I am horrible at making resolutions. I find myself hating them before the first week is out. Years ago I was introduced to the idea of a word for the year. Over the past few years, I have identified words like JOURNEY and JOY and WHOLENESS. Words that have been turned into jewelry and vision boards and prayers. It is one of the only “resolutions” I have. I resolve to pick a word.

My intentional movement towards a word for the year begins at the beginning of the liturgical new year, Advent. By the time we reach January 1, I comitt. Since it is now, 11:36pm on December 31st, there is no time like the present.

There are many reasons that I have chosen RELEASE for 2020, but there are a few that I want to share publicly:

1. Let’s start with the obvious. My oldest leaves home this year. If that is not RELEASE, I dont know what is. My word is always about me. It is about what I need to center and grown into in the coming year. I’m not sure anything can teach you like the journey of motherhood, so launching my girl into the world has once again wrecked me. I just can’t think about all the things that I have to RELEASE with this one, but it is for real.

2. I am an Ennegram 8. I am bold and oppoinionated and damn right. All the time. To say that I have some serious RELEASING to do in the “my way or the highway” department is an understatement. And I do. The Divine is teaching me this in all kinds of neat ways, so I will lean in. And probably fall on my face. You have been warned.

3. And at the exact same time, I will celebrate four and a half DECADES of life this year and, guess what? Some things never change. I am who I am. I am a big personality. I suck at keeping in touch with people. I basically hang up the phone on everyone who calls me. I have a wicked sarcastic streak and I am really fond of fu and sh words. I am also the kind of parent that lets my kids say fu and sh words, correctly of course. So, there you have it. I also love to talk about the Spirit and redemption and faith and recovery. I have come to the amazing realization that these things are not for everyone. More interestingly, the circle where all of these things can coexist seems even smaller. Therefore, I know that the time has come to do some more RELEASING of expectations.

I tell you these things in the hope that you will join me breathing life to a word as you enter this year. If you have one already, please send it to me. I love to know how we are all journeying together on our own paths. If you want to explore this idea more, reach out, I would love to process the journey of intention with you.

Happy New Year

PEACE: when things don't feel peaceFUL

Motherhood is the definition of helplessness. I always thought that moms had all the power. And while they ARE superwomen, there is nothing like a sick child or an accident that you can’t fix to remind you that you are not in control. My youngest was diagnosed with scoliosis in August. I have spent the last 4 months learning that once again, I cannot fix, change, mastermind, coordinate or bargain our way out of this challenge. There have been very few weeks since the diagnosis that we have not been in a doctor’s office getting new imaging, fitting for her brace or learning a new aspect of care to withstand the pain.

This is not my first rodeo with health concerns and my kids. I have learned and advocated and researched and studied before. I have become a non-licensed expert in areas that I previously knew nothing about. But unlike some other challenges, this one seemed to hit me in new ways of hurting. My Gator is my physically strong one. Her will is equally as powerful. There is something about those that are wired to throw caution to the wind in a sport that gives the appearance of invincibility. That’s my girl.

Standing 6’+ in shoes, she is now looking down on me. Her shoulders are broad enough to stand on. Her feet are more like flippers. And her hands: we all agree that those fingers are just freaky long. But her spine, that is another story. It has 3 curves. It causes her rib cage to be displaced. Her low back comes out from her hips sideways, which we now understand is why she has had hip pain for 3 years. On the surface her body looks so strong, but growing has been hard on the part of her skeleton that supports the core – literally.

In November, she was at swim practice and lost feeling in legs and feet. Some tingling is not unusual. That is part of the journey of pain management, but this was different. We had to go back to the drawing board for more imaging. We found some additional complications in her low back. She sat out her November meet, in hopes that she could be strong enough to complete at her last age group championship meet in December. That meet was this past weekend.

To say that I lacked “peace” in the last few weeks would be an understatement. I was mildly psychotic – trying to ice and massage and give her relief. She was not able to train like she wanted. On more than one night, we sat in tears of frustration. Peace is defined as “a state of tranquility or quiet.” That is not what we have been throwing down around Team Hilbrich. We have been more like anti-peace. Chaos. Fear. We braced for the worst this weekend. In a direct quote from the 14 year-old, we “prepared for the shit show.” Both sets of grandparents traveled with us because we were going to celebrate the simple fact that she was in the water. She was swimming and that had to be the joy. It had to.

