Category Archives: My Life Thus Far

When It’s Not Safe To Be You

 We have learned to be the greatest pretenders from the moment we wake till the moment we lay our head down.

photo cred: Art of Street

photo cred: Art of Street

On some days I let myself go there.

I unwind all the pretense and crack open the door to fresh air. Crisp thinking that hasn’t been judged by years of experience and well-meaning advice. All the voices along the way who have confirmed to me what I always suspected. What I always dreaded.

It is not safe to be me.

A scene went down when I was fourteen and it replayed through my mind for years. I was on the lawn of my church with another friend who happened to like the same boy I did. Let’s call the boy we liked “Josh” and my friend who liked him too “Amy”. We were outside obeying Josh’s friends who told us to go wait for them because they had something to tell us.

I remember standing there on the grass trying to stomach what I knew was probably coming. In true teenage fashion, some of our friends had taken it upon themselves to mention to Josh’s friends that Amy and I thought Josh was cute.

Now, let me say this. I wasn’t even allowed to date. I just thought the boy was cute. Which was big for me to admit because I was never the girl picked. I stood on the sidelines of my eighth grade dance never – not even once – being asked to dance the whole night. I’d like to submit a motion that we do away with junior high dances altogether.

When our friends mentioned that we both thought Josh was cute and told his friends not to say anything, they didn’t exactly follow instructions. Off they went to spread the word of our attraction to none other than Josh himself. Which can I just say, in hindsight is hilarious because Josh wasn’t really attractive or cool. I prefer to chalk that crush up to groupthink gone wrong.

Next thing we know, Amy and I were outside waiting to meet with Josh’s friends. Awesome.

A crew of boys came bounding down the stairs with smiles on their faces. “We talked to Josh.”, said the ring leader of this motley crew. ” Told him that both of you think he is cute. And guess what? He thinks one of you is cute too. But just one.”

I’m sure you can guess where this is going.

“So, Josh wants to talk to the girl he thinks is pretty.”. Josh’s friend continued, ” …and it’s not YOU!”.

As the words fell out of his mouth, he turned to me and his finger pointed right at my face. It wasn’t me.

Just like that my friend Amy squealed and ran inside to meet Josh. I stayed there on the lawn alone watching the swarm of them rush back up the stairs. I didn’t cry. I just swallowed it. And then – as easy as that – those words became something I carried around in me for a long time after.

It’s not me.

The sentence rattled through my mind over the next decade. Who I am is not enough compared to who they are. It isn’t safe to put myself out there because it will neither be wanted nor valued.

Fast-forward to college. I had a friend who I had been close to for years. Hours of conversations about dreams and hopes had been invested into our friendship.

One evening she sat me down and told me something that shocked me like nothing else had.

She thought I had a mental illness. I had let someone into the inner workings of my mind and instead of seeking to understand, they judged. And I felt betrayed in a way that shattered so many things I once had thought to be stable. I was embarrassed and exposed.

I bawled for days.

It’s not me. I’m not the one with the beautiful ideas or creative mind. I am the girl who sounds crazy – who no one will ever believe in. It isn’t safe to be me.

There are few things which can create such a desperate feeling inside as when being yourself doesn’t feel safe. If your ideas scare people, your motives are misunderstood and your actions continually rejected then you slowly begin to morph into something that feels less painful.

Something other than yourself. It holds the illusion of safety. Like an internal Switzerland.

And so all the walls go up to shut out the haters. We put on masks so the one pointing the finger saying “It’s Not You” can’t find us. We put our best foot forward trying not to mis-step and bring attention the person that actually lives inside of us.

It is in that place of hiding the miraculous happens. God seeks us out. He finds us. He heals us. Our terror is exchanged for a holy confidence. The whispering lie of  “It’s Not You” is replaced with a steel reinforced truth. That you are fearfully and wonderfully made. That you have in fact, been chosen.

To all of you, who like me, have learned to wear the disguise and cover up the authentic. Who are afraid that the things inside you are not enough or the way you think is overwhelming.

Those of you who don’t feel like you have an invitation with your name on it… Welcome to the world of doers and dreamers.

It may not be safe out here this side of heaven, but we can’t let the words of people shut us down. The world needs people who are willing to take risks and love even when it hurts. Don’t back down. Light up. Dream harder. Go bigger. You’ve been created by a Maker who has your back. With Him you are always safe.

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A silver box came from Russia. What was in it made me cry.

