Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Red Cup of Starbucks and Why as a Christian I'm Okay With It

Spoken words are just as powerful as printed ones.
Sometimes even more so.
The American Christian world, it seems, is losing its marbles over the redesigned Starbucks cups. Just in time for the holiday season, the company has intentionally decided to eliminated the words Merry Christmas from its new design.

There are articles splashed across the interwebs of how this redesign is emblematic of the Christian culture cleansing of the west.

There's been talk of boycotts.

Of protests.

Of a revolt!

You know what I think about this red cup redesign? Good.

Now, before you draft that hate letter to me, let me publicly declare that I am a Christian and I believe God sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. I also believe that maybe this red cup shake-up is getting under our skin as Christians because there's a truth there we don't really want to admit to ourselves.

Because maybe we need the reminder to say it intentionally out loud more often, instead of relying on some printed words on the side of a cup to be our mouthpiece.

Because maybe rushing in and out at the counter for our Gingerbread Latte and tossing out a hurried Merry Christmas over our shoulders as we side step quickly to avoid running into the next customer is not enough anymore.

Because maybe, just maybe, God wants us to slow down and really think about what those words really mean to us as Christians and why it's important we say them.

And maybe it's time that we take that responsibility on personally - and not expect a big business to do it for us.

One of the most interesting internet challenges meant to counter attack the redesigned cup asks people to "prank" Starbucks by giving your name as "Merry Christmas" so they have to write it on the cup. The challenge makes you have to look at the barista and say the words Merry Christmas out loud.

Look, it's not the cup's responsibility to declare your faith and it's not up to a franchise to speak on your behalf. If you truly believe in your heart of hearts that those words need to be said, then you take responsibility and say them. Now, if Starbucks passes some sort of coffee house rule that forbids us from personally saying the words Merry Christmas, well, that there is a different situation that requires a totally different blog post.

Throughout this holiday season you'll probably see me quite a few times with a bright red Starbucks cup in my hand - and you'll probably see me many more times without one. Doesn't matter. I'll still smile, look you in the eyes and wish you a very Merry Christmas. And I might even invite you to my church.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

An Open Letter to the Girls who Bully Alexis

Thank you! No, really, I mean that. Thank you. Because if it weren’t for you – if it weren’t for the pain you intentionally inflicted and your desire to break one particular human spirit, the rest of us in this world might never have met such an incredible young lady.

I was so angry when I saw the passionate post her Mama wrote. Reading about your behavior sent me spiraling back to the days when I watched my own daughter get bullied. It made me furious to think of another child so close to my home going through the same thing. Except I wasn’t as courageous as this Mama; I just sat quietly. I encouraged my daughter to let it go and watched her get more and more sullen and depressed because those girls never let up. I made a mistake back then. Mamas need to stand up. Because when one Mama stands up, other Mamas stand up with her. 

I pray that you realize it’s time to let up.

Then I started reading more about Alexis. Learning who she is --- and my anger quickly gave way to something else: awe. 

I want to introduce to you this beautiful daughter of mine, her mom wrote.

And what an amazing girl we were introduced to!

We read about how Alexis is a talented cartoonist, has an amazing voice, and is full of spunk and spirit, always trying to make others smile. So many of us don’t have half that talent or near that bright approach to life.

We read about the inner strength of this child who has grown up without a father, who has mourned the loss of a sibling, and who is being monitored for a heart condition. Let me tell you: that there is a strength most of us couldn’t imagine enduring, and yet picture after picture shows her smiling and laughing.

And still, there was so much more to Alexis:

She runs marathons to raise money for special causes. At just 13 years old.

She volunteers to wrap Christmas gifts for free at the mall. At just 13 years old.

She volunteers to work at fundraisers. At just 13 years old.

She’s active in her church. At just 13 years old.

As I read, just as thousands – yes, thousands of others read along with me – I quickly came to the realization that this is no ordinary child. This is a girl with a purpose in life that far exceeds the standard middle school expectations.

Alexis has a passion for animals and, with her skills of giving CPR and IV fluids, has rescued and saved animals for years.

At this point I’m thinking this would be enough. This would be enough to make me so proud if she were my daughter! I would be so proud to simply come in contact with this precious gift of a child who makes what I do pale in comparison.

And yet her passion extends even further with her desire to find ways to fight against and put a final end to Yulin.

Yulin? I had to admit – I had no idea what Yulin even was.

And here’s where I thank you again. See, I – along with the thousands of other people who were introduced to Alexis, were exposed to something we may never would have been.

I learned that Yulin is a festival in China each year – a grotesque, demeaning, awful dog meat carnival. (I’m warning you, Googling it will result in traumatizing photos.)

There are worldwide petitions and activists determined to stop this atrocity from happening – yet here I was, complacent in my little world of comings and goings and coffee dates with friends that I never even knew it existed. Alexis taught us something. She pulled open the curtain and shined a light on something important that God placed on her heart. We should all be so lucky to have such an audience like the one she has today. 

Make no mistakes: there's not a single one of us who feels sorry for Alexis. If that's what you think you're incredibly wrong.

We're impressed by her. In awe of her. We have respect for her. We’re excited to see what else she can teach us, how she will decide to use her voice and undoubtedly how she will work to improve our world.

Thank you. Thank you for allowing all of us to be introduced to Alexis. Because we think she’s incredible.  A shining light for our future. And we're so thankful that she's here. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Forgotten First Chapter

A lifetime ago I took a creative writing class at the private Roman Catholic university I was attending because it made total sense at the time that as a girl who had a long, detailed list of debate questions with the Catholic religion, I ought to pay an exorbitant amount of money in tuition getting schooled by a bunch of nuns. Except, none of my classes were actually taught by nuns. Apparently creative writing did not attract the habits. I kind of felt cheated because it really was a lot of money and you'd think I could have experienced at least one semester of a ruler rapt against my knuckles just to say I survived.

Anyway. My actual point is to tell you I just came across one of my old writings from one of my classes. Our assignment was simple: Write a first chapter of a fiction novel. Since it was a gazillion years ago I have the original on a floppy disk somewhere -- but I wanted to share it with you so I retyped it. Except my chair at my desk is too short so now my shoulders hurt but I can't change the chair because it looks super cute and I threw out all our old phone books because who actually has a need for a phone book, what with Google at our fingertips? Well, except they were useful to sit on. Suffice it to say, there are errors in there. Understand my editor hasn't seen the first draft yet. Also, I don't have an editor. I'm practicing sarcasm. I also didn't include the entire first chapter here because you never realize how long a chapter is until you have to type it out word for word. If you want the rest of the chapter or the rest of the book you'll have to be broker a sweet deal with a publisher. For me. Don't steal my words. It's not nice. 

