Excited & Scared

My friend Dani shared about her word for 2023 on her podcast Glitter & Grace.
She share’s her heart and mind in a way that makes me want to listen again and again.
Highly recommend!

Do you do New Year’s resolutions?
Do you choose a word for the year?
Do you vision board?
*I used to do all of these things.*

I love the naturally built-in reflection and renewal time stepping over the threshold into a shiny, sparkly new year offers — Looking back over the ups and downs, the gains and the shortfalls of the year and considering how I would like the new year to be different.

I haven’t tried resolutions the last couple years.
And choosing an intention/word for the year and vision boarding fell to the wayside after the utter unpredictability of 2020.

But in December as I reflected on the change I want to see in 2023, I kept thinking about “intention” and “expand” and I have landed on the word GROWTH.

There has been a great deal of change in our lives in the last year or two. Baby Girl was born in July 2020 and my record for full-nights-sleep-in-a-row since then has been 4. Four nights sleep before it all fell apart again. (That was last month.)

We moved three times — once from our home into a rental to get through the major / seriously-we-can’t-live-here-now renovations; then back from the rental into the beautiful remodeled house; and then God moved us to camp! All within 11 months.

It was enough to just buckle up and hold on for the bumpy ride.

But now (even with the continued poor sleep….oooh Mama is T I R E D), it feels like it’s time to grow.

In October 2021, I started freelancing as a writer, grants mostly but also some marketing/media content. I initially reached out to an arts organization who know me really well and who I know are working to make art really impactful and accessible. They invited me to work in support of their team and then become part of their team.
I have expanded to five clients I work for regularly. There’s a potential new client on the horizon (and I am always up for referrals. 😉 )

This kind of work means that most of my writing energies are directed toward seeking funds for organizations and artists and very little is directed toward my own creative endeavors.

The ideas are there….simmering away on the back burners.
But how do I not let those pots boil dry when so much else requires my attention?

Several of my past vision boards have included writing.
I started this blog and was sort of consistent for awhile (then 2020 and baby and blah blah blah).
I have an idea for a novel.
I have an idea for a collection of short stories.
I have a few ideas for plays. (because theatre artist. shrug.)

But this year is about GROWTH.
And this year I am writing a play.
Not thinking about it occasionally whilst driving or trying to fall asleep.
I. Am. Writing. A. Play.
Because someone asked me to.
Because someone trusts me to.

I have written and/or adapted stories into original works in the past when I was working with high school theatre students and was so often hard pressed to find published works that served our purposes and I felt I could commit weeks and months of my creativity and time to. And sometimes I just found a story that said, “TELL ME!”

It’s not public yet, so I can’t say much, but I am excited to be working with producers who trust me and encourage me. I am excited (and scared) to create something new and to be afforded the time and space to do so.

There’s a contract.
There are deadlines.
There is compensation that allows that pot to move to the front burner.

That also means I have to DO IT.
Someone is expecting something from me.

Time to step out of that ol’ comfort zone and G R O W!

The Young and the Old of It

I was 39 when Larkin was born; 40 by the time she was four months.
We chose to wait until this point in our lives to have a kid, but Momming a toddler in one’s 40s comes with its challenges.
Crawling around and playing on the floor certainly would have been easier in my 20s.
I could function on very little sleep in my 20s, too, as evidenced by college.
A full night’s sleep has been pretty rare in the last (nearly) three years, and oof, am I tired.

I often hear she will “keep me young.”

This week, Larkin and I went sledding. Twice!
Our first winter living at Covenant Cedars Bible Camp means we have a very conveniently located hill, just outside our back door.

Without Larkin, the odds are real low that I go out to sled instead of standing inside with a hot drink and watching it snow.

She keeps me wandering instead of just walking.
Exploring instead of just exercising.

I couldn’t tell you the last movie I watched that wasn’t made for kids. (Partly watching films with Larkin and partly too tired to watch a full movie after she goes to bed.)
And we dance to the credits. This was not unheard of pre-Larkin if the feel-good levels were high and the music was good (see Silver Linings Playbook), but now it’s a requirement.


