Monday, May 20, 2019

What are We Creating in the World?


The other day started out like any other: Crazy-haired kiddos wandering into my room as the sun rose, sips of coffee in between flipping eggs and finding shoes and packing lunches, high hopes of what the day would bring, or rather, of what I would bring to it. 

I am creating joy today. 

I am creating laughter and presence. 

I am creating connection and belonging. 


I say these intentions to myself a couple times through, and then carry on with the hustle and bustle of a new day, three kids and piles of laundry. We make our way into the schoolroom and play with maps for a while…where is Germany? How about Japan? Ooo, who can find Egypt?! It is light and fun and I think to myself, “This is how learning should be! I’ve got this!”. I am nailing being a mom right now.

We move on from maps to writing, a historically challenging subject in our home. The kids get out their notebooks and review where we left off last, while I take a minute to check in with texts and emails. Later I realize, I should have stayed present and used those precious minutes to prepare myself for this transition. I could have recited my intentions a few more times instead of busying my mind with more to do's, but hindsight is always 20/20.

I multi-task instead, and within minutes our dreamy morning is slipping through my fingers. The harder I squeeze, the worse it gets. The kids resist every instruction, forget weeks of learning and spend more time fidgeting with anything and everything within reach than they do writing in their notebooks. I am now Sergeant Commander, stern and firm and short-tempered and easily-annoyed by the need to repeat the same instruction for the four hundredth time. Will you just listen the first time?!?! My kids are befuddled, agitated, shutting down. I do not course correct. The current of the assignment has carried me along with it, and we continue to flow in our frustration until finally we reach the end. I think to myself, "I am a terrible mom and such an impatient teacher."

We make it through our lesson, not unscathed, and then look out to the bluest sky we’d seen in days. The sun is shining and the breeze is rolling through our front tree, and I can almost hear the ripple of water lapping at the shore on the lake near our house. When the water calls, I go. 


I am creating joy today. 

am creating laughter and presence. 

am creating connection and belonging. 


So we load up kayaks, gather lifejackets and oars and sunscreen - clearly we all need a break from the soured suffocation that is now our school room. We paddle and play and I am so grateful for this opportunity to reset. I am so grateful to be exploring the shoreline on a gorgeous day in May, free, healthy, happy. I smile inside. I am not just creating joy and presence today. I am living it. I AM joy. 

The youngest fades first and is ready to paddle back to our car, just as the oldest and I are warming up. We slowly make our way back, fighting the slightest current and enjoying the light wind on our face. I tell the kids to play on shore while I dry-off the kayaks and load everything back up. I tell them to go play. I’ve got it, kids! I get one kayak propped on our van and wiped down. The second is less cooperative, and now I realize how wet my pants are and that the light breeze is starting to feel like a freezing gale. My arms are exhausted. My back aches from the workout I did the day before. I overhear a sibling squabble about who had that rock first, and I remember the pile of laundry I left in the laundry room, still dirty. 

And just like that…you know where I’m going. I am angry and everything is my kids’ fault and why don’t they ever help and I should have just stayed home and done the laundry and I’m not going to take them on special outings if this is how they repay me and I hate myself for getting so angry so fast. I sling blame on my kids and insults on myself. I can’t even remember what my intentions for the day are right now. I just want control, a clean house and dry pants. {Sigh}. 

The truth is, on any given day, I do this dance over and over again…two-stepping toward joy, waltzing my way to worry. Stumbling and falling on my face with perfectionism gripped in one hand and self-hatred firmly fisted in the other. I fall SO many times a day - there are endless opportunities to just stay on the ground, where at least I feel in control of what comes next. I am almost comfortable down there, beating myself up for another failed attempt. Almost.

But here is the key: I always find my way back to joy, to laughter, to presence, to connection.

Yes I fall. Over and over and over again. I’m so stinkin’ imperfect it hurts! I get tired and angry and annoyed just like you. But I refuse to stay there. I refuse to let each failure define me. No matter how long it takes and how hard I have to fight to get back up, I return to my intentions. I return to creating the life I want and the life my family deserves. Because in the end, I know that I alone am responsible for what I create in the world. My kids aren’t responsible. My circumstances aren’t responsible. The busy days and the endless lists and the million-things-gone-wrong aren’t responsible. I am. 

am creating joy today. 

am creating laughter and presence. 

am creating connection and belonging. 


The truth is, we get to create what we want in the world....for ourselves, our families and our communities. We are that powerful. That resilient. That creative and free. The only question is: what do you want to create today?



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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

My Offering


This saying has been rolling off my tongue more often than usual these days, and it’s one we are all so familiar with: Time flies! I find myself believing it and living it more and more lately, and wondering, Is it just one of those things that becomes more true, the more we embrace its truth? All I know is, today I looked up and realized it had been 3 1/2 years since I pressed pause on my writing. 

