On Choosing Love

Lastnight I wrote a facebook post that dragged on and probably should have been a blog. I want to remember this important perspective on life, so am turning it into a blog post. For those of you who follow me on facebook, this may be a repeat. But I think if there is anything we could use a double-dose of, it’s love : -)


It’s been a rough few weeks. I re-herniated the disc in my back that I had surgery on in April (I wrote about this in Lucky Number 13). It is compressing on a major nerve, so in addition to back pain, I am having pain and neurological symptoms in my leg. I see my neurosurgeon Thursday to come up with an action plan. 

I am on heavy pain medication 24/7 and am basically out of commission – as out of commission as a mom of 3 girls can be. The pain meds allow me to function and be as comfortable as possible, but they also get the best of me. I become irritable, agitated, inpatient, unrealistic, and at times unkind. It is NO fun. Needless to say, it takes quite a toll on my family. 

Even with the pain meds, I am having trouble sleeping tonight. With my strength and balance being off, I took a fall down the stairs today which exacerbated things. Normally I would be laying here feeling upset and annoyed as I desperately try to get some sleep. And, I wouldn’t normally share all of these details with the world…but tonight I feel compelled to. Because I’ve spent the last 5 hours re-reading many posts on my friend Rachel Macy Stafford’s Hands Free Mama blog (I’ve shared some of her posts and told you about her new book before). All of her writing is filled with such wisdom – and she shares her wisdom in the most gentle, kind, compassionate, encouraging, and loving ways.  

With her latest post, she offers an I CHOOSE LOVE 21-day challenge. Because of my current circumstances, I am finding it very easy to let love begin to fall by the wayside, so this comes at such an awesome time for me. It will be quite the challenge as these pain meds (and the pain itself) are no joke. We can do hard things, though. I’ve already gone through the opportunities that are sure to arise tomorrow and made plans of how I can and will Choose Love over all of the obstacles that will try to get in the way. 

“Let love start this day. Let love end this day. Let love transform the minutes in between …”

Pleas take a few minutes and read this Choose Love post –  I’ve also copied and pasted it below for those of you who don’t like all of the clicking around. I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to take the challenge with me 🙂 And even if you don’t, I promise you’ll walk away with at least one important insight.

‘Choose Love’ 21-Day Challenge: Part 2
                  SEPTEMBER 25, 2015
            from http://www.handsfreemama.com 

* On September 22, I posted a passage on The Hands Free Revolution page illustrating how ‘Choosing Love’ as a first response might play out in a typical day. The concept deeply resonated with many people. I’ve added it to this post and decided now was the perfect time to bring back this transformative 21-day challenge. Let love start this day. Let love end this day. Let love transform the minutes in between …

I never know where interviews are going to take me – but I can almost always be sure they will take me back—back in time. And although most days I try my best to look forward, sometimes it’s enlightening to reflect back and see something I can only see with time. This is my story, as well as a challenge, should you choose to accept.

It was this, the second to last question during my interview on Better Worldians Radio that stirred something inside me: “With the success of your book and popularity of your website I imagine you could be busier than ever. How do you keep the balance and keep living Hands Free?” asked Gregory, one of the show’s hosts.

I briefly described several strategies I used when I began my journey that are still in practice today. Wanting to place emphasis on what I feel is the most important one, practicing daily distraction-free rituals, I shared this story …

The night before the Hands Free Mama manuscript was due to my publisher I was working furiously to meet my deadline. My parents had come from Florida to help me any way they could.

It was around 8:30 p.m. and I was bent over the keyboard surrounded by empty soda cans, crumpled papers, and used sticky notes.

I felt my mom gently touch my arm. She’d just come from my older daughter’s bedroom. “Natalie requested her nightly Talk Time, Rachel,” she whispered softly.

Without hesitation, I got up from my work and headed straight toward Natalie’s room.

Suddenly my mom called out after me, neither of us knowing that what she was about to say would become one of my greatest Hands Free motivators. “I tried to tell Natalie that you had a lot of work to do tonight but she adamantly said, ‘Grandma, Mama always comes.”

Mama always comes.

