The Hustle is Real. And Self-Imposed. Partially.

As a mother of four kids, there is a phrase that I hear regularly: “I don’t know how you do it!” I hear it all over the place, from the grocery store to the office to the school pick-up line to the airport.

I hear it from friends, co-workers, and strangers. From those who have fewer children than I do, they usually follow that up with “I mean it’s hard enough with my [one or two], I cannot imagine how you do it with four kids!”

My response to this varies by the day. Some days, I feel like I’m nailing this working-mom-of-four thing. My house is clean and tidy, I’m staying on top of my work, and everyone is still alive and well-fed.

Other days, not so much.

It’s hard to be pulled in so many directions—to have so many competing voices, so many lovely people wanting my attention, ears, and time. Not to mention managing a household this size…Do you know how much food, time, and energy a family of six requires? Do you know how much laundry, clutter, and dirty dishes are generated by six people? It’s a lot.

And while my family is great, everyone has a different threshold for dealing with all the things. Some aren’t bothered by the clutter or mess. Some don’t notice that laundry needs to be done until they’re out of socks. Some wouldn’t mind if the dishes went undone, or floors and bathrooms stayed dirty.

I’m sure I have the lowest threshold in terms of how much clutter and uncleanness I’m willing to live with, and the most stamina for working until it’s all clean and tidy again. But as you might imagine, that combination is a recipe for overwork and overwhelm. Because then I take on more and more (telling myself if I don’t do it, it won’t get done) and start singing my martyr song. Cue the resentment.


I’ve known for a long time that I have super high expectations and hold myself to standards that might be less than realistic. But that’s just how I’m wired, I told myself. When work is piling up, deadlines are looming, and the floors are dirty–I just dig in and work harder and faster and longer until it’s all done.

Some people practice “letting go” but that’s never been my style. I’ve never been interested in easing up on my expectations to relieve some pressure because I like having a clean and tidy house, I like completing work projects on time, I like cooking dinner, I like doing the laundry. Even if I feel like I’m losing my mind sometimes to get it all done…

Yes it’s stressful to get there but the end justifies the means, right?


Maybe not.

Recently a friend encouraged me to reflect on how I’m treating myself by having to have it all together all the time. He raised the question of how kind I’m being to myself. The real work, he said, will be to explore why I need to hit the mark so consistently. Is it out of a desire to be seen a certain way?


Too close. Too…possible.

I don’t want to believe it’s true.

And yet.

Is it possible that I’m not doing all the things for the right reasons? Is it possible that I take on too much because it makes me feel important or valuable or worthy?

Sigh. Inner work. Not as easy as housework 😉

Next time you see me or another friend who *you think* has it all together, ask them how they’re doing. Don’t let them get away with a quick, easy answer. Mention that it looks like they’ve got a lot on their plate, and ask how they’re really doing.

And if there’s an opening, maybe mention something you value about them that has nothing to do with what they produce, do, or accomplish. If they’re an overworked overachiever, it might just be the most helpful thing you can say to gently help them get their heart re-centered.

The hustle is real for many of us. But maybe it doesn’t have to be.

One Day They’ll Leave. And Have Sex

Last spring (when my oldest was in fifth grade) I learned that there is a pre-sixth grade vaccination schedule, and I thought—my kid is not going to be be happy about this. That concern was immediately replaced by another when I learned that among these vaccinations is the one for HPV.

Jaw. Drop.

Blink, blink.

“HPV, as in human papilloma virus?” I asked my friend.

Yep, age 11 is when they recommend it.

But,…but…HPV is an STD, right?


But these are CHILDREN we’re talking about!

A quick google told me the CDC recommends it at this age so they’re protected well before they become sexually active.

Breathing: you may return to normal. Sort of.

Around the same time, this video made its way around social media exploring how sex education works in the Netherlands. There, kids are educated about sex, sexuality, bodies, and relationships beginning as early as four years old and continuing throughout their schooling.

