Speaking my mind had never been a problem for me growing up, my Italian temper provided ample opportunities for me to go around putting people in their place. I was known for being outspoken, loud, opinionated and often times….mean. It was a part of my identity and something I didn’t even realize could be changed. I assumed I was providing the people in my life a service by keeping them aware of their faults in ways I thought were clever and quick, but I realize now- they were nothing more than below the belt jabs. I had created a language of my own which I was very fluent in.

 

The language of judging, shaming, belittling and being condescending toward others who I felt weren’t keeping me comfortable enough with their life choices and actions.

 

As I drifted into my thirties I began to notice something had shifted in the way I would communicate. Maybe it was because I was a mother of two now and my world had shifted from my own self serving space to one of awareness about my environment.

 

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Maybe it was because I had two human beings under my care now who were watching my every move and I wanted to showcase the very best of my heart to them. Maybe I wanted to take part in creating a more loving world for them.

Maybe it was because I wanted people to be nice to them.

Maybe it was because I wanted people to be compassionate toward them.

Maybe it was because I wanted people to be forgiving toward them.

Maybe it was because I wanted them to feel they were worthy in the world.

Maybe I wanted them to know that they mattered

And then I realized, it wasn’t just my children I wanted to have experience all that love and kindness from others.

 

It was me too.

 

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I didn’t realize that this native tongue I’d spoken in all my life, this language of spite, jealousy, critique, harsh hatred and poison masked in humor was the language of my inner self. It was how I spoke to myself on a daily basis. For as long as I could remember, my inner dialogue was one of complete disgust. I was never skinny enough. I was never fast enough. I was never smart enough. I was never creative enough. I did everything wrong. I was lazy. I was boring. I was plain and ordinary and nothing special.

 

This is how I spoke to myself, and this is what spilled over into my communication with others.

 

I depended on Jon to love me enough to keep me in a space of worthiness. I quickly realized that even my husband couldn’t fill the hole in my heart. Pieces and glimpses of myself through his eyes would be like tossing handfuls of pebbles into the Grand Canyon. It was impossible to fill the hole of self doubt.

 

So I tried to have my children fill the hole. And their love was like bringing a dump truck to the Grand Canyon and dumping a load of bricks into the huge rocky abyss. Their love had a little more depth and weight to it, but it still didn’t fill the hole.

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So my quest began to discover what would fill this hole? What would be the “thing” that would finally lift this darkness of doubt from my soul and help guide me toward a more compassionate self and in turn, more compassionate world?

 

The work wasn’t easy. Change never is. But I slowly started to discover that if I wanted a world of kindness around myself and my family- it had to begin within.

I had to love myself before I could learn to love others.

And that seems like a huge leap when you are so far from the perfection you desperately seek.

“I’ll love myself when I lose 30 lbs.”

“I’ll love myself when I keep the house clean for 2 weeks straight.”

“I’ll love myself when I make a home cooked meal at least 4 times a week.”

“I’ll love myself when I make more money following my creative dream.”

“I’ll love myself when that client books me.”

“I’ll love myself when I’m a better mom.”

“I’ll love myself when I feel like everyone around me is happy with me.”

 

You see how endless this is? How impossible this is? How backwards this is? The key for me was realizing that NOTHING good could manifest in my life until I believed I was worthy of receiving it. Let that sink in. God was not able to let the goodness glide into my life and into my heart until I believed I was in a place of allowing it. I was blocking myself from my potential while I waited to be perfect.

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So as one who’s never been kind to herself, I started with being kind to others. I started by accepting the fact that the words which left my mouth mattered. And I could use those words to either uplift others, OR to tear them to shreds. This was the first step toward freedom. I made an effort everyday to be kind, and as I learned this new language for the people around me, I felt that love returned to me from those I loved and even strangers.

 

You need to learn to say the things you might feel uncomfortable saying. The nice things. The small things you feel may not even matter to that person- they need to be said. Because if you are feeling the instinct to say them, that means they need to hear them. I believe that is how God speaks to us here on earth. Through our words.

 

Tell her she looks pretty.

Tell him he did a good job on the laundry.

Smile at the woman handing your receipt and Target and compliment her.

Tell your waitress you like her hair.

Anything good that comes up: Say it.

Say it before your ego blocks it and you try to remain safe in your “cool coat” of armor.

I know it feels weird at first, it feels silly, but I promise you, it will get easier and easier the more you do it.

 

One example I have is a story about how a total stranger used her words to fill my heart in a time when I wanted to die.

