Are We There Yet?

Another lifetime ago, we lived overseas. And during that time, we were able to take a family trip to London. On that trip, one thing stood out to my children above all others. Bigger than the London Eye, more impressive than the Crown Jewels, even more memorable than the mac’n’cheese at the Hard Rock Cafe.

The walking.

We walked everywhere. And we walked for ages, and ages. At least in their little minds, and to their little feet, we did. Now bear in mind, at the time, we lived in a small village in rural Ireland. There just wasn’t that much within walking distance, and if you did walk somewhere, you were likely taking your life in your hands because there were either no sidewalks, or they were really, really narrow. So, needless to say, we drove just about everywhere we had to go.

This trip was before we moved to Vienna and utilized public transport everyday, so I was worried about how they would fare navigating the underground, hopping on and off buses and trains, being schlepped here, there and everywhere by their well-meaning parents who were going to “show them some history.” However, there’s apparently something highly exotic and exciting about getting to go somewhere with no seatbelt and standing up! Exotic and exciting aside, there was often just One thing they wanted to know:

Are we there yet?!?

I couldn’t blame them, really. Sometimes the question was asked out of excitement. Take, for instance, the Crown Jewels. Having watched the royal wedding, and nearly every Disney princess movie known to man, they were giddy with excitement about seeing the queen’s crown. So, the hour long tour we took before entering the jewel house was, to them, nothing short of medieval torture. Other times, it was asked from sheer exhaustion. Like when we walked for over half an hour in the wrong direction towards our dinner destination, only to have to retrace our steps and cross the city and then still have to wait nearly two hours for a table.

In either case, every time they asked the question, I tried to point out all of the great things we were seeing along the way. But they just weren’t interested. They had their eyes on the “prize”, and nothing was going to distract them.

It was sometime during one of these lovely little exchanges with my wee cherubs that it hit me like a ton of bricks. I might as well have been a pot trying to get the attention of my two little kettles. My entire life flashed before my eyes (only not in that weird pre-death sense).

A good chunk of my life has been spent riding the “are we there yet?” underground train. I hop on the train, wait for that one thing – an engagement ring, the wedding, a baby, the book contract – and then surface just long enough to see my destination. Then I submerge again until the next thing. In the meantime, how many wonderful things do I miss out on along the way because I just want to be there?

I think, if only I can get there, I’ll be happy and can enjoy the journey. The only problem is, there never feels like there! There will always be another there. Another tooth to break through, another grumpy teacher to deal with, another pound to lose, another medical battle to fight.

And these days, following the signing of my very first book contract, it is so tempting for me to wish for the next there. The title to be finalized. The cover to be set and revealed. The book to be done and in my hot little hands already!

Meanwhile, I’m missing out on life. You see, it was in those two hours in London waiting for a table that we had some of the best conversations with the people we were with. It was on those long walks between sights that I got to hold my daughter’s hand, or carry my son, and listen to their stories and questions and songs. The best parts of my vacation happened between all of the “must sees.” And it was in the years of waiting for this contract that I built incredible relationships with unbelievably kind people who helped me learn invaluable lessons I needed before I could even be ready for a book! I just need to take a lesson from London and experience and enjoy the journey as much as the destinations along the way.

What about you? What is your “there” right now? Are you missing out on things you could be enjoying?

This post is an updated version of one that appeared on this blog back in 2011.

My Newest Travel Obsession

This post contains affiliate links

It’s summertime, and that means lots of us are on the road — a LOT!

Admittedly, we don’t travel nearly as much as we did when we lived overseas, but with my husband’s family 2 hours away, and my family 3 states away, we still have our fair share of road time.

So, I was so excited when I got the opportunity to try out the latest and greatest from The BeLOVED Life. Their new plush travel pillows are seriously my latest obsession when it comes to anything remotely related to travel. 

We got to try out the For God So Loved the World plush travel pillow recently, and I cannot say enough great things about it!

Photo courtesy of Dayspring

My 13 year old daughter used it on her school choir trip to Disneyland recently. The over-the-shoulder strap made it so easy to carry her suitcase, paperwork, and everything else, while still being able to bring a comfortable and stylish pillow along for the ride.

