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,



MVP Award

Education is probably in the top 3 most debated/emotionally charged parenting topics. I’m figuring out these issues are hot because of the sweaty insecurity that lives in all of us who are making life shaping decisions on behalf of these little humans in our care.

I’ve doubted and second-guessed and done my fair share of sweating over school. I’ve eyed the greener grass of big city options with diverse populations and learning models, and easy access to the arts and community engagement, and ogled hard core. I’ve wondered if we were off our rocker to be sending our kiddo into the unavoidable chaos of a class full of first graders when we already have huge social hurdles. I’ve wondered if we were reckless to be writing tuition checks on top of a stack of daunting bills. I’ve wondered if we would end up riddled with regret sending her into a school where she was a major minority. I don’t have a single one of those concerns resolved.

But this week I watched Miss G speak a character award-turned-prayer over Cy. I thought about the number of emails she’s read and responded to from me; angsty, emotional deals that couldn’t have been pleasant reads. I thought about the times she’s paused while I’ve choked out words over yet another phone call, the way she put her arm around me when I all-out bawled during parent-teacher conference. I wondered how many prayers were sent up in those alphabet-covered walls the past 9 months on behalf of, or with, Cy. She has taught truth with tenacity. She has called out gifts and potential when as yet they were not manifest, in both Cy and me. She has told us over and over, “God has good plans. He’s going to use these hard things and turn them into something beautiful, just watch! He knew exactly what he was doing when He brought you all together in this family.”

We stuck a flower in her car and Cypress handed over one more marker colored note, and she wrapped us both in a hug and said, “Now you listen. Cypress is moving on to second grade, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m still in the same place, ready to talk to you ANY TIME. I won’t stop praying, and I’m here for you, no matter what. I’m still on your team.”

As my mom assures me so often, we only decide what is best for right now. Tomorrow or next year there may be a new option, a better fit, a change to be made. For right now, I’m realizing what we need above arts and culture and the most creative learning models, is fierce and loyal love. People who are knees-on-the-floor, crying out for God’s healing and wisdom and grace on our behalf, filling in when we are out of words or strength. Miss G has been that.

We all have gifts and incredible good to offer the world, but a gift can’t be given if there’s no recipient. She’s been pouring out her love through education for many more years than I’ve even been alive, and with tears she says she’s incredibly grateful every year that she’s entrusted with our children and gets to come back and do it again.

Miss G is another reminder that I wasn’t created to do this alone. She, at least for a season, has been a vital component to our family, our team, our village. She has offered Cy a gift I could never have given.

Look around for the people in your corner, the ones who have gifts to give, and open your hands and breathe a sigh of relief and receive them. It’s what we’re all here for.

Motherhood Highs and Lows-Shake the Dust!

Most days when I pick Cypress up from school, after a few exchanges about the day we’ll talk about our “highs and lows”. I’ll ask about hers first, sometimes switching up the wording to “What made you laugh today?” or, “What was the worst moment of your day?” At times I feel some varied wording will help stir up fresh content when the high has been “I got to have recess” all week, and the lowest moment she can come up with is “at story time my arm itched” or, “my friend Alayna was really tired today”.

As amusing as first grade highs and lows can be, our little conversations have me thinking about some of my own, and I’ve concluded that mothers could dominate the high and low game. I don’t have any scientific evidence, but I’m 99 percent sure there is no other demographic so regularly exposed to such extremely heartwarming highs and calamitous lows within the same day, same hour, and sometimes the very same minute.

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I’m thinking a collective swap of highs and lows would be a great activity. I have a little writing project I’m working on, and I’d love (aka NEED) your participation in this. Here’s your opportunity to pass on the hysterical predicaments you and/or your kids have found themselves in, the crazy words that have been said by toddler (and parent), the sweetest moments that you never want to forget, and the frightening, horrific, and truly bizarre happenings that make you stop, shake your head, and audibly ask the dog, “What the HECK is this? What did they do with my life??”

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If you’re not a mom but have a good story from your mother or sister or friend, share it! Share individual moments. It doesn’t have to be a high and low from the same situation or even the same day, and if you have three highs to share and only one low, that’s fine too. Like Freeze Tag or Candyland or Chess, there really are no hard and fast rules to this game. The main rule is: don't over think it!

I’ll collect the stories of our highs and lows and assemble them for us all to read and laugh and eye roll and tear up over together. If your story is shared, your name will be in the credits but no revealing details will be displayed.

Consider this a way to shake the dust off motherhood. When we share our stories and laugh at the absurdities and smile at the preciousness, I think it helps us shake the dust of the mundane and frustration and shame and embarrassment that so often settles.

Before I go, here is a high and low from my list:

High: After a massive melt down that included, but was not limited to, stomping, kicking the floor, wailing, and shrieking over the utter difficulty of getting PJ’s on one night, said child finally appeared pajama clad, and said through intermittent sniffing, “See? I CAN do hard (hiccup) things.”

Low: Giving the kids a bedtime snack that was just late enough to cause my patience battery to die mid way through. I looked over to see things getting messy on one child’s plate and announced: “If I see you put your hands in your hummus again, I’ll eat all your food and send you straight to bed!” There was some shuffling in the kitchen where my younger siblings and Dave were eating their snacks. I overheard muffled snorting and choking as my husband quietly sang, “She’s a vile one, Mrs. Grinch.”