Sometimes we create our story, and other times it creates us…

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I was just like every other kid in junior high. Twelve year old Liz with big red glasses, shoulder length sandy blonde hair and teeth that were begging for some braces. My arms and legs were too lanky for my body and everything I did was awkward. Painfully awkward.

I was just like any other junior higher, except for one thing. I lived in Irkutsk, Russia. My family moved to Siberia when I was eleven and it remained my home until I was thirteen. Those long Siberian winters and their stories are preserved deep in this soul. The food, the smells, the sights. The people. Mostly the people.

I don’t think you could separate those experiences from me. They are so woven into my perspective, thoughts and dreams that to remove them would be to unravel me altogether. Russia marked me.

But something has happened since I’ve moved back. More and more years have gone by since those days, and it seems smaller and smaller. Not to me. Never smaller to me. But when people learn that I used to live there, I get riddled with questions. And the answers go something like this:

I only lived there for two years. 

No, I don’t really speak Russian anymore. If I am around it then it will come back, but sadly I am no longer fluent at the drop of a hat.

Umm, no. No I haven’t gone back. Yea, I know it was a long time ago.

I bet you are right. A lot has probably changed since I’ve been there.

Oh, really? You lived in Spain for eight years. Yeah, I’d love to hear about it. 

At the end of the conversation I am left feeling a bit small. Like people expected more from me. Or I am surrounded by people who have lived overseas longer, currently speak Russian or have visited since I lived there years ago. I don’t remember the answers to their questions. Suddenly, I feel a bit disqualified. Probably like a guy who played junior high football would feel surrounded by college players. Still a football player – but not really compared to them.

And it hurts when something so significant to you seems insignificant to someone else. So I don’t bring it up all the time. I hate feeling that it wasn’t that big of a deal. So I hold it tucked next to my heart and only share it with the people who make it that close.

But yesterday something happened.

A friend of ours, Ryan, visited Russia this summer on a mission trip. While there he spent time in Irkutsk and he came back with a gift for me – a gift from Natasha. After trying to figure out which Natasha, cause there are like a billion of them there, I learned it was from my friend who lived near us in our first apartment. She was one of my very first friends in Irkutsk.

Now as an adult, she attends the church that my family moved there to start. And when Ryan came to work with that church, she sent back a box for me. A box that made me cry.

There was a sweet note that was written in English, but with that distinct Russian handwriting – “ To Elizabeth with love from Siberia.”.

Each item brought back a flood of memories. A beautiful box made of birch wood – carved by the hands of a people I love so much. A Christmas ornament that will go front-and-center on my tree this year, I assure you. Some yummy chocolates to have with a cup of hot tea. And then, I opened the silver box. Inside was a bag of meringue cookies.

I just stared. How could she possibly remember that? Tears came. She remembered. Natasha remembered.

Those cookies were one of my favorite things in the world. Any time I passed a stand or kiosk selling them I would always stop. There was a bakery down the road from my house that sold them and I went nearly every afternoon after school. And she remembered.

Peel back the layers of time, the change of government, the loss of language, the nineteen years since I had seen Natasha… and it was all still there. Because it happened. Because I was there.

So, what if others have more international experience than I do? Or more language skills. Or more up-to-date information on the country. So what if in a conversation among expats my experience doesn’t compare to theirs.

It is my story. And Natasha knows it.

All of us feel the same way to a degree. Our story is big to us, but compared to another’s it seems to lose a bit of its glitter. Making the rounds at parties we don’t feel we have anything interesting to say, because sometimes we fear that the things that have become part of us are only average.

We look at people and decide within our minds that our stories are not worth telling. At least not loudly.

If I had a magic wand, I would do what Natasha did for me. I would send you a silver box and inside would be that thing that helps remind you of your story. The love you lost, the book you started to write, the college degree you loved but didn’t set you apart. You would pull out your junior varsity swim jacket and rock that thing in front of Michael Phelps himself. Or that high school basketball trophy? Shoot I’d send that to you with a chain so you can wear it like a baller. ‘Cause it’s your story and it is worth telling.

And while your life may not be the thing of best-selling novels or Oscar-winning films – it matters to you and to the people you shared those stories with. And it matters to God who composed the whole thing Himself with a beautiful vision that we can’t even begin to touch in our wildest imaginations.

Natasha, who I haven’t seen in almost twenty years, sent me cookies and it tells my story. I don’t know what is in your silver box, but you know what? I hope you tweet it, Instagram it, share it with the world. ‘Cause it’s your story and it’s worth telling.

