The Cathedral and the Kitchen Sink

A few weeks ago, I was in the kitchen humming a familiar tune I hadn’t heard in a long time. Ever had that happen? And suddenly I burst into song, remembering words that had been tucked away for years. “Praise God … Continue reading

Pressing In

The mantle of struggle can get heavy. Very heavy. Last June, when I experienced my second miscarriage, a dear friend of mine responded with “Why won’t life relent?!” It had been a particularly tough year, and it didn’t stop there. But … Continue reading

The Lion Called Fear

The Lion Called Fear

With Halloween upon us, my sweet son is starting to learn about monsters. Even those monsters and ghouls we think are benign can be terrifying to a child who is just learning the world is not as safe as he … Continue reading

Part II: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…Is Okay

Part II: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…Is Okay

About four days after my no good, very bad day last week, I was getting ready in that unceremonious way mothers do: Sweeping hair back in a hasty ponytail, washing my face with a stale washcloth, brushing my teeth for less … Continue reading

Part I: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…is Okay

Part I: A No-Good, Very Bad Day…is Okay

It’s true. Some days just suck. I know there are a lot of very optimistic people out there shaking their heads at me right now. She’s not very grateful, they’re thinking. They’re right. Today, I’m not grateful. I know I … Continue reading

Let It Go! Let it Go!!!! And Other Lies I Tell Myself

Let It Go! Let it Go!!!! And Other Lies I Tell Myself

I try. I really do. I read about it. I talk about it. I pray about it. But it’s a lot harder to DO it–to surrender every inch of your life to an invisible God. I’m not always in that … Continue reading

Facebook Blessings?

Facebook Blessings?

We all recognize, in varying degrees, the potential evils of Facebook – its addictive nature; the opportunities for flagrant self-promotion vis-à-vis loads of “selfies” and gratuitous oversharing; the persistent temptation to compare your real life to someone else’s happy Facebook fairytale … Continue reading

Words

This is a condensed version of a post I wrote in response to the Sandy Hook shootings last year. I am reposting it today in memory of those beautiful children and the teachers and faculty who lost their lives. One year later, our thoughts and prayers are with the grieving families and devastated community.

There are no words. Not for something like this. But…when you are a writer, you need words.

One day, while rocking my son to sleep for his nap, some words did come to mind. And they began to fill the dark hole blasted open by the headlines of a gunman’s rage. So as any writer does, I let the words pour through me and out of me, each one illuminating the darkness a little more like newly fallen snow.

Words like…

WHY?

Why did it happen? Why does evil persist? Why can’t we name it, call it out, before it accelerates, knocks us over, takes away those we love? Why can’t we stop it? Why does God allow it? Why the suffering? Why children?!

But…we don’t always know why. Or how. Or when. Or who. We don’t always know their names until it’s too late.

Madmen don’t advertise their darkest plans. They just simmer slowly and silently to a boil, hating until their hatred makes victims of other people–unsuspecting people with names and lives and promising futures.

NAMES.

Names are words. Proper words. Names of the living. Names of the dead. Names that once brought joy and now carry with them, deep, heartrending sorrow. Names of children and adults. Names attached to faces and stories. Names of “ordinary” people turned heroic. Like Victoria Soto, the young teacher who hid her students and saved them, but lost her own life. Or Kaitlin Roig, who told her students she loved them all, so that gunfire wouldn’t be the last sound they would hear–“I love you” over a hail of bullets.

LOVE.

It’s the very best word and the one I leave you with today.

Love your kids. Love other people’s kids. Love one another.

I’m not talking about a warm, fuzzy, politically correct, washed-out, passive kind of love.

I mean the real, raw love – the kind that has to get tough sometimes. The kind that sacrifices, disciplines, gives everything. Because if we truly love someone, we pull them back from the brink. We keep them from feeling forgotten. We don’t let them hurt themselves or others without intervention. We don’t let a day go by without telling them how much we care.

Love is a choice that allows us to move freely and powerfully. Love makes us matter to others. It heals. It chases away regret. It offers hope.

Love defies words.

And despite the evil that still exists in the heart of man, LOVE will remain the greatest agent of change…and the best word…in the world.

“And now these remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

The Sky’s the Limit

Now I know why my parents stayed up all hours of the night making killer Halloween costumes. This was before so many varieties of ready-made costumes were available at “reasonable” prices. But even reasonably priced costumes total a pretty penny for a family of four kids (both then and now). Besides, I think my Dad, in particular, liked the challenge of making a much-beloved character out of humdrum household items. Thus my parents rallied all their creative energies, sometimes pulling all-nighters, to produce priceless gems–like my to-die-for Rainbow Bright costume complete with bright yellow yarn wig or the Rocketeer costume for my brother that was nothing short of a-MAAAZ-ing.

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A bright-eyed Dusty Crophopper

Fast-forward twenty plus years later…my initial idea for a Mickey Mouse costume this year became quickly overshadowed by my son’s growing fondness for Dusty Crophopper and all things aviation. *This was after seeing the movie Planes three times (thank you, Daddy).*

Yes, there were Dusty costumes available at reasonable prices. But I decided instead to gather poster board, milk jugs, soda bottles and paint, and like my parents before me, make Halloween magic. In the process, I discovered the real reason my parents poured their hearts into our costumes all those years before.