She swam a smaller schedule that she wanted to. She even scratched (swimmer speak for elected not to swim) one event during the meet. Every time she went off the block, I felt pain shoot up my own back in sympathy. It was hard to watch, but weirdly, peaceful. She is so happy on the pool deck. I am happy with a latte and a biography in the same way that she comes alive cheering for her teammates and joking with her coach.

After a race, her feet have nerve pain. She describes it like feeling as if they are asleep. Depending on the length and the intensity of the swim, it can be more severe. She swam 2 events each day. After the first event, she would get in the cool down pool and then return to her chair. This is the position that she would assume to help her feet regain full feeling for the next race. It struck me as I watched her, that this was her peace. She knows how to prepare by reestablishing her strength.

I wonder how many of us need that kind of Advent peace today? Do you know what your soul requires to return to a place of tranquility and quiet? I admire and love the fact that not only does she know it, but she also practices it. She stays close to her place of comfort and strength and intentionally engages in the actions that produce healing. Even when she knows that she cannot practice “fully”, she gets in the water for at least 2 hours everyday. She exercises her core and rolls her muscles. She wears her brace 18 hours a day. She does everything she knows to do to set herself up for success. That’s how we find peace. We do the things that we know can fill our soul (and mind and body).

Oh, and she swam 3 best times and finished 2nd in her favorite event. It was hardly the shit show that I worried about. That’s what I get for choosing not to lean in. May we cling tight to the journey of peace this week.

HOPE: The Eyes of a Child

Last night, we held the first of 3 Advent contemplative prayer times at our church. For an hour each week, we will stop. We will be still (if not in our body, at least our soul). We will look for ways to connect with the Divine in new and ancient practices. There is a station centered around Anglican prayer beads. There is a station inviting us into the practice of the labyrinth. There is also an art installation that helps us navigate the often challenging waters of practicing prayer.

The art is created by Scott Erickson. His work challenges and moves me. The opening statement of the collection held my attention and prayer for the entire time last night. But it was one of the closing lines that my heart played on repeat. “The essence of prayer is the Love of God.” That is just good. I clearly over complicate prayer. I have too many rules. I have expectations and qualifications. Yet I miss out because it is not about the checklist, it is all about love. I think that is where our world misses the mark most often.

During our prayer time, we were each invited to explore prayer in a way that was helpful for us. There were families with children as young as 7 participating. As we closed the evening, our pastor asked us to reflect on the experience. I enjoyed being still. I actually wanted it to last longer. I felt nudging to move and act. But what I really needed to hear was the voice of the youngest in the room. As the first to speak up during reflection time, my friend said, “I saw God in the fire of the candle. Because, God is the light of the world.”

Mic drop, Noah. Mic drop.

HOPE: In Unexpected Places

In December of 2013, my then 11 year-old raised money to give American Girl dolls to children that would not otherwise get one. What at first glance seemed like a cute one-time service project continued the next holiday season. And the next. By the end of 2019, the dream of two teenagers became a non-profit organization and will have placed more than 750 dolls and raised more than $80,000. All of this is wonderful. The hope that they have spread in their work is tremendous. But Dolls For All is more than a charity. It is more than a way to get service hours for a resume. For my daughter, this work has changed her life and been a gift of hope to HER.

Today, she hosted the first holiday tea party to honor 5 recipients. We went back to my daughter’s elementary school. In those halls, she became acquainted with anxiety and panic. She learned that there was something different about her insides. She could not explain it at the time, but school seemed to trigger the worst in her brain. Yet, she excelled at this thing called “education.” The same place that brought on terrible tears and fears also gave her space to be challenged and shine in the classroom.

As she navigated the ups and downs of her own journey, her compassionate heart was always drawn to kids. I like to say that she came out of the womb wanting to mother. She is, by her very DNA, a tender nurturer of all young people, especially the hurting ones. As Dolls For All grew, she began working with and reaching out to organizations that cared for kids on the margins. She learned about CPS and CASA and Child Advocates. She worked with school counselors to encourage kids that had been through their own personal trauma.