There’s the Old.
This morning we made a trek to the bathroom in the middle of church because potty training equals going when she says she needs to despite the circumstances. There’s a half bath between the nursery and another classroom that has a potty seat. We went around to the classroom side to avoid the distraction of Kids and Toys, locked the nursery side door, and went about our business.
I sat on the small step stool provided for kids’ hand washing, and when I bent to reach for her bag, something….slipped.

My vertebrae? My pelvis? Some combination therein?
The old of it is finding myself slowly shifting to lying on my back on the floor of a tiny bathroom, trying to decide if I kick the door and call for help.
I was able to get flat enough for things to resettle.
Able to get off the floor and return to church.
An afternoon of slow-going and over-careful and ibuprofen and a nap.


Some days overflow with delight and my heart grows like the Grinch’s when the Whos sing despite his thievery.
Some days the Get-Off-My-Lawn is strong with me.

Even on my surlier days, I have no doubt that I am a far better parent now that I would have been ten or fifteen years ago.
And I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

May your joys outweigh your challenges.
May each day be an adventure.
May your vertebrae remain aligned.

#nevertoolate (version 2023)

In the summer 2016, in the midst of personal upheaval, I was spending my spare hours immersed in the Rio Olympics, and I decided that, at long last, I would learn how to swim.

Many of my circumstances were completely out of my control and I was striving to focus on how I was reacting to them. But this felt like an opportunity to do something healthy that I could control.

Six years ago today. Early in my swimming journey.

I found individual lessons at the nearest YMCA and dove in.
(Not literally. Diving is terrifying.)

I did my first round of eight lessons — twice a week for four weeks — in fall of 2016 and finally learned to swim at the age of 36.

I signed up for another round in January of 2017 to learn more and improve.
I was able to build a routine that I swam at least twice a week.

And then in February of 2020 it became clear that going to the pool may not be the best choice.
And then the pools closed for awhile.
And then I had a baby.

My girl is pretty much always with me, so swimming laps wasn’t a feasible option for exercise.
Then we moved and it took several months to figure out the logistics of life in a new place, surrounded by new people.
This morning, roughly 22 months since my last swim, I returned to the pool.

I was pleased to find I wasn’t nervous at all, and thrilled to find I remember how!
I’m sure my form leaves a lot to be desired, and, oof!, have I lost a lot of endurance.

It was hard.
I am so very tired.
And it was G O O D.

We’re committed to making routine swims possible for my physical and mental health as we step across the threshold into this new year.

May your year bring you what you need.
May you find the wiggle room you need to create space for it.

You are valuable (even if not everyone values you)

About 20 years ago, I was in a van full of college students on our way to a conference. Someone asked a question like, “If you could go back in time to any point, when would you choose?” (or something like that. Forgive me…I mean, it’s been 20 years.)

My answer: my pre-kindergarten self.
On the first day of kindergarten I learned all the things that were wrong with me:
I was weirdly tall.
I had a weird name.
I chose the wrong shoes.

This was the day after Labor Day 1986…so now we’re really reaching back, but I remember I had gone school shopping with my mom and was beyond excited; I’d wanted to start school since my sister had started two years earlier. We were at the KMart in Havre, Montana and there was a bin of shoes piled high in the middle with two styles of kid sneakers: pink, velcro Minnie Mouse shoes and dark blue, velcro Transformers shoes.
NO CONTEST: Transformers.

Until I wore them to school and learned I had made the wrong choice and kids made it clear by not sitting by me on the “reading carpet”.

That day stands as a before/after marker in my personal history.
And I wore those shoes until they fell apart.
Over the years I’ve often opted to stand out rather than fit in.
It’s a privilege that I can choose.

This week though.
Monday night someone asked me if Larkin was my granddaughter and my life choices flashed before my eyes. I was 39 when she was born, not in my early 20s as is common (in the midwest at least). I was 40 when she was 4 months.
I’ve had occasional thoughts when quickly too tired to keep up with a game or groaning to get up off the floor from playing or crawling with my girl: “Ai yai yai! This is why people have kids in their 20s.”
But that was the first time I felt judged as too old by someone else.

