Dear Refugees

Dear Refugees,


If I lived near an international airport, you would have found me in the crowds last week, holding a “We Welcome Refugees” sign.

I've had the tiniest glimpse into the process of obtaining a visa and becoming a U.S. citizen.  I’ve felt a hint of those breath-held moments, shuffling through paperwork, handing over passports, and praying every piece is in place and there are no additional interrogations, searches, or requirements.

Just weeks ago, I overnighted two more envelopes of complicated documents to the USCIS. A college degree, a few years of getting familiar with government forms, and speaking English since birth didn’t save me from nail-biting over which numbers to enter and boxes to check. I would have made errors if it weren’t for the detailed help of friends who’d filed the forms already. This update alone cost over $700, and I waited nervously for a confirmation, knowing if they were deemed incorrect I would be out the money.

My experience is an anemic comparison to yours. My citizenship was secure; I had nationality, language, color, financing, and religion on my side. My two daughters, joining our family from east Africa, were tiny and couldn’t create a security concern if they’d tried.

Still, I well remember the “Welcome Home” sign that awaited us as we walked down the airport terminal toward a crowd of smiling faces.

Airport Welcome Home.jpg


I remember the relief in a warm hug, the need to know that my immigrant daughters, our new family, would be welcomed and gladly woven into the rich and colorful fabric of the United States’ diverse society.                           

I’d do anything to give a piece of that warm welcome to you.

Some of you have tenaciously traveled through storms of weather and war, pressed through exhaustion and illness, endured prisons, camps, death threats, tedious interviews and endless paperwork, only to find yourselves denied.

Some of you were so close to the fresh start you could taste it. How harsh the disappointment of being turned away, sent back to face thousands of dollars lost, expiration dates encroaching on hard-earned paperwork, and despair of not being reunited with loved ones waiting for you here.

My friends, the strength and courage you carry within you is remarkable. I grieve with you for whatever hardships you’ve experienced to bring you to this place of needing to find refuge. I’m broken over the humiliation and despair you must feel as you see months and years’ worth of work dissipate before your eyes, feel the assumptions that you are bad or dangerous or somehow a lesser human because of the piece of the world you were born on.

I speak for myself and my family and a powerful number of compassionate Americans, when I say that you are truly, deeply, welcomed here.

If I could, I’d meet you at the airport and drive you to our farm this very night. I envision us pointing out things around the country side and trying to tell you what they are. We would laugh at our pitiful attempts to speak the words of your language, and admire your tenacity in learning how to speak ours.

We’d fill the grill with hamburgers, and stand around the stove tasting the flavors of your favorite dishes while you taught us your special recipes. We would smile to see the empty seats filled around our table.

When all the hungry stomachs were full, we would offer you beds with piles of extra blankets.

Then, If we could somehow explain and ensure through the language, culture and religious differences that we were not causing you to feel shamed or afraid, we would kneel and unlace your shoes. We’d take them, with their dust from another land, their soles bearing stories of walking for miles, of running in fear, of blood on the streets, of aching and shaking and sweating and shivering, set them aside, and wash your weary feet.

Not because we’re holy rollers, with super spiritual rituals we do every sundown or something. Not because we’re worried about dirt on our blankets. But because we are desperate for any way to fellowship with you in your sufferings, to esteem the immeasurable worth of your souls, to repent of prejudices and pride in our hearts and our nation, and to impress upon you that we are not governed by fear.

It’s not that we’re naïve, adamant no refugee could ever do us harm.  On the contrary, we know every human is capable of rancorous wrong. But a greater force, a Light that blinds hate, a Love that casts out fear, has captured our souls. Grace wipes the windshield of our blurry vision and gives a glimpse into the depth of our deplorability, and then shows us a glimmer of the Imago Dei in every single soul. 

This is our fundamental mission: “In the same way I [Jesus] loved you [I fed the hungry, fellowshipped with outcasts, extended grace, forgiveness, a warm welcome into the family of God, and gave up my very life], you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples- when they see the love you have for each other.”

I don’t know your names, much as I wish I did. But I know someone who does, a Father who’s kept track of your every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered into his ledger, each ache written in his book.                              

Until I can seat you at my table, call you by name, and share my abundance of blankets and food and acres (the inequity of which is a constant throb) with you, I give you my earnest word: you are not forgotten. There are so many here committed to standing in the gap for you. While it may seem as if our nation is playing “She love’s them, she loves them not” with you, we will not relent in seeking solutions, in praying, in caring for your family and friends already dwelling within our cities, in actively engaging in compassion and pursuing justice for you and yours.

