter story, in which only those who have seen death can see these beings that represent it, some of us can look into the eyes of another and know the deep anguish that resides beneath.
We can see it and breathe it.
We can recognize the devastation, the disappointment, because we are well-acquainted.
Because it dwells within us.

The biblical book of Job has always spoken to me on a level that feels just beyond my comprehension, just outside my grasp.
My eyes absorb the words and something within my heart is shaken.
“Wake up” the story whispers to me.
And my heart is taken captive by the narrative.
Not forcefully, but more akin to a surrender.

I have never experienced the tragic events held in the narrative of Job.
Not exactly. Not in “real life.”
I have not lost my closest family members to death or suffered so immensely from a physical ailment that marginalizes me from others.
Yet, I feel connected to Job, whether he is a literal or figurative character.
The truth of the narrative seeps through my pores and somehow finds itself already nested within my bones.
It is mysteriously a new story each time, yet one that feels as if we have known each other very well all along.

Job represents a tragedy, a truth, that is difficult for most to embrace.
Pain is naturally something we do not care to keep company.
We don’t understand it, can’t make sense of it.
And we want so desperately to get rid of it the moment it knocks on our door.
We peek to see what’s on the other side of that door.
We duck so it cannot see us through the windows.
We dive behind couches, close the blinds and curtains.
We plug our ears so we don’t feel as guilty or nervous about the seemingly relentless knocks and doorbells.
Suffering is an unwelcome visitor.

But I have realized that some of us have less of a choice.
Like others, we can certainly resist opening the door.
But pain keeps knocking; he is persistent.
And we recognize it through the peep hole.
It is real and it is part of life.
We know it must go somewhere.

Thus, we are left with a decision to make.
Hide, ignore, avoid eye contact?
We could surely resist and put up a fight, and we often do to some degree.

Or, we could open the door and allow the visitor to enter.
We might even greet her and offer a place to sit.
Be hospitable to pain.

What an odd concept.
Why would anyone want to welcome suffering in, let alone host it for any period of time?

This brings us back to the idea that some do not have as much choice as they would perhaps like to have.
We certainly all suffer and experience pain to some degree.
However, this is not exactly what I mean by being hospitable.

Hosting pain is instead an openness to the depths of humanity.
It is a willingness to allow fear, sadness, and anguish to enter and even set roots.
I’m convinced this is the burden that some have been asked to bear.
There are those in my life whom I have seen carry this task.
And I have felt and been told by those closest to me that I too carry this burden.
Yet…it is also a great gift.

For to be open to the depths also allows one to know the heights more fully.
To know in a way that is beyond words and that can transform our very being.
When the pain and suffering carve out paths in our heart and mind, there is more room for the truth of love, grace, and forgiveness to also wash through our bodies and our lives.

When we host pain, we also let his close cousin joy come through our door.
And we are able to cherish her because we know her kin.
For joy and suffering are closer cousins than one might think.
The light is incomprehensible unless we have truly seen darkness.
They are indistinguishable without one another.

Suffering, then, might be viewed as a great gift.
A costly one for sure, but a gift nevertheless.
And we can give of ourselves with this ability we have.
Our hospitality is also extended to those who have suffered.
We can hold them, embrace them, because we hold pain.

Their suffering certainly moves us, it can even overtake us…for a time.
But it does enslave us, not in the end.
It cannot.
For we are its host. We have opened the door and allowed it to sit with us.

I believe we each have opportunities in our lives to host this pain.
And it is never as simple as I may make it sound here…and certainly never easy.
As I reflect on my own life, I am also keenly aware of the cost and the ways in which even this “strength” or “ability” is not always used for good.

Very recently, grief and pain have been just below the surface for me.
They have arose from their dormant cavities.
The light has been harder to see at times and I have found myself reflecting on Job.
But recently thoughts of Christ have interrupted and filled my mind.
And not the light, glowing Christ that adorns children’s bibles.
Instead the human Christ, the one with the broken body.
The son of a father who sent him to take on all the depth and breadth of suffering.
Christ, though fully God, also stood as human and hosted the pain of the world.

As Christians, we often speak of ourselves as followers of Jesus.
We talk of Christ or the Spirit dwelling within us.
And in my darkest of hours, when I struggle to be hospitable to my (limited) suffering, I remember that I am not alone.

Because Christ also enters that door when we host pain.
In fact, we cannot behold Jesus without seeing the tragedy of the world.
We simply cannot gaze into his eyes without the pain of all humanity coming through to meet us.
We cannot be held by him, except by hands that still bear the wounds of suffering.
Or be kissed except with the lips that have also tasted the full bitterness of sin and death.

But even in the tragedy of that reality, I am encouraged and reminded that pain and suffering, even death, cannot reside in the house forever.
They will be driven out by something greater, to which they have no answer.
And I am reminded of Henri Nouwen’s poignant words:

“If the God who revealed life to us, and whose only desire is to bring us to life, loved us so much that he wanted to experience with us the total absurdity of death, then—yes, then there must be hope; then there must be something more than death; then there must be a promise that is not fulfilled in our short existence in this world; then leaving behind the ones you love, the flowers and the trees, the mountains and the oceans, the beauty of art and music, and all the exuberant gifts of life, cannot be just the destruction and cruel end of all things; then indeed we have to wait for the third day.”

