For The Big Changes and Big Feelings Days

This week ushers in some big changes for us. A new season, if you will, (though I have strong opinions about the literal season still being solidly summer).

My mom used to try to ease our fears of a ruckus, March thunderstorm by saying, “the warm air and cold air are fighting, but don’t worry, Spring always wins!"

In our house, the seasons of toddler and preschooler are at war, and no matter how much I hate to see my baby go, time is winning this one.

Most of the time all the big words and sass keep me grinning behind my hand or all out laughing. But there’s a sharp edge. Her soft, sensitive spirit is sometimes muddled beneath a mountain of attitude. Stomping feet and side-eyes make regular appearances.

The other night she tallied up a decent number of salty comments.

First Day of School (1).jpg

I kept my interactions cordial, but big emotions were brewing. New realities of two kids in school and complicated schedules and a new job and Dr. appointments loomed. How would it all come together and get done? How is my little birdie face baby saying the alphabet and getting ready to trot into a classroom? Will she wet her pants or get a PreK detention for calling another child chicken doo doo?

The changing weather was ripe for kicking up a storm.

I lugged watering cans around the house, trying to resuscitate plants on the brink of death by desiccation. Her mouth ran non-stop, going from baby-talk to big girl negotiations with her sister about who could ride the scooter. She was incessant about me watching her every trick.

As I labored by with overflowing cans in each hand, she intercepted me and, with her giant-wheeled pink plastic tricycle, nearly cut me off.

I barked instructions. She was moved, but not to repentance. She shoved her trike and flopped to the ground.

After a few moments, I told her I was happy to get her to bed if she was done playing. She lit off the concrete, grabbed a handle bar, and attempted to launch her plastic mobile through the garage door. It bounced right back to her, and she shoved it again, with double the force.

And the thunder rolled.

I tossed the watering cans down. I’ve grown a lot of endurance for dramatic fits the past year, but this time the barometric pressure was grizzly.

After moving her briskly towards bed, we stopped on her white, faux sheep skin rug, and sank into its softness.

Suddenly both of us were still and sad.

I looked at her, shifting and sniffing involuntarily. The clouds that were heavy with anxiety, exhaustion, and sorrow over the season we’re leaving, let loose. I turned my head away, face in hands.

I felt her put her hand on the edge of the bed then back down, and ever-so-softly, it rested on my arm. I pulled her into my lap.

She lifted her head from my chest, her face focused. In a soft, strangely mature voice she said carefully, “I’m sorry I said the dinner you made wasn’t too promising.” The last word choked out of her quavering lips, and a tear spilled down one cheek, but she put her head on my shoulder and didn’t make a sound.

“She’s even crying like a big girl now”, my heart groaned.

“I forgive you, sweetie. I love you so much.” I looked in her eyes. “Reacting in anger is never the right choice”, I said through a tight throat. “It’s not how I want to handle problems, and I’m always sorry, so sorry, when my response is mean.”

Two tears overflowed her eyes, a silent witness to the sensitivity that is ever-present beneath the sass.                                               

Relationships are always moving and changing, dropping the familiar leaves, and then bursting forth in fresh growth again. Beneath the hot upheaval is the cool undercurrent of new life. New development, new schedules, new responsibilities, new fears, new problems, new understanding. From time to time the warm and cold are bound to collide.

I’m learning that like the current, emotions are better felt than fought. Identifying the feelings threatening to pull you under can help you lean into them and stabilize, rather than thrash in panic or anger or isolation that would like to drown you.

For me, each new season churns up the shame that would like to cloud my vision and cover me in muck. I start thinking “how are we here already? What all have I missed? If only I could have savored better, loved better, been better! I wanted to hurry those long days, and now I’ll never have them back!”

Sadness and regret and anxiety over how I’ll mess up the next season clamor for their turn at the mic. Often, I get swept up in the tumult of the current and in the frantic gasps for air, do the very things I desperately DON’T want to do: pull away, react in anger, sink in despair.

If, instead of fighting, I pay attention and lean in, I realize the tide will actually carry me towards connection. It might be messy and teary, but it brings about honesty and we all learn together to talk through our feelings, to listen, to validate, to forgive. The bad news is, it's learned more in the storms and the strong currents, less on the sunny, smooth sailing days.

Mom's words calm me still. I see their truth in the seasons, the tenderness of my daughters, and the Still, Small voice speaking to my tumultuous spirit.

Spring, with its new life, warm days, and fresh air, always wins over March’s rough skies.  

Grace, with its renewed hope, warm compassion, and fresh mercies, always wins over the rough skies of change.

