Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day 15: Write 31 Days

I remember staring at his fingers. So long and perfect and tiny...and so very human. I stared at my son's fingers as I held him in the palm of my own hand. It was the end of what had turned out to be a very long, very unexpected day. I hadn't expected this day–my son's birth day–to be for another four and a half months. And yet, there I was, looking at his fingers, his hands clasped, right over left, perfectly still. 
It's been five years since that terrible night in July. Today (October 15th) is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I'm writing today about Matthew, not so much because I'm sad (though it's always hard to remember), but more so because I am incredibly grateful. Matthew's life and death was the most painful thing I've ever experienced, for sure. And yet, I also think it's been one of the most beautiful, influential, molding things of my existence. Because of his little life, I've learned how to be grateful for so much. I've learned how to be a more attentive, loving mama to his sisters and brother. I've learned how to sit in grief with others. I've learned how to survive hard things. 

These lessons, they are not easy. I'd trade them all away in a hot minute to have him here right now, testing my patience by getting out of bed for the umpteenth time tonight. 

But, that isn't my reality. My reality is that, like so many of you, I'm thinking tonight about my little one, whose absence breaks my heart. I'm thinking of his fingers, those little hands I never got to hold. 

But I'm thinking of you, too. You mamas and papas and your broken hearts. Maybe tonight your grief is overwhelming and all you feel is loss. But maybe, just maybe, you read this and many more posts from others and you realize: you are not alone. Maybe this realization feels like a warm hand, slipped into yours, a squeeze of human connection, a camaraderie of the heart. #write31days #31daysofinfluence #matthewleif #grief #gratitude #pregnancyandinfantloss #pregnancyandinfantlossremembranceday #october15 #deonafish

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day 14: Write 31 Days

It was 2013 and I had been through the relational wringer. I was in the spiritual desert, as they say, and I kept asking God to help me find my tribe. I wanted to connect with meaningful relationships and big ideas and God's truths that made a difference in the world. And in the middle of that emotional wasteland, I found She Loves Magazine. This online magazine was a haven for me. Almost daily there was a blog post written by a woman who loved God, loved the world, wrestled with the hard things and found something to hope in. Through She Loves, I've found new writers to love, new books to read, new challenges to write about myself, new ideas to consider, new prayers to pray. I've encountered women who are brave, daring, risky, vulnerable, but mostly, women who love. While I've not met any of these women in real life, and we've only ever communicated via Twitter, I know that, in part, God answered my prayer for tribe through this online community, so full of heart. #31daysofinfluence #write31days #shelovesmagazine

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 13: Write 31 Days

My sister in law likes to find "the best" products. She's a great researcher. She considers quality a worthy investment. She introduced me to the BlendTec blender. It's not that we didn't like the smoothies we made in our old Target blender. But the sister in law was definitely right on this one. :) #write31days #31daysofinfluence #imalittlebehindonthechallenge #whatever #tryingmybest 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Day 11: Write 31 Days

Ms. V'ay is my favorite cashier at Target. Until I met Ms. V'ay, I didn't know it was really possible to have a favorite Target cashier. Checking out at Target is a neutral, anonymous experience, isn't it? Someone in a red shirt puts my things into my bags, I swipe my card and am on my way. But Ms. V'ay is different. She asked me how I was doing. She told me about how she was bagging my things so they'd be just right. She shared with me that it was the end of a long shift, but she was still happy to be working. Ms. V'ay saw me...and invited me to see her. I watch how she is with other customers. She sees them, too. She takes pride in what she does, how she does it. Ms. V'ay's line isn't always the fastest. Even though she does work quickly, sometimes it takes a little longer because she stops to notice something or to do a thing right. Despite this, I always head to Ms. V'ay's line, even if I have to wait a while. It's because for a few minutes I feel invited to partake in being human with Ms. V'ay. #31daysofinfluence #write31days

Friday, October 9, 2015

Day 9: Write 31 Days

One of my colleagues is into feet. Like really into feet. She's so passionate that she's a Certified Healthy Foot Practitioner. I've greatly benefitted from her interest and knowledge. A few years ago, I was dealing with terrible, unexplained low back pain. Christina started talking to me about my much time I spent barefoot (or in my case, didn't) and what kinds of shoes that I wore. She helped me learn about minimalist shoes and zero-incline soles. She talked about how our feet are our foundation for our entire bodies' alignment. As I began to put Christina's recommendations into practice, a lot of my pain diminished. I spend a lot of my time barefoot. When I wear shoes, I almost always wear shoes that Christina would approve of. Every now and then, I pull on my cowboy boots or slip on a pair of heels. And I usually feel it in my back the next day. If you want to learn more about healthy feet and how they can improve your overall health, check out Christina's website 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 8: Write 31 Days