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Pages have expiration dates

Because I love you, I must tell you to turn the page.

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Life is about so many things. The relationships we hold, the values we believe, the things we dream as we swing our legs off kitchen counters. Our stories are woven over long summer days and countless conversations we have while drinking overpriced coffee.

Like any good story, our lives need several great elements. The characters, the plots, the emotions that come out with every twist and turn. But there is one element that is the hardest to come to terms with in our lives. Timing.

Timing is everything.

And I gotta tell you friend. Sometimes we just don’t get timing. Sometimes we just can’t seem to turn the page.

The paragraphs may be good, exciting and everything you’ve dreamed. What a shame to move on to the rest of the story when this page is so perfect. Moving on would mean loosing this.

Could be that the page is a total failure. Our worst nightmare. The most unimpressive parts of us put down onto the paper. The words we shouldn’t have said and the actions we know we will regret. Temptation is to keep re-reading it. Trying to figure out how to change it. Desperate to find the edit button and fix the mess. Moving on would mean accepting it for what it is. 

But dare I say it? The page has an expiration date.

I’m not sure what it is, but humans have this odd reasoning that if we don’t let something go, then it stays. It doesn’t stay. It moves on with or without us.

Yet we get stuck. We embed ourselves into this one place too afraid to leave. To frustrated to leave. To happy to leave. But life builds. It always builds.

We’ve got to turn the page or we never see how it ends. Where does the dream take us? What does happily ever after look like? How powerful can our redemption actually be?

No matter how great the present is, it will go sour if we don’t let it grow and morph into what it is already becoming. You and I are constantly outgrowing our lives. New days demand new ideas. New ambitions and strategies. Keeping a growing kid in their old toddler clothes doesn’t stop them from growing. It just makes them uncomfortable and awkward. And it ruins the clothes, turning a sweet memory into torn fabric.

Life doesn’t stop for perfection. We don’t have the option for a million edits. The words said at the wrong time, the choice that threw everything off course. It is what it is. Something may happen in the future to salvage it but you have to get there to find out.

Stop reliving yesterday’s happiness and find the courage to seek out today’s.

Stop reliving your failure. You don’t belong there anymore.

Whatever you are stuck on. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s expired. There is a new thing waiting for you.

Go on. Turn the page friend. It’s about to expire. And the next chapter is oh-so-good.

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Mother’s Day. Why I will celebrate and why I will cry.

 

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My beautiful mom back when we lived in Russia.

Today in the United States we celebrate Mother’s Day. There will be flowers, chocolates, homemade cards and phone calls to mothers. It is a day we set aside to celebrate and thank the incredible women who birthed and raised us. Mother’s Day is a beautiful thing.

But I have to be honest. I think we sell Mother’s Day a bit short.

Motherhood is worth celebrating.

I will celebrate today with thankfulness at the two little kids in my home. (One of them keeps interrupting this blog post to show me the newest snail he found in the backyard.) Their early morning cuddles, the way I can calm their fears just by holding them, their hilarious thoughts and creative ways of seeing the world. I can not imagine life without them. My children are the best parts of me.

I smile with joy for the friends who get to celebrate their very first Mother’s Day this year. The new babies that this year has brought to sweet friends who spent years longing for them. Happy Mother’s day new mamas. Soak in every drop.

I will honor all the women around me who mother so well. The ones with healthy families, the ones whose children require extra care, the women who look after other’s children as if they were their own. All the women who are brave enough to love a child unconditionally. Especially my own mom – who deserves her own theme song and fireworks to follow her.

Today is also a day with streaks of sadness.

I think about the baby I lost in between my daughter and my son. I wonder what he or she would have been like and who they would have grown into. All the bedtime stories I didn’t get to read and all the evenings snuggling on the couch doing nothing but simply being together. Today there are multitudes of women like me – who ache for the children that are no longer with them on this earth.

Each morning I think about the two children we are adopting from Burundi. Today is the fourth Mother’s Day I will have spent waiting for them to join our family. Gritting my teeth and praying that by this time next year they will be here with me. Fighting the lie that this is one more year lost. So many women feel that way today. One more year gone without the child they were hoping for.

Mother’s Day to me is not so much about honoring the role of mom, but about celebrating the capacity of the women to be mothers.

I have seen motherhood in action and it is a powerful thing. Professionals who advocate and fight for the rights of minors. Moms who sit beside their autistic children refusing to let a diagnosis define them. Nurses who care for the sick and dying. Businesswomen who support projects to improve the lives of others around the world. Those who spend their days intentionally loving and giving despite their own needs. Not all of these women have their own children, but they encompass the definition of motherhood so well.

