Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Handshake

This post was inspired by former president George H.W. Bush, a member of the Greatest Generation,  who recently passed away. To me, he was an authentic example of the very masculine virtues of courage, commitment, loyalty, honor, compassion, and genuine leadership.  I pray that his life has inspired a new generation of leaders to carry on his legacy.
"It's possible to tell things by a handshake.  
I like the 'looking in the eye' syndrome.  It conveys interest.  
I like the firm, though not bone-crushing shake.  
The bone crusher is trying too hard to 'macho it.'  
The clammy or diffident handshake, fairly or unfairly, get me off to a 
bad start with a person. - George. H. W. Bush
Last weekend our trucking company hosted it's annual Christmas party.  This year we asked our two oldest sons, Benedict and Andrew, if they wanted to tag along, and to our surprise, they said yes. It was our hope that they would not only get to meet many of the amazing co-workers and employees, whom we work with, but also experience the joy of coming together for a meal to celebrate the blessings of the past year.

After a hearty steak dinner and some good ol' country swing dancing (yeah, we hired a DJ!), the evening slowly began to wind down. Little-by-little employees came to bid their good-byes, to offer gratitude to Steve for being a pretty great boss, and to wish us a Merry Christmas.

The parting conversation that really took us by surprise involved Ben and Andrew.  Several men approached Steve and shared with him how impressed they were with the boys' handshake. You read that right.  It wasn't their academic or athletic success or their handsome faces that made a strong impression (c'mon, it's a mama's right to say so!).

Nope, it was the handshake.

Most young men don't know how to shake another man's hand, or look him in the eye when introducing themselves.  But your boys sure do.

And with that, we knew we'd been doing something right in this whole mission of raising men. Score one for grace and perseverance!

Around the age of five or six, Steve takes a bit of time with each of the boys to teach them a proper handshake, how to introduce themselves, and the importance of making eye-contact when they do so.

Last week, as Steve reeled in Charlie and Joseph from the Lego table for a refresher lesson, I decided to observe the master at work.  In the past, I never really listened to Steve's instruction on this topic with the boys. But this time, as I slogged through a heaping sinkful of dirty dishes, I was completely enamored with their interaction:

Charlie, are you a son of God?
Yes, Dad.

Are you strong, courageous, and a boy of integrity?
Yes, Dad.

Well, when you meet someone for the first time, they don't know those things about you, they don't know who you are.  But if you stand up straight, look them in the eye, and speak your name with confidence, they will know exactly who you are.
Okay, Dad!

I understood, right then and there, that a boy's handshake (and a man's for that matter), is not just a common formality.  It's a powerful communicative experience of self, and of the other, for both the giver and the receiver.

Now, some of you may be saying, my boy is shy, I don't think it's fair to force him to shake hands. You're right, you shouldn't force him.  We've got a couple of shy ones in our bunch, too.  Shyness isn't looked upon with favor in our current culture, but it should not be shamed or dismissed.

I could write an entire post on the quiet, contemplative nature of my shy guys.  They are beautifully made in the image and likeness of God, and I have learned mountains upon mountains about the complexity of the human person from them!

We teach and train our sons every day, giving them tools that we believe will help them as they grow into manhood.  And we practice with them at home! Practice builds confidence, and confidence makes the moment of truth a little less intimidating.

Most of us have insecurities or weaknesses that can sometimes make social interactions  uncomfortable.  But I believe that, in certain moments, we are called to rise up out of those insecurities for a greater good. In this case, it's recognizing and acknowledging another person.

To give you an example of how we converse with the boys in matters of shyness, we gently remind them:
It's okay for you to feel shy! But, you will spend the rest of your life meeting new people, and we believe that you have what it takes to rise above your shyness, in that moment, and acknowledge the other person in a dignified way. You never know who you might meet! Don't miss the opportunity!

Boys are pretty basic. They don't always need flow charts, and field trips and crafts to communicate the simple lessons of life (trust me, I've tried all of the above, cue the sweat and tears).  They just need someone with a little grit and conviction to take a minute to teach them the life lessons that are so easily overlooked.  Lessons like a proper handshake.

