What Does Baptism Have To Do With Christmas?

Normally I wouldn’t put the two together, but right before Thanksgiving, our church celebrated baptism, and I found a point of connection.

Different churches and denominations celebrate baptism in various ways. Some churches baptize infants, others youth and adults. Some denominations sprinkle with holy water; others immerse the baptizee in a lake or pool of water.

Our church baptizes by immersion those who have chosen to follow Christ and to trust in Him for forgiveness of sins, following the examples of John the Baptist, the early disciples and even Jesus Himself.

For many years, I confess I was not entirely enthusiastic during the baptism services. It usually extended the length of the service, and even though I knew it was supposed to be a deeply moving sacrament, I didn’t feel moved watching strangers go down and come up out of the water.

In the last couple of years, however, our church has changed the way we celebrate baptism. We still immerse people in a small pool on the stage, and the services still run longer than usual. But baptism is now integrated right into our worship time, and as we sing songs about God redeeming us, restoring us and forgiving us, camera lenses zoom in on faces, still unrecognizable to me, but each with a story of a changed life. And each story matters to God. As each person goes down and comes up out of the water, people all over the auditorium cheer and clap, and the joy is palpable.

As each baptizee steps out of the water, he/she is wrapped in an oversized, white towel, and these dripping wet followers of Jesus form a community of saints, forgiven, radiant, washed clean. Then, our pastor invites friends and family members to join them on stage, to celebrate and show their support.

The scene is absolutely beautiful: a reunion,

a full-on party, a homecoming.

And at this recent baptism service, as hundreds of people crowded on the water-puddled stage, we sang these words by Chris Tomlin:

Here is our King; Here is our Love

Here is our God who’s come to bring us back to Him

He is the One, He is Jesus

Is there a connection between baptism and Christmas? Absolutely.

I don’t know if it’s because my church changed the way we do baptism, or if it’s more the result of a change in me, but now I see it. The connection. I’m engaged, and I am moved. Because God came into our world – the one He created – Because the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, we are saved. We are forgiven, made new, transformed. Because of this baby born over two thousand years ago to a surrendered girl around the same age as my seventh grade daughter, because of this King who came not to be served, but to serve, and because of this Man who gave His perfect life for me, defeating death and the grave, I am forever changed.

Here is our King; Here is our Love
Here is our God who’s come to bring us back to Him
He is the One, He is Jesus

As we enter this advent season, preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus, may we be opened to His amazing, unfailing love for us.

Merry Christmas.


speed bumps

One of the shows our family enjoys watching is The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network. Some of the country’s best food trucks compete in cities across the country for a grand prize of $100,000. Each week, the challenge intensifies as the remaining competitors do their best to sell the most food and avoid elimination.

What makes the show especially interesting are the “speed bumps”. This is where the show’s host, Tyler Florence, throws a curve ball their way. When the trucks are up and running, with long lines and big tickets, Tyler calls the contestants and tells them something like: “You have to change locations, now.” Or, “Everything on your menu needs to be $1.” “Your head chef is done for the rest of the day.” “You are now a desserts-only truck.” The teams are left scrambling, and this is where the true stars shine. And the fragile players crumble.

Speed bumps aren’t only on reality shows and paved roads. They pop up in real life and we scramble, crumble and sometimes shine.

I hit my latest speed bump about a month ago when my chronic back pain flared up. But this time was different, and my recovery has not been as quick as in the past. I was pretty much out of commission for a good week, with my body hurting and my brain turned to mush (due to the strong meds). My husband and daughters took over and took care of everything, including me.

In the weeks following, I’ve been working to get better, resolving complications and going to physical therapy. On my daily planner, things have been scratched off, moved and rescheduled. I’ve been surprised by how difficult it can be to slow down. To move and live life s-l-o-w.

I’m used to going fast. I’m accustomed to doing several things at once. So slowing down has, in some ways, been good for me. I did manage to keep up with my bible study on the book of Genesis. And I found that reading about the beginning of the world, studying about Creator God, Maker of heaven, earth, everything on the earth, and ME - it brought me comfort.

My speed bump has been small. There are much bigger speed bumps that people hit in life: death of a loved one, cancer, divorce, job loss, depression…these can bring life as we know it to a screeching halt, and it can be really difficult to move at all.

