unexpected moments.

Sometimes we get to plan out what’s going to happen. Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we know what’s coming. Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we’re confident that what’s about to happen is going to be exciting and wonderful and grand.

And, sometimes, we know that what’s coming is going to be hard and gruesome and painful.

Yet, I don’t think we could ever know or anticipate how these experiences are going to change us.

In the past few years, I’ve had these amazing and life-giving opportunities to speak around the country. I’m blown away at how I’ve been invited to offer my voice, my story, my heart. Each time I’ve felt so honored, so humbled, so overwhelmed by the openness of others to listen to my voice. Each experience has proven to be powerful and transformative for me in profound and surprising ways. Beyond grateful.

And then, last summer, the day after Father’s Day, I was asked to “speak” at a different kind of event. It was something I had never been asked to do before, something that felt even more honoring, more humbling, and actually, more scary.

One of my best friends asked me to read a letter at her father’s funeral.

Let me back up a few years. Well, maybe like 20+ years…


Renee and I have been friends since high school, and we were roommates for about three years before I got married. We’ve had countless talks over shopping excursions and car rides and pasta and chips and salsa and morning cleaning and “smokey treats” on the deck and way too many late nights. Renee is someone who shares the value of being honest and open and reflective and imaginative and silly. She’s a learner. She’s a listener. She’s sensitive. She’s kind. So, as you probably can imagine, the spectrum of our conversations were wide. I remember so many of our crazy and stupid and lazy moments filled with jokes and laughter and music and SNL replays. But, mostly, what I remember are the moments that were filled with sharing what it was like to be a part of the “real” world…what it was like to be a daughter, a sister, an employee, a person with privilege, a person of color, what it was like to feel betrayed and forgotten and misused, dreaming of all the ways we wanted to find love and what that would look like and who that would be with and what kind of wives we would be, and what it would be like to become a mother and what we would name our kids and who they would look like, and all the ways we wanted to parent similarly to our own parents while giving ourselves permission to do things differently, what it felt like to have our heart sink and soar, long for and hope and trust, and how we were always going to fight for what’s good and true, in us, in others.

renee wedding

So many moments, so many hours, so many days…sharing what it was like to be human.

Our stories were being made, being shaped, being shared. And, they still are.

I loved that then. I love that now.

And so, when she asked me to read the letter she wrote for her father’s funeral service, how in the world could I say “No” to honoring a friend like that, honoring the man who she called, “Dad”?

So, yes…honoring, humbling, scary.

Honoring because these were the words from her heart, from her memory, scattered on paper, capturing who he was as a father, as a friend, as a man. These were the words that she wanted the people in his life to remember, about him, about his life, about the way he stepped into his world.

Humbling because I was asked to do this because my friend trusted my heart for her, and had entrusted her heart to me. Essentially, I was going to represent her story, her heart.

Scary because, well, let’s face it, there were going to be hundreds of people in that church whose hearts were going to be a bit more raw that evening, whose emotions were going to be a bit more surfaced sitting in those pews. And, because when you say, “Yes” to something like this, you risk having your own heart be publicly put on display…in a microphone. And, because the emotions captured in my friend’s letter were piercing the emotions in my own soul reminding me of the loss of my mom.

Yes…honoring, humbling, scary.

I practiced and read and practiced and cried and practiced and cried some more.

And then it was time.

The funeral was an evening funeral which was lovely and beautiful and meaningful. The mood was somber, yet celebratory. There were tears and laughter and music and prayers. The service was filled with friends telling stories, friends remembering their friend. It was a gift to be a part of this group of people remembering and celebrating and affirming this man’s life.

renee and john

I’m so glad she asked. I’m so glad I said, “Yes.”

Because in that moment, I was able to experience one of the most profound invitations to “speak,” to use my words, to offer my voice.

Unforgettable. Powerful. Transformative.

Sometimes, we get these unexpected moments that help us put all other moments in perspective.

May you allow yourself to be surprised by the moments you get invited into today, this week, this Father’s Day…and may they forever change you.

paulin kids

Our kids…20+ years later.

paulin kids 2



I love perfect days, perfect moments. I long for them. I live for them. I try to craft them, thoughtfully, methodically, excitedly. I don’t want to miss them. I believe we can have them…if we desire, if we try. But, in my world, in my everyday, it can feel like hours and weeks and months before they come.

But…the time between them is changing. I’m changing.