So. Here it goes. I wrote it about a year before I got pregnant with Avery. 


Often times when I’m sitting all alone, minding my day, a thought just pops into my head, disturbing all that silence that was just up there. And try as I might, I can’t seem to get that thought out of my head. It just keeps droning on and on and on, which makes it quite difficult to enjoy the weather or listen to a conversation I may be involved in. Lately it’s been stuff about dying and what that would be like. Oh, not that I would want to, don’t get me wrong. I have no business doing that sort of thing at this time in my life. Still, I find it fascinating that one minute I could be here, running around and jumping about like a wild bird taking off for its first flight, and the very next minute be lying still on the ground, dead. All the folks in town would line up in their Sunday best, dabbing lacy handkerchiefs at their eyes, waiting to gawk at me lying dead in the casket, saying things like, “my, what a shame to take a life so young.” They wouldn’t know I’d already be watching them from heaven, holding on to the hand of an angel, watching them make quite a spectacle of themselves sobbing and dabbing away.

                My sister’s name is Maury. Actually it’s Maureen, but she’s got a nickname so everyone just calls her Maury. She’s beautiful and looks exactly like my mother with the same golden hair and deep blue eyes. “A reflection of the soul,” my grandmother likes to say clasping her hands over her heart and casting her eyes up toward heaven in a must absurd and dramatic way. Maury says I’m morbid for always talking about death and dying and says I have no business planning such a thing. I tell her I’m not planning it, just thinking about it, but she says that’s one in the same as far as she’s concerned. She’s thirteen and Mama says I ought to mind my older sister because she’s wiser and knows better. I tell Mama that she is the only sister I got and being that she’s only a year and a half older, how much wiser could she possibly be? Then Mama tells me I best quit sassing her if I know what’s good for me. Well, I certainly do know what’s good for me, so I go on outside to think some more about dying.

                I like to imagine what Mama would lay me out in. I’m sure she’d go to town and get one of those fancy while satin dresses, fringed in lace, with a long satin ribbon around the waist and white gloves to match. I really would like one of those brimmed hats, but I can’t imagine how comfortable that would be to lay in one. Besides, it would get all creased and wrinkled anyway.

                When my Daddy died last year, Mama put him in a suit. Everyone kept going on and on about how handsome he was and how good he looked. Personally, I thought he looked stiff and uncomfortable in that get-up. Funny this was, I don’t recall Daddy ever even owning a suit, much less wearing one. I know he wore one for his wedding to Mama because I seen the picture of them on her dresser, but that was the only time. I believe it would be safe to say that my Daddy only wore a suit when he went to church, which, for him, would have been his wedding and his funeral.

                For the most part, Daddy was always wearing those heavy coveralls, filthy with grease and oil. His hair was just about as greasy as his working clothes, sticking out all over the place, never being combed just right. Even straight out of the shower he still looked as if he had a layer of grime on him that couldn’t be scrubbed off. He’d come out smelling like a mixture of Irish Spring soap and WD-40. It sounds unpleasant, and I suppose it’d take some getting used to for one who’s never smelled it before, but it really wasn’t all that bad.

                I don’t look like either of my parents, but bear a strong resemblance to Daddy’s Uncle Arthur, whom I have never met, but take on the word of adults that I do indeed look like him. Daddy’s uncle was killed in a war when Daddy was very young and left behind a wife and newborn child that no one has ever seen. I wonder sometimes if that child looks like him as well. I’m not even certain if it was a boy child or a girl child. But if it were a girl child, who did indeed look like Daddy’s Uncle Arthur, then I sure would love to catch a glimpse of her now as an adult so I could prepare myself for what I would look like in the future. If she is beautiful, I know I would have a most pleasant adulthood. And, if she were to be ugly, then I would know now to buckle down on my schoolwork so as to ensure me a right and proper position as a career woman.

                Maury, who is as pretty as they come, tells me that if you are beautiful then a rich man will surely want to marry you. Then you won’t have to work and you get to buy anything you want on store credit. “However,” she says, turning her nose at my short cut hair and my boy’s blue jeans, “if you are not, then you will have to work in factories all your life until you are eighty.”

                Well, that seems like an awful long time to be putting in at a factory, so for my sake, I pray that Daddy’s Uncle Arthur’s child is ravishing.

                Maury says I ought to grown into my body someday but not to expect too much. I’m long and lanky, with not much curvature, which I know is important. I decided to cut my hair short after seeing Julie Andrews play Peter Pan. I sure wish now I hadn’t because Maury says people often mistake me for a boy and someday I may even become convinced of that myself. Maury and I don’t look anything alike. Maury stands straight and tall and has creamy skin and thick hair. I slouch too much and Mama says if I keep that up I’m bound to become a hunchback.

                Mama and Maury are real close and always talking about clothes and ribbons and hair styles. I used to go on over to the garage and help Daddy when he was working, but since he died I don’t go there too much. Once in a while I stop over to per that old mangy dog, Roscoe. Daddy found him before I was even born in a drain ditch when he was just a puppy, but now he’s almost completely blind and lies around panting like it just might be his last breath.

                I try not to stay home too much, or when I’m there stay up in my room and out of Mama’s way. Mama’s been in a mood of sorts since Daddy died. Maury says it’s just me being dramatic and sensitive because she doesn’t see any problems with Mama. I remind her that’s because Mama actually talks to her where she usually just slides me a sandwich across the table without saying much of anything. Maury tells me that I’m just jealous because she and Mama have a kindred relationship. Fact is, I’m jealous because she has long hair, it has nothing to do about anyone’s relationship.

                See, we’re not allowed in Mama’s room. That’s a private area which we only go in if we’re armed with a can of spray Pledge in one hand and a dusting cloth in the other. Yet, every night before bedtime Mama calls Maury into her room, sets her down at the vanity, picks up her silver antique hairbrush with real camel hair, and brushes Maury’s long hair. “One hundred strokes to bring out the shine,” Mama always says. Maury and Mama sit in there for what seems like hours, staring into that vanity mirror and talking all quiet. I love to go dusting in Mama’s room so I can try to brush my hair. Mama caught me once and yelled at me to quit dawdling and get back to work, then asked why on earth I was trying to brush a bald head.

                I don’t understand why Mama brushes Maury’s hair with that silver brush. Mama’s always telling me how much older she is yet she can’t even seem to brush her own hair. And if Mama really wanted to, I reckon she could brush my hair for me, too. I know it’s short and all but it still could use one hundred strokes for shine.


