You GUYS...I DID IT!!!

Thursday, January 30

{Everett is cheering me on, hehe} 

Can I share a secret I've been waiting to tell???

After 6 years of lots of hard work and dedication,
tears and fears,
joy and elation...

I have completed my 3,000 Clinical hours needed to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California!!

The clouds have parted, the sun is feels SOOO good to type this out!

While I still need to take my licensing exam (JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL...I'm terrible at tests!)
to be done with this purgatory is like dew from heaven (am I being dramatic? noooo haha)

Let's back up so I can share this whole process and why it means so much that I'm done...

In 2013 Kevin and I moved to Nepal, which in itself was a miracle and answer to prayer. Kevin and I had asked the Lord to send us abroad before we had kids, and out of the blue, my home church paid for us to move to Nepal as consultants for an aftercare home for girls rescued out of trafficking and abuse.

The 6 months we spent in Kathmandu changed my life and the trajectory of my career. Upon moving to Nepal, I had spent the last 6 years working for various international non profits, but had an ache in my spirit for something more, something deeper. While in Nepal I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to go back and get my masters in counseling.

You guys, I was 29 and the thought of a total career change felt big.
But that's what happens when we let the spirit lead.
He moves, and we move, and we are changed.

So for two years, full time, I studied my little heart out. I pulled late nights writing papers, I cried with clients, I completed group projects, I worked as a graduate assistant, and was completely enmeshed in graduate school and seeing clients. Its as a lot of work.

And when I graduated, I still had a few thousand hours to complete...which, if I'm honest, was really daunting. The last four years have felt like I have carried a weight on me. I've been itching to move abroad and get on with my life, but every time I tallied my hours up...I still needed more.

And for a while there, I questioned God's calling on my life.

God, did you really call me to this?
It's too hard 

God, did I make the right choice?
I feel so weak and unqualified for the magnitude of this job 

God, did I completely miss your direction?
I can't handle the pain and brokenness I'm around each day, I'm too sensitive

And there was a hot minute there where I honestly wanted to quit, walk away.
Do something easier.

But God's gentle hand didn't let me.
I'd like to say I had a major revelation or that God spoke to me in a burning bush moment...
but no...
I wasn't given a huge banner with his directive
 platitudes to soften the intensity of counseling broken people

But I was given Jesus.
The suffering servant,
who's life, broken for me,
saved me.

And I remembered, "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me" (Matt 25:40)
...every client I see is his precious one, and if I commit my work to the Lord, it is a fragrant offering to him. 

And I remembered, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13)
...if I can die to myself as a therapist and allow the Holy Spirit to flow, HOPE will be the outcome. 

I remembered that I too can use the crumbs God has given me to be broken for the world. 
and so I press on, whatever it holds.
However you use me Lord, I am yours for the taking.

3,000 hours,
multiple moves,
lots of trips,
and 2 babies later,
I did it.
God did it. 

Thank you for all the ways you've encouraged me, and thank you to Jesus for leading.
(and please pray for me as I study for my big test! It is a THING!!!)

How to invite your children into a narrative that speaks life

Wednesday, January 15

 As a mama, a therapist, and someone who's primary love language is words of affirmation, the following message is my heartbeat.

The way we speak to our children,
the narrative we invite them into,
the modeling we display....

is not just incredibly important,
it is life changing and vital.

Our children are not neutral.
They do not take in information and remain neutral about it.
They are a vacuum that sucks every bit of positive or negative energy up,
and then dumps out precisely what they have just taken in.

Children also are not born knowing what to do. That is why it's called child training:) We are constantly in a state of training our children, both directly and indirectly by our actions.

When we invite them into a narrative that speaks life to others,
they will build momentum in that direction.