At 15, she hit a personal wall. One that could not be climbed in the “traditional” education system, so a shift was made to online school. What felt like defeat in many ways was the open door of hope. It was because of this change that her schedule was freed to explore ways to grow Dolls For All and in-turn her own love of children.

She recently wrote her college application essay. She didn’t shy away from the messy parts of her story. She spoke her truth. She also gave much of the credit for the shape and the trajectory of her future to the opportunities, people and organizations she has met as a part of her Dolls For All journey. What began as an opportunity to give children a toy has been a tool of redemption that God has used to be a light of hope in the midst of some very dark days.

That’s the tricky thing about hope. It can surprise you. What started out to be a light of hope for others has turned into the greatest hope show imaginable. There is nothing like leaving a tea party or delivery and seeing the sheer fullness in my girl’s heart. As my friend John says, “HOPE. Like a prayer to get through the night.”

HOPE: A Musical Experience

This morning, I woke up and was not feeling all of the hope. Yesterday I preached about the topic and yet I could not find it in my insides today. In a very strange turn of events that we can discuss at a later date, I have recently developed a pattern of living that involves walks. So I took one. In days past, I would have mulled. I probably would have pouted and stewed. But as I began out my door, the cool air hit my face and so did the sun. It was so bright. So bright.

Even with the world and creation shouting a new season to me, I was still mulling on my own world. Usually my walks include my favorite musicians. Most often, the blasting beats are sung by 90s pop artists with a random twist of a 80s country song. But today…

I have talented friends. I am so thankful that I have the privilege to walk alongside of and learn from people whose gifts and giftings are completely different than my own. I am surrounded by writers and artists and athletes. I often listen to tales of creating and grinding. Some of these things I understand. Some of them I just love to hear about because they are the heartbeat of my people. One of my co-conspirators in all things Liturgy is my friend John.

Today I needed a kick in the Advent ass and he provided it in the form of one of my favorite Advent songs. “Hope is Here” was on repeat in my ears until I was ready to be IN hope. If you have never heard this song, download John’s Advent music and make a playlist now. I am also a HUGE fan of the “Peace of God”, so add that in, too. Because you just need this in your life. If you don’t already know him, let me introduce you to one of my favorites, Mr. John Hatfield:

How long can you hold on?
How long can you wait?
How long can you look for a sunrise?
How long is too late?

It feels like forever
You gotta have faith
We’re going to see the sun rising one day
But we have

Like a prayer to get through the night
Like a song instead of a fight
Like the brightest of heavenly lights
Peace like a river

Somewhere in the darkness
Out there in the night
The morning is breaking through clouds with its light
So we’ll have

Like a prayer to get through the night
Like a song instead of a fight
Like the brightest of heavenly lights
Peace like a river

Hope is here and
Love casts out all fear and
Joy will hold you near and
Give you peace

Like a prayer to get through the night
Like a song instead of a fight
Like the brightest of heavenly lights
Peace like a river

released December 4, 2018

Hope Is Here
Music & Lyrics by John Hatfield

Advent 2019: Hope

I am a documentary nut. I love to watch them on all the streaming things. Recently, I have watched multiple accounts of the journey of patients with AIDS – both in the early days of the epidemic and the advancements in treating the disease. One of these stories was the account of program that was started in Salt Lake City’s Holy Cross Hospital.

In the mid-80s, these women of faith stood eye to eye with one of the most hope-LESS diseases of our time. With no cure and an almost certain death sentence, they loved and cared and nursed and offered grace in ways that I can almost promise none of them ever intended. It’s almost as if they were open to not-knowing…

One of the sisters, Bernie Mulick said, “It’s part of our mission as Sisters of the Holy Cross to care for those who are poor and sick and needy. We have always cared for the forgotten ones, for the underdogs. They were the railroaders and the coal miners in our earliest days in Utah. During the 1980s and 1990s, individuals with HIV and AIDS were the lepers of the time, and no one else was taking care of them.”

