On Epiphany: Can Your Soul Feel Its Worth?

For the student with body broken and soul shattered.  Filled with the overwhelming suspicion his existence is making things worse instead of better.  

Can your soul feel its worth?  

For the girl who says anxiety gnaws every minute of every day, fear of her mother’s life being stolen by the drug who has replaced her as highest priority and passion.

Can your soul feel its worth?

For the sisters who’ve saw loss upon loss. Abandonment, abuse, cancer, death, bullies, insult upon injury. Whose only relief seems to be in the deceptive release of the blade against skin.

Can your soul feel its worth?

For the child who can’t be convinced he belongs. Whose losses stack up greater than all his hopes. Who would rather contemplate death than risk daydreaming about life.

Can your soul feel its worth?

For the mother who is convinced. Convinced she’s incapable of being the nurturer that should be her very nature. Connived by shame to believe she’s wrecked beyond repair. Crushed by the belief that if anyone really knew, really saw her, they would turn away or turn her in.

Can your soul feel its worth?

For the grandparents, whose sunset years have clouded over with confusion, whose dependency increases and purpose seems to shrink with every passing day.

Can your souls feel their worth?

For the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters, the grandmothers and caretakers, the citizens of war-torn Syria and war zones around the world. The faces caked in mortar dust. The eyes too destitute to even offer tears after witnessing loved ones gasp and die in the streets and children captured and drug away.

Can your souls feel their worth?

For the recipients of hate crimes, the victims of violence and threats and crude name callings that are becoming a common occurrence, attacks against the very image of God borne in humanity.

Can your souls feel their worth?

Here is our world, groaning in utter destruction and unmanaged pain.

Yet the mysterious prophecies remain, elusive but beckoning.  Murmurs of a government upon the shoulders of One whose feet bring forth Good News, whose name is Wonderful Counselor, who’s leadership will multiply peace with no end to its increase, who’s very law is love.

May we be the desperate ones, the ones who wrestle, who hold onto hope expectantly, who won’t let go until we receive the blessing, until our eyes see the miraculous made known.

We’re wrecked, but let it be that when we’re sinking and the waters rise, we reach out our hand for the redemptive rescue.

The shipwrecked…are the poor in spirit who feel lost in the cosmos, adrift on an open sea, clinging with life-and-death desperation to the one solitary plank. Finally they are washed ashore and make their way to the stable, stripped of the old spirit of possessiveness in regard to anything…They have been saved, rescued, delivered from the waters of death, set free for a new shot at life. At the stable in a blinding moment of truth, they make the stunning discovery that Jesus is the plank of salvation…!

All the time they were battered by wind and rain, buffeted by raging seas, they were being held even when they didn’t know who was holding them.” Brennan Manning- Shipwrecked at the Stable, Watch For the Light

Even if your eyes can see no light, your nose can’t catch the holy scent of fresh life, your hands feel no saving grip, your ears can hear no “Peace, be still”, your tongue can taste no sweet words of Good News, can you believe still?

Believe in the mystery beyond emotion and external evidence?

Believe there is a Love that will not let you go? Believe there is grace in abundance beyond comprehension? Believe the worth of your very soul is such that God would lay himself down, curl into a womb, and expose himself to the bitterest elements, injustice, and inferiority, for you?


Look around. Maybe you can see it. His light, shining from your child’s eyes, flickering from the stars, the waxing moon. Maybe you can smell his scent of life on your baby’s skin, in the crisp air blowing across the field, in the pine needles. Maybe you can feel his comforting touch in the calloused fingers of a grandparent, the warm dog on your lap, the handshake of a neighbor. Maybe you can hear echoes of his peace in a cardinal’s song, in the prayers of a parent. Maybe you can taste his goodness in the icy snow, in the warm tea, in the kiss of a spouse, in repeating the words of the Psalms.