In the bible, a man named Job hit a mountain-sized speed bump. It was really more of a huge pot hole that swallowed up everything he cherished: his children, his wealth, even his health. Job’s friends were at a loss for what to say, but that didn’t stop them from eventually saying all kinds of things about why such terrible things had happened to him. Job and his friends go back and forth, pouring out their pain, their questions, their judgments and their feeble attempts to explain such suffering.

Then, finally, in chapter 38, after dozens of chapters recording the humans wrestling with the questions, the raw emotions, the struggle to understand and make sense of what cannot be understood - finally, the LORD speaks. And this time He is the one who asks a question.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther: here is where your proud waves halt’?

“Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?”

This is the response of God, and this is what gives me indescribable comfort. He is God, and we are not. We don’t understand, but we don’t have to. Sometimes when life slows and my limits are drawn, when I am still and quiet because I am weak and empty, this is when I am reminded of who He is. In the beginning, God created. Made everything out of nothing. Love and freedom, He let us choose. And He chose, from the beginning, forgiveness and redemption.

Are there any speed bumps in your life right now? Are you waiting, watching, trusting? Where do you find comfort?

Psalm 46: 10:

"Be still, and know that I am God."


Letter to my Daughter

Recently, I found a letter that I wrote to my oldest daughter on September 21th, 2001. Here is an excerpt of what was in my heart ten years ago:

“I write this letter 10 days after a national tragedy, because I know that although you are little now (only three years old), someday we will talk about what happened. I will tell you where I was, and what I was doing when I heard the news, and I will then be able to tell you the history of what happens next. But right now that is still the future, so I can only tell you what is in my heart at this moment.

My heart is broken for the thousands of people who have unspeakable grief because they have lost someone they love. Many parents lost a son or daughter. I want you to know how thankful I am to be your mommy – to have you in my life. You are a priceless treasure, and a gift from God. The joy I felt when you were born grows each day.

Life is uncertain and we never know how much time we will have together. I want to cherish each moment. And more than anything, I want you to know that the love of God is greater than all the evil, suffering, and pain in this world. We will be together forever with Him.

May you grow in God’s grace and be brave. Many people died because of courageous acts – passengers on airplanes, firefighters, policemen and rescue workers who ran into burning buildings to save and help others. They were killed when the buildings collapsed. I pray that you will always be brave and choose to help others, and find the truth in what Jesus said - “Real life is found in giving yours away.”

When I read this letter, I noticed the connection between sorrow and gratitude. I experienced it again recently after visiting a friend – a mom like me – who has cancer. The cancer has taken away many of her abilities, and for the remainder of the day after our visit, I was aware of both the sorrow of her situation as well as a heightened sense of gratitude. When I picked up my girls from school, I whispered a thank-you-prayer to God that I am able to drive and walk. When I made a cake with my daughter that afternoon, as I measured out the flour, I whispered another thank-you that I am able to bake with my daughter.

I thought about how my friend doesn’t deserve to have cancer, and I don’t deserve to be healthy.

Sometimes I am swallowed up by sorrow. The sorrow in the lives of those I care about, and the grief all over this world. And yet sometimes, when I respond to God’s comfort and grace, that same sorrow opens the way to gratitude. Blessings all around me. Blessings I don’t deserve, and often times don’t even notice.

On this ten year anniversary of September 11th, I remember the loss. I remember the tragedy. I will pray for those who are still hurting. And I will be grateful. I will pay attention to the blessings all around me, and drink deeply from the well of His grace.


What would the next month look like if you could live it without fear? This is the thought that came to me as I sat in church a couple of months ago. We were singing a song with the lyrics, “I will fear no evil, for my God is with me. And if my God is with me, Whom then shall I fear?” As we sang those words, anxious thoughts were swirling around in my mind. I was thinking (worrying) about many things: a writers’ conference I was preparing for, the end of the school year and heading into summer, and our upcoming trip to Mexico (and having to face my fear of flying.) In those moments I became painfully aware of what an anxious person I was becoming.

It seems that as I age, anxious thoughts creep into my life like extra pounds; it just gets harder to keep them away. I have always struggled some with anxiety, but now, as an almost 40-year-old mom of three, the number of things to worry about increases daily.

