willing to wait

After finding my way back to organized religion at the end of undergrad, I worked as a campus ministry intern. Part of the commitment for the intern year was to put dating on hold. This was ideal for me since in the seven years prior, I’d left a wake of failed relationships and carried around a lot of baggage because of them. In the spring of the school year there was a specific calendar date when all of us interns could officially date. There was a lot of build up to this moment. Were any of the interns going to date students? Who’d been eyeing who over the past eight months?

Although some of the students were mighty cute, there wasn’t anyone who I planned to pursue. I was perfectly content not dating and even communicated to close friends I was interested in continuing the “don’t date” policy, personally, to give my head and heart more time to settle into this new rhythm of faith I’d fallen into. One of these friends was outspoken about how ridiculous he felt it was. “So you’re telling me if God dropped your husband right into your lap, you’d say “no thank you” just to prove a point.” There is A LOT I can say about that but for not I’m going to skip over most of it and share what happened after hearing that, over and over.

As someone new to following Jesus, I questioned myself and decided my longtime Jesus following friend might be right and I should open up myself to dating opportunities. One of his friends began pursuing me (no recollection on the details of how this actually got started) and we started dating. This guy moved from 0 to 90 million and was already talking about our longterm future after a few short weeks. Having never dated a Christian guy before, I convinced myself this is what I needed. He was a great man, loved Jesus a lot, was doing radical things in urban ministry in Birmingham so why not?

I kept it up for a while but Spirit led me to end it rather quickly, pretty soon after he went in for a kiss and I wanted nothing to do with his lips. Not because I was a prude and not ready for that (I’d been FAR from a prude in the previous relationships) but because I just didn’t like the guy. We weren’t a match. We had nothing in common, except loving Jesus. Having never had a Christian relationship, I’d convinced myself that “loving Jesus” was the most important thing in a relationship so I ignored everything else.

In that short month-ish long relationship, I attempted to make it work with him. I was a young Christian hanging out with a mature one who was attracted to the idea of me and liked the way I fit into his future plans. I started talking like him, using his Christian-ese words, judging people for their un-Christian like behavior, trying to get passionate about the stuff he cared about. I did everything I thought I should do as a future Christian wife (because that’s where he talked about us heading) and I totally and completely lost myself. I lost friends. I lost credibility. I lost my grace-based reputation. I lost my direction. I lost my focus. I lost trust in myself.

But what I gained was clarity. Before dating this fella, I’d only dated fellas who were not what I wanted and since deciding to take my life in a different direction, I thought all I needed to find was a fella heading in that direction, as well. I pendulum swung from “no Jesus” to “all Jesus” and learned the “all Jesus” guys can be just as….well, not what I wanted or needed…as the “no Jesus” ones. The clarity I gained is that just because a man says he’s all about Jesus. Just because he walks the walk and talks the talk and is an amazing man, doesn’t mean he’s automatically going to be an amazing man for ME.

Thanks to some amazing mentoring by a woman who’d married the love of her life, I wrote out a list of what I dreamed for my future husband. She challenged me to write it all down, every little thing, every big thing, that came to mind. It was seven pages in my journal. It was four pages typed.

Months after writing that list, I walked into a season of life that really rocked my faith. The old “no Jesus” choosing fellas once again became a target for my affections and it took a while to settle into again wanting an “all Jesus” man. At some point, the above list got printed out and used as a beacon to not date whoever came my way. Two years after the list was written I met the man I thought was going to marry me, only to be earth shatteringly heartbroken when he broke up with me via email while I was living in a foreign country (not my favorite season of life!)

Some time later, the list was ripped to shreds and thrown away, my hopes for finding someone who loved Jesus AND loved me, who I was, not some assumed version of me, feeling like a pipe dream that would never become a reality.

That same friend who coached me to write the list, coached me, in 2015, to write in a “husband journal” which I later handed over to the man who put a ring on my finger at the top of a lighthouse on August 13th, 2016.

Five years after the list was written, he matched everything and more of what my heart dreamed up that June 11th day.


What I’m willing to wait for — I have faith that the Lord will bring this man to me!