"To build self-image, you need to join the smile, firm handshake, 
and compliment club.  -Zig Ziglar

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Things We Do (That We Said We'd Never Do) For Love: Beautycounter Beginnings

Three short days after Steve and I professed our "I do's" I found myself on a tractor in the middle of a wheat field following the man God had woven into my heart with a wild sort of joy I couldn't explain.

I also couldn't explain how I ended up there - in that field - pulling a grain cart between combine and truck, except to quote Blaise Paschal, The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing of!

Looking back on those honeymoon harvest days, I should have known that they would be a clear indication of the future, as being in love (a love that has only intensified over the years) often motivates us to do things we wouldn't normally do, things we don't plan to do, or even really want to do.

Fast forward 18 years and here I am, again, doing something so unplanned, so unexpected, so far out of my wheelhouse that even the boys are a little bit boggled by all of the baskets of the body wash and face cream laying around the house.  

But love {and illness} are big motivators - and they're the reason I've decided to become a consultant for an amazing company called Beautycounter.

One of the contributors to Steve's struggle for good health has been his body's inability to detox efficiently.  Toxins are all around us, and are often absorbed into the body through contact with the skin, by simply breathing, and of course through our diet.  

While I had done a significant amount of work to clean up our diet, as well as our environmental toxins by choosing safer cleaning products and detergents, I hadn't really scrutinized the personal care products we were using as a family on our bodies.

To be honest, I felt like I couldn't manage one more thing. Why can't something in my life just be simple? I asked that very question aloud to a good friend one day, and she suggested I check into a company called Beautycounter.  

Despite my skepticism and utter annoyance an having to sit in front of the computer in the late night hours to do more research (my Lyme/autoimmune people, you know what I'm talking about!), I decided to do the work anyway.

After reading about the company, and the strict safety standards Beautycounter follows when testing their products, I was hooked.  Finally, a brand I could trust, and use with confidence, and NOT have to think about being safe for Steve, and really for the whole family. {Discover Beautycounter's Safety Promise for yourself!}

Why does it matter what I put on my skin?

It's estimated that our skin has the potential to absorb 60-70% of what it comes into contact with.  Some chemicals are too big to pass through the upper layers of skin and into the blood stream, and other chemicals can be absorbed within as little as 20 seconds.  It makes sense to me, then, that if God created pores on our skin to flush out toxins, then those same toxin-releasing pores can also absorb toxins.  In essence, it really does matter what we put on our skin!

In my research, I was shocked to learn that the United States has not passed a federal law to regulate the ingredients in personal care products since 1938.  This is astounding, considering there are over 10,000 chemicals being used in the personal care product industry today. Some of those we are putting on our skin every day. {Read more about that here.}

Over the past 20 years, the European Union has banned around 1,300 ingredients from use in personal care products. The United States? 30. 30!!! 

Even personal care products with an "organic" label are not regulated. Some of the "natural" products I've used in the past contain ingredients that are harmful - and I had no idea - because the label convinced me that it was completely safe to use.

When I discovered that Beautycounter is a mission based company, whose goal is to get safer products into the hands of everyone, my interest was peaked.  Their goal isn't just to create safe, high performing skin care - they also want to change the beauty industry

Beautycounter consultants are working with congress to pass legislation that would regulate the chemicals that could be allowed in any personal skin care product. 

What does that mean? It means that hopefully one day you and I will be able to pick up any of our favorite products off the shelf and not have to worry about whether or not they are safe for us and for our families to use.

I don't know about you, but I'm all about less worry, and more freedom! Until then, I can rest easy, knowing that Beautycounter has my back, and I have confidence knowing that they have one of the most rigorous standards for product screening in the industry, 

prohibiting the use of over 1,500 potentially harmful ingredients 
in all of their products

Many of those potentially harmful ingredients have been linked to cancer, endocrine disorders, fertility issues, developmental concerns, and allergies.  They have also been found to be present in the breastmilk of nursing mothers. 

When I consider all of the skin care products I've used over the years while pregnant, I confess, at first I felt guilty, but then I felt angry.  Why didn't I know? Why are these chemicals even allowed in my face soap and lotion? 