At a doctor’s appointment my husband and I were struggling because we thought I had lost our baby due to a miscarriage. Just the week before we were in this very same room and had seen the heartbeat of our 10 week old baby with the photo to prove it. Now the ultra sound screen was nothing but empty & black fuzz.
We had lost our baby.
I was numb, horrified and so full of anguish. I wanted to run screaming from that doctors office so fast but I was asked to stop at the receptionist desk and make a follow up appointment. A woman I’d never met before was sitting at the computer and she barely looked up at me. She looked at my records and asked me very mechanically, “And when is your baby due again?”
My heart sank.
I remember my knees started to shake.
With a quivering voice I barely whispered “I lost my baby.” To say those words out loud almost killed me. I’d never felt like more of a failure in my life, the shame was tremendous and my heart felt like it was covered in soaked sand.
I remember she finally looked up at me, she wrote down my follow up appointment on one of those reminder sticky notes they give you, and she said “I’m coming around to give this to you in person.”
She was a tiny woman, probably 60 years old. She came out from behind the desk and she hugged me right in front of the whole waiting room. I’ll never forget the way she placed one hand around my back and the other was on the back of my head. I began to sob on this strangers shoulder like I’d never sobbed before. I completely lost it. In front of the people in the waiting room this woman hugged me so hard and as I heaved on her neck, she cradled my head, almost rocked me back and forth as we were standing and she kept whispering, “it’s not your fault sweetie. you did nothing wrong. you will have a baby. please forgive yourself”
How this woman knew to say such specific things my soul needed to hear is why I absolutely believe in God and the power of words. Every comforting sentiment she whispered to me was exactly what my Spirit longed to absorb. The energy of her words struck right into the marrow of my sorrow and she was an angel to me in that moment. I wept and clung to this complete stranger as though I had known her my whole life. I now believe our souls/spirits were connecting in that moment. I’ll never forget her and the offering she gave me through her unconditional love during my heart ache.
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And she was right. Just 6 months later we were blessed to become pregnant with Little Ava who is the spunkiest sweetie we’ve ever met!
She changed my life and made me realize the GIFT we have with our words. And I moved on from that experience knowing that I would never abuse that gift again if I could help it.
Dr. Maya Angelou said, “I do not trust someone who says I LOVE YOU and does not love themselves.”
I believe this as well. And I’ve learned that words carry energy. And energy is real. Science tells us that. Words of compassion and love are packed with energy that can raise someones face out of the murky mess they are laying in and blast their spirits with grace.  Words of hatred and evil can rip a heart into pieces and sink someone lower into a cavern of hate.
Your words matter. Pay attention to how you speak to others. My guess is that is how you speak to yourself. Listen to your inner dialog during long quiet car rides. See how you speak to that person who’s quietly resting inside you. Are you kind? Are you judgmental? Are you critical? Or are you gracious and forgiving. This is what I did. This is the journey I’m still on.
Light
I am still on this voyage of self love, I’ve finally realized what is going to fill that endlessly deep, eternally vast Grand Canyon of self hatred I was in. It’s the only thing that could overflow the emptiness.
Light.
And what is love?
Light.
And what is God?
Light.
And what is my soul?
Light.
And what is my goal?
To shine.

Cumberland

 

Today began just like any other day. The hustle and heavy stuff of the day was weighing on my mind. I ran into the bedroom in a frantic fury looking for the ear buds to my iPhone so I could hear my voicemail’s clearly without the screaming of the diva’s in the background. I happened to shuffle an old pile of magazines on my nightstand to the left and that’s when I saw a bright purple blast of color peeking out from beneath the clutter. I grabbed it quickly, ready to toss it out as I assumed it would be a leftover list from some past grocery run or something.

I decided to read it first.

And I had to sit down.

I looked at it over and over remembering the day I handed this piece of paper to Allen and wrote down the information. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten this moment in my life.

And then it hit me. I grabbed my phone to check the date.

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Today is August 5th.

Exactly two years ago today I spoke at an event in town that changed the course of my life forever.

Let me rewind…….

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When we moved back to Wisconsin we rented a beautiful home in a small town called McKinley. We came to this place having absolutely no plans of how our future would unfold. We showed up willing for the first time in our lives to let God finally show us what it is we could accomplish if we made the choice to place unending faith in his divine guidance.

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This place was peace personified.

The quiet crisp nights were filled with a gentle spirit like we’d never known. We would sit outside and watch the stars begin to twinkle as we’d sit by the fire wondering who on earth we were supposed to be now. We’d never felt so lost and so found at the same time. It’s a feeling I still have trouble describing. It felt like we were returning to ourselves. Our true selves which we’d been muffling for so many years. We had nothing but blank space before us and we took every advantage of really allowing that blank space to whisper to us. Steph-Farmparty-school 326

Jon began to explore his soul. This “business man” who was used to wearing a suit to work every day and working in an office behind a computer was now discovering talents about himself he never thought possible. One day our neighbor asked him if he’d help him cut and rake the hay for his cattle. If you would have told us a year before that Jon was going to be riding in a tractor cutting hay we would have spit our Starbucks in your face and laughed! Now we found ourselves riding the wave of the unknown and coasting into new experiences which broke us free from our comfort zones.

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Which leads me to a fateful day I decided to bring the girls to the small beach at Grenquist Lake. I remember I almost didn’t go. My anxiety was so high it was all that I could do to keep from crawling out of my skin. I was in the descent stage after our move. The adrenaline of the move was over, we were all un packed and settled in. All the busy work was done and we’d gotten ourselves into a nice cozy stage of still.

We were in that “now what?” stage of the situation.

We were in that “oh GOD what did we do?” stage of the situation.

We were in that “I have way too much free time to think about this terrifying choice we made and now we’re here and I am afraid we aren’t going to make it and we are going to fall even harder” stage of the situation.

And the last thing I wanted to do was go to the beach. I remember Jon told me, “You should go! Just sit and relax by the water. There’s nothing we can do right now anyway- you need to stop worrying and find something to be happy about right now.”

I decided to go to the beach.

I listened to that inner nudge that told me Jon was right and I packed the girls up in the wagon and we rolled down the gravel driveway to the lake right across the street from our house.