There you have in. A strange fascination with death in a first chapter of a book that will never be finished, written before the birth of a girl who will never grow old. In my story, the girl is 11 years old. Avery died at eleven. I know it's ridiculous to even entertain this thought - that somehow my words created a destiny for a child - or that somehow, if I had just written the pretend story I would never have the real story I needed to share. I know, it doesn't make rational sense. I blame the stress in my shoulders. Because, really, this chair is way too short. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In This Moment

There was a gaggle of boys at the pool yesterday. Ten years old, maybe eleven. Jumping all over each other, laughing, dunking heads beneath water.

I found myself watching from my chair, laughing when they laughed even though I had no idea what was so funny.

I turned toward my own son struggling his way down the length of the pool, his instructor at his side, voicing words of encouragement every few strokes. He hates the front crawl. His strongest is the elementary backstroke. He could float on his back for days. I could tell from where I sat that my boy did not want to be doing that front crawl.

The boys pulled themselves out of the water. Skin and bones dripping as they pushed and pulled each other toward the locker room.

"I wonder what Brody will be like if he gets to be that age," I thought.

I snapped aware: what do you mean if he gets to be that age? I chastised myself. What kind of mother thinks like that?

But there's a truth in that. A hard, scary truth that mothers who have lost children know without ever wanting to. There is no guarantee.

Now, before you go all thinking how morbid and awful that is and judging me thinking I haven't figured out how to effectively grieve the loss of my daughter, I invite you to look at things from a different perspective....

I have no preconceived notion of what my child is supposed to be like. Because I know that time on earth is not guaranteed, I can simply enjoy him. Every second of every day he is here amazes me.

I don't care if he plays sports or chess -- as long as I get to see him smile.

I don't care if he considered cute by the girls or a gawky dork -- as long as I get to hear him laugh.

I don't care if he excels at Math or changing carburetors -- as long as I get to listen to him tell me what he has learned.

I don't care who he asks to prom -- as long as his heart skips a beat when she enters the room.

There is a beautiful gift given to parents who have lost children.... an ability to see life for what it is: a moment to be treasured and enjoyed and poured into. Whether we get one more moment or a thousand more - each and every one is a sacred gift. We don't squander them.

Yes, I wonder what my son will be like if he gets to be ten. I do so pray the Lord grants me that. But in the event He doesn't, I'm not going to waste my time wishing my child was someone he isn't.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Way this was Supposed to Be

This school year was supposed to be the one that officially began Brody's elementary education while ending Avery's. They were supposed to be at school all day, together. Sibling bookends - one in Kindergarten and the other in 8th grade.

This was the year I was supposed to be able to join the car pool lane. No more parking and walking my child into the preschool rooms. This year I was supposed to pull up and wish my kids a good day and watch while the older sister made sure the younger brother stood in his class line.

This was the year my kids would finally eat in the same cafeteria during the same lunch hour. Their daily schedule lining up just so.

This year, Avery was supposed to fill me in on what her brother acted like on the playground and in the hallways. She was supposed to be my spy.

This year Avery was supposed to be at the top of the student food chain. The treasured final year, filled with class fundraisers and a class trip where the students slept in hotel rooms in Minneapolis or Cleveland or St. Louis - the location something they were supposed to pick together.

This year Avery was supposed to take her graduation photo which would hang forever in the halls of the school. In the same hall that held the graduation picture her grandmother is standing in.


Brody entered Kindergarten alone. His title of Younger Brother crossed off and Only Child penciled in above it.

Instead of watching Avery walk into school as an 8th grader, I marveled at how big the Tulip Tree planted in her memory at the front of the school property has grown in just a couple years.

Instead of meeting with her teachers during Back to School Night, I held back tears.

In Brody's classroom, parents sat on too tiny chairs, our knees up past our ears, as we watched our squirming children on their carpet squares. Each child introduced their parents, we described our families.

"Our oldest daughter is actually relocating to Australia and is traveling there as we speak," I began. "And we sponsor a 16-year old boy in Haiti, so we have a son there, too." Before I could say anything else, Brody piped up, "And my sister, Avery, died and is in heaven."

I thought about the many children I have.... how they are scattered like the wind; across the world and in heaven. I thought about the ones I have given birth to and the ones I haven't. I thought about the baby that never made it to the point we knew if we would have had a son or a daughter. I thought about the boy born and named by a woman who would later drop him off at an orphanage, praying for a better life for him. I thought about my oldest, whose bravery and courage surpasses anyone I have ever known; oh, how she deserves a happiness that blows her mind!

God has blessed me with many children... but He has placed them where I can not easily reach out to touch them.

There's a new music teacher at our school. She sent out a request to borrow any available acoustic guitars so she can teach students.

Avery's guitar has stood silent since she died.

I dusted it off and brought it to the school. Our family's last name written on a piece of masking tape on its back. Ready to be picked up again. Eager to make music.

This is the year my oldest has moved to Australia, my youngest has entered Kindergarten, and the son I share waits in Haiti. This is the year Avery makes music through the halls of the school she loved so very much.

And this is the way it's exactly supposed to be.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On Living Life to the Fullest

Today is my 42nd birthday.

Oh, to be 27 again!

But only in body. Because in mind I was a complete mess. You don't realize it at the time. At 27 you think you've actually got it all together. It isn't until perspective aging provides that you realize you were about as stable as a kaleidoscope.

Sure, 27 was full of fun times. Less responsibilities, more recklessness. A whole lot of gotta live life to the fullest!

But there's something about maturing. Something about tackling another decade - or almost two - something about surviving friendship shifts and parent-teacher conferences and grief and incredible joy that allows you to finally realize that life isn't as simple as just whooping it up to live life to the fullest.

It's more about living life fully with others.

It's more about learning life fully through others.

And it's all about loving life fully through all its tragic moments. 

Living life to the fullest used to mean drinking on the boat every day of the summer because you might die tomorrow and you don't want to waste a second missing out on the fun.

Living life to the fullest now means reaching out with compassion to those that need it because you now understand you contain the capacity to be a change maker in our world and doing anything less is short changing your own life.

Living life to the fullest used to mean trying to get that cute guy you've always had a crush on to go home with you - never mind he's already in a relationship; for some unknown reason you have something to prove.

Living life to the fullest now means realizing you were placed in this particular place and in this particular time to build others up, not tear people down. It isn't a competition; we're all on the same team - and behaving toward others as anything less than respectful is short changing who you were called to be.

Living life to the fullest used to mean concerts every chance you got, spring break follies (even though you graduated college years ago) and going to work hung over because you refuse to start acting like an old fuddy-duddy.