Three and a half years since I shifted my attention from writing and creating, to home and to making our youngest a part of it. Three and a half years since I shut my businesses down, closed the books, and stepped unknowingly into the greatest challenge of my life yet: integrating a complete stranger into our family.

And yes, those years have flown by. And yes, those years have felt long and full and tedious and TOUGH. 

Some days and weeks felt longer than I could possibly endure. Some started out so hard, I wanted to crawl right back into bed and just skip the day altogether. Some started with gentle kisses, with hot coffee at the break of dawn, with new routines and renewed hope. 

A couple months ago, I stumbled across a beautiful podcast called Mend: Life at the Seams. The title caught my attention because of my own connection with using threads and weaving and tapestries as symbols of what we are all attempting to do in this life. Weaving some love. Threading together some meaning. Creating a tapestry of truth and family and hope. 

As I listened to a recent episode on a run last weekend, the host, Amy - with her soothing voice and soulful shares - reminded me just how precious each of our threads are to the overall tapestry. She reminded me that when we weave with love and joy and justice and presence, we never weave in vain. 

Her words re-awakened something dormant in me, something I put to rest three years ago. I was reminded of my story, and of yours, and of this humble e-space that has provided a valuable, meaningful platform for us to share them within. I was reminded of why I ever started writing in the first place, and why I spent so many hours making that writing public: Because I knew that even though my thread is tiny and my weaving is flawed, it mattered. I knew that even if only a few people read my words, even if only one person found solace here, that was enough. That was my offering, and it was good. 

And so, with no extra fan-fare or grandeur about what’s to come, here I am, writing again. Here I am letting my soul spill out through the keyboard, reflecting on life and parenting and friendship and spirituality, one tap at a time. Here I am, offering myself as only I can, to a world that won’t be the same without me. And I invite you to join me.

What is the thread you stopped weaving because it felt too small or to frail? What is the work you believed in but burnt out on and have never found your way back to? What is the offering that only you can make to this world? 

I promise you, you matter. Your weaving matters. Your offering matters. Your words matter. 

You matter, and you get to show up as ALL of you today to a world that will never be the same without you. And friend, I will be here plugging away alongside you.





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Sunday, January 3, 2016

In 2016: Simplify

I have written this post in my head a dozen times now...in the shower, trying to fall asleep at night, driving home the day after Christmas with sick kids. Every time it starts and ends a little differently, but the essence is this: Simplify. This word has been rising up in my heart for months, maybe years now. Simplify. Focus. Be Present. 


In May of 2014 I joined the world in owning an iPhone. Framed as a Mother's Day gift, it was a practical purchase aimed at assisting me in running my online Etsy business, helping me keep up with this growing blog, and allowing me to train for the half-marathon I was planning to run later that summer. A year and a half later, I can say that in many ways my iPhone has done all those things, and perhaps even well. I completed the half marathon as well as a triathlon, I have paid our mortgage most months through my business and I have published a book birthed from this blog and the community surrounding it. 

But I quickly learned that my iPhone did one other thing best of all: It beckoned my attention 24 hours a day, creating stress and a lack of focus in life.

I realize it's probably not fair to shift so much blame onto an inanimate object. I mean, it's just a tiny electronic device, right?! And so I have tried to establish better boundaries, drawing wisdom and motivation from Safford's book, Hands Free Mama. I can own the fact that it is ultimately my relationship with my iPhone and the boundaries (or lack thereof) that I enforce with it that are the real issue. And yet, for me, owning an iPhone has been a stress-inducing, distraction-creating, presence-sapping existence. It has been like having a large, flashing To Do box always at my side, incessantly waiting to be checked. And being a list-maker and a list-checker, I am drawn constantly to the need to check - check my email one more time, check my blog comments one more time, check my social media feed one more time. 

And so I check. And then I feel guilty for being "sucked in" to this distraction yet again. I ask my kids to wait while I send a quick email, hush little mouths in order to post a photo to social media. I try to keep my business and blogging and social media plates all spinning at all times, and frankly, I do it pretty well. But there is a cost, and for me it is the health of my soul. Because I cannot seem to find a boundary that allows me to own this device and remain present in life. 


If this whole journey into telling my story has taught me anything, it is to offer myself and others far more grace and flexibility than any hard, fast rule could ever allow. And so, as I head into 2016, eager to find simplicity and presence in my days, I am not setting any New Year's Resolutions, I am simply setting my iPhone down. I am walking away from this blog for a season, signing off of social media for a time. I am turning off the flashing To Do box, maybe even leaving it at home for a day. Not as a hard, fast rule; not as a strict, forever boundary, but as a means to creating distance between myself and the distractions that are keeping me from peace and presence. I am simplifying.