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As we pulled ourselves up to the beach I noticed a young woman, her mother and three children playing in the lake. The grandma and mom were on the dock while the kids jumped and played in the water. Immediately my girls began to play with the kids which left the “mom’s” to have time for idle chit chat. We started by introducing ourselves and I just happened to spill our story. Up until that point, we’d been pretty much hiding out in our country house only visiting with family and friends. I hadn’t met anyone outside of our circle yet. I remember I just began to pour my heart out to these sweet ladies. I told them everything. I’m sure it was the trauma and shock still lingering in my veins causing me to unleash it all.  But there was also something else. Something I’d never felt before.

It felt like I was supposed to tell them.

It felt like God was guiding me to tell them.

In the past, when I would talk about our challenges in life with people I often felt like I was burdening that person with my negative “drama’ and I would stop myself.

This felt different.

This felt like I was almost pushed into telling them because something bigger and beyond my own knowledge was at play here. So I did. They heard it all. Every bit of Jon getting fired and my Sugar Wood business and how I love to bake and photograph. I told them how we were starting over and taking a huge risk and depending on God to guide us.

I told them the truth with absolutely no shame about it.

And that’s when the mom around my age mentioned that her father Allen was the president of the Kiwanis Club in Cumberland and he might be interested in meeting me and letting me talk to the club at their next meeting about Sugar Wood.

And there you have it.

The reason I felt so guided to tell them our story was so I could meet Allen. I had no idea of this thread that would link me to them. All I knew was to finally trust my gut and share my heart without shame and God would do the rest of the work. God knew this connection was there at the beach waiting for me. And God knew Allen would allow me to speak at their next meeting in front of 40 business owners in my beautiful town of Cumberland.

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Today I will stop the story here and rest in this space. The connections and people I met that Monday afternoon at the Corner Bar in town have shifted our life in unmeasurable ways. At that meeting I was placed in front of people who have become some of our best friends and we made business connections which transformed our brand. The rest of this story is for a post on another day.

Today I want to hold on to this feeling. This incredible wave our pure love I’ve felt all day since finding that bright purple note on my nightstand. I believe with all my soul I was guided this morning to see that note. I know God wanted to remind me of this day and how I stood in front of total strangers and shared our business and my story of faith with our fellow community members. It wasn’t “random” how I found my reminder note about the Kiwanis meeting today. And I don’t believe anything is. We are all divinely guided. I am hooked up to a central GPS system that is driven by God’s abundant wisdom and I will never doubt that again in my life.

Two years ago on this very day- I bared my soul to absolute strangers, and look at how far we’ve come. Our brand is now in six retail locations, we ship our product across the country and we are still going strong! We are thankful in our Lord who has a bigger dream for us planned than we can even imagine. We’re still riding this wave and turning our sails toward the wind as we trust in where he is leading us.

I’m going to soak up this glory for just a bit longer today and weep a bit while I revel in the grace that is my blessed comfort and truth.

The truth will forever be our road map home.

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Stuff

 

“We have to sell everything, we can’t take any of it with.”

His words hung in the air, swirling around my head.

“We have to sell it ALL? Everything? Even my Entertainment Center?” I remember feeling like I was going to throw up. I knew he was right. In the center of my soul I knew he was right. We had fourteen days to move out of our apartment, we had no where to live. We had no choice but to free ourselves from most of our belongings simply because we didn’t have the space to take them and we didn’t know where we were going to end up living.

With a painful pit in my stomach I started to walk around our apartment with my camera taking photographs of all our large items to sell on Craigs List. First our bedroom set, then our couch and loveseat. Next was the coffee table, side tables and console table in our living room and then my beautiful desk from our office. Sophie’s desk was second to last and then my beloved Entertainment Center. I remember my hands shaking as I typed each listing.

“FAMILY EMERGENCY SALE! MUST GO NOW!” was the title on every listing. Hot tears were pouring down my face into a puddle of self pity right onto the very desk I was about to sell for nearly nothing.

Never in my life have I felt so stripped bare of everything I identified with. My stuff was vanishing right out our front door. The very “stuff” that made our house a home. The stuff I purchased ever so delicately as I would envision our family using it for years to come.  As each person would show up to pick up a piece I felt like a clump of my heart was being torn away with cruel fingers. Helping them load our stuff into their vehicles was particularly painful. I remember thinking,” Wow this is sickening. I’m helping you load my couch into your truck because my husband was just fired and we have to move out of our home into the terrifying unknown, but YOU go ahead and enjoy the very couch I cuddled my babies on. The couch I watched late night movies with my husband on. The couch we sat and cried on when we found out Jon’s grandmother died. Here you go! Take away a slice of our life! Have a nice day!”

I would stand in our apartment complex parking lot and watch each stranger drive off with a hunk of my life. It was like a pitiful movie was rolling and I couldn’t leave the theater because I was the star. If Jon losing his job was soul crushing, then having to move out of our home in fourteen days was nearly crippling and having to sell all the stuff we identified with was like rubbing our noses in our pathetic situation. Humbling wouldn’t even begin to describe it. It felt mean. It felt cruel. It felt like a lonely ache that was so twisted and I could not see how it would ever be okay again. With each email notification I’d get asking for a pick up time, my emotions would sway between deep despair and anger. Trying to keep my cool around my children surely should get me an Oscar nomination because everything about the mother they were witnessing was not authentic. I remember telling myself, “smile, smile, smile just smile” because if I’d speak, my voice would shake as I tried to answer their innocent questions.