It’s wise and good to be thoughtful, intentional, hopeful. I deeply believe that. But, if you’re like me, the mental energy spent on the future can make it really hard, really frustrating, to see the “now,” experience the present, that gift of what’s happening right in front of you.

I just read a book (utterly a miracle in itself that I would take the time, right now, to stop, read and enjoy, because there’s totally SO many other things I could be doing!). It was for the book club I’m in (crazy that I’m even in a book club since I’m not a reader, but I sure do love those women!). It’s called, Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelly. I don’t even know what “goodreads” is, but this was certainly a good read! Actually, it was an outstanding read. It’s about a CEO of one of the largest U.S. accounting firms. He was successful, intentional, committed…in everything he stepped into. At age 53, he was diagnosed with late-stage brain cancer. Each page you turn captures his thoughtful and intentional and successful “goodbye” to the life he had lived so well, and the lessons he learned while dying that he says would have created a different life, a better life, if he would have learned them earlier. It’s an amazing journey of awakening and arrival to a new self, a more true self, rather than a reflection of what could have been. All in 100 days.

His words, his insight, his honesty on being fully present…they resonated and spoke to me. Probably mostly because it’s what I can do so poorly, and because it’s what I strive for so diligently, and because it’s what I’m practicing currently. Here I am, a counselor…someone who listens and “sees” and hears…the jarring and beautiful and fragile and broken and sacred stories that are told to me each hour. I have this calling, this opportunity, to be fully present to the people who walk through my door. I hope I give that to them…a place where they can be utterly and authentically themselves. As they share what’s hard, right now, I tell them, over and over again, “Give yourself permission to be where you’re at.” And yet, I find it so difficult to do the same. We’re human, together.

Recently, I was sharing with someone how this season of young children can feel so hard at times. (Clearly, I’ve shared this before!) As moms, the daily routine of meeting your children’s needs can feel so boring, so mundane, so unglamorous, so lonely. At the same time, those feelings are met with beliefs and values that drive me to be with them, in the home, nurturing and mentoring them…because I can, I get to, at least most of the time. Why? Because I know that each year they will grow in certain ways that will empower them to move further away, further out, of my impact. Back to the wise person…she encouraged me to sit with my boredom, with my fear of losing myself, with my resentment, with my grief, with my loneliness, and ask God if he would show me the treasure in it. A treasure in this? Not when I get over it or through it or work past it? Really? Because that’s what the “good girl” would do!

And so, I’m working on giving myself permission to do just that…To be bored. To be fearful. To be resentful. To be sad. To be lonely…To be present. And then be still enough, present enough, to discover what’s in it. Because I don’t want to miss the gift, the treasure in these perfect moments. I want to cultivate and strengthen and invest in what comes with “now”…the people, the relationships, the stories, the scenery, the awe, the perfection. Our memories are being made now, not as we plan our perfect moments.

So, I’m inviting out more of the parts of me that have gotten lost a bit over the last 4 years…spontaneity, openness, forgetfulness (in a good way), my five senses, playfulness, acceptance. So that, I can capture more pictures like the one above…of my little boy, fully present to the sand and sun and daddy and sister right there, in front of him.

Join me in practicing presence.

Whatever is right in front of you, be there, in it. Because I bet it’s stunning.

…to go through life not fully awake is not to really live.” (Eugene O’Kelly)


our first man.

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His eyes, his smile, his heart, his delight…it’s what I notice every time I see my husband play with our kids.

He stretches his arms out, and they leap.

He hovers over like a monster, and they run.

He turns on the lawn mower, and they jump on his lap.

He slips on his shoes to head outside, and they squeal with anticipation.

He lays down beside them, and they listen to his voice.

My husband…he knows how to play. I love that.

My husband…he offers provision and protection and strength. I love that.

My husband…he teaches and cuddles and laughs. I love that.

Their daddy…he’s the first man in my kids’ lives. I love that.

My husband and I have had numerous conversations about our dads and how they’ve shaped us – their words, their tones, their action (or in-action), their jokes, their conversations, their attitude, their work, their presence. We always come to the same conclusion…the first man in our lives have deeply impacted our view of masculinity and fatherhood and how valuable the feminine soul is. And, we also have come to understand, that what we experienced in our fathers has also deeply impacted the way we have come to view God.

A father’s role – it’s powerful. He spills into us in subtle and profound ways.