And tonight.
Tonight for the first time in a long time, I was made to feel unwelcome because I’m not “part of the group.”
I’m not in their group.
I’m not in that group either.
Therefore: WHY ARE YOU HERE? You don’t belong.
I was already navigating a stressful situation when confronted in all my

The wound was immediately raw and possible responses roiling in my brain.
I did some yard work to “move through” it and I had the thought, “Is it really worth it to take up this offense?”
Thank you, Lord.

Probably not.
Does it really matter? No.
Did it hurt like hell anyway? Yeah.

So I write to let it go.
I write because I know I’m not alone.
I write to acknowledge that many others experience far worse far more often.

So for me and for you:
You are valuable (even if not everyone values you).
You are important (even if not everyone sees it).
Trust that you’ll find where you belong and where you are valued.
Look for the value in others.
Communicate with kindness first.

The post-nap sleepy snuggles.

I don’t have the right shirt.
I don’t have a name tag.
But I do, in fact, belong here.
I am exactly where God called me to be.

Where Do You See Yourself…?

I received an out-of-the-blue phone call today from a former student:

“Hey, Mrs. Luke! It’s Bradley. I’m driving to my new station and you won’t believe what I just saw…Laramie, Wyoming.”

In 2016, I directed a 30-minute cutting of Tectonic Theatre Project’s The Laramie Project with my high school kids. The play is built from interviews of a wide variety of residents of Laramie following the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998. It’s the story of a small college town’s reaction to a crime and the impact of suddenly being in the spotlight. There was controversy I didn’t expect (perhaps I should have). That company of high school students did extraordinary work, and they were recognized for it in extraordinary ways.

Bradley is serving in the Navy now. He’s driving across the country from South Carolina to Washington State, where he’ll be a Nuclear Machinist Mate on a submarine. He successfully completed 27 three-credit college courses in six months to prepare for the job.
This kid I know.
This south central Nebraska not-exactly-rockstar high school student completed 81 credit hours in SIX MONTHS, and he’s on his way to serve on a submarine, servicing the nuclear reactor.

“Remind me how old you are now, Bradley.”
“I’m 23.”
“Twenty-three. So, five years ago, did you have even the slightest inkling that this is what your life would look like now?”
(Scoffing sound) “No. Not at all.”

As a senior in high school, I remember being asked frequently in interviews in essay questions, “Where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10) years?”
I always hated this question. I mean… how should I know?…Okay, I’m going to a four year college, so I’ll be one year out of college if all goes as planned. I hopefully will have a job and a place to live….

Bradley asked me about Larkin and marveled, as I do, that she’ll be two in July.
“She’s amazing…I never imagined this is how my life would look either.”

Bradley said, “My dad asks me sometimes if I would do anything differently. I always tell him, I wished I had started One Act and Speech as a freshmen.”
“I am so glad it was positive for you.”
“Oh, it meant so much. You’re a really good teacher Mrs. Luke.”

I told him how proud I was of him and how awed I am at the work he’s done and doing.

On this road trip across the country, he told me, he’s stopped in a few places to see some theatre. And as he passed by Laramie, Wyoming, he called his high school theatre director (and junior high language arts teacher) to tell me how much the work–the work never included in any Where Do You See Yourself answers–had meant to him.

And that phone call meant so much to me. I am beyond moved that he called. I am beyond grateful that I answered.

I’m not living the musical theatre dreams of my 18-year-old self in New York, but I am where I am meant to be, having meandered a road I never expected, and starting yet another new chapter.

So Soon-To-Be Graduates!
Dream big–I mean Beyond-What-You-Think-Is-Possible BIG–
Get in the Arena and Dare Greatly.
AND keep your hearts WIDE open!
You never know where God might lead you and who you might impact along the way.

(And learn to budget and live on less than you make. Learn it early. You can thank me later.)