I have been in bed, right at that wonderful point of falling asleep, only to imagine myself driving over a bridge in my minivan with my children, having an accident and plunging into a river. Suddenly my eyes are open, my heart is pounding, and I am imagining every detail of how we would not be able to make it out of our sinking van, with water rushing in. I have also visualized our family waiting for our luggage at the baggage claim in Mexico City. I picture our youngest daughter straying just a little, then screaming as someone grabs her and runs, too fast for us to catch. Those moments feel so real, and I lay in bed paralyzed with fear, afraid of possible catastrophic events beyond my control.

That question lingered in my thoughts long after Sunday morning. I began to imagine what my life would look like if I could live the next month without fear. What if I could go to this conference, just be myself, meet people, learn all I could learn, and not pressure myself with unrealistic expectations. What if I could trust that my daughters would be fine on the last day of school without me? What if I could get on that airplane, and just enjoy the wonder of flying the friendly skies? And what if I could relax and enjoy every moment of our trip to Mexico instead of fearing the worst?

I think the bigger question is this: What if I could live life to the fullest, experiencing each moment with freedom from fear?

I am making progress. I still feel those anxious thoughts creeping in, but I am becoming ruthless in my intolerance of them. I had a great time at the conference, a fantastic trip to Mexico with my family, and even the flying was ok (with a little medicinal help from my doctor.) I sat next to my youngest daughter who wanted a window seat. I tried to see the experience from her innocent, trusting perspective.

We finished our summer with a trip to Spring Hill family camp in Evart, Michigan. I joined my family in putting on a harness and a helmet and flying over the lake on a zipline. Part way up the enormously tall tower, even though my daughters were not the least bit nervous about jumping off the platform and zipping down a cable over the lake, I was terrified. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I could actually sit on that platform and jump off. In that moment, I had to make a decision. Did I really want to miss out because I was afraid? Because I might not like how it would feel? For me, this experience was not as much about a couple of seconds of thrill-seeking; it was more about the way I want to live my life.

In the coming months, I have some new adventures ahead of me. this week we are getting a puppy. In one month, all of my kids will be in full-day school. For the first time in thirteen years, I will have time on my hands – time to pursue my interests and follow where God is leading me. And starting in October, I have opportunities to begin speaking to groups of moms, and for me, public speaking feels a lot like climbing that tower and sitting on that platform. Part of me wants to get down. Take off my harness and helmet and just watch other people do it. But another part of me – a bigger part of me – wants to take the plunge. I want to fully live, and I want to experience all that God has for me. I believe that He is going to amaze and surprise me. I believe that the work He is doing inside me is much bigger than any work I am doing.

So what about you? What would the next month or the next year of your life look like if you lived it without fear? Can you sense God nudging you up any towers or out on any platforms? Are you being stretched or pushed out of your comfort zone? The best part about following through and taking those steps of faith - the most amazing part about jumping - is experiencing how secure you are in His hands.


Miss America 2011

I need more friends. About 790 more, to be precise. This is one of the things I learned at a recent four-day writers’ conference I attended. I learned that every writer needs to have a platform: a following and an audience. Publishers want to know that there are lots of people that will buy your book, should they publish it. I spoke with a writer who met with an agent and learned that until she had a thousand friends on facebook, and a thousand hits on her blog, this agent wouldn’t even work with her.

I learned about writing non-fiction, multiple marketing, the importance of a great hook, and how to write a book proposal. I practiced pitching my ideas to editors, publishers and agents, and met some wonderful writers. Writers who, like me, love to write and want to write better. I learned who Ann Voskamp is and met some women who want to be like her, not the raising chickens and a half dozen kids part, but the New York Times bestseller, blockbuster blog part.

Several speakers and teachers talked about how to succeed as a writer. You have to work hard. You have to sacrifice and be willing to write about anything and everything. You need to set goals and follow through. These admonitions have been ruminating in my mind over the past week and a half, but I have also reflected on something else. Along with their success, some of these writers shared regrets about how they neglected their families during their years of pursuing writing careers. They were driven, and that unrelenting drive may be the reason why they have succeeded as they have, but it came at a cost.

Driven vs. Led

I want to pursue writing. If I let myself, I can be swept away by the never-ending list of ‘to-dos:’ study magazines and submit articles, send more queries, get started on a book proposal, update my blog more often, sign up for twitter, start handing out business cards to random people at the grocery store and ask them to be my friends on facebook…you get the picture. It can start to feel like I’m running after everything, or what the writer of Ecclesiastes calls a “chasing of the wind.”

