The Stories Behind the Buzz

Today I shaved my head. Let me rephrase that, first I put it into two high pig tails and let Emily and her best friend, Sunny the daughter of one of my dear friends, cut them off to donate. But the reason for the cut wasn’t to donate. Then we had a bit of fun, because when you cut two pig tails off, well, you get a really bad mullet…almost Pat Benatar, but not as rockin’. After the pseudo mullet-mohawk phase, the beautiful Bina, our babysitter and Em’s big sister from another mother, stepped in with the 1″ clip and cleaned it up around the sides so we could see what a sorta-pixie would look like. From there I let all three of the girls have their turn at trimming here and there, just cuz, why not? And finally, I went to town with the 1/8″ clip and loved every minute of it.

I sent this "before" to Jason who is in Taiwan right now for his job with World Vision. He fully supported my choice. Come to find out, he's always had a crush on Sinead O'Connor, so now I know why he was so supportive... ;)

I sent this “before” to Jason who is in Taiwan right now for his job with World Vision. He fully supported my choice. Come to find out, he’s always had a crush on Sinead O’Connor, so now I know why he was so supportive… ;)


Here are the hair bandits after the first cuts.

Super bad rat tail, mullet type pig tail chopping.

Super bad rat tail, mullet type situation…post pig tail chopping.


Here we cleaned it up so I could be just like the beautiful bella Bina!

Here we cleaned it up so I could be just like the beautiful bella Bina!

T-shirt brought to you by "Chosen and Dearly Loved" a ministry for special needs.

T-shirt brought to you by “Chosen and Dearly Loved” a ministry for special needs.


It took me 20 minutes from shower, dry, brush teeth, do make-up, and get dressed this morning. Don't even think about telling my dad how his three daughters should have done this at age would have saved him hours of waiting and we would have been places on time. All that time I used to spend on my hair I'll now spend in prayer. A visual reminder to pray...

It took me 20 minutes from shower, dry, brush teeth, do make-up, and get dressed this morning. Don’t even think about telling my dad how his three daughters should have done this at age 13…it would have saved him hours of waiting and we would have been places on time. All that time I used to spend on my hair I’ll now spend in prayer. A visual reminder to pray…

For me it was a choice for empathy. For everyone I know who loses their hair because of caustic chemicals coursing through their veins, it’s an inconvenient and scary side effect on top of a disease on top of pain and discomfort and emotion and hope and bravery and courage and wonder if it will work.

Today on Facebook I posted that 4 of my friends are on chemo, but shortly thereafter, realized I was wrong and the number is 6, as I miscalculated. And those are my friends. Then there are my friends whose spouses are sick, whether with cancer or undiagnosed ailments and endless pain, unexplained, yet more real than ever.

And then let’s talk about our sweet friend’s whose daughter has to have her foot amputated or my friend whose daughter just had to be taken to Juvie or the friend whose husband just had his body crushed by a car in a bike accident or my friend whose son’s heart is broken and irreparable and so they wait and my friend whose son has 100’s of seizures each day or my friend whose son’s disability is ramping up because of puberty and he’s getting too strong for her and our dear friends whose son has been sick for over 5 months, in pain, every day, and my sweet new friend whose daughter has a terminal illness.

Then there is my Dad who misses our Mom every. single. day. Her picture is everywhere I look as we stay at what was their house, and my guts hurt for his guts, and for his heart…but that doesn’t even include the pain he has daily because he needs a new knee and his best friend isn’t here to hold his hand through it. And for my beautiful Mother-in-Love who has been brave and strong for 17 years a widow on a journey not meant to tread alone. And my friend who is a young widow as of December.

And I don’t care how “acceptable” a death is at a latter age, the company of orphaned daughters and sons I have met on this journey grows regularly and there isn’t a day that goes by that we wouldn’t each love another hour with our parent…just one more question, please tell me one more story…but they are buried along with a portion of our hearts.

And the news the other night aired the total fire destruction of an apartment of someone my family loves and prays for regularly.

And all the single parents and broken homes and busted up hearts and heart-wrenching addictions. The parents who are waiting and longing to adopt.

But that doesn’t include the bereaved parents who have joined the community of late, a community I’ve been part of for over 8 years now, like my sweet friend who is figuring out life with her family minus their heart-daughter after 6 beautiful years. And the friends who have welcomed a new life into theirs after the loss of their sweet handsome boy.

