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Secret 13: It’s okay to be a little broken.

shell thumb 2Whahooo!!   I just submitted this essay to the Secret 13 Essay Contest, an extension of Ruth Soukup’s book, “Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of a Good Life.”     If my essay is chosen as a finalist, we will be entered to win an all-expenses paid cruise!!   I will certainly keep everyone posted.  Now, on with the letter….

Secret 13: “It’s okay to be a little broken.”

My little Sam Bug,

By now I am sure you realize that life’s “oops” moments are not a singular event, but a recurring one.  Some are preventable and some are completely unforeseeable, but either type of crisis can paralyze us, and keep us from engaging in the beauty and excitement that is around us.   For me, Secret 13 is about accepting my broken circumstances and living the good life anyway.   If you are reading this for encouragement someday, I hope you see a little bit of your story in mine…

Fall 2014
I walked through the sand at a near frantic pace as the sun rose.  “This is the last day, there has to be one here,” I said out loud as I scanned the beach.   A few months earlier, along the same piece of shore line, I stumbled upon the most perfect, big, conch shells – one each morning.  But now, nothing!    Hot tears rolled down my cheeks.  “I don’t understand,” I whispered.  DSC_0373

I really thought I needed to find a perfect shell that day.   It had been seven weeks since the flood that destroyed our house, and two weeks since the rotting leftovers had been hauled away leaving a gaping hole where our home once was.   I wanted some symbol of assurance that everything was going to be perfect again.  I wanted something beautiful to hold on to.   And, of course, I wanted all that very specifically in the form of a shiny, flawless, (preferably animal-free), conch shell.

In my last steps off of the beach that day, I found it.  I ran my fingers along the mathematically perfect swirls and pulled it out of the deep sand.   But as I turned it in my hands I saw that it was – gasp – broken!  I sighed heavily and let that word sink in as I gently lowered it to my bucket, pasted back on my happy face, and steeled myself for the road ahead.

In the weeks that followed, I rarely thought about that shell, which made a quiet home on my kitchenette window sill.  I was busy homeschooling you and keeping your life as normal as possible, making our new temporary camper home functional, preparing for a house rebuild, and settling on the reality that there is no “fund” for an isolated natural disaster in which a single desert home is destroyed by an unprecedented flash flood.  We simply pressed on.

January 2015
Fast forward to the new year.  I stumbled on this verse last week, just grazing through the bible, looking for an encouraging DSC_0026verse of an entirely different kind :   Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’  -Isaiah 45:9 (NLT)

I actually laughed out loud, which was probably a devotion-time “first” for me.   I let that one roll around in my head before declaring inwardly,  “Cute.  But not what I’m looking for.”  I kept reading on for the kind of encouragement I wanted.   I was specifically looking for the verses that assure you treasures, proverbs that promise wisdom as a reward for hard work, and something vaguely about fairness.   No luck, so I brushed it off and moved on with my day.

Isn’t it funny how unwanted, yet important messages just keep weaseling their way into the spotlight, until “not what I’m looking for” becomes impossible to ignore?    Our days had been getting worse lately instead of better and the weekend culminated in a doozey.  Burst pipes,  major equipment failure, growing expenses and sleepless nights.  The last straw was when I swiped my favorite coffee cup off the bench.  Chunks of the sharp pottery flew across the garage.  Broken.  Your dad and I, without looking at each other, agreed that we were done for the day.  We cleaned up a few things, but eventually just let things be and trudged up to the camper to listen to Sunday’s podcast, the one we missed because of projects gone awry.   DSC_0024

Clumsily bumping around, we peeled off our muddy boots and outerwear.   I started the message and we slumped down in our chairs as we heard, “Turn with me now, to Isaiah chapter 43.”  What’s this?   I bolted up and hit pause.  With new energy, I blurted out what I had read earlier in the week.  We laughed together and agreed that chapter 45 was sure to be included, and we should probably listen on.    I joked that all I wanted was some encouragement, but it appeared that we were in for a lesson instead.  I feigned frustration, rolled my eyes and pushed play expectantly.