And I smile through tears…and offer thanks for the third day when Christ will be the host and there will be no pain and suffering to attend to.

dark sunset

A 12-year anniversary and a dozen ways in which I have failed my husband.

Marriage is hard work.

Within it exists great power, great opportunity, to bring out the worst and also the best in us.

We are given the rare occasion to offer ourselves to another for a lifetime.

And by offer ourselves, I am talking about the gift we can give that is nothing short of everything we are.

Our past, present, and future.

Our hopes and our fears.

Our dreams, but also our nightmares.

We bring everything to the table and present it to the other.  Nothing stays hidden.

We become completely vulnerable.

Our weaknesses, our vices, our hidden secrets.  They have no hiding place in marriage.


Like a very clear mirror that is being held before us.

And we realize there is also a mirror we are holding up to the other.

These mirrors are powerful because they are held by the one to whom we have given our lives.

They reveal everything.

And we may not like what we see.

In our position of vulnerability, we may be terrified by the reflection.

At times, we may even try to distort the mirror we hold for the other because we feel weak.


But Truth reveals itself in these mirrors.

With time, we are faced with a complete reflection of everything we are.

This is where hope, Truth, and love can be strongest.

In our weakness and humility, love is that much more powerful.

When we have given our good and our bad, our beauty and our ugliness, we have then given our whole self fully to the other.

And when the other responds with love, our very beings are transformed.

This love is the catalyst for growth, transformation, and a deeper understanding of God.

This love is that which brings meaning to and victory over our strife and our battles.


But this love is not something we fall into haphazardly.

It is not simply a feeling we experience.

Love is a verb.

An active and persistent sacrifice.

And there is no such thing as ‘love at first sight.’

There can be attraction and connection at first site, but love, fortunately, is not reduced to this.

Love is much more.  It demands much more. It will not settle for anything less than giving your everything for the good of another….and ultimately, for the glory of God.


To love is a choice.  In fact, love is many choices.  It requires a decision to give and to let go.

It is by far the hardest choice to make…and you must make it daily.

But nothing can be so rewarding.

Nothing can compare to this sacrificial and demanding love.


12 years.

This year, Adam and I celebrate the fact that God has given us the strength and perseverance to make the choice to love one another for 12 years!

And we have failed one another on many occasions.

Some days, we have made the choice not to love with all that we have.

A dozen ways, each dozens of times, I have failed my husband:

1-I have chosen to not fight fair. When upset, I’ve used my words for low blows and unfair accusations.

2-I have forgotten to listen. I’ve let my anger or selfishness deafen my ears to his sincere words.

3-I have jumped to conclusions before hearing the whole story. Similarly, I have failed to give him the benefit of the doubt and thus questioned his integrity.

4-I have neglected to affirm him.

5-I’ve neglected to take care of myself, which leads to an irritable me.

6-I’ve taken out my pain from others on him, the nearest target.

7-I’ve made snide remarks instead of taking the time to come up with a thoughtful statement to express myself.

8-I’ve used sarcasm instead of gentle honesty.

9-I’ve been short with or yelled at my children when I really needed to converse with my husband.

10-I’ve let things build up and then acted resentful.

11-I’ve let my pain from other men in my past and present distort the mirror I show my husband.

12-I have forgotten to care for and nurture God’s creation, my husband, when I have instead prioritized me or the world above the gift that God has provided.


Indeed, I have failed.

Yet I, we, are more than our failures.

We are together and growing because our God is good.

Our God is love.

We have seen the best and the worst of each other, and have overcome many difficult challenges.

But this is only possible because of God’s grace and power in our marriage.

Our Lord has held us when we could not hold each other.

He has been our great marriage Counselor.


We continue to strive to be seen in all that we are and do.

There is no rock God leaves unturned and this, in the end, is and will be a blessing.

One thing we can say for certain is that our marriage is one of transparency and perseverance.

We do not hide our struggles and we do not ignore our weaknesses.

Our choice to love each other means loving the whole other.

And as we love, we are transformed more into that which God created us to be.


So, when asked how we’ve done it…in response to the comment ‘I don’t know how you guys have done it’, I answer,

We haven’t.

But God has.

With the same power that raised Jesus from the dead,

God is transforming us in our marriage.

And this is a great love that is worth the fight, worth the struggle, worth making the choice.


Ken the Garbage Disposal: Are Women the Only Ones Objectified?