June 11th, 2011

  • he HAS to make me laugh
  • he has to be the faith leader- he has to trust the Lord with every single aspect of his life- he has to be willing to let go of security and comfort if God calls us as a team to do so (there was NO security or comfort career wise in the first year of our marriage!)
  • he has to be responsible with money- cause we know I’m not (but I am now!! I got good at money the next year!)
  • he has to command the attention from a room- I want to have people look up to him and admire him and me get to say, “That’s MY husband!” (if you’ve ever met Lukas, you DEFINITELY know this is true!)
  • he has to be competitive, but not with me- he has to be okay with me winning, at least some of the time 
  • he has to enjoy cooking and want to share in that duty (ehhh, “enjoy” is a strong word here, Lukas can follow a recipe perfectly and absolutely will help me cook if I’m running a late errand with the kids)
  • he has to have an attitude of confidence that teeters on the line of cockiness- I’d much rather be aggravated at him for being cocky and arrogant than “too sweet” or “mousy”
  • he has to be willing to fill me in on random details of his life- like texting me random funny things or things he saw that remind him of me
  • he has to love (or at least respect how much I love) pictures and how important they are to me
  • he has to be good at and knowledgeable about sports- he also has to be patient and helpful in teaching me about them
  • he has to be smart like my dad! I want him to know how to fix things or at least a desire to figure it out if he doesn’t know- ignorance is NOT bliss (give him enough time and YouTube videos and Lukas can master ANYTHING!)
  • if I’m asked the question, “If you were trapped on a deserted island and needed to get off, who is the one person you want there?” I want him to be that person (currently my dad is that person)
  •  he has to love rap music and it he knows lots of rap lyrics- even better! (can’t say even I love rap music these days but we will get down to Ice Ice Baby in the kitchen)
  • he has to take pride in his appearance- I do not want to dress him!
  • he has to love quotes and lyrics as much as I do- understanding that sometimes I’d rather share a song with him than sit and talk about my feelings (I’ve gotten way better with talking about my feelings so song lyrics aren’t needed anymore as a communication tool)
  • music has to be so important to him- car rides should never be just silence
  • he has to love Jesus more than he loves me
  • he has to love kids- and not just out own
  • I hope he has had a close friend who has died so he can relate to me about Jacob instead of getting jealous of how high I hold him in my mind (Lukas has experienced extreme loss and grief, we didn’t have to have the same type of loss to lament and empathize with one another)
  • he has to be willing to make decisions against his parents, if necessary- as his wife, he will respect my opinion or needs over theirs
  • he has to be my teammate — we need to have a very partner in crime, Bonnie and Clyde, us against the world, attitude
  • he can’t be scared to jump around during worship
  • he has to find delight in teaching me things and watching me learn and master stuff
  • he has to think I’m the most beautiful thing that has ever graced this planet
  • he has to put a priority on taking care of himself (mentally, physically and spiritually) he has to understand that we are no good in ministry if we are burnt out- he has to understand how important and healthy a balance is
  • he can’t want to carry on a whole conversation with me in the morning (this made us both laugh out loud — mornings are STILL not my thing)
  • he has to love dogs and hate cats
  • he has to have a family who is important to him
  • he has to love to go to the beach and be willing to play horse shoes with me or Frisbee or run around in the water with me
  • he has to be willing to play on a play ground with me
  • he has to be able to dance- for real
  • he has to be able to dance—-this one is OBVIOUSLY super important
  • he can’t drive like an old person (Lukas kind of drives like an old person when he’s not paying attention…)
  • he has to have an adventurous spirit- whether that’s sky diving or climbing the tree in our backyard (this is one of my favorite qualities about my husband!!)
  • I really don’t want him to drive a car, I’d much rather prefer a truck or SUV
  • he has to be tall enough for me to wear really tall heels and still be taller then me
  • he has to know how to play the guitar or another instrument and be interested in sitting around and jamming with my dad and brother
  • he has to be grace giving and be a cheerleader for people who are the underdog
  • he can’t get upset that I’m not really a “holiday person”, there won’t be any listening to Christmas music in November (or he has to be a giant Christmas elf that convinces me to love the holiday as well so our family starts listening to Christmas carols in SEPTEMBER)
  • he has to have a “messy” past so he and I can relate on how good God’s grace is!
  • he has to always drive the car when I’m in it, whether that’s his car or mine (AH! One where God gave me what I NEEDED and not what I thought I wanted. One of my anxiety coping tools in high stress situations like going to social events, traveling on trips, etc. is me being able to get behind the wheel of the car so I can feel a sense of control when I feel out of control. Lukas is totally fine with that and I’m happy to have a husband who doesn’t need to be behind the wheel at all times)
  • he has to not be afraid to discipline our kids, understanding how important a father’s role is to a son AND daughter
  • he has to have a desire for improvement and growth in his life — understanding that there’s always room for bettering ourselves
  • he has to encourage me to work out and stay healthy, not by his words, but by doing it with me
  • he has to be okay with me having “VA introvert” time
  • he will have a nickname for me (too many to count but I’m “White House” in his cell phone — we’ll let him tell you why)
  • he has to be able to sit in silence with me
  • he has to want to serve at church — understanding how important community is
  • he has to have a mentor and also someone he pours into
  • he has to be into technology (like FB and Twitter) but be honoring with me through it — no intense friendships with women via social networking (little did I know I’d get off social media and stay off indefinitely. If you’d told me that a decade ago, I would have laughed at you!)
  • he has to be okay about me blogging about him — but understanding that I would never vent or rant about him on there
  • he can’t be afraid to confront me when he’s upset, he can’t be afraid of a little yelling every now and then (or he can be patient enough for me to walk through a whole lot of therapy to learn how to not yell!!)
  • he will chase me around the house trying to tickle me (umm… if he actually did this now, I’d probably roll my eyes out of aggravation! He sticks to tickling the kiddos)
  • he will share cool things God is doing in his life — things God is teaching him, etc. — he will also tell me about cool “grace gone wild” moments
  • he will want to travel, viewing our world for what it is… HUGE!
  • he will have a perspective that is beyond small town life
  • he will love well but not put anything or anyone about our marriage
  • he will love old houses and want to fix one up with me (while reading this to Lukas we both laughed out loud at this one since we just purchased a brand new house after learning, at this stage or life, we both very much do not like spending time on DIY house projects)
  • he will be able to see potential in people and encourage them to reach it… including me!
  • he will have goals for himself, our marriage and our family
  • my brother will like him
  • he will talk Jesus with my mom
  • he will understand that my identity isn’t in him and on the days that it begins to look like that’s happening — he will loving remind me who I belong to!
  • he will take pride in our home and help me take care of it
  • He will acknowledge that I need to be needed by him
  • when he goes on vacation he will keep me updated on what he is doing and tell me he misses me (or work trips…)
  • he will tell me not to worry and I will stop worrying because I trust him that much
  • when he hugs me, the world melts away (absolutely)
  • he will have such an interest in my life and hobbies and likes and dislikes and will also have interest in those things about our kids
  • he understands the importance of the little things
  • he will grab me and we will dance in the living room, kitchen, all over!
  • there will be such a passion between us, that is very sexual but goes far beyond that to a deep intimacy
  • he will tolerate my reality tv addiction and he won’t hog the remote (we both enjoy a good cooking or baking show but he leaves Married at First Sight for me and his mom to watch together!)
  • he will like scary movies but only because he likes me to cuddle up next to him (I now HATE scary movies and want nothing to do with them)
  • he cuddles with me on the couch and I fit perfectly into the crook of his arm
  • if we’re in bed, he will make sure at least our feet are touching (after being married for six years it’s more like “don’t touch my feet dude, I love you but that’s YOUR side of the bed”)
  • he isn’t into PDA but will do little things like a wink while we are in a big group
  • I am the very first person he call with news — good or bad
  • we pray together and often and he is the one who initiates it most of the time!
  • he has an attitude of never giving up!
  • he understands that when I’m upset, I need him to listen and THEN fix it
  • he is a flexible planner — okay with making plans but flexible enough not to get mad if they change
  • he is spontaneous but understands I’m really not into surprises
  • PROMISES are so important to him and he won’t make one if he knows he can’t keep it
  • he encourages me to be the best person I can be
  • he loves when I dress up nice and acknowledges when I do but doesn’t expect it on a regular basis
  • his laugh makes me so happy- o yeah, and he thinks I’m funny
  • did I mention how funny he is?!
  • he doesn’t have to put other people down to lift himself up
  • he will have at least one tattoo and be 100% open to me getting or having one, or a couple (we’re planning his first ink…maybe for his 40th birthday?)
  • I’d love for him to have dark hair (or no hair…)
  • material possessions aren’t important to him — I can buy clothes from a garage sale and he won’t be weirded out
  • he won’t be pale skinned so we can be out in the sun for long periods of time and he won’t burn (thank you Italian genes!)
  • he appreciates that I spend money on my nails and hair
  • he loves going to concerts
  • he doesn’t drink more than two drinks in a setting and he will never drive intoxicated
  • he won’t encourage me to drink and will respect what a big deal alcohol is in my family
  • he will know how to cook on a grill… WELL!
  • he doesn’t panic in stressful situations so I will stay calm
  • he HAS to love Auburn or at least NOT like an opposing team (we wear both Auburn and Georgia Tech colors in our house)
  • he will be well educated — I want to be able to brag about him!
  • his job will never, ever, ever come before important family events like dance recitals, school plays, etc.
  • his job will or could make money so we can live comfortably… not pay check to pay check
  • he is a very hard worker and has an excellent work ethic (times a MILLION!)
  • he is well spoken and can hold his own in many different social settings
  • I will be his queen and he will be my king!!!

xoxo, va

september 24th

During casual conversation with new neighbors about family members and school attendance and upcoming birthdays, the soon to be sixteen year old was telling me all about her excitement to be a new driver. I casually asked “when’s your birthday?” She answered September, the upcoming month, and I said, casually, “oh, so soon! What day?”

September 24th.

Not sure if she could tell through my face what my heart was doing.

A somersault.

September 24th.

Nothing casual about that date for me.

September 24th, 2006.

The day my entire life changed forever.

Sitting in my freshmen college dorm, atop my raised platform bed with the teal blue comforter. Mini fridge filled with basics, roommate sitting six feet away on top of her raised bed. I open ny flip phone to my brother’s call.

“Have you heard from Jacob?”

“No…why…what happened?”

“He and Matt were in an accident. Mom and dad didn’t want to tell you yet since they don’t know anything and didn’t want you to worry but I knew you’d want to know.”

“YES! Thanks bud, let me call Taylor (Matt’s roommate)”.

Click.

Ring ring ring.

“Taylor, where’s Matt?”

“I don’t know, he’s on his way back from home today.”

“He was in an accident with Jacob and we don’t know anything, yet.”

….some stuff I don’t remember.

I turn to face roommate with a deadpan stare.

“God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle,” she said.

After a few more calls and finding out Matt was airlifted to a bigger hospital, Jacob was still at the small local one, but we hadn’t heard anything else, I decided to go to sleep.

Insert me and roomie falling asleep with the tv on — this is when that thirteen year habit was formed!!

“He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone, Virginia Lee, he’s gone.”

My eyes open to a streak of light from the hallway, breaking through the pitch black darkness of the dorm room.

Meme, my grandmother, who lived two hours away was standing by my bedside, her small five foot tall frame barely seeing over the edge of my bed.

I sat straight up as she continued to repeat “he’s gone, Virginia Lee, he’s gone.”

It was 2ish am. Once my parents learned Jacob’s entrance back to heaven was on that cool, wet road in the middle of Georgia, my mom made sure Meme and Pops were called so I could be told in person.