Is it dark and windy in your life? Is the thunder of change or regret or big emotions rattling your windows?

Don’t worry Grace wins.


On one of my passes to the bathroom that night to gather more TP for our tears, I flipped on the light and peered at my face in the mirror. Hair succumbed to humidity. Eyes puffy. Cheeks littered with dust and mascara. Dirt still on my fingernails.  

Back at Sami’s side, she looked up and said, “You look so pretty tonight, Mom.”



Dear Friends: Do Black Lives Matter?

There are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But, who wants easier?
— Mary Oliver

Dear friends,

It’s been a long one, the last week, yes? It’s been conversations with family and friends, responding to texts, reading countless articles and social media threads, asking questions and having questions asked of me.

I’ve cried on Dave’s shoulder as fear and queasiness threatened to churn my stomach again and again.

Maybe you feel it too.

It has been the source of no small alarm in my heart to watch conversations unfold, specifically among Christians, that are filled with abrasive words, harsh criticism, refusal to listen, and a gaping hole where should be tenderness and humility.

Maybe you’re asking it too, where is the love and unity?

This is my most pressing why: Why the avoidance and even outrage over saying Black lives matter?  Is there something fearful about the phrase? Some aren’t into hashtags. Some aren’t keen to endorse the Black Lives Matter Movement based on thorough research. I respect that.

But when it comes to resisting the sentiment itself, I’m so confused.

Maybe you’re puzzled too.

I compare this scene to fighting disease. Specifically, Ebola. Ebola left agony and death by the thousands in its wake. Remember the hashtags and raised funds and desperate prayers for relief? As Ebola was destroying villages and families, folks were still dying of malaria, of yellow fever, of cancer. The desire for those diseases to be eradicated was no less. But for the moment, there was an outbreak before us, and we wanted to do all we could to cure, to prevent, to alleviate the rampant suffering.

When someone urged, “Ebola matters! Let’s raise awareness, let’s passionately search for a solution! We must, for the sake of the suffering and dying!” We didn’t toss back, “all diseases matter.” It’s true, but completely irrelevant.

My analogy is weak, my knowledge is limited, my encounters are sheltered. But others more eloquent and experienced than I have unpacked these subjects, especially the Christian discrepancies surrounding Black Lives Matter.

Maybe their words will be helpful to you too.


This is one of most well-written articles I’ve read explaining why All Lives Matter is not a fitting response to Black Lives Matter. The Problem With Saying ALL LIVES MATTER by Tyler Huckabee


Crystal Michelle shares an eye-opening analogy in this Facebook post: I have been told how dangerous being in the sun is by my white friends…


Stephen Mattson offers these words in his article Social Justice Is a Christian Tradition- Not a Liberal Agenda :

Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Gentile lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Jewish lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Women’s lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Lepers’ lives matter.”
Even though Jesus loves everyone, even to the point of dying for their sins, he went out of his way to intentionally help specific groups of people — the alienated, mistreated, and those facing injustice.

Shannon Martin (aka Flower Patch Farmgirl) published this tender guest post yesterday by her friend Jess:

Dear Christian Women,
I know it's my privilege to serve a savior that is near to the broken hearted.  But I want to walk alongside a community of believers that are near to me as well.  Sadly...that's just not the case. For every #AltonSterling and #TamirRice, I notice an overwhelming silence from my white Christian sisters.  It’s deafening. ...Within the post is a link to 10 Reasons I Don’t Want to be Your White Ally. Read it too, if you feel paralyzed about what to say or do when it comes to standing with your Black sisters and brothers.

David Murray writes Weep, Love, and Pray: A Christian Response to Dallas, Castille, and Sterling.

My friend passed along this poem written in 1932 by Sterling Brown which, in her words, "made my blood run cold in how accurately it portrays society's typical progression of thinking."

If you’re looking for more honest and loving voices who are speaking from their lived experiences, I greatly admire and am learning so much from the words of Deidra Riggs and Latasha Morrison.


Here we are, friends, with precious lives around us being disrespected, mistreated, threatened, and stolen. To commit to the task of mending the gaping wound of power and honor and equality and trust we currently have between us? Is to commit to seeking justice, to loving mercy, to walking in humility with our Creator and our brothers and sisters.

BLACK LIVES MATTER TO ME. Do they matter to you too? Yeah, so let’s find ways to say it. We could ask someone how they’re holding up, and listen carefully. Send an email or a card. Pay for the coffee order behind us and remind someone that love will win. Speak up and say that justice for their lives matters to us, whether it be on social media, by thoughtfully pointing out prejudice in family conversations, or by taking action in social reform.