Controversy over Barbie posing in the 2014 Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated is hardly surprising in an age where women (and men) are speaking up against the objectification of females that is present across the world. And let’s be honest: Sports Illustrated has done its share to present women as beautiful, stunning objects for decades. Beginning in 1964, SI has provided pages of barely-dressed females in seductive poses with eyes just longing for someone to take them, to devour them in whatever manner the consumer feels fit. The swimsuit issues have little to do with swimming or any other sport, and much to do with pleasing men by presenting the best side of women: their tanned, smooth, curved, available bodies. Though the magazine offers kudos to the women for their accomplishments and successes, it is the female physique that is most admired and praised.

And this year, the magazine has outdone itself and chosen to flaunt an actual object. Alongside human women will stand the infamous plastic doll that has been accused of contributing to the unrealistic ideals of how a woman should look. Silky hair, big eyes, perfectly-shaped lips, legs for days, and smooth skin. What better representation of the type of woman that belongs in SI than Barbie?

The articles, posts, and tweets that have come forward show the blurriness of the line between the female as a person or an object. It seems we have embraced Barbie as an actual person…one who has goals, careers, feelings, and the new unapologetic attitude that makes Mattel proud. Yes, Barbie gets her place along the other women in the magazine. But her spotlight is earned not because of her resume, but because of her hot body in a swimsuit. No reason to apologize miss, you fit the mold!

Now, let’s be fair. I loved Barbie growing up. I have at least a dozen of her and her friends that I have passed on to my daughter. I remember the days of dressing her, combing her hair, and having her walk gracefully off to various parts of the dollhouse to get on with her happy life. In Barbie’s defense, some have claimed she may be the most feminist doll out there. With over 150 career outfits, her own horse, and that snazzy pink convertible, it could be accurate to say that she has provided some positive contributions in addition to the unrealistic body image she has helped to cement in the hearts and minds of young girls. We would certainly be mistaken to claim that Barbie is the main problem when it comes to the objectification of women. As Charlotte Alter writes, “Barbie may be aiming to be the poster child for female empowerment…let’s not discard her just yet.” She poses unapologetic for who she is and how she looks, and I would agree that she may be the best of the worst when it comes to the pink toy aisle littered with Monster High and Bratz dolls.

However, we often become unapologetic for two reasons. 1) We actually don’t have (or don’t believe we have) a reason to apologize because we meet the criteria for what is acceptable or desired; or 2) We have given up the fight for something and decided ‘if you can’t beat em, join em.’ Barbie, and the actual human beings at Mattel, obviously feel justified that Barbie has joined her objectified counterparts in SI. In fact, Mattel is attempting to spin it so that women feel empowered to strut their stuff regardless of how they look (easy for perfectly shaped plastic to say). Yet, they may be ignorant to the ways in which they’ve joined the game in which the worth of women is decided upon by what they have to show and to what extent they decide to reveal it.

Yet, women may not be the only ones objectified by the relentless media tactics. If Barbie is the object to be consumed, what does that make Ken? And back to the real world in which we are speaking about actual humans…if females are objects for males to behold, to crave, to acquire, then what is the primary task of men?

The expectations we have of men in many areas of life may help answer this question. In general, it seems we expect males to consume. “Real” men can take in the world. They go after what they want and they get it. They’re expected to eat, and eat big. Steaks, burgers, whole pizzas. Men who eat salads or who cannot finish their meal stand out as odd, hardly a manly man by most standards. We also respect men who can hold their liquor. No one applauds a lightweight. And while food and drink are tangible consumptions, if we expand our term we can surely think of other areas in which men are expected to obtain and consume. Men are taught that they are to acquire the best of their worlds in order to truly be a success. A grown man brings in the income, secures the big home, and buys the nice car. While this certainly doesn’t apply to all men and there is often an expectation for men to also be providers, the general message many men seem to receive is that their task is to take it all in. No thinking, no argument, just go out there and get it.

And real men, they get the girls. Not just any girl either. As consumers, their job is to find the best piece of meat. No sloppy seconds! Once they have her, they are expected to enjoy. And at one end of the continuum, to discard when finished and move on to another item on the menu. Women are the objects, men the consumers. The man is not given permission to focus on emotions or intimacy. That would be “weak.” No, he is expected to be a man: swallow any pain or need for genuine attachment, and get the goods. A human garbage disposal. Consume, digest, and cleared out for more.


And the market benefits. If we can create stunning objects and convince men they are to attain them, we have a fool-proof system to make bank. SI and countless others provide the meat and care little about what that does to those who consume it. No matter that those men feel empty after the disposal system has run its course, we’ll simply keep providing the next meal. A more decadent, tempting meal, that will be sure to satisfy even the more picky and perhaps desensitized men.

Yes, Barbie is expected to present herself as the most desirable object for Ken. Women spend countless amounts of time, effort, and money to shape themselves to be trophies or arm candy for men to choose from. That is their job. And Ken is expected to be the best object as well. No woman wants to be consumed by just anything. She wants a consumer worthy of the task. He should be attractive and nicely-shaped himself, but even more, he should know his role. Which men are sought after? Sensitive men who show human emotion and desire to attach to another human in a vulnerable relationship? Hardly. Women often feel drawn to men who can handle their objects. Males who have that air about them. They seek to acquire and are successful in doing so. And to consume without particular attachment or contentment with what they have. Women often attract to men who are dismissive, able to detach seamlessly. Men who seem to be on the hunt, who thirst for more. Ladies often want to be the one…that one object that finally satisfies the other.