Jacob wasn’t on this side of heaven anymore. His body was gone. There would be no more hugs or laughter or inside jokes shared on late night porches of family vacations. There wouldn’t be any interior design/building investment partnership or game watching of our rival college schools.

But in these wee hours of Monday, September 25th, none of that was on my mind. All that was on my mind was packing a suitcase.

“I’m so sorry Virginia Lee, I’m so sorry. We’re going to take you to our house” Meme said when I noticed Pops standing behind her, the RA hovering at the door taking the scene in.

A college freshman only five weeks into her first “away from home” experience, being called back to that home because of a tragedy. A tragedy of such magnitude a pair of seventy year old love birds had pounded on locked doors in the middle of the night to gain entry to the dorm, to be by the side of their first born granddaughter, as she heard the devastating news.

Suitcase open, I began throwing things in.

“Meme, how long will I be gone, what do I need?”

“We don’t know yet, sweetie, we can come back and get whatever you don’t pack. Let’s just get you home.”

The rest of the sequential details are burry and jumbled, with moments of crystal clear memories interwoven through the following week.

Sitting in the backseat of my grandparents car, head on the window, looking at the stars — “life will never be the same”

(I returned to Auburn the next day as my parents figured out a way to get me home without me driving myself).

Screaming through the phone with a friend as I sat on my dorm floor — “this isn’t fair”

Witnessing college students all around me joking about the weekend shenanigans — “how dare they laugh”

(In that class, my teacher asked me to stay back before leaving. She shared her own experience with grief and saw it in my eyes. I wasn’t okay, and I needed to go home. That was the only class I attended that week. I was supposed to stay at school until Thursday when there was a scheduled private flight for me to get on, but I told Mom I needed to leave… now. Within 18 hours she’d scheduled an alternative mode of transportation to get her baby home and I was flying in the passenger side of a tiny airplane flown by a man I’d known all my life who loved our families a whole lot).

Watching people come and go, acquaintances, who didn’t know the family well, crying, offering condolences — “they didn’t even know him”

Rewriting my memorial service words in the final hour — “I shouldn’t even have to do this.”

Getting tipsy with all of our high school friends after the service, dancing our asses off so we could experience a few minutes without pain — “how are we going to survive this pain?”

Eventually, I’d climb back on to another private plane, this one larger, with friends who attended both Alabama and Auburn. We’d stop in Tuscaloosa to refuel the plane and our bodies with lunch. I’d get dropped off at the Auburn airport and drive back to my dorm.

For the next three years I’d wrestle with one question “why Jacob and not me?”

At age 18, Jacob had already done amazing things on the planet. He’d invested money for years and already had a substantial nest egg. He had dreams to radically change Africa with his wealth that would continue growing with his genius mind. He never had a curfew when we were in high school because he was the one who’d drive the drunk kids home safe. He hung out right alongside everyone and stayed kind and compassionate, meeting people’s needs right where they were. Sounds a little like Jesus, yeah?

Me? I was the party girl. I was mean to lots of people. I didn’t have many dreams or goals and certainly didn’t have any plans of impacting people’s lives in a positive way. This is NOT the whole story of my childhood, absolutely not, but it’s how I saw myself at the time and it’s taken many years and a lot of therapy to unlearn those messages. It’s something I’m going to write about one day, for now, let’s just sit with this “as is” because whether it was true or not, it’s how I viewed myself and I compared that to how I viewed Jacob. And my big question remained –

Why did he die and why was I still here?

“Here” — where Jacob’s spirit had been last, in his earthly body driving his silver S2000 — where his best friend, Matt sat next to him.

The two boys were in the accident together. Matt survived to live more days on this side of heaven but not without consequence. His family has experienced loss, as well. A story that’s theirs, alone, one I know very few details about.

What I do know is the tragedy on that wet road between St. Simons Island and Athens, September 24th, 2006, impacted two families immediately and an entire community who mourned with them. We mourned two amazing men who’s lives were blown off course, lives full of promise and hope and a future that would never be what it was “supposed to be”.

Sixteen years later, I still meditate on what was “supposed to be”, especially this time of year. I don’t cry anymore. It’s been a long time since tears have come when my heart remembers his laugh. What stands in the place of the raw grief is all that I haven’t gotten to experience with him. Dancing at his sister’s wedding, watching his kids play with my kids, introducing him to my hubby and meeting his wife, all the many family vacations that were “supposed to be”. When I spend time with my neighbor’s daughter, knowing she went from heaven to earth on the same day, the exact same day, Jacob went from earth to heaven, I am reminded how much life she’s lived and how much we haven’t gotten to live with him.

My deep engrained Christian upbringing urges me to add all the optimistic/positive stuff like “at least he got to meet my kids before I did” or “maybe I wouldn’t have what I have today without his impact on my life” or “he’s still very much with us” but I’m going to fight against that, and just sit in the sadness. The ache that is still there, sixteen years later, with the crystal clear memories of that nightmare of a day, September 24th, and all the days to come.

xoxo, va

seventy five hard

This past Saturday, September 10th, our family set out to accomplish a seventy five day challenge together.

A few months ago, Lukas first mentioned the 75 Hard Challenge. 75 days doing seven things:

  • Drink a gallon of water
  • Don’t drink alcohol
  • Complete two 45 minute workouts in a day, one of which needs to be outdoors
  • Do some form of intentional eating (your choice)
  • Read 10 pages in a nonfiction book (digital reading/listening doesn’t count)
  • Track your progress daily through a photo

Oh and if you don’t do any of the above any day, you start from day one.

Insanity, right?

“Hmm, sounds right up your alley, babe, a great thing to talk about at our year end planning for next year.” Aka thank goodness I don’t have to deal with that right now, let’s punt THAT to later.

And we didn’t talk about it again until running into a friend in Chicago in August. After holding up our wrists to show off all three of us are Whoop band wearers, and the casual “how’s the fam?” questions were accomplished, I became a fly on the wall as I witnessed two CrossFit loving men talk about the 75 Hard Challenge. Trey accomplished the task right before his third kid was born. You can read about his 75 Hard journey, and see his progress result pictures, here.

Hearing what happened in Trey’s head and heart during the experience, and seeing his excitement in having completed it, we walked away and I told Lukas “you have to do it.”

With the first year of newborn life behind us and his fortieth birthday approaching, Lukas had been looking for a way to jump start his health journey. Having lost almost 50 pounds the first year Tabby was born he hadn’t gain too much back but shoulder surgery back in 2021 took a toll on him both him mentally and physically and he was looking for a way to get back to prioritizing himself. Sound familiar?

He signed up for a half marathon on Thanksgiving day, something he’d done in years past and I signed up for a 5K alongside him. Simultaneously, in our own “lanes”, we’d been pursuing individual health. He has his own issues, I have mine.

We asked over and over, can we do this? HOW can we do this? We’re really going to do this?

After we decided we’d cheer our patriarch on to accomplish 75 Hard, I realized quickly, in order for him to succeed, me and the kids would need to be backing him. It’s just too hard and too time consuming for us to not be affected.

I wasn’t about to cook TWO meals at dinnertime.

So Tabby and I discussed it one afternoon. Were we joining Nigh Nigh on his quest? She’s in a “go team” stage right now and is motivated most when we all have a role/job and we are working towards the goal together. The idea of us driving towards a goal together — sign her up! I felt the same. With five months behind me of focusing on my own physical health, I was excited for a pep in my step and partners to do it with.

We need a way to track the days as a family.

My normal MO is scroll through Amazon or rush off to the craft store to see what they have but with the new house purchase, we’ve also tightened our belts on our finances (which Tabby is very much a part of!) and said “let’s find something around here, instead, mommy!”

Smart girl she is…and constantly making me a better human!!

We found two glass jars but were stuck on 75 of something small enough to fit.