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“Mommy, where are we going?”

“Daddy, who just took my drawing desk? Where will I work on my art?”

“Who’s that guy who just took our tables?”

“Why are we packing so fast?”

One question after the other felt like bullets whizzing by my head. I’d reply as cheerfully as I could, but the honest truth was that I was having the same exact questions myself. And I’d repeat a similar rotation of questions to God every night.

The only answer I could muster would be one that my husband and I would try to echo during the day. “We aren’t sure where we are going girls! But it’s going to be an incredible adventure and we are going to have SO much fun!”

Fake it till you feel it was our mantra during those moments. And eventually, as the days went on, our faith-which was only a tiny flutter in our hearts, slowly grew into a fountain.

Sunset

Looking back two years ago, we felt that our entire identity was being ripped away from us.

We were actually being reborn into who we were always meant to be.

What I know now is that it wasn’t the stuff that made us a family. It wasn’t the stuff that made our house a home.

It was us.

Wood Family

I look back on it now with a slightly elevated perspective. I liken it to when a child has their favorite toy taken away from them. I know my children have had holy fits of epic proportions when they have had any of their treasured stuff taken from them. And I realize now that it is because the child identifies with the stuff. They feel that they are ONE with the stuff, therefore taking it away from them means you are taking a piece of them with you. Just as I thought I was ONE with my Entertainment Center, my child feels emotionally connected to her blanket…..it’s impossible for the separation to be realized on their own.

God had to teach me that I am not my Entertainment Center, or my desk, or my throw pillows, or my favorite bedroom set. As each piece of our stuff was going out our door, I felt like I was dying but I realized I was building strength. My truth of who I am was pushing toward the surface and that kind of growth isn’t comfortable. God had to show me that I am made of pure Source Energy, the very energy that is from our Creator pumps through my veins and I am not bound by these earthly piles of stuff. Just as I have to teach my child that she is not ONE with the Ipad. God had to teach me that my true purpose and potential was resting inside of me all along. I had to be free from the stuff in order to have my heart open for the blessings he was going to bestow upon us. Wandering around, being weighed down by the piles of stuff which I felt was “me” was keeping me in a prison.

The real magic began the moment we made the choice to let go and trust that we were being guided.

 

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We made the crazy decision to leave the Twin Cites and begin a new life in my small home town area in Wisconsin. Not because it made any sense. Not because it sounded safe. Not because we were running away.

We did it because it felt right.

It just felt right.

That’s all.

And even though we had people who doubted our decision. People who told us that life would be so much easier for us if we stayed. They gave us all the “logical” reasons it would make sense. Money, Job placement, Sugar Wood. All of these reasons still didn’t feel right to us. Moving to Wisconsin felt right. Moving to Wisconsin felt real. And moving to Wisconsin was the choice we made because we were letting go of our physical “stuff” as well as our emotional “stuff” and we were trusting God to lead this show now.

Would you like to hear the coolest part of the story?

The home we found to rent was a fully furnished home. Fully Furnished. Already full of stuff for us to enjoy. Now if that wasn’t a “God moment” for me I don’t know what was. Right there I found my very first piece of tangible evidence that we are going to be okay. In all ways. In more ways than we ever imagined. We are being carried by God. I stopped my search for proof right after I stepped foot into the most beautiful fully furnished rental home we could have ever hoped for. I made an oath that day to trust God’s guidance.

And now that guidance which is my intuition simmers in my soul like an internal GPS. My self doubt has settled a bit because I’ve begun the journey of discovering who I really am.  I lean on my intuition when I’m feeling vulnerable. I know how it feels to know now and I don’t doubt that knowing-ness anymore.

It feels light and right.

It feel breezy and easy.

It feels simple and pure.

And I know with every pitter patter of this heart, that having let go of our stuff was the very first step toward fully embracing the possibility of the life we have always dreamed of. There is always more stuff. It’s around every corner. The stuff isn’t real. The stuff isn’t you. You are not your Iphone. You are not your BMW. You are not your wedding ring. You are not your job. You are not your Coach purse. You are not your bank account. You are not your house.

You are you. A pure and glowing spirit full of possibility here on earth to shine bright and share your gifts.

How we make each other feel is real. Your memories are real. Your legacy is real. Your honesty is real. Your integrity is real. Your compassion is real. Your ambition is real. Your love is real. Your soul is real.

And this is real.

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These cloud watching cuties are real. And I know that the four us are going to be just fine as we travel this terrain together, as long as we have each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My own emotional pain is something I used to try my hardest to run away from.

And I mean run.

Yet, for some reason, when I see others who are in pain….I can openly express my heart to them and I find myself willingly wading in the deep with whatever they are going through. That has always been there for me. That “thing” that tells me to pick up my life jacket and jump on in with whomever it is that seems to be wading out to sea. I’m an emotional lifeguard for those around me, finding myself at such ease when it comes to digging deep and helping people find their strength. I do feel it is one of my deepest callings. And I cherish those who have allowed me to assist them on their journey’s.