Now, this description is in no way fully accurate for many people. The caveat here, and thankfully there is one, is that many men and women recognize and live in ways that triumph over this mentality. I know many men and women who know the value of being human and who love and respect themselves and others.

However, I believe we are naïve if we go on thinking this does not affect most of us in some way. It’s subtle and subconscious for many of us, yet still very much a part of our psyche. And while I believe women are often more objectified than men (at least explicitly), it’s important to acknowledge that a person who truly feels human and alive does not attach to objects in healthy ways. That is to say, to treat another person as an object, one must in some way also objectify themselves. Genuine relationships require a vulnerability and relatedness that cannot exist between object and human. As Ken consumes, he is also demoralized as a garbage disposal. And this is not because women are garbage, but because they have been degraded into objects or food that leaves them feeling chewed up and disposed of, while Ken is left feeling insatiable and empty.

And it’s a vicious cycle and one that we must all choose to fight. Barbie and Ken belong to one another. Object to object, they can enjoy their lives in dollhouses and plastic cars. The rest of us deserve to embrace each another as human beings with much more to offer than unrealistic proportions and fake, cheesy smiles. My hope is that, as our children grow and play with dolls like Barbie and Ken, the line between object and human will become more clear and they can offer the dolls a taste of what it’s like to be human, instead of the other way around.

Gift-less, Part 2: The Season.

Breaking a tradition, habit, or ritual is always tough, especially those that have been around for our entire lives. So, as one can imagine, going into the Christmas season knowing that there would be absolutely no presents caused some angst and uncertainty for a mother of two. Make no mistake: I was simply thrilled that I didn’t have to wrap up another grueling quarter of grad school only to fight the shopping crowds in the remaining two weeks before Christmas. Nor was it unpleasant to pack the car to visit family in Utah without having to play Tetris with odd-shaped packages while the bows found a new home in my hair. No, I was quite relieved and content. No black Friday shopping, no hour-long searches online. Just December. Just family and friends. Yet, I wondered how the kids would do with no Santa and no presents. I feared they would be sad, whiny, or miserable. I feared that I might be those things too.

It turns out that planning service projects is no easy task. For safety and liability reasons, many places would not allow children to volunteer. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. Many did not allow children to volunteer their time. They were happy to take money or gifts from anyone, including our 8 and 11 year old. However, it was somewhat difficult to find ways to actually give of our time and effort…to actually be with people who needed company and to seek to brighten their day. But, not surprisingly, the church had answers, and we were blessed to be connected with others who had suggestions. It wasn’t long before we had several activities lined up.

We began at a place filled with wise, wonderful people who are often overlooked or dismissed in our country: a retirement center for senior citizens. This was our first act of service, and the kiddos were nervous. Admittedly, so was I. Would people find it odd that we weren’t family or friends, but simply strangers stopping by? Would the kids be too shy? Would they be scared by those with dementia or physical disabilities? And what would we do? What would we talk about? Me, being the planner I am, made sure we arrived with bags full of games to play, books to read, and snacks to share. Things cannot go wrong if we plan well enough, right?!? Our first stop was a room with a couple who were not too interested in anything but a quick hello. Odd stares and nods. The TV was much more interesting than us. Our anxiety increased and my husband and I gave the “oh boy” look to one another. But, the next room was quite a different story. A dear 105-year-old woman greeted us with a big smile. She shared stories of her life: Born in China, was a teacher, moved to the U.S. with her husband, and attended school to further her education. Photos adorned her walls. Family, friends, and trips across the world. She was quite the traveler. She was warm and welcoming and it was a pure joy to watch as Cameron read an Elephant and Piggie book to her. She complimented him on his enunciation (she was a teacher after all) and told Adam and I what a great job we were doing on exposing our children to “people of different ethnicities.” She was simply wonderful. When we returned the following week, we could hardly escape her room without a half-dozen cookies filling our stomachs and hands.
cam reading

We made other friends at the retirement home as well. We played bingo together, swapped stories, and simply shared our time. Taylor and I will be returning soon to paint nails with the ladies and Cameron will visit his adored friend Dee, who has a wicked sense of humor that he loves. Some friends who know us by sight when we enter, and some who forget us the moment we step away from the room. All beautiful people. It’s always a mix of emotions as we walk out. Sadness, inspiration, despair, love, joy, contentment, and somehow….hope…even in a place where people are in their last stages of life. Hope in relationships, in humanity. The mix of emotions somehow boils down to a simmering love for and appreciation of this thing we call life.