Can we make this our mission? While allies may not agree on all things, they esteem each other highly. They listen carefully. They are always aware that they’re working together, on the same team, for the same cause: justice, reconciliation, and love.

One friend, processing these tragic events over the phone and noting how her life has been so removed from such disparity said, “I don’t want to remain clueless and say they don’t affect me, because they do.” And I wrote it down on my desk so I would remember. Remember that conversations are happening, friends are listening, awareness is growing, love is moving. Remember that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (MLKJ).

Let's keep choosing love, who wants easy anyway?




Show Up Shaking

The first time I attended the Storyline conference, one of the speakers made a statement to this effect: “try to do something that scares you every day”.

While my outside body smiled politely and took notes, my inside body was shaking its head in a violent “no”.

Fear has been a dark shadow by my side for as long as I can remember. Sometimes normal, appropriate fears, many times gnawing and anxious, or downright irrational. There are few things I hate worse than feeling afraid. The toll it takes on a mind and body left me desperate to avoid provoking it and living pretty much exactly the opposite- trying hard NOT to do anything that scared me every day.

For so long I viewed courage as something only the bold and confident had, and the rest of us should just try to play it safe because we hadn’t been so lucky when the courageous sauce was dished out.

But Storyline offered a new perspective on living well. If you want to live a good story full of meaning, you have to be open to receiving new invitations, and the invitations almost always include conflict (=fear). The people doing big and brave and world-changing things, the Donald Millers and Bob Goffs, aren’t, as I’d assumed, fearless. They’ve just discovered that on the other side of many fears was more meaning, purpose, and courage.

I started looking more closely at my life and others’, and realized a game-changing fact about fear and courage. All the brave ones are scared first. fear is actually the prerequisite of courage! Doing something, however noble, that we’re not afraid of is great, but it isn’t courageous, it’s just doing a noble thing. Being afraid and doing it anyway is what creates courage.

It’s when we say “yes” to a new opportunity to lean into a meaningful life, RSVP to an invitation that is outside our comfort zone, our skill set, our range of experience, that courage comes to play. The more we say “yes”, the less fear messes with us.

So I have a new hobby called courage-watching. My favorite sitings are those who aren’t hiding their fear in a plumage of false confidence, machoism, or religious verbiage. You know what I clap the loudest for and remember the longest?

The speech where you shared a hard story and had to blow your nose around the mic.

The vowels you spoke when you went off script and your hands shook like 60 holding the ring.

The conversation that had your heart pounding like a snare drum behind your shirt.

The song you wrote and then sang for a crowd through a cracking voice.

The prayer you offered that was mostly tears and “help”.

This is what courage looks like to me. Not bungee jumping or doing a back-flip off the high dive, though I may admire (and shake my head at) your guts.

Please don’t be embarrassed of your bouncing knees or quavering voice. Don’t be ashamed of your tears or sweaty palms. Most of all, don’t let fear keep you paralyzed. Show up shaking. Others will find strength in your vulnerability. It allows us to see ourselves in you, see that we are all so much the same.

Strength shines through in weakness.

Your showing up is courageous. Your shaking inspires us to take our own shaky knees and sweaty palms another step into a meaningful life.

This blog is one place where I practice showing up shaking. Literally, I shake EVERY time I hit “publish”. My introvert person would rather keep conversations limited to my family and dogs. My non-confrontational person would rather not publicize any deep(ish) thought that could create argument. My people-pleasing person wants to make all the people everywhere well pleased by only talking about how cute kittens are, but then it got word some of you don’t even like kittens so now it’s rocking in the corner.

When my sweaty courage person wins and the “publish” gets pushed, it’s because I’ve remembered that writing is how I figure out what I think about life, how I find beauty in messy things, how I unravel chaos and rediscover grace. And sometimes it’s most meaningful when I share it with you and hear your stories and thoughts and we find ourselves stronger together.

Writing here enriches my life, and I dearly hope it can and will yours too. But honestly? Blogging isn’t my main jam. I don’t promise regular posts on guaranteed topics and days, at least for now. I wouldn’t be the real deal if I did.

I like blogs for certain things, as a reader and a writer. But what I love is the up-close look, the unpacking of details, and the whole picture that comes in reading a book. And based on the growing number of documents that faintly resemble chapters accumulating in a special file, I might be taking my book relationship from reader to also…writer. (Sometimes courage is almost imperceptibly small, right?)

That’s all the info I’ve got for today, guys. My bravery says “over and out”.

Do you want to join me in this courage-watching journey? Are you also interested in some opportunities to participate in behind-the-scenes booky (I’m sorry, I can’t talk about this in normal words yet) stuff happening down the road?  the newsletter is where it’s going to be, along with some extra inspiration, ideas, and usually goofy goings on! Hop over to the side bar and sign yourself right up.

