The story of a tattoo

Last month someone asked me about the meaning behind my tattoo.  And when he asked, it threw me off.  I realized the only other person who’s ever asked about the heart on my wrist was my mother.

It’s funny because when I was choosing exactly what would be permanently inked into my skin, I had the meaning down to a nice little explanation.  Kind of like an “elevator pitch” for a business. I also had the long version I could offer up if someone asked for more.  I assumed my tattoo artist would ask me about it while the needle buzzed into my skin.  (I’d probably just watched too many episodes of LA Ink to set that expectation). That didn’t happen.

I was prepared to tell everyone who saw the tattoo what it meant and why it was there.

But no one asked.

No one really even commented on it.

On the rare occasion someone talked about it, they’d say “I didn’t know you had a tattoo.” or “Cool. When did you get that?”  or usually just “Cool tat.” or “I love your tat.” (Alright, I don’t think anyone actually called it a tat. It was always tattoo. I don’t even say tat.)

The more I thought about this, the more I realized I’ve never asked anyone else about their tattoo – before or after I got mine.

I wonder why this is.

Why don’t we ask about something that obviously has a deep and special meaning.  That’s why we get them.  I mean, even if it was a “mistake” it’s still a good story, right?  I want to hear the stories behind the tattoos. (Which is probably why I watched too much LA Ink)


Want to hear about my tattoo? I’ll tell you about mine, you tell me about yours.

wrist tattoo heart

I’ve wanted a tattoo since I got married.  I never really wanted one as a teenager.  But every summer since I’ve been married, I’d get this “itch” to have a tattoo.  I thought for the longest time it would be a butterfly on my foot.  I’m SO glad I waited.

When my 30th birthday was approaching I decided that was the year I’d take the plunge.  I knew I wanted something small-ish.  I knew I wanted to be able to see it daily.  I figured the wrist would be perfect.  I was still in my dark days and trying to live with more joy, so I planned on having “JOY” tattooed in some scripty font.  But then I drew  a little heart on my right wrist.  A TEENY heart. It was perfect.

It served as a reminder for whatever I needed that day.  To live with joy, to speak gently to my girls, to speak Nick’s love language, to show compassion…. In a way, it was like a ribbon on the finger for matters of the heart and mind.

So the day I turned 30, I stepped into a little suburban tattoo parlor.  $50 and 20 minutes later I had a permanent heart on my wrist.

At first I freaked out.  It was HUGE compared to the teeny heart I’d been drawing on myself.  What if I didn’t like it forever?  What was I thinking?  Maybe I should’ve waited.

But the more I saw it.  The more it grew on me. And now I know it was perfect.

Nick and I joked the day I got it and he told me “Now you have a heart.” because up until that point, he was the compassionate one with the bleeding heart.  Not much moved me or brought tears to my eyes.

Little did I know that a few weeks later my heart would change.  Over the course of the year I turned 30, I found joy, compassion, and a heart for the Lord.  I get teary at everything now.  I do indeed have a heart.

So now, this little heart on my wrist is a symbol for the change that took place this past year.  It couldn’t be more perfect.

I’m actually thinking about adding some watercolor splash to my heart now that I not only have a heart, but one that’s come alive again.

So I don’t quite have the elevator pitch down for what it really means …. I guess if anyone asks, they’ll have to get the long version.


The Bigger Announcement

Remember that time I made a big announcement and everyone thought I was pregnant?  Well, now I have another one to make. Aaaand…..well, still not preggo. We’re taking care of that for good next month actually.

I keep saying big changes are coming for our family this year.  Finally it’s official and I can talk about it.

The news this time:  I’m returning to work full time in August. And not just to any old job I find between now and then, I’m returning to my old job.  The job I had before I started staying home with my girls.

The official title is Assistant Director of the Student Success Center at North Central University. What I’ll do with that title is teach an academic success class for at risk students, run the tutoring program on campus, do some one on one academic coaching, advise students who haven’t chosen a major yet, teach workshops on time management and study skills, and help provide accommodations for students with disabilities.  In short, I’ll help people set goals and achieve them. Dream job I tell you.