"Whether or not you're talented, isn't really that important. What matters is that you're writing," my writing teacher Maureen said. I found this both comforting and unnerving. Comforting if I'm not all that talented. Unnerving to know that any talent I have won't actually take me that far. 

I began taking classes with Maureen about two months after my son Matthew was stillborn. I was desperate to find a reason to get out of bed, eager to find my way back to a meaningful life. And with Maureen's gentle guidance and writing prompts, I started to tell stories about the people I love and the things that I find beauty in. Through writing, I've learned to better cultivate a practice of gratitude. I've learned that telling stories is important to me. I've learned that the journey is at least as important as the destination. 

And so every other Thursday morning I gather around a table with a dozen other women. Maureen sits at the head and presides. Together we laugh, cry, analyze, question, encourage, probe. And we write. We write and sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's just, as Anne Lamott says, a sh*tty first draft. But we show up and write. That itself helps me grow. 

***Find out more about Maureen and her writing services at*** #write31days #31daysofinfluence #writing #create #olw

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 7: Write 31 days

"What's your phone number?" the return email asked. I had sent an inquiry in to Holy Yoga about their instructor training program, though I had no real intention to ever take the training. How could a gym class failure be a yoga instructor? Before I knew it, I was speaking to Brooke Boon, the founder of Holy Yoga. I had read her book a couple years earlier and always secretly dreamed about studying with her. She listened to me explain why I couldn't do this training for all kinds of reasons and then said to me basically something like this: "Ok, you're starting training in January. We aren't going to stand in the way of what God's doing. Ok? Bye. See you in January." I hung up the phone, not sure of what had just happened, but sure my life had just changed. That was six years ago. I did become a Holy Yoga teacher and love my career path so very much. I'm grateful for Brooke's bold proclamation that I was moving forward. Without it, I can't say I for sure would have ever had the courage. God knows what we need and He sent it to me through Holy Yoga. #write31days #31daysofinfluence #holyyoga 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Day 6: Write 31 days

When I met that boy at a work conference in Virginia, he told me he lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. I had heard of the Charlotte Hornets, but probably couldn't have identified North Carolina on a map to save my life. A few months later, he invited me to come visit. It was instant love. I fell hard for the Queen City's cherry blossoms, her Carolina blue sky, the modest yet artistic skyline. I hardly believed such a beautiful place existed. I went home to Colorado and made plans to move. A year later, that boy had broken my heart a handful of times and we were well on our way to being over. But my love affair with this city is 19 years and going strong. I've come to appreciate that boy, our mis-matched romance, and the gift he gave me of introducing me to this exquisite place that will forever be home. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Day 5: Write 31 days

"I am just about at my wits end with it," I told my friend about my daughter's warts. My daughter is a nail-biter and she had spread the tiny little bumps to almost all her fingers and thumbs. We had been trying all the treatments...from duct tape to apple cider vinegar to the noxious smelling prescription paste to having the dermatologist freeze/burn them off. None of it was working.  

"Try essential oils," my friend suggested. At that point, I was willing to try almost anything. We ordered a starter kit and my friend helped me find a few oils known for treating warts. Within three weeks of daily application, the warts were gone. Curious, I started using oils instead of my other daughter's inhaler when she got a little wheezy. They cleared it right up. When cold and flu season rolled around, I used the protective blend and we found ourselves with fewer colds and sniffles. Around here, for aches and pains or sleepless nights or crabbiness or little burns or itches or scattered attention, we now grab an oil before anything else. I know they are not magic and pharmaceuticals have their place, for sure. But these oils have been such a blessing and I'm so glad my friend shared her wisdom about them with me. #31daysofinfluence #write31days #essentialoils #doterraoils #healing 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Day 4: Write 31 days