Vulnerability Is…

Recently, I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us–cherry picking episodes as the mood moves me. At the end of each episode, Brené asks her guest a series of “quick fire” questions. The first is “Fill in the blank: Vulnerability is _______”.

It’s a question she has asked thousands of people through her decades of research on vulnerability and shame, and the answers vary widely from broad descriptors like “Vulnerability is scary” to very specific scenarios like “Vulnerability is telling your wife you were laid off.” You can read more in her books Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, The Gifts of Imperfection and more, which I highly recommend.

Some thoughts from this weekend’s vulnerable moments:

Vulnerability is Making Friends.

Larkin, my 20-month-old daughter, and I attended a wedding reception for some dear friends. And because I know my girl so well, I knew we would arrive, congratulate our friends, and then hit the dance floor.

Said dance floor was occupied entirely by small children, I’d guess 1 – 6 years of age (though I’ve never been good at guessing ages). Larkin loves to dance, and Larkin LOVES other kids!
Even more than wanting to dance, Larkin wanted to be friends with these children.

She boldly walked up to each and every one: smile big, arms wide, heart open, wordlessly saying, “I’m small like you! You’re small like me! Let’s be friends!”
And time and time again, each child walked away from her to be with their people. They were playing and dancing with their siblings, cousins, and grandmothers, they didn’t need another girl.

And, O, was this Mama’s heart breaking! It took everything I had to not burst into tears. I stayed on the sideline, allowing Larkin to interact, until she was alone on the dance floor, and I stepped in to swoop her up and dance more.

At one point, her little bottom lip puckered out and I could’ve dissolved into a puddle right there, but I stayed present so she would know…feel…that she would find her people. That I would always be one of them. That I choose her.

The kids weren’t trying to be hurtful. They just already had their people. The little 6 year old boy just wanted to dance with his Grandma and he didn’t want to share her, though she was kind and tried to invite my girl in.

Older kids smiled and waved at her but they didn’t join her.

Vulnerability is Asking Again

We danced.
She sat on the edge of the little stage and smiled at the drummer.
And when kids came back, she asked again, the only way she knows how: approaching boldly, smiling widely, and holding her arms out and heart open.

One little boy told her she couldn’t have any of his gummy bears, but he’d show her where they were. She stopped following him once he was off the dance floor because gummy bears weren’t really what she wanted.

And later, though no words were exchanged, she ran back and forth across the dance floor several times with another girl who was maybe 3. Larkin’s face was lit with an enormous smile and her squeals of delight were absolutely joyful.

Vulnerability is Parenting

These children were not deliberately leaving Larkin out, choosing her last, or bemoaning her presence.
Having been through elementary school (and middle school and high school), I know those things will come.
I experienced them.
I did them.
I am in trouble when those times come for Larkin, because these benign rejections simply crushed my heart. Because my Heart was out there running around the dance floor asking to be loved…and the repeated answer was a silent refusal.

Vulnerability is Brave

Some acts of bravery are big–running toward danger to save someone, staying to fight in a war. And some are small: standing in front of someone and asking them to love you, to choose you, to be your friend.

So many times we accept the rejection and stay away because vulnerability opens us up to hurt and being hurt again and again. So, wow, is Asking Again vulnerable and brave.

Sharing what we create–food, art, writing– is vulnerability.
“Here is something I created” is also “Here is an opportunity for you to reject me.”

I pray I can be as brave as my toddler in offering my heart to the world.
She is an inspiration.
And tonight we dance!

Letting Go: Literary Edition

Mommy’s book-sorting helper.

In May 2021 as we moved into major renovation phase, we moved out of our house and into a two bedroom rental across the street. That process involved some purging of things we didn’t use much, clothes that I’d not worn in a few years, and the boxing up of all the “not necessary right now but I don’t want to get rid of it either” stuff.

All those boxes went into a storage space, including about thirty boxes of books.
A couple boxes of books went with us into the house where I’d hoped we’d be for four months, but where we actually lived for eight months.

It wasn’t a realistic expectation–that we’d only be there for four months or that I’d read all those books in the time we were there.