Another nurse, Sr. Linda Bellemore said, “Those were the years of fear about the transmission of this terminal disease resulting in alienation from family, friends and society due to their diagnosis. At the time of their lives when they most needed care and support, how could I not help? The need was obvious, and I am committed to serving people as Jesus did, especially the poor and alienated.”

Watching this film made be want to be that kind of hope dealer. These women were hope with skin. The kind of hope that stands in the face of death and pain and horrible alienation and loves. Because there was no cure. There was no medicine. There was not even a promise of acceptance and basic care. And yet the Sisters offered hope in the midst of the darkest, darkest pain. 

We don’t get to have hope without having seen pain. Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we have to walk into the darkness. First we have to see that something is broken and there is a reason we need hope to begin with.

Advent matters, because it’s our way of keeping our eyes and our hearts and our arms all wide open, even in the midst of our not-knowing and darkness and longing. The weary world is still waiting in so many ways, in so many hearts, in so many places, for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come. 

Advent is for the ones who know longing for that kind of hope.

Holy Week 2019: Palm Sunday

This is the week. This is the week that changed everything for those who follow Jesus. For me and my fellow Liturginerds, we get stupid excited when Holy Week begins. It’s the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Our journey is wrapped in everything from celebration to sorrow and back again. This year I have jumped headlong into a study and use of the Enneagram in my personal growth. One of the most fun moments of the joking and learning process was the identifications of the corresponding Enneagram numbers and Liturical Seasons. I am a passionate 8. I am also a living breathing story of Holy Week. I love the party, I need the meal, I depend on the darkness and I hope in the light. All in a 7 day period. You will hear from me daily this week, and some of this is not new information, but it is the great story of the Greatest story and we need each day.

I need just a moment to express some personal thoughts on this week. Well, perhaps they are more than thoughts. They are my not so subtle suggestions. Please hear them with the appropriate amount of love and grace and firmness. PLEASE do not skip from Sunday to Sunday. The story of Jesus is not complete with just palms and lilies. We need the bread and the cup. We need the nails and the grief. We need to hear and feel the stone closing of the tomb. When we wave palm branches on Palm Sunday and skip past the week to a sunrise egg hunt and matching family pastels, we miss the WHY.

I missed worship today. I was at a swim meet this morning with my youngest. Between some great swims and a live stream of a historic round of golf, we were throwing our own party. I was with my dad, and if you know him, you know that Tiger and his Ally-Gator are two of his favorite athletes. Watching the cheering and yelling and precious reverence was a holy moment for me.

While we were cheering our sports things, I was reminded that around the world people were gathering together and shouting Hosannah and celebrating that the King is riding the donkey into Jerusalem in Glory.  There were children whacking each other with leaves and reminders of parties and glory. There were picnics and egg hunts. Today was a celebratory time for so many. I was terribly sad that I was not with my community this morning, and I took a few moments of stillness to usher myself into this week. This is important. We have much to celebrate and grieve about and hope for in the days to come. Be present and connect in ways that are meaningful for you.

Over the next few days, I am going to write about stories that are found in the Gospels between the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem and the Last Supper. On Thursday, we will remember a holy meal. Friday is the day that hope seems lost as we witness the pain of death. And then we wait.

You can do this in many ways, but I find it especially valuable to do this in the context of community. For my local friends, I would be honored to have you as a part of our community at ECL. On Thursday, we will share the Eucharist in the context of a potluck meal. Join us at 6:30pm under the oak trees at 218 Clear Creek Ave. Friday, we will journey with the Gospel writer John and be reminded of the pain of death. This service will draw on the hopelessness on the day of Crucifixion.  That service begins at 6:30pm, as well. Sunday morning, all are welcome for our Easter Vigil at 6am. We will gather by firelight under the oak tree for reading, listening and anticipation of resurrection. And at 10am Sunday we will celebrate all that is Resurrection. All of it!

This week is intentionally painful. The road is not easy. My prayer for you is that you can find a space and time and way to be on a journey this week. If the journey of Jesus seems like a far away story from a far away time, I pray that it will come alive for you this week. May we see the road leading into Jerusalem as our invitation to hope.

