A few months ago, I sat on my couch next to my friend Haverlee. She is an adorable momma to three boys. Her smile lights up a room and she has been such an encouragement to me for quite a while now. We talked about silly things, serious things, and stuff in between. During the course of our conversation, she shared with me her story. Her story isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. She is walking through the very difficult and painful days of marriage separation. Sunday marked her 12 year wedding anniversary. She shared a bit about the emotions of an anniversary when there isn’t celebrating on her blog. As I read her words, I thought of so many of you that have shared snippets of your stories with me….stories that don’t tie up with a pretty bow. I asked Haverlee if I could link to her post today. I know so many of you are facing very hard roads today, difficult battles that feel uphill. My hope is that you might find some encouragement in Haverlee’s words and the reminder that you are not alone.

Here is an excerpt from her post, click here to read more:

“I’ve found that people can fairly easily talk about those rough patches once they’re back on smooth ground. But I don’t hear people talking about it when they’re stuck in the middle; at least not outside their trusted circle of family and friends. But you know what’s even harder than walking through the toughest time in my life? Pretending I’m not. I can’t and I won’t. I will not put on a mask of perfection when my heart is aching on the best days and feels like it’s being ripped in two on the worst days. I sometimes want to hang a sign around my neck that says, “Tread lightly. Broken heart inside.” “


For those of you that feel the same…wishing others would tread lightly and recognize you have a broken heart inside….I hope you can take a few minutes to visit Haverlee’s blog. Though my words are feeble, know that I think of you often as I write this random blog. Life is not always sunshine and rainbows, but even in the dark times there are moments of joy to be found. My prayer today is that those of you feeling overcome by the dark and the painful, might find moments of grace and be surprised by joy today.

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  • Paige - Father, please help me to be attentive and see friends and family members wearing that sign. Help all that comes out of my mouth be encouraging and loving and empathetic to others pain. I know I have my own. Help broken hearts find each other and be comforted. Thank you for the ones who speak out in the dark. I pray for your peace and comfort for Haverlee and your other children who are hurting this morning.

  • Cindy McAllister - Thank you for sharing this story. I needed to read this today as I am one of those people that has to pretend because I work in a service environment and have to smile outwardly even when I am broken inwardly. I pray God’s blessings on your friend and her children and also for you in your journey to bring JOY to other’s through your words on this blog.

  • Molly Quigley - Thanks for posting this. It’s so true, and nice of you to support your friend in this way.
    I wanted to share with you a way in which you inspired me this summer. You posted awhile ago about taking your son on a trip with just you and your husband for his birthday and how you had just blown out hair and got in the pool anyway. That really struck a chord with me. I have red colored hair that cannot see a chlorine pool. But when I took my daughter on a summer vacation, i made sure it was near the time of the next dye job and swam with utter abandon. She was over the moon with my new found love of the water. We had a blast! Thanks for posting the stuff of your days. I love it.

  • Linda - You know, she is so right. There are very few stories writeen while in the midst of that dark place and that is when we need it the most. I find that I can talk abut that time much more easily now, but at the time I was going through it, I felt that I was the only person in the world in that spot. Thankful that she is brave enough to share from in the middle.

  • Amy Espinosa - As a wife of twenty three years, I’ve been in many dark valleys. It was but a season though, and now that we are both older, wiser, and comfortable in our places, life is beautiful. Those dark times are hard though and I wish that more bloggers would write about the valleys. Transparency at any time in our lives is the key to helping others. We should never be ashamed to write about the real. Thank you Ashley for sharing!

  • TheDenverPack - I remember during my separation and divorce, keeping it together each day for our 2 toddlers, then falling apart every night. Even looking back at it from a place that I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams (almost 13 years later), there are some very sweet moments in the middle of the devastation. Some of those memories include the people who knew to treat me and my 2 girls as “fragile, broken on the inside.” Hugs to your friend.

  • Christina - I love Haverlee! I think what drew me to her on insta and her blog is that she was authentic. I CRAVE authenticity in people.

  • Kathy V - Thank you so much for this post today. I, too, am separated at the moment and celebrated my 24th wedding anniversary as such. It is never easy, not matter what age you are. Friends and family do not seem to understand that everything has been taken from me. My husband has our home (that we built together) and the children. The things I hold most dear. It is not easy and I would love to know where to get one of those “tread lightly” signs.

  • kimberly oyler - i have loved seeing this story pop up in so many different places. that haverlee is a brave one and i’m so proud of her for sharing the hard things.

  • Angela - Thanks for sharing this. I’m laid off, not separated, but I can definitely identify with so much in the post. My friends think I’m kicking back and enjoying the summer and living off of my severance payment, when the reality is quite different.