I first heard her on the radio, on OnBeing with Krista Tippett, where I leaned about her TED talks on shame and vulnerability. Those two twenty minute videos sparked a revolution within me. I dug into Brené Brown's work with a voraciousness; she tapped a hunger in me I didn't even know existed. Her work describes what it means to live wholeheartedly, a desire I hold deeply. The path to this, she says, involves a ton of self-reflection and internal honesty and owning your own story. These are not things that come easily. But they are the key to living a connected, meaningful life. I often refer to her as St. Brené–her principles have encouraged me to agree with the truth of who God says I am and what I'm made for. In every way, she's helped me dig in deeper with Jesus and my life as His follower. Her work oriented me to the practice of gratitude, or living out the Christian principle of giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thes 5:18). While it's so unlikely I will ever meet her, I count her as one of my life's great teachers and I am so grateful. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Day 3: Write 31 days

The kitchen in her house always smelled like something delicious whenever we arrived, which was usually a holiday. She wasn't a cookie-baking grandma, but she was a pie-making, real mashed potatoes with butter, grade A hamburgers with American cheese kind of grandma. Any holiday table was full of food – crudités, side dishes, carefully prepared meat, and  pie, always pie, always à la mode or with Cool Whip. Grandma had the magic touch of getting all the food out just right – the hot things hot, the cold things cold. Wondrously, her sink was never full of dishes despite the spread on her table. The skill of getting a variety of food out just right isn't a trait I inherited from her. But what I have learned is that how you make the food can influence how you make your people feel. I often tell my kids that my cooking has an extra ingredient. It's what I learned from grandma...LOVE.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Day 2: Write 31 Days

In the first yoga class I ever took with her, the day after we met, I cried like a baby. With my head between my knees in child's pose, tears forming a puddle on my yoga mat, I waited to be asked to leave as my chest heaved with grief and what felt like the weight of the world. In my sadness and shame, I felt hands on my back, comforting and consoling. Her voice was directly above me. At once she managed to continue teaching the rest of the room while making me feel like I was the one that mattered to her. Her kindness in that moment helped me feel safe and welcome and assured me that it was ok to be me. 

It's five years later, and almost every day, we talk or text or exchange an email or two. On lucky days I get to see her, though we live three hours apart. She's still teaching me about what it means to love well and how to receive the gift of another's kindness. She helps me become a better version of myself. For that and so much more, I'm grateful. "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." Proverbs 27:17 NLT

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Day 1: Write 31 days

"Your story needs to be told," he said, handing me "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. Inscribed on the first page, it said, "Write."  

Ten years later, I did. 


I'm joining for a month of daily writing. My topic: 31 days of influence. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Reimagining Prayer

prayer, noun
  1. A reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship.
  2. The act of making a reverent petition to God, a god, or another object of worship.
  3. An act of communion with God, a god, or another object of worship, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving.
  4. A specially worded form used to address God, a god, or another object of worship.
  5. A religious observance in which praying predominates. ... definition found here.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Do you have an image of prayer? Is it someone sitting with eyes closed, hands folded, in silence? Is it with a cup of coffee, a journal, the scriptures open as the sun rises? Is it something the minister or priest leads at the beginning or end of a weekend service?
In my mind, all these things are prayer. Sometimes they are my kinds of prayer. But lately, I've been participating in a different kind of prayer, a kind drawn from definition #3--an act of communion with God, a god, or another object of worship, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving.
In the past year I've read three books that have opened up my understanding of what prayer can be. As an avid practitioner of Holy Yoga, I already know that prayer doesn't have to live in a box. But these books have helped me to see that prayer is virtually any act of paying attention to what God is doing, expressing my gratitude to Him and being with the truth of who He is in such a way that I allow it to shape me.
An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton,
and Return to Our Senses: Re-imagining the way we pray by Christine Sine
Over the last few months, my prayers have looked like this:
Breath prayer, which I practiced as I watched my children frolic in the ocean surf.
Being with God in nature, noticing beauty.
Reconnecting with liturgical prayer.
Engaging scripture with creative lettering.
These ideas are bringing freedom to my prayer and meditation practice. I find myself looking forward to the time rather than it feeling like a "should." I'm grateful for a God who is accessible in a variety of ways, eager to receive my prayers.
What about you? What are your favorite ways to pray?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Redefining Beautiful: The trouble with my mummy tummy

"Your belly looks like there's a baby in it," said sweet five-year-old Daisy as we stood in a wide-legged downward facing dog.
"I know, but there's not," I said slowly, and as gently as I could.