Living life to the fullest now means seeing if you're a bone marrow match and donating blood because it isn't fair that a little girl gets cancer. It's gathering your friends to repaint an elderly widow's house on the nicest weekend of the summer and not even minding that you missed out on that concert because you realize there will always be another concert - but the opportunity to impact someone's life positively is fleeting.

Living life to the fullest used to mean who the hell cares! Life is short!

Living life to the fullest now means finally understanding that what is truly fleeting are the moments we have to spread joy to others. And we choose to spend our time making the world a better place for others, not trampling on others while we race to please ourselves.

Oh, 42. There will always be doubts. There will always be questions. And there will, unfortunately, always be mistakes. But you keep living life to the fullest the right way, and 42 will be a fine, fine year.

And for all you young ones out there - don't worry if you don't understand what I'm saying. Life has a way of teaching you exactly what you need to know when you need it. One way or another. Trust me.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Awkwardness of Idle Chit Chat

A couple weeks ago I was at church sitting by myself in the middle of the pew minding  my own business because I prefer to mind my own business. But mostly because when I'm out in public it's kind of way too overwhelming for me when there are lots of human beings that I do not know surrounding me who run the risk of attempting to communicate with me. I call these people 'strangers' because I feel strange when people I don't know try to talk to me.

I don't know why it's easier for me to stand in front of a thousand people baring my soul than it is to spend twenty six painful seconds commenting about the height of corn to someone I've never seen before, it just is. It's how I'm wired. (And for sake of context I live in Wisconsin. Corn is a very important topic to us here.)

Anyway, I'm sitting peacefully by myself - in the middle - away from all other human contact - when I become aware that a stranger has sat at the end of the pew. Immediately I thought crap. Because now I was going to have to shake hands when it came time for that ridiculous meet and great portion of the service. 

Here were the thoughts going on in my head at that moment:

What if my hands are sweaty?

What if my hands are cold?

What if she says Good Morning and then when it's my turn to say Good Morning back to her I accidentally spit on her?

What if she assumes I'm new here? Do I tell her how long I've been coming here? I can't do that; it'll make her feel awkward and then I'll feel awkward and then we'll just sit and stare at each other wondering who makes the next move.

What if she's a hand lingerer? You know, those people that shake your hand but then hold on to it for a few uncomfortable seconds longer than is necessary and you're just wondering what the heck is happening and why some stranger won't let go of your flesh which makes your hand sweat even more?

What if she comments on how sweaty my hand is? Or worse - just wipes hers off on the side of her dress the second she dismounts the shake?

I think I'm having a heart attack.

Is it hot in here? 

I should really go.

But that would be even more awkward because it's rude to get up and move the second someone else sits down and I would hate it if someone did that to me.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'd love it if someone did that to me! I'd have the whole row to myself and wouldn't have to shake hands.

Maybe I could just slowly slide down to the floor and roll out under the pew...

And this was all in the first three seconds of the woman sitting down. 

My absolute worst fear was realized when she turned to me and started speaking. 

As if I knew her.

But maybe I did.

I don't know. I suck at remembering who people are.

So, as her mouth is moving I'm sitting there in shock thinking:

Do I know her? I don't know her? Why is she talking to me? Does she think I'm someone else? Oh my goodness. She thinks I'm somebody else. This is going to be painfully embarrassing when she realizes I am not who she thinks I am. But maybe I did meet her? I swear I don't even recognize this person. I would make a horrible witness. The police would ask 'have you ever met this person before' and I'd have to say 'I have no idea; my brain doesn't work the way other brains work.' Why does she keep talking? I don't even understand the words she's saying to me. Is she speaking English? What language is that? 

And by that time her mouth stopped moving and she's looking at me. And I recognized that look. It's the one that says THIS IS THE POINT IN CASUAL CONVERSATION WHERE YOU RESPOND TO WHAT WAS JUST SAID.

Except I can't respond to what was just said because my social anxieties DROWN OUT WHATEVER WAS BEING SAID.

And that starts a whole other round of self-speak:

Oh no. Oh no! Oh no no no no no! It's my turn. She is expecting me to say something. Or react. Or nod. Or what? What?! What do I do? What does she want me to do? Do I have to answer a question? Do I say something about the weather? I know! I'll pretend I'm deaf. That's it. That's what I'll do. I'll shrug my shoulders and shake my head while pointing to my ears.... except.... what if she knows sign language. I bet she knows sign language. And then she'll know I'm not really deaf and then I'll simply die of embarrassment right here in the church. I read a book once where the lady's husband died in church. Right during the sermon. He kind of just leaned over on her and she thought he had fallen asleep so she jerked her shoulder up to wake him except he wasn't sleeping, he was dead, only she didn't know that until after his body fell forward and he hit his head on the back of  the pew in front of them. That would actually be a nice place to die, in church. Except it would really depend on the sermon. Because who wants to die during a sermon on hell and how awful it is. Now that would be awkward. "I don't know, the preacher was talking about the descent into hell and she just went and keeled over." Actually, that's pretty funny. That would make a great Saturday Night Live skit.... "Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at the coming! - CLUNK!" Oh man. Don't laugh. Do not laugh. For one, it is not that funny. Thinking about dying in church during a sermon about going to hell is actually weird and strange and normal people do not think about things like that. And, two, this stranger is still waiting for a response. You cannot respond with something random like dying in church. What is wrong with you?!

By this time the stranger realizes I'm socially inept and will usually turn away. Or I will and pretend I am a statue who doesn't understand English. Because I can acknowledge when it's time to accept defeat. And also when I need a break before I hyperventilate.

I guess the reason I'm telling you all this is because not everyone is blessed with the ease to make idle chit-chat with people they've never met before. For some it's actually excruciatingly painful. And it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how we're wired. And we're painfully aware of that, too. 

So, be gentle. Don't be so quick to pass judgement or write someone off because they're not able to casually converse with you. Don't assume they're stuck up; they might just be stuck.

And if you know someone like me and you still really want to try to talk with them, here's a hint:

Start with, "You don't know me - I just really wanted to say hi to you" and then STOP and WAIT PATIENTLY because our minds need to catch up. Here is someone who wants to talk to me, I still don't understand why, but I now know I do not know them. You'll know we've caught up when we can appropriately respond with an (albeit awkward) "Oh. *nervous chuckle* Okay. Well. Hi?" And then you can move on to the next step.... "My name is Jane Doe.... "

Think of it as someone taking their first steps in physical therapy. We aren't going to take off running with you. First we need to stand up and get steady on our feet. Then we take one step. And then another. It's slow moving. 

