Monthly Archives: July 2014

Squeeze & Space, Elaine

Squeeze & Space logo

A very, very special thanks to Kristin Murdock for sharing her story last week as the first post in my guest series, “Squeeze & Space.” If you haven’t read Kristin’s story of love and loss, I so encourage you to check it out. She is a brave soul, and you will be moved by her journey.

This week, I’m bringing you another butt-kicker and warrior sister, Elaine Hamilton. Elaine is a dear friend and the founder of The Soul Care House, a marriage and family therapy practice (and, so much more). Elaine is a licensed MFT and she and her husband, Ken, have two amazing 20-somethings, Katie and Josh.

It is such an honor to share Elaine’s voice with you — a voice that has been healing, nourishing, truth-telling, and so very tender in my own life. With gratitude for her wisdom and her words, here is Elaine . . .

Where are you experiencing THE SQUEEZE?

Living inside this body is a constant challenge.  Dealing with an autoimmune disorder is like carrying around a small child who is incessantly flailing her arms and screaming for no reason at all.  I try to calm her down by staying on top of the things that I know make a difference.  No gluten, dairy, soy or corn.  Lots of rest with some activity, but not too much.  I manage my stress.  I see doctors and take supplements.  I try new things and try to stay positive. 

Some days all the planets align and I feel quite good, elated actually.  I feel free, like a normal person, with a normal body! I imagine myself becoming a tennis player or taking up running. But inevitably some mistake is made and she starts screaming again,  “There was soy in the marinade.  What were you thinking?!” She is relentless and unforgiving. 

More often than not, I am in pain and all of this effort is not enough. I remind myself that I am so much better than I was 5 years ago and of course I am grateful for that.  Back then I thought I was dying.  Today I can work full time and play on the weekends.  This is very good news.  But the truth is that I am also disappointed.  I had high hopes that I would recover completely but it’s not looking like that’s going to happen for me.

On really bad days, I need my people desperately.   I need the ones who love me to remind me that I have made progress, that I’m trying really hard, and that it’s okay that I get sad sometimes because this is really hard.  Hearing that is really helpful.

So I try to hang in there with my flailing, screaming child and nurture her even when I’m angry and tired because she needs it and it’s the only thing there is to do.

Where are you experiencing THE SPACE?

My kids.  I wish I had known 20 years ago that it would be like this some day.  How lovely they would be, how much we would enjoy each other.  Back then it was all diapers and exhaustion.  I worried about everything; that I would ruin them, or lose them or, in a moment of delirium, sell them to the gypsies.  But somehow they made it to adulthood without becoming drug dealers and I can finally see that we are all going to be okay.  So I’m leaning into this new space where there are no more power struggles or sleepless nights and I can breathe again.  And just enjoy them.

For example, a few years ago, Katie and I bought matching camo pants to go paintballing for my birthday.  We got dirty and sweaty and banged up, and it was awesome! After that we pledged to come up with other “camo worthy” experiences.  Since then, us and our pants have gone zip lining, and raced around on ATVs and snowmobiles.  We meant to wear them when we got matching tattoos but were so nervous, we forgot. We regularly have conversations about the next thing we want to do together in our camo pants.  I think that what the two of us have been doing is trying to actively move our relationship to a new place.  We are saying to each, “Isn’t it such a relief to have nothing left to fight over? Let’s just play and enjoy each other!”. Next up, batting cages. 

And then there’s sweet Josh.  Admittedly, Josh has been the easiest child on the planet to parent.  He makes me look like a far better mother than I actually am.  But it is lovely for both of us to be done with conversations about homework and vegetables.  “Can you please eat something besides Bagel Bites??  Perhaps something green,” I begged a hundred times.  These days we talk about his future. We dream together about possible business ventures, things he wants to try or invent, adventures we want to go on as a family.

When he asked me to help decorate his first apartment with him, I was in heaven!  I am obsessed with creating nourishing spaces and thrilled that he wanted my help. We brainstormed for weeks about couches and styles and argued about how many decorative pillows a space needs.  (I said five, he wanted zero, we settled on two.)  I loved that he had strong opinions about his emerging style and a clear vision of what he wanted his space to feel like.  We had a blast picking everything out and putting it together.  And on the day he called me and said, “Mom, I’m on Amazon and I can’t stop buying glassware!” I knew, my work is done here.

