Friday, January 1, 2016



Having a teenager in the house is quite fun and entertaining, despite what I'd been told. (People said the terrible twos would be a nightmare, and I loved that stage, too. So I guess I've learned not to heed the grim warnings about the allegedly horrible stages of child development. I'm the imperfect mom of an imperfect kid -- and I love him big and I'm just enjoying the ride.)

The harsh, judgy thoughts that I assume others have toward me are pretty much never legit. And life simply goes better for me when I don't behave as though they are. 

The two most life-changing and impactful decisions we can ever make for ourselves: 1) God is real (even when we doubt) and 2) God is good (even when we don't understand). 

Refusing to hope does not protect us from disappointment -- rather, it pretty much guarantees us a disappointing life. 

Gratitude is a choice, and recent research has shown that gratefulness actually changes our brains and helps to balance neurotransmitter activity. The coolest part: The brain-balancing benefits are not dependent upon us actually finding something specific for which to be grateful; it is through the process of searching that the healing and rebalancing occurs. (I love when science catches up with Biblical wisdom.) 

Hope deferred is still hope. ("Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12) 

The scriptures tell us that God is love. And up until early last Spring, I had always blown right past the truth of that. God IS love. Therefore, any time in my life when I have felt or experienced love, I have felt and experienced God. This simple, foundational truth has impacted me profoundly this year; it has shown me the lengths to which God has gone to reveal Himself and His love to me. And some of you have been the human vessels through which He has done this -- and I am so, so grateful. 

It is possible to go a full calendar year without health insurance. But not advisable. (It is also possible to go a full calendar year without getting a speeding ticket. Who knew?)

Food sensitivities are a very real thing. Working with an integrative physician to discover mine has been life-changing. (Average number of headache days per month in 2014: twenty plus. Average number of headache days per month in 2015: Three. THANK YOU, GOD.) 

Forgiveness always begins in truth. We cannot forgive others until we are able to understand (and willing to admit) that we were wronged. 

When we invite God into our pain and get real (instead of "polite") with Him, our seasons of deepest pain can become our seasons of most enduring growth. 

Lesson learned the hard way: If you happen to be a perfectionist, a Type A personality, or a classic firstborn child, seek first to KNOW God rather than to PLEASE God. (Don't go for the A+. He isn't even grading you, as much as you wish He would.) Stop trying to impress Him with your good behavior, your eloquence, or your manners. And when you pray, don't tell Him only what you think He wants to hear. We don't want OUR kids to do that; we want them to TALK to us. Same with Father God. He wants relationship with us. If He wanted trained monkeys instead of sons and daughters, He wouldn't have given us unique personalities or free will (or hormones, for that matter). 

Turns out the people who love me most are not all that concerned about whether my bathrooms are clean. They aren't impressed by fresh vacuum lines on my carpet. And if they know I've just frantically cleaned or straightened up because they were coming over, the ones who really love me will call me a dork and deliberately mess up the couch cushions. 

Morrow's Law: Errands, tasks, and commutes will always take approximately twice as long as I think they will. 

Being a parent is humbling. In Jaden's own words, "Mom, you think you know things but you don't." 

The healing powers of probiotics are way overlooked and underrated. If you would've told me a year ago that I'd be culturing my own kefir for the health benefits, I would've laughed and called you a dirty hippie. Alas, I just bought cheesecloth for that very purpose. Ain't life a trip? 

Steady-state cardio is way overrated. Strength training can also have cardio benefits if done the right way, and is time far better spent in the gym... Said the girl whose trainer grounded her from the treadmill last February. (Best. Punishment. Ever.) 

If you let your crockpot "soak" overnight (which we all know is code for "I'm too tired/lazy to finish doing the dishes"), everything you make in it for the next year will taste like soap.  So consider the cost. 

Shared brokenness builds bridges where pretend wholeness never could. 

The weather outside may be frightful, but be mindful of where you tuck your instant hand-and-body warmers -- or airport security will suspect you of trafficking tiny bags of cocaine in your bra. 