Tabby’s ideas were numerous and we talked through all the reasons they wouldn’t quite work for our most recent project. This is where mommy’s creativity took over and remembered a box full of beads, hidden at the top of the playroom closet, far away from a “I put everything in my mouth” one year old. I pulled out tiny paper cups and had Tabby count 5 beads into each cup. This took only two tries for her to get the concept and pretty soon we were pouring 15 groups of 5 into our glass jar. Add two labels and ta da! A visual motivation to stay the course.

We sent the picture to Lukas, “we’re in!!”

Doing this as a family is not as clean cut as it might be as a bachelor living on his own. It’s been messy as we worked through the “rules” and guidelines we were all going to follow. Lukas is doing a purest version, I’m doing a modified, more conducive to my mental health needs, plan. And the kids, well they are doing just the nutrition part, making small tweaks to what they put in their bodies with a lot of flexibility! We have perfected plans that work best for each of us with the main goal — do something together!

Last night, night one, we were all kind of fussy.

For a myriad of reasons, part of which was no refined sugar had been eaten (look up what that stuff does to your brain if you’re curious — it’s nuts!), and we were all tired from the day.

The hard was a little less hard as we lamented together. We are all making sacrifices in our lives to help us make better choices. Some look small, others large, but we were together…which makes us better…better together.

This photo from family vacation taken back in May, was hard for me to look at.

But I did it anyway. I looked and stared and sat in all the feelings. I told myself all the AMAZING things that body had done. I told myself how perfect I am, exactly the way I am. I told myself how strong and capable I am. I looked at the trauma that body had experienced, the visible and invisible scars that body was marked with. I sat, I felt, I spoke life and I started to believe.

In February, I turn 35. Starting out in April, my goal was to hit “135 by 35” (just because it was fun to say and easy to remember). It took three months to lose ONE pound, that’s how slow, methodical and intentional I have been about my weight loss. In focusing on my heart more than my body, my body has reaped the rewards.

At this point, I’ve lost 7ish (I say -ish because I use the scale as a tool to track progress NOT as something that gives me an identity). Am I where I want to be? Not yet. But I’m doing an AMAZING job. I’m not giving up and I’m letting the push towards “WHOLE self health” drive me.

75 Hard was the start of something but not the start of the whole thing. Me focusing on my health has been an on going, decades in the making, adventure, one that will continue on for (hopefully!) decades to come.

I share these progress pictures as a part of the journey to mark this milestone and to celebrate the amazing body God created me to live in on this side of heaven. One I ask He will continue to give me the grace to care for so I can be around, healthy, for all the many people I love.

xoxo, va

we are women

I pitched an idea to my mama bestie. She lives in Cali, we only get to talk via Marco Polo, but she’s been a key figure in several life changing turning points in my life these past eight years. You’ve already read about her here!

The idea was simple — let’s celebrate the conclusion of our breastfeeding journeys together. She’d brought life into the world through her beautiful son, Xzavier, the same summer James made his grand appearance. We navigated the highs and lows of the first year of their lives. Warrior mamas, sharing life over videos while nursing, changing diapers, pumping and driving, sometimes doing both the latter at the same time. We pondered the complexity of motherhood, cried over the never ending unknowns, and rejoiced at the victories too “small” or too private to share on social media.

No matter how many amazing mamas I have in my world, there’s nothing like the camaraderie of an “in the trenches of newborn life” mama. My friends with school age kids weren’t texting me at 2am as their kids screamed for no reason. She did. We did. We’d survived it all together, she was my “breastfeeding buddy” and we deserved to celebrate ourselves!

We toyed with ideas. Do I fly to her? Does she fly out here? Do we meet somewhere in the middle? Is it a weekend thing? A spa weekend? A spa day?

What if we did a photo shoot?

It’s been a long time since I’ve had any kind of headshots taken. Certainly a long time with just me, sans family, and non since becoming a mother. When I first got my writing website up and running after writing coaching, a couple years ago, I put a “mom boss” spin on it because the only recent photos I had of myself were Christmas card photos taken with my little girl. I knew I needed updated shots but also was waiting to lose some weight and feel better in my skin before investing the money to do so. Losing weight wasn’t a possibility while I had a low milk supply and fought for every calorie and ounce of milk while breastfeeding. Once I’d weaned James, I decided to invest in my physical health a bit.

I joined Noom (basically “weight Watchers for millennials”), excited about the psychology aspect of the app, and motivated to lose weight. More importantly, though, I wanted to feel good in my skin, no matter what that shape or size was. The app didn’t stick, but the mindset did. Our beautiful new bathroom has a glass shower next to a giant mirror. Every time I jumped in I forced myself to not look away. This is you, this is the body you have, you are beautiful, you are strong, you are enough. I bought clothes that fit me, a size I’ve never bought in my life. I said things to myself I didn’t believe yet, but was committed to cementing into my brain.

I started believing them — 65% of the way — and the idea of a photo shoot kept popping up. When Alana and I began dreaming of doing something together to celebrate the milestone of weaning our boys, I threw out the idea…wanna do a photo shoot together??

She agreed! But before I move on, using the word “celebrate” feels weird. Not because it doesn’t fit, it absolutely fits, it was a celebration AND the word “celebrate” doesn’t do the experience justice. Saying goodbye to the nursing relationship with our boys was complex. It wasn’t simple. Celebration is a PART of what we experienced. We felt excitement our sons were growing up and learning new things and becoming little humans with new skills. And grief as we let go of a stage in their lives, knowing we wouldn’t have those moments of quiet in the middle of the night when everyone else was sleeping and it was just baby boy and mama.We felt relief there would be no more battles for milk supply or washing pump parts or. We felt confusion as we climbed out of a “nursing mama” cave, still the same women but also very different as this new layer of ourselves was discovered and the chapter closed. We were very much the same. And very much not.

Our idea became reality as we began putting in motion the pieces to fulfill the dream.

Photographer (my dear friend), check.

Make up artist (friend of Alana’s), check.

Hair mastermind (wife of make up artist), check.

Babysitting, check.

She flew in from California to visit family, we texted back and forth about outfits, knowing our photo shoot was coming up but clueless to what the experience was about to mean for our heads and our hearts.

On the phone with my dear friend and photographer, Tonesha, days before the shoot, she was asking me what we wanted as a result of being on the other side of her camera. We talked about motherhood, about breastfeeding, about how bad ass women are, about how even more bad ass we can be when we do something together. We talked about how easy it is to lose yourself when life is moving so fast, when you’re caring for others, when you’re hustling after big dreams and also paying the bills. We talked about what depression steals from us, about how mental health has to be a priority and that standing in front of her camera was part of my fight for maternal mental wellness.

Days later, we took off our mom and wife hats and opened the front door to our make-up and hair team. The four of us (soon to be followed by our photographer) dove pretty quickly into rich conversation about marriage, women, race, faith, the church, mental health, writing, grad school, doctorate programs (there were a lot of degrees in the room, y’all!), and other life stuff. We basically had a group therapy session in my bathroom!! It put me at ease to be surrounded by such amazing women, as I was making the space to celebrate the awesome woman I am.

I wish I could capture more of the emotion of the day into words. But words allude me. Some moments in time are meant to be enjoyed there, in the present. And that present was pretty awesome.

We took individual shots (those for another blog post!) for our personal websites and then had a blast together in front of the camera. These are my favorites from the day:

Alana, you are the most beautiful WOMAN and mother and wife and TENURED professor. You are raising up a son who will be a world changer as you do the same in your, rather large!, sphere of influence. The work you do matters, whether it’s from a teacher’s podium, on a panel of experts, behind a consultant’s desk or in the four walls of your own home. YOU MATTER. You matter to Za and Derrick and people in the Bahamas and Atlanta and Canada and Alabama and California, to people on multiple continents and in numerous countries. You matter to them and you matter to me because girlfriend, seriously, my life would not be what it is today if you hadn’t been bold enough to say “hey, there’s this book I want to read I think you might like — wanna start a book club?”

xoxo, va

you made it here

“Look around, YOU MADE IT HERE”

Sitting in Willow Creek Community Church the first week of August, I accepted the deep breath the man on stage offered. A conference attendee, only made possible with a blessed invitation from Lukas’ boss’ boss, I sat next to my good looking man and his work counterparts.