They take a proactive approach, using kids’ own curiosity about their bodies to teach them how they work. They also encourage them to explore their values related to their own sexuality, and give them tools to speak up for themselves against peer pressure.

Just. Brilliant.

We started talking about sex with our oldest when she was 5 and super curious. She was… less than thrilled with our super candid, anatomically-correct responses. It was awkward for everyone, not gonna lie. But I’m glad we were open with her.

I am LIGHTYEARS away from being ready to think about any of my kids being sexually active.

While curiosity about bodies and sexuality and relationships is natural, experimentation is a choice. It’s just one among many options, actually.

In retrospect, I can see that it’s an option I chose for at least two reasons: affection and taboo. I didn’t grow up in an affectionate family, but I longed to give and receive physical affection. My friends and I would hold hands, link arms, and hug a dozen times a day, like many kids our age—totally normal and non-sexual.

The hush-hush, fast-forward-through-that-part-of-the-movie, taboo-nature of sex in my home culture sent my curiosity soaring. Once hormones figured more prominently, my need for physical affection joined forces with my curiosity around sexuality in risky ways. And the purity culture in which I was raised brought shame to the party, ushering in years of believing I was damaged goods.

Obviously, I don’t want this for my kids and I don’t think you do either. We want them to feel and believe and know their infinite worth. We want them to make choices that align with their values and who they were created to be.

I want my young kids to have all the physical affection they need from their family, so whatever they receive from friends or significant others is extra—not something they seek out to fill a void.

I want them to know there’s nothing they can do to make us or their creator ever stop loving them, or ever love them any less. Ever. The time we have with them as they’re growing up and making choices that affect who they’ll eventually become—it’s so short, relatively speaking. And it only takes a few moments to tell and show them how loved and valuable they are. As we do that day in and day out, we help to instill in them an ever-stronger sense of our love and their value—equipping them to make choices that align with who they are.

Because one day, they’re going to leave. Your kids and mine. They’ll go off to college, a shared apartment, a gap year backpacking in distant countries—whatever it is, one day they’re going to leave. We can’t afford to stay silent about their value and gamble on them figuring it out some other way. We can’t afford to withhold affection or kind words. We have to tell them and show them.

TODAY. And every day.

How do you talk with your kids about this? Leave a comment and share the wisdom and encouragement!

Gonna Party Like It’s 2019

About that second domain name that I mentioned…

I love writing about faith and theology and church. And there are still a few books in me. But there are other things I’m passionate about as well.

Until recently, I was convinced that I needed to “stay in my field” – the one in which I spent seven years of graduate education and formation, and 11+ years of work.

But something shifted as I worked in local government.

I lived into the truth that ministry and missional engagement are more about who you are and how you choose to live in the world and less about where your paycheck comes from.

I gave myself permission to *not* stay in ministry proper if I couldn’t find the right fit. Sifting through hundreds of job postings over more than a year, I considered all manner of career trajectories and industries.

And I gave myself permission to dream about what it might look like to pursue some of my other interests in a career-y sort of way. Permission to *create* a career I want to pursue, and a life I love.

Ideas that have been simmering for months and years came together in a moment of clarity on New Year’s Eve as I was reflecting on the past year, reading, and dreaming about the kind of life I want to live in 2019.

So here’s the new project: I’m launching a new brand focusing on different aspects of growth, such as personal development, organization/decluttering, cooking/eating, fitness, family/parenting, creativity/recreation, and simplicity.

I’m grateful for meaningful work, deeply formational education, and challenges to learn and grow from. I believe I’ve contributed well in my career, but I’ve also spent enough time playing small and letting fear lead. I’ve been ignoring my gut and suggestions from those closest to me for too long.

2019 is the year I dare greatly, brave the wilderness, and do it scared (yes, I’ve been devouring loads of books and podcasts).

2019 is the year I step out in faith to pursue dreams that feel equally exhilarating and terrifying.