But my own emotional pain is a different story. When I was in my 20’s and something drastic happened in my life, I would turn and run to every single person in my circle and beg them for advice. I was starving for validation in my choices. I would cry to my co-workers, my boyfriend, my roommates, my hairdresser and anyone else who would listen to me wallow. I was hungry for answers and I would seek out anyone around me to spoon feed me the truth.

I would run to everyone but the most important person of all:

Me.

Now when catastrophe’s strike, it’s like a switch goes off and I subconsciously sink into a space of safety. I no longer run like a scattered silly girl looking for everyone to tell me what I need to do.

I stop.

I breathe.

I ask God to give me peace.

I wait.

Grandpa's Land

Many people don’t know that 2013/2014 were the hardest years of my life for many more reason’s than Jon losing his job.

For instance, I barely told a soul about my cat dying.

Avery was my beloved kitty child who I cherished for 15 years. She was laid to rest the summer Jon lost his job, right after we moved to Wisconsin. The pain and sorrow I felt from that experience was quite beyond measure for me.

This animal was my first child. I bought her from a pet store on my lunch break from work in Uptown Minneapolis when I was 21 years old. She was my soul mate and best friend before the husband, the children and the business.

Miss Avery was a queen in my life and losing her was tragic on multiple levels for me and the timing of it all was like a hot poker in my heart. We just lost so much leaving the Twin Cities behind. And now I had to say goodbye to my best friend of 15 years. Whatever puffs of strength I had in my heart were blown away in a hurricane that day. It was awful.

So I cried, a lot. But only to God. And I used that time to really nurture myself because I knew no one outside of me could offer my sorrow the nourishment it needed the way I could. I taught myself how to self soothe because it was important for me to finally learn how to be kind to myself in times of heart ache.

When my step-father died in March of 2014, I was again confronted with the lesson of being still.

And this story is one I am not even fully ready to divulge.

The sharpness of the sorrow still stings too much for me to scrape below the surface.

God and I are still working this out.

Losing my step-father in just 9 days to an aggressive cancer was life shifting for me on faith filled levels that are still too fresh to fully grasp. Watching the most capable and strong man I’d known for 25 years vanish slowly before my eyes on a bed in my mother’s living room was pitiful and painful on deep ground shaking layers. And the tenderness of my heart with this subject is still to wounded to dig much deeper than I already have here.

Russ and Jon

During this time in our lives I was told by so many people to “Be Strong.”

For some reason, those sentiments did not sit right with me. It felt demanding and harsh. It made me feel like a failure if I couldn’t achieve it. The last thing I wanted to be was strong during this death experience. And I literally remember thinking to myself, “I can’t be strong! Can’t you see? I’m drowning here! Don’t demand this of me when I’m barely keeping myself above water.”

The lesson I learned was this:

Don’t be strong.

Be still.

When tragedy or fear strikes, sit down immediately, get quiet and sink into the space where your soul resides. Ask God to fill you with his grace and to guide you in the direction you are meant to go. Hush, hush, hush the ego’s chatter and learn to simply breathe and just BE. The answers you need are all right there, in that magical space we’ve always hid them. In your gut. Right inside you is where you will find your truth. It’s been waiting there all along.

I’ve never needed God to show me stillness more badly than in March 2014.

And he did.

I learned to be quiet.

I learned to sit still.

I learned to lean into that place of knowingness I’ve had my own life but allowed it to be drown out by the noise of the world.

I learned how the peace of God could wash over me in times of life and death and I was able to smile at my children during this. Really smile at them with gratitude and faith knowing we would be okay.

What I’ve taken with me from this past year was the absolute fact that God lives within me.

He is not sitting on some cloud incrusted throne up in the sky. He is a part of me. And I am a part of him.

He rests right in the belly of my very being.

And now, I’m learning to trust myself more than I ever have before….because I know that very intuition that has lead me this far, was God all along.

 

 

 

There’s a part of our story that I haven’t shared with many. It’s probably the hardest part of our tale, the one I avoid and skip over when I’m sharing our journey with others. It’s the part about how this all came to be. The true story. This won’t be the frilly, fluffy fancy version where I talk about the bright and shiny parts. It’s actually the part I still have the hardest time with.

You see, this part of the narrative is something that can still put me on shaky ground. When I think too deeply about it, I feel a rumble in the earth and my knees get wobbly. I sometimes feel unsure and abandoned if I let it rest too long. I think there still might be some trauma clinging onto me in the dark and quiet parts of my mind I try to avoid.

Yes…. Jon was fired from his job in the Twin Cities 17 months ago.

Yes….We were asked to leave our home in just 7 days and negotiated 14 days.

Yes….We sold all of our furniture and most of our belongings and packed what we could fit into a U-Haul truck.

Yes….We made a plan to move our whole lives and start over completely in WI.

Yes….We were “homeless” until about 2 days before we had to leave our apartment.

Yes….We borrowed money from family for rent and we were blessed with a year of living in a beautiful country house and my business has grown and Jon found work and my brand is in retail stores and it’s all been given to God and we are on our way.

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But the “how” of all this still haunts me to this day. Jon wasn’t just “let go” from his former job. That was the easier message to relay when people would ask. It made it so much more tolerable to swallow when it was coated in a smooth and safe story about being laid off. And it wasn’t really a lie. It was true. But that version was more like the seed on the strawberry, resting nice and pretty on top….but not nearly the whole fruit.