"I know," she replied. But it LOOKS like there is," she said insistently.

"Yeah," I sighed.

I thought about the Pilates classes, the calorie-restricting diets, the “miracle wraps,” the practice of Uddiyana Bhanda, my Spanx, the “Slim & Sassy” essential oil, the transverse abdominal exercises, my drawer full of compression tops, my new and improved postural awareness.

"I've tried a lot of things to make it better, but it still is that way."

Luckily, my tiny yoga partner seemed satisfied with this, and as we shifted into plank pose, she changed the subject.

I didn't lose the conversation quite so easily, though.

The truth is, I understand what my little friend is saying. I don't like it, but I get it. I know that I look at least a little pregnant all the time. I've got what is termed a "mummy tummy," a stomach area that shows the effects of four pregnancies in six years and a digestive disorder that went undiagnosed for a long, long time. (Technically, it is called a diastis recti and you can learn great stuff about it here at my friend Christina’s blog).

It's been a while since I've been asked by an adult how far along I was (the Lord has shown me mercy). But Daisy doesn't quite understand the social faux pas it is to tell someone it looks like she has a baby in her belly when she doesn’t. She was just being honest.

I struggle with our culture’s expectations of what our womanly bodies should look like, despite age and childbearing. On the one hand, I think we ought to be able to grow older gracefully and allow our bodies to be made different by the incredible process of pregnancy and birth (we’ve made PEOPLE in there, for heaven’s sake!). On the other hand, I want to feel beautiful. I want to feel like other people think I’m at least moderately attractive, if not beautiful.

I struggle because I think that I am being judged because of my tummy. I think that people look at me and think that I must not eat right or work out or care enough. I think they think I lack self-discipline. I think they think I must be lazy.

There’s a compassionate voice inside my head, too. I tell me that I eat well, not rigidly (which is important for someone in life-long recovery from anorexia), I tell me to remember that I have been a vegetarian for more than 15 years (resisting bacon that long requires some kind of self-discipline, right?), that I am a yoga teacher and I highly value movement (but I’m not a gym rat, and that’s ok).

I remind myself that what I want most is to be a woman whose beauty comes from the inside. I want to be someone who is most appealing because of the light of Jesus radiating from her. I want to be a woman who is beautiful because of her gentle and tranquil spirit (1 Peter 3:4). I tell myself that if I had the flat, sleek stomach of a teen, it would not make me a kinder, wiser, more loving or prayerful person.

I think about my daughters and the way I want them to feel about their bodies. I want them to know that their bodies are the holy temples of God’s Spirit. I want them to know that beauty comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and that growing older should not bring shame. I want them to know (if they should choose) the miracle it is for your body to be home to a child as God knits him or her together (Psalm 139:13), and that there should be no remorse for your body carrying the evidence of such miracles.

I wonder if this temptation to glorify and vilify our own bodies is part of what John had in mind when he wrote this:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17.

Let’s break down the Greek a bit. Lust can be translated “desire, craving, longing,” and flesh is “the soft substance of the living body, which covers the bones and is permeated with blood.” In this sense, it seems possible that we can fall into a sinful pattern with our own bodies to desire, crave, long for them to be something different than what they are. We look at other people’s physical forms and wish we looked more like they do.
And pride…here’s one of the Greek definitions of this word: “an impious and empty presumption which trusts in the stability of earthly things.” When we trust other people’s opinions of our physical forms more than we trust what God says is true about us, we are trusting the stability of earthly things, friends.
When we cultivate the things that last, we honor God with our bodies. When we bow to cultural pressure to look or be a certain way, we serve a world that is passing away, we serve a world that will never accept us as enough, a world that will always ask for more, and will condemn and shame us even as it puffs us up with worthless pride.

And so, I thank God for my conversation with Daisy. I thank God for this belly that can remind me that I serve Him and not the world, if I let it. I thank Him that my true worth is not found in the shape of my tummy, but in the shape of my heart, a heart bent towards Him and the Kingdom of Love.

What about you? Do you have a part of your body that keeps you from feeling beautiful? What do you think is truly beautiful about you, beyond the physical imperfections? Does your perspective shift when thinking about your body as way to share the love of God with the world around you?
**submitted as part of the SheLoves Magazine August synchroblog