Telling my story here at NBrynn has really given me back my life. It has brought me back to myself and allowed me to journey through so many hard seasons and difficult emotions that I would never have been able to do without the written word. I will forever be thankful for the platform of this sacred space in allowing me to tell my story. May you find such a sacred space in your life, and may we meet someday, face-to-face.



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Sunday, December 13, 2015

From Fundamentalism to Fuller Faith


I've been snail-mailing with a relative lately - good 'ole fashioned letter writing. We've been talking about our faith journeys, spanning nearly a century, and all the ups and downs and wonderings and wanderings involved in so many years of trying to understand the Divine. In a recent letter, I found myself writing this: "The truth is, if I had to summarize the past five years of my spiritual journey, I would say I have gone from fundamentalism to fuller faith."

At first I felt silly saying this. "Fuller faith" hardly seems like an accurate description of someone who stopped attending church, walked away from traditional religion and gave free reign to all questioning and exploration a few years ago. Someone who swung open the door on "acceptable books" and started reading veraciously from all traditions. Someone who now honors mystery as holy and sacred; questioning as a supremely spiritual act. 


It's true, faith has been a messy, constantly moving target for me in recent years. And yet, the more I think about this little saying that flowed up from my heart, out through my pen - from fundamentalism to fuller faith - the more I resonate with it. In my book, One Slender Thread, I have a chapter titled, "The Fundamentals" and there I write this:
At the ripe old age of twelve, I began to fret constantly about the eternal state of my soul. Having heard almost weekly for the former decade of my life about heaven and hell, those "in" and those "out," I was growing increasingly uncomfortable about not knowing for sure that I was "in." One night, attending an evening revival service with my best friend and her family, I listened attentively to the yellow-haired, charismatic preacher. I listened to words I had heard many times before, but for the first time, it seemed my cognitive maturity had finally caught up and the words started to make sense. I was a sinner, born depraved and with an evil nature. I would live and die in this state: sinful, flawed, stained in the sight of the perfect God who made me, forever banished from His presence - unless I confessed that all these things about me were true and that Jesus was my only escape. Unless I prayed, with sincerity, that Jesus come live in my heart, cleanse me of my sinful nature, and help me live a life pleasing to God. Then I would be allowed in heaven and God would welcome me as his child. Then God's grand love would fill my heart and make me good. Then I could call Him Father.

I walked down the aisle when the yellow-haired preacher asked if anyone wasn't sure where they would go when they died; when the yellow-haired preacher asked if anyone needed someone to save them from their sins and present them as perfect before God; when the yellow-haired preacher asked if anyone wanted to invite Jesus into their hearts and start a life in the Love of God. I walked down the aisle of that old Methodist church, with it's creaky wooden floors and crimson pews in neat rows, tears streaming down my face, cheeks burning with tween emotions. I walked down the aisle, desperate to guarantee, once and for all, that I was “in.” Desperate to be made good. Desperate for a loving Father. 
Immediately, I started attending youth group every week and followed a reading plan to get through the Bible in a year. I was passionate, excited, committed - what we called “on fire for God.” I spent the next several years doing everything in my power to “fan the flame” - attending weekend conferences, leading Bible studies, showing up at church every time the doors were open. My skirts got longer and my shirts looser, I threw out all my old CDs and replaced them with Barlow Girls and Jars of Clay. I kissed dating goodbye, went on missions trips and attended See You at the Pole. I did prayer walks around my high school, tried to memorize all the right answers and share them with my friends, organized church potlucks and parades. I sat in the front row and took notes throughout the sermon each Sunday. 
After my senior year of high school, I moved to Texas for a yearlong Christian leadership experience. During my first week, I was handed an enormous, dark green book called, How Now Shall We Live, a book explaining all the ins-and-outs of a Christian worldview, which I studied diligently and thoroughly. I learned why Buddhism was flawed, why evolution was wrong, why only those who believed in “Biblical Christianity” were right and therefore going to heaven. I soon was convinced that there was in fact an answer to every question, and that I was on the winning team that knew them all.

Rachel Held Evans describes my decade as a Christian perfectly when she writes in her book, Faith Unraveled: “I used to be a fundamentalist. Not the Teletubby-hating, apocalypse-ready, Jerry Falwell type of fundamentalist, but the kind who thinks that God is pretty much figured out already, that he's done telling us anything new. I was fundamentalist in the sense that I thought salvation means having the right opinions about God and that fighting the good fight of faith requires defending those opinions at all costs. I was a fundamentalist because my security and self-worth and sense of purpose in life were all wrapped up in getting God right - in believing the right things about him, saying the right things about him, and convincing others to embrace the right things about him, too." 