This is a magical thing about motherhood.  You orient your life around your babies, you give up sleep, showers, clothes without stains.  You agonize and obsess over them and then one day, the hard work is done and they’re grown.  And you wake up to find these delightful, self-sufficient, funny, loving adults who give you back so much more than you could have imagined and you just can’t believe your luck! 

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squeeze & space, kristin

Squeeze & Space logoI’m thrilled to bring you my new guest series “Squeeze & Space.” Over the next few weeks I’ll be featuring the voices of women I admire as they talk about where in life they’re currently experiencing the squeeze and where they’re able to find a bit of space, some breathing room. What is bringing them down and what is building them up? What is suffocating them and what is saving them?

First, I want to introduce you to the absolutely extraordinary warrior, Kristin Murdock. Kristin’s first child suffered from anencephaly, and as a result, she and her husband have been walking a journey of life, love, and loss. Frankly, I’m in awe of Kristin and her courage to show up to her life. She is tender, and she is tough. She is honest, even in the sadness. I so highly encourage you to follow her blog, Her voice is beautiful in its rawness and richness.

With all the love, respect, gratitude, and hope in my heart, I give you Kristin . . . in her own words . . .

Hi! I’m Kristin Murdock!

I live in San Diego with my husband Glenn. I love goat cheese, laughter, Thomas Keller, and Chick-fil-A.

Glenn and I have a little boy named Branch Lionheart who spent seven sweet days with us on Earth. Branch died on December 10th, 2013 and we are slowly navigating our way through life after loss. It’s pretty awful, really.

I like to write, and try to use my writing as a way to help in the grief process.  My hope is that God’s goodness shines through my story, even when it’s not pretty.   

1208133200041PART ONE: SQUEEZE

The other day as I was thinking about what direction to take this post, I wasn’t sure if I really knew what “the squeeze” was, or if I have experienced it.  And then, as we sat in our infant loss support group listening to a young mother share the story of finding her sweet six-week old baby lifeless in her bed, it hit me.

Death. Grief. Loss. It squeezes the life right out of me.

As this young mother spoke, the part that struck me more than anything was the description of her baby girl’s hands.  Little fingers, gripped around her mama’s, slightly stiff, her hands clenching tighter and tighter as the life left her body.

Did you know that tiny fingers clench after they die? 

All of us sitting in that room knew exactly what this young mother was talking about. I was overwhelmed by the grief and sorrow of it all, pained by the depth of lifelong sadness losing a child brings.  

The loss of my son introduced me to a new sadness.  It is a strange sadness, a deep sadness, a sadness that I know will change as the days, months, years go by – but even as it changes, it will stay with me.  This sadness is my squeeze.  The squeeze makes me feel small, helpless, betrayed, and very, very lonely. 

The most confusing part of grief has been the mental reconciliation, or should I say, attempts at it.  I don’t understand how we live in a world where tiny little babies die.  I don’t understand what it will look like to not have thoughts of my son consume most of my day, or if it is even possible for them not to.  I don’t understand what my role is now – I am a mother without a child, how does one go about explaining that?  

I wrote a while back about a meeting with my mentor where she described these confusions and attempts at reconciliation as “wrestle.”   This made so much sense to me.  I think the wrestling is my response to the squeeze. I am wrestling with God. I am wrestling with what it means to love and lose. I am wrestling with laughter and with weeping.  I am wrestling with life, and sometimes it feels like a mild form of insanity. As I am squeezed, isolated, tiny, and betrayed, my wounded heart wrestles – fighting for its life.


Space. Freedom. Light.  When I hear these words, I picture a large, open, never-ending field. The field is in a valley between some hills and there are all sorts of little flowers. There is grass – the kind of grass that is soft and doesn’t scratch your legs. In this open space, I run.  I laugh, I smile, I am happy.  Love is filling every ounce of my being.  My boy is not with me, but I know he is ok, and somehow I know I can see him whenever I want.

Where is this wondrous land?

At every point in the story of Branch, a story filled with lots of love and lots of loss, there have been glimmers of space, freedom, and light. Sometimes these glimmers come in a hug, sometimes in a gift, sometimes in a word that was given to me – just to me – by God Himself.

