Thursday, January 26, 2012

Opening My Heart

I remember you. Both of you.

I never held you in my arms but you’re always in my heart. After all, I am your mom.

We didn’t have much time together but the days we did have changed my life. Losing you did too.

Today, Grandma sent me a necklace with your names engraved inside the heart. That’s exactly how it feels.

I wish I could hold you right now but I know that’s not possible. So I continue to trust the One who can.

He knows my mama heart for you. He knows you better than I ever did. I like to think that our names are engraved side by side on His hands.

For now, I remember you. Both of you. By the wearing of a necklace and by opening my heart.

To grief. To love. To hope. To courage.

Caleb Keegan and Connor David, I love you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


When you don’t know how to pray or what to say anymore. You’ve exhausted every word and every mutter. Then you went to the thesaurus and started again. Another way.

When you’re so focused on the back of the red door that you don’t see the crack in the window. Until a friend four states away points it out to you. You’re simply too afraid to look anymore.

When you’re sure you’re trapped and suffocating from the disappointments. Bracing yourself for the next one, so (in)tense that you realize your toes are curled. Breathe.

A fellow traveler offers to pray for you. You wonder if it will do any good. You agree, and they pray now because you're out of words. (A writer without words? A tragedy.) But you have to let them do that for you. That is their gift. You barely get out a “thank you” from the weariness and the tears and the sighing.

Then you’re driving down Antioch in the light of day. Light. The only thing that can penetrate darkness.

Suddenly, you hear the Word. A string of them so sweetly spoken that you want to hear them again. They are simple. So much simpler than the ones you started with years ago.

A Voice. That’s what you need. And Ears. That’s what you pray.

You didn’t need to look for the words. He gave you the words to you. The Word told you the words He’s longing to hear from you. Spoken aloud. Spoken in your heart. Spoken through tears. Any way you want to say them.


Monday, January 16, 2012

What Self-Care Looks Like: A Picture

It’s 3:44pm. And I just drank my first cup of coffee today.

A couple months ago, my daily coffee in-take outweighed my water in-take. The result? I got sick. The kind of sick where I had to track down a clinic for some antibiotics.

You should have heard the nurse practitioner’s “tsk, tsk” when I answered her about how much water—or lack thereof—I’d been drinking each day. At the time, I was on the tail end of a two and half year project. Completely at the end myself in so many ways.

Her judgment wasn’t that helpful. Just give me the prescription, okay? I wanted to shout.

Still, I knew something needed to change.

So, I gave myself a new practice: no coffee until I drink at least eight ounces of water first. Now, I find myself drinking even more water than that before I go for the coffee.

It’s a small choice. Indeed, sometimes that’s all it takes. The small choices—daily, weekly, or whatever—add up to important practices.

Recently I read The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls: A Manual by Jen Lee. On the first page, Jen reminds us that we are a culture driven by results. We forget about nurturing and feeding ourselves, body and soul.

As I got into the booklet, I discovered I follow similar practices. Some of the ideas I use are from other resources. Some are simple ideas I came up. I need them in order to live, not just survive, in the various situations that come my way. I can honestly say God uses these exercises to keep me going.

Here are some of the practices I use, based on who I am:

Music. I listen to my music loud, especially when it’s been a bad day. Working fulltime while caring for my young family is tough. On my way to pick up the girls from school or babysitters, I often listen to music. On rough days, I have my emo punk or Avril Lavigne close. (Some days just call for angry chick music!) Other times, I listen to the Les Miserables soundtrack. When I’m writing or cooking, it’s Mumford and Sons or Ingrid Michaelson.

Art Journaling. I regularly receive two magazines in the mail: Martha Stewart Living and Real Simplicity. I read them and then I do something else with them—I tear them up. In art journaling, it’s not so much about creating a masterpiece as it is recognizing how I’m feeling and what God is doing. No scissors in art journaling. The pictures and words rip where they rip. The sound of ripping paper is now sacred to me.

Reading. Reading consumes most of my downtime. I do have a couple of specifics related to this practice though. I force myself to read one classic each year and something else for fun. Last year it was Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants. Hilarious! Sometimes I need to remember how to laugh.

Retreats. For the past few years, I’ve made it a priority to attend at least two retreats a year. Some were with the women at my church. One was a vocational retreat and another one was with A Beautiful Mess. It’s possible to retreat on your own but so much better if you go where you have someone leading a group. I received so much at these experiences, mainly from those several decades older than myself, and God showed up for me in those times to remind me who I am outside of what I do.