While I don’t need to justify my personal decision to anyone, I want to write about it because maybe there’s a working mom out there who feels she needs to be home with her kids in order to be a good mom. Or maybe there’s a stay at home mom who feels guilty about wanting to go back to work. This post is for those mamas to know they’re not alone.  And of course it’s for others of you who read and are just curious why I’d make this choice.

Before Mariah was born, I thought I’d stay home with her right away. But we had lots of debt piled up, and with the way my maternity leave and summer vacation fell, I got 4 months with her before returning to work which was perfect. We had her at a daycare center where she hardly slept and the bill took half my salary. We made the switch to an in-home daycare at half the cost when she was 1 1/2 and paid off most of our debt so I could start staying home with her. My reasons for wanting to stay home?  I wanted to be the one teaching her.  I felt like I was missing out on watching her learn and discover the world.  I also wanted to be able to control her sleep. I blamed daycare for her many night wakings. I never hated my job, I just wanted to stay home.

I thought staying home would mean my house would be clean all the time, I’d have beautiful healthy meals on the table when my husband walked in the door every night, my laundry would be clean and folded in a timely manner, and my days would be filled with learning and crafts.  That’s what I’d seen on all the blogs and Pinterest, so of course it was achievable. Oh how naive I was.

I started my stay at home mom journey in May of 2011. And for the most part, my picture perfect mom life was coming true. I really enjoyed my time with Mariah. There was lots of learning and crafting and my house was pretty clean.

Then Lana  arrived and postpartum depression hit. It took me quite awhile to get out of the desperate funk I was in. You can read more about that HERE.

Whenever Nick and I got a date night, or had some time to talk about goals and the future, we’d talk about where and when I’d go back to work. I was desperate to get out and away. The conversation always came back to me saying, “But the only job I ever want is the job I had. Maybe I can have it back someday.”

Eventually I made my way out of the fog and started to gain a healthier perspective on what being a stay at home mom of two littles looked like for me.  I threw out the idea of a “perfect mom” and started to accept who I am as a mama.  I gave myself more grace. I was less desperate to get back to the working world. I was content.


Then in August my phone rang.

My former boss called to tell me my old job would be open next August. He just wanted to let me know so I could think about it.

And it was all I could think about for about for that first month. Constantly it was on my mind.

Eventually it didn’t consume my every thought. After much prayer and thought and discussions, we decided it was the right move.


For me it’s the right move for lots of reasons:

Because Mariah will start full day Kindergarten next fall and Lana would benefit from daycare/preschool in so many ways.

Because the work I did at North Central was so fulfilling.  I had a great boss and was able to use my strengths and gifts every day.

Because daily office time and a commute sounds heavenly to this introvert.

Because I love taking on a big project. Starting with nothing, dreaming and planning and then executing.  I don’t get much of that at home with all the interruptions.

Because when does your dream job open up to you a second time?


And because my original reasons for being home were to be the perfect mom and do what I thought I was supposed to do to create the best life for my children. I don’t hate it by any means, but I don’t think being at home quite lines up with who I’m created and called to be. I know now I can still be a wonderful mother and have influence in my girls’ lives even if I work outside of the home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so thankful for the time I’ve had at home with my girls and if anything it brought me closer to the Lord and gave me more clarity than I’ve ever had in my life before.  I’m grateful we could afford to live this way and I could have these 3 years with them. Now that I’ve made the decision to return to work, it’s changed my perspective on being home and I’m soaking up the sweet moments as much as I can. Heading back into the working world with a great appreciation for my time at home is much better than returning as an escape from my children.

I realize it won’t be all fluffy bunnies and unicorns when I go back.  I clearly remember the commuting, rush to get dinner on the table, evening exhaustion and the few hours before bedtime I’ll have each night with my girls. But this time?  This time my expectations are more realistic.  This time around I’ve learned to handle the stress and let go of the guilt.

This time I’m not comparing my life to anyone else’s. This change is just right for our family and I can’t wait!









2014 Goals: Update #1

We’re a quarter of the way through 2014 and I just celebrated my birthday, which means it’s the time of year when I typically do some extra reflecting and evaluating.

This year I didn’t set super specific goals – which is new for me.  I simply took some time to evaluate what I wanted more of this year and set a theme to focus on.