I am a wife, a mother, a friend. I serve at my church. I volunteer at my kids’ schools. I try to work-out regularly and I love to cook. I enjoy watching TV with my husband after the kids go to bed. I need a good night’s sleep.

I pitched my book idea to an agent at the conference, and while trying to clarify my idea, she suggested that what women want is a book about balance: how to balance your home life with your work life. She went on to tell me how she has three kids, and finding balance is her greatest challenge.

Pursue as I’m Led

I came home from the conference not with a new book idea, but rather determined to figure out my own balancing act. There are a lot of opportunities before me. Which ones will I choose? If I receive three invitations in my inbox to write specific articles (as I did this morning), which ones will I go for? None of them? All of them? Will I frantically chase after every possibility because I need to feel validated, or will I stop and pray, asking God to lead me? Will I allow my worth as a writer to be determined by the money I earn or the number of places in which I get published? Or will I daily remember why I write. I write to share stories. My story, God’s story, someone else’s story. I write to encourage, honor and build up. My best writing happens when I can’t help but write. Rather than be driven, I can pursue opportunities as I am led. I can follow as God guides me. I can thoughtfully and prayerfully consider every idea, each opportunity as it comes, letting go of those that are not for now, grabbing hold of those that resonate, stir up and inspire me.

I have friends, (real friends - not virtual ones), that are teachers, nurses, physical therapists, and nannies. I have a friend that is tinkering with the idea of starting a catering business, and another that works with the youth at her church. I have friends in retail, friends in ministry. Many of these women are moms like me, and they are learning to juggle just like I am. Learning to ask the hard questions. “Do I say yes to this? Because saying yes to this means saying no to something else. Can I commit the time and energy to this task? Is God leading me in this? What is the cost?”

My challenge right now is to discern where I am being led, and then to follow through on pursuing those opportunities, doing my absolute best. When I rest my head on my pillow at the end of each day, I pray that I have spent my day doing what God asked me to do. That I have lived creatively, loved whole-heartedly, and followed Him unswervingly. I can then leave every outcome to my Leader, the Author of my life.

Are you wondering about the title for this post? Just an idea I came up with after the conference. Miss America 2011 happens to be the number one Google search for today. Ok, so I might be a little driven…



Over a month ago, I heard a song that changed me. Words written by someone else that have stuck with me, shaped the way I think and the way I see life.

I have sung this song everyday since, in the shower, at the piano, in the car, while cooking. It has become a part of me, and I wanted to share it with you.

This season of my life is a bit chaotic - the pace feels a little too fast. My daughters are finishing up the school year which means recitals, award ceremonies, and open houses. And yet at the same time that we are wrapping up this year, we are beginning the next. Try-outs for fall activites, band sign-up, physicals and school forms for next year are due next week. Necessary endings run parallel with necessary beginnings, and sandwiched in between are our plans for summer, which of course we are trying to hammer out at this very moment. Our plans include a visit to Mexico, a trip to family camp, and did I mention we are getting a dog??

A couple of years ago, my friend was preparing to teach a school of religion class, and rather than teaching that God needs to be our highest priority, like something to be checked off of a list, she taught the kids that God needs to be our center. All of life - family, school, friendships, work, play - is lived with Him at the center. I loved this idea, and I think it's where Hughes' lyrics have taken me again: experiencing God's presence in every area, every moment of my life. And not just in my crazy schedule, but in my unsettling, chaotic places of grief, fear and anxiety, feelings of failure and inadequacy, sadness. In my joy, gratitude, moments of laughter and light-heartedness. In my work, in my rest, as I hope and as I wait. God at the center.

God as my ever-present Everything.

After you read the lyrics, check out the video~ http://youtu.be/hteS7tzk6bs

God in my living, there in my breathing
God in my waking, God in my sleeping
God in my resting, there in my working
God in my thinking, God in my speaking

Be my everything, be my everything.
Be my everything, be my everything.

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming
God in my watching, God in my waiting
God in my laughing, there in my weeping
God in my hurting, God in my healing

Be my everything, be my everything.
Be my everything, be my everything.

Christ in me, Christ in me
Christ in me, the hope of glory
You are everything.

