My Little Gymnast

When I was a little girl I was always doing something creative.  I remember being holed up in my room for hours, drawing horses, trying to get the angle of the ears just right, or making candy wrapper collages for my notebooks.  I wrote all the time - stories, poems, songs, essays.  Inspired by Gordon Korman, I wrote my first novel in seventh grade - a mystery starring Ryder Strong and Ben Savage from Boy Meets World.   I had all the time in the world to devote to my creative endeavours, as long as my  homework was done in time!

I miss those days.

Now creativity seems like a luxury.  I find myself encouraging my kids in their creativity, praising their choice of colours and solutions to problems when their artwork doesn't turn out quite like they expected.  I refer to the Beautiful Oops book often, reminding them that their projects don't have to be perfect - sometimes it's more about the process!

I need to tell myself the same thing.

I know that I'm the most myself when I'm being creative.  I've noticed a change in my attitude, my mood, my productivity - when I push my creativity to the side.  It's a part of me that I need to pay attention to.  It's who God - the ultimate creator! - made me to be.

* * *

This is a poem I wrote for Ellie as part of the Coffee + Crumbs Year of Creativity course.   We were encouraged to pick a childhood activity that we don't do often (or in my case, ever!) and spend some time doing it.  Really doing it.

I used to love writing poetry.

These days it feels like everything I write has a purpose and a deadline - so I sat in the viewing room at Ellie's gymnastics class and watched her with my notebook open on my lap.

This is what I wrote:


My Little Gymnast

The gate opens and she dances into the gym,

Giggling, her hair a caterpillar bouncing down her back.

She sits on the red warm-up mat, eyes raised expectantly,

Awaiting her coach’s instructions.

She knows Mama’s rules:

If you don’t listen, you don’t do gymnastics.

So she waits.


The first circuit is trampoline – her favourite!

Star jump, bum drop, tuck jump.

“Land on your feet!” her coach tells her.


Then onto the foam pit.

She cannonballs from the edge, then decides to try the vault.

She climbs up – one crash mat high, two, then three.

“Oh, that’s high!” she exclaims –

And scrambles down to slide in from the edge.


Airplane arms on the beam, a stork stand in the middle.

Jump off –

But land on your feet!

Bear walks on the p-bars, a tuck solo hang.

Wait your turn for the rings!


It’s time for floor.

Backward rolls, dog tails, jumps and twists.

“Land on your feet! LAND ON YOUR FEET!”

Under the rainbow tunnel, cartwheeling over the French fry mat.

She avoids the rope as long as she can after a fall last week.


Then Coach Mariam helps her wrap her legs around the rope,

And gives her a push.

Her eyes are as big as saucers,

Then become slits atop a wide grin.

She swings back and forth, back and forth –

Then drops neatly to the floor.

On her feet.

“I did it!” she cries.


My little gymnast.

* * *

Creativity is never a waste of time.   

I feel like I'm slowly making my way back.

Beauty for Ashes

Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience beauty goes hand in hand with pain. You can’t have one without the other.

Today I'm sharing a story of how God created beauty from ashes:

"Three years ago we bought our son an adorable little t-shirt: “Big Brother Team Captain”, it said. He wore it to Grandma and Grandpa’s house that evening – he was so excited to share the big secret he had been keeping.

My husband’s parents were ecstatic – they had been waiting for a second grandchild since the day our son was born!

Then I started bleeding.  Just a little spotting, at first.

Then more ... "

Read the rest at Anchored Voices.

The List

I was always a serious child. I liked rules, I liked routines, and I liked lists.

Maybe that’s why the youth retreat I attended when I was fifteen had such an enormous impact on my life.

I remember sitting in the dark conference room, squirming in my chair as the speaker talked about one of my least favourite topics: Boys.   I was a late bloomer when it came to boys. Horses were much more interesting!

Nevertheless, I began paying attention when she started talking about a list. She explained that when she was in high school she had created a list of the qualities she was looking for in a boyfriend. If a boy didn’t possess all the qualities on her list, she wasn’t interested. We were given pen and paper and directed to create lists of our own. According to the speaker that weekend, if The Boy didn’t meet all the requirements on The List, he wasn’t the one God had chosen for us.