Rooted is my word.

rooted 2014 goals


I planned on setting monthly goals, and maybe I should.  It’s fun for me to see measurable progress and to hold myself accountable for what I didn’t accomplish.  Instead I’ve just kept this over arching theme in mind.  Not every day, but often enough.  And here’s a little update:

Part of my reason for choosing Rooted as my word, was because we have big changes coming this year.  So I want to establish some family rhythms now that will hopefully carry over  and keep us grounded when the change comes.

We’ve started a Saturday night pizza and a movie night.  We make the dough after lunch, let it rise for a few hours and then roll it out, load it up and bake it around 5.  We eat while we watch the movie – well, the girls are still learning how to do that.  The movie is usually more entertaining than the food. Nick had this tradition growing up – his was on Fridays.  I like the idea of having a weekly “thing” .  And pizza every week seems like a perfect thing.

We also light candles during almost every weekday meal.  A simple thing to add some warmth to the table.  Although now that the sun stays out longer and streams in on our table, I keep forgetting to light them.

I’m hoping to improve our bedtime routine in the next few months.  I want to find a way to make it more enjoyable.  Right now there are a lot of orders being barked, children whining and running, and we rush through stories and prayers.  I want to work to change that.  Any suggestions would be helpful.


As for my personal goal to be more rooted in Christ, that’s always a work in progress.  I’ll never achieve any sort of perfection in that area here on Earth, but I can spend more time learning about God and studying the Bible in order to continue to grow deeper in my relationship with him.  I’m walking through the plan to read the Bible in a year as well as a Lent plan until Easter. I’d like to journal more again – making myself sit and write out my thoughts and prayers really helps me focus.


And as I’ve been reading this past month – I’m now up to 5 books in less than a month and I don’t know what’s taken over me –  I have a new area where I’m working to become rooted.  My neighborhood.  I’ve spent the last few years wishing we could move. Dreaming about a back yard.  Thinking if we got out of this place I’d be happier.  But I’ve readjusted my thinking. Yes,  bought this house in a rush (we didn’t even sleep on it – put a deposit down the day we saw it), and we expected to be moved out by Nick’s company after a year or two, AND of course we couldn’t predict the market crash.  So all this time I kept looking at being here as being “stuck”. But maybe we need to shift our view.  We’re here to stay for quite some time, so let’s make the best of it.

We always said we didn’t want a yard to maintain (read: shovel and mow grass).  We have a grocery store and bank we can walk to. We have a pond in “our backyard” and a big lake with a swimming beach we can walk to. There are tons of restaurants we haven’t explored yet. We need to open our eyes to where we’ve been placed and make the best of it.  Grow where we’re planted.

Mariah will go to school a half a mile from our house – at a school we would never have considered if we didn’t live here. I’m hoping we can connect with families in our area to avoid the 30 minute drive to playdates.  Just another way to be rooted in our community.


So there’s a little update on how I’m becoming more rooted.  Still lots of room for growth in the coming months, but some steady progress for this first part of the year.


Officially IN my 30′s

So much has changed in this last year. Woah.

It was just a few days after I turned 30, that my life really turned around.  My 20′s were covered by a rain cloud and I fumbled around in the darkness and fog trying to see glimpses of light. I’d spent so much time trying to do everything myself and felt guilty for not measuring up to the unrealistic standards I’d set for myself.  I rebelled and fought against letting God take care of me. I thought I had to get myself in perfect shape before I could have a close relationship with God again.

Last April I found the exact opposite to be true.  Once I admitted I couldn’t do it alone and that I needed him, I started to see through the clouds above my head.  Little glimpses of sunshine peeked through.  And little by little, as I let go of my need for control and trusted God, that heavy fog lifted.  I can feel again. I can breathe again. It’s wonderful. I still have days when I settle into a bit of a funk, but it doesn’t last too long.

So today I turn 31. I’m having a harder time with 31 than I did with 30.  30 is a fun milestone to conquer.  31 means I’m IN my 30′s.  Yikes!

But I have a bit of a theme song for this time in my life.

For the First Time by John Legend.

This man is FULL of soul.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t help to close my eyes and tilt my head slowly from side to side when I listen to him.  (Think Stevie Wonder – it’s how I feel it, ok?) His voice, the swell of the music, or the booty-shaking rhythm.  I love everything about John Legend’s music.