Christ in me, Christ in me
Christ in me, the hope of glory
Be my everything


The Mom in Me

I remember the first time I received breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day. My older girls were probably 4 and 2 years old, and obviously my husband was the mastermind behind the operation: scrambled eggs, toast with jam, coffee and orange juice. The girls were so excited, and after I had opened my card and their handmade pictures, they all just sort of stood there next to the bed, waiting. Apparently they hadn’t actually expected me to eat my breakfast in bed, and I ended up at the table with the rest of them because, in their world, that was where I belonged.

During my early years of being a mom, I had pretty high expectations for Mother’s Day. I wanted it all: a card; a thoughtful gift; a delicious meal prepared by somebody else (like a chef from Pappadeaux or The Cheesecake Factory); and some sort of handmade expression of love from my children. I would hope that my husband would remember that our kids couldn’t read a calendar or drive themselves to the store, and just in case he might forget, I would always give him a few friendly reminders. But what it really came down to was appreciation. I wanted to hear, “Thank you. You are doing a great job.” Words that most moms seldom hear but long for just the same.

Over the years I’ve noticed a shift in my perspective. Before I had kids, I pictured what it would be like to have babies, but I never knew that these babies would grow to be such extraordinary people. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to parent a 5, 10 or 12-year-old. And I certainly never expected that raising my girls would in many ways undo me and mend me at the same time. My children, without even trying, have unearthed various character flaws in my life, as well as calling out the very best parts of my true self. Being a mom does not define me, yet it fills up every square inch inside me, like water does not define the pitcher it is poured into, but fills up every available space within it.

For me, Mother’s Day has become less about being celebrated and more about celebrating. I have come to see motherhood as a gift of immeasurable worth─a gift I can’t adequately put into words, but one that gives deeper meaning to every part of my life, connecting the woman I am now with the girl I was decades ago. It explains why, when I dropped my 12-year-old daughter off for her first day of middle school, I was certain that the knots in my stomach were as tight as the knots in hers. It’s what motivates me to step into my 10-year-old’s world and be silly, speaking in different accents to make her laugh. And it’s the reason why I can’t bring myself to throw away over a dozen notes written by my kindergartener. Notes that say,

“I luv my famulee,” and “I luv you Mama Baudouin.”

Of course, my husband and girls know better than to blow off this special day, and I do look forward to getting breakfast in bed and then eating it in the kitchen with the rest of my family. I love the cards and gifts and going out to eat. But I make sure to let my girls know what an incredible honor it is to be their mom. Some years I write them a letter, other years I take a few moments with each of them to tell them how treasured they are, and how I’m growing right along with them. Being a mom is not a right that every woman automatically receives; it is a privilege ─a high calling─and as a friend of mine told me many years ago, “the hardest job you’ll ever love.”

~Becky Baudouin lives in the Northwest Suburbs with her husband, Bernie, and their three daughters. She blogs regularly at beckyspen.blogspot.com



For spring break my husband and I took our girls to Michigan. Many of our friends took trips to warmer climates such as Florida, Texas and the Bahamas. But my extended family is in Michigan, and in my book, qualilty time with family trumps good weather any day. It's a good thing I feel this way, because we drove right into freezing rain and several inches of snow.

Our car trip provided our first real opportunity to use my husband's new GPS navigator, whom we have affectionately named Camille. She sent us through Chicago's Skyway, and we obeyed, even though for the last 12 years we have primarily taken the Tri-State to Michigan. Traffic was horrendous once we reached the circle, and my husband was able to draw from his experience of having learned to drive in Mexico City, bypassing the congestion, taking us on alternate routes until we re-entered the tollway. Camille sounded almost frantic as Bernie consistently ignored her suggestions, repeating over and over "recalculating" until finally we were back on course.

I didn't get too bent out of shape over the delay, because not only did I have the visit with my family to look forward to, but Bernie and I were going to one of our favorite places ~ Harbor House Inn, in Grand Haven, Michigan.

Harbor House Inn is a beautiful Victorian bed and breakfast, with 20 unique rooms, overlooking Lake Michigan. Grand Haven is a lovely little town on Michigan's shoreline, with cozy restaurants and charming shops. And for Bernie and me, these two places come together to form the most perfect retreat.