Mentoring and Friendship. Many of us have friends we can count on, but I also choose to be intentional with a couple of individuals. They don’t even live in my town. One is still in Colorado and the other lives in North Carolina. I’m beyond words when I think of what they mean to me and how they so help me process every area of my life on a regular basis.

Prayer. Based on my season of life, I can’t join every ministry opportunity I want to. However, I can pray for them. I’ve made that my ministry. I pray during the quotidian tasks of my day or while sitting in rush hour traffic. Scrubbing dishes or folding laundry naturally lends itself to a rhythm for prayer.

The other night, I was sitting on the living room floor. (Appropriate name for that room in the house, I think.) I looked around and realized I was surrounded by several pieces of my self-care practices. Such a beautiful moment that I snapped a picture:

Notice the glass of water on the right.

Of course, there are many other practices I could mention, and I’m exploring new ones all the time. Recently I added spiritual direction, and Jeff bought me a yoga mat for Christmas.

The best part about intentional practices is that they keep me from unrealistic expectations and help my struggles with perfectionism. Sometimes practice doesn’t make perfect. Sometimes it just makes living. I’ll take living.

Other resources:
Spiritual Direction section on Kristin Ritzau's site
Soul Custody by Steve Smith

Friday, January 13, 2012


Kaelyn making pizza on her 4th birthday.

Just before bed last night, Kae held out her Bible toward me and said, “I’m going to talk to Glory in the morning.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“God. I’m going to talk to God in the morning.” She held up her Bible once again as I smiled and headed off to get Jeff. He prays with the girls and blesses them each night when they climb into bed.

This morning, I wondered if Kae remembered what she said.

After breakfast, I inquired, “Did you talk to Glory this morning?”

“Yep,” she said without hesitation.

“What did you talk about?” I asked.

“I told Him ‘thank you.’”

“For what?” I probed.

“My food.”

“What else did you talk about?”

“The Christmas candy on the counter.”

“Is that because you took some or because you want to?”

“I want to.”

I love that she talks to Glory about what she loves and what she wants. That she offers Him her thanksgivings. I love that she talks to Glory about her temptations and that I can trust Glory to talk back. I love how she holds out her little blue Bible because she knows it’s a valuable connection to God.

Not long after our discussion this morning, Kae brought me her Bible. I opened it to the book of Genesis and told her it means “beginning.” Then she moved off my lap to watch The Land Before Time. Again.

Kae’s still in the early chapters of her own genesis with Glory. I hope He also likes talking about dinosaurs. Something tells me He does.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Open (Thank You) Letter to Mark Schwahn

Mark Schwahn is the creator, head writer, and executive producer of One Tree Hill, a television series entering its ninth and final season tonight. Though many creators move on after their show is established, Mark chose to stay true to the story he built about two half-brothers, a bitter father, and the redemption that happened in a little North Carolina town called Tree Hill. This is my letter of thank you to him…

Dear Mark,

You always said you set out to make “someone’s favorite show.” Thank you for making mine.

Before I get too far, I need to offer you an apology. I didn’t watch the first season when it aired on television. I boycotted it because I didn’t believe another drama, after Dawson’s Creek was filmed in Wilmington, should be set in North Carolina, with similar landscape and recognizable filming locations. I was wrong.

At the beginning of season two, my husband started graduate classes on Tuesday nights. After my daughter fell asleep, I slipped off to visit a town named Tree Hill. At first, I didn’t know what I was watching. But I soon grew to love a show where lines from great literary works pulled me into a redemptive story, one that faithfully reminded its viewers why sons need good fathers and why when they don’t have them, someone must pick up the task.

On your show, you honored life by treating babies in the womb as human beings. You fought for marriage by way of a couple named Nathan and Haley. You invited us to see women to be more than objects or sizes, even when the network pushed and shoved you toward the contrary. You said all those short, tight outfits they insisted on using were merely "a smoke screen" compared to the heart of the show. You knew the story you had to tell.

In most television shows, I identify with one main character. In your show I identify with five. Or six. Or seven. Honestly, I don’t really know how many. Over the years, I lost count. Your characters wrestle with understandable dreams and disappointments, and I see a piece of myself in each one of them.

Thank you also for providing me with a beautiful soundtrack to put to almost a decade of my life. I didn’t know I could love music so much until you (with the help of music supervisor Lindsay Wolfington) used it so powerfully on your show. And all those other shows using the familiar “coda” at the end now? I know it’s because of you. You consistently did it well.