This is why I've decided to join Beautycounter's mission to get safer products into the hands of everyone.  Because, in caring for my husband through his sickness, I have first-hand experience with the effects chemicals can have on the body, and I know just how burdensome worrying about the health and safety of yourself and your family can be.  

Beautycounter lifts this worry from my shoulders.

Would you like to know what's in the products you're currently using, and discover their safety rating? You can search them out on EWG's Skin Deep database.  EWG also has an app, which is very handy for scanning everything from dish soap to toothpaste while shopping!

If you're curious about some of our products, here are a list of my 
Five Favorites:

1.  Countermatch Collection - Okay, so this is actually four products, but because they work together in an incredible way to hydrate, smooth, and improve skin tone, I consider them one heavy hitter! Perfect for all skin types, particularly combination skin.

2.  Brightening Facial Oil - Seven pregnancies and lots of sun from years of running has left several dark pigmentation spots on my face. This oil, when combined with my morning and night time moisturizer, has evened my skin tone and lightened the spots, not to mention bumping up my moisturizing game, which I've really needed this winter.

3.  Charcoal Bar - Charcoal is a wonderful detoxifying agent. If you struggle with an occasional break out, or if you have teens in the house with acne, this bar is a game changer!

4.  Baby Balm - Tis the season for dry skin. Dry knuckles, chapped lips, and eczema patches have met their match.  Baby balm is a wonder for all dry, irritated skin issues, and can be used for the whole family, not just babies! (View our wonderful baby line of products here.)

5.  Tint Skin Foundation - I've never been a big fan of make-up, mostly because I don't care for the way it makes my skin feel.  Beautycounter's Tint Skin is so light, I don't even feel like I'm wearing make-up.  My skin stays hydrated throughout the day, and because the coverage is buildable, I can always dial up the coverage if I need to, without it feeling thick or cakey.

Thinking about making the switch to safer?

Consider your priorities.  Is it skin care? Make up? Cleansers, lotions or sunscreen for the family? Beautycounter offers a variety of fantastic, high-performing yet safe skin care products for you and your family.  

  • You can browse and/or shop my website at:
  • Become a Band of Beauty Member - a free gift, product credits and more! {details here}
  • Share With Others & Earn Free Products by hosting a social (message me for details!)
  • Join My Team! {Consultant Details here}
  • Check out our current Clean Swap Campaign, and earn a deluxe sample for free!
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me! 
I can be reached at:

Monday, February 5, 2018

Letting Go of What Was and Embracing What Is - An Update on Steve's Battle With Lyme

{Many of you have kindly asked for an update on Steve's health.  We are currently seeking the advice of a new doctor in Denver, and have just returned from Steve's first appointment, where he was given a thorough physical and had a number of labs drawn.  We will have a follow up appointment in a couple of weeks. There are more details below.}

From the outside edges of Denver, my view of the city is a skyline wrapped in a jagged silhouette of broad, purple mountains.  It seems as though I can almost feel them breathing - calm, strong, and steady.  Fresh air fills my lungs, and as the cold nestles into the deepest corners of my soul, I am suddenly awake to the presence of God.  That is you, Lord, calm, strong, steady. Steady like the mountains. 

I hold on to the image in my mind's eye, certain of the place where I will need to sit today - on the mountain of the Lord, who will be for me what I what I want to be for Steve and for our family.  Yes, He will be my calm, strong, and steady. And I trust Him.

In a couple of short hours we will walk through the doors of another doctor's office, hoping for something, I'm not sure we even know what anymore.  Answers? Help? Healing?  My expectations have been severed from certainty, for the two rarely go hand in hand. Four years and a dozen (plus some) doctors later can leave one feeling somewhat numb.

But, I must admit that if we left our babies at home to fly all this way, and all we got was some real kindness, compassion, and sincere understanding, maybe a fist-bump, followed by, I'm really sorry you're going through this, and I know it's hard, but don't give up, just don't give up, I'd be good with that.  That's a mama's heart, ya know? It may not be medicine for Steve, but it would be for me.  Selfishly.