Sober by the Dozen

Unlike years past, this day seemed like the many others surrounding it on the calendar. There was no fanfare. There was no cake. It started with an “I’m proud of you” call courtesy of my husband and ended with carpools and dinner prep. The best part of my sobriety date is the annual giggle that April Fool’s Day marks the day that I thought the imagegood times were over. Because I know that forgetting to remember is a dangerous thing for those of us that are wired to deny, in the midst of the norm, I took time to reflect on the significance of 12 years. Here are my 12 musings for this trip around the sun:

  1. I have 4,383 days of sobriety, but just like I did on day 1, I choose this way of life every hour of every day. Without making that choice, I won’t have 4,384.
  2. There are days when I wish I could drink like “normal people.” It is in those moments that I remind myself that in no other area of my life do I like normal, so why should this one be any different?
  3. In early sobriety I was told that this way of life was a gift. I was sure it was a lie. Today, I’m more aware than ever that not all gifts are pretty and shiny and perfect.  Sometimes the best gifts come by way of pain and a good come back story.
  4. In the beginning, I got sober for my kids. Today I am sober in spite of the hardest days of parenting.
  5. I wanted nothing to do with God in my early sobriety journey. Today, I know that sobriety is mindful work and the core of being rooted deeply is the Creator that formed my being.
  6. Much like everything else in my life, there are seasons in sobriety that require different things of me. Learning to accept the seasons of my life is still one of the most challenging aspects of my existence.
  7. The more I share my journey, the more I see the progress that I have made.
  8. Sobriety reminds me that I am a life learner. Just because I have completed a lesson does not mean that I have graduated from that subject – it’s likely to reappear.
  9. There is nothing in this world – not one single experience – that would be better with alcohol or drugs in my body.
  10. If I choose to live this life, my girls will never have to care for a drunk mom, drive their mom because she can’t or fear that she will end up in jail. I cannot protect my kids from most things, but I can this one.
  11. Not drinking was just the beginning of this journey. I’m thankful for the many ways that taking that first step cleared the path for the real growth to occur.
  12. The fun doesn’t stop when the drinking does. I have more laughs, truer relationships, more inside jokes and waaaaay better memories than I did before. Good people, good stories and great experiences are the most fun things in life – and sobriety heightens all of the above!

It’s not lost on me that 12 is an important number in my faith. Complete. Full. Whole. I will cling to those words today and be forever grateful for this journey.

Teenage Invincibility: The Stakes are Higher Than Ever Before

When I was 17, I had a fear of getting in trouble. That single motivation was one of the few things that prevented me from making stupid(er) decisions. I knew, that should I have financial or legal or disciplinary consequences, my parents were not going to save me. They would have helped me, but they would not have prevented me from facing the natural consequences of my behavior. That was 1992. We are not in 1992 anymore. The stakes are higher, the consequences are more permanent and yet, the more I observe teenagers today the more convinced I am that their perceived invincibility is arrogantly increasing.

I have teenagers in my home. I gravitate towards them naturally. When most adults are moving away from the hormones and drama, I run into the chaos like I was created for it. It is not news to those that know me that I would rather spend a day with a drug addicted 16 year-old than a 4 year-old. Any freaking day. I love the instability and maturing and immaturity and growing pains. Sure, this is hard and weighty work, but they can talk to me. I can yell at them. We can throw smack talk with vigor. And I can look them in the eye and (in a very real and no BS kind of way) hold their feet to the fire of truth and reality.

I have quite a few teenagers in my world right now. Some by way of my connections with my own kids, but not all. I don’t stay in the surface of teenage world. When we are talking about any given topic, it is never just about that subject. I’m a detective of sorts, always trying to determine what is lurking underneath the surface of their actions and angst. And, oh, do they have angst. And, oh, do I love to walk through it with them.