No matter how cynical, jaded, and overly cautious the wounds of your past may have made you, never say never. ("Never" is a word that God often seems to invite us to eat. And He's still God and I'm still not -- so really, what do I know?) 


Here's to another lap around the sun in 2016… Let's be careful out there, kids, and make it a good one! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Learning to Love the Mom in the Mirror

Author note: The following was written as my guest post for my friend, author Emily Wierenga. I invite you to visit the original post on Emily's blog, and to spend some time there; she's doing amazing things and featuring some wonderful people! Original post can be found here:

All my life I had dreamed of becoming a mommy. It wasn't my only dream, but it was certainly the most important dream in my little girl heart. I was the child who never went anywhere without a baby doll tucked under my arm -- and I wasn't the type to toss my baby doll aside when the ice cream man came down the street or when my favorite TV show came on. No, Annie came along with me, and I included her in every detail. It mattered to me what Annie wanted from the ice cream man (snow cones were her favorite) and if she understood the jokes in that week's episode of Punky Brewster (and as I recall, I often had to explain them to her).

Some women come into motherhood by accident, and others are ambivalent throughout their young adult lives about whether or not they want children. And both of these types of women can become amazing mothers despite how they come into the role. But for me, as sappy as it may sound, I had always believed I was born to be a wife and a mom, and I had it penned into my life checklist early on: Finish undergrad (majoring in Music Education) by 22, by which time I would have met Mr. Right (who would also be an education major so we could teach in the same school district, which would be adorable); get married by 23, take two years for grad school, and be blissfully pregnant by age 25 with my MA on the wall and my hunky husband at my side. Then we'd have our second child two years later, and if we had the finances and the energy, a third two years after that. Voila: two degrees, a fulfilling career, a healthy marriage, and three kiddos -- and all in time for my 30th birthday. Nothin' to it.

I once read a bumper sticker that said "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." And while I don't believe for a minute that our compassionate, perfect Father laughs at our dreams and plans, He certainly doesn't seem to hesitate to rearrange them for our good.

My carefully calculated life plan had derailed before I was even to have completed step one. There was no undergrad degree by age 22, because the anorexia that had chased me all my adolescent life had caught up to me by age 18 and nearly killed me. Instead, I found myself hospitalized for most of 1996, with a tube in my nose and a weight on my heart far heavier than the sad, sickly weight on the scale. I left the hospital the day before my 19th birthday, owing around four hundred thousand dollars in treatment costs. There would be no college -- and worse, within six weeks of my discharge from treatment, I had lost thirty of the forty pounds that had been put on me. I had gained the necessary weight, but I had not learned to feed myself -- because I had not learned to love myself.

Fast forward just a few years, to age 24. Steps one and two of my checklist had not come to pass, and as I approached 25 -- the age by which I HAD to be married and pregnant -- I panicked. I met a guy at church, and figured that since my pastor approved of him and we quickly became the iconic church couple, mascots almost, surely God would bless our union despite the fact that we were completely wrong for one another and both brought unresolved emotional baggage into the marriage. I mean, we met at church; if it didn't work out, that would make God look bad.

For a few months, the courtship was exciting. Even though I wasn't in love with my fiancé, I was madly in love with the idea of marriage and family. My dream was coming true -- even if I had to force it. And since I wanted children and felt I was running out of time (according to my checklist), I began eating healthily and increased my food intake enough to restore myself to a healthy weight. A grown-up weight. A mommy weight. I absolutely hated my body during this time --but I believed this was the one thing that meant more to me than the sense of control I felt from starving myself. In exchange for the fulfilled dream of marriage and family, I would surrender.

The naive little girl inside of me, still clutching her original childhood dream for dear life, cried tears of grief and confusion when the honeymoon ended before it had ever begun, and the marriage became unsafe. This was not the plan. What had I done wrong? But in the midst of my darkest hour, I was to meet my greatest joy. A month into our marriage, we were expecting a baby.

Those around me were unsure how pregnancy would effect me, having never made peace with my body image before the pregnancy began. But to their surprise and my delight, I loved every minute. As I wrote years later in my memoir, Hollow, "This expanding, itching, stretching, round, swollen body of mine was suddenly a great pleasure to me. The same body I hated and despaired of and punished and starved and cut and cursed for years was now doing me the ultimate favor, by fostering life and turning me into something I had always wanted to be: someone's mom."