And it felt like a miracle.

The day before, Lukas and I left the house at 10:55ish. I’d spent weeks prepping to leave the kids for 3 full days. Both Tabby and James are used to having me home, as their primary caregiver. Tabby had experienced me gone for multiple days earlier in her life but it had only been “over nighters” since James was born and I could count those over nights away from the kids on one hand.

Getting in the car to head to the airport was a big deal. it felt like a miracle I even made it to the vehicle, let alone the airport, let alone the Delta Sky Club, let alone onto the Chicago bound airplane with all of Lukas work peeps, let alone…Indianapolis?

That wasn’t a typo. Ninety mins into a short delay, the plane ride and my private showing of the movie Fatherhood, the pilot told us weather in Chicago would force him to make some decisions. First decision was an attempt to go around the system of rain, thunder and lightening and circle until we were given clearance. Okay? No big deal. We rerouted, we circled, I kept watching my movie. About twenty minutes later the pilot was telling us Chicago still hadn’t opened the airport to incoming flights. Since planes run on fuel, and not hopes and prayers, we’d be landing in Indianapolis to fill the tank.

Okay? No big deal. Let’s land this thing and refuel, we’ll be back in the air in no time.

Or not.

Spirits were high on the plane as passengers received grace for themselves and others while we waited fifteen minutes for the pilot to find out more. Soon he was informing us he didn’t have a determined time of departure so we’d be deplaning. Indianapolis airport was welcoming us with open arms, snacks and bottled water.

We got off the plane and sat to hang out. Estimated time of departure was about an hour delay. Let’s go eat dinner.

We were traveling with eight out of the eighteen total team members who were attending the conference. Two others had a plane rerouted to Charlotte. A couple were stuck in the Atlanta airport and the folks who’d left on the flight before us were lounging by the pool at the hotel…kidding…sort of. They’d made our dinner reservation for the cities best Chicago deep dish pizza and spent time relaxing in preparation for the big following day. What we’d all hoped to be doing!

After dinner we ventured over to the gate and it looked like we wouldn’t be boarding anytime soon. See, Chicago opened its airways but our amazing pilot had reached his hours limit and therefore we were going nowhere. A pilot was being flown in from somewhere else and we’d be back in the air…in an hour or so.

At this point, it’s around 6pm central time, 7pm eastern. My kiddos had had a great day with babysitter Anna, we’d FaceTimed Tabby to show her the airplane and the airport and nighttime went smoothly for them. Hallelujah for this mama’s heart who was missing them like crazy!

Our crew found a spot in the airport to call home base and me and another wife got lost in convo about kids and life and love. The other part of the group played cards, learning a new game and getting laughs in to pass the time.

Then around 7:30 (at this point times, start to get a little hazy. We’d been traveling for almost eight hours and time no longer became relevant. We’d get there when we got there!) the pilot made it to Indy. Wahoo!! Let’s go! We made our way back to the gate and stood in the same spot we’d stood earlier as we watched the scheduled minute for take off tick by.

They told us we were taking off soon.

And soon. And soon. And soon. And soon.

8pm passed, 9pm approached. It’s unclear when we finally boarded the plane, finally settled back into our seats, finally took off for the “25 minute flight to Chicago”.

Forty five minutes later we touched down at the O’Hare airport. Deplaned…again…and navigated the trek to baggage claim and the rental car lot.

We’d made it to Chicago. We did it. My head could hit the pillow of the hotel bed in less than an hour…if the rental car train would actually move.

Something was blocking the doors and she wouldn’t budge. I say “she” because every thirty seconds “she” would come over the intercom and repeat which stop we were currently and which stop we would approach, whenever we finally got moving. Those pauses at each stop probably only lasted two minutes but they felt like twenty hours after the day we’d had.

Rental cars selected, hotel found, we rode the escalator up to the front desk to check-in. Our clock’s read 12:01am, 1am at home. Our alarm would be going off in less than 7 hours. Lukas asked — “do you want to know what time we would have gotten here if we didn’t stop at the airport earlier and kept driving to Chicago” I laughed. By the way he asked it, I knew it was t going to make me feel better but I said yes, anyway. 10:30pm. We would have made it to Chicago almost 2 hours earlier if we’d driven from Atlanta.

We could have flown all the way to GERMANY, where we had attended another Global Leadership Conference when we worked for a company before getting back into the Chick-fil-as family.

But what could we do?? “Rejoice rejoice, we have no choice.” Our heads hit the pillow like rocks, and AM wake up call came fast.

When one of the first things said day one of the conference was “you made it, here!” my body and my heart took a giant, deep breath. Against a good number of odds, I was in that seat, my seat, to be reminded I AM A LEADER.

Chick-fil-A’s goal is to be the world’s most caring company. They prioritize customers and know that the way to do so is to prioritize their own people. Not just the people who’s names appear on the paychecks but the ones at home who support them, as well. My family experiences this world class care time and time again, this trip was one example of that.

It had been a LONG time since I sat in any kind of audience learning, growing, being challenged. I soaked it all up, took copious amounts of notes, and was so filled up, when we returned home to soon encounter two babies with their first “fevers at the same time”, it hardly phased me. My perspective was so big. My vision was so clear. And I have this amazing group of people inviting me into their team, to thank.

xoxo, va

getting diagnosed

Sitting in a doctor’s office patient room (or a therapist’s couch) and having a medical professional identify the nature of something going in my mind and body based on symptoms is nothing new to me. Chronic migraine, perinatal, and later, actual depression, uterine prolapse (don’t google that one, please, for your sake and mine — thank you, childbirth!), just to name a few recent diagnoses. Each one brings answers and a series of emotions, steps, acceptance, and more.

This morning, I headed to another doctor’s office at the recommendation of my physical therapist (the sacred woman treating me for prolapse). She’d been telling me for months and months and months I needed an MRI of my hips. When navigating our country’s medical/insurance system, you don’t just walk up to a desk and say “hey, I need an MRI”. Between the lack of a general practitioner (more on that in a later post), running this household with two small children, and appointment cancelling and rescheduling from both parties involved, it’s taken close to nine months for me to find myself in an orthopedics office. This guy is a hip expert, focusing on folks with hip issues under the age of 50. Aka, me.

“Something is off” I’ve thought in terms of my hips, primarily my left one, for many years. “I’m not a runner” is what I’ve always said amid eye rolls from actual runners who assume it’s because I wasn’t committed enough or hadn’t tried, really tried, to be a runner. But I have tried. Five miles is the farthest I’ve run (I did so after a bad break up, fueled by anger and hurt) and I remember the run so vividly because it was the only time my left knee didn’t fail me (I’m sure it was held together by heavenly duct tape placed there by a loving Father who knows what we need when we need it).

The first notable incident was hiking the Grand Canyon with my parents. Less than a mile from the top, the inside of my left leg gave out. I’d rolled my own eyes when I heard about the lady who slept on the canyon trail, never making it to our cabins down at the bottom, thinking “how could she not go any further? You go, just go, one foot in front of the other.” I ate my words when my own leg wouldn’t move, would not inch forward no matter how hard I pushed it. Walking sideways and backwards, crying into a bag of pretzels while my mother willed me to get to the top, was the only way I made it out of the canyon on my own two feet. At the time, I knew something was wrong but I thought little of it because I spent 23 miles HIKING THE GRAND CANYON.

Pregnancy, birthing children, living newborn mom life, these caused massive strain on my hips while leaving little time to focus on my own physical health.

With James decently stable as a budding toddler and us permanently planted in our dream home, and having spent years focusing on my mental health, my next step was to focus on my physical body. I’m physically weak, I know that, it was time to work on it.