As we enter yet another “family” holiday this Sunday, I hope to be a voice who encourages us to celebrate the fathers in our lives. Dig a little ways back – to the days when you lived with your father or male caretaker. What do you remember? About him? About his heart for you? About his heart for your mom? About his heart for others? About his heart for God? Who was he? Really. I don’t mean how did he live out of his brokenness and hurt, but rather, in what ways did he image God? What was he amazing at? What ways did he tell the world that being a man was a good thing? For sure there were hard parts about our relationship with our father, but who did God create him to be and how did you see and experience that in him?

And then, if you’re a dad, how do you see those good things in you?

And, if you’re a mom, how do you see those good things in your husband?

And, if you’re a son or daughter, how do you see those good things in your dad? Still. Today.

You may just have gained more than you thought from your dad. It’s amazing how so much good gets passed down. Sometimes it just gets hidden behind fear or work or hurt or shame or others.

Maybe we need to open our eyes a bit wider so that we can see, really see…our father, our husband, their daddy.

And then, let’s shout out and affirm and celebrate what we see…in our home, with our friends, to the world.

So dads…as you sense a little extra love this Sunday, may you know that we are rooting for you. We believe in you. The best parts of you show up in us, in our kids. We love that.

May you know that you are honorable, respectable and good.

And, may you be even more aware of God’s eyes, God’s smile, God’s heart, God’s delight. Upon you.

Happy Father’s Day!


becoming family.

I’ll be honest. Back in the day when I strolled through life more carefree (and sometimes carelessly), there were a few things that when I imagined being a mom, I never wanted to be.

I never wanted to be that mom who desperately yelled her kids’ names, especially in public.

I never wanted to be that mom who sat in the dirty, germy, way-to-loud play area in the mall.

I never wanted to be that mom whose kid screamed at the top of his lungs while I frantically tried to keep him in the cart at the grocery store.

I never wanted to be that mom who sat her kids in front of over-stimulating kid shows because I needed a babysitter.

I never wanted to be that mom who drug her kids around with boogies and snot dripping from unknown crevices.

I never wanted to be that mom who used lollipops as bribery and broke all my own rules so my kid would obey.

I never wanted to be that mom whose car was loaded with goldfish and french fries in car seats and under seats.

I never wanted to be that mom who frolicked around town sporting stains on her clothes…and didn’t know it.

Yet, here I am…that mom.

(By the way, there really should be some beautiful shirt with jewels and glitter and lots of color that sings “I am too sexy for this life” that us moms get to wear whenever we want.)

OK, let me focus…

Before you have kids, it’s SO easy to think of what you don’t want to do, who you don’t want to be, and what you don’t want to look like. Thinking about what kind of parent, what kind of person you want to model for your kids is something many of us don’t do and find hard to do before we enter that role. Let alone, to think about what kind of home, what kind of space you want to create…for one another.

When your growing up years are defined by hard places and faces (or for some, “perfect” places), it’s easy to focus on what you don’t want to do, don’t want to be, as a parent and as a family. But I’m finding that in the midst of giving myself permission to not do the things that were so unhelpful or hurtful, that it’s just as important to imagine and be intentional about what you want to do differently, what you can do differently.

So, I’ve been reflecting and dreaming the last few years…of what kind of home I want to create for my children. As they enter and exit each season of their lives, what will they find each time they enter the door and play and sleep and grow in our house? What will they remember about how we defined and delivered the meaning of family? What picture will be seared into their memory?

For us (and we’re pretty new to this), there are some themes that we hope to be the umbrella over how we step towards our kids, so they are equipped and empowered to step into the world…to show others how good God is and how much he deeply loves…everyone.

You are wanted. You are loved. You are good…no matter what you say or do.

Your body, mind and spirit are worth investing in and connecting with.

We delight in you.

We believe in you.

We celebrate you.

We will be parents who are fully present to you and your needs.

Both brokenness and beauty have a place in our home.

Our home will be a safe place, a sanctuary.

God made you for us and he also made you for him.

Maybe, just start by asking yourselves, “What words or phrases describe our home right now?” Ask your children. Their answers could be surprising. And then, “What words or phrases do we want to describe our home?” Or, maybe, begin with asking God what kind of home he wants to create with you. Listen. Let his voice guide you.

So, as the summer warmth arrives and you find your children running in circles around you (or you around them), and as you experience both the extraordinary and ordinary, find what you do well. Discover what unique gifts your family has to offer. Go after that…in your children, in your home.

And then, may you be an expression of those heavenly things to the world…because you GET to show the world how good God is.