Since Everett has been born, we are constantly saying to Avonlea,
"isn't Everett so cute??"
We aren't saying that merely so Avonlea will just agree with us or to stroke our own egos that we created a pretty adorable human:)


We are modeling to her what it looks like to verbally affirm her brother. And not only that, we are hoping that by affirming on repeat over and over, it creates a culture of verbal affirmation in our household that is normal and not awkward (because lezzz be honest friends, how many sitcoms mock or downplay the importance of actually telling each other how we feel?? We've got the Full House sap on one side of the spectrum and we've got pretty much any modern day sitcom on the other side that just makes fun of each other for sport)

Because children don't need us to teach them how to be frustrated with one another. That is purely natural, amirightttttt?!?!?! Watch your child take a toy from your other child, and out comes all the animal instincts that run the gamut of anger, frustration, rage, annoyance. WWIII is on.

But children do need us to invite them into a story where they can become each other's finest cheerleaders and best friends. Now on repeat, Avonlea is constantly telling us "Everett is such a cutie boy!". She has begun to catch the vision that she can delight in her brother. It is now a part of our family culture.

While we fall short in so many parenting ideals, we have always worked hard to delight in our children, and invite our children to delight in one another. Because who wants to live in a household where we are always frustrated with each other? NOT I!

A few weeks ago, Everett started learning to crawl. So I asked Avonlea to come with me to the other side of the room and get down on our knees, and clap and cheer little buddy on in his newfound movement.

Avie got SO excited to be a part of her brother's victory, hooping and hollering in what felt like echos from heaven. To watch my 2.5 year old daughter believe in her brother and cheer him on felt holy. "You can do it little buddy...come on...go buddy go!"
A glimpse of glory. 

Friends, by God's gracious design, we mama's play a huge part in cultivating a sense of delight in our home. Here are a few phrases I love to say to my kids...

"I loved spending time with you today, you're so fun to be with"

"You're my favorite girl/boy in the whole world"

"Do you know how much I love you? Sooooo much" (I say this about 10x a day, and now Avie resends with "I love YOU sooooo much")

Children soak up what we give them, and then they pour it out.
So today, practice delighting in your children.
Practice inviting them into a narrative that speaks life to others,
and cultivate opportunities for them to be cheerleaders for others, especially their siblings!

What a treasure to delight in our children and watch them delight in return.
Truly a glimpse of heaven:)

What I've been up to these last 4 years

Monday, January 13

I was absolutely overwhelmed at the love I received when I announced I was going to start blogging again. Like, literally, blown away...I cried tears of JOY that evening and celebrated the warmth and kindness of women.

I thought I'd take some time and share with you what I've been up to these last four years!!

started out with a bang...and brought a lot of change...
We spent that winter in Europe on a family Christmas trip in Switzerland, France and Germany. I hope to share some pictures with you on IG about that, so feel free to follow me @hopeengaged if you want to see them:)

Coming back from Europe, we packed up all of our earthly possessions and drove them from Southern California (where we had been living with Kevin's parents while I went to graduate school) up to Northern California (which is where I grew up and where we were moving!). We bought a house!! (I'm hoping to share a TON of project's we've slowly been working on over the last 4 years, so stay tuned!!)

After moving our stuff in for like 2 days...we jet setting out on a plane to India!! The amazing company Sari Bari flew us to Calcutta to take pictures of the women who make their gorgeous bags! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity!

I got a job at a local Christian Counseling Center. As a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), you have to get 3,000 clinical hours before you can become licensed. I have been working hard these last 4 years and have a big announcement to come about stay tuned (I may say this on repeat, haha)

We were blessed to be sent on a yacht cruise around Tahiti with Inspiration Cruises & Tours!!! (Visiting Bora Bora, Moorea, and other islands!)

We got pregnant & found out it's a girl!!

We hosted our British Friends for a 3 week trip around California!! 

We visited our family in New York City at Christmas & prepped for baby girl!

was a sweet year of family...

I was so incredibly showered (6 showers!) for baby girl.

