Chasing The Super-Bloom

Chasing The Super-Bloom

Bri’s birthday is one week from today and we’ve already begun celebrating. On Saturday afternoon, Br’s sister, Kathrine, pulled off a surprise road trip to check out the super bloom that all of SoCal has been Instagramming.

 

It took 2 hours and an epic oldies playlist to get us to our first stop, which turned out to be a no-go due to an early trail closure. We weren’t too fazed and decided to travel down to Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore. We pulled into the gravel-lined parking spot right as the sunlight was beginning to slowly fade. There were groups of families and photographers roaming around throughout the canyon, everyone on the hunt for a field of flowers to frolic in, or at least pose in front of. We set off, up the steep hill, despite the fact that we both chose the wrong footwear. Arm in arm, Bri and I scaled the hillside, her in ballet flats and me rocking my wedges. I know we must have looked insane to all of the hikers walking past us in their sensible footwear. But, as it has been for the past 20-something years of our lives, we just held on tightly to each other and laughed our way through the stumbles.

 

 

We made it to the top, sweaty and completely out of breath, but we were there and the view from the top is a beautiful distraction from the struggle of the climb. We didn’t stay long. Just long enough to high-five our out-of-shape-selves for surviving and to snap some quick pictures.

After we made the journey back down the hill, we headed home for Orange County. Bri and I had dinner with Kathrine and their mom which sent me right back to our childhood. It hasn’t just been Bri that has been there for me these past two decades, it’s her family who took me in as their own, that have made the difference, too. Some of the best childhood memories that I have happened with the Llewellyn family and it was nice to reminisce and share a meal with the people who will forever feel like my second home.

We had a great day chasing the super-bloom and definitely want to go back. If you’ve visited any SoCal spots that are prime super-bloom viewing spots, please share in the comments below! I’d love any tips you may have that will help us plan the next trip we take!

 

Letters to Noah & Aria: 10 Hopes for the Future 


1. I hope that as parents, your father and I instill in both of you a love of education and books and seeking knowledge. Read everything you can. Don’t limit yourselves to one genre or voice, seek out books written by people from near and far. Fill your head with philosophies and history and science. Question things as much as you need to, but always do the work to get your answers. Education is one of the few things in life that can never be taken away from you.

1. I hope that as parents, your father and I instill in both of you a love of education and books and a thirst for knowledge. Read everything you can. Don’t limit yourselves to one genre or voice, seek out books written by people from near and far. Fill your head with philosophies and history and science. Question things as much as you need to, but always do the work to get your answers. Education is one of the few things in life that can never be taken away from you.

2. I hope that you travel the world. I pray for the opportunities to start your wanderlust at an early age, but if we don’t get the chance to travel as a family, I hope that you use that you to light a fire under your wandering feet. I want you to experience as many different countries and cultures as possible. Take every opportunity to go and do and see!

3. I hope that you seek out your passions. Grow them through constant practice and persevere, especially when it’s hard. Be they music, art, dance, sports… whatever, explore and find out what sets your heart on fire and then chase that. God created you both with innate gifts and talents and you are capable of reaching whatever goal you can dream up. Invest in yourselves and your talents.

4. I hope that you practice bravery daily and always remember, we can do hard things. Never be afraid to speak up when you feel something is unfair, unjust or harmful. We are all deserving of kindness. There is no cause or difference worthy of belittling or bullying others. Doing the right thing is not always the popular thing, but it will always be worth it.

5. I hope that one day you know what it feels like to love another person with all of your heart. Take your time (lots and lots of time!). Don’t rush into matters of the heart. Enjoy your youth and be carefree but when you’re ready, loving someone else faithfully and completely will be one of the greatest gifts of your life.

6. Along those same lines, I hope that you know what it feels like to be loved and cherished by another with all of their heart. When you do fall in love, make sure that person is willing to give the same to you. You are worth the effort. True love is an equal partnership.

7. I pray that your heartbreaks in life be minimal. They will happen, and as much as they can feel so consuming and paralyzing, know that they are part of your story. The hurt will shape you and it will make you a wiser, better person. Sometimes, the bravest thing you can do is allow yourself to be vulnerable and walk through your circumstances with your head held high.

8. I hope that you have a community of friends who will be loyal and encouraging and who will lift you up. Over the course of your life you will hold so many different friendships – some of them good and some of them detrimental. Don’t waste time on anyone who is not good to you. Let the lessons from all of these relationships allow you to build a circle of friends who will always be there to stand with you in the highest and lowest moments of your life.