Because once we get to know you, you won't get us to shut up.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Mango Tree Church

On my last visit to Haiti, I met a man who loved Jesus. He sat under the shade of a mango tree talking about many miracles and graces this God of the Bible bestowed upon His people. How this precious God still does so today.

Soon, people stopped to listen.

The people of the village were poor. They went without food for their bellies and shoes for their feet. They lived too many in a single dwelling with tired eyes and tired souls.

But they listened. 

The man continued to speak.

He heard God telling him to build a church. Build it here. In this place where God's people had nothing.

So he did.

This is that church:

Held together with twigs and thatch, holding together the hearts of God's people. It stands under the mango tree. A house of truth. A house of hope.

The pastor greets us. It has been a long time, he says, his thick calloused hands reaching out to us, but God has been good to bring us back. We hug tight his heart, his love, feeling every bone, his skin keeps his body together. I wonder when he last ate. 

We have come with supplies for his people. Bags of rice and beans, button down dress shirts and ties for the men, dresses for little girls.

But he doesn't even consider the heavy bags we are hauling on this hot afternoon in July.

He talks about how good God is. He tells us how his neighbors have hope. He tells us that 70 people gather every service. Seventy starving people feeding on God's truth. He tells us they do not have enough to eat and yet God always gives enough at just the right time.

They are eating the manna daily. Not knowing what will come, when or how much - but trusting God will not lose sight of them. God has been so good to them, he says. God has been so good.

They held a worship service on New Year's Eve.

Word spread.

Over 300 people from all over gathered at the tiny thatch church under the mango tree to hear about this God they heard whispered about on the streets in town.

They stayed for hours. They prayed for hours.

A revival under the mango tree.

The pastor praises God! Only the Almighty could bring 300 strangers together.

Inside we look closer. The dirt floor more magnificent than any marble laid, knowing the weathered hands that swept the dust for his Lord must be blessed. 

We look at the church pews. How long they saved to purchase the wood and nails. If you walked into a church and these were its pews, would you stay? 

Wilfrid, the man in the blue shirt, begins to speak. Their greatest need is to fix the roof. The rain comes through, drenching the worshipers as they sing and pray. Rain will not keep them away. But the tarps, the good tarps - the ones that can withstand better the torrential downpours and the whipping winds of the storms - they are expensive. Too much money to spend when your neighbors have no food.

The tarps are $61 US dollars each. They really want four, he says, but they pray for just two. It will take forever.

Sixty one dollars for a tarp to keep the rain out on a tiny thatch church. I spent more than that going to dinner and the movies. I hang my head and press my shoe into the dirt.

We ask what the next greatest need is for the church building. Oh, wood would be good, but, no. He shakes his head. To think about wood is frivolous. I ask, just for fun how much would you need? 10 pieces of wood. But they are $20 US a piece. He could never think of getting $200 to spend on wood for the church. Besides, the people are starving. There is no food.

We walk along and talk some more. We learn that the pastor's son is a smart man. He has one more year of schooling to complete in order to graduate high school. This grown adult man dreams of one day finishing his schooling. Of earning his certificate. But there is tuition (since Haiti has no public school system) and the required uniforms and the books and papers and pencils. $400 US is needed for the school year. How could he dream of earning and incredible amount like four hundred dollars - and then spending it foolishly on school, when all around him people go hungry.

They must be fed. Their bodies and their souls. The priority is the people. They must hear about God so they learn about His love, His hope, His forgiveness, and His mercies and grace.

They do not spend time on what they do not have. They do not dwell on what is without.

We walk through the village. At the first house we come to we meet a woman with the greatest smile. We ask her what her greatest struggle is, what can we pray for? She answers not for prayers for herself but rather prayers for her mother. Her compassion and selflessness overwhelms me.

I have so much to learn from these people.

I think of what I spend on my car. On my groceries. I think about my list of wants: an L-shaped couch comfortable to lounge on, sturdy enough to withstand an active 5-year old; a trip to Nashville with my friends that includes good food and a decent hotel room with a hot shower and plenty of pillows on the bed. I think about what I paid the last time I got my hair colored, cut and styled.

All they want is a tarp.

The good kind.

For $61 US Dollars.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Broken House

I'm leaving for Haiti Monday morning. I cannot begin to explain how excited my soul is to get there. I need Haiti. I crave the Haitian air, the sun that's brighter than any sun I've ever seen in Wisconsin and the jostling of traffic and bodies criss-crossing in Port au Prince as we try to leave the city. I need the cadence of the Creole language, the slow rhythm of feet on gravel in rural villages, straight spines and soulful eyes overflowing with a wisdom of experience that reminds me I am just a small drop in this incredibly huge world.

I had my bags packed by Friday afternoon. Everything ready except the clock on the wall.

So I spent the rest of yesterday and all of today passing the time. I Read for hours under the shade of an oak tree. Mowed the lawn. Went to church and sang extra loud. I did laundry, swept floors and vacuumed carpets. Then I did more laundry. I emptied garbage cans and washed counters. And I started to look, really look at the walls that surrounded me.

I have lived in this house for 8 years. I walked in giddy with anticipation of my new adventure. At the time I could see past the flaws and straight into what was sure to be. The old windows without screens, rendering them useless in the spring and summer months, would be replaced. The uneven concrete stoop (which was really nothing more than a poorly poured concrete slab, too small for a person to actually stand on while they attempted to open the door) would be poured new and bigger, allowing for a rocking chair and potted plant. The exterior lights that seem to drain a light bulb in a week's time would be properly repaired and replaced with a cottage style fixture. The peel-and-stick linoleum squares in the kitchen, chipped in the corners and stained beyond repair would be replaced with a beautiful flooring that would show off the soon-to-be freshly painted cabinets.

Except it's been 8 years. And there are more missing screens than we started with and two of the windows don't even close all the way. Weeds as tall as me sprout up through the concrete stoop. And the cracks in the sidewalk. At both the front entrance and the side. The exterior is still always dark. And the floor in the kitchen has gotten worse.

Add to that the years the dog was here: eating the trim around the sliding patio door; clawing, scratching and destroying the garage door. And the bathroom door. And the door in the bedroom from that one time someone shut the door and forgot the dog was in there.

We haven't had running water in the bathroom sinks for two years. For two years I've walked out of the bathroom, down the hall and into the kitchen to wash my hands. I've washed my face, brushed my teeth, put in and taken out my contacts in the kitchen longer than I ever thought would happen.