Thank you for being here with me. I hope we get to hang out in each other’s inboxes soon, and most of all, I hope I see you showing up shaking. Remember, what feels wormy and sweaty to you, feels like hard-clapping pride to us watching on, hoping that we can be like you and do brave things too!








Dear Gorilla-Fiasco Mommy

I’m not one to jump into debates. Usually I feel there are plenty of voices already, and I’d prefer to spend my energy on something fun. I figured this whole deal would blow over soon, but yesterday it turned savage with petitions and racial slurs and breaches in privacy, and I decided to share this as a way to relieve my aching heart. Here is my letter to you:

I woke up Sunday to news articles and videos and vile comments en mass about the Cincinnati zoo. It was strange to see the place we’ve visited so often being discussed everywhere from the New Yorker to LA Times to BBC News.

I’m a hopeless animal freak. The way I see it, when you’re a hard-core fan of an artist, you’re pretty thrilled with all their work, not just the most famous masterpiece, the NYT best seller, the song that tops charts. Humans are the masterpiece of the Artist I’m most in to, and they maintain the title eternally. But animals are a spectacular piece to behold; fascinating, funny, colorful, intuitive, loyal and fierce.

There was no small dismay when a few minutes into the reading, I realized the headlines the night before were erroneous, and Harambe the handsome gorilla had been shot and killed, not tranquilized.

As I read on, I encountered a greater horror; the tarnishing of the human masterpiece right before my eyes by corrosive judgment, criticism, and hatred.

In full honesty, I admit my own initial judgement-based irritation. Parents who are passive to their child’s whereabouts, who aren’t sensitive to safety concerns and ensuring their child is respectful of property and people around them, are one of my top pet peeves. Kids who are reckless and disregard rules and manners are up there too.

I wondered how on earth a child the age of my youngest could accomplish such a feat. And I shook my head yet again at the terrifying mystery of these small humans with so many physical capabilities but zero reasoning capabilities. I have questions for God about this. A child learns to walk at 1 yr. old, and yet is unable to rationalize until 15 (or 25) years? This feels fatefully backwards.

My thoughts soon turned to my little cousin, and others like him, whose brain sends impulses beyond what he can control, accompanied by a fierce supply of speed and tenacity. I thought about his mom’s tired eyes, the way a leash or stroller or hand-holding would be a never ending battle for his sensory sensitive body.

I thought about the things that have happened already in 3 short years of parenting that I said I’d never do, scorned other parents for. I’ve operated on autopilot and realized later what disasters could’ve occurred, looked at my phone at stupid times, had anger issues…the list goes on.

If my flaws caused a public scene, I’d be next in line for a social media execution.

Last night I dreamed my mom and I went to an event and forgot we left Sami in the car, a scenario I’ve declared I could never do. In my dream I was stunned at my frail humanity. And not only mine, my mom’s too, who happens to be the best mother I know.

Parenting has taught me with wicked clarity that I am just as human, just as likely to screw up on the major, as anyone else. We’re all the same, we just haven’t all had a face-down fall that wakes us up to it yet.

What our hearts really need is grace and peace, and we find it when we live in kinship. I think kinship starts with the kindness of believing others are doing the best they can in the moment.

I know of nothing so hard as this- especially for us who’ve been marinated in religion and garnished with a hearty side of perfectionism.

To give grace doesn’t mean there aren’t boundaries, consequences, and room for growth and change. It just means we lay down the judgement and the criticism, towards others and ourselves, and leave the growing up to God. We see what we all really are: created masterpieces in God’s image, battered and flawed, desperate for grace, and desperately loved. (For excellent reading on this, check out Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong.)

Grace is radical, in part, because others’ flaws look more obvious and easy to fix than our own. But we keep practicing, because kinship is our doorway to peace; personal, racial, global, spiritual.

So to you, heart-wrung Mommy of a boy recovering from the wildest day- I choose blessing over cursing, mercy over judgment, kindness over criticism.

I believe you are doing the best you can.

If it were me, calling out what must have felt like one last “I love you, baby”, as you watched your child in the hands of 400 lb. Harambe; regardless of my animal love, if the desperation of the moment offered no other safe solution, I would have begged officials to do whatever it took to get my child out alive. It’s what mothers do. We fall down 7 times and getting up 8, all the while hoping desperately for our child to grow up loved and safe. Your son’s worth, his gift to the world, his unique creation and resemblance of God himself, is invaluable.

And by the way, yours is too.

From a mommy just as human as you,