It seemed simple enough.

Lists were my thing, so I wholeheartedly embraced the project!

At first my list was very specific and looked something like this:

  1. Must love horses.
  2. Must love animals.
  3. Must be older than me.
  4. Must be smart.
  5. Must have brown hair and brown eyes.
  6. Must have a good sense of humor (but not a crude sense of humor).
  7. Must be anti-drinking/smoking.
  8. Must meet and be approved by my grandmother.

My list changed as I got older and actually began to develop relationships with the opposite sex. (At first I wasn’t sure if changing my list was allowed but decided it was when I realized there weren’t any boys in my entire town that fit all of my requirements!)

The List changed even more as I began to date real boys instead of fictional ones. (SPOILER ALERT FOR MY CHURCH GIRLS: TODD SPENCER ISN’T REAL!)

Items on my list that I once thought were deal breakers no longer were. I began to value traits like loyalty more than appearance and being treated with respect was more important than an undying devotion to my pet cat.

By the time I graduated from university The List had changed from that The Boy had to be to what he couldn’t be:

  1. Bearded.  By that point in my dating career I had firmly established that I did not like beards – or facial hair of any sort. It was prickly and scratchy and my hair got stuck to it like Velcro, never mind that kissing a man with a beard was sometimes downright painful, and I was always picking hairs out of my mouth that were not my own.
  2. Anything but a New Brunswick boy. I was a maritimer and I wanted to stay that way.
  3. A pastor. I grew up in the church. I wanted nothing of the politics and nothing of the drama.

When I moved to Alberta after university I wasn’t looking for love. I wasn’t looking for any sort of romantic relationship at all, to tell you the truth. My plan was to go to school, learn what I needed to learn, and go back to New Brunswick to start a youth ranch. Boys didn’t factor into the equation at all.

Especially not Alberta boys.

Then I met Nathan and I forgot all about The List.

He was everything I didn’t want:

  1. David Crowder’s doppelgänger (proof here and here.) My husband has more hair on his face than our dog does on her entire body.
  2. An Alberta boy – and not just that, a complete city slicker who had never seen a live chicken – in real life – until he visited New Brunswick with me when he was 25.
  3. A pastor in every sense of the word except official job title. Nathan graduated from Bible College and worked in full-time ministry, then decided he preferred volunteer ministry positions instead of paid ones. He leads small groups, teaches Sunday School and Wee College, leads worship on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings as well as at retreats and conferences, is involved in prison ministry – the list goes on!

What I thought I wanted wasn’t what God knew I needed. That silly list seems insignificant now, after ten years together. If I could write a new list and send it to my younger self, these are the qualities I would put on it:

  1. Passion for God and things of God.
  2. Love for family.
  3. Patience.

Nathan meets all of those requirements easily!

He’s devoted to God and his family and he has more patience than anybody I have ever met! Who else would calmly pull over on the side of a busy highway to console his sobbing, hormonal, pregnant wife and pray for a dead coyote’s grieving family?

For the past ten years he’s been my rock.

He’s my support, he’s my encourager, he’s my inspiration.

He’s my love.

So although I’ve swallowed more beard and moustache hairs than I can count, dip my toes in the Atlantic ocean every five years instead of every weekend, and have fed my children cheerios in the church coffee shop on more Sundays (and Thursdays, and Saturdays) than I ever would have imagined – I’m happy. I’m more than happy. God has done abundantly more than I ever could have asked, or even thought to ask! - in giving me my husband.

Happy birthday, Nathan!


New Year, New Perspective

For ten years I’ve blamed Bible College for my lost passion when it comes to reading the Bible.

If you’ve ever been to Bible College, maybe you can relate. In those days I read with a purpose: I read to prove something, for debates, to win arguments. I searched for obscure Scripture references to support an opinion I had already formed.

I knew the Bible. Sword drills were my jam. I had memorized large chunks of Scripture that I could recite when I wanted to impress someone with my vast theological knowledge.