9.  I hope that no matter what happens to you, no matter the choices you make, or the circumstances you find yourselves in– remember that your father and I are here to care for you and guide you and support you. Even if we disagree with you, don’t ever be afraid to come to us for help. We may not always have the answer or the means, but we’ll be in it together. We are and forever will be a team that no one can tear apart. Our love for you is without limits or conditions and it will always be that way.

10. And lastly, here is the most important hope and prayer of my mama’s heart,  that you never forget that faith in and love for Jesus Christ is all you need. Above the love of a partner, the friendship of your peers, even your family. Let Him be the north star that guides your life. I spent so many years walking through unnecessary darkness and pain because I walked away from my faith. One of my biggest regrets is that you both bore witness to the lows in my walk with Christ. But God, in all of His goodness and wisdom, allowed me to struggle in front of you so that you could have front row seating as He picked me back up and put the pieces of my shattered faith and broken heart back together again. I’ve gotten to share the journey with you both and I pray that it cements Truth and light into your hearts, so that when you stumble in your own walks with the Lord, you can look back and remember all the good work he did and continues to do in your mother.

When I think of your future, my heart can barely contain the hope it holds for you. You may still be small now, but the days are moving fast and I am taking every opportunity to be purposeful and open about my dreams for you both. But these words are just that … my dreams… merely a launching pad for the possibilities of your life. Who will you become? What will you achieve? Only time will reveal those things. I am certain that the very best thing I will ever do in my life has already begun. In whatever you accomplish, you will be my greatest legacy.

Aria’s POV 

On Monday, Aria and I had the chance to spend some time exploring the Circle with our friends, Jenn and her daughter Kasey. I decided to take a break from playing mamarazzi (noun: mother who constantly hovers and takes pictures of their kids, even in the most mundane situations), so I put my phone in camera mode and handed it off to Aria.

I plan to do this more often and hope to build an album of photos from their point of view. I think it will be interesting to see how their photo composition and subjects will change as they grow. It’s a great reminder that perspective is relative – where I might skip over, they may stop to marvel. 

Even the ordinary is beautiful to someone.


Thoughts on Marriage 

Thoughts on Marriage 

Tim and I have been together for eleven years, married for eight and a half. We’ve had ups and downs, we’ve had times where we feel super close and in love and so on our marriage game, and we’ve had times where we feel distant and so over fighting.
We’ve learned that it’s okay to have bad days, it’s okay if every day isn’t a fairy tale, it’s ok to be boring married people. It’s okay to stay home and eat pizza and drink beer and do laundry together and binge watch Stranger Things for hours before falling asleep. It’s okay to skip the party and use the kid as an excuse. It’s okay if every day isn’t exciting because life is really hard work and marriage is hard work and parenting is hard work. Real life can be mundane and boring and super lame sometimes.

Life can be mundane, but our love never is. It moves slowly, yet steady and strong. I choose him every day, and he chooses me. No matter the circumstances, there is always a basic understanding that, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how big the fight, no matter how helpless the situation– we are on the same team and we will work everything out, together, eventually. 

This past week, one of my close friends asked me what the secret to marriage is. And my answer is this: Find someone who you want to work hard with. Someone who you want to work out the big fights with. Someone who you can go through the mundane every day of life with and still be content when your head hits the pillow at night. Someone you could be poor with, someone you could figure out how to turn $6 into a day’s worth of food with. Someone who loves your quirks and pushes you towards your goals when you lose your way. Someone who balances you out and complements your strengths and fills in your weaknesses. Someone you can always laugh with, no matter how hard this life thing gets. Someone who eases your mind and your soul, someone who keeps you safe. Someone who chooses you, and who you want to choose every day for forever. Someone who still excites you even after twelve years or twenty years or fifty-five years. Find that person and you’ll be golden.

 

The Fortress Paint Night

The Fortress Paint Night

Wednesday nights have a special place in my heart. That’s when I get to head to church for mid-week connect where I’m a part of an incredible community of women called The Fortress.

I can’t even begin to tell you how aptly this group was named. It truly is a safe haven where grace is liberally exchanged by one of the most eclectic and diverse groups of women. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you’ve done, what you like, what you own– you are welcomed and you are loved and you are seen in The Fortress.

We’ve been meeting for nearly two years and I can proudly say that I am not the same person that I was when we began. I showed up that first night, timid and silent. So sure that I didn’t belong. So sure that I had nothing of value to contribute. And SO ANXIOUS. My goodness, was I a mess that first Wednesday night. I skipped my turn to share and made little to no eye contact with the women at my table. I felt awkward and out of place, but I showed up. And thank God for that.