Half the time the furnace doesn't work. The refrigerator is an old garage cast off that has been on its last legs for seven years. The sun room is anything but sunny, what with the lights not working and the paneling removed and the tile chipped and ruined. It was a tired room 8 years ago. Now it's simply decrepit and depressing, not to mention slightly dangerous.

The truth is, no one ever made this house a priority. It has never been invested in. Never been slowly improved upon. Simply used and ignored. Taken for granted. The ceiling light over the dining room table stopped working years ago. It's never been a priority to invest in fixing it. There's never been a priority to fix anything once it was obvious that it was broken.

If there was a choice between a $50 restaurant dinner or putting $50 aside to fix the light, we chose eating every time. We always chose the fun over the necessary. We always chose to ignore the broken and instead focus on what made us happy.

And that's all fine and dandy until you open your eyes 8 years later and wonder how the house you live in became so crappy. So dysfunctional. So absolutely broken beyond repair.

And while I suppose it could be fixed - it's so... well... much to fix it.

The quick and easy maintenance won't suffice anymore. We ignored it all until it moved into the 'demolition and replace with new' stage. Not interested in investing when we should have - when we could have - fixed it, we're now left wondering if it's even worth trying to fix at all.

The process is too costly. Too inconvenient. Too long. Too stressful.

Now, there are things about this house that are nice. I'm sure there are, although it's getting more and more difficult for me to see them these days. But when you have a house as broken as ours, in order to fix it properly you have to rip everything out, take it down to the studs, get rid of the stuff that's cracked and broken... and with that goes the good and nice things, too.

In order to get to the great, you have to allow the good to be destroyed with the bad.

Toss it all out into the dumpster and trust that what is put slowly back up will be better than what was there before.

Often times when people get to this stage of a house they share opposing views. One begs and pleads and cries and tries to convince the other over and over and over that the house is worth it. Flaws and all, our house is worth investing in! They can see how taking this wall down here and putting in new flooring and pairing it with a soft yellow with white wainscotting over there would open up the room and give it a less depressing, cavernous look....

.... but the other person can't see the worth of going through all that trouble. Instead, all they see is the hard work and money that will go into fixing it. They focus on the sacrifice. Less dinners out, they think. We'll be a slave to these walls, they say. And so, to them, it's simply not worth the trouble. The sacrifice, the investing, the dust from the drywall and the weekends spent doing manual labor trying to keep costs down. No, it's simply just not worth it.

Because while one person sees the hard work paying off in the end with something they can say they did together, the other doesn't want to bother with trying to fix it. They just want to move into someplace new and start over.

Relationships are a lot like houses.

If you don't put the investment in right away to try to fix the small problems, don't be surprised when they become huge problems and the only choices are put in the hard work to demolish and start building over from scratch, or move on.

I need Haiti. I need to be surrounded by hope and laughter and music. I need children laughing and playing and asking hard questions. I need to be hugged and remembered and smiled at. I need to feel appreciated and wanted. And then I need to learn. Because every single time I go to Haiti I learn more from them than they do from me. Every single time.

Monday. I go Monday...

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Preparing of Hearts

I can't call Avery's death a tragedy. How she died, yes, absolutely. But that she died? I can't. I just can't.

Avery loved God in a way I never understood when she was alive. She lived for Him. And, while she certainly loved me like crazy, I can't help but think she saw me more as her foster mom. The earthly mama-heart loving her like my own while the ultimate goal was reuniting her with her real father: God in Heaven.

She lived her earthly life with the sole purpose - and soul purpose - to ensure one day she would go home to live with her Lord and Savior. And she did just that. How could I think it was tragic that she made it safely home into her Daddy's arms? 

But even knowing that.... man, it's hard, you know? To be, well, to be here when she's not.

I miss her every single second of every single day and unless you've gone through such heavy loss you won't understand how it is entirely possible to stand around a kitchen with friends joking and laughing about making dip and how you were named while half of you aches with a sorrow and grief so strong it threatens to steal your soul.

It's confusing and hard to make sense of, so I try not to focus on that part. Instead I try to think about how God can prepare a heart without us even knowing that's what He's up to.

After Avery's death I realized the multitude of ways God prepared our hearts for her departure. Different things she had said and done. The way she was able to spend one on one time with every one of her dear friends and siblings before her departure. The scripture she quoted and explained. The letters she wrote and the declarations she made. 

She was so happy in those days before her passing. More so, she was at peace. A peace that kind of unnerved me, if I was being honest. It's like those last days of a long vacation when you know it's coming to a close, when you sit back a little longer and just reflect on the fun you had, the memories you made. And you think, yes, this was good. But I can't wait to get home. 

It's almost like she knew.

And most certainly, God knew. Because He was so busy preparing our hearts.

I went to a concert the other day. Jon Troast has played at a couple events we've had in Avery's honor. He opened for Jamie Grace, played at Avery's birthday celebration and performed on this amazing historic boat when we announced AVERYday Ministries was committed to building a house in Haiti as a way to continue Avery's passion and dreams. I'm a big fan of Jon and you should be, too.

His concerts are always full of laughter and this incredible way he has to make profound statements in the most lighthearted, easy way. His music has thought and feeling and depth, while mostly being upbeat and dance-able - not to mention easy to sing along with. I always walk away feeling like I would have missed something important if I hadn't attended.

But I wasn't expecting this.

Jon turned to the audience and told us that recently his youngest brother passed away suddenly and very unexpectedly. A week earlier, not knowing any of this was about to occur - he sat down and wrote this song.... now, you tell me God doesn't love us enough to prepare our hearts well. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Speak Louder than the Photo

There it was. Posted for all the world to see. Or, rather, for all the friends of friends to see.

A series of innocuous photos. This family, bright eyed and smiling, arms wrapped around each other in one pose, cheerfully jumping off some concrete steps in another. There were pictures of just the grown siblings, just the grandchildren, the whole group with the grandparents, and with each separate family unit: mom, dad and children. 

Undeniable proof in each photo: Smiles. Camaraderie. Friendliness. Joy. Love. Acceptance

And my heart broke.

Because for me those photos symbolize the complete opposite of love and acceptance. They represent complete failure. They represent a whole lot of hurt. They represent a past I was unwelcome in and a future where it's best to pretend I don't exist.

Ten years ago I decided to take a dating sabbatical for 1 entire year. More than that, I intentionally swore off flirting, handing out my phone number and even taking inventory of eligible men in the room 15-seconds after I arrived. Instead I chose,for the first time in my life, to be present and aware of the moment I was in with the friends I was with. 