Now we are fixing to move in a more permanent way from our beautifully renovated house into a smaller house that comes with my husband’s new gig.
Moving in the direction where God is leading into this new chapter is exciting and a bit scary, but letting go of this beautiful house we’ve poured a lot of time, money, and heart into….that is hard.

Sometimes letting go means big, hard things.
And sometimes letting go means small things…that are still hard.
I am contending with the reality that there simply is not space in our soon-to-be home for my 30+ boxes of books, and I’ve begun the sorting process.

I have
~books I’m not ready to part with
~books I want to keep, but it turns out I have multiple copies
~books to gift to my friends, mom, sisters, nieces, nephews
~books from my former classroom library that I am giving to
a friend who is doing a sort of book club with her many
nieces and nephews
~books I am hoping to sell to my favorite used book store,
but I know they have high standards for condition and also
navigate supply and demand
~books that are in a general give-away pile

I have always loved books. And shopping for books. And reading about books to add to a shopping list. Parting with books? Not so much.

After sorting through all 30 boxes and totes, I have over 400 books that are on their way out the door. I dropped off the book club books and about a dozen to my favorite coffee shop where they’ve just started a leave one/take one library–good timing!
The giving feels good.
And that is helping me to release this collection out into the world.

Among the books I am keeping is a box of “novels I’ve already read but want to keep anyway”– books I love deeply and want to be able to return to.
But I’ve decided that as I read through all my unread books, of which there are many, I am going to let them go right away–whether gifted or donated. I’m sure some will be added to the “keepin’ ’em anyway” collection, but for the most part it’ll be a commitment to Read & Release.

Letting go of big things.
Letting go of small things.
Change and growth often require release and mourning along with the leaps of faith and joy.

What are you holding on to?
What is collecting dust or stagnating in storage?
What is holding you back?
Is it time to let go?


Part of MOVE 2022 is a dramatic move from employee to free lancer.
The work of writing copy and grants and creating blog posts and newsletters all involve skills I’ve developed over a couple decades of experience in school and in the field, but the business of free lancing is more new and nuanced.

When I was trying to find work as an actor in my twenties, free lancing elements were there but I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, so what is left is the residue of panic and fear and, at best, imposter syndrome.
I’m now 41 and have held multi-year jobs in banking, education, and nonprofit leadership.
I’ve learned some stuff.
I’ve written a great deal–lesson plans, marketing materials, essays, blogs, reports…

But how do you capture experience and work ethic and personality in a website?

As I started to build a site for my business and introduce myself to folks, I realized I would need photos that were pretty specifically of “here I am being a professional writer”.

Turns out I didn’t have any on hand, so I called in reinforcements. Creatives unite!
My photographer (and writer and educator and artist) friend Dani met me to “capture my brand” as it turns out that “branding photography” is a whole genre.

I’ve done many photo shoots over the years as an actor along with family photo sessions and such, but today’s felt..surreal.

“Is ‘surreality’ a word?” I asked Dani.
“We can make it one.”
Like…surreal…but a noun.

Was I writing? Yes.
Was I drinking coffee? Yes (a magical coconut macaroon latte from the glorious ArtBar).
Was my document authentic? Yes (it was this one here).
But it was funny.
And surreal.
I was in my favorite coffee shop where other people were working and conversing, and my friend was taking photos of me “working”.

We were pointing a camera at it, but it was also authentically me.
Laughing at myself.
Chatting and creating something with my friend.
Soaking up sun and writing bits and pieces to capture the moment.
It was a step forward.
A move.

How do you create an environment, an outfit, a moment that is authentically you?

Maybe I should’ve left baby food schmutz on my shirt…


In 2013, American author Jon Gordon posted a video to YouTube called “One Word That Will Change Your Life.” He explains the power of choosing a word for the year to set a trajectory for growth and positive change.

I discovered it a few years ago and starting choosing a word each new year, like “Create” and “Compound”. Some years my word has drifted to the background–2020 and 2021 were not real solid. But other years it has enhanced my focus or at least been a touchstone to return to when I felt I was drifting.