ALL THIS, and we haven’t even turned on the news to see and be aware of all that transpires worldwide…

On any given day, we all carry things in our hearts, some we share, others we hide and hold closely, all of them chisel at the walls we try to erect around our tender hearts because life is hard and maybe protecting seems like the safe and right thing to do.

But, on any given day, none of these things are meant to be faced alone. No, I am not going to have a port put in my chest and take chemo to show empathy to my friends who have cancer, but maybe we should? Maybe empathy is entering into the stories of others with both feet? Maybe we would be more tender with our enemies if we both were in the same hospital with our ill children, just down the hall, just trying to love well, realizing we have something in common?

I tell you what…Jesus wasn’t just a historical figure written about in a history book that lies dusty on a shelf somewhere. God was in LOVE with ALL of us and came here to show us how to love well, which included loving everyone, even the crustiest among us. He ate dinner with those “society” called down and outers, but the thing is, they looked a lot like me, and you, and that guy, and that lady over there. Each of us has a story and we all have hard things. If we don’t start living empathy, choosing it, getting uncomfortable and walking through hard things with one another, then those of us who call ourselves “Christians” are using His name in vain. Jesus came doing the opposite of the way of the world…He came loving selflessly, He spit in dirt and made mud and smeared it on a guy’s eye to heal him, He told us if we wanted to find our lives, we needed to lose them…He didn’t just ask us to believe, He asked us to follow Him….

John 1:9-14 in the Message says this:

“The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
*But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.

14 The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.”

*my emphasis added

I’ve ever only wanted to be who God created me to be. The months of Noah’s life gave me a glimpse. The weeks leading up to my Mom’s death opened the door a lot wider. Shaving my head in solidarity for friends and anyone and everyone going through hard things, well, let’s just say, I’ve never felt more free to be my true self, my child-of-God self, my most imperfect, messed up, forgiven and loved-self. And, I’ve never felt so free or more full of God’s purpose and beauty.

All the time I’ve spent doing my hair as I’ve been growing it out to “feel” pretty and sexy and fancy, well, with 1/8″ hair, I’ll have a bit more time to live intentionally. And that’s what the shave is about for me…a reminder to live a life of empathy, because we are all here, living hard stories.

And if anything, I know I’ll get ready faster than you tomorrow morning ;)

(More on John in another post…)

Enjoying the Cold

THAT is a title I never thought I’d scribe. I don’t care for the cold. But I fell in love with a guy from the sub-zero plains of South Dakota, and though he had no desire to return there after college, it seems 21+ years into our marriage, we are here, with the kids, and dog (and Spot the Fish, RIP, 2/11/15)…at least for part of winter. Jason’s traveling quite a bit internationally, but we aren’t joining him on all those adventures just yet.

Last summer God told me we would be here for the winter and as much as I thought He was totally joking, He was quite serious. I have come to a place in my relationship with God to know each day is a gift and following Him, wherever He leads, is always His best plan whether it’s how or where or when or with whom I imagined it or not. As a result, we’ve been blessed to be with his mom on these long, dark, cold days. I’ve been making a lot of soup. Jason’s working hard and helping me with some of my non-profit work. I joined a local gym and am meeting new people. Ryan is enrolled in a local preschool a few days a week and loves his new friends. Emily is flourishing in homeschool and seeing friends she would usually only see in the summer. I’m loving the opportunity to soak in the gift of being with some heart to heart women who have known me and sharpened and prayed for me for 20+ years. I guess God knew what The Graveswolds needed during this season of houselessness.

(Just a side: when Jason and I were dating and I came up for a visit in the winter one year, he literally had to dress me in snow gear to go outside. I stood in the mudroom in my long johns and wool socks and he helped me pull on bibs, zip up a borrowed camo coat, and wrap my neck in a scarf…he pushed each man-sized glove on, then pulled the wrist cinches on each hand so no snow, or wind, could sneak in…tucked my curls into the safety-orange hat, and then I waddled outside to meet his friends for some snowmobiling. Now? Well, now I speak South Dakotan…”It’s in the 20’s, so it’s warm, you don’t even really need a coat…”, “Do you want to go for a walk ON the lake?”, “Do you need anything while I’m in town? (3 miles away)”)

I left Arizona for college in 1990 and never returned. I loved the heat, the sunsets, my family, and the landscape, but wasn’t enamored by the upscale lifestyle or flashy high rolling, holy roller church we had attended, so was okay to leave it. After Jason and I were married for a year and he was done with his Masters, we headed north to Minnesota for him to continue his education in engineering. My father-in-law, Steve (who our son, Noah Steven, was named after) was SOOOO excited we would only be four hours from “home.” Steve had the biggest heart, capable of making EVERYONE feel welcome, cared for, loved…Steve was a friend to anyone and he literally would have given you the shirt off his back if you needed it.