The whole story starts with someone very close to Jon…someone he worked with and who he considered a friend, betraying him. This person was someone Jon had known for nearly 15 years or more. They were friends before they worked together. This person actually got Jon the job with the company. But as Jon succeeded, and his promotions happened, this person was driven by jealousy and pure greed and wanted my husband’s job. They wanted to make more money, they were secretly plotting against our family. This person was close to us, as close as a friend can be. They attended family dinners at our home, I photographed their family,  and we were invited to each others children’s birthday parties. Ultimately this person ended up calling the HR department on Jon, and turned him in for a minor policy violation which got him fired. This person literally hunted, stalked and watched my husband waiting all along for him to make a mistake they could catch and have him punished for. And it worked. They accomplished their goal. And it ended up changing the course of our destiny forever.

The reason I’m ready to unveil the truth finally after all these months is actually more for me than anyone else. I’ve been on a quest you see, a crusade which I have been avoiding my whole life.

I’m on a voyage to forgive.

And I don’t just mean an easy, light and breezy kind of forgiveness. I mean I really want to forgive this person. I want to forgive this person in a way that makes me seem absolutely berserk. I want to forgive this person in a way that is so packed with peace that the world would have to put their Blue Blockers on to even look at the light shining from my soul.

I want peace.

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I want peace because it is my birthright to feel it. Peace in my heart is directly linked to the very source from which I am made of. I want a holy kind of soul depth that can only come from the work it takes to grab the sides of your heart and shake it will all your might as you look for any scraps of humanity in the person who wronged you. I shook and shook and shook my heart over the last 17 months looking for the last puffs of dust I could find to forgive. I twisted it and turned it and wrung it out like an old dishrag looking for the final drips of forgiveness I could squash out of it. There were some dust and drips. But not as much as I’d really need to get to where I want to be. So I kept trying. Week after week, day after day I would try and try and try. And sometimes I was still too mad, so I’d let it rest quietly until I was ready to pick it up and try again.

When someone can erase your whole world with just one phone call and a sprinkling of jealousy….you can’t just “get over” it. I have had to slowly peel back layers of ache like a summer sunburn. Layer after layer I’d find out more pain was below that I didn’t know I had. The betrayal would rise up and I’d peel that layer, and then…tucked in the creases and folds of the next layer would be the anger, the hurt, the fear, the terror, the angst, the resentment, the hatred, the hopeless-ness. And each one would take a turn bubbling up at the most un expected moments.

My knee-jerk reaction to this was to make a general assumption that people are bad.

People are mean.

People want what you have.

People can take what you have.

People will hurt you.

People will ruin you.

People will see you working so hard and want that for themselves and they will plot a vengeful way to get it all from you and leave you crumbled in a pile of rubble while they dance on your bones.

I would pray to God about these feelings and assumptions I was having. And during the quiet moment’s when I’d finally let my mind turn off and I’d tune into the inner spirit which is where God has always whispered to me, I heard Him say, “Please don’t give up. Please just trust me. Will you just let me guide this ship now? Don’t count people out just yet.”

So I made a choice, somewhere along the way that I would give Him my trust. It was really born from my sheer exhaustion from struggling so hard to control and manipulate all my situations so we could feel safe again. I was so tired.  I prayed that he would take my paranoid angry point of view about the human race and that he would show me the kind of folks who I could feel the light in them warming my face again.

And do you want to know what happened? I suppose you assume that all the people in my life changed? And the truth is…no one changed. Not a single person changed.

But I did.

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And guess what? Because I changed, down in the deepest marrow in my bones….I started to attract the kind of people I have always wanted in my life because of the energy I was giving out. That is how God works friends. You draw in what you are. You just do. I was drawing in people who were negative, jealous, spiteful, hateful, angry, and competitive because on some level, that was the exact energy I was giving off. Now that’s a tough pill to swallow- huh?

When I changed the internal closets of my soul, and rearranged and shifted my perspective and decided to truly become a student of pure peace…that is when the magic started to happen. The toxic people drifted into the abyss. And then the stars began to show up in my life. And these were the people brought me back from the brink. They were literally like twinkling lights, just hopping onto my path….sparkling away waiting for me to join them. And now, I visualize all these “stars” I’ve met, standing side by side in my life, holding hands and resting on one another and God has given me a twinkling universe of people who love me and believe in me.

And sometimes I get scared. As Sugar Wood begins to grow and my brand is launching in new exciting directions…I do fear that someone will become jealous, come in and erase all my life’s hard work again. So then I pray to God that He reminds me how no one can take my spirit. The very thing which created all of this in the first place is something that can never be stolen from me. I finally see that now.

“You see sweet girl, you had the power all along.” is how God described it to me.

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My humble heart has now expanded 100 times what I ever thought it could hold. And I’m on the path to peace. I’m not all the way there yet. I’m getting closer every day. It is a mission of mine I will revisit plenty of times in my life. This particular challenge is a doozy and is going to take some time. But I will tell you that when you make the room in your heart to finally let go and just trust that you are being carried, miracles happen. I’ve seen them over the past 17 months and this is just the beginning.

What I do know for sure is from Miss Oprah herself:

“Forgiveness isn’t saying that what the other person did to you was right.  It is letting go of the hope that the past could be any different than what it was.”