Until then,

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;

May he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm;

May he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;

May he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.

~Peter Sutcliffe, Common Prayer      

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


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.

Learning to Savor-From the Hospital Room

Last night I got to hug my oldest friend. Not old in age, but old in friendship. She’s in my first memories, my earliest recollections of her being when I was around 3 years old. She taught me how to dress up kitties, and play church with them as our deviant, sulking children, she taught me the game Dead Possum (which I now suspect may have been an original with her), how to suck the pimento out of a green olive, and how to ride double on a banana seat bike. We went on vacations together, spent many summer nights camping with our sleeping bags side by side in a tiny tent, shared (and fell out of) a twin-sized top bunk bed, loved animals together, answered each other's phone calls of “Houston, we have a problem” so many times Houston became a nickname, went on double dates, sobbed on each other’s shoulders through break ups, were bridesmaids in each other's weddings, got ourselves into countless conundrums and embarrassing moments, laughed ourselves into paralysis, and scared each other stiff in the dark nights of many a sleep over.  

  Time rolled on as it has a habit of doing, and we started families and our lives took different paths and we saw less of each other. She is so often the one I think of when I get myself into an absurd situation, or the laughter I hear ringing in my ears when I reminisce about days gone by. But I don’t do a very good job of letting her know how often she is present in my thoughts and her absence is felt in my heart. The past few years have held some dark days for both of us. We’ve sat at each other’s kitchen tables a few times while the kids played, and spoke quietly of fear and depression and longing and loss. She has endured throbbing pain in her body and heart that I can’t imagine, shouldered heavy responsibilities that it still seems like we should be too young to be presented with, and seen too many hospital rooms in the last 2 years.


  Last night she was in one again. This time she sat in a chair beside the bed of her man, smiling softly while he slept the heavy, distant sleep of a body trying to recover from a brain injury. She told me of her last few longer-than- life days, of going from the needs of her tiny infant, to the needs of her Kindergartner sick with a stomach bug, to the bedside of her husband suffering in the ICU. I tried to keep my eyes from spilling over when she said it was as if all the hardest things were happening at once, and we both acknowledged having had words with God because it was all too much. And yet there she was; her baby softly sleeping on a waiting room sofa, oblivious to his family’s crisis, her smile ready and her words clear as she spoke of good reports and better days. Though I saw anxiety in her eyes for the future with all the unknowns a recovery like his holds, she was present, showing up each day for her scariest season yet.



I wish that prayers and a hug felt like enough. I wish that faith in God’s goodness overpowered the fear of suffering and loss and life as we know it being upended in a flash. I wish the cliché “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” was actually true, that we could be spared from seasons that are too much. I wish it wouldn’t take seeing one of our goofiest, favorite friends silent and still on a hospital bed to make me stop and take notice of the callouses on Dave’s thumb resting against mine, or the strength in his steps when he chases the girls up to bed.


  In reality, friendship is a lot easier when the struggle is over who should sit in front and steer the banana seat bike. Friendship in motion is so much more natural than friendship in stillness. Banter feels more friendly than silence. Comfortable friendship is more a vase of fresh flowers, low maintenance and easy, lovely to look at, but unable to endure seasons. Friendships that endure the seasons are more like a deep, rooted perennial. A tulip blooming and vibrant in the spring seasons, but in other seasons simply present and green, nothing flashy or fancy, and in the winters, silent and still in the dark and the cold. Believing together that the sun will warm the earth again, bringing forth laughter and hope and brighter days.


  I don’t know much about being a good friend in the winter seasons. I want to string up an artificial light and avoid the dark days. I feel frustrated that I can’t fix the broken things. I can’t prevent the pain. I can’t pretend my faith is unfaltering.


  I do know this. I saw my friend smile by her husband’s hospital bed, and it looked like courage. I saw her there, in her hardest days yet, and it looked like faith. Not because she wasn’t scared, but because she was given the strength to show up. I saw her parents there, sitting with her through the difficult days and nights, and it looked like tender love. I saw a life spared, a breath of relief and a light of hope. It all looked like grace, and I a thankful witness. I saw the way Dave’s eyes lingered on the girls and I last night, the way we held each other’s hand a little longer when the lights were turned out, and it looked like savoring.




  If you have an oldest friend, one who’s stories and fears you know by heart even if time has altered the landscape of your friendship, make a call or meet for dinner. Savor the smiles and the sound of her voice.





**The best news of the day is, no hospital room tonight. he's coming home!