I stopped midway up the stairs in an effort to wrap both my brain and hands around those sacred words and accept them as mine.

It hadn’t always been that way, you see. But somewhere along my Hands Free journey, I’d become someone my child could count on to come to her bedside each night to talk—no matter what


As my radio interview began to wrap up, I was amazed that out of all the things the host could reiterate from our hour-long discussion, he chose this:

“I think these three words are words we all want to hear sometime in our life, even just once: ‘Mama always comes.’”

Hearing the interviewer say those words made me feel just like I did when my mom spoke them that very first time. I was crying now. I desperately hoped the show’s listeners could not sense that I’d become a blubbering mess. With tears dripping down my face, I realized something I could only know now looking back in retrospect:

I could have easily kept working the night my daughter asked for Talk Time, but I didn’t.

Why? Why did I not explain that I was under a tight deadline and it would all be over the next day? Why did I not mention that my author advance and reputation were riding on a punctual submission? Why did I not quickly run upstairs and give Natalie a kiss and promise we’d have Talk Time in the morning?

Of all the times I could have said, “Not tonight,” I didn’t. Why?

Because I chose love.

Just like I did the night before … and the night before that … and the night before that … and the many nights before that.

I chose love that night just like I did on the very first day of my journey when I had no idea how to transform my distracted, joyless, maxed-out life into one of meaningful connection and peace. I wasn’t sure of anything that initial day of my journey except that love was the right choice. Love could never be the wrong choice.

But here’s the most critical element, the piece that made this choice a doable, repeatable action that stuck:

Sometimes I showed up to love without a smile.

Sometimes I showed up to love feeling ugly, worthless, and inadequate.

Sometimes I showed up to love alone and scared.

Sometimes I showed up to love when I didn’t know what I was doing.

Sometimes I showed up to love when it was the last thing I wanted to do.

Sometimes I showed up to love even though I had so much to do before the day’s end.

Sometimes I showed up to love when my patience was gone.

Sometimes I showed up to love when I had no love to give.

Despite the obstacles … despite the excuses I could’ve made … despite the pressures and distractions of the outside world … despite the mean voice of my inner critic, I continually showed up to love.


Because I never left the same way I arrived.

I always walked away a little lighter … a little more at peace … a little more hopeful … a little more grateful … a little more joyful. Love was always the right choice. I never once regretted choosing love over all else.

So I showed up to love again

And again

And again

And again

Until one day I was known as ‘The One Who Always Comes’ to a little girl whose opinion mattered more than the world.


Making it a habitual practice to choose love changed my inner fiber, the wiring of my brain, and my entire life perspective regarding what was important. Thus, I’ve come to believe there is one single action that has the power to transform negativity to positivity … distraction to presence … disconnection to connection: Choosing love—choosing love as much as you humanly can.

On any given day, there’s probably 101 things running through your mind—from what you need to do … to what you should do … to what you didn’t do … to what you wish you would’ve done. I know because this was me. It was exhausting. I felt like I was failing a lot. Now I try to go with one action over and over and over. This singular action helps me focus on what matters and let go of what doesn’t. It helps me make better choices and move on when I don’t.

Every minute of every day, I try to CHOOSE LOVE—two transformative words that become ingrained with repetition. Let me show you how CHOOSING LOVE could play out in a typical day:

1. Wake up. Mind starts racing. So much to do. So tired. Instead of reaching for the phone or grumbling about all there is to do, think: CHOOSE LOVE.

It might sound like this: Today is a new day. I am thankful I have been given this gift. My goal is to get out of bed and greet myself and my family with love. Love is how I will start this day.

2. Child not getting ready. Frustration rises. Instead of threatening or yelling, think: CHOOSE LOVE.

It might sound like this: How can I help? Let’s set a timer. How quickly do you think you can do clothes, shoes, backpack? Okay, let’s do it. On your mark, get set, GO!

3. Traffic is horrendous. You are going to be late. The whole day is going to be off. Instead of cursing, reaching for the phone, or making a dangerous U-turn, think: CHOOSE LOVE.