Speaking of paving the way, thank you for skipping the boring college years and getting on with the show. You made “what if?” happen, and it allowed those of us not in our teen years to identify with a group of young adults trying to build families and careers. You mirrored our own struggles to not allow the “sins of the fathers” to continue in our own lives. You helped your characters form friendships in new and different ways, just as we were doing.

Each year, the network asked, “Should there be another season of One Tree Hill?” You never doubted. You loved your show. You were always ready with more stories to unfold.

We believed in you. After all, only the fans of One Tree Hill would launch a campaign to mail pieces of trees to network president Dawn Ostroff when the show’s fate was unsure around season four or five. After a couple more seasons, even ol’ Dawn admitted only you could pull off more than one psycho stalker rolling into one small town. It’s true. Only you. You gave us three.

With that many psychos showing up, I have to admit sometimes things got silly. I kept watching though. Something makes me think you enjoyed creating the crazy, outlandish excitement. You know, for fun. Yet, you always returned to the heart of your story. A story you told with great continuity and passion.

The critics were never fans. It’s too bad because I think you offered something unique through your show, and I look forward to your future projects.

So, I’m here today, at the beginning of the final season of One Tree Hill, to say, “Thank you.” Thank you for creating my favorite show. You did exactly what you set out to do.


Rebecca Stone

*Over the years, I read numerous articles and interviews with Mark Schwahn. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to provide more hyperlinks. Some information was also from podcasts no longer available and DVD extras.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Courage of Hadassah

I always wondered how Esther had the courage to approach the king.

Did she simply give herself one amazing pep talk before stepping into the courtyard? How was she able to make her bold requests?

Today we know the young queen as Esther, but God knows her by her Jewish name, Hadassah.

Though Esther changes her name to stay safe, her true identity as a Jew remains. There’s no way Hadassah can fully let go of who she is once inside the palace.

The movie One Night with The King portrays this beautifully. In this version, Esther is brought to the king one night to read from the royal record. As she’s reading, Esther deviates from the written words and tells the king a compelling love story about a young man named Jacob pursuing a woman named Rachel (Genesis 29:1-30:24).

Esther tells the story as if the events happened yesterday and she knows the people personally. She doesn’t. They died centuries before she was even born.

Why does she do this? Because she is descendant of Jacob. Israel’s history is her history. Their God is her God, and He gives her identity. Palace or not.

It’s from this framework that Hadassah enters the courtyard to invite the king to dinner. As event after event unfolds in the book of Esther, she continues to be courageous.

Because of her God. Because of who she is and Whom she belongs to.

More than two years ago, I took a job writing Bible curriculum for children. The first day at the job, I didn’t have much courage. In fact, I was pretty darn scared my worst fears would come true and I would be a failure.

But, as I read Scripture day after day, I found that God acts on behalf of His children. He sees them. He tells them over and over that they belong to Him. He enables them to be courageous (Joshua 1:9).

Through reading the story of God’s people, He showed me the truth about who I am too.

I am His.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the final two lessons I wrote, out of more than a hundred, were on the book of Esther. When I read the name Hadassah in the second chapter, I felt as if I know her personally and that her story is somehow also mine.

Because I know her God.

With head held high and shoulders rolled back, I am ready to step into my next courtyard. Whatever it is.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What Release Looks Like

While it’s been quiet here on the blog for a couple days, things have not quieted down for me.

In the absence of postings, I’ve been doing this:

This is what release looks like—an empty shelf. For now.

Empty shelves never happen in our house. Most of our bookcases are so full we have books stacked on the floor nearby.

This top shelf will have books and such on it again. Just not quite yet.

What was here before?

A set of books that linked me to some hurtful memories. It’s time to let go of the past. It’s time to stop letting this 18-year-old situation stop ruling me and causing me to turn my back on future projects.

I’ve been sensing the need to let go of these books for a while. I gave it serious thought a couple days ago. I held on to them all these years because the author autographed them to me personally. All was confirmed today, when God gave me these words during prayer with my spiritual director:

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

As I was taking the books down this evening, I saw this line the author wrote inside one of the covers:

Keep falling in love with Jesus, okay? You are a beautiful young princess.

I’m not going to fill this shelf immediately. Jesus and I determined that I need to place intentional items in this space. Life-giving things to replace the previous burdens and baggage He’s taking away.