When he’s not singing about making love to his lady, his songs usually “take me to church” (an odd combination I realize).  Lots of times the lyrics talk about changing the world, showing love…lots of Biblical principles in there.

Anyway.  Back to my current theme song. For the First Time. It’s about being awake, breathing and loving for the first time after a long darkness.  The lyrics are below, but you really have to listen to it to fully experience it.


Is that music in my ear?
It’s like I heard nothing for a thousand years
My eyes were closed, locking in my tears

I was so surrounded but still all alone
A great big house but so far from home
How’d you breathe life in this heart of soul

It’s like I can feel, it’s like I can breathe
It’s like I can live, it’s like I can love
For the first time, for the first time
For the first time, for the first time

I’m electric, finally exposed
You see through me, strip off all my clothes
If this is falling, then let me go, oh


I’m finally awake and I can feel my heart
It’s beating like a drum when I’m right here where you are
I can feel it, I can feel it, oh
Can you feel it

It’s like I can feel, it’s like I can breathe
It’s like I can live, it’s like I can love
For the first time, for the first time
For the first time, for the first time

So today, as I start life IN my 30′s, I’m going to close my eyes and listen to John. I’m going think about how this past year has unfolded.  How grateful I am for being awakened to my beautiful life.  I’m going to be thankful for God’s grace and how much he’s taught me in this past year and continues to teach me.

I’m also going to eat Chick-fil-a and spend time with my family and be really lazy just like you should be on your birthday. :)


Three books in 8 days

We’re just a few days shy of the two week mark of Lent and this only checking into Facebook once a day an only seeing a handful of photos on Instagram when I post is going alright I guess. It’s hard I’ll admit.

I feel like I’m missing out on the lives of my friends and family. But I know deep down I’m not missing too much.  Or at least I tell myself that for now. I’m not seeing what people eat for lunch or hear about the cute things the kids say.  And I don’t mind missing the complaining or articles that make me angry. Luckily I didn’t miss out on a birth and engagement announcement  from two good high school friends – they happened to be in the feed during a quick check.  Whew.

What’s hardest is the need to fill my mind with something semi-stimulating while I’m at home with two little ones.  Yes, I have more focused time with them without the scroll scroll scrolling always happening and that is good.  But I don’t interact with other adults much.  So Facebook was my interaction.  Sad. Yes. I’ll admit it. But at least my brain was doing something other than watching my children play.  Because here in my house the girls play great if I’m in the room.  When I step away to accomplish something the whining and screaming begins.

So my mind has been filled with more Bible reading and prayer (the point of Lent I suppose), but I’ve also turned to books.

I’ve finished three books in the last 8 days.

Nick laughed at me last night and said, “You spent THAT much time on Facebook?!”

Well….maybe?  It was also Pinterest and Instagram too.  But because Nick’s given up TV and Netflix for Lent, I have a lot of extra time in the evenings to add to reading time. And when we’re spending time together I actually have something to talk about other than what the girls did this week and re-hashing all the Facebook drama because I’ve filled my mind with words from smart people.

And what I’ve read is challenging me.  Making me dream and think and grow.  More.  Because all this dreaming business has been going on for quite some time. And it’s good.  Really good.  To sit without all the online noise and think and dream and pray and process and talk it over with Nick.  And who knows, maybe at the end of this 40 days I might have a little more clarity for these dreams.  Because right now they’re all a little foggy. But I’m starting to see  a few things come into the light.

My three books are ones I want to recommend….


Restless: Because You Were Made for More by Jennie Allen

This is my most recent read and one I’m passing on to a friend and will recommend to everyone.  It’s about “calling”.  Finding purpose in life.  Those sorts of books my heart happy anyway, but this one was just what I needed.


Missional Communities

Woah. I kept saying “YES!  YES! YES!” to everything in this book. It’s about the church shifting from inward focus to outward focus.  And not just an outward focus to bring more people to the church, but an outward focus to love on those outside of the church.  Where they are.  Being friends and setting an example of Christ.  Because let’s face it – not everyone wants to set foot inside our church buildings.  (Who can blame them?)   This book spoke to my heart in too many ways to put into words right now.  I’m not sure what to do with it just yet, but I’m not the same anymore.


Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider

I guzzled this book like water – which I believe is a phrase Tsh actually used to describe a book she once read. Tsh was an expat for several years (an American living in another country) and was unexpectedly forced to live back in the United States.  She describes how she’s carved out a life that reflects their deepest desires and values right here in America even though they still long to live elsewhere.

The weeks before reading this book I’d been on the hunt for the perfect city or country to live in.  I’d made a list of all the things I wanted in my “perfect location” and was trying to find out how we could get out of this horrible cold and arctic land. (Barcelona seems to have all the items on my list and NYC was a close second.) But reading this book helped me to be at peace with staying and living a full life here where we are now. At least for a few more years.  I’m still hoping we can move someday.


As always, when I read books I want to talk to someone about them.  You know, a little book club.  So if you read them.  Tell me.  Talk to me.  I wanna hear your perspectives. Just don’t tell me on Facebook – I won’t be there for awhile.



The start of Lent

The first time I heard about Ash Wednesday I was in high school.  A bunch of my Catholic friends came to school with dirt on their foreheads.  I was so confused. Someone told me it was for Ash Wednesday (“duh!”) like I should know since I was the good little Christian girl.

I didn’t know.  I chalked it up to Catholics “not being real Christians” like I’d thought I’d learned at my church. I also figured it went along with Rosh Hashanah which was that other religious holiday I didn’t understand. (I can’t make this stuff up people)

It wasn’t until after college that I learned Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent (I assumed lint of course being so educated in religious celebrations and all).  My current church had an Ash Wednesday service where I learned Lent marks the 40 days before Easter and you’re supposed to fast something during that time like Jesus fasted in the desert.

So I gave up chocolate.

It lasted maybe a week.  Maybe. I may have reasoned with myself that only one piece of chocolate a day was acceptable when I normally had chocolate after every meal.

Then I gave up.  Because if I’d screwed up one day, why even bother to keep going?

I think I’ve tried fasting a few years since then.  I don’t remember it ever “working”.

joel two12-14

I’m not sure what was supposed to “work” anyway.  Was I supposed to never want chocolate again?  Was I trying to earn my spot in heaven?  What was following all the rules and taking away something I loved suppose to do?

I’d obviously missed the point.

This year I’ve been learning more about the real meaning behind Lent.  And I’m attempting to fast from a few things while making it more about my heart than about following the rules.

I love this quote from Ann Voskamp:

Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God. God only comes to fill the empty places and kenosis is necessary – to empty the soul to know the filling of God.

This year I decided to give up social media on my phone to make more room for God.  Because the first thing I do when I wake up is “check in” to all the things – Facebook, Instagram and Feedly (my blog reader). Then throughout the day, when I’m sick of being stuck inside and my girls are driving me insane, I “hang out” on my phone to escape.  I’m constantly scrolling through Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. And lots of times I get caught up in articles my friends post on Facebook.  They get me worked up.  Angry.  I want to give them my opinion because theirs is obviously uneducated and ridiculous.  Thankfully I know to keep quiet and not post my harsh thoughts.  But I still have the thoughts, and in my head I draft up the smart remarks I want to post and they play over and over in my mind. At night when I’m watching a show with Nick, I’m back on my phone during commercials and when I’m bored with the show.  And of course I have to check in with all the things before I go to bed.

See how there’s not much room for God?  Or my family? Yeah. Me too.

So Pinterest and Facebook have been deleted from my phone.  Instagram still remains, but only for posting one photo a day – which technically goes to Facebook – because I use Instagram photos in my yearly photobook. I’ve added a Lent reading plan to my YouVersion app which I’m reading first thing in the morning instead of checking all the things.

For these first few days I’m trying to cut out social media scrolling from any device.  Then I’ll let myself check on a computer once a day for only a few minutes if I want to.  The first 24+ hours have been hard.  I got angry a few times that I couldn’t escape when the whining and demanding took over our house. I got bored with “nothing to do”. Ugh.  Obviously I had a problem.

But I’ve also started my days with scripture. Both days have been fitting and allowed me to examine my heart and remember why I’m giving up social media.

I’m looking forward to the changes that will take place during the next 40 days.  It’s not going to be easy.  But that’s the point.