It might sound like this: I have just been given uninterrupted time. I will take this time to breathe. I will ask my child to sing me a song. I will listen to that voice and know it won’t always sound like this. I will take this moment of frustration and turn it into gratitude.

4. Arrive at destination only to be met with criticism, judgment, or rudeness. Instead of taking it personally, wasting your precious energy, or saying something you’ll later regret, think: CHOOSE LOVE.

It might sound like this: Their negative response is not about me. It is about them. I refuse to let their toxicity contaminate my day, my job, or my life. I will smile and let it go.

5. Perform your duty/assignment, and it is not as good as you’d like. Instead of berating yourself or trying to make it perfect, think: CHOOSE LOVE.

It might look like this: I have spent ample time and energy on this project. It is good enough for today. My effort is enough to make a positive contribution and that is what matters.

6. Evening packed with sports, meetings, dinner, and homework. Instead of bemoaning your chaotic, crazy life, think: CHOOSE LOVE.

It might look like this: Sometimes it is hard to be here. Tonight is one of those nights. But I am needed. Tonight I will focus on the smile I receive when my loved one spots me on the sidelines. Tonight I will focus on the sound of contentment I hear when my loved one digs into the meal I prepared. Tonight I will focus on the goodnight kiss that is offered to me. I am needed. I am loved. I am here.

7. Fall into bed. Mind starts racing. Instead of reviewing mistakes, failings, and what you didn’t accomplish today, think: CHOOSE LOVE.

Think of all the times you chose love today. And even if it was only once, celebrate it. In the midst of chaos, inconvenience, frustration, and crabby people, you chose love. With the millions of other choices you could’ve made, you chose love. Love is how this day will end.

My friends, consider the possibilities for a moment: What might result if love becomes your default choice for 21 straight days? What opportunities might open up? What connections might be repaired? What moments might you grasp that otherwise might be missed? Who might you become?

Instead of

The One Who’s Always Too Busy

The One Who Overreacts

The One Who Never Listens

The One Who Rarely Slows Down

The One Who Always Looks Miserable

The One Glued to the Phone

The One Missing All the Fun

The One Who’s Given Up
You might just become The One You Always Wanted to Be …
A Listener

A Hugger

A Forgiver

A Take Your Timer

A Belly Laugher

A Risk Taker

A Silly Grinner

A Moment Grasper

A Liver of Life

Why? Because good things start with love.

Just show up to love today.

Don’t worry about what you look like or what yesterday looked like.

Just show up to love.

Something tells me you’ll walk away a little better than when you arrived.

Then do it again.

*all text and pictures from Rachel Macy Stafford at http://www.handsfreemama.com

About Kristin Phoenix

daughter turned teacher turned social worker turned wife turned foster parent turned mom When people who don’t know our family story find out that we fostered and adopted the girls, we generally get one of two reactions…”I would have never known. They look just like you!” or “Oh, how beautiful.” Both of these things are 100% true – on the surface. The picture perfect, shiny, pretty surface. But, just below the surface is a whole lot of mess and brokenness. Our girls endured things that I never even read about in my textbooks. Our family endured things that go completely against the 3 philosophies of safety, permanency, and well-being that the child welfare system is in place to protect. When we have the chance to share a little bit more, the response always goes something like “but…how?!…and why?!” I believe in dreaming big. Part of my dream is a child welfare and healthcare system that would have prevented unnecessary trauma for my girls, my family, and our community. The other part is one of redemption and recovery for everyone involved in our story – which is everyone. I now believe part of why our family endured what we did is so that people would hear our story and ask the hard questions of how and why. With sexual abuse, trauma, foster care, and adoption, we never truly know until we find ourselves in a position of not knowing. Because of the nature of our case, I often found myself in a position of not being able to really answer the hows and whys. I reached a point where staying silent was the only option. Now that our adoptions are finalized, it is time for me to break the silence. This blog is me daring to run after my dreams – even when I find myself out of breath (which is mostly every. single. day.) It is stories of how the collective we have lived up to the Phoenix name and are rising from the ashes to burn bright! I also currently write and edit for Social Justice Solutions
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