” Motherhood: is 24/7 on the frontlines of humanity.” – Maria Shriver

To the women who are knee deep in laundry or college tuition bills – thank you for raising kids. For giving them your hours, your bodies and your hearts.

To the women who are meeting today with the ache of loss – thank you for loving so deeply even though it caused you pain.

To the women still filled with longing for the kids you don’t have – I see you. Thank you for not giving up.

There is so much to celebrate today beyond the high-five to the mom in the park (although, that would totally make my day).

Take time to notice the women around you. The women who selflessly pour into children that will never call them “mom”. The ones who will courageously attend another baby shower for a friend even though it rubs on the tender place of disappointment within them. The women who give their days and nights to wiping noses and taking care of their own kids needs. These women are all worth celebrating and support the broader meaning of motherhood. They spend their lives on the frontlines of humanity. They are mothers in their own right.

So to all the women who mother – physically, emotionally, spiritually. This one’s for you babe. Happy Mother’s Day.

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It’s like a field trip of sorts – but without the permission slip and sack lunch

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I was gonna be all impressive and grown up, but it just didn’t work out. I’ve known this was coming for weeks and had lined out some posts to automatically publish over the next two weeks so you guys wouldn’t even notice that I was in Africa.

Yea, Africa. Life didn’t quite follow my highly-detailed plan this past week and therefore I didn’t get any posts lined out to publish tonight. I sat down to do it now, but my malaria medicine is making me a smidge loopy so I decided creativity probably isn’t a wise attempt at the moment.

So, I’m gonna get personal and just tell you the truth.  I tend to stay away from talking about the ins-and-outs of my personal life on here since Lark & Bloom isn’t really about me as much as it is about us. And it certainly isn’t an adoption or parenting blog. B I’ll briefly take a moment and fill you in on whats happening with me.

This isn’t news really if you follow me on social media, but I’m going to Africa tomorrow. My husband and I have been in the process of adopting for over four years now. It’s been a long journey – a story for another day – but in November we shifted our plans and began the process of adopting from Burundi. We are hoping to adopt a set of siblings actually. I refer you to my previous post about doing the crazy thing.

If you’ve never heard of Burundi, I suggest you read about itI will be giving my paperwork to the government officials in Bujumbura and be introduced to the amazing country nestled in the heart of Africa.

I went to Africa for the first time when I was 15. I have been back twice since then and am beyond excited to return again.

I am unsure if I will be able to blog from there, so we are gonna do something a bit different. I’ll be posting photos from my trip on Instagram and I’d like to invite you along. Its kinda like a field trip of sorts, but you don’t have to sign a permission slip or bring a sack lunch. It should be fun.

Follow me on Instagram @larkandbloom and come to Africa with me. We were made for adventure.

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Go ahead, dreamer. Do the crazy thing.

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You know. That ‘thing’.

It never seems to go away. The idea, the dream, the passion, the vision that stays ever before you. The ‘what if’ scenario that resurfaces in your imagination – over and over and over. No matter how you try and rationalize it out of your psyche, it keeps coming back. As if you were made to think it. Born to do it.

Sometimes they are big and busting at the seams with meaning. Others are simple whims that buzz around your head making you smile as you think of them. If only, you think to yourself. If only I had the time, the money, the capacity, the opportunity…If only I could do it.

My gypsy soul has done some crazy things.

I fell in love when I said I wouldn’t. So in love, I married at age 21. The thing I was too young to do.

For years I dreamed of Seattle. Going and living in that vibrant city which sits on the edge of the next-big-thing all the time. When I was 23 I went there to plant a church. And I did. I did the thing that looked impossible.

I have a passion for travel. So, I became a travel agent. The dream job for me in so many ways. I made no money at it and didn’t renew my license. I did the crazy thing that failed…and it wasn’t that bad.

Seattle became a home beyond what I could have imagined. So much of what defined me was there and one day we felt the nudge of God to let it all go. Pack up and move on to the next thing. So, despite many tears…I moved. I did the thing that felt like it would kill me, but it didn’t.

Graduate school has been a passion of mine for years. I decided to study for the GRE…hours I studied and then never took it. I did the thing that never went anywhere but taught me so much anyway.

I have two kids and am adopting two more. I am doing the thing that seems beyond my capacity.