After a few month lapse in physical therapy, I dove back in with a schedule that was manageable. At appointment number one, she asked if I’d gotten the hip MRI.

UGH, NO Rachele, I have not gotten the MRI.

The general practitioner route had been a total fail so I decided to go straight to the source — the orthopedic clinic we trust thanks to our family’s professional surgery experience (me: wrist in 2016, Lukas: shoulder in 2021). One phone call led me to a helpful receptionist who accepted my laments and concerns about my present situation. I didn’t want someone who treated elderly hips because I knew the approach for my own predicament would be radically different. I need my hips to last me fifty, sixty, possibly even seventy more years, not just a decade or two. Instantly she gave a name and we found an appointment on the calendar — a couple months later. That appointment got cancelled due to an office emergency and today, in August, I sat in my medical grade gym shorts hearing the doctor’s assessment.

He had a gut feeling about my hip injury (a labrum tear, which I expected as well) that would be confirmed by next week’s MRI, and a confident diagnosis of the root cause.

He wrote the diagnosis down at the bottom of his notes, tore it off and handed the piece of paper to me. “Look it up, you’re going to start to think back on your life and things are going to make sense.”

I’m not ready to publicly share the diagnosis, if I was reading this instead of writing it, I’d be super annoyed at myself. The diagnosis is something I’ve had all my life, and something that could greatly affect the future quality of life if not addressed.

By the grace of God (and my privilege of excellent medical access and health insurance), I am learning about this at age thirty four, when I have time to work on it.

Nutrition and exercise to strengthen my body in the areas that are weak will be the focus. I asked the doctor would I get better and he adamantly shook his head up and down. YES! “You will improve, we just don’t know how much you will improve, only time will tell.”

I left encouraged, and yet, in that instant, in those words on the small slip of paper I held in my hand, everything felt like it changed.

Nothing had ACTUALLY changed. I knew something was wrong, I’ve known something was wrong, and I learned this was with me since in my mother’s womb, and yet, everything FELT like it had changed.

After making all the follow up appointments, I climbed into my van in the parking deck and opened the internet and typed in the words from the slip of paper. I was overwhelmed, exactly the way the doctor said I would be, and also felt…numb.

Lukas was currently in the Houston airport and thankfully hadn’t taken off yet. Despite no internet and poor service we were able to process the news together. He’s my safe place and the more we talked, the more I teared up. I was afraid. I’d just learned more about another diagnosis (ADHD, way more on that to come!) the previous day and struggled to see how I was going to be successful in balancing both. He reminded me no matter what, we were going to do it together. He recommending taking off my research hat and focusing on self-care at the moment, which would give him a chance to get home, and for us to learn more, together. Essentially — take a deep breath, we are okay.

And I AM okay. Both ADHD and this newest diagnosis are two things I’ve had all my life. A life that’s been pretty dang full. A life in which I’ve functioned and thrived with both. A life ordained by a God who made me fearfully and wonderfully. Could this affect me longterm? Yes. Am I a little intimidated with the changes I’ll need to make? YES. Do I have hope that in all things He has made me more than a conqueror? HELL YES.

While on bedrest after James’ birth, I was sharing with my dad all the appointments we had when we got back to Atlanta. Lactation consultant, OBGYN, midwife, chiropractor, pediatrician, doula. He said “do you have TOO many experts?”

In this information heavy age, speaking with friends and family, diagnoses see to come extremely frequently. All the info is GREAT and shitty, all at the same time. Talking to mom this morning about the new diagnosis she reminded me “knowledge is power” to which I added “and ignorance is bliss”. There’s a happy medium where I’ve learned to use information and knowledge to my benefit, and have gotten really good at recognizing when I’m spiraling into a pit full of it (can anyone relate to the late night Google search that finds you DEEP somewhere you don’t want to be?!?)

After processing some of the initial feelings with my safest people (mom and Lukas), I fought the urge to bring others in. Even my bestest of friends and my TCC sisters. They will find out, soon enough. My circle will learn and find out what I need. They will be self-care for me, eventually. But right now, I chose self-care in the form of a chicken and waffle (that healing with nutrition thing can be figured out tomorrow!) from the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House.

With my belly stuffed with waffle, I drove the short mile back to my house and chose to hang out in the basement/garage to hide from my kids while I did another self-care thing, writing, telling my story. I’m not the only person that got a diagnosis today, or maybe yours will come next week or next month or next year.

Ever seen the stages of grief model? There are a whole bunch of them out there but this is my favorite:

Receiving today’s diagnosis triggered grief in me — grieving what life could be without it. In the same say I’m no stranger to life defining diagnoses, I’m also extremely familiar with grief. Being able to identify what I’m experiencing as grief helps me. It helps me allow myself to receive grace as this news sets in and brings clarity on how to move forward, one step at a time.

xoxo, va

hard mom moment

I’m sitting at my sticky dining room table, listening to some kind of music I don’t particular like but I’m not listening for the musical integrity, it’s playing for one reason and one reason only.

Drowning out James’ cries.

Tonight was a hard one with the kids. I was thriving, making things fun, problem solving, praying in the hard moments, gripping for peace when the chaos was all around, laughing at dinnertime. In cleaning up, I found some notes that talked about staying hungry — aka focused on your goals. Writing daily is one of my goals. A goal I’ve done a pretty crappy job accomplishing, lately.

BUT tonight was the night.

Lukas is out of town. I had the house to myself (well, I WOULD have the house to myself, once my precious children fell asleep).

I just told Alexa to skip songs because the cries were breaking through the slow motion melody. And I skipped another, and another and another.

Screw it.

“Alexa, play modern gospel.”

“I’ll never be more loved than I am right now
Wasn’t holding You up
So there’s nothing I can do to let You down…”

Here come the tears.

And then I stood to my feet.

Arms raised as Jirah sang over me.

“Going through a storm but I won’t go down
I hear Your voice
Carried in the rhythm of the wind to call me out
You would cross an ocean so I wouldn’t drown
You’ve never been closer than You are right now”

The plan was to write, to finish one of the 30 drafts sitting in my blog draft folder. I missed today’s weekly post. It just didn’t happen. I was going to catch up. I was excited about catching up.

And now my heart is focused back on the music…

“Move the unmovable
Break the unbreakable
God we believe
God we believe for it”

“From the impossible, we’ll see a miracle…”

Both kids were sick all weekend. We were knighted during our first “two kids having fevers at the same time” battle and it was brutal, but we made it. Tabby still hasn’t caught up on sleep from her body fighting the sickness and she was exhausted tonight. Everything was pulling teeth with her… actually, now that I think about, her teeth didn’t get brushed before bed…whoops!

I didn’t like that last song so told Alexa to turn it all off, fully expecting to hear screams, from either bed occupied by tiny humans, and yet, it’s quiet. Well, as quiet as it’ll ever be living so close to the city with our train whistles and airplane landings and tonight’s daily summer thunderstorm lurking about. I want to go check on the tiny humans, are they still breathing? **Deep breath** Yes, they are still breathing, they are okay, we are okay, it’s all going to be okay.

There are things in my life I’m not ready to talk about publicly, stuff God is stirring and moving around in this heart of mine. Don’t worry, we’re okay. Shockingly okay. When I prayed the prayer, a decade ago, asking God to be with me as I change my life because I wasn’t happy with it’s trajectory, I never dreamed I’d actually make it, to a life I’m so happy and content to be living.

And yet, even in “shockingly okay” and “content” and “happy”, life, there is doubt, fear, worry, concern, loneliness, etc.

Another prayer I prayed a few weeks before the “let’s change my life” prayer, during a wilderness season through body aching sadness, I crawled myself to the floor of my closet and wept. I hurt, everywhere, all over, and a song lyric came quickly to my heart… “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…” I was in deep waters, my feet were on no kind of solid ground, and I hungered for more, hungered for deeper, hungered for value and meaning and worth out of life.