So, what are your motherhood highs and lows? Share your stories and shake the dust!

You can share in the comments, message me on facebook, or send me an email. I can't wait to hear from you!

Pockmarks and Audacious Grace

As I was making my way up the dimly lit porch steps, carrying dirty paper plates and left over apples and popcorn, the remains of yet another harvest dinner ate in the car, I had a strong knowing wash over me that I needed to pray with the girls.   We are far from a routine-oriented family, even on the slower days. We don’t have bedtime rituals of baths or stories or family prayer that we go through every night. Some nights we sit and sing songs. The girls taking turns choosing, or Dave and I suddenly belt out a chorus we know by heart from days gone by. Other nights we read a few pages from our Jesus Storybook Bible (My favorite!) or another book nearby. Many nights we’ve allowed playing or dinner time chatter to linger a little too long so we hurry them through the bathroom, wrap them up in blankets with kisses and quick back rubs and whispered good nights and hustle down to pack lunches and pay bills.



During harvest, I fly solo at bedtime. It’s a season where everything gets stripped down to basic needs. There isn’t time or energy for extras. I depend on the girls to get their pjs on and clothes put away by themselves while I clean up dinner. I quickly brush Sami’s teeth and we hurry to grab sleep caps and dim the lights. If we’re not too far from our 8:30 target, I’ll sometimes scoop up Sami, all cocooned in her pink blanket, and we’ll go sit on Cy’s bed to spend a few final moments of the day together. I knew as I was carrying in the last load from the car, I needed to make time for such a moment, tired and irritated as I was. There had been a barrage of poor choices from one in our party through the day. I knew praying over her could accomplish what no amount of lecturing could.

  Once upstairs, I saw the clothes still strewn I had requested multiple times be put away. Sami was jabbering at a volume far higher than necessary for proximity, and managed to abruptly burp mid-sentence. Twice. The words “Just go to bed” were on my tongue. 13 hours and counting of meeting needs, and I was overdone. But something held them back. I sighed, desperate for the quiet of my room, but knowing only a few tiny minutes can sometimes make all the difference. The Kingdom of God is often revealed in a five minute pause at the end of a day full of faults.

  We sat in the dark on Cypress’s bed. The Bible app read Psalm 23 audibly from my phone. A curly-haired head rested on each of my legs, bodies under a mound of blankets. After the second time through the Psalm, I began to pray. I prayed for them by name, for their individual needs. That they would learn to love truth and become trustworthy. That they would be strong enough to ask for help and not potty their pants. I committed them again to God’s hands, where not even Satan’s slickest schemes can get to them. I applauded the work God has begun in each, the dignity and strength he is continuing to perfect in Cy. The security and compassion he is so beautifully working in Sami. And, as has marked every prayer of mine for the past 3 years, I pleaded with God to affirm in their hearts how loved they are by me, even when I’m such a mess at showing it. In my most used phrase of motherhood prayers, I asked him to cover every sin I’d committed against Cypress, and against Sami with his grace. As I said the words, a phrase of scripture I hadn’t thought of in a while settled in my thoughts. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”.

  I’d never known abounding sin until motherhood. As I quoted the line aloud, I had a vision flood the darkness behind my eye lids. I saw a pockmarked ground, barren white, marred with ashen holes gouged from screaming anger, from sharp words, from rough hands, from unrealistic expectations. Into each hole was poured this golden sand. It didn’t just merely cover the holes. It filled the black caverns and heaped up over each hole, making shimmering mountains where once was a blackened crater.

  Tears poured from my face and onto the heads that were motionless on my lap, completely calm and quiet even though mommy’s prayer was getting some decent yardage to it. All this time I’ve prayed for my sins to be covered, which honestly feels like way too much to ask. To really expect a complete covering when I’m racking up errors faster than I can count some days is audacious. But the clear message to me in the dark was, “Carrie, I’m not just covering the mistakes, the wounds your anger and reactions have made in these girls. I’m filling them up and heaping them over. And not with cheap fill dirt, either. It’s gold. Glittering grace.”

  “It’s too much, too undeserved, too good to be true!” I said. “But I’m opening my hands. I receive it.” To even say the words and weakly believe them validated this grace, scandalous as it all is. The goodness and mercy that have been chasing after me, even through the long months of darkness when I refused to accept I could ever be loved again and was too strangled by shame and depression to accept the forgiveness and affection offered me, they have cracked open the cellar door of darkness with their persistence, loosened the noose of shame.

  And just for added proof, a tangible gift for my flickering faith, I looked down through my tears to two sets of adoring eyes. Two hands patting me, two voices whispering, “I love you, Mommy.” If that isn’t golden, glittering grace, I don’t know what is.



But where sin increased and abounded, grace (God’s unmerited favor) has surpassed it and increased the more and superabounded. ~Romans 5

If the cellar door still has you locked in darkness, if you feel like you’re too big of a mess, too far gone, too much of a wreck to forgive, please know that you are not alone. Let me remind you that there is nowhere you can go that quarantines you from God’s presence. His goodness and mercy are relentless. Will you hold on to even a spark of hope today? When the door to your darkness cracks, you will have light to share with someone else. The hope I'm speaking today I may need you to speak to me tomorrow.

And if you have a story of abounding, scandalous grace, will you share it with us?