Because when your kid wants to be something, you move heaven and earth to make it happen.

Imagining the delighted expression on Buddy’s face when I showed him the finished Dusty costume — well, the sheer thought of it almost made my heart burst. This, in turn, made engineering rotating propellers from recycled soda bottles slightly less agonizing and allowed painting cardboard wings to reawaken some childlike excitement in me.

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Dusty on a mission.

I never thought much of airplanes before. Those enormous, miraculous, gravity-defying machines flew over me every day for years, and I didn’t notice or care. That was UNTIL my son’s small voice and wide eyes pointed my attention to the sky. Now, we watch. We listen. We identify by the sound of the engine or the propellers. And we cheer!

You’d think we won the lottery.

And that is exactly what my parents did for me. They loved what we loved, and they used those things to engage our imaginations and our passion. Now, I get to do it. And it is pure bliss and so easy, because you already love your kid SO much – it just flows out of you.

Right now, Dusty is all the rage. So I, too, have a fondness for the crop dusting plane who dreamt of racing bigger and faster planes. Though everyone told him he wasn’t strong or fast enough, Dusty went on to (*SPOILER alert) win the race! But it is HOW Dusty won that is most important – he made friends, treated others with respect and ignored snarky criticism. He didn’t put his ambition above his integrity. In fact, it was his integrity that led him to victory. Is it a simplified version of life? Maybe. But as long as my son wants to be Dusty, he will admire the things that make Dusty great. His originality, boldness, tenacity, positive attitude, honesty and grace under pressure–all ideals worth personifying in real, everyday life.

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Mommy and her favorite little airplane!

You don’t need to MAKE the costume. And it doesn’t have to be Halloween. Our kids can dream big any day of the year. We simply need to love what they love, and help them discover and be what they so admire. It is one of the greatest privileges and JOYS of parenthood. But we can miss opportunities if we’re not paying attention.

Some day, it won’t be so cool to wear a costume handcrafted by Mommy. But I hope my son will always know, from these early years on, that next to God, his Daddy and I are his biggest fans.

So catch those tailwinds, Dusty! The sky’s the limit, Darling.

Mom and Jesus

I’m not a big fan of Mother’s Day, but I am also not cynical (or selfless) enough to expect nothing from it. That’s right, I want my big Hallmark holiday, and I want it in a BIG way. But like Valentine’s Day, the day dedicated to acknowledging motherly devotion  is completely ill-conceived from the beginning. And I will tell you why.

As liberated as we like to think we are, just who is it that spearheads nearly all holiday festivities? Women, more specifically, mothers. So Mother’s Day is like expecting a great Christmas after telling Santa and all his elves to go home, kick off their shoes and relax. IT SIMPLY DOESN’T WORK.

My mother still makes me feel loved on special days, but now that I’m a mother – a shift has occurred. I am setting the tone for my own family’s holidays. I am the one without the days off.  It can be, if not exhausting, then completely terrifying, especially considering all my mother has been to me over the years. I have some pretty big shoes to fill.

I remember, in a middle school essay, praising her for being selfless “all the time.” One peer edit in incredulous purple ink questioned, “Really, ALL the time?!?” Indignation rose within me, but I forced myself to acknowledge the reality – no one is selfless ALL the time. Most people aren’t selfless MOST of the time.

But, my mother isn’t like most people. She is pretty darn selfless.

Could I be as selfless as her? I certainly wasn’t feeling selfless on Mother’s Day. I was thinking, This is MY day. Make is special, or die trying! I mean, if I am honest, I want to be recognized and appreciated. I desire validation…and regularly.

But the thing about motherhood is we are not here to be recognized or be lifted on shoulders and carried through the streets with cheers. We are here to serve and be worn to the bone. Mothers do things so many things so many times over that go largely unnoticed. It’s the part of motherhood that scares me the most – the constant giving and serving – without applause and sometimes without a break.

Before my son’s second birthday party, my mom washed my floors on her hands and knees. How many times had my mother washed floors over the years, and I never noticed…even on Mother’s Day? But that day, I noticed. Because I was pouring myself out in the same way for my son – cleaning the house, decorating, wrapping gifts, making party favors, baking the cake. I was pouring myself out as my mother did for me. It is the truest devotion, isn’t it? The willingness to be poured out again and again until you are gone.

I realize people caution, Make time for yourself. Take care of you. There is truth to that. But when you are a parent, you realize a perfect balance is impossible. And while you are unprepared for the challenge ahead, you are equally unprepared for the desire within you to give of yourself OR the joy that comes from loving your child like Christ loved (still does love) you.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” (John 15:13) Or wash their floors. Or make their food every day, three times a day. Or wipe their bottoms. Or kiss their boo-boos. Or read them the same book a thousand times. Or wake with them at night. Or hold them when they’re sick or sad. Or listen to them talk when you’d rather have quiet. There’s more than one way to lay down your life. As a mother, there are probably a million ways.

Like my mother before me, I am walking the road Jesus did. I am placing one foot in front of the other. And I am surrendering a little more, every day, my need for applause.