I’ve never been one to play things safe in the shallow end. Actually, when it comes to a real pool, I hate the deep end and VERY much like the shallow end but for this hypothetical analogy, let’s role with the truth I’ve always been one to take chances, risks, and figure it out as I go. The deep calls to me, not because it’s where I’m comfortable, but because it’s where I’m not. I know the One who calls me into deep waters has never left or forsaken me and I know He never will.

Since that sacred afternoon in my Auburn closet (the same one I sat in to wait out several tornado warnings!), my heart cry has been for the Lord to lead my into the deep waters. I don’t want my feet to touch. I don’t want shallow. I want deep.

The thing about deep with God is there is ALWAYS deeper to go. A decade ago, the deep I was wading into, the stuff that scared me and robbed me of comfort, is now things that don’t make my knees shake. It’s stuff I was terrified to live through and yet, I did, I made it, and I’m living, breathing and THRIVING, on the other side.

Same thing goes for the deep seven years ago and four years ago and six months ago.

Recently, we were recounting with friends all that we went through to secure this house as our home. I can put myself back into those moments, those emotions of the first phone call that threatened the deal falling through, or the weeks of waiting for the appraisal dispute to be completed. That was deep waters, phew, was that deep. But now, it doesn’t feel so deep. We’ve lived in this beautiful home for four months now and life has moved on. God has called me to other deep waters.

I want to close with something profound and memorable. As a writer, as a storyteller, that’s typically the goal. But it’s 8:16pm, I’m PRETTY sure James is asleep but I need to go turn the monitor on just to be triple check sure. I need my daily late reward cereal, my nighttime tea must be made, and there’s Netflix to watch before bedtime calls my name at 9pm.

The dishes won’t get done. The floor won’t get swept. The random junk the kids have found and spread all over the living room and kitchen will stay put in its spread out places. I will care for myself now that the writing and the worship music has helped align my soul with the One who heals. He healed my hurt heart as I sat in the deep waters, tonight. Knowing my son had an upset stomach, having done all the things to help, and still couldn’t calm him down, I had to place him in his bed and walk away, knowing I needed to take a breather, that hard mom moment, yep, that was deep waters.

As I was a decade ago, I’m still here, treading water, grateful to the deep that calls me into its fullness. Full of hard and rich and unknown. Full of Him, in all of His fullness I can’t even begin to comprehend.

Here I go trying to get all profound again…. TIME TO GO VA. Cereal calls.

xoxo, va

seven minutes

At 12:10 pm, I saw I had twenty minutes to get to Mimi’s house for lunch time to stay on track for nap time. 18 minutes of drive time + a chicken kids meal drive thru stop (at the BEST food joint ever, but I might be a biased fan), I just might make it.

At 12:36, six minutes “late” I approached the light to turn into Mimi’s neighborhood. We’re staying here for a week while our aspiring thespian attends theater camp in the south suburb neck of the Atlanta woods.

It’s not that the drive is too far from our house, it’s our nap king (he loves naps, now, y’all!) goes to bed exactly at the time the camp doors open. Since sleep is not simple for James Paul, there’s no way I could mess up his schedule five days in a row or we’d be back at square one. A square I’ve come WAY too far from to revisit. So we are living at Mimi’s so he can nap, and we can get lots of quality time with my favorite second set of parents!

Almost there after a long morning being an actress, Tabby was waiting patiently to eat her kids meal at Mimi’s dining room table and I’d already been notified via text that James was more than ready for his grilled chicken nuggets. Approaching the light, I rejoiced, it was a green left turning arrow. With only one van in front of me I knew I’d make it. Until I didn’t.

The van ahead of me put his right blinker on, ugh, dude, move! At some point I even honked my horn a bit. Toot toot.

Yellow light.

GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

Red light.

Dang it.

Now stopped with nowhere to go, a man exits the van with a sad look on his face and his arms raised in a shrug. “I think I’m out of gas.”

GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

If I delay lunchtime I’ll delay nap time and yesterday’s delayed nap time was a nightmare. Lukas is out of town, James decided to party from 2-4am and I just can’t have another hard night.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you, worry that they are always watching you.” — Robert Fulghum

What do I want my three-year-old sponge watch me do?

“How can I help?” I asked the man.

With pleading in his eyes, he said, “you could take me to get gas.”

GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

It’s going to take forever, we are going to miss nap time entirely. The kids will be up for days.

“Sure, get in!”

He hustled to grab a gas can out of the back of his work van and scooted into the front seat after I chucked all my “traveling mom” gear to the second row.

His name was Javier, a worker from Gwinett county in the area tackling a residential project. His boss warned him the gas gauge was broken in the van but as his first time driving it, he had no idea how broken it really was.

Approaching the next intersection where I sort of knew a gas station sat, we saw tons of emergency vehicles and traffic blocked in every direction.

“Yikes, that’s a bad accident” is what I said, but what I thought — GOD, I REALLY, REALLY DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

Finding my way to the right lane and up the hill to a gas pump, Javier jumped out, filled the tank, used copious amounts of paper towels to make sure it was clean, and looked at me with sad eyes again “it’s going to smell bad”.

“No big deal, I’ll leave the windows open!”

The father of two kids, we talked about the joys of being parents and he told me his job down south was going well. I asked him if I could drop him off at the light and would he be fine walking back across the street to his van so I could make a quick right to Mimi’s house.

“Oh yeah!” he said before getting ready to jump out of the van and thanked me over and over.

I gave a quick wave, put on my blinker and pulled into Mimi’s neighborhood. Peaking at my GPS ETA it shocked me how much time had passed. If I had a dollar for every time I thought “GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS”, I could have purchased a full tank of gas (even at these ridiculous prices) for the work van.

SERIOUSLY, God, I didn’t have time for it. I don’t know how we had time for it. I sat in awe, so grateful I’d listened to Spirit, and acted on the nudge to “show” instead of “tell” my precious little girl about being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Helping Javier? The getting him in the car, down the street, up the hill, to the gas pump, following the detour around the accident and back to the van? The thing I REALLY didn’t have time to do.

Yep, helping Javier took seven minutes.

xoxo, va

almost cancelled

Sitting, watching Iron Chef during the few sacred minutes I have when both kids are asleep at the same time (it’s truly holy!), my eyes started blurring a bit. Getting kinda wonky and cross eyed, hard to focus. I know what that means. After a month worth of blogging about how great I’m doing with migraine life, here I was, facing the very beginnings of a migraine attack.

Within 20 minutes my fingers started tingling, I started pounding water (lukewarm not cold because I can get it in faster). With the tingling creeping to my hand and traveling up my forearm I decided I had to break my life rule — NEVER wake sleeping babies. Desperate times call for desperate measures and my sleeping three-year-old was in the way of me getting to my supply of magnesium, the one thing that just might hold back the pain.

I popped my head into the bedroom and saw she was awake anyway (halleujah) and raced to my bathroom as a barage of “mommy, what are you doing?” questions followed. I sent the princess downstairs to grab my cell phone. By the time she got back, there was magnesium in my belly and on my calves and I curled up in bed next to her. Turning on Peppa Pig, she laid there, while I rolled over and willed the pain to not come. Tingling continued, through my shoulder, up the side of my neck, to the back of my head and like a slow moving tide, made it’s way up and over my scalp.

I woke, 35 minutes later, to Bubba crying. I’d fallen asleep, and let my daughter have more screen time then I’m typically comfortable with. I felt hung over, like I’d woken up from a bad night of good cocktails, but the tingling never made it to my eyeball. That’s where the pain hits, and where it sits, sometimes for two full days but this time, by the grace of God and Tabby’s patience, I knocked the migraine out before it really started hurting and I couldn’t come back from the pain spiral.

Climbing out of bed to grab little man, I felt heavy, my head and my body felt like I was moving through a slow moving river. We made our way downstairs and I looked over at the Instant Pot I’d set up on the counter, hours ago, ready to make dinner.