As the speaker continued, I began to hear through my own history, the message that was meant for my heart.   Memories flooded back of the time I walked on the beach this fall, searching for the perfect shell and finding only a broken one.  I saw the house as it was crushed and reduced to five dumpsters of debris.  I watched my coffee mug shatter in slow motion across the garage floor.  I heard the words, “It’s okay to be a little broken.”

I laughed out loud to myself again.  What pot could tell the potter it’s a little lumpy?  Or that this edge is too thin and fragile?  What pot screams to the potter, “I am ugly!” or  “Please hurry!” or “I am broken!”   Let me tell you.  This crackpot.

(It is great consolation to me – and maybe to you – that I’m not the first one in history to make this mistake and probably not the last.  Isaiah was written hundreds of years B.C., and despite many chances for this little tidbit to get lost in history, still it remains part of the bible today.  I’m guessing it wasn’t just for me.)

In the days that followed, I approached life with an altogether lighter attitude.  Yes, there is still an overwhelming amount of work to be done and a never-ending stream of new bills to pay.  Yes,house after it will be hard, things will continue to go wrong, schedules will fail and trusty equipment will break down.  But, I have discovered these two more important truths.  1)  The stories I know don’t end with brokenness – they end with redemption.  They end with something amazing.   2) I don’t want to give up the Good Life that is happening all around me while I am wallowing over the crack in my shell or pining for happily ever after.  So what is the alternative?  Decide that it’s okay to be a little broken.  And keep moving forward.

All my love,

For my mom, my sisters, and all the women in my life, who not only help me to endure through times of brokenness, but inspire me to see it as a beautiful part of my journey. 


My sweet Sam,

As I type you are nestled in next to me, your head pressing into my waist, back against my thigh, your legs in a tangled knobby-kneed knot with mine. Happy Thanksgiving, my little love muffin.

I barely recognize the me who wrote at the beginning of the year. Even with the obvious struggles, it seems she was gaining wisdom daily, really joining you in your life, and enjoying the little things. Today presented and opportunity to revisit that blog, and rekindle an outlet for discovery that I have long been missing. Ahh, to write to you again, my love.

In the last 6 weeks I have: missed your school Thanksgiving dinner, forgotten your lunch or backpack multiple times, dropped you off at school after the bell 80% of the time, allowed you 3 unexcused absences, carelessly let your homework go undone, and sent you in a uniform when you were supposed to go in fall colors and visa versa. Even more distressingly, on two occasions I have sat dumbfounded in your playroom (during our very scattered few minutes of time together) trying to figure out what you like to play these days so I can join you before the next phone call comes.

In case I didn’t see these things happening slowly (think “bring lobster to a slow boil”), life presented a screeching-halt opportunity for me to evaluate my business/career situation. Now, having “sold” – I use that term loosely – my business to the bidder with the highest principles (not the highest dollars), I sit here genuinely thankful for the chance to explore all the options that have been accidentally sloughed off over the last 9 months.

Below, the answers to these questions that I was previously unable to answer due to various interruptions (ring, ring). Please accept them with my deepest apologies.

1. RE: that little brother or sister you recently demanded
Daddy and I say “maybe”, and “we’ll work on it”. As it turns out, neither of us are read to give up the crib that we have carefully packed away in the guestroom closet.

2. RE: taking the dogs and moving in with Oma and Opa
Don’t cut and run just yet, I think it’s going to get better around here soon. Not to mention, Walter (German Shepherd) is easily confused, best to keep him in his familiar 40 acres. No, Nugget (mutt) does not get a vote.

3. RE: your request to be home schooled
I’m not sure what you think “homeschooling” is exactly, but I hear you when you say you are overwhelmed by all the other kids and you want more time with just me. It IS a bummer that you spend more time at school than at home, and I’m sorry that discovery was so jarring to you this year. I also acknowledge that in the last 3 years of day care/school, you have never once ASKED to go to school. Just so you know, it’s not all “Barbie spa day” and “Let’s play on the rope swing”, but it IS tons of “Let’s do an experiment” and maybe even “Let’s build a tree house!”. So my answer is, I will dutifully research it and give you an answer by the start of 2nd grade. In the best case scenario I suppose we make up for lost time, have the best year of our lives and we both learn a bunch about our world and each other. Worst case, we scrape by on rice and beans every day, you beg to go to a real school, and we both agree that mommy needs to keep her day job. If we go for it, regardless of the outcome, someday when you are in high-school and I threaten to home school you, you know I mean it. That’s got to be worth something.