The phone pouch on the strap was amazing. It was the perfect size for her phone, and allowed her to keep it close by without risking it falling out of her pants pocket — not to mention it was much more comfortable for the 6 hour bus ride to not have a phone in her pocket!

There’s also a pocket/pouch on the backside of the pillow where she could slip a couple of snacks and a blanket.

When we got all settled in, she laid her head on it and said, “Oh my gosh, mom! This thing is so soft, I want to stuff my whole body inside the pocket!”

All in all, the pillow was a huge hit. Her friends all wanted one by the end of the trip.

Of course, as a mom, I love the positive messaging on the pillow itself, as well as the opportunity for my daughter to share the Bible with her friends and classmates in a non-threatening way. I also love that there are several different options of styles of pillows. Each has a unique positive message, and there are even ones the boys will love!

I mean, just look at this:

But even more than the adorable designs and positive, faith-filled messages, I love what Mimi and The BeLOVED Life are all about. Mimi says, “I felt like there was a void in the Christian market for colorful, trendy products that pre-teens could be proud to have and share with their friends.”

Mimi’s designs have been featured in Seventeen Magazine’s “Top 10 Back to School Products,” and reviewed by the TODAY Show.

“This new product,” Mimi continues, “was designed to bring life and energy and vibrance back into the pre-teen product market, and to get the kids excited about learning God’s Word, and growing in their faith.” How can you beat that, right?

Well, Mimi takes her faith and messaging to heart. That’s why The BeLOVED Life has “committed to joining the fight against physical, emotional, and cyber bully attacks” by pledging to donate 10% of each sale towards anti-bullying programs and non-profits for children.

Can you guys see why this product, company, and entrepreneur tick all the boxes for me?

Click here to get one of these adorable pillows, and know that you’re not only investing in your child’s spiritual well-being and growth, but also making a difference in the life of a child affected by bullying. Win-win if you ask me!

What Little League Taught Me About Faith

A soft breeze, warm with the heat of an Arizona October, brushes my face. The scent of stale popcorn, bubble gum, and dust hangs in the air. I squint against the bright sunlight and scan the field.

Ah! There he is.

My 6-year-old-the-size-of-a-9-year-old has assumed the ready position way out in left field. Again.

Never mind the pitcher hasn’t even made it to the mound yet, and that this is his third time in left field this game. He’s ready.

At last, the pitcher saunters to the mound, a wad of gum bulging his cheek.

“Alright, c’mon, kiddo. Just like we practiced!” A man’s voice rings louder than the din.

The kid, with scruffy hair hanging out the sides of his cap and his shirttail untucked nods decidedly as his dad. He stands tall and raises his gloved had in front of his chest. He squints at the catcher. Shakes off an imaginary call, checks the bases for stealing runners—never mind the fact that this is the first batter—and his shoulders rise and fall with a large sigh. He winds up and fires the ball. It sails far over the catcher’s head, clanks into the backstop, and a mad scramble ensues. Pitcher, catcher, and third baseman scramble for the ball. Dust and limbs flying everywhere.

“What was that, son? Don’t try to be Randy Johnson out there. Just. Play. Catch!”

The ball finally recovered, all the players return to their posts and in unison my son’s team assumes the ready position.

I smiled at the scene now so familiar. Every game was the same. Sure, the players rotated positions and a different pitcher took the mound every few innings, but the basic play was the same.

And it reminded me, oddly enough, of me.

It’s funny the things you ponder sitting in dusty camp chairs every Saturday for weeks on end, watching little boys and girls strive to be like their big league heroes.

And one thing I’ve realized over the weeks is that Little League baseball is a lot like my spiritual walk. And I’d venture to guess, it’s a lot like yours, too.

So, I wanted to share with you a few things Little League taught me about faith.