Recently, I have grown increasingly frustrated with what I see as an over-developed sense of being above all consequences. We could spend the next decade arguing over the cause, but that’s not really my concern. I’m more interested in the adults in their lives waking up to this reality and calling this crap on the carpet. I’m less concerned about the eye rolling and the snarky teenage responses than I am the fact that there is not a fear of getting in trouble because they don’t get in trouble.

grayscale photography of five people walking on road

I dabble in Snapchat. Recently, I was snapping with some teenagers (like you do). Of course, this happens while we are sitting in the same room together, so really it is like we were talking… but not. As we snapped, I realized they were receiving snaps and streaks from other friends. The content of some of these images had me in disbelief. So I pressed. The stories that their fellow classmates were sending were mind-blowing. I sat as a parent of a 13 and 17-year-old thinking to myself WHERE ARE THE ADULTS?!?! Many sent images that you would not want your college admissions counselor, teacher or parent to see. Multiple kids sent pictures of themselves doing things that were illegal. But the most shocking was the number of kids that sent pictures of their drug stash that was for sale. Piles of weed. Dime bags. Complete with prices texted over the top like they were selling Fun Dip out of their junior high locker. I. Just. Can’t. Even.

woman taking selfie while smoking

I know that pot is no big deal in the minds of so many today, but can we just stop for a second? These are teenagers. In Texas. Where pot is not legal. Selling controlled substances. Online. Like it is nothing. And for the record, pot is something. It is something. Moms and dads of the 80’s and 90’s, today’s weed is not the joint of 1989. “In the 1970s and 1980s, marijuana generally contained less than 5 percent THC. Today, the marijuana sold at legal dispensaries often contains 25 percent THC. Many people use extracts that are nearly pure THC.” With the popularity of vaping, the use of dab pens is skyrocketing and this simple addition to the cannabis scene has substantial legal and health consequences. **If you are reading this and and you don’t know what a vape or dab pen is or you are not sure about concentrates, waxes or oils, please read up. We have to know what we are up against, and eduacation is key.**

I cannot imagine being a teenager today – with the social media nightmare and instant and constant contact with the world – but this is the reality of today’s life. And with the increase of information and access, comes the increase reality of hard consequences when you mess up. That’s where the serious disconnect happens for me. ‘It’s just the way it is’ and ‘kids will be kids’ and ‘it’s not that big of a deal’ messages are placing our kids in the mindset of invincibility like never before. They think the rules don’t apply to them. They think they won’t get in trouble. They think their parents will protect them should they get caught. And the really sad part is that for many kids, this is a truth that is killing them.

So parents and teachers and mentors and coaches and pastors, we must do better. Not only do we have to teach them differently, we have to call them out and show them that they are not above the rules. They are not invincible in the eyes of injury and punishment. If we see “ads” for quality merchandise being sold in ‘D’ pod, may we be brave enough to turn them in. Even if it means they may lose a scholarship or title or a special award. Even if it means that they may lose the starting position on the team. Even if it means that you become THAT parent. May we show the kids that are choosing to play by the rules that we will not continue to cover for those that it seems easier to protect. May we encourage doing the right thing, even when the right thing feels so very hard. Our kids are worth it. And they need us to remind them everyday and in every way that we have their back, even if having their back means calling them to face very hard and real consequences.




How is your Lenten journey going?  We are 5 days into the season and I wonder if your days look any different from this time last week? Have you connected with the Divine? Have you practiced your presence? Have you opened your eyes in new ways to new things? If you haven’t, it is not too late to start.

I had an acute awareness today of the need to be uncomfortable. Like many seasons before, I was being stretched to let go. Letting go, most often means that I have to consciously remind myself that I am not in charge. As my daughter reminded me recently, this is a control freak’s worst nightmare. On days like today, I have to make frequent attempts (recognizing that they are not always successful) to close my mouth, hold my opinion and remember that my way is not always the only or best way. For many, these seem like simple, daily tasks. For someone like me, this is hard, mindful work.

I wonder, in these uncomfortable moments what I am being asked to observe and learn?Today, I was graciously gifted with the knowledge that the intended lesson is vulnerability. This much misunderstood, ever necessary gift is one that I am hardwired to reject and yet I am blessed to scratch the surface. If the desire is to cultivate new, uncomfortable ways of entering into life and intended movement toward vulnerability, there is no one more well equipped to lead the way down the path than Brene Brown. If you have not read the book Daring Greatly, you must. I am so far from where I want to be in this area, and yet I am thankful for every uncomfortable stretching that leads me back to who I am created to be.