I went on maternity leave in March, and on April 4th, our precious peanut, Avonlea Grace, was born. (her birth story here)

Becoming a mother was astounding, I loved (and currently love) it more than I could have imagined! The sweetness, the connection, the bonding...ohhhh I wanted to bottle all those newborn feels up (except for lack of sleep, hahah)

We took a few domestic trips but took it pretty easy this year.

was a year of TRAVEL....

We arrived in England on New Years day of 2018 and spent the next 3 weeks with our best friends (who are British) traveling through the Lake District, the island of Jersey, and The Cotswolds. You guys, it was such a. life-giving trip. Our friends rolled out the red carpet for us and every night we laughed, swapped stories, and relived our adventures. Its as so fun. I didn't blog a single blog about England, so get ready for those pictures this year!!

{in Liverpool at the Beatles Museum!}

That summer we visited Kevin's sister (and her family) in Delft, Holland. Our brother-in-law was doing his PhD there and we stayed in their 4 story Dutch house in the fairytale city of Delft (I want to move there, haha). We then took a flight over to Sweden to visit my family and attend our family reunion! I didn't blog any of those pictures either, so hopefully we'll get on that. Sweden is a dream...our family was so hospitable and cooked for us and took us all around. Such a lovely time!

Sadly, the year ended with the Camp Fire burning down the entire town of Paradise (10 miles from the city where we live). My mother's childhood house was burned to the ground (along with most of the city) and my parent's were evacuated from their home (although the fire didn't make it there). It was devastating and people are still reeling from the loss.

was a year of pressing into meaningful projects and facing fears...

In the spring, I spoke at two difference women's for my church's women's retreat, and the other for CRU's women's retreat. It was so amazing to ask the Lord for His words to flow out of me, and watch as he crafted a message that ministered to hearts of women. I love speaking and bringing God's word to other women:)

I also had an incredibly difficult last month of pregnancy. I had terrible pregnancy insomnia which kept me up all night for almost 3 weeks, it was quite scary.  I think between the stress of seeing client's, and the responsibility of crafting numerous talks for my speaking engagements, my fears started flying out of control and my thinking was so skewed. Thankfully on Easter, a few weeks before our boy was born, God freed me from the insomnia and the anxiety. (All the praise hands for that!! Thank you Jesus!)

On May 13th 2019, our cherub of a boy, Everett William Cook, was born. I still need to write out his birth story (so stay tuned, haha). He has been the biggest blessing of my life this year...his smile and countenance have lifted the most dreary of day. I adore him.
The rest of 2019 has been pretty chill, trips to Washington, Hawaii, and San Diego with the family, and mostly just learning how to be a mama of two kids!!

I also have almost completed my MFT "stay tuned" for an announcement regarding that!! (How many times can I say "stay tuned" in one blog post? ha!!)

Sooo I guess as a recap, the last four years have found us in Northern California, having babies, working as a counselor, and figuring out how to love and care for our neighbors in this place. It's been a totally different season being a mama, but I wouldn't trade it one bit!!

I can't wait to spend 2020 with all of you seeing what God does with this space and in my heart!! Please update me on the last few years of YOUR life! I'd love to connect more with you. And again, if you are on IG, please come say hi @hopeengaged.

My word for 2020

Friday, January 10

I've been hit or miss when it comes to picking a word each year. I love the concept of living into a meaningful word and painting it on the blank canvas of the future. In 2013, the year we left for Nepal, my word was metamorphous, to literally become new. And by the end of that year, I rendered myself new, in mind and body (you can see this post as proof for emotional health and this post as true for physical health!)

So this year, I have been believing for healing and freedom, and thought that one of those two words would be THE word. I cozied up on my couch, tea in hand, and started to praise God and press into what HE has for me these next 365 days.

The minute I closed my eyes the word came....

It seemed so funny and so light and airy and refreshing,
I literally started to laugh,
giggled with childish delight.