So, in 1995 when we moved to Minneapolis, Steve gave me the perfect “Welcome to the Tundra” gift…he got me these:


He was ahead of his time, that guy, at least when it came to fashion and trends, but he saw a cold girl from Arizona, so, boots from the tundra for the tundra, would only do.

I cringed. I was from Arizona where we wore fashionable sandals and had our toes always painted. These were so clunky…so…so…chunky…so manly, so incredibly WARM.

But Steve knew better, he knew I’d come around. He knew I’d end up loving his state of South Dakota, even in the winter, if I slowed down long enough to take in the beauty. And he was right. I just wish he was here with us to see how far I’ve come, to see how incredible his children are and what wonderful spouses and parents they’ve become, to meet all of his grandkids, to watch Emily ice skate on the frozen golf course pond…to see that my old school boots with the original liners are still keeping my toes warm…and I’ve embraced their clunkiness.

I cringe now knowing how vain I was in my younger years. It’s not that I don’t want to look stylish…I still wash my hair and love me some mascara, but I’ve learned a few things in the last 43 years that matter a bit more, like: to forgive quickly, laugh often, pray hard, breathe deeply, listen to God, do what He says, love well, receive love, sit in the moment, play on the floor, go outside in the cold, kiss often, make eye contact, have a firm handshake, listen with my ears and heart, don’t judge, Scripture is rich, pray for my “enemies,” really, really, really trust God, child-bearing and rearing is hard and beautiful, marriage is hard and beautiful, friendship is hard and beautiful, grief is hard and beautiful, I like multiple cups of tea and love vegetables, I can lift heavy things, I love myself, some bridges already exist, some must be repaired, and others have to be built, there is one size bikini in all of Spain and every size woman wears it proud, being with other women and hearing their stories makes my heart come ALIVE, …and, when it’s cold, it doesn’t matter how cute you look…what matters is warmth.

No One is Born an Asshole

Let’s say that one more time, not for shock value, but for the sake of truth and hopefully conveying my heart: No one is born an asshole.” This can be said a plethora of ways: jerk, cheater, meanie, bully, etc. But the reality is, we are all born little, sweet, and tender.  Having had 3 babies, […]

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One Word 365, 2015

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved gathering girls/women together to hear their stories. To listen to the heart of another woman is a privilege and honor, truly a sacred encounter. This is something about which I am so passionate, I’ve spent the last several years studying, and trying to put into practice, […]

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The 5 Minute Marriage


The other day Jason and I had our first 5 minute Stand Up meeting. The day prior, I didn’t know what a “Stand Up” , or Scrum, meeting, was. He, on the other hand, has known about, held, and attended these types of meetings at his places of employment over the years. He also facilitates group conversations, conference calls, […]

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On Peacemaking and Bridge Building

My personal mission statement includes “peacemaking” and “bridge-building,” as does the mission statement of my non-profit organization, Bevy. Would I compare myself to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for these reasons? I most certainly would not compare myself to him, a man I’ve already outlived in age, but one who greatly surpassed me as far […]

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This vagabond life as The Graveswolds isn’t without its ups and downs. (*For those just tuning in, we sold our house, sold or gave away half our possessions, put the rest in storage, all a week and a half before Thanksgiving, and have been without a home, not homeless as there is a difference, ever since…THIS […]

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On Any Given Day: Take 2

*A portion of the following post was written a year and a half ago. For the last couple of weeks it’s been on my heart so I went back to it and reread it just now. I updated the “list” as life’s circumstances have changed, but the truth remains: on any given day, somewhere in […]

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Some Pictures from Down Under


I just put the WordPress app on my phone so am testing it out to see if it works. It probably would have been beneficial to have done this prior to our trip to New Zealand and Australia but we kind of had a lot going on Now I know… *this is a test to […]

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Still Practicing His Presence: Advent

This ornament was sent from my Grandma to my Grandpa while they were young teenagers in is from the 1920's.

When my Mom died this past June, to say my world was rocked would be an understatement. I was flailing. My Mom and I used to talk on the phone AT LEAST once a day, if not more, and this just 6 miles apart across town. Sometimes my Mom made me crazy. I didn’t always understand […]

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