Poo Piles and Other Fears

James is ready. He’s been ready. I, on the other hand, am so not ready. Potty training has been on our parenting radar for months now, but we keep putting it off for various reasons, some more legitimate than others.

For awhile, I thought my reluctance stemmed from the hassle of it all. The mess. The time. The energy. In reality, I don’t really mind the idea of him running around nudie for large portions of the day – that’s not much less clothing than he prefers to be in these days anyways. I don’t mind adding to his sugar intake for every successful toilet venture. I don’t even mind being sequestered in my kitchen for days on end.

The real reason I don’t want to potty train my two-year-old came to me while I was elbow deep in dish water. I am scared that I will fail.  What if I try to potty train James and, after a week, I’m left with a house full of poo piles and a kid who’s still in diapers?  So, I have yet to try.


Pushing suds around plates and silverware, I began thinking of all the things I don’t do because I’m afraid I’ll fail. I don’t attempt new hobbies, like dancing, because I might not be good at it (or I might not be good at first or I might look like a goof trying). I don’t pursue new friendships because I might not be someone they like. I don’t always write because I might have completely lost my ability to string words together.

As a fairly self-aware perfectionist, none of this is mind-blowing news. It may take a while for me to recognize fear as the source of my reluctance, but it’s not a surprise when I finally make the connection.

What I hadn’t processed previous to that evening, standing in front of my sink with my white rubber gloves on, was how fear of failure effects my faith. Contrary to what my subconscious tells me, my relationship with God does not come out unscathed by such a prevailing pattern in my life.

Sometimes I don’t pray because I’m afraid nothing will happen. Sometimes I don’t say anything because I’m afraid I won’t have the right words. Sometimes I don’t help because I’m afraid it won’t make a difference.

Examined out of the context of my fear, those statements show a selfish, skewed view of my Heavenly Father that I’m rather embarrassed to admit. I’m thankful that His grace covers my failings. I may still end up with poo piles, but God’s love is greater, stronger than my fears.

It’s complicated…

It' complicated

Four years and 2,700 miles separate the top two photos and the bottom two photos. The top photos (I just realized Tim is wearing the same shirt – ha!) were taken while Tim and I were dating – one at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA and the other in Yosemite. The bottom two photos were taken this Winter after we moved to Pennsylvania.

This little collage holds an ocean of emotions in its four boxes. There’s joy, gratitude, anticipation and love mixed with exhaustion, anxiety and fear. Sometimes I have a hard time looking back at photos from when Tim and I were dating. Not because they bring back bad memories; quite the contrary. I look at that carefree couple and envy their stage of life.

Their weight of responsibility was lighter. Less of life’s worries filled their minds. (And, because I’m particularly missing California right now, they had the beach at their fingertips.)

But that couple was just two pieces of rope inching closer and closer together. Their connection was just beginning. With every bill they paid together, with every move they made, with every tough decision, and who gets the car today discussion, those two ropes made a knot. Knot upon knot have made those two people closer, albeit more complicated, couple.

Every little thing that makes this stage of life complicated makes our relationship stronger, deeper. I’m over on Kindred Grace sharing about the power of complicated…

Since I didn’t date much before I met my husband (and by much, I mean barely at all), that particular season in our relationship has always been a favorite. Dating was fun. The thrill of getting to know someone can be intoxicating.

I’m not a naturally talkative person, but I loved staying up late discussing our families, our college experiences, and our faith. I also loved the doing of dating. We had season passes to Disneyland, so if we weren’t exploring our favorite beaches, roaming Barnes & Noble, or eating frozen yogurt, we were making memories at the Happiest Place on Earth. It was a fun and easy time, punctuated by increasing depth of attachment and possibility.

Continue reading The Power of Complicated

My 2015 Manifesto

My 2015 Manifesto

The tree came down yesterday. James’ new toys are now corralled in baskets. What meager Christmas decor I put up is put away. I’m not too sad to have our home return to normal.

There’s a calm that comes from an expanse of carpet unfettered by pine needles and stuffed things. I tend to view New Years day as a time for my head and heart to be like my carpet – a wide open space, uncluttered and freshly vacuumed. I like the blank slate, the new beginning. But, fell behind this year.

The tasks lingering from our move and two weeks of holiday festivities hasn’t left me much mental energy or time to process, plan, and set goals for the new year, a task I eagerly await like it’s the first day of school. Thoughts, ideas, and dreams have gotten lost in the vestiges of Christmas and laundry piles. I could sense the panic rising as each day took me farther away from the new year and I hadn’t made one list, not one plan.

I felt out of breath when the race had just begun. Not the way I wanted to start my year.

In the midst of feeling burdened by my late start to making resolutions, I realized the source of my panic might not be the late start at all. Maybe it was the way my goals always became expectations and those expectations were always so high I could never meet them let alone fulfill them perfectly. Instead of remembering a year of progress, I remember the failure.