With Lukas out of town, I’d planned to cook dinner for our neighbors who have become family. With the pain encroaching in my head, the obvious answer was to cancel. In the past, that’s what I always did… cancel.

This time, before sending the “need to cancel” text, I paused. After writing a month’s worth of migraine posts, focusing on how depression and migraine are so interconnected in my life, I challenged myself. Why cancel?

Well, I don’t want to entertain people while I’m hurting. VA, you know these people require no entertainment.

Well, I don’t want to cook dinner for anyone. VA, you have to cook dinner for you and the kids anyway. It’s the instant pot, it’s easy, there’s no extra effort to have more join.

Well, I don’t want to be in pain around people. VA, you have your two little people you’ll be around anyway. And wouldn’t it be better if Tabby had someone else to talk to instead of her hurting mama?

Well, I don’t want to be a bad version of myself around anyone. VA, these people aren’t just “anyone”. You’re allowed to be yourself with them, even if yourself is fussy and in pain.

I didn’t get too much farther. That’s all I needed to put the phone down and trust that the neighbors I had been investing in were people who I didn’t have to be “the best version of me” around.

They walked into my house an hour later with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts. I’d bought the wrong noodles for the recipe and later burnt my Instant Pot Spaghetti (how did that even happen??) and I told them it might be awful, but they gobbled up bowls, anyway. We sat at our dining room table and they talked to the kids (which was a much needed reprieve for my hurting head) and talked to me about stuff that got my mind off the hurting.

At 5:30 I took James upstairs for his bath time and the three ladies (a mother, daughter and granddaughter — how cool is that??) stayed with my girl. Once little man was asleep, I made my way back down the stairs to find my kitchen completely cleaned (cleaner than I ever would have gotten it on a good day!) and Veatra, our resident neighborhood hairstylist, putting “fairy hair” into Tabby’s locks. HOW AMAZING ARE THEY???? Goodness, I love them dearly.

This is why we neighbor. This is why we invite people into our lives who live in physical proximity. It’s not easy, it takes vulnerability and opening ourselves up to exposure, which always means opening up to risk of hurt, awkwardness, and uncomfortable situations. BUT. Y’all…it’s been so worth it.

Yes the clean kitchen was nice, and the camaraderie at dinner, and the hairstyle for Tabs…those things were great. Even better was what the night communicated to the deepest parts of my soul. I am loved, I am cared for, and I am not alone. Even on my worst days, when I may show up as the worst version of myself, I am still chosen by people who’s house is spitting distance from my own. And with that hindsight, it’s pretty crazy to think I almost cancelled.

xoxo, va

dear Mrs. Obama

While scrolling through the internet one day, I stumbled upon an opportunity to contact the Obama family. I almost scrolled to the next page but stopped. What would I say to them if I had a chance? Would my note actually be read? Probably not, but at least I could try. Try because, after watching the Becoming documentary, I recognized my own role in the pain the family experienced. Yes, I’m just a little tiny white woman from the south, my impact was small. Microscopic, even.

But… was my role really that small?


Hi Mrs. Obama!

I want to say thank you and I’m sorry. I didn’t vote for your husband, actually, I was one of those folks who was pretty vocally against him, pretty vocally against you, as well. After watching your Becoming Netflix documentary last year I was blown away with how ignorant I’d been. In 2008, I believed what the media said about you guys, I was sucked into the criminalizing rhetoric. I justified my racist thoughts because I was against his “policy”. And for that, I am sad.

Sad I didn’t get to cheer for you guys when you were in the White House. Sad I didn’t get to vote for a man, a family, who I now see, understand and know, ABSOLUTELY belonged there (and who I wish could be there again!). I’m sad it’s taken me this long to expose myself to the amazing speeches and work the two of you did while in office, work you continue to do and that I’m learning from like a dry sponge soaking it all in. As a white woman who’s grown up in the south, my ignorance has been on full display for most of my life and I’m blessed that by God’s grace, He’s allowing me to see it and repent for it, to continue to repent for it, something I know I’ll be doing all my life as I let Him undo this yuck that’s been instilled in me from my neighborhood, my community, and my country, from an early age. I didn’t know then, but that’s not good enough. I want to know, I want to learn. Thank you for your courage in standing up to the ugliness that we spewed in your direction. Thank you for your bravery. You stared into faces like mine and did the thing God had called you to do, anyway.

I didn’t get a chance to be a part of history when your husband became President but I learned, I got better, because of your story, I’ve done both. I was able to participate in this past monumental election. My husband and I took our two-year-old daughter to drive around Atlanta while we all honked horns at Biden and Harris’ election. We teared up. We felt like love won that day. As the mother of a daughter, I was able to watch Harris’ speech and again, tear up, knowing I would be able to proudly tell her when she’s older that the world changed that day and that her mommy got to be a part of it. A tiny, microscopic part of the right side of history, where I believe, in 2008, I was on the wrong one. I’m sorry for my ignorance. I’m sorry for being a part of the “them” that hurt your family. I wish I could take it back, but since I can’t, I’ll just move forward and do better. I promise to do better.

Thank you again, Mrs. Obama, I’m thankful you are in this world because you make it better place!!!


I never heard back from my email, nor did I expect to get a response. In writing group, we learn to write for the one — even if that one is yourself. The one for that piece of writing was myself. I needed to write it, I needed to apologize, I needed to repent. Michelle Obama didn’t need my note. She didn’t need my apology. She didn’t need my repentant attitude. She doesn’t need anything from me, personally. What she needs from me is to be a part of the whole group of white people pushing to not forget, to keep learning, to keep pressing into the discomfort that is the race conversation in this country.

One I forget about, more than I’m proud to admit, but one I want to keep engaging in and to keep fighting to bring to the forefront of my mind. IT IS SO EASY to get sidetracked, to lose focus, to get off course in the pursuit to be an advocate for justice.

On our way home from a fantastic week visiting my parents in St. Simons, here’s a shot of my four people at the beach…

…Lukas mentioned a podcast he’d heard about, called Love Thy Neighborhood. Y’all KNOW how much I love neighboring so I jumped on the bandwagon and was surprised at what we uncovered. A GEM. At least, it’s a gem for the likes of me who is questioning a lot of the narratives I’ve believed about faith, the Gospel, God, grace, and more, as I’ve learned some ugly truths about what people like me have done to people in the margins, under the banner of Jesus’ name.

I appreciate the podcast host’s perspective. It doesn’t seem as polarizing or extreme as a lot of the other content you find on these types of topics. I plan to listen to more podcast episodes in the future and only have one official episode under my belt, so can’t say I wave a banner of THE BIGGEST FAN (yet?) but it was thought provoking and educational. A glimpse into the history of the American church, especially in the south (aka where I was born, raised and went to college), where a whole bunch of white people used a whole bunch of power to protect their way of life against a whole bunch of people that didn’t look like them.

My letter to Mrs. Obama feels, well, a little silly, and yet, it’s the culmination of a A LOT of thought provoking soul work where I’ve had to look at my own racist tendencies square in the face. Like a bicep being strengthened at the gym, my muscle of learning about racial justice (and injustice!) will never be finished or complete. Rather, it’s a desire I have to constantly invest in relational strength with the people around me, never giving up on not forgetting.

If you’d like to join me in not forgetting, click here for the podcast episode I listened to. Or here, here, or here for three other episodes that are high on my “listen to next” list. Or if you are unsure about all this race conversation, it makes you MEGA uncomfortable (don’t worry, I’ve been there!!), and you aren’t sure where to even begin, check out this post that shows you where I began my learning journey. If you have specific questions, I promise to be a safe, listening ear, for you to ask them. PS if you know my mom, she’s a really safe place on this topic and pushes herself to not forget, as well! In the deepest part of my gut, heart and Spirit, I believe that until white people (me, us, and maybe you staring at your cell phone screen) start talking about race, regularly and often, we will not see Kingdom shaking change on Earth as it is in Heaven.

xoxo, va