1. The game rarely ever goes like practice. So many times, I sat at practice and watched my son nail hit after hit. Or make stellar throws and speed around the bases, a wide grin splitting his face. But on game day. Oh, things were always different on game day. It was serious. He was nervous. He struck out far more often than he did in practice. And those throws? They never seemed to hit their mark. Sound familiar? Sitting in my cozy spot on the couch, dog in my lap, Bible in hand, my “practice” time is a joy. God’s word sings in my soul, profound insights burst in my mind and renewed purpose steels deep in my soul. Then comes Game Day. My kids wake up, the dog pukes on the rug, and my perfectly engaging lesson falls flat for my middle schools students. Suddenly those insights are a lead chain around my neck. The joy from my morning practice shoved aside by annoyance and frustration. Then comes The Big Game. You know, Game 7 of the World Series big. The notice of layoffs comes. Or the doctor calls. Or another bill arrives. Yes, it’s true. The game rarely ever goes like practice.

2. Ready Position is a big deal. It never failed to amuse me. One kid building sand castles at short stop. Another crawling around, tracing the path of a beetle. Yet another is picking his nose, confident he’s far enough in the outfield no one will notice. Suddenly, a voice splits the air. Coach. “Ready position, boys!” Obediently, they snap to Ready Position: forearms rested on thighs, knees bent ready to spring into action, eyes on the pitcher. After every play, they return to ready position. From this position, they can spring into action in any direction at any given moment. It’s designed for maximum speed and efficiency so they can pounce on the ball or lunge to make a catch. We have a ready position, too. Sometimes we need reminding. That’s why we tape Bible verses on mirrors and save them as lock screens on our devices. We listen to worship music in the car and start our day with prayer and Bible study. We need our hearts and minds in ready position. Postured with ears open, eyes wide, hearts softened, ready to spring into action at the slightest nudge of the Spirit. And if we get shaken, or after the action, we return. Ready for action. Ready to listen. Ready to jump when the ball comes our way.

3. Listen to the coach. Little boys like to run. Better yet, they like to run in dirt. I lost count of how many times a little leaguer sprinted around the bases, slid into home, only to be met by serious eyes. “I told you to hold off at second base. That is the fourth run, and now we have to change sides. If you had stopped when I asked, more people would have had the chance to bat.” Oh. Sometimes, we’re running full steam ahead, goal in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned on. We can see our destination. We’re so close we can taste it. And then we hear that Still Small Voice imploring us. Slow down. Stop. Not yet. The tug-o-war of the heart ensues. But, it’s right there. I’m so close. “Stop.” We need to listen to our Coach. We were given the Holy Spirit as a gift. A guide. A coach. He knows what is best for us, and the best way for us to get there. He doesn’t tell us what to do just for the joy of hearing the sound of His own voice. No. There’s a game plan. A strategy. If we barrel ahead, we may interfere with what He has for us. Or for someone else. We may risk the entire game thinking we know better. We need to listen to the Coach.

4. Have fun! Many’s the time we had to remind our little baller that it was just a game. And while, yes, there are winners and losers…well, not in this age of Little League, but still. Work hard? Yes. Try your best? Absolutely. Take it seriously? For sure! But taking it seriously doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it! Sometimes we make following Christ look about as enjoyable as latrene duty or grave digging. Yes, it’s serious business. Eternity is on the line. But Christ himself said He came to give us life—abundant life! It’s ok to enjoy this life. This world. Our families. Our jobs. Our churches. There is great joy and freedom found in Christ and we would be well served to allow ourselves to fully embrace and experience that joy.

5. Cheer on your teammates. Our son’s coaches did a great job trying to instill the character of sportsmanship into the members of the team. They celebrated one another well. It can be all too easy to view others as competition. Especially when they are playing the position we wanted to play, better than we know we could play it. We need to support one another. Cheer one another one. Dust each other off when we fall, and celebrate the successes of those on our team. By the way, our team is humanity.

So, what do you think? Do you see yourself in these Little Leaguers? Which one do you sense the tug to work on? What other lessons have you found in the ordinary things of life?

What Teaching Middle School Writing is Teaching Me About Life

I’m standing at the front of the room, laughing like an idiot, in a room full of 12 to 14 year olds roaring in equal parts hilarity and awkwardness.