With this in mind, I have made 2015 the year of guidelines not goals. My 2015 Manifesto, as I’ve dubbed it, majors on grace not performance.


For example: Despite the fact that my circumstances were wildly different last year than 2013, I felt a twinge of disappointment and irritation that the number of books I read decreased. This year, instead of having a goal of reading a certain number of books, my guideline is to read more than I watch TV.  I won’t feel guilty for an evening watching Frasier, and I will make headway on my ever growing to-read list.

Many aspects of my 2015 Manifesto function in that same way – gently guiding me to make wiser choices in the areas of my life I want to see grow this year. The Manifesto as been in effect one day and I’m already feeling lighter.

My 2015 Manifesto

  • I will give grace to myself and others and judge/compare less.
  • I will get outside everyday, even if it’s just a walk to the mailbox.
  • I will read more and watch less.
  • I will be present in real life more than I am present online.
  • I will rise early.
  • I will be generous with the resources God has given me.
  • I will fear God more and fear man less.
  • I will wear clothes that flatter my body, not my ideal body.
  • I will focus on the good, more than the struggles, in each stage of James’ development.
  • I will abandon things that don’t work, without guilt.
  • I will leave time for creative pursuits.
  • I will eat real food more and processed food less.
  • I will use our home to build community.
  • I will pursue physical health, not a number.
  • I will follow Christ.

Happy New Year, friends!

Embracing Goodbye

Our recent life change occasioned an above average amount of goodbyes last month. I’ve never been one to relish partings (who does, really?), and these farewells were no different.

We said goodbye to a church body who had provided a livelihood and supported our ministry. We said goodbye to students who had become a very special part of our lives. We said goodbye to a small group of friends who acted as family in the absence of our own, who hosted baby showers, shared yard equipment, served and prayed with us.

Our transition had been in the works since September, but the finality of our move wasn’t real until we started saying those goodbyes. Despite looking forward to a new season in life and ministry, there was a bittersweet edge to each hug and handshake. Each explanation of our move held hope for the future and a bit of dismay at what, and who, would be left behind.

Embracing GoodbyeI wasn’t sure how to navigate the sadness and excitement without feeling disingenuous to one or the other. I’m ashamed to admit I snuck away from a couple of gatherings early to avoid the sadness of a last goodbye. When a goodbye was unavoidable, I assured myself right along with others that this wasn’t farewell forever. And though the likelihood of us visiting Coeur d’Alene again is high, the vague promise of seeing people again felt weak.

When faced with long-term goodbyes, it seemed easier on my heart to say, “see you soon.” I could avoid the well-spring of emotion attached to parting with certain people by assuring myself that this wasn’t going to be the last time I saw them. But, saying “see you soon,” left so much unsaid.

I didn’t tell some people just how much their generosity and service meant to our family. I didn’t tell some people how much our coffee dates brightened up my days. I didn’t tell some people how much I admired their intentionality and thoughtfulness. I didn’t tell some some people how much I appreciated their consistent prayers. Because I said “see you soon,” instead.

Embracing goodbye acknowledges that there are seasons in life. Some of the sweetest relationships I’ve had have only lasted a short while and I’ve struggled against that fact. People and places will come and go and our inability to accept their transience diminishes the lasting influence a seasonal circumstance or relationship can have.

Embracing goodbye helps acknowledge the impact people have made on your life; each goodbye a little pile of stones to remember what God did through that relationship. I have many little piles of stones from our time in Coeur d’Alene and I thank God for what He accomplished through each person those stones represent. I only wish I had embraced goodbye more wholeheartedly in person.

The next chapter, continued…


It’s fitting that I’m writing this sitting on the very same couch where I hit publish on my very first blog post, two years and three months ago.

I was processing the next chapter in my life in that blog post, on that couch. Tim and I were newly married, a few hours off from driving away from my hometown, jobs we enjoyed, and people we loved. That three-day drive took us from Southern California to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

During the last two years, we rented our first place together, Tim started his first full-time ministry job, we bought our first house, and had our first child. And, this couch moved with my parents from California to New York, where they, now, all permanently reside.

I’m sitting on that couch once again, processing the next chapter in my life. Our possessions are on a van somewhere, headed East, and we are spending time with my family in NY before moving into our new place in… Pennsylvania!

The last month’s activities (like selling a car, selling a house, saying goodbye, and packing with a mobile baby) haven’t left much room for processing, but any spare contemplative moments have been dedicated to gratitude. I replay the ways God has so obviously gone before us in this relocation and I am just thankful.

If I can borrow my own thoughts about the next chapter in our lives from that very first post:

God has proven a trustworthy author thus far, so, in faith, the pages continue to turn.  A new chapter for Team Gardner begins in December!