When I finished Bible College I worked with youth. I had good marks so I thought I was ready to handle anything they threw at me.   I searched the Bible for answers to their questions: “What makes Christianity better than other religions?” “Why is God the only way?” “Is homosexuality a sin?” “Why did my mom die?” I read the Bible for them, to answer their questions and help with their struggles – but not my own.

I knew the Bible, but my spirit was parched.

Then I became a mother and the kids became my excuse. With work, diaper changes, dayhome drop-offs and pick-ups and scrambling to keep the household running, Sure, I could quote Scripture to my children when I needed to, but I didn’t have time to read the Bible for anything more than the occasional Bible story when I remembered to do family devotions.

It wasn’t until my six-year-old innocently asked me one night before bed, “Mommy, why do we read the Bible?” that I realized that I was completely missing the point. I don’t have a specific purpose in mind when I spend time with my son, I do it because I love him. I love being with him, talking to him, learning about him and from him. He’s not an obligation, he’s not something to check off a list every day.

If something is really important, we don’t find the time, we make the time.

It wasn’t Bible College’s fault, it was mine.

I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t searching, I wasn’t showing up each day with the expectation that God would reveal Himself, His truth, to me – not for grades, or to win an argument, or to have something to share when it was my turn to lead a group devotion, but because He loves me.

I’ve done Bible reading plans in the past – chronological, historical, from beginning to end. This year I’m reading just to read, with no real plan and no goal in mind other than to get to know Jesus better. Not as an acquaintance, but as a Father and a creator and a friend. My perspective on reading the Bible has changed from being something to cross off my to-do list each day to something I look forward to each and every morning when I wake up.

Lord, I don't want to go through the motions anymore.  The Bible says that You make all things new - so please, make my heart new.  Make my mind new.  Make my life new!  Proverbs 8:17 says "I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me."  I'm seeking, Lord.  I want to desire You more than anything else.  Renew  my passion for You and for Your Word!


"Do you see her?  That girl, the one with the long blonde hair in a ponytail?  That's who I am.  That's what I look like."  I was playing pretend with my sister, and of course I wanted to look different.  Short and thin with mousey brown hair and enormous pink glasses wasn't who I wanted to be - in real life, or pretend.  Most days I wanted to be tall, thin, and blonde, with my hair pulled back into a bouncy ponytail or a long braid.  Sometimes I would even go the extra mile and put a pair of pantyhose on my head to get the desired effect of long hair!

For whatever reason, I thought that if I looked different, I was different.  As silly as it sounds, pantyhose on my head made me stand taller, be more bold, and act more confident.  When the game ended I went back to being regular old Holly, shy and quiet, afraid of making mistakes.

Not a lot has changed since those days.

Some days I'm happy with who I am:  A wife and mother, writer and business owner.  I have a loving husband and two amazing children. I'm happy with who I am and who where I am.

But then I see Amy, and nothing in my world seems good enough.

I'm not good enough.

* * *

See, Amy is everything I'm not.

She has three children under the age of five, but somehow she never looks less than amazing.  Her Pinterest boards are full of hairstyles and outfit combinations she clearly has the time to try.  Her girls are always dressed beautifully – and fashionably! - with their soft, untangled curls pulled back into perfect, complicated braids.  Her son doesn’t have any unruly cowlicks or dirt under his fingernails. Her children are always spotless and unwrinkled, and they are unfailingly polite.

Amy is never harried, never frantic, and never out of breath.

She's a stay at home mom just like me, but she runs a direct from home sales business that makes enough money for her and her husband to escape on tropical vacations a couple of times each year.

And she homeschools.

* * *

On the outside, Amy looks like she has it all, and she has it all together - but does she really?

Do any of us?  

Or are we all just wearing pantyhose on our heads, trying to be something we're not?

* * *

Sometimes I think that if I could be anyone in the entire world, I would be Amy.

But God didn't make me Amy, he made me me.