I'm not going to lie. Those first two months were the hardest. After a string of bad choices I was finally trying to do the right thing; but all I felt was alone and hopeless. I tried desperately not to compare myself to any girl in a seemingly successful relationship and mostly I cried myself to sleep.

I was a single mom of two beautiful girls. I had a decent job. I had fabulous friends. I lived 27 steps away from the shore of the most gorgeous lake in all of Walworth County. My life was good. I didn't need a man. 

Before I knew it I was actually enjoying my singleness. I grew in strength. I grew in courage. I grew in independence. I not only knew who I was, I liked who I was

The 12 months came and went. I didn't see anyone around me worth dating so I continued being happily single. I danced. A lot! I laughed. A lot! I became even more involved in my community. I performed in theater, joined book club and a MOMS group. And I prayed - prayed hard - that when the time was right, God would show me a good man with a good family who would love me the way I deserved to be loved and who I could be proud of.

I was so busy praying for all sorts of romantic notions I forgot to pray for a tough exterior. 

Don't get me wrong. They had every right to be concerned for one of their own; especially when he started spending time (and money) on an unknown girl with kids of her own. That's a big responsibility. It's a big risk. And they showed their love and concern by understandably zeroing in on me. 

And I accepted that. I sat quiet and respectful through some of the most ridiculous situations I have ever endured thinking that it's always difficult in the beginning and things will soon get better.

They didn't.

Things kept getting worse and worse and, quite frankly, I had absolutely no experience in how to handle the situation. Every time I showed up, I left with more hurt. 

So, I stopped showing up. 

Apparently, that made things worse. I was suddenly the most vile person on the planet because I didn't want to choose to go stand in their line of fire. He even warned me: If you stop going over there, it's going to get worse.

And boy was he right! I found myself thrust into an insane confrontation at Walmart that was one of the single most bizarre (and physically intimidating) situations of my entire life. I had never seen people act like that, much less been the target of it - the only thing I knew to do was avoid his sister at all cost. I couldn't even begin to imagine what she'd do to me if he hadn't been standing there next to me. Or if my child wasn't with. Or if I hadn't been pregnant. 

I stopped going to his ball games because she was there and I was petrified. 

I stopped going to the store because I might run into her.

A few weeks after our son was born I sat and listened as my boyfriend uncomfortably and quite awkwardly explained he had to go get photos taken with our son, with his family... but without me. 

From the very beginning they felt their son/brother deserved better than me. And they were probably right. Who knows, maybe I held on tighter to him out of a "you can't get rid of me" stubbornness. But I still held out hope: maybe if they would just lessen their anger toward me a bit. Maybe if they would apologize. Maybe if they would try to really get to know me. 

But it didn't matter. They weren't about to do any of the sort.

After another incredibly scary public confrontation at the county fair (this time I was surrounded by my parents, my niece, my brother and my two kids) I decided I just couldn't do it anymore. We live in a very small community and it was only a matter of time before I was met on the street alone. If that kind of meanness can come out with witnesses, I didn't want to imagine what would happen if there were none.

Their point had been made. I was not wanted. Nor would I ever be.

I couldn't make people like me. Nor could I make them want to be civil toward me. And I was far too weak and sensitive to keep showing up for more hate.

The thing about knowing you're not accepted, not wanted, not liked or tolerated, even, is that it hurts. It's a hurt that digs deep into the parts of you where whispers sleep, waiting to be awoken. 

Who do you think you are?

You are nobody.

Nobody likes you.

People can't even stand the sight of you.

You're not wanted here. 

We wish you were dead.

And unless you have a voice of love louder than that of hate, you're doomed.

Sometimes that voice of love comes in the form of a partner, or a sibling, or a friend. Sometimes, even in a stranger on the street.

You are beautiful!

I love how you make me laugh!

Your insight has changed my life!

I am in awe of your strength!

I have never met anyone more compassionate for others!

Your heart for others is contagious!

Thank you for being you!

I am so glad I met you!

I am so honored to have gotten to know you!

I am so blessed to call you my friend!

Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of hearing a loud love voice. Not everyone has that loving partner who can talk over the scorn. There are too many sad mamas who sit alone staring at the posted photos thinking about how they represent a failure, a hope dashed, a loud and clear reminder that they are not welcome and never will be because they were deemed simply not good enough. 

So, it's up to us, to the ones who hear the love voice loud and clear to BE the love voice for someone else. 

You can never hand out too many compliments. You can never encourage past your quota. You can never love to loud or too hard.

If that's a cute pair of shoes some lady has on, you march right on up and tell her I love your sense of style! Those shoes are fabulous! Because maybe those are the words that will hush up the hate she heard last night.

If that's a nice gesture that lady just did, letting that elderly man in front of her at the checkout, you look her right in the eye while you say that was such a gracious thing you just did! You are a great example to all of us that a little kindness goes a long way. Because maybe those are the words that will shut up the accusations hurled at her during Easter dinner.

And if that was a lot of work the volunteering mama did all by herself because no one else wanted to do it, you square up and make yourself known and tell her that was incredible! I can't imagine how many hours away from your children that took you, here's a gift card so you can go out with your family for dinner together, stress free! You deserve it! Because maybe those are the words that will finally silence the passive-aggressive sentiments she sat through as she tried stop her eyes from welling up with tears.

Because we are all so much more than what the people who don't want us would like us to think. And the voice of love is the one that speaks truth. You have got to believe that. 

Maybe if we all spoke love a little louder we'd finally drown out the voice of  hate. And maybe we'd all come to realize that there's a heck of a lot more greatness to us than what's represented by a photo posted online.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Addict's Mama

My aunt tried to call her children to tell them Avery had died. I think about that sometimes. Those phone calls. How people found out. The numbers that were dialed first. The words that were spoken. The reaction.

I remember calling my cousin on the way to the hospital. To this day I feel so bad that I put that responsibility on her. Avery died. Please tell the others...  Can you imagine receiving such a phone call?

My aunt called her children. Except she couldn't get a hold of Little Luke. I used to call him Ducky when he was little. The most perfect child I had ever laid eyes on.

Luke was sweet. Gentle. Loving. He had the best giggle in the world. And I adored the way he said my name in his precious voice, unable to pronounce the "r"... Bwidget.

In the months before she died, Avery started insisting that we write Luke a letter to tell him we were praying for him. I never did that. I didn't know then what I know with every fiber of my being now -- that, whether or not people tell you, they need to hear that you actually do love them. That you actually do care. That you actually do pray for them by name.

You see, somewhere between the towheaded innocence of a toddler and the man he is now, my cousin became addicted to heroin. His face a stranger to me. Eyes bloodshot and unable to focus. Hair stringy and unwashed. A shadow of the man God had intended him to be. 