The challenge to love the mom in the mirror came after my son was born. By the time my son was eight months old, his father and I had separated. And while we worked to reconcile through marital counseling, it was becoming progressively clear to me that I was going to be a divorced woman.

A divorced woman. A single mother. A divorced single mother who never went to college. The checklist had been abandoned. And in my rigid perfectionist mind, the same mind that had driven me to starve myself for so many years, I was a failure. It was then that it became especially hard to look at myself in the mirror.

But the story gets brighter. It always does, at some point, friends -- because we have a God whose love pursues us tenaciously and tirelessly.

In the darkest time of despair, when I was hardest on myself for having seemingly ruined everything, God provided me with moments of peace that were as overwhelming as they were fleeting. They usually occurred in the quiet moments of nursing my baby boy. Nursing infants have a way of communicating love to their mothers in such a way that even I could not argue with the force of that love. My baby needed me -- but beyond that, he longed for me. He was jealous for me. He wanted to be near to me, to feel my heart beat next to his.

Credit the hormones if you must, but those moments became spiritual experiences for me. They reminded me that God Himself is jealous for me. Longs for me. Wants to be near enough that my heart can begin to beat in sync with His. I could not love "the mom in the mirror" on my own; I needed to borrow from the love that God had for me. I had made terrible, life-altering mistakes -- and none of them had shaken or even touched His love for me. My checklist had never mattered to Him, in that He had never had such rigid standards for me as I had had for myself.

My baby boy, Jaden, didn't care that his mommy only had a high school education. He didn't care that his mommy was carrying a little post-baby weight; in fact, if anything, he rather enjoyed it because those were the pounds of selfless love which allowed him to be fed and nurtured. When Jaden looked at me, both then and now, he didn't see an imperfect body to be tweaked and sculpted or a failure at life in general. He sees his mom. He looks at me through love.

When God looked at me, both then and now and forever and always, he sees His daughter. He looks at me through love and through the blood of Jesus, which has erased the sin of those life-altering mistakes of mine.

My son is eleven years old now. I never had another child, never remarried. I still get angry at the mom in the mirror sometimes -- and it is in those moments that I know what has happened: I've moved away from God, and I need to scoot back over to where I can hear His heart beat.

His heartbeat always sounds the same: You. Are. Loved. You. Are. Mine.

My part is simply to take His word for it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Matters Most

Ever have one of those reality checks where, in a single moment, you realize how short life is, how precious and limited our time on earth, and how stupid you've been about how you have been spending it? Yeah, me too. In modern parlance, I believe it is best described like this: *facepalm*

I had one such moment last week, as I checked on my son before heading to bed late one night. My Facebook status that night seemed to strike a chord in the heart of many folks on my friends list -- 84 of whom were moved enough to click "like." Clearly, there was some solidarity expressed in response to these words:

Went in one more time to check on my kid before I went to bed --- and just stood there and watched him sleep for a few minutes. He seems somehow taller than he was this morning. This boy is a handful. He is sharp and funny and complicated and moody and tender and talented and way too smart for his own good sometimes... He has the capacity to both infuriate me and melt me into a puddle. He is a part of my heart, walking around outside my body for the past eleven years. He is my miracle -- and yet he isn't "mine" at all. I do not own him; he is on loan to me from God, entrusted to me for an all-too-brief season called childhood. And right now, in this moment, I would humbly ask God to please slow down time...

Sometimes, I still picture him this way in my head . . .
Where has the time gone??

I've been thinking about this since last week -- both my feeling of desperately wanting to slow down the passing of time, and the strong response others had to my sentiments. Both of these things have helped to solidify a commitent I made to myself on January 1st of this year: In 2013, I will do my conscious best to focus on what matters most. I do not believe in setting resolutions because let's face it, we all know what a New Year's Resolution really is: A to-do list for the first week of the year. A set-up for failure -- and for the self-imposed guilt and condemnation that inevitably follows. 