RE: your occasional request to move back to town
I think what you really want out of is the drive. Truthfully, you don’t strike me as much of a suburban girl at this age. Maybe after you’ve grown out of “the world is my sandbox” phase we’ll revisit it. But for now, I am not ready to let you trade creek exploration and bone excavation for a picket fence and .18 acres of sod. Will keep you posted if my mind is changed.

Here’s to the life-long journey of self-discovery and adventure! Cheers to you, my sleeping babe.

Re-energized mommy

P.S. Many thanks to your Aunt Pammy and Aunt Juli for the pep talk over gravy whisking and fruit salad prep…a little perspective and encouragement makes a big difference!


You say the darnedest things.  Here is a short list of my favorites.


Jesus is watching you…:

Mommy, does Jesus live in animals’ hearts?
Yes, honey, I think so.
Then why didn’t I see him when we cut open the deer?  Hrrumph. (storming off)  Fall 2010

You know, Jesus is watching and you’re being mean to me. Summer 2011

Headaches are when Satan tells you to do something and you say no.  March 2012

Just plain cute:

You’re driving me banana-nuts!, Mar 2012

This is ridiculous, just ridiculous! (re DIK a lus)  With Aunt Pammy in ER waiting room with croup, Fall 2007

Holy cow, it’s dad!  Fall 2007

Hey mommy, I love this holy moly (rolly polly bug).  Summer 2007

For Halloween, I can be Batman, mommy you can be Robin, and daddy you can be….BatGirl! September 2011

Sam, what would you like from McDonalds?
A hangaber, with pickles., Age 1-6…just didn’t have the hear to correct her.

Hey Sam!  Look at that up on the…
Mom, I am on the phone.  Please don’t interrupt.
Oh sorry. (she returns to her pretend phone conversation)
Sorry about that, that was just the driver. April 2012


Facing real life:

While passing the Victoria Secret mural-poster:  Gasp. Blush. Gawk. Blurt, “She’s in her underware!” January 2012

Oma, Daddy is building me a barn, and we are going to have 7 pigs, and lots of chickens, and 5 girl cows and one boy cow and the girl cows are going to have babies so they can have milk, and we are going to have a girl and boy horse.
Sam, don’t you want lots of mommy and daddy cows?  Why 5 girls and 1 boy?
Mom, (pats my leg with her hand), you only NEED ONE boy cow.  October 2012

(Laughing at one of my dad’s jokes)
Opa, hahahaHA!  You’re…such…an…old guy!  November 2012

Don’t worry mommy, Mrs. Harris says everybody gets to start over tomorrow.   April 2012


Best descriptions:

Mommy my brain is beating like my heart. (3 a.m.)
Does it hurt?
Yeah, real bad.
Honey, that’s called “throbbing”.  October 2012

(To her teacher)
It feels like all of my cells got in a line and are going around and around in a pattern and my head feels like, bubble bubble POP!
Oh my, I think what you’re feeling is stress.  November 2012


carpe diem

Sweet Samantha,

I have been haunted by the feeling that every day there are important things I will forget to tell you when you grow up.  Moments I want to remember forever, but won’t.   I choose now to savor – capture – every delicious moment with creative, spunky, innocent little you.

This year I expect that you will…
humble me with your honesty,
surprise me with your sincerity,
frustrate me with your outrageous demands,
melt me with your smile (daily),
inspire me with your determination,
embarrass me with your wit,
bring me to tears, enrage me, and make me laugh until it hurts, all in the same day.

This year I expect that I will…
have at least a few “mom-of-the-year” moments,
write several apology letters to you here,
snuggle you every moment you allow it,
learn more about both of us,
feel proud of you every day,
have an “ah-ha” parenting moment that changes life for both of us,
pack some delicious school lunches (yes, gluten-free can be yummy, just wait!).

When I need help appreciating each moment, I know you will remind me of the important things (even though it’s not your job).

Thank you in advance, Samantha, for all the things we will experience together this year.   My heart overflows with excitement to watch you grow and change from a little girl into the amazing woman you are destined to be.

All my love,