We also had the privilege of being involved with a service project that a couple from our church have been doing for decades. Based in Mexico, there is a tradition called Luminaries in which lighted candles once lead the way to the church on Christmas Eve. This has been expanded over time so that the lights now represent preparing the night for the arrival of the Savior. So, every year, this dear couple hands out over 1,500 fliers to the homes of their neighbors and surrounding blocks. Families have the opportunity to purchase luminares for $1(a votive candle in a simple brown bag with sand in the bottom) to set out on their curbs, porches, or driveways on Christmas Eve. The money paid goes to the buyer’s charity of choice. So, our family helped sort candles and bags, and then helped scoop sand and deliver orders the weekend before Christmas Eve. We also purchased some of our own luminares and put them out at the Elizabeth House on Christmas Eve, a home for women and their children who are seeking to get out of abusive relationships.
Elizabeth house

It’s a simple idea, nothing explicitly life-changing about the task. Yet, simplicity is what we needed and I cannot fully describe the way in which we were ministered to during this activity. Ernie and Judy invited us into their home and their lives. They fed us, and treated us like family during our times with them. The kids could not get enough. The love and joy that they have fostered in their own lives and through this project was evident as neighbors flocked to their house to pick up orders. We once again found ourselves sharing stories, and feeling fulfilled as we saw the love of God radiating from others. That same love that we sought to give, was being given to us. And the bonus: It came with fun perks for the kids too! Cleaning up leaves and delivering luminaries becomes very exciting when one gets to use a leaf blower and a small electric truck. It reminded me of my times growing up, when being neighbors really meant something and people had time to just be together.
scooping sanddelivery truck

As I look back and reflect on the experience, I realize there was nothing spectacular or particularly amazing about what we did this Christmas season. However, the ease of which we were able to enjoy the holiday was remarkable. It was almost too easy, too good. Not once did we feel saddened or left out by getting rid of the gifts. Not one tear or pout on Christmas morning. Our attention and focus on relationships left us feeling content and satisfied in ways that are really not explainable. Our ability to listen to and really engage with others was heightened. And low and behold, we experienced…joy. We were deeply ministered to, in a way all too mysterious and all too uncommon in our lives right now. I remember asking myself countless times, why haven’t we done this before?

As we helped serve dinner in the park for those without a home, I was reminded that our relationships are not a given. There is nothing specific about being human that ensures we will truly love and cherish one another. I look at some of the people at the park and in the street who are homeless, and I think: I wonder when was the last time they were hugged? Have they been told lately that they mean something? That they are worthy to be cherished? And what about people in positions of great wealth and power? Do they experience grace and forgiveness? Are they appreciated just for being human? As I reflect on our experience and on my life in general, I cannot escape the difficult but necessary reminder that there are many people who are deeply hurting. There are times when we all have been hurt or have inflicted pain on another. Yet, there are also people who are serving and loving one another, despite their circumstances. Bearers of relentless hope and perseverance. And we all have the chance to do just that. In small ways that make a big difference. Not just for the served, but also for those who serve.
Tay serving drinks

On Christmas morning, we woke up and had breakfast as a family. We played games and simply relaxed and praised God for the miracles He provides every day. And not the house or the car or the clothes. Instead, the people. Human beings, with all of their strife, shortcomings, and vices, have wonderful potential for love, connection, and a life worth living. The family and friends in our lives, old and new, young and old, are nothing short of miraculous, undeserved gifts.

Fam in truck 2

Gift-less, Part 1: The Reason.

Since the beginning of starting our family, my husband and I have longed to find ways to make the Christmas season more meaningful, more true to what we believe the holiday could be: the joyous celebration of Love born unto the world. And not an imitation or distorted or limited love, but unfathomable Love.

Yet, each year we struggle to focus on Christ at Christmas because there are a number of other festive activities or rituals that distract us. And they are not all bad. There are plenty of wonderful traditions we simply adore. In fact, most of the things we do around the holiday represent some aspect of the love and light we hope to spread throughout our entire lives.

Our main distraction, however, has been and often is, the presents. Gifts have always been a central theme of the holiday for my family of origin, as I’m sure is the case for many families. Christmas was certainly a time for shopping, wrapping, and delivering. Baked goodies (at least!) for all friends and neighbors. Toys for cousins, something thoughtful for parents, and the kids? Spoiled rotten. My brothers and I would be buried in wrapping paper by the end of it all, hardly remembering who had given us the new pajamas or CD (you know, back in the day of CDs). And Santa? That guy. He went all-out in our house. We got the big stuff. And the stocking was my favorite. Overflowing with all sorts of fun surprises. Every small thing that you’ve ever wanted and things you never knew you wanted, were all stuffed in that glorious sock.

Yet, as the years pass, my husband and I have realized that gift-giving has become a less-than-joyous experience on several occasions. Frantically shopping and stressing about what to get the person who doesn’t need anything, trying to find time to wrap and deliver it all, spending more than we should on things that mean little in the end…it can all be quite exhausting. Draining the joy we so long for out of the season. And our kiddos? They hardly know what to ask for each year because they truly have more than they need as far as material things go. They can certainly come up with a list, and they always do after scanning the holiday ads. However, it has gotten to the point where it feels kind of empty on Christmas morning after the boxes have been opened. A huge rush to get the gifts purchased, and then a huge let down after it’s over. For us, it often feels like we are actually giving very little of what is truly needed and losing touch of the authentic source of joy.