I am trying to write a book. I am doing the thing that intimidates me.

I am pursuing my passion to see an end to human trafficking and work with an organization to see the 27 million slaves in the world set free. I am doing the thing that seems too big for me. The dream that has always felt intangible and distant. The dream that scares me the most.

So many things.

Crazy, beautiful, motivating. Ideas and dreams I couldn’t shake.

Thoughts that didn’t seem to matter to anyone else – they were the thoughts that wouldn’t leave me alone. I do things that seem impressive to others and things that people find trivial. I do things that no one else understand but God and myself. Some I do well and others I fumble. But I do them.

Go ahead. You were made to do the crazy things.

The idea you tinker with in your spare time. Things so crazy no one has done yet. Or things so seemingly ordinary people don’t understand your passion for it. Lives so brave they make the complacent uncomfortable. Focus so wild it intimidates the giants who say it can’t be done. You were made for this.

So go ahead. Do them. Do the crazy things.

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Celebrating the wrong direction and a 3rd Birthday

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photo via

Grab your party hats, your streamers and your beverage of choice! Today is a day of celebration at Lark & Bloom. It is actually a trifecta of celebration to be clear.

It is the end of our Uncomfortable January series, this blog’s third birthday and a day to embrace and enjoy the truth that at times our risks don’t turn out the way we want them too – which is a good thing more times than not.

Three years ago today, I was sitting in a quiet house with my husband out-of-town and my kids sleeping in their rooms down the hallway. Boxes were accumulating with our move from Seattle to California just weeks away. My head was spinning with emotions and tear-shedding was no longer enough relief. I had to get these thoughts out.

I sat down and wrote the very first blog post at Lark & Bloom. I had failed at one blog before – mostly because I only wrote a single entry then never posted again. Another blog? Do I really have anything to say this time?  I decided that I probably didn’t have anything worth saying, but I went ahead and set one up anyway. My friends were scattered around the world, and I was experiencing a massive life transition. Lark and Bloom was created that night as a means of processing out my thoughts so my friends could read them and stay connected to me between sparse phone calls.

Except that isn’t what happened. Very few of my friends actually read my blog, which is totally fine, because you came. You showed up to hear my words and talk with me about the world and all that it could be. We have been able to dream together, grow together and connect through this space.

This blog failed at its original mission, but it has morphed into something far more wonderful. Readers from around the world bring their beautiful stories and dreams that are truly inspiring. This community is something I never knew I needed – something I never imagined.

Had I known the bigness of what I was getting myself into three years ago, I most certainly wouldn’t have ever typed out that initial post. It would have terrified me.

This month I have heard stories of what you guys are doing in response to An Uncomfortable January. You are risky and bold. Living life – big or small – with intention.

And this is what we are celebrating today. Taking risks that lead us to unknown destinations.

When I kicked off this series a few weeks ago, I talked about being risky in 2014.

You have dreams in your heart worth chasing,  goals that are begging to be accomplished, and ideas to create. There is a person worth developing in you and a narrative all your own that deserves applause. That is worth risking on in 2014.

But there are days we will head in the wrong direction – and we celebrate those too. Respecting the fact that we were brave enough to venture off the path in the first place, embracing the lessons to be learned in the process and acknowledging the little victories along the way.

Maybe we didn’t end up where we wanted to or with the people we intended to be with. The full picture is rarely in focus when we start out. Step by step, the journey becomes a little clearer. In the end, we look back and see the meaning in it all. The guidance of a God who knew the whole story before we even began.

Sometimes where we end up is far better than where we were headed. —> click to tweet

There is destiny within us that we aren’t even aware of yet – destinations never dreamed of. Our lives are bigger than we know. That is why we simply start by taking the little risks  – knowing that these baby steps will eventually cover miles.

Years from now, we will gather with our families in our living rooms and share the stories of our adventures. The distant lands we walked upon, the space we created, the humanity we embraced, the feeble love we offered, the careers we built and the relationships we established. Stories that cause little tots eyes to light up and remind all those within earshot that their lives are meant for something bigger.

We may not end up the richest or most famous, but we will be full because we did what we were put on earth to do. Dreamt the dreams, walked the roads and cried the tears.  Cakes will be baked to acknowledge the milestones along the way and friendships will be forged that enable us to cross the distance ahead.

Here’s to the ones who take a chance and the ones who celebrate going the wrong direction. We aren’t afraid to succeed and we aren’t afraid to fail. Cause we’re risky like that in 2014. 

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