Please . . . Ain't nobody got time for that. 

Instead, this year, I am setting a theme for 2013: Priorities. 

Blame it on a lack of discipline, or a childish wanderlust of the mind, or perhaps the ADD with which I was diagnosed in my teen years -- but the ugly truth of the matter is that I am very easily distracted from my priorities, and I lose sight of what matters most more often than not. I am all too easily led astray by the demands of others (which usually can wait), the allure of gossip (note: in churchy circles, this is often disguised as a "prayer request" on behalf of someone else. Be careful!), or by my obsession of the moment, which is often something as frivolous and temporal and self-focused as the current circumference of my thighs). So what's a distractable gal to do?

Start over.
And over.
And over again.

Well, actually, that's step one. Step two is a little harder:

Forgive yourself.
And again.

I'm working on it. I'm not necessarily off to a flawless start, but that shouldn't really matter since I've removed "achieve perfection in all things" from my list of priorities for 2013.

So, what does matter most? Good question -- and our answers will vary. But answering that question for ourselves is a great place to start. For me, that night last week when I realized that my baby boy has become a young man in what seemed like the blink of an eye, I knew that one thing that matters to me is enjoying my current assignment in life as Jaden's mom. These years are blazing by -- and while photographs are great at capturing a moment, they cannot freeze time. I quote the great 1980's philosopher Ferris Bueller: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

So, this is me, stopping. This is me, admitting that I'd forgotten to look around. This is me reminding myself: I don't wanna miss a thing.

And this is me hoping you might just stop and do the same.


Friday, February 8, 2013

To the Last Virgins Standing: a guest post by author Emily Wierenga

Jena's note: Friends, I could not be more excited to share with you this post today, reprinted by gracious permission of my friend and fellow author, Emily Wierenga. The piece you are about to read is 32-year-old Emily's letter to her sixteen-year-old self. When I read it, it brought me to tears, and I believe it will touch many of you in a similar -- or perhaps entirely different -- way. I will not cheapen it with a lengthy introduction, but rather let Emily's beautiful prose speak for itself; suffice it to say, she is the real deal, and it is my prayer is that her heart, through these words, will make its way through to yours.

Dear sixteen-year-old Emily,

In a few days Brent will dump you. The coolest guy in school. A basketball star. And you will wonder if you should have let him. If you should have pulled the Kleenex from your bra and the bra from your body and let him.

But you didn’t, and I know you feel like the last virgin standing —

but you’re not. In two years you’ll meet a man at Bible School–a place you said you’d never meet anyone because it’s too cliche–who is waiting for you. Who’s only kissed two other girls, who will wait six months to kiss you (his Dutch grandmother will kiss you on your lips before he does) and the only time you’ll ever see him cry will be when you tell him what you’ve done with other boys.

He’ll cry because he wants to marry you. And even though you didn’t ever let anyone make it home, they still tried to round the bases. And he’s waited his whole life to hold your hand.

Shortly after he dumps you, Brent will get another girl pregnant and they’ll have a baby together.

It’s not worth undoing your buttons for, honey.

In a few days your mother will hear you sobbing on your bed, after he breaks up with you in the courtyard of the school because “you’re just too nice,” he’ll say.

She’ll knock on your bedroom door and bring you a bouquet of red roses, and when you take them from her, your fingers will bleed a little, just like your body will on your wedding night, when you give it away to the Bible School boy who dressed up in his army uniform and showed up on your doorstep and asked you to take a walk with him.

The boy who will teach you not to be afraid. The boy who will kiss you, finally, in the rain. The boy who will hold you while you can’t sleep for the insomnia and the anorexia and the anxiety, the boy who will bring you ice chips as you give birth to the first of two sons, the boy who will ask you to take walks with him every day of your life, for the rest of your life, till death do us part.

Dear past self, in a few days you’ll be crying on your bed —

while your mum holds you and you grip a bouquet of bloody roses. But this too shall pass. Don’t remove that purity ring. Because it’s more than a ring. It’s a declaration that you believe in the kind of love that saves. A salvation kind of love. A love that lasts longer than a few dates and a few passionate make-out sessions.