Sometimes I wonder why he made me the way he did. Why do I have to be so short? Why doesn’t my hair cooperate when I try anything other than a simple ponytail? Why can’t I be more stylish? More outgoing? More easygoing? More confident?

Why can’t I be anybody but me? 

Then I remember that God made “all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13, NLT) He made me short and thin, he made my mousey brown hair, he made the eyes that require enormous glasses. He created me, he knows me – and all of my insecurities.

I am a daughter of the King, and that is enough.

I am enough.

And so are you.

When Dreams Change

“Well?” he said, waiting for an answer. “What are you going to do?”

We were sitting in his office – him, leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk, me, in the swivel chair across from him with my feet tucked beneath me, spinning myself around and around and around as I tried to make a decision.

I had been planning the cross-country move for more than a decade. I attended university after high school like my parents wanted, even earning a “sensible degree” in economics – but my passion had always been horses. The deal was that if I graduated from university, my parents would support me in whatever I chose to do next, even if that meant moving 3000 miles away to study horses at the best school of its kind in the country.

Hours earlier I had received a letter from that school informing me that I had been wait listed. They allowed ten students into the English Horsemanship program and I was unlucky number eleven. I had flown across the country a month before to tour the school and perform a riding test. I made one mistake – picking up the wrong canter lead and not correcting it quickly enough – and I was done. “You’re welcome to try again next year!” the letter said.

What was I going to do? 

I shared the answer (and the rest of this post!)  at Anchored Voices earlier this month.  I hope you'll join me there!

Life and Love

Last month my husband was part of a stealth operation. One of his friends wanted to propose to his longtime girlfriend and asked Nathan to provide the music. He chose a specific song – “Wanted”, by country singer Hunter Hayes. Nathan smirked the first time he heard it. “Seriously? Barf!” were his exact words.

We hung out the night before the proposal, three married couples and the dating one. All of the married couples split up on the couches, leaving one single beanbag chair for the lovebirds. “You guys sit there,” we joked. “You still like each other!”

The next afternoon Nathan covered himself in bug spray and hid in the bushes next to a walking trail. As the couple approached, he started to sing: “You know I’d fall apart without you. I don’t know how you do what you do. ‘Cause everything that don’t make sense about me makes sense when I’m with you …”

She said yes.

* * *

Nathan and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary last week. The proposal reminded me of us at the beginning of our relationship. We were constantly touching, arms around each other, holding hands. I remember one camping trip where friends bet us we couldn’t complete a mountain hike holding hands – and we won!

Life looks different now. After being pulled this way and that by kids all day, with a clingy toddler in my arms, Nathan’s lucky if he gets any greeting when he gets home from work, never mind a hug or a kiss.

Love looks different now too. We don’t have the time or the energy or the money to go on extravagant (or frequent!) dates, so we collapse on the couch after the kids are in bed and my work is done for the day. We hold hands in the grocery store parking lot instead of on mountain trails. We may not snuggle at friends’ houses, but we have more than eight years’ worth of inside jokes and communicate better with each other than with anyone else. Though we still haven’t managed to successfully escape a Breakout room …

Most days aren’t filled with the freshness and passion that mark a new relationship. We’re more comfortable. We’re established in who we are as a couple. We celebrated our first anniversary with a romantic weekend getaway; we celebrated our eighth anniversary with burgers and an hour and a half of uninterrupted Pokemon hunting.

Sometimes, I will admit, I miss the newness. I miss the romance of it all. My husband is certainly more practical than he is romantic – he’s the man who catches our kids’ puke in his hands on airplanes, not the one who painstakingly crafts 1000 origami paper cranes and gifts me his wish.

But I love him more because of the life we’ve created together. He’s the one who proposed on bended knee on a dock while wearing rollerblades, and he’s the one who stops at the store on his way home from work almost every single day because I’m missing one ingredient for the dinner I’ve already started to make.

Our marriage isn’t glamorous. Romantic getaways are few and far between at this stage of life. Instead we sway together, dancing in the kitchen while the sink fills with bubbles and our children try to sandwich themselves between us.

And I wouldn’t give up these everyday moments for all the romance in the world.