We just finished doing the Chicken Dance. That’s right, the Chicken Dance. I somehow managed to convince a room full of tweens to set aside their pride and flap their arms and shimmy their tushies for a full three minutes. Laughter floats heavy in the air, and the room smells of equal parts over-sprayed cologne and weird middle school body odor.

I love this.

I’m teaching middle schoolers to write. And it’s just as difficult and awkward and hair-pulling-out-frustrating as you might imagine.

It’s also amazingly and wonderfully magical. Seeing them stretch a little more. Try something new. Risk just a smidge more than yesterday—and allowing me a front row seat to the whole show.

The past two months as a middle school writing teacher has taught me many things. Like never show up without coffee, for one. And never underestimate the power of a spat between friends, for another.

But more than that, I’m learning some valuable life lessons that I thought might resonate with you, too.

  1. Sometimes you just need permission to try—and fail. I told my students on the first day of school that my biggest and most ardent expectation for them in my classroom is that they try, try, try. And then try some more. “I’m not after perfection,” I told them. “I’m after the attempt.” I let them know that every first try, when it comes to writing, stinks, and that’s ok. That’s perfect, in fact. And that permission to try something, and to rejoice if it fails, was just what the doctor ordered to foster the courage to take a leap in an area that was uncomfortable for most of them.
  2. Sometimes you need someone to walk with you. I walk them through my writing process, and leave nothing out. I start with the, “Aw man, I    don’t want to write about this!” all the way through to “This is my best idea yet!” I let them join me on the journey from discovery to brainstorming to drafting to publishing. I show them that all the weird things that pop into their minds aren’t so weird after all. And that little act of bringing them along on my own journey gives them the bravery to start their own journeys in my room each day.
  3. Sometimes you just need someone to recognize the talent in you. It’s by far my most favorite moment in the classroom. That sacred minute in which I get a glimpse of greatness. It’s crazy that I’m honored enough to be there when a student unearths a nugget of brilliance all on their own and I get to call them on it. I call out talent. Raw skill. Unique perspectives. Deep insights. I share with them exactly what I see in them that is good. Or great. Phenomenal. And world-changing. It may just be a sentence on paper, but to me it’s a spring board to a better world. And when I point it out to them, they blush and smile. Some shrug and wave their hand as if to say, “Aw, shucks. Not really.” But they walk a little taller. They reach out to their neighbor and pass on the torch of encouragement. They’re quicker to notice the brilliance in each other, and forgive the “sin” of mediocrity in themselves. And isn’t that the same with you and me? Sometimes someone comes along just at the right time when we needed it most of all and points out the beauty we mistake for midline. And it bolsters us for whatever comes next.
  4. Sometimes you just need someone to take your hand, and pull you smack dab into the center of silliness. I don’t know what the classrooms to the left and right of mine were thinking as we howled and clapped our way through the Chicken Dance. But I know what I saw. Smiling faces. Helping hands. Defenses coming down. And in the end, in some weird way, we were just that much closer. We dialed in to the work much quicker and more easily. That three minute foray into the goofy released the pent up tension we didn’t even realize had built, and allowed us to delve more deeply and quickly into the real, more meaningful work.
  5. Sometimes you just need to be the person who does numbers 1 through 4 for someone else. 

So what about you? Do you need permission to try and fail; someone who will walk with you; someone to recognize the good in you and your life; or a tug into the silly? And who in your life can you reach out to and do the same for? Encouragement goes both ways, and often times I find I’m more encouraged, uplifted, and lighter in the soul when I’m focused on lifting up someone else than when I’ve been the one to be lifted.



Why We Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

I don’t think I ever really understood St. Patrick’s Day until I lived in Ireland. There was just something about being surrounded by those lilting voices, celebrating Ireland and a man who brought them hope so many years ago. (Okay, so not all of them think about the hope thing, but I can’t help but)

Since our time in Ireland, I’ve had lots of people ask me, “So, what’s the point of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? What meaning does it hold?”