  • courtney - thank you for who you are. for caring for others so deeply. for realizing there are real PEOPLE here reading…that have needs and hurts. God is using you mightily. thank you for allowing Him to!

  • Courtney Connelly - Oh this rings so true with me right now. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kristin S - Oh yes.

    “pretending I’m not”

    Why do we do that? For me it’s that I don’t want to be “that friend” who is the Debby Downer in the group.

    But I don’t feel that way when others are real so why am I so scared??

  • Michelle - We had a guest speaker at our church this weekend that gave an excellent sermon on this very topic. It was titled, “My Hurt.” I encourage anyone going through a rough patch in life to watch it. The link is:


  • Ashley Green - She is right! We went through a very rough patch with our 3 year old for a really long time. He was hurting and no one knew what was wrong. It was really rough at our house. We kind of withdrew from a lot of things. When the doctors finally figured out he was having migraines, he was a whole new person. We saw him transform before our eyes. When we tell people about it, they are in awe that they didn’t know and don’t totally get to see the wonder of this transformation. Wish we had shared what was going on at the time but it was just so hard because our hearts were so broken for him. Feels like people don’t truly get to see how mightily God moved in his life because they didn’t know what it was like before. Thanks for sharing this!!

  • Christina - You said “even in the dark times there are moments of joy to be found” and I couldn’t agree more. That is exactly what I choose to focus on during these years of many “dark times”. I choose to focus on what is positive and good in each day, otherwise I would crumble and that just isn’t an option. :)

  • Frances Locke - Thank you. I needed this today, so badly.

  • Dawn - I’ve been praying for a way to support a close friend struggling with a painful illness. Thank you for the post, and thanks to Haverlee for the insight and devotional suggestion.

My oldest daughter’s best friend is her cousin. It is a special relationship that involves tears (from both girls) if they go more than a few days without seeing each other. Lesley and I didn’t grow up with cousins nearby, so it is extra fun to watch our girls together. Our oldest two girls have been tight since my niece was born. I think it is partly due to learning early on that she couldn’t escape the affections of her cousin, so she might as well give in and embrace it.

I was trying to clean off my memory card and computer after so much travel this summer (that is an entirely different post). Anyway, I came across these pictures of the girls I took right after I got back from Ghana. They love playing in the trailer together…they also found my hats and wanted to match. I picked up the yellow one on our road trip from the Wyman Museum. During our road trip we got to spend a few hours with Nici of Dig This Chick. I spotted some custom hats in her studio and as soon as I got home I ordered myself one! A girl can’t have too many trucker hats in the Oklahoma heat….or anytime she doesn’t want to fix her hair (which I never do!)

Anyway…back to the girls.

Almost 4 years ago, the girls made their blog debut together in these pictures:9.10firesweetp-01(pp_w744_h558)

It kind of hurts my heart a little to see how much they’ve grown in such a short time. It is the good kind of hurt though. You can tell my girl has been delighting in her cousin from the start.

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  • Michelle Hill - That is SO sweet! They remind me of my relationship with my cousin, in which we are about 1.5 years apart. She is like my soul sister and was my very first best friend. Cousins offer a special bond and friendship.
    They are just a bunch of cutie patooties, those two!

  • Amy Espinosa - Such a blessing that they have each other! Glad y’all live close enough to one another that your littles can have this special bond!

  • Cassidy - This is too sweet. My cousin and I are 11 months apart, but we’re also 1,300 miles apart (Corpus Christi, Texas to Chicago, Illinois). It’s SO hard sometimes only getting to see her for a couple months out of the year. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve been able to visit each other more (she’s in the spare bedroom right now!), but it’s still sad to not be with one of my best friends during the year. Your girls will have such fun memories in the years to come. (:

  • Denise - In the last frame, Firecracker looks like she is yelling, ‘She’s mine! She’s all mine! Bwhahaha!’

  • Laura S. - Those pictures are priceless, especially the last ones. Your daughter loved her cousin right from the get go. That is how I feel about my cousins who are now spread out all over the US. Every year for the past 12, we take an all girls vacation. All six cousins. This year, in December will be our 13th vacation together. I hope Florida is ready for us. We all range from age 60 to 31. I am in the middle somewhere. I do believe in the power of cousins.

  • Sarah - Love the baby shots!!! So cute!!

  • Carolyn Williams - So sweet. Cousins are the best. +

  • Rikki - So beautiful. What a blessing they have in one another. I adore those last three photos looking at each other… And those baby ones together, oh my too cute!

  • Jenny B. - Oh my word. I remember those pictures of Firecracker and Sweet P! It is SO hard to believe they are all big now. My youngest is about the same age as Firecracker, and he starts Kindergarten in two weeks. Where does the time go??