The first time I set foot inside the Inn was about 13 years ago, and I was not a guest. It was July 4th, and I was with my family across the street, waiting for fireworks to begin. Seven months pregnant with our oldest daughter, I needed to use the bathroom urgently. I entered the Inn and asked to use the restroom, and the woman at the desk kindly obliged. I am certain that the hospitality and mercy the staff extended to me that summer influenced our decision to return to Harbor House Inn, this time as guests.

This is now our fifth visit, and in the car on the ride over, I was thinking about why I love coming here so much. I have traveled to beautiful places in the world, and I've seen famous landmarks: Big Ben and Buckingham Palace; the cathedrals in Barcelona, Spain; the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore. I've been to the Caribbean and to the coasts of Mexico. I have visited amazing museums and art institutes in great cities like Chicago, New York, London, and Mexico City.

And yet relaxing on the wicker furniture on the screened-in, wrap-around porch at Harbor House Inn, looking out over the peaceful water ~ it is truly one of the most special places I have ever been. And I think this is precisely because there is no sight-seeing to be done, no grand architecture to behold, and no must-visit museums. In addition, there are no people to visit, phone calls to make, errands to run, or meals to prepare. I am not interrupted by thoughts about how my daughter doesn't have any clean socks or how we are out of milk. The phone does not ring, the clock is not my master, and I am able to completely relax. I am able, in a way that I normally am not, to be still. To be quiet. To read, and journal. To really talk to God and listen.

Thoughts of the porch kept beckoning me, and when we had finally dropped the girls off at my mom's and driven 20 more miles to Grand Haven, it was sort of like coming home. The familiar streets and restaurants, and the big, picturesque Harbor House Inn looked just as inviting as the first time I saw it. We entered through the back, ducking out of the freezing rain, and made our way to the front desk to check in. At some point, after scanning the quaint living room with the blazing fireplace, and the dining tables calling out for delicious food and conversation, I noticed the porch. It was empty. No patio furniture, nothing. As I processed the information my eyes were sending to my brain, I could hear Camille's mocking voice in my mind. Recalculating...

I stood briefly on the porch with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand, eating the best peanut butter cookie I think I've ever had. And after a few moments I decided that it was a good call to wait until Spring actually showed up before setting up the porch. It was rainy and cold, and with zero sunshine, I was surprised at how the noise from the street overrode the view of the water.

Surprises. Unforseen twists and turns. Unmet expectations. We stayed in the Captain's Cottage, a new addition to the B&B. It's a renovated, 1900's farmhouse next door to the main inn, complete with it's own porch that was also out of season. And you know what? It was perfect. A cozy fireplace, a comfy wicker chair situated in front of large corner windows with a gorgeous view of the water, and nautical decor, including a slightly sarcastic painting in the living room that says, 'Grand Haven, fun in the sun'.

We skipped our usual dining choice in town, and opted instead for Bil-Mar, a restaurant about a mile down the road overlooking the water. The main entree was nothing special, but I'm still thinking about the appetizer and dessert. We started our meal with fried cauliflower and homemade ranch dressing, and finished with turtle ice cream pie.

Our girls joined us for the second day; we played "yahtzee", had dinner at Kirby Grill, and watched "Father of the Bride" before bed. No, this visit was not the same as our last one, over five years ago. It was different. But I am different, too. We are now a family of five. I write more on my laptop than I do in my journal. I am in a different season of life. I enjoyed some solitude, time to connect with my husband and kids, and then several days with family up north. It was not entirely what I had expected, but few things are. It was, however, exactly what I needed.

Our ride back to Chicago was long ~ we were tired, but our 'buckets' were full with great memories of our trip and our time with family and friends. And although we again ignored most of Camille's directions, when we turned onto our cul-de-sac, my heart warmed when she said, "You have arrived. Home."



Life is good.

A couple members of my family (including myself) are of the opinion that our downstairs powder room is the most beautiful room in our house. Every now and then, when I have a few uninterrupted moments, I just take it in: the creamy beige tones on the walls contrasting crisp, white trim; the smooth texture and irregular strokes of the Venetian plaster; the crown molding that gives it that finished, tailored look. It might sound like I'm bragging, but I'm really not. I didn't do the work myself, and the entire decorating project was forced upon me against my will. I would not have chosen the chain of events that resulted in what is now the most sophisticated space in our home; neither would I undo the process if given the option. My 4X6 ft. bathroom reminds me that sometimes good things do indeed come out of disaster.