I say that because sometimes I almost wish Steve's symptoms were more visible.  People often say to me, He looks fine, and he doesn't look sick, and well, I saw him the other day, and he sure seemed good to me.  When the comments are really a question, they feel like pin pricks filled with doubt.  Is he really sick?

I know that I speak for a lot of individuals out there, some of them good friends of mine, who also struggle with Lyme disease, all of its co-infections, and complications, when I say that what others see, isn't always what is.

Some days the pain and pressure inside the core of Steve's head leaves him staggering around the house looking for some kind of escape, because medication doesn't even begin to touch the pain. Other days, the muscle twitching that takes over his body provokes in him such uncontrollable anxiety that panic attacks ensue.  Exhaustion, muscle weakness, and brain fog also challenge his ability to function each day. Those are just a handful of the physical, mental, and emotional setbacks he has to live with.

Setbacks that others don't see.

And yet he, like so many other Lyme sufferers, has made a decision for himself to press on, to function in the world even though he feels completely dysfunctional.  To be honest, I don't know how he continues to work and to give so selflessly to our family. He is such a witness of generosity to me.

Nearly a year has passed since Steve's temporary relocation to Florida for treatment (more here and here).  My recollection of those long months of our separation is fuzzy. When people ask me how we got through it, my reaction is always the same, grace upon grace. The only thing that is crystal clear in my memory is the incredible kindness so many people showed us.  There was food delivery, babysitting, errand running, financial support, encouraging notes, thoughtful gifts and big, big hugs.  I'll never, ever forget the generosity shown to us. It still brings me to tears.

During those months of Steve being away was like running a marathon, and as he began to improve, I felt the strength to keep running the race here at home for him and for the boys. The joy that came to me from knowing he was feeling relief from his symptoms was almost overwhelming. I was SO happy!

Unfortunately, the great strides Steve made during his time in Florida were short lived.  About three weeks after being home, I noticed his symptoms began to return. At first they were slight, and very manageable, but as time went on, the frequency and severity increased.  Before we knew it, he was right back where he started, walking in the same painful, frustrating shoes he was in prior to his treatment.

I don't think either one of us really wanted to acknowledge just how big and discouraging the setback really was.  The very little we discussed of it stirred up so much frustration in both of us, I refused to talk about it anymore.  Anger is toxic, and it only makes Steve's symptoms more intense. With Lyme, disappointment only leaves you with one choice, and that's to march forward with whatever bit of determination and resolution you have left to find a healing.  So we march on.  And pray.

If this disease has taught me anything, it's that we are not in control of our lives. Not even for a moment.  I sometimes laugh at all of the headlines, tweets, and Facebook posts that start with, The Very Best Diet to Heal... or The Top Blah Blah Blah Everyone Should Be Doing Right Now, or If You're Not Doing XYZ, You're Never Going to Be Happy, Skinny, Healthy, Funny, Successful, Appreciated, or Loved.

Man those headlines sure have a way of making us feel like if we just plug in to a magical formula, everything will be a-okay.  It's simply not true. Sometimes the circumstances of life throw you down into the trenches.  Suddenly you find yourself in a place you really don't want to be.  It's human nature to asses the situation, gather up our courage and all the best resources, and put together a plan to get out.

Yet, somewhere within the persistent effort of digging and climbing, you have to pause for a minute, and face the truth that you might be in this trench for a reason.  The trench may be your life for a time.  And if it is to be your life at this moment, then embrace it, live it. It isn't easy, but there's a special strength and peace that comes from letting go of the life you think you've lost, from loosening the grip on what you believe life should be, and just being present to the here and now.

It may sound counter-intuitive, almost like you're giving up, or giving in.  But the opposite is actually true. It takes courage to think and to live this way, because it requires us to trust.  It is anger and fear that keep us from moving forward, upward, and outward.

Trust provides the necessary conviction and grace for us to keep digging, fighting the good fight, and hoping for Steve to be healthy again. And until he does, or even if he never does, we will not have lost a thing, because we have chosen to live, right here, right now.

As we move forward, day-by-day, cautiously optimistic that the treatment offered to Steve by the doctor in Denver will be fruitful, we pray that the measures we are taking will restore him to greater health.  Until then we live. Right here, right now, in this present moment. And, I am good with that.