I immediately loved it and the corners of my mouth turned up in smile to our heavenly father, who truly is the creative One.

I looked it up...

"the state or period of greatest beauty, freshness, or vigor" 

ok. I like where this is going.

"a youthful or healthy glow in a person's complexion"

Stunned, yes.
THIS. this. this is what I desire...

a beauty of heart
a freshness for life
a vigor for God's kingdom
a glow that comes only from the Holy Spirit who radiates through us

May this be a year where the hibernation ends and the springtime bloom begins.
Lord, I am ready for this.

Come dear Gardener of my heart,
till the soil mingled with truth and lies.
Throw out the rocks of deceit,
nourish me with the fruit of your spirit.

and may I bloom and grow in the sunshine of your love,
may every petal sing your glory forever more.

Aaaannnddddd, if I needed a further sign that this was my word, let me tell you a true story...

Right after God downloaded this word to me, I opened my eyes and the song Edelweiss from the Sound of Music was playing (Avie's new favorite movie, which makes me a proud mama...I digress)
 Can you guess what line blared into my ears right at that very moment?

"BLOOM & Grow...BLOOM and grow foreeeevvvveeerrrrrr"

Oh sweet Jesus. He is good.

Did you pick a word this year? Would love to hear what it is:) xoxo

ps- Thank YOU for all the love you gave me on my last post via IG, FB or my blog. You guys, I cried  tears of love because of the way you rallied around and breathed life into my weary soul. Thank you!

Why I stopped blogging and why I'm starting again

Tuesday, January 7

Dearest friends and readers, this is a post I've pondered in my mind for a long time.
I've turned it over, wrestled with it, and worked to fine tune the reflections and processing of the last four years of my life.

So many of you were with me over the 4 years I blogged and leaned into some of my deepest dreams. Those years were surreal and amazing. I hit over 145K followers, was being sent around the world for free, and was connecting with so many amazing and beautiful women. At the pinnacle of my blogging career, I slowly walked away from this space.

These are my reflections...

in 2011, I was newly married and going through a bittersweet season. I was learning how to be a wife, which was the sweet part, but I was also walking through some dark days as a myriad of external challenges hit our world. In this dim place, I started blogging, and it lit up my world because I am an external processor and love nothing more than to connect with people. To be sure, my blog started as a way to update family and friends on my internal dialogue and day to day happenings. I was convinced nary a person read it faithfully except my devoted parents and husband.

A curious thing happened, and soon I was getting comments from people I had never even met (you guys, this was the dark ages of blogging, before IG was really a thing, and the thought of someone outside your sphere commenting on your work was crazy!).

And soon, I was connecting with thousands of women every day from the comfort of my own home, it was wild. In those early days I mostly blogged about living life intentionally in a low-income neighborhood in Southern California where we lived then. Then, we moved to Nepal, and my blog begin to gain momentum like never before. The amount of connection I had with so many incredible women around the world blessed my heart.

After Nepal, we moved back to the USA so I could begin graduate school and in that time we started traveling like crazy (Kevin was able to hook our miles credit cards up to the business, so we were getting free international tickets every 6 months...but that's a story for another time). All that to say, this blog began to morph into a travel blog.

And then bloglovin' started featuring my travel posts, and things seemed to go insane. I was gaining thousands of new followers a day, getting sponsorship emails where companies wanted to send me all sorts of cool free stuff (I was sent on trips around the world from Tahiti to India), and was nominated for being a top travel blog on Bloglovin. It was incredible the kind of doors my blog had opened up for Kevin and I and I WAS THERE FOR IT! I loved it.

but amongst all the amazing things that seemed to be happening, I started to become self conscious.

I had a few people in real life make comments to me about my blog.
Being a sensitive soul, I read in to these comments and basically came to the conclusion that
I was too much.

Too much for people

I also became incredibly worried about offending anyone in real life or making anyone jealous of me.  I literally hate when anyone is jealous of things I have or do. I am NOT a competitive person, I love equality and harmony, so if someone ever seemed jealous of me I always tried my best to downplay my achievements.

