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.

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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


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.”



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?