I am letting go of the hope that things could have been any different. And I know in the innermost of ways that I will spend my lifetime squeezing and shaking this heart of mine until forgiveness erupts from it like a broken pipe. Because the only way new fresh pristine energy can flow through me is by getting rid of the clogged pipes in my heart.

Now- I’m no plumber.

But I do have to say…I will be going to school for this task of soul plumbing and I plan on getting a masters degree.

Because these two fancy ladies deserve a mama who lives with her whole heart wide open. I will lead by example in this home. And even if I never get there, they will see me try, fall down, get up and try again. And I hope that message sticks under their fingernails for the rest of their lives and they carry it with them when they trek into the world.

I won’t give up. We’ve come so far. I’m right where I’m supposed to be. And I am so grateful.

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When you are a creative, a visionary and the one who seeks to express yourself in a more colorful way….it often brings about moments of beauty mixed with agony that only those who understand this life can fully grasp.

 

We live in a visually saturated world these days. The glory of Pinterest,  Instagram and Facebook have somehow put all of us in a silent competition. We don’t think we are competing…but we are. It’s there.

 

The minute the mama who’s sweetie declared they wanted a Princess Party hops on Pinterest, the defeat starts to set in.

I’ve done it.

I’ve looked at the piles of pins and google images and thought, “I can’t compare to this.”

Which, when translated… it really means, ” I can’t compare to them.”

 

Well, as I sit here after a 16 hour day of creating,  my hands are covered in blisters from boiling hot caramel and the neon cupcake sprinkles are glittering from beneath my fingernails….I’m finding myself searching my soul for the reason I put myself through this. What on earth would make me so crazy that I would literally leap over laundry piles as high as my kitchen table and grab my piping bag of frosting before I’d even consider putting a pair of underwear away?

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The Truth?

I create because I have to.

I create because I need to.

I create because it is what my spirit was called to this life to do.

I create because if I don’t, I start to feel pale and lost and alone.

I create because when I do I feel like I’m bringing to life a little sweet story that was living inside my head and begging to be set free.

I create because it is who I am.

You see, I’ve been rocking this creative gig long before social media existed and we had any platforms to “brag.” Ever since my piece of bubble art was voted: “Most Creative” in 2nd grade, I’ve known what my purpose was. I’m lucky that during my childhood, the people in my life spoke faithful words of encouragement toward my talent. I may have been an “average student” but I was creative. I may have been a disrespectful teenager, but I was creative. I may have been a wild 20-something girl stumbling, fumbling and making horrible life choices at the time, but I was creative.

It’s been my life line, my place of peace during the storm. My creativity has often times been my treasure map back to my soul after much wandering and misguided mistakes. I keep it safely tucked within me and call upon it during times when I’m in need of my truth.

When Jon lost his job, the world was snatched from me…..and everything I knew and who I thought I was supposed to be came crumbling down….I dove head first into my creativity for no other reason than needing to remember who I was. I craved something safe and familiar to cling to.

It is my home.

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SO….

If you are invited to one of my daughter’s birthday parties and you feel my event design may be a little “over the top” I can promise you with all my heart my intent is never to make you feel bad.

If you see me marching around town with my tiny tots and we are doing a styled photo shoot on the sidewalk in front of the hardware store, I swear I’m not trying to look cool.

If you come over and you notice I have a whole newly painted/renovated office, I can assure you I’m not trying to be extra fancy.

When I’m up until 2am hot gluing mini fairy princess wands to the outsides of favor boxes, when I’m dressing my girls up in matching rompers to photograph them, and when I’m inspired to grab a bucket of paint and totally re-do which ever room in my house is boring me…. that is when I’m in my deepest connection zone with God and my spirit. That is when time stops for me and I’m completely surrendering to the gift I was given to share while on this earth. It’s when I’m the most authentic. It’s when I’m the most natural. I often feel like I’m not even in my body during those times, I am so close to heaven I can almost taste it.

And I’m not even thinking about anyone else on the earth.

My deepest hope would be that you feel the same as you embrace your gifts. Let’s all link arms and glide through this world together while we all shine the light on each others talents. Can we stop the comparing? I promise to try if you do.

Because we are all gifted in such drastically different and beautiful ways.

I marvel at the nurse who can inject an IV into my arm with such ease and precision.  I would faint on the floor at the sight of a needle.

I respect the teacher who stays up 4 hours past their bedtime just to finish a remarkable lesson they created for their class. I can’t begin to understand the dedication teachers exhibit.

I stand in awe at the mom who stays home with her 4 kids and they are all so well behaved and polite and sweet. I often feel like if candy didn’t exist, and I had no bribing tools, mine would be stealing my car and headed for the state border! 

I applaud and appreciate all of your gifts. Each one of us has been blessed with them. Your real job is to find out what makes your heart sing and grab a hold of that baby and ride it into the sunset.

And I can promise you this with my whole heart:  I’ll be the girl standing there with tears in my eyes as I watch you fly. I will be the girl clapping and fist pumping right behind you as you take new risks, step into your truth, embrace your talents and continue to grow into the person you were meant to be.

As long as you promise to do the same for me.

 

 

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It was nearly eleven months ago when the tires of our cars hit the crunchy gravel of this driveway and our new life began.