Sadly... In my mind, I thought it was better to give up blogging/social media, than have people I cared about be jealous of me. 

 You guys, I read that last statement now and it makes me incredibly sad.
Sad that I bought into this lie.
Sad that I chose to give up my dreams for the sake of what I thought others wanted.

But here's the truth I've come to in these past four years...

No one was asking me to give this up, except for my negative self talk. 
My thinking was so skewed.
In the therapy world, we call this a negative cognition.

Here is the definition:
"Cognitions are the way we think about ourselves...The term is used to identify the belief or assessment that we have about ourselves. When we speak of negative cognition we are referring to a maladaptive self-assessment or negative belief that we have developed from negative or traumatic life experience".
(from here)

Essentially, my negative thoughts led me to believe that if I was to have a "good" relationship with certain people, I needed to give up this part of myself to be in harmony with them, that if I just seemed "average"  people would like me better because they wouldn't be jealous of me. 

And that is a bold face lie
One I lived with for WAY too long. 
It was heavy to live under this narrative. 
Suffocating, actually. 
And the worst part was, it wasn't true. 
None of the people who made these comments were ill-willed or wanted me to give up social media. 
And even if they did, it was just their OPINION. 

And someone's opinion doesn't always equal truth. 

I recently came across a great quote that said 
"stop looking for external validation. the opinions others have of you is not a mirror" 

You guys, I was so busy freaking out about other's opinions of me (because I'm obsessed with relationship and want everyone to be my best friend), that I wasn't standing on the truth that God had been leading me and guiding me the whole time I blogged. I felt total peace with the Lord in it, and instead of letting that be my lead and guide, I was frantically trying to make sure everyone was in harmony with everything I was doing. 

Can I let you into a little secret? 

At no time will everyone be in harmony with everything you are doing. 
never. ever. 

Look at JESUS. 
Newsflash, HE WAS PERFECT. 
And at NO TIME, was everyone in harmony with everything he was doing. 
His parents didn't understand him and questioned certain things he did 
His friends deserted him, even betrayed him
And we all know that half the world was against him right up until his death. 

But that didn't mean he stopped the purpose God gave him. 
He leaned into it. 
So much so that it led him to the ultimate sacrifice of himself, 
A sacrifice that FREED THE WORLD! 
Thank you Jesus. 

So, to finish off this already very long blogpost...3 things I've learned...

1) Don't be afraid to let God use you and your gifting! This season has taught me that God made us all unique and uses our gifting for HIS glory. In fact, not only does he use our gifting, He often uses our weakness for His glory (thank you JESUS!) The point is, pursue HIM and led HIM lead, let HIS OPINION be the only one that matters. 

2) I am not responsible for the feelings of others! People are allowed to have their opinions, and they are responsible for their mental health and feelings, NOT ME. I felt so responsible for other's feelings, that I gave up my passions in an attempt to mitigate the rift I thought my success was causing in the relationship. But that was not my responsibility. 

3) We always always always have a fresh start, there is GRACE! I grieve these last 4 years that I lived under the weight of a lie, but I also celebrate that at any point I can pick back up and allow God to use me, in spite of my failings. I realize, I LOVE blogging. I love connecting through social media with ladies around the world, and I can begin again! 

Friends, if you've made it this far you deserve a medal. Thank you for the constant love and outpouring you have given me all these years. It is true when I say, I Love you!!

Here's to living a life free from the lie that we are,
too much and responsible for others feelings,

and may we lean into our calling with
confidence in the Lord's guidance,
in the gifts God has given us:)

Excited to see where this journey takes me, and excited to invite you to join me in it!
I need you ladies and i've missed you all dearly:) xoxo
ps- if you are on IG, I've started a new one @hope_engaged
Would love to follow you too, so come and say hi!