See, all those years that I was "fanning the flame" of my faith, I was also running from insecurity, hiding in certain answers, trying to control a scary, broken world with my religion. I wanted to belong, to be whole, to be right, and I found a system of Christianity that told me I could be all those things, no questions asked. But there are questions worth asking and there's a wholeness that all the hiding never allowed me to discover. 

Today, I am much more willing to acknowledge mystery. I'm willing to say I don't have it all figured out, that I am still learning and growing and discovering all the time. And saying that I have gone from fundamentalism to fuller faith resonates as truth... 
Because I used to see God as a Finite Father that only embraced those who prayed certain prayers and read certain books, but now I see a God that is limitless in His love.  
I used to believe that truth was limited to one ancient text, and more than that, to one way of interpreting that ancient text. Today, I see that the Creator has hidden truth in all of creation, in each one of us. 
I used to say that Love was ultimate, but I lived in a world that cast constant judgement on those that were "out," those that were "other." Today, I honor the humanity of all people and embrace the "other" in my own home.
Yes, it's true. My faith has changed a lot. And for that, I thank God everyday. 










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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Little Peanut Baby Shower

Somehow, amidst all the Christmas hustle and bustle, we managed to sneak in this adorable Little Peanut baby shower last weekend! DimplePrints created all the beautiful printables in pinks and greys, which made my job of executing a fabulous event so much easier. We added some pink and grey lanterns, lots of adorable desserts and my latest favorite dessert table addition: A ribbon banner! Take a look.




For dessert, I asked two fabulous local bakers to create some custom pieces for us. One made peanut butter & jelly cupcakes and another made sugar cookies that matched the printables perfectly! We also served kettle corn and caramel corn in decorative cups, GF cookies to accommodate guests with dietary restrictions, and of course, a million Nutter Butters! 



With DimplePrints' adorable Little Peanut printable set, I was able to easily coordinate decor throughout the party. We used custom water bottle wraps, napkin rings, center piece signs, food labels, cupcake toppers, and of course, a "Little Peanut" pennant banner. Here's a few more pictures!


Last but not least, we sent every guest home with their own little bag of Little Peanuts (circus peanuts in pink, white, yellow and orange), and tied them all shut with DimplePrints coordinating favor tags!


Hope you found a little inspiration for your next celebration today! Spread the word.




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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Much for which to give thanks...



It has been a very busy few weeks around here, as I am sure all of you can relate! Preparing for the holidays, helping friends through major transitions, work, school, house-keeping. But in it all, I know there is so very much for which to give thanks. And sometimes, stopping long enough to name those things, is the best gift I can give to myself and to my family. Will you pause with me for a moment and give name to all that we are grateful for?

True friends and chances to serve
Healthy children, one doctor visit a year
Local vegetables and nearby orchards
The privilege of sharing my story: One Slender Thread
This blog and all of you
Grace for ongoing growth
Life's many celebrations
Generous, enjoyable in-laws
Books, books, books
Bubble baths in the evening
Date nights with my love
Annual family photos, memories and laughs
Pink morning skies
Cuddles on the couch
Moments of being fully present
Old friends and new
Traditions and a warm home to enjoy them in


From our family to yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!





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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lil Pumpkin Baby Shower

How fun is this baby shower?! Not only does it honor the little life growing within Mama-to-be, but it celebrates the best season of the year: Fall! 

I couldn't have been more excited when my sister-in-law asked me to help with this
Lil Pumpkin Baby Shower. My first step is always finding the perfect printable package to help define the event colors and style. We quickly landed on DP Designs adorable orange, green and blue plaid set (available here!), which provided us with the "Lil Pumpkin" banner we used behind the dessert table, cupcake toppers, cupcake wraps, food labels, favor tags, signs, water bottle wraps, napkin rings and LOTS, lots more!
Here's a full-on of the final dessert table. Some of my favorite features include the orange lantern pumpkins, the white pumpkin with baby's name scripted on it and the matching ribbon banner draped across the front (have I mentioned I'm currently obsessed with making these ribbon banners - they're so easy and always add an adorable touch?!).

For this event, we went with several custom desserts, which made the dessert table that much more amazing! Two amazing local bakers provided us with Lil Pumpkin sugar cookies designed to match the printable set, pumpkin oreo pops and cupcakes that were out-of-this-world. The flavors? Chocolate cupcakes with blue whipped cream filling and chocolate ganache on top AND Pumpkin cupcakes with maple whipped cream filling and cream cheese frosting on top. YUM!



Another special touch I added: A custom scripted Lil Pumpkin pumpkin along with a welcome arrangement by the front door. 


This Lil Pumpkin Baby Shower was so much fun to work! I hope you got some inspiration here today for your next celebration!




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