A few weeks ago I was reading about a woman who has a “diamond cave” where she and God meet. At first I thought this sounded weird. I’m not really into kooky Christianity {there’s way too much Baptist in me for that!}, and this story had “quack” written all over it. The image kept coming to mind, however, so later that evening I wrote my prayer out and prayed that God would remove my skepticism and reveal His Truth. I asked God to show me a special place where we could meet.  I prayed for space, freedom, and light to show up in a unique and personal way.  I wonder if the field of flowers is my “diamond cave”. 

I feel space when I am hiking Torrey Pines.  I feel freedom when I close my eyes and let myself feel every. single. thing.  I feel light when I cup my hands in prayer – my physical posture of surrender.  I beg The Lord to meet me in my spirit. I ask Him to fill my empty palms. Sometimes they are just so empty.

Space, freedom, light: you are welcome here. In my writing, in my life, in my soul.  Come quickly.






look inside

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Happy Friday, dear friends!

I just wanted to drop you a quick line and let you know that Amazon has added the “look inside” feature to the paperback version of Breathing Room so that you can now preview content like the table of contents, sample chapters, and more.

If you’ve been considering pre-ordering but wanted to know more about what was behind that pretty cover before you did, you can now cruise through selected pages and get a taste of the material.

Breathing Room is scheduled to release at the end of September/beginning of October. I’m so excited to get to share a little sneak peek with you!

Click here to go to Breathing Room on Amazon and then click “look inside” to preview.

Thank you so much for all your encouragement and support. May you find some sweet breathing room this weekend!

Love and more love,





On Sunday, I so enjoyed getting to speak at my church, Flood.


As I was preparing my talk last week, I felt some important, freeing truths sink deeper into my center, and I thought I’d share them with you here.

I spoke from John 15, the passage where Jesus says he is the true vine, we are the branches, and his father is the gardener. We are to remain in him, abide in him, make our home in him (The Message) because apart from him we can do nothing.

I looked up the etymology of the word “abide” and was so interested to read that the literal translation is “onward wait.” We abide in Christ by waiting with expectation, believing he will move and work but not taking that movement and work into our own hands. Very hard to do, right? To live expectantly still.

I don’t know about you but that’s not always my immediate posture. To sit and breathe and believe . . . and resist the urge to spring into action and control and fix everything.

Christ calls himself the “true” vine, which made me think of all the false vines we try to hook into for our sense of worth, significance, and life. Our work, our kids, our marriage, our homes, other people’s opinions of us . . . these will never be true vines. They will never offer enough to sustain us. We know this, and we forget this.

One of the ways we live expectantly still, abiding, remaining is to remember each and every day that our life is an offering.

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We show up with our little loaves and our little fish, our meager offering, and we hand it over to God. We are not in charge of feeding the crowds. He is.

When we believe it’s all up to us, we are not hooked into the true vine. We are hooked into the false notion that our worth is contingent on our production.

When I get caught up in how I’m doing, how I’m performing, how I’m being received, what I’m producing, I get nuts. Because there’s never enough. I can never do enough, say enough, be enough, produce enough to fill that void.

Instead, I’m asking God for the grace to simply see my work, my parenting, my day as an offering. I show up with my best. I receive his love and acceptance. And I let go . . .

I let go of what I think I want so that he can give me what I truly desire.


the pretty plates

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I once heard Rob Bell say that on Friday mornings he serves his kids their breakfast on the family’s nicest china. His thought was: Don’t wait for a holiday to break out your best. Don’t hesitate to make life special, through small moments that make a difference. Don’t forget that you’re somebody who deserves a little fancy now and then.

We don’t have to spend our days always bowing down to what’s practical.

I’ve been working hard this week. As a reward and as a way to honor my efforts, I’ve been eating my snacks off of my grandmother’s barely-blush Depression glass. And I feel like a queen.

Don’t wait for a holiday to make life special. Don’t wait for your birthday to do something kind and honoring for yourself. And don’t wait around for someone else to take care of you. You can take care of you in these small, deliberate ways.

Being good companions to ourselves doesn’t have to mean extreme overtures and giant gestures. Sometimes it’s just about pulling out the pretty plates.

Happy Friday!

All my love,




Expansion and Reduction

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I hope your 4th of July was delicious in every way. We had our dear friends Eric and Kara and two of their girls in town for the weekend and a houseful of adults and kids on the 4th. Steve grilled carne asada and pollo asado and everyone brought a special something from their own kitchen to share. Audi’s white sauce had to be the hit of the party as we were all licking our plates by the end of the evening.