May it be an Epiphany.  Our souls awakening more widely, enraptured by Love made manifest, Light revealed.  May it warm us until the sparks catch fire in another’s soul, until for those who live in a land of deep darkness, a great light will shine. Until HE appears, and every soul feels its worth.

“…You could more easily catch a hurricane in a shrimp net than you can understand the wild, relentless, passionate, uncompromising, pursuing love of God made present in the manger.” ~Manning

Long Distance Love- When You Won't All Be Home For Christmas

I’m the oldest of six spunky, more-sensitive-than-we-like-to-admit kids, raised by the best parents you’ll ever come across. Our family landscape has changed drastically in a handful of years, going from a passel of siblings arguing over the last of the Lucky Charms and playing backyard soccer between two five gallon buckets, to graduations and weddings and new babies in a nanosecond. Currently, the family of eight has multiplied to eighteen.

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We grew up in an old brick house, riding bikes on country roads to our grandma’s, and then home to eat dinner around the table. We were used to togetherness.

I got married first, and cried of loneliness for months even though I was only a few miles away. Then my sister Meg got married and moved over an hour away, and we all cried and wondered how we would survive not seeing her every week. A few years later, Jan got married. She moved clear across the country.

Having adult siblings for friends is one of the greatest delights. Adding long distance to our love is one of the hardest adjustments. Seasons change, holidays pass, hard and happy days go by, new babies arrive, and we’re no longer experiencing it side by side.

Jan’s first baby arrived a few years ago in the shadow of the Cascade mountains, right after Thanksgiving. A few hours post-delivery, Jan and Jordan left one hospital and drove to another where the baby had been transferred to.

 We all waited by our phones, counting back the time difference from Ohio to Washington. When I finally heard her voice, soft with exhaustion, smiling as she told me her daughter’s beautiful name, then breaking when she said, “I just really want to hold my baby”, I wept bitter tears over the miles between the Yakima hospital room and I.

A week later they left the hospital, healthy and happy. But the plans to come home for Christmas were disrupted by unanticipated medical bills.

We couldn’t bear the thought of Christmas with Jan’s seat empty, without the new baby to cuddle. We all slipped some cash in an envelope and told them if it was possible, we’d do anything to get them home.

Weeks later, we made a ruckus in the Indianapolis airport, running in through the snow and sweeping Jan up, kissing the little blond head peeking out of her carrier. We spent the short days in a flurry of presents and photos and laughing in the kitchen over french toast and lefse and endless pots of coffee.

 In a flash, the airport greetings faded to watery eyes and avoidant small talk, prolonging the inevitable goodbye.

As darkness settled on our last night together, we kissed baby faces and sibling’s cheeks and tried to laugh instead of cry. Then it was time and we exited fast, one more “love you so much” called around the porch.

When I’d put the last box of Christmas gifts in the car and fastened my daughters’ seatbelts and then my own, the tears I’d been holding back all day broke loose. I sobbed into my coat for the too fast days and the too many miles.

We drove around the house, and I looked up through my tears into the warmly lit windows of home, glowing out into the sleeting night. I saw my parents standing in the dining room, strong and quiet, looking on in affection as they cradled the baby a few remaining minutes. I saw my brother Jesse by his soon to be wife. His eyes had been dark with un-shed tears when I told him goodbye. They were standing in close, soaking up the last moments. Jes motioned big and Jan threw her head back, shoulders shaking in silent laughter. But my ears had already memorized the sound, and knew it to be the most contagious and free bursts of pure happiness. Jordan gestured in vivid animation as only he can do, and all four sets of shoulders dipped and bounced, inaudible joy flung through the windows and straight to my heart.                                                        

Jan has another baby now, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be home for Christmas this year.

 I don’t know how to keep long distance relationships close, with babies and time zones and the fact that I tend to forget my phone can actually be used to make calls. For those of us whose emotions run on high power, whose introversion craves deep connections, whose love expression lives and breathes on quality time, but who’s dearest and best people are far away, relationships can become confusing.