We showed up on the doorstep of a home which was to be our cradle and rock us back to some sort of normal again. We were running on pure adrenaline by the time we arrived. When Jon lost his job we had 14 days to move out of our apartment. We had no where to go. We were filling boxes with the essentials and selling our furniture and all large items on Craigs List. We were telling the girls it was a “magical adventure” while they were throwing pink fluffy stuffed animals into boxes that did not even have a new home to rest in yet. We had no where to go at that point. The days crept up on us one by one.

First we had to be out in 14 days.

Then 13.

Then 12.

Flash forward and we have 2 days left, with still no leads on a home. I remember we were panting with exhaustion and sheer terror. We discussed living in a tent on the beach near a lake? Maybe we’d tell the girls it was a camping trip? It was panic in the highest regard. I felt like my heart was exploding out of my chest daily.

“What are we going to do?” I remember crying to my mother on the phone.

She was sitting at the kitchen counter of my grandparents. She grabbed the paper off the counter and starting looking one more time for me.

And that’s when she saw it: Home For Rent

With just a few days to spare, we were able to find a sanctuary.

A soft place for us to land.

When we arrived at the property, the rolling acres of green hills and grass were like something out of dream. This was more than we ever expected. We were looking at campers and RV’s and tents just days before and now we are walking up to one of the most grand homes we could have imagined.

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I remember opening the car door after the long ride, both girls sleeping in the backseat. Jon pulled up behind me in the U-haul just seconds after. We both stood side by side, our sore and aching backs pressed against the side of the car. He grabbed my hand, I wanted to cry but I was too exhausted and overwhelmed for any sort of real emotion. It felt like we were just plopped out of a whirling tornado. I felt dizzy and confused, yet so certain at the same time.

He looked at me and said, “We did it.”

I remember asking, “What?”

And he calmly answered, “We showed up. We got here. The first step.”

We had no jobs, no real plan to speak of with this whole “moving home to the country” idea. We just decided we were going to show up. Just arrive and see what happens next.

And what happened next was nothing less than magnificent.

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We roasted marshmallows and sat by the fire telling stories with our daughters until the mosquitoes pushed us back inside.

We took walks on the country trails.

We swam in the lake across the street from our house.

We made wild flower crowns and played magical forest games outside.

We ran through the sprinkler and got covered in grass clippings.

We drank lemonade and ate watermelon slices and stained all our shirts with the juice.

We let it all go.

We muffled the worries, the stress, the anxiety of “what to do” and we just allowed ourselves to BE.

This was the turning point in our lives. What we thought was going to surely crush us, smash us right into the ground and leave us as a pile of dust….ended up manifesting more joy in our family than we ever imagined possible.

And isn’t that how God works? Isn’t that how we grow in our faith and learn to lean on Him? We had so many fears and so much hurt inside us during those 14 days of packing.

And God lead us to a life we could have never imagined was waiting for us. Sometimes we feel so safe and snug…we don’t want to leave our cozy nests. I didn’t want to leave my nest. I liked my nest. It was safe, it was secure, it was mine. I felt powerful in my nest and I wanted change in my life, I prayed for change and for growth in my faith…but I didn’t want to be pushed out of my nest.
I quickly found out…that when you pray for big things…you’d better expect God to move in big ways.

And when I was fumbling around my 3 bedroom apartment in the middle of the busy Twin Cities…hands shaking as I wrapped our dishes in paper not knowing where on earth we were going to live, I kept thinking that no where we would end up would ever be as nice as this. My life was over.

I’ve lost all my power.

Now is where it all falls apart right?

Now is the the time in my life when I have to suffer.

I knew it was coming.

It was just a matter of time.

I was wrong.

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The beautiful life I’d always dreamed of was there.

Just 1.5 hours away from my cramped apartment was a beautiful home resting on acres of soft green grass just waiting for our family to come and wrap our arms around it.

And what I’ve learned is that those gifts are never ending. God loves to please and delight us if only we would trust Him and take a step back and relax. It’s all there waiting for all of us, we just have to believe we deserve it and allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to ask for it.

 

Eleven months have unfolded and we’ve nestled in quite nicely in this new nest. Not a day goes by where I am not overwhelmed with gratitude for this oasis I’ve been given to experience.

But I know there is more on the horizon.

More goals we want to accomplish.

More challenges we will face to strengthen our faith.

More opportunities waiting for us to show up and receive the abundance of goodness from them.

Something tells me Mr & Mrs Wood are just getting started.

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Everyone should have one person in their corner. One person who makes them feel like they could conquer the world, and when life crashes you to the ground, your pretty pride is soaked in sadness and shame, they tell you:

“Come home. Have a cookie and we’ll sort this out.”

My whole life there have been two things that have meant home to me:

1.My Grandma

2. Her cookies

When the world was kicking me while I was down, I knew she’d be there waiting to hear about it and love me in that magical unconditional way only a grandma can. Through every bad boyfriend break up, every job lost, every time my heart was broken, every tear-filled phone call back to the farm, I knew that as long as I had her and one of her cookies- everything would be alright.

So when life hurled us to the ground in it’s latest attempt to strengthen our will and restore our faith….I found myself turning to the very place my soul sleeps sound. The place where the gravel crunching under my feet, the sound of the coffee pot gurgling, and the creaking of the old oak door are the sound track of my youth.

We came back to the farm.

And I sat at the very same kitchen counter where she’s served me almost every meal of my childhood.

And I had a cookie.

And we are sorting this out: just like she promised.

And somehow I just know that everything is going to be alright.

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