I listened and slowly, but surely I began to open up. It was in The Fortress where I first verbalized the sexual assault that I had experienced as a child. At that point, the only person that knew was Tim. But that night, for the first time ever, I was able to tell my secret without feeling guilty or ashamed. Those women spoke life into the 6-year-old inside of me who still felt like it was her fault. They prayed for me that night and for weeks afterward. I was finally able to tell my parents and my best friend. After 21 years, I finally went from seeing myself as a weak victim, to seeing myself for what I am– a badass survivor. And I owe it all to this community of women. Their prayers and support were exactly what I needed.

Tonight was an extra special night at The Fortress. We just wrapped up our last study and are gearing up for the next, so tonight we all got together for paint night! Two of the ladies in our group are art teachers and they led us in a guided painting project.

My group leader/retreat roomie/sister from another mister, Cindy. I love, love, love this woman!
We’re not like a normal church- we’re a cool church. 👌🏻
Fin.
Me and my mama.

 

I am so blessed to be a part of this community of women. Local friends, please let me know if you want more info or want to join us! (We’re about to start a new study all about prayer and it’s going to be GOOD!)

You’ve Got This

Dearest Noah & Aria,

My first instinct is always to jump in and be the barrier between you and the world. My muscle memory is to protect you from anything that could potentially cause you harm or sadness. And more and more as the days pass by,  I find myself fighting an internal battle between the part of me that wants to fix everything for you both and the part of me that knows it’s important for you each to learn to trust in yourselves and your own abilities to navigate new experiences.

Thankfully, the voice of reason is growing louder with each year that passes. And even though every fiber of my being wants nothing more than to be a helicopter mom who shadows your every move and choice, I know that is not what either of you needs from me. I am always trying to toe the line between keeping you safe and giving you enough space and encouragement to find your own way. And oh man you guys, that is so insanely hard sometimes.

This past weekend, I watched you help each other climb to the top of a ladder on the big kid side of the playground. Your little hands held on so tightly to each other as you went higher and higher and everything in me wanted to go and put my hands out towards you. But instead, I stopped, took a deep breath and said to myself, “They’ve got this”.

I stood a few feet away, every muscle in my body ready to leap forward should one of you slip, but I stood my ground, hide my panic, and smiled and told you that you were doing a great job.

And you were. You both surprised yourselves with your strength and perseverance. The look of pride on your faces & the high-fives when you reached the top by yourselves assured me I had done the right thing in staying back.

It reminded me of the internal battle I will fight until you both are grown. I fought it on your first day of school, Noah. Aria, I’ll be facing the same fight with you when you begin kindergarten in a few months. I dread the first time someone breaks your heart. And the first trips you take away without me. And the day you get your drivers licenses. And the day you move out of our house.

I can assure you that at every turn, a voice inside me will be shouting. “No! Wait! Stop! Let me help you! Let me go too!!”

But thanks to God and his endless grace, the reasonable side will win, as it always does.

I will take a deep breath, look into your beautiful brown eyes, and I will tell you how much I love you and remind you that I am here if you need me. That I will always be right here. And every single ounce of me will be waiting eagerly to remind you both that we can do hard things. I will always be ready to answer your call, should you need me. But I will do my best to take a step back, and whisper to myself again and again and again.

They’ve got this.

Wave to me from the top, my loves.

I love you to the moon & back,

Mama

Talking To Your Daughter About Her Body

Talking To Your Daughter About Her Body

Step one to talking to your daughter about her body:

Don’t. Unless you’re teaching her how it works, just don’t. Buy her an anatomy book that you can read together. Let her ask questions. Answer them as best as you can. Don’t have the answer? Tell her that and let her know that you will find out. Better yet, look for the answer together.

Don’t bring up if she’s lost weight. Don’t bring up if she’s gained weight.

If you think that she looks great, don’t say that. Some things to say instead:

“You look so strong!” is a great one.

Or  “You’re looking so healthy.”

Even better? Compliment her on something that has absolutely nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also teach her about kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of her or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t even go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

Encourage her to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage her to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to talk to God than at the edge of the Universe. Encourage her to surf, or rock climb, or bungee jump because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help her love baseball or soccer or martial arts because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture. Yes, Daddy is super strong, but so are we.

Teach her how to cook kale. Introduce her to new produce at the weekly farmer’s market. Grow your own garden and build a salad that you planted together,

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for coconut pie and Christmas buckeyes. Teach her how to make a cheesecake so damn good, it elicits tears.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world if she want

Most importantly, always remind your daughter that the best thing about her body is that it is the vessel for her beautiful soul.