The world has all but given up on that kind of love. And in a few years, your boy and you will share with a bunch of Young Life students about how you waited. And they’ll ask if you wonder what you missed out on, by having sex with only one person.

And you’ll look at them and say, Do you know what you miss by having sex with more than one person? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to know that the person you’re with has only ever seen and touched you? That when they make love with you, they’re only thinking about you, and that you’re beyond compare?

Then you’ll take each other’s hand.

Yes, you will say. We’re glad we waited.

And the students won’t respond, but in their hearts, perhaps they’ll be applauding.

For the last virgins standing.

Your Future Self, at 32.

(See original post here:

Emily Wierenga is a wife, mother, artist and the author of Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, and Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy (releasing Mother’s Day 2013). For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook

Monday, February 4, 2013

This Mystery

I'm a bottle of water
Thrown into the ocean
You're in me, around me, and through

You fill me and hold me
And shape me and mould me
You contain me, yet I contain You

Reveal to me
This mystery
I long to comprehend

How You can be
Inside of me
Savior, Master, Friend

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Reprinted by request: "The Best of Jadenisms"

Okay, people, you've been asking for it . . .

For over three years now, my Facebook friends and followers have been encouraging me to write a book of "Jadenisms" -- quips and quotes from my sharp-tongued son, Jaden. I found a way to search archives of my Facebook statuses dating back to 2009, and compiled the following list both for posterity and for your amusement. As for me, I get to live with this kid; my biggest challenge is knowing when to laugh and when to wash his mouth out with soap.

Without further ado . . .

The Best of Jadenisms, 2009 through 2012:

"Mom, you're pretty. (pause) No, I mean it, you're actually kind of pretty. I don't know why guys aren't just gagging all over you." (age 6)

"Mom, can I have some strawberry milk?" (Me: How do you ask politely?) "Can I have some strawberry milk . . . if it be thy will?"

Jaden to Spike (the cat), who was freaked out by fireworks on July 4, 2009: "Aw, don't worry, Spikey. Relax, boy . . . it was just a bomb."

(Talking to himself in the mirror, age 6, as he wiggled his first loose tooth: "You got this, Jaden. Just grab and pull. Gotta take this like a man, damn it." (I really can't remember how I disciplined him for the swearing . . . )

Stylist told Jaden he had the thickest hair she'd ever seen on a seven-year-old boy. Jaden replied, "Oh, don't be so melon-dramatic."

Jena to Jaden: "Get your fingers outta the peanut butter jar!" Anne to Jaden: "Go get a spoon and I'll make you a peanut butter lollipop like Pastor Clem likes to eat." Jaden to Anne: "Miss Anne, I need more women like you in my life."

Second grade math homework assignment asked the students to write a math story problem and show the equation. Jaden wrote "Mom + Dad = Baby." He likes to think outside the box.

Jena to 7-year-old Jaden: "Please take the garbage out and put your bike away." (Jaden rolls eyes.) Jena to Jaden: "Remember, I let you live in my belly, rent-free, for nine months..." Jaden to Jena: "Fine, mother. I'll go get my checkbook."

Jaden to Jena after putting up their Christmas tree, 2009: "Mom, I hope this doesn't make me sound too girly, but can we just turn off all the lights and lay under the Christmas tree and just . . . talk about our feelings?"

Jena, while making vegetable soup, said to Jaden, "I wish you would be my taste tester. This soup needs something." Jaden replied, "Mom, I'm not gonna taste that soup, but I will tell you what it needs: meat."

Another one for the books... Jena: "Do you understand why you were sent to your room?" Jaden: "Because you have no patience today."

I was just torturing Jaden by pinching his cheek, and he yelled, "Help! This is kid adultery!" (I, uh, think he meant 'child abuse.')

Me: "Argh; she left my hair longer on one side than the other." Jaden: "Welcome to the real world, Mom. Nothing in life is perfect."

Jaden woke up singing "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord", so I asked him what he had been dreaming about. He told me: Darth Sideous, dolphins, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Of course.