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh my goodness – I so remember those pictures. Firecracker was smitten from the beginning! Love it.

  • Jen @ RamblingRenovators - We were at my sister’s this weekend where my 5 year old enjoyed a 36-hour sleepover with her cousins. She is our only child so it fills my heart to see her playing, running, swimming, fighting, and loving on her cousins.

  • Jenn - great pics. I remember their first pictures on your blog. my how they have grown. cousins are great. I love mine and love that my kids have cousins that they love

  • Amber - The picture of your daughter laughing when she is a baby is just perfect; I keep looking at it to laugh myself! I do hope they stay close as they grow up!!
    My cousin and I were only 12 days apart and inseparable growing up and eventually we drifted in high school (different crowds)…
    They are too cute!

  • carolina - I was reading your words and remember the picture when they were babies. Surprise, was in the end. Did you win something with that picture? I love my cousin even if we are in different parts of the planet. Thank God to technology because let me talk to her at least once in a week.

I think a combination of a busy weekend, friends daily dropping by and maybe a growth spurt have tuckered this girl out. She is sleeping more…and in random places. I remember when her big sister when through a phase of falling asleep all over the place, despite naps and good rest at night. There is just something so peaceful and a little funny about finding kids asleep in places not usually used for resting. Sleeping kids in great light are one of my favorite things to photograph.

Photo tip: When I first walked in on her, her hair was covering her face. I snapped a few shots without moving her hair in case she woke up. After I got a those shots, I gently moved her hair so I could see her face. If my kids fall asleep somewhere random like the kitchen table, they are usually sleeping pretty deeply and I can delicately move things like hair. Some might prefer the first shot because it is more natural, but I just love seeing her peaceful face.7.14sleeper-05

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  • silk - Sooooo cute!!

  • Lisa | Winter Heights - So precious!

  • Jess - Your children are beautiful. I love how you love them.

  • Jenny L. - It is wonderful to see any picture of little one, but her face is the best part. Especially when she has a expression on her face that you know came from watching her sister. And the serious mad face on Instagram – what a classic!

  • Jenny - So sweet!!! :)

  • Monica - She is beautiful! I also love see my girls sleeping. Like you said is so peaceful watching them. I like also the second picture where you move her hair. Her face is adorable!

  • Ginna - This is so precious. :) Random question, where did you get that chair? Is it a stool? I love it!

  • Emma Goodright - Aww she is so beautiful, my littlest girl had a habit of falling asleep in the toy box, they make me laugh bless them xxx

  • ajira - Too cute!! Sleeping kiddos are too cute.

  • Laree @ Ever Heard Of Euless - I had the hardest time figuring out where she was in that first shot. It honestly looked like she was standing against a wall or something. Then I scrolled down to the second one and I finally figured it out.

    I can’t get over how beautiful she is!

  • Laura - I sure hope my son enters a “fall asleep anywhere” phase. He barely wants to sleep in his crib at night. Love these photos! What a sweet moment.

  • Shannon - Sooooooo adorable!!

  • Bird - falling asleep on random places is one of my favorite things to do… I can sleep everywhere and at every time… She looks so peaceful and happy!

    A lot of love from Germany and the -fatcatconnection-


  • Cathy - SO cute!! My daughter is 2.5 and has yet to fall asleep anywhere like this, she has only fallen asleep in the stroller a handful of times. I can’t wait for times like these! :) Happy Thursday!

  • AshleyAnn - Ginna – it is a stool. We have two – one from a garage sale (or flea market, I can’t remember for sure) and one was given to us

  • Amy Hyman - Adorable pic! We have just recently received our referral from China. We are over the moon excited! Our daughter is 14 months old and also has cleft lip and palate. I had a couple questions I wanted to ask you to help us prepare for her and our travel to China. If that’s okay….would you email me?

  • Asbeh - She is a DOLL!

  • Jolene - She is so sweet!

  • Jules M - Love both of the pictures. Such a peaceful glow on her sweet face. There is something so wonderful about seeing that look of a child sleeping. When my daughter was in kindergarten, we would find her in crazy places too. We were at my MIL’s house & we hadn’t seen her for a few minutes. She was under a side table in the living room, all curled up in a ball. I think that their bodies go through these growth spurts & their brains do at the same time. It is completely exhausting!

  • Kristin C. - Precious!

  • Theresa - I have been following your blog since we began our adoption process in October. Thank you for your wisdom and insight! We have not been matched yet but am trying to prepare for our trip to China. I was wondering what type of camera you would recommend bringing. I don’t want to miss anything while we are there but also don’t know if I want to lug around a large camera with lense etc. thoughts?

  • AshleyAnn - Theresa – I took my dslr and a hefty lens…it was heavy, but I don’t regret it one moment. It was totally worth it to me.