This is certainly not true of all gift giving. A thoughtful gift given with love can be incredibly meaningful and bring great joy to another. Yet, the gift-giving craze has become something weighing on my husband and I for the past few years. So, not surprisingly, our family got a crazy idea. A crazy, wonderful idea. What if?

So, last year as the holiday season was coming to a close, I made a declaration. Next year, no gifts. None coming in, and none going out. No, not even homemade gifts, though that’s a fantastic idea Grandma. No, not just one gift per close family member. None. NO material gifts. The Frederick family, in 2013, is going to have a gift-less Christmas.

Yet, we didn’t want to simply get rid of gift buying and giving. We wanted to give. We were not aiming for a give-less holiday. Instead, we wanted to give of our time and love. We wanted to take all that time and energy we normally use in the hustle and bustle, and put it towards what we believe we are called to do in this world: love one another. So, for this past December, we set out to give ourselves through serving others. The only things coming in or out of our home with a bow…would be us.

family pic

Fruit and Cheese Dip

This recipe has been altered slightly, but credit must be given to the Betty Crocker company as it belongs to them. This makes a great appetizer for a holiday meal or fun party platter for New Years. I love it because it’s super easy.

And the mystery behind this recipe? DIP THE CHEESE TOO!! Many guests of mine have enjoyed dipping the fruit, but the cheese is also really good and is meant to take the plunge as well. You can also use apples, pears, or bananas if the fruits below are hard to come by. However, we’ve found that the three below seem to work the best with the dip. Bananas are excellent, but brown quickly so may not be the most attractive choice for the party. Below you will see “chunked” fruit…is that even proper recipe language? Not sure, but I do know that you want those fruit pieces big enough that they can be dipped without falling off the toothpick. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Oh, and one warning: it is super filling…so go easy!

Chunks for fruit platter


  • 1 container (8 oz) of strawberry cream cheese
  • 1-2 cups lite cool whip
  • ~1 cup frozen raspberries, slightly thawed (frozen raspberries in sauce is best)
  • Cubed Gouda cheese (not smoked gouda!)
  • Cubed cheddar cheese (mild, medium, or sharp depending on preference)
  • 2 cups chunked fresh pineapple
  • 2 cups chunked kiwis
  • 2 cups halved strawberries (ok, you can “chunk” these as well if you’d like)
  • Optional: Frozen or sugar coated raspberries and fresh mint for decoration

Ingredients for dip

Directions: Cut up your cheese and fruit as described above and arrange on a platter. These can be skewered, alternating fruits with cheeses, or you can simply put toothpicks out next to your serving platter. To make the dip, simply use a hand mixer to blend the raspberries with the cream cheese. If you do not have the raspberries in sauce (hard to find these days), then simply add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the raspberries and then add mixture and blend with the cream cheese. You can add more raspberries to taste. Then stir in the cool whip. I usually start with about 1.5 cups, and add more raspberries or cool whip to my liking. Scoop into a serving bowl, put it in the middle of your fruit and cheese, and enjoy!

Fruit and cheese platter


Tay Rock Wall

Hunter Hayes has a song on the radio that induces my manic state: “I want crazy.”

Yes! Yes, I do. Ah, he’s speaking my language. How many times have I been told that I’m nuts or insane or crazy for the things I pursue.  And I laugh because it’s all given with lightheartedness and even admiration at times. But this manic side, this side of me that gets a little crazed and aims for the improbable, is a very real part of who I am and it brings meaning and fulfillment to my life.

While Hunter is referring to romantic love (he’s young, we’ll give him a break), if we generalize his song lyrics to a broader life motto, I wonder how many of us have that level of desire? Do we reach for something “crazy” in our lives?

 Or, do we more often sell ourselves short? Do we settle for what’s “reasonable”?

This is a delicate line for me. To walk the tightrope between reaching for the things I’m passionate about, and crossing into the place in which other aspects of my life suffer, is a daily challenge. Yet, I crave the crazy. I confront the reasonable. I want to grab hold of life and soak in all it has to offer. I think we all do to some degree.

First, I need to own that perhaps this idea of reaching for crazy is based on a privileged position. “The American dream” right? To reach beyond our circumstances, to rise above and do what we or others did not think possible. Some goals and passions may require certain resources, opportunities, and freedoms that may not be available to all.

But maybe not. I’ve certainly seen this desire, this passion and energy, in multiple circumstances.  I’ve heard countless stories of people across the world reaching for more, taking risks, and achieving their victories with full hearts and big smiles. People who we couldn’t predict would surpass their situations. But, they do and that inspires and motivates me. Those stories move us. We cannot help but feel good and smile ourselves. I crave that boldness and courage for my own life; to overcome fears and improve the quality of life for others and myself.