At one point in the afternoon, all the dads were in the pool with the kids—raucous and wild—while all the moms drank Nor Cal margaritas and huddled together to catch up. And then at another point in the afternoon all the dads were circled up under the big market umbrella, some reclining on lounge chairs, one rocking his baby girl in his arms, while the moms were all in the hot tub passing around the toddlers while we talked and laughed. And then, after everyone was thoroughly waterlogged, s’mores on the back patio around the fire pit.

We covered every inch of our house and our yard. I looked up at some point in the evening, and kids were perched on the boulders outside our kitchen windows talking and laughing and helping the little ones scramble up. Like kid-reptiles all over the rocks, sunning and scurrying.

I don’t have a single picture of the day to show you, which is evidence that I either had no idea where my phone was for most of the day or that I didn’t care.

For the last year and half, since returning from Bahrain, Steve and I have been in a season of recovery. In some ways, we still are, but in other ways, I can feel our capacity returning. We needed a season of reduction, where we turned inward and we rested and healed and took intentional care of ourselves. A season of slow and simple.

And on the 4th, I felt this deep satisfaction from opening wide the doors of our house and welcoming in a troupe of friends and their darlings. I actually felt moved and teary as I stood back and surveyed the whole scene.

It feels good to turn in and to insulate and to take care of ourselves and those we dearly love. It feels good to give ourselves the permission of time. And it also feels good to discover our capacity is returning, very slowly, for a bit more. Nothing crazy. We’re not going to become party central anytime soon. But it feels good to experiment with a bit of expansion when it’s time.

It feels good to open the doors. So good.


summer books

Hey friends,

Sending you some summer book love in case you need ideas or inspiration. Here’s what I’ve just finished or am currently reading. Let me know what book has your attention these days!

Non Fiction/Memoir

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

Emily is a new friend and fellow Revell author and this is her latest piece of gold. If you are passionate about finding and releasing your soulwork into this world, I so highly recommend this book. It will inspire you! Here’s Emily’s bottom line: You were made to create. You were made to share that creation. (Amen.)

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Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

I’ve only just started this one, and it’s all that I’d hope it would be. One of my all time favorite authors, Barbara Brown Taylor is full of brilliance as she unpacks how the “darkness” in our lives might be less of a liability than we think. What if the darkness offered us gift we could never receive in the light? This is a challenging premise. Can’t wait to read more. And, you will die over the metallic stock they used for the dust jacket. Painfully gorgeous.

Mom and Me and Mom by Maya Angelou

Do yourself a favor and read something by Angelou this summer. You really do owe it to yourself. Think of it as a way to commemorate her voice, if nothing else. This was her last published memoir before her recent passing, and I loved it. I wrote a longer review when I first read this book, so you can read more about my thoughts on the book here, but pick up something by Angelou and let it speak to you.


The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith (The Nester)

You will love “The Nester’s” mantra: It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. The size, photography, and layout of this book make it one you will want for yourself and as a gift for a special someone. The Nesting Place is about creating a space that’s “loved-on and lived-in.” She has a million good ideas in this book including a refreshing perspective on how to dwell well.

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A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

Set in New York, this novel weaves together the story of a nurse on Ellis island in 1911 with the story of a survivor of September 11, 2011. You will love the history, the poignant parallels between the two protagonists, and the twists and turns that keep you leaning in all the way to the end. Susan Meissner is a friend and a beautiful storyteller!

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

This book was candy to me. A family travels to Mallorca, Spain, for a vacation together with friends. Even as they’re escaping their lives and circumstances back home, they each bring something unresolved with them to Mallorca. What happens when everyone is shoved together in the vacation villa for 14 days? Disclaimer: there is definitely language and sexuality explicit material in this book.

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (child’s adaptation based on original) illustrated by Tudor Humphries 

I wanted to introduce my five year olds to the story of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I knew they weren’t nearly ready to bite off the novel in its entirety. I searched Amazon for a book that told the story accurately and introduced the characters and basic plotline. This book is beautiful and already well loved in our household. Disclaimer: Aslan still dies in this version; however, the scene is not overly graphic or prolonged. If your child is sensitive to death themes, definitely read before sharing the book with him or her.


A Few More Favorites from the Archives . . .


Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Lit by Mary Karr

Still by Lauren Winner

All is Grace by Brennan Manning

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

Classic Lit

The Awakening by Kate Chopin


Celebrations by Maya Angelou