You see, a few years ago in January, temperatures here in Chicago were so bitter cold that our pipes froze. This had never happened to us before, but we had heard horror stories from people who lived to tell about their pipes freezing, thawing, and then breaking. We were desparate not to let this happen to us. We stayed home from church and held a prayer vigil, begging God to let the pipe thaw with no incident. And then, because God helps those who help themselves, (is that in the Bible?) we ran a heater under our sink and used a hair dryer to warm the pipes, all to no avail. We hardly slept that night, and Monday morning, still stuck at home, I decided to do something productive. I pulled out a business card for a window treatment company and called to inquire about purchasing blinds. A plumber answered the phone. I had misdialed, but since I had him on the phone, I explained our situation and asked for his advice. He said we were doing all we could-we just needed to wait it out.

I remember the moment it happened. I was upstairs in the master bathroom when I heard a pop! and then the sound of spraying water. It sounded like our shower, only inside the walls! I looked down and water was seeping out from under the baseboards. I flew down the stairs and was horrified to see a waterfall cascading from my space-saver microwave onto the stove, and then I ran down a few more stairs to find Niagara Falls flooding our half-bathroom and family room. I discovered something about myself that day; I am terrible in emergency situations. I had no idea what to do, except to grab the phone and re-misdial the window treatment company. Mr. Plumber answered the call and proceeded to talk a hysterical woman through the process of locating the water valve in the basement and shutting off the water supply to the entire house. fyi...if you do not know where the water supply valve is in your house and how to turn it off, it is preferable to acquaint yourself with it before you find yourself in this type of situation.

It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and my kids were home from school. As long as I live, I will never forget the stunned looks on their faces as they watched this catastrophe unfold, and saw their panicked mother running, slipping and sliding through the house, grabbing every towel and blanket we own in an attempt to mop up some of the water.

Needless to say, the damage was extensive. The days that followed were a blur. I watched as a team of water removal specialists cut holes in our walls and ceilings, and left us with enormous dehumidifiers blowing all throughout our house. We were relieved to find out that our insurance would cover the damages, and were very pleased when the insurance adjuster cut us a generous check for all of the repairs. The water ruined the matress in our family room's sleeper-sofa sectional, and as it turned out, the only way to replace it was to have one custom made. Very expensive. We opted to keep the sectional, and use the money to buy a new sleeper-sofa for our living room. We renovated the bathroom, exchanging the outdated wallpaper for the beautiful Venetian plaster, which I never would have attempted to do on my own. When it was all over, we had updated several areas of our home, and had just enough money left over to fix our minivan. I remember thinking that it was a remarkably interesting way that God had provided for us.

If I had a list of things that really matter, my bathroom would not be on it. It is not important. Still, I can't help but remember Romans 8:28 when I think about this story. "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." The obvious blessing that came out of our pipe breaking is a metaphor for what I have experienced in very profound ways, in areas of my life that really do matter.

When my husband, Bernie, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over 10 years ago, our world was already beginning to crumble. As the doctor delivered the heartbreaking news, all I could picture in my mind was my young husband in a wheelchair. The only person I knew that had MS was my mother's best friend from high school. She has a very progressive, debilitating form of the disease, and for the next several months, I was pretty much driven by fear: fear of what would happen to Bernie; fear that we would not be able to pull it together and work through the problems we were experiencing in our marriage; fear that our children would grow up in a broken home. Fear of how I would make it, and perhaps worse of all, the fear of being alone. And yet these circumstances and the stress that came with them forced us into a different way of living, a more intense way of loving, and a deeper level of trusting God. We needed to do life with others if we were going to survive. We needed help, and we had to learn to be humble enough to ask for it. These pressures brought out things we needed to change in ourselves, and ultimately, I don't believe we would be the same people today, had we not gone through these trials. Thankfully our worst fears did not come true, and my husband's MS is relatively mild. Right now, he is enjoying good health, and just as significantly, we are experiencing a sense of being made whole and complete, something I don't think we were really looking for early on.

If Bernie's MS were more advanced, I am sure I would not write these words as easily. But I can say with full sincerity, although some of the stops along the way have been brutally painful, I have come to love this journey we are on. I have experienced in a deep, real way how God works all things for the good of those who love Him.