My parents have been divorced for 28 years. Tonight is my dad's birthday celebration, and Jaden told my mom she should go because "after all, he's your long lost husband."

Jaden (singing): "I could really use a wish right now..." Me: "What would you wish for?" Jaden: "That this would be an all-girls school but they'd let me in anyway."

Jaden: "Mom, can the average man lick his own armpit?" Me: "Ummm... I don't think so." Jaden: "I knew it; I'm talented!"

Jaden: "I would never want to be a teacher. You have to get to school at like 6AM to grade papers, plus you never get to pee. Mrs. Deeter literally NEVER pees. It's freaky."

Me: "So, what goes on at a boys' sleepover?" Jaden: "Can't tell; it's part of the Guy Code." Me: "What's the Guy Code?" Jaden: "Can't say; that's classified information."

Me; "How was your day?" Jaden: "Good." Me: "What did you learn?" Jaden: "Nothing." Me: "What did you play in gym?" Jaden: "Mom, I get it; you care about my day. I'm just tired of speaking."

Jaden and Jackson are wrestling upstairs. Me to Jaden: "Please don't kill each other." Jaden to me: "Is it okay if we badly injure one another?"

Jaden: "Okay, from now on, we're all gonna get along and stop arguing. So let's just, I don't know... pretend to be other people."

Jaden: "I mean, what if there is no Santa? What if all those presents are just dropped off by some guy named, like, Bob Shinkenheimer?"

Just had to have the Great Inevitable Santa Talk with Jaden. His response: "That explains why I never get coal even though I'm bad every year!"

Jaden, at bedtime on the eve of back-to-school: "Not... Feeling so well... I don't think... I'm gonna pull through..." *Falls to floor*

Jaden: "I can't go to school today. I'm not throwing up anymore, but I think I have Brownchitus." *fake cough*

Me: "Jaden, you are not leaving this house until you brush those teeth." Jaden: "Come ON, Mom. I promise I won't smile at anyone today. No one will know."

So, my work is hiring RNs, and offering a referral bonus. Mom suggested a friend of ours, but I said "she hasn't nursed in a while" -- to which Jaden replied, "Not from the looks of things; she doesn't even have kids!" *slaps forehead*

Jaden: "Alexis' sister Alyssa almost broke my thumb today. I should have told the teacher, but I figured that might ruin my chances with Alexis. So I make sacrifices; big deal."

Jaden: "A teacher at my school had a baby two days ago. He's a boy and his name is Cameron. Or Henry. Definitely either Cameron or Henry."

Jaden: "What if we switched bodies while we were sleeping?" Me: "You wouldn't like it. You'd have to be a girl." Jaden: "Yeah, but YOU would have puberty all over again, so the joke's on you."

So the boy has Strep. When the doc told Jaders he was contagious, he goes, "Do I have to wear a cone on my head?"

Jaden: "I heard on TV that our president keeps giving Mexican people free stuff. I'M Mexican! I know I don't look like it, but geez, take a blood test!"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

TOP TEN SIGNS THAT YOU NEED MORE REST (from personal experience)


10) You've talked yourself into believing that Red Bull actually tastes good in lieu of the milk you once used in your Wheaties.

9) Drinking coffee will no longer suffice; you must now keep a stash of coffee grounds inside your lower lip, and you tell yourself that maybe carrying a spitoon will be considered classy one day.

8) You've mastered the art of resting one eye at a time -- while driving.

7) When you finally climb into bed late one night, you find a stranger sleeping there -- and your bed actually says to you, "Look, it's been a while. I assumed we were seeing other people."

6) You consider putting it in your will to have your tombstone say, "Asleep at last -- DO NOT DISTURB!!!"

5) The last time you completed a thought was

4) (See what I mean?)

3) You've considered buying a medic alert bracelet and having it engraved with the word 'narcolepsy' -- so that when you nod off while someone is talking to you, they won't think you rude.

2) Every time you pass a Rest Stop along the highway, you bitterly shake your fist at all the sleeping truckers as you lay on your horn.

1) And the number one way to know you need more rest: You started work three hours ago and reading some snarky chick's blog is the only thing you've really accomplished.