To clarify, the type of crazy I’m talking about is not a long list of respected accomplishments. It does not necessarily involve accomplishment at all, especially as it is so narrowly defined. No, the type of crazy that speaks to me is when I embrace a desire within me, when I hear a voice saying, “wouldn’t that be great” and it feels congruent to who I am and what I want to stand for.

And I get tempted to turn away and ignore that voice. I miss a week at the gym and give up for several months. I avoid reaching out to a friend…what do I have to offer anyway? I think many of us can relate. We let that project sit because we feel overwhelmed or discouraged, not believing we can really accomplish it anyhow or that it will be any good when completed. We hold back on sharing ideas because we’re not experts or couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to contribute.

And there is usually some truth to it. We all have our challenges, our weaknesses, and even our limitations. We are “only” human after all and we must come to terms with that. We must “embrace our limits” as a professor of mine would remind us.

However, here’s the error I’m liable to make. I stop right there. In my experiences, it seems that we embody one of two methods of dealing with the boundaries of being human. Either we (a) believe we are incapable of anything more or do not possess the ability to strive for something we want; or (b) we believe we should be able to do everything, but get let down often enough when we can’t that we totally give up on trying. If I cannot do it perfectly, I’m not going to do it at all.  We all do it. In fact, we sometimes embody both methods of being, vacillating between the two depending on the day or situation.

But, here’s the mysterious part…my paradox. When I truly own my limitations, I also understand my incredible potential. I strive to step beyond the doubt and reach for what I know is possible. I think my professor left out the most important part. Don’t simply embrace your limits. Forget that. I say, know your limits, and then fully embrace your potential.

When we grasp what we cannot do, we are then free to capitalize on that which we are capable of doing. And there is of course a balance. We cannot do everything and when we try to, something suffers. I know that struggle very well. I knew that there was no way for me to be a mom and a graduate student in a PhD program without the help and support of others; without making some sacrifices and doing some things in which I’m not comfortable or confident. But, I knew it was possible and believe it to be something I’m meant to do. So, I seek out what I need and I move forward with faith and the courage I can muster. I also cannot simply run a half marathon with natural skill or quality I somehow possess. I need time. I need encouragement. But, I can do it; I want to do it. So, I begin training.

We all have the struggles and obstacles in our lives that can hinder us from taking bold steps towards that which transforms us in beautiful ways. But, human potential knows very few boundaries. And within those boundaries, we have the opportunity to contribute to a beautiful existence, to be an inspiration to others around us.

So, get on with it! Reach for the crazy because you know you can. Be honest about your limits, and then take that next step towards your potential. Make the phone call. Start that document. Take a class. Seek out that which brings you joy and victory. What gets you excited? What’s your next adventure? I’d love to hear all about your crazy.

“Do not dilute the truth of your potential. We often convince ourselves that we cannot change, that we cannot overcome the circumstances of our lives. That is simply not true. You have been blessed with immeasurable power to make positive changes in your life. But you can’t just wish it, you can’t just hope it, you can’t just want it… you have to LIVE it, BE it, DO it.” ― Steve Maraboli

 Cam and Tay carrying boards

Drama anyone?


It has a negative ring to it, doesn’t it? A less-than-positive connotation.

I know I’ve caught myself telling my children to “stop being so dramatic.”

The expression of emotions, especially strong ones, evokes an interesting array of reactions in us. At least in my experience, a whole spectrum of behavior has transpired after someone expresses anger, despair, elation, or fear.

One doesn’t need to go far to see a number of people displaying a range of emotions. In fact, we don’t even need to leave our couch to see anger, lust, joy, and sadness in their heightened forms. The extreme, dramatic emotion is often what draws us in to television series, attaches us to our favorite movie characters, or keeps the songs running through our heads.

Yet, what do we do with emotions in our daily lives? When someone slams a door or weeps in public, what is our first response? When we feel frustrated or heartbroken, what do we do? I would propose that we often like to get away from it. And not just because we fear for our physical safety or find ourselves too busy to deal with it.

No, we tend to turn the 180. Get the heck out of there. This is particularly true for the “negative” emotions as they are unfortunately named. Anger, sadness, disgust. We don’t show those off.  And when we see them on others, we frequently feel uneasy and do the about face.

Yet, I’m not sure about you, but there’s always a curious eye that looks back or peeks in. There is a part of us that really wants to see it. We like the drama. We crave it to some degree. I would venture to say that we even long for it in our own lives. The best movies, TV shows, songs, and books, are the ones in which the characters’ emotional lives capture us. We are pulled towards it. We want to connect with them and particularly with the dynamic that is built from the emotional exchange of the characters.

As I was driving one day, a woman in a car perpendicular to mine at a four-way stop threw up her hands in disgust as I took my rightful turn at going first through the intersection. Not only was it clearly my turn (I arrived a good 5 seconds before her), I was somewhat astonished at her visual display of disgust towards me. “Wow, that was a little overdramatic,” I said out loud.