I think that the promise in Romans 8:28 is meant to gently encourage, infusing hope into our weary souls, and not to be given as a pat answer to those who are in the depths of grief and loss. Neither is it a promise that everything will work out as nicely as my powder room, or that we will always reach a place of saying, "I wouldn't change it even if I could." Some losses are so great, and so deep, that a part of us will always protest until the day we leave this earth. And yet God is good. There is no limit to His healing comfort and grace, and because of this, life, too, is good.


When I was a kid, I often heard grown-ups talk about how fast time was passing. Because I was young, I never really identified with what they were saying. It didn't feel like time was flying by at all, because I was always looking ahead, wanting to be older, wanting to learn to drive, make some money, graduate, get married and have kids.

This month I turn 39, and now I'm one of those grown-ups who just can't believe how fast life is flying by. My oldest daughter is getting braces. My kindergartner is reading. It seems my girls are constantly outgrowing their clothes. When visiting relatives over the holiday, I was the one saying to my nieces and nephews, "I can't believe how much you've grown!"

Looking over my day planner from 2010, change was abundant. Some changes were exciting; I started writing for the Daily Herald. We made some improvements to our home. Other changes were short-lived; last year at this time I was enjoying a circle of friends I'd made with the mothers from my daughter's preschool. Women that, had our kids continued on together in elementary school, I would have loved to have gotten to know better. And then there was one change that I knew was coming, and dreaded for months. One of my best local friends was scheduled on my calendar several times every week. Her son and my daughter would take turns having playdates after preschool, and our families hung out together. Their presence was a constant in our lives. Then, written on my calendar one Tuesday in early April, the words, "go to Milwaukee". My daughter and I went for the day to see my friend's new house. Three weeks later, a moving truck pulled away and our friends were gone. Empty spaces followed on my calendar, mirroring the emptiness our family felt. Change happens, whether you like it or not.

In July I returned to Northern Michigan for my 20-year high school reunion. I wrote a whole column about that experience; some people I didn't even recognize and others hadn't changed at all. In August, we went to Michigan again. On my day planner I see the date for our friend's wedding, and visits with many extended family members. Then turn the page and scribbled in the memo section are phone numbers for a funeral home, a flower shop, and yet another hotel confirmation. My grandma was gone. Change comes, whether you're ready or not.

Sometimes change is like a breeze - soft, gentle, giving you time to adjust and prepare. Other times it's more like a tsunami - a catastrophic quake that sends an aftermath of shock, grief and destruction. I saw this and felt this over the holidays with extended family members who are trying to accept the changes death and divorce have brought into their lives .

My family and close friends helped me navigate the changes that came my way over the last year. I made time for relationships that matter to me. I've stayed close with my friend who moved to Milwaukee. I toured a cheesecake factory (and I don't even really like cheesecake that much) and joined a Christmas choir so I could spend more time with one of my best longtime friends. I faked my way through parts of Handel's Messiah so I could sit with Margie over a cup of coffee after practice, skip the small talk and converse about what really matters. She is one of the people in my life that helps to keep me on track.

Usually New Year's resolutions are all about change, about pinpointing those things we need to improve on. This year I'm thinking about the choices I make each day - both positive and negative- choices that bring subtle changes into my life. Seemingly insignificant choices that are like minor adjustments to a steering wheel, carrying with them the potential to bring me back on course or carry me in a direction I really don't want to go. I'm trying to identify some things I'm getting right, at least part of the time, and intentionally keep moving forward; Tuesday night dates with my husband, investing time and energy into friendships that are authentic and bring out the best in me, and making time for solitude and work that energizes me. I want to become a better listener with my kids, and continue to be a part of groups that help me to grow.

I'm praying for wisdom to live each day with the awareness that the choices I make matter.

A slogan used in Britain to boost morale during WWII has resurfaced and is showing up on items such as memo pads and chocolate bars. Maybe you’ve seen it? “Keep Calm and Carry On”. This phrase has been rolling around in my mind for weeks now, and I’m thinking that it would make a great New Year’s slogan. When stress levels run high, it’s a good reminder: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Perhaps a conversation didn’t go well? Try it again. Keep your cool, and keep at it. Say, “I’m sorry.” Say, “I love you, and we’ll figure this out.” Make sure you’re moving in the right direction, and calmly, carry on.