Even when we are together, the connection isn’t always like I imagine it to be. Life, with its needy children and moods and exhaustion keeps rolling, and we are still our flawed selves. We struggle to keep up on the current events of our people, fall asleep at 9:30 on what could have been an all-night catch-up, and fear the shrinking in-commonness we sometimes feel with the ones we used to share everything with.

I tend to be all or none. If I can’t have it all, why have any? It hurts to stay present in the distance. To disengage seems a relief. I’d rather not look too closely at the packages wrapped with postage stamps instead of bows, because if I sit in the ache of that empty seat, traced the swirly handwriting on the mailing label, I might spend the happiest season of all sobbing.

I want to resent the miles, the changes, the days flying by like geese overhead.

But when we vacation in the Rocky Mountains, all of us driving in from the east and west to meet in the middle, or spend a few days together celebrating a wedding, I am ever more aware of moments.

I watch and memorize how Trav roams the kitchen bleary-eyed first thing in the morning, carefully selecting his daughter’s favorite cereal. How Dad’s eyes linger on each face when we’re all around the dinner table. How Adayah’s voice has a little whisper in it. How my baby brother is so close to being taller than all of us, but still has a little boy grin. How mom still folds our laundry when we aren’t looking.

Instead of wishing for what could be, what used to be, I want to get better at savoring what is: eighteen imperfect, delightful, funny, passionate people I get to call my family.

The window scene that cold, Christmas night delivered a gift given by the dreaded miles. The gift of not holding back. The miles are teaching us to say what we feel, to give another kiss, to laugh a little louder. Without them, the baby’s hair wouldn’t be inhaled so slowly, the deepest words of love wouldn’t roll off the tongue as freely. They are teaching me that these people are worth staying present for. That even in the pain of distance, love spans any space, trumps any change.

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Here’s to savoring the moments and holding our precious people close this Christmas, even if it is across the miles.

Can I Kiss Your Feet?

The evening after I'd finished writing this story, I sat down on the couch and showed it to Cypress. She's fascinated with this writing hobby of mine, and was thrilled to participate in the process a bit. I read it aloud to her, using every effort not to cry and make her sad, watching out of the corner of my eye as she nodded and grinned.

"I remember that day!" She proclaimed when I finished. "I love this story, Mom!"

"Me too, sweetheart, it's one of my favorites." I said. After we'd discussed a few words she didn't understand, whether she thought any details needed changed, and what editing meant, I asked, "Do you think we should keep this as a special family story, or is it one we should share for other people to read who might be figuring out how to communicate and love each other better like we are?"

"We should share it." She said with confidence.

So, here's a little story, with love, from Carrie and Cypress:


I personally have never been one for footsie or foot rubs or really any foot affection. It’s not that I find feet revolting; I’m a barefoot girl with callouses and flip flop tan lines as many months as Ohio will refrain from frostbiting. it’s just that I’ve noticed a tendency for feet to either be damp with sweat or resembling refrigerated meat, and I’m uncomfortable with both. It’s also an area most likely to get skipped in grooming routines, and I’m not eager to come in contact with untamed areas, nor do I wish for others to encounter mine. But for all the dirt-collecting and grime feet may present, my daughters haven’t acquired my aloof feelings. In fact, quite the opposite.

...When Cypress, my eldest, reminisces about her life and family in Ethiopia, she often tells of how she liked to kiss her momma’s feet. It is touching to envision her, tiny child that she was, participating in a cultural tradition and even in her limited comprehension, attaching emotion to it.

One day she and I were having a particularly rough time. We were doing our classic battle. Her: a quiet altercation. Me: a loud correction. Her: stoic and response-less. Me: producing enough emotion to compensate for her lack plus three others. Her: unable, unwilling, or too uncomfortable to respond. Me: unable to comprehend how one can have no responses, and determined to conjure up appropriate emotion in her. This was the vicious un-merry-go-round we rode time after time...

Click HERE to read the rest of the story published by Coffee and Crumbs


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.

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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.”