2019 is the year, because life is short. 2019 is a big year for me because–confession time–in August I’ll turn the big 4-0. My reframe: I’ll be fit, fierce, fabulous, and forty! And I hear that when you’re forty you stop caring so much what other people think. So I’m leaning into that starting now.

Let’s make 2019 our best year ever! Who’s with me?!

Say Something

You may be close to giving up on me, so I’m saying something.

I took a break from blogging. For two reasons.

First, my already-full life became overstuffed and I had to let something go. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I’ve missed it, too.

And second, as Dave so poignantly said the other night, this is “the season of Jen’s discontent.” It makes its first appearances in late October and hangs around through April/May. It’s the Portland Winter.

True, it’s not technically the winter season, but in the Pacific Northwest we experience seasons a bit differently. On our shortest day this year, “sunrise” was at 7:47 and “sunset” was at 4:29. And I use quotes here because many days you don’t actually see the sun, it just gradually gets less dark. And then more dark.

I knew that the “winter blues” was a thing. And it’s not exactly that I didn’t believe it was real, but I just didn’t worry about it until I made it through my first winter (and spring) and finally arrived at a different place emotionally when the temps were up and the sun was out more consistently and for longer hours. And I realized just how much I’m affected by the weather and sunshine.

But wait, there’s more. Each fall since we’ve lived here, I start daydreaming about moving. Somewhere warmer, dryer, brighter. At first, I also wanted to be near family. It was hard spending holidays and birthdays and normal days thousands of miles away.

And it grew.

While I LOVE the summers here (cool mornings and evenings, warm-but-not-too-hot days, tons of sunshine, and just gorgeous views), the wanting-to-move stays pretty constant throughout the year. I think the difference is I get really sad about it during the winter. And the desire turns to escapism.

Lately though, the pervasive desire has been to live near family. Mine and Dave’s. Spending this past thanksgiving in a big beach house with my parents, siblings, and their families was a dream come true. It was hard to even sleep; I just wanted to be with everyone all the time. I miss my family so much.

Oddly enough, the weather isn’t bothering me much this season. We’ve had a somewhat mild winter and I’ve been diligent about taking my vitamin D. But more than that, Beaverton really feels like home. We have awesome friends-like-family who live a few doors down, and the strength of our social connections is carrying us.

The Portland Metro is a great fit for us in terms of ethos, culture, values, and general vibe. We fit here. We like it here. We don’t really want to leave this place.

But there’s a deep yearning in me. It’s not a desire to leave. I don’t want to escape the winter or weather or lack of sun. I mean, it would be nice, but that’s not my desire. I just want to be near family. I want to have coffee with my mom, do yoga with my sister, take walks with my dad, play games with my brothers, and watch all the cousins get into mischief of one kind or another.

And I want to do these things on the regular. Not every few years.

I might be deceiving myself (I’ve been know to do that). But I really believe this is different than my previous longings. It feels more pure, more healthy, more true to who I am and what’s most important to me.

When I was a kid, we moved around. Not as much as some, but every five years or so. We never lived closer than a 9-hour drive from cousins and grandparents. We drove back often in those early years, and less often as we moved farther away. I’ve always had a relationship with grandparents and most aunts and uncles, but cousins feel farther away.

Ever since we started having children, one of the things I wanted for them was close proximity to and relationship with their extended family. It’s a lot to ask when the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins now live in: Asheville, NC; Austin, TX; Beaverton, OR; Boston, MA; and Orlando, FL.

We are just so. far. apart.

All of this has been weighing on me lately and kept me in a funk. But I’m shifting gears. I did a thing last night just before the clock struck twelve. I bought a second domain name and started “dreamlining” (brainstorming and sketching out plans for something I’ve been dreaming about).

More to come on that soon, as well as goals for 2019. I’m super pumped about what’s on the horizon – stay tuned for more awesome. And thanks for sharing the journey. Here’s to our best year yet!