I put them at the feet of His cross, the place He died that I might live. A life of restoration that starts with release.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Inspiration: My Christmas Vacation

Art Journal pages, December 2011

I loved this year’s holiday season. (Not just because I cooked a successful Christmas dinner.) Here are a few highlights…

The Muppets…

When I was little, my dad often rented The Muppet Movie or The Muppets Take Manhattan as a Friday night treat for my brother and me. He also had to rent a VCR from 7-11 to play them. We watched the Muppets sing away on our wooden television set. Good times.

Jeff and I took the girls to see the new version starring the talented Jason Segel and Amy Adams. I loved it! So many fun cameos (Zach Galifianakis as “Hobo Joe” and a bunch of other favorite comedians playing themselves), and the 80’s references abound. More good times.


I heard this store sells fun knick-knacks, but I wasn’t prepared to find colored masking tape at 50% off! This expensive Japanese item, also known as happy tape, is hard to find. I use it for art journaling (see picture above), and I pretty much danced over to the checkout counter to buy it. I know why they call it happy tape! You should have seen the smile on my face...

I probably won’t shop at Anthropologie often. Mass-produced vintage feels weird. I much prefer the Nebraska City antique shops and boutiques my Grandma Hall used to take me to, with one-of-a-kind treasures.

Favorite New Book…

Several years ago, I read Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle. She is a voice of wisdom, insight, creativity, and beauty. When I saw this post on the Tired Thirties, I knew I needed to get a copy of A Circle of Quiet. Jeff gave it to me for Christmas. And that’s just another reason why I love him.

Newest Marathon-worthy Television Show…

How I Met Your Mother. Oh Barney Stinson…”When I’m sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True Story.”

And Robin Sparkles singing “Let’s Go to The Mall.”

Enough said.

Best use of leftover Christmas ham…

I made homemade macaroni and cheese for the first time ever and added diced ham to it. Read that as “I made a roux and didn’t scorch it.”

A few other favorites…

Taking the girls to Barnes and Noble, baking gingerbread cookies, exploring Trader Joe’s for the first time, celebrating our nine year anniversary at Gordon Biersch, talking to my friend Heather in North Carolina for 2.5 hours on the phone, annual viewing of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, celebrating Kae’s fourth birthday, and this:

The Three Brave Stone Women taking over the rink! Kaelyn has a need for speed (she kept trying to get away from me to skate faster), and Kyla informed me she’s “never giving up” as she learned to skate by holding on to the rail and zipping around the edge.
Christmas Vacation 2011 was awesome. True story.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Things A Mama Don't Know

“Mama, can you show me how to spread it out?” the little voice asked.

“Spread what out?” I replied.

“On the painting.”

Kae turned four yesterday. Her best friend, Neil, gave her a set of watercolors and a pad of pictures to paint. She requested we pull out these gifts first thing this morning.

I tried to give her a little instruction about cleaning the brush with water between colors and wiping it off before moving on. We ended up with puddles of colored water everywhere. (Good thing I left the plastic tablecloth on after her party last night.) Then, just before cleaning up, I attempted to demonstrate how it’s like “coloring” with paint.

She seemed satisfied until she found me ten minutes later with her question. She’d obviously been thinking about this problem for a long time. Ten minutes is like two hours in four-year-old time, after all.

My response about learning to spread out the paint:

“Sure, honey. I’ll help you again later this week. We’ll learn together.”

As I said those words, I caught myself. See, Kae is not the only little girl in my house that is growing up fast. Her older sister, Kyla, turned eight in November. As she explores being a young lady, instead of a little girl, I wonder if I have the ability to walk her through the changes.

Given my recent discovery about shame and body issues, I have my doubts. More than that, I kind of feel like I need to hurry up and “figure this thing out” so I can answer Kyla’s surely-coming questions.

Nothing like demanding the Holy Spirit move on your time frame. Yeah, that’ll work.

But what if it’s not like that? What if we learn together from our Teacher?

I’ve painted with watercolors before but I don’t know how to instruct someone with a tiny-fingered hand in how to do it. In that way, we’re going to have to learn together. When Kyla doubts her worth because some kid, or even well-meaning adult, makes a hurtful comment, we’ll need to look at the Truth. Together.

Parenting doesn’t mean having all the answers; it means seeking out the One who does. Believing He will show me, moment by moment.

I’m a bit unsure in this next season. Just as little Kae pondered her concern, I find myself doing the same.

What does it take to raise wholehearted women? I wonder. How can I help my precious little women see themselves as God does? How do I help myself?

I don’t know. But I’m willing to learn. One hand on a paintbrush. The other holding the hand of our Redeemer.