I see him sometimes, at the local cafe downtown or pulling into the gas station. And when I do I always go straight up to him and give him a hug. Sometimes he's alone. Sometimes I walk through the shifty, paranoid eyes of the people he is with. I can imagine what people are thinking as they watch me approach. But I don't care. I know what he looks like on the outside... but I also know his beating heart on the inside.

And that beating heart was one created in love but led astray by hurt, confusion, loneliness and fear into the deceivingly comfortable and accepting arms of addiction. 

Avery was dead. An 11-year old who had pushed and pushed trying to get me to reach out to Luke to tell him we were praying. "Mom," she'd say out of the blue with an urgency I didn't understand, "Little Luke needs to know that we pray for him!" She wanted to do good and I made excuses. 

While my aunt was trying to reach him - calling, leaving messages, even driving to the flop house he'd been known to stay -  Little Luke was driving, driving, driving to nowhere.

And then he pulled over and prayed. 

He prayed. 

In the days that followed, my cousin endured withdrawals with such extreme nausea, body aches and sweats that most people would have succumbed to them. 

While I was laying my daughter to rest, God was pouring new life into my beautiful cousin.

I wish I could say that was the miracle we were all waiting for. I guess it was, for a little while. But not long enough. Heroin is the devil himself dripping from the end of a needle, bullying his way through veins once teaming with joy and laughter with only one goal in mind: complete and utter darkness. 

Little Luke relapsed. Then went back to rehab. Then relapsed again. 

Fighting back tears my aunt spoke, "sometimes it feels like my child is already dead.... I'm just waiting to be told when I can bury him." 

And something snapped inside me.

My aunt has been grieving, grieving hard for her child who comes and goes in fleeting shadows - alone. Alone. 

How fair is it that I have a far reaching community of friends and strangers willing to hold me up when my sorrow becomes too much? But who makes themselves seen to hold up the broken hearted mama of the dirty, drug addicted man-child who ought to know better and make the decision to just "be" sober?

There are no casseroles to store in the freezer for that night when the fear and anxiety become too much and there is no energy left for peeling potatoes when the mother of an addict spent all night on her knees begging God one more time to protect her son and deliver him from the grips of his addiction.

There are no cards with words of hope scribbled in love to the mama whose heart has been shattered for so long she can no longer tell you where the splinters fell. 

This is a mama, a good mama, who held her newborn baby and was filled with the same ferocious love you had when you held yours - and a fierce strength to protect and love him forever. 

This is a mama, a good mama, who looked into her baby's eyes and saw hopes and dreams for him that would rival the ones you had for your own child. 

No, this is not a bad mama. This is not a neglectful mama but rather a compassionate woman of love and strength who believes in an Almighty God and angels who walk among us on earth. This is a mama with a big heart and an even bigger love --- and yet neither of those were big enough to stop her son from sliding down the slippery slope that has plunged them both into an unrecognizable place in this world.

What mom dreams of being the mother of an addict?

What child skips around the house and says when he grows up he wants to shoot up heroin?

Neither are where they pictured themselves to be. 

And the scary, hard to hear truth is there isn't a fierce mama love strong enough to stop any one of the plethora of diseases, addictions or death that can dig their claws into our sweet, sweet babies.

But you know her. 

You know that mama you avoid eye contact with because her kid is the one who smokes or drinks or cuts or swears and thank god you don't have to deal with that. (Guess what? She never thought she would have to deal with that either.)

You know that mama you try not to talk to because her world is so different from yours - what are you going to say to her anyway? So, I hear your son was arrested last week for drunk driving... You don't want that stuff seeping into your life. (Guess what? Maybe she didn't either.)

You know that mama that you ask about some of her kids - the good ones - but not the bad one. It's easier to just pretend that one doesn't exist. (Guess what? She can't pretend.)

I invite you to stop for two minutes. That's all. Just two minutes. And imagine yourself with one of those kinds of kids. The depressed one who was hospitalized again. The addicted one who was fired again. The angry one who was arrested again. 

And tell me, would you want to deal with this heavy, hard stuff while feeling all alone?

We're Mamas and we need to help each other stand! 

Grab a card and send words of hope in it. 

Thinking of your heart today.
Praying for strength and peace

or maybe

Not a day goes by when I don't think of you.
Know that you are always in my prayers. 

That mama who is setting serious boundaries - unwilling to enable their child's addiction by forbidding them into their home, refusing to allow them to participate in Christmas or Easter gatherings, standing firm by not shelling out a single penny to keep them off the street - that mama is tired. Tired to the inside of her bones. 

That mama who flinches every time the phone rings, vacillating between ignoring what could potentially be another venom fueled rant or answering what might end up being the final declaration of her child's life - that mama is tired. Tired in a way that makes her feel 80-years old and unable to see the goodness of a simple sunset anymore.

That mama who worries about meeting new people because inevitably they will ask how many children do you have? and for some reason that simple question pulls her emotions in a way that makes her want to vomit - that mama is tired. Tired to be living this hard mama life she didn't sign up for. Tired of not fitting in with the other mamas. Tired of belonging to a club she never wanted to be a member of.

That mama who sits sometimes at the stoplight wondering if anyone would even show up to her child's funeral, besides, how do you eulogize someone who spent their entire adult life addicted to drugs, finding ways to lie, cheat and steal for more - but yet visions of that beautiful baby and that precocious toddler tells her the truth - that goodness was there and as long as her child breathes on this earth that goodness is still here; it's just being held hostage right now - that mama is tired. So very, very tired. And she doesn't know where to start. 

We can change that. 

A simple smile. A card. A dinner. 

Say to her I am really good at listening.

Say to her I don't understand what you're going through, but know that I am here

Say to her I see you. You are not invisible to me. 

Because, I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like raising kids is kind of a crap shoot. There's no tried and true formula that ensures a child will never get wrecked in such a way that depression or addiction can't worm its ugly way in. And, while I know we're all doing whatever is in our power to protect our kids, there are just some things beyond our control. And we could all use whatever support we can get.

It's time to stop judging. Stop pretending not to see. Stop fearing that if you show compassion to the addict's mama you somehow ushered addiction into your own children's lives. 

It's time to stop making excuses and start showing compassion.

 And after you have suffered a little while, 
the God of all grace, 
who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, 
will himself restore, 
and establish you.
1 Peter 5:10

The One in which I take my Father for his Covid Vaccine

I got a voicemail the other day from the hospital saying ‘since you’re the contact on record we just want you to know your Dad can get a Cov...