3 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day With Your KidsSo, I was honored and super excited when Tricia Goyer asked me to write a post for her blog about meaningful ways to celebrate Paddy’s Day with your kids. You guys know me, and know that I’m all about simple, stress-free, fun and grace-filled. So, that’s what you’ll find in these 3 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Your Kids.

To make it a real party, Tricia is also hosting a giveaway for a copy of her new book, Prayers that Changed History! (hint: Patrick is in there!) So hop of over to Tricia’s place and enter!

More Birthday Fun – {Devotional GIVEAWAY}

Blog Birthday Giveaway

One of the things I write about here is my own journey of being a wife. I’ve had the joy of getting to know Jennifer Smith from The Unveiled Wife through our writing together at The Better Mom. She’s an amazing gal with a beautiful heart towards strong, healthy marriages. She’s also recently joined the ranks of motherhood with the arrival of her gorgeous wee babe a few months ago.

Wife-after-god-30-day-devotional-unveiled-wifeJennifer was so graciously excited to participate in this fun little giveaway to help us celebrate two years of blogging here at This Gal’s Journey. She has offered two copies of her new devotional, A Wife After God, to one of our readers! I was really torn about giving two copies to one person, or one copy to two different people. As much as I love spreading the love, I really felt like I needed to give both copies to one person so they can give the second one to a friend. Better yet, maybe you’ll go through it together! You know how I love community up in here. 🙂

So, click that little blue link below to get to the Rafflecopter widget so you can enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Quiet Celebration of A Life

The lights are dim.

The muffled sounds of a soothing lullaby disc waft through the closed door of the baby’s room and into the living room.

The day is done and the house, and the family that reside within, are settled in for the night.

The day has been spent in celebration.

Blessing and celebrating a life.

My life.

Hugs and snuggles, candles and bows.

No rowdy party or loud music. Just a day spent with those most important to me.

And as the well wishes and blessings rolled in from around the world, in text and script and spoken word in celebration of me I realized…

Me…my life…it is him. This man with whom I’ve shared some aspect of life for over 15  years and loves me better than I could ever hope for, or deserve. It is them. These three precious, amazing, children who teach me so much everyday. In whom I see so much of myself; and so much of who I want to me. And it is Him. This One who guides me with a gentle hand; a still small voice.

I am so much more me with these dear ones around than when I am alone. They do not define my identity; they enhance it.

And now a warm, full sense of satisfaction – nay, contentment – fills me to the brim and more.

This truth has been long absent from this wandering heart. And tonight it has found me.

And so I sit in front of the fire and bask in the warmth of the quiet celebration of a life.


It’s Friday! You know what that means. Time to join the crowd over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s for the writing flash-mob that is Five Minute Friday. Just writing for 5 straight minutes. No stopping; no editing; to fretting. Just writing; and breathing. For some of us those are one in the same.

Wide-Angled View

The theme for Five Minute Friday this week is: WIDE
Five minutes, no stopping, no editing. Just. Writing.


The cage of overcast, heavy clouds has lifted.

The blinders of fog and mist removed.

The sun shines out the brighter, and all things seem new.

The world is glorious.

A cotton-ball sky extends overhead, a brilliant azure blanket covering a rainbowed earth full of colors never before seen by the eyes of man (or so it seems).

I stand in the center and survey the vast expanse of the world surrounding me; I see the horizon and beyond. The life of the earth fills me, and I fill it.

I have never felt so small…or so significant.

How can that be? How, when I am so acutely aware of the extreme small-ness of who I am in the context of this big, expansive, wild universe can I be so sure of the enormous significance that is my life, my soul?

It’s because this amazing world we partake of is the sum of all it’s parts…and so much more. To remove even one speck from it’s canvas would make it less than whole.

I have been placed here in this world for a purpose, as have you, dear friend.

So embrace the vastness. Embrace your small-ness. And embrace your significance. For you matter to me. You matter to the world. You matter to Him.

You just have to see it from His wide-angle view.


I’ve linked this post up with Pieces of Amy, The Better Mom