My 11-year-old daughter, being the ray of light that she is, came back with a shrug and a very wise rebuttal: “Everyone needs a little overdramatic at times.”

Huh. I chewed on that for several days.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s exactly right.

We need the extreme at times to catch our attention. In a world in which we often find ourselves a little numb to one another, a little deadened inside, it makes perfect sense why we crave the drama on TV. Why we can let ourselves go at music concerts, movies, or broadway shows. We want to feel it. We want to experience the emotions to know that we are truly alive.

Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to believe that emotions, at either extreme, represent a weakness. Too much emotion is bad. The extremes are meant only to be displayed at “appropriate” times, such as the birth of a baby, the death of someone close, or… the superbowl (Go Broncos!!!).

Guys and gals are stuck with certain rules regarding emotion. Ladies, hold it in. Don’t even think about showing anger towards your coworker. You’ll get labeled a “bitch.” Or perhaps be the star of rumors in which you’re having trouble in your marriage, problems with finances, or spilling over with “feelings” for the coworker that are now affecting your job.

And guys, don’t you cry. “Men don’t cry.” Unless your son or daughter is being deployed. Unless your parent is dying from cancer. But, not just because you’re having a really rough week. And no giddiness or excitement allowed. Not until we get to the game man. Keep it together.

Keep it contained, we tell ourselves. We are taught that a wise, mature person controls his or her emotion. And sure, it is true that emotions are not meant to control us. We’ve seen the negative repercussions in our world when they do. Extremes can indeed be detrimental. Yet, to say that emotions are bad, or should be significantly muted, distorts the truth and can leave us feeling empty inside. Unattached.

I would argue we naturally have strong emotions. Our brains are wired to use emotions as signals, as adaptive mechanisms. If we repress or stuff those natural instincts, they will come out in other ways.  And often, not in ways that edify relationships or connect and attach us to one another.

So, embrace the drama. Express the emotion. Do it in healthy ways, but let’s not hide the natural drama of life from one another.  We need it. My daughter and I recently took a plastic blow-up mallet, brightly colored with monkeys on it. And to Miley’s “wrecking ball”, we let out the frustrations of little brothers on clothes, pillows, and an assortment of random objects in the bedroom. It was fantastic.

I’m still working on letting myself cry in situations where I feel like I want to. I’m working to not fight the tears when they come. What or who am I trying to please anyhow? What am I trying to hide, my humanness?

I’d love to hear your ideas on this subject and any healthy ways you have of expressing emotion and being dramatic.

“Do not let another day go by where your dedication to other people’s opinions is greater than your dedication to your own emotions!”― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free


goofy-eyed excitement
goofy-eyed excitement


A cloud, but not quite. More low-lying, with its moisture generated by that which is nearby.

A mist, but more dense; limiting visibility to a greater degree than a simple gathering of water molecules.

It is a thickness, a mystery, that develops right here among us. And I find it quite intriguing. The mystery of fog beckons me, calls to the part of me that yearns for something more.

A part of me that desires something that is not quite seen, not completely visible, yet it peers at me, flirts with me even, from within its foggy hiding place.

And why am I chasing it? What is it that I pursue? Ah, if only the answer were that simple, I might have no reason to chase it. Perhaps the mystery is that which I desire. The unknown is that which keeps me engaged…dancing with the half-hidden or the unreachable, each taking steps towards and away from the other. Perhaps the dance, the chase, is why the fog is so inviting…even though I cannot fully see what it is that’s enveloped in the white shadows.

Chasing fog.

The name is one that seems somewhat dark to me, maybe a little gloomy, but I kind of like it that way. I wanted the name to represent or symbolize a life pursuit of mine, and that is striving for, or persistently chasing, something that is undefined, often even to me. There is a craving, a deep desire, for something that is profoundly a mystery. And I have enough ambition to chase something even as elusive as fog.

I, like many others, have wanted to start a blog for a while now. I grew up writing short stories and poems, journaling about anything and everything. Writing is still that which allows me to take the foggy storm within me, and make it external. My stream of consciousness is much more than a stream. It’s a river, raging at times, and to gather my thoughts in written word provides me with more internal space. Perhaps it may make room for me to gather more endurance to continue the pursuit of a life fully lived.

Get a theme, a niche to focus on. This was the advice of many when attempting to start a blog. You need to focus on one area, one particular theme. That would be helpful, I would think to myself. Write about baking or being a mom or psychology.

Yet, my life is too messy for that. To focus when running with fog is not a task I accept. Those who know me know that I do not embrace limitations lightly. I refuse to be categorized or to blindly befriend rules or follow authorities. So, I wanted to offer a place where mystery and ambiguity can be cherished.

A place where we can make room for the grey, space for the unknown, because that is what life includes. Thus, this blog is a chance to write about life as it is or at least as it is perceived. A place for us to journey together about life’s pain and suffering, its joy and excitement, and its challenge and mystery.

You have my attention.
You have my attention.