*My friend Dani recently shared about her 2022 word, Renew, on her podcast Glitter and Grace. It’s definitely worth a listen for another perspective on the power of choosing a one-word focus for the year.*

Late last year, I read the book Chasing Daylight by Erwin Raphael McManus. The concept that stood out to me most, that I continue to think about is this:
“Potential is a glimpse of what could be, yet there must be a shift from where we have potential to where we are potent… no one moves from potential to maximum capacity without the help of others. Often lost potential is the result of lack of investment.”

How do I move from having all this potential to being potent?
My word for 2022 is MOVE.

It was clear to me almost right away, then my friend posted this memory on Facebook (originally posted in 2010): “…a rudder only works when the boat is moving. That is how it is with knowing the will of God. Get yourself moving and He will direct you. Even if you are going in the “wrong” direction, He can get you turned around. A life of faith is the greatest adventure you will ever know.”
Confirmation: MOVE.

I need to move my body.
I *know* I feel better when I move my body every day. So, I’ve begun to rebuild the exercise routine I lost during pregnancy. –When I was pregnant, I only got sick one time, but I had reflux any time I bent over or laid flat, so even gentle yoga became problematic.

Moving jobs.
In the summer of 2021, I gave my resignation to the job I’ve had for the past four years. I continued to do the work for six months and was able to pass the baton to the new leadership this month.
Time to move forward.
I’ve begun freelance grant- and copywriting. I have a couple clients I’ve done regular writing for over the past few months and met with a potential new client this week.
I’m working on my website.
Making moves.

More than anything, as I strive to move from potential to potent, I want to trust God with the rudder. Even when it seems too hard or too much.
And He’s moving us.

We came back to Nebraska in 2009 and have lived in Blue Hill since 2012.
We’re invested in this area and are just finally completing a four-year home renovation.
The house is beautiful.
And we’re moving.
To a new even-smaller town. (Population 87)
To a new job for Matt. (Maintenance director for a camp we love.)
To where we’ve been called to go.

Just like God to change the story right when we think we’re getting things figured out.

Moving my body.
Moving my life.
Trusting God will move within it all.
What mountains will He move?
Here’s to moving from potential to potent in 2022.

I heard this worship song for the first time this month: We Need A Move.

F*#!in’ Pie and the Importance of Articulating Your Message

I am an unapologetic member of the Constant-Christmas-Music club starting at Thanksgiving and rolling into the start of the new year.
But the profanity in these old favorites is just too much.
I’m looking at you Brenda Lee.

It’s all wholesome goodness until their real feelings are revealed when the dessert is brought out:
Rockin’ around the Christmas tree
Let the Christmas spirit ring
Later we’ll have some *u–kin pie
And we’ll do some caroling

I don’t know what happened between dinner and dessert, but the cheerful holiday dance party takes a dark turn in tone.

And Perry Como. You’re not off the hook here either.

I met a man who lives in Tennessee, and he
was headin’ for Pennsylvania and some
homemade *u–kin pie
(echo) some *u–kin’ pie
**I always picture a chorus of stereotypical Chicago “wise guys” singing back up for Perry here.**

Alright. I admit I *know* they *think* they are singing about pumpkin pie, but the word is spelled P-U-M-P-K-I-N. And unlike many of the words English ransacked from other languages and mangled, it’s pronounced just as it is spelled.
There’s an M and a second P (not that these singers are hitting the first P either…).

In my work with high school actors, we frequently spend time on the importance of articulation. A couple examples from this fall:

“Horror has two syllables.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance that we hear both syllables.”

“When you repeat ‘boar skin, boar skin’ it is vital that we hear that B very clearly.”

The actors usually think for a moment then gasp and laugh at themselves.
It’s hilarious but oh so important.

Am I articulating clearly?
Am I sending unintended messages?
Does how I spend my time align with my intentions?
Do the words I use reflect the person I want to be?
I often find myself lost in distraction and falling down rabbit holes.
Or responding out of anger or frustration in a way that’s out of character.
What am I communicating with my words and actions?

What are we articulating with our lives?

Something to ponder over PuMPkin pie.