A Loopty-loop Life

My daughter, the third child and last born of our family, leaned her back against the measuring stick. Her head was several centimeters into the green area of the line. I couldn’t believe it. She could go on the rollercoaster ride. I could go on the rollercoaster ride! We stepped into line, and my heart raced with excitement. This would be the first time I rode a rollercoaster ride complete with loopty-loops since my first child was born over twelve years ago. The line went quickly, and several minutes later we stepped up to the closed gate as we watched the people in front of us board the rollercoaster seats. They strapped in, and I explained to my daughter about the seat belts and the overhead guard that would lock around us. Then I watched my sons standing with their dad in the line to the right of us. They would be sitting in front of us on the rollercoaster. Here we were: a family of five about to experience something together that we have never done before. I used to watch other people get onto rides. With a baby at my hip and toddlers running around my feet, the days of independent movements seemed to be over. But they weren’t. I stood with three kids that my husband and I had fed, changed, clothed and cared for over the years. And they stood tall and independent like olive shoots. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Psalm 128.3 NIV) (emphasis added). Olive shoots grow...

•remembering mothers everywhere •

I struggle with Mother’s Day. I just do. I’ve been accused of being a “bleeding heart,” but every year at this time, I find myself reflecting on Mother’s Day and what it means to those who, in a very imperfect and fallen world, try to navigate the day, when this day, any day, can be so difficult. In a perfect world, Mother’s Day would look like one of those sentimental greeting cards and life would be uninterrupted and simple. But life as we know it is not always that way. As I have become immersed in urban ministry, my heart breaks even more…for the mother who finds herself grieved after having lost a child to gun violence. The real and the raw stories of mothers on the front lines have shattered my already fragile heart. This Mother’s Day, I’m praying – warrior prayers for the weary mothers fighting all kinds of battles; the prayers we utter may have different content but they are the cries of women interceding for their children and those they love as if they were their own. If your Mother’s Day is uncomplicated and beautiful, I urge you to pause today, and amidst giving thanks, PRAY for those mothers, near and far, whose perspective looks very different today. Imagine if we women, mothers, grandmothers, friends, neighbors, spiritual moms, thought of ALL THE mothers and children today who have hurting hearts and actually PRAYED for them. FOR MOTHERS EVERYWHERE… •There are mothers whose children have been victims of gun violence…We MUST pray for them. •There are mothers whose children are battling mental health issues…We MUST join...

Breathe Mama, Just Breathe

I See You, Mama You are work so hard. I see you. Some of you are working in the home, and some out of the home. All of you invest so much of yourself into your family. There is little time for rest because you are caring so diligently for those around you. I see you. You are always prepared with band-aids, snacks, tissues, and hugs. Your words breathe life and love into the little souls clamoring for your attention. While a nap sounds wonderful, you choose to read a book one more time through weary eyes. You long for your own space, yet your arms ache to hold your little loves. I see you. Breathe, Mama I can hear the worry in your voice. You question if you are doing okay. Yes, I know you second guess your decisions and the way you interacted with them not too long ago. The hard situations, those tricky conversations cause you to wonder if you are up to this task of raising another human. Motherhood seems to be a continuing tug-o-war of wanting a few minutes alone and wanting to hold them close. I want you to know, Mama, you are doing okay. Take a deep breath: a deep, cleansing breath. You deserve those few moments alone, a few minutes of quiet, a bit of rest. Breathe, Mama. That hard conversation you were willing to enter? It made a difference. The decision you made to love fiercely in that hard situation? You made a bigger impact than you know. You Know There’s A Bigger Picture Train up a child in the...

#honorallmoms on Mother’s Day (and a free gift for you)

Years ago, on a Sunday night, I sat in the back row of my church and watched a newly-pregnant woman walk by. Suddenly I knew: I was pregnant again. I wasn’t late. I wasn’t trying to have another baby. I didn’t have morning sickness, I hadn’t gained weight. I had no symptoms. And I’d given away our playpen and stroller. I thought I was done. This was not what I had in mind. But, still, I knew. I herded my 4- and 6-year-old daughters through CVS to buy a pregnancy test, shielding the box from the prying eyes of my avid reader, embarrassed by the imagined judgment of the teen boy working the register. I stuck the girls in front of the TV and locked myself in the bathroom. That stupid little plus sign practically leaped off the stick. Crap. I was pregnant. It didn’t matter that I was 33, happily married, reasonably financially stable. This wasn’t what I had planned for my life. Three kids was too many; I always said no more kids than hands to hold onto them. Being a mother of three didn’t make sense for someone who isn’t naturally nurturing, who doesn’t adore children, for someone who worked all the time, for someone who was educated and smart enough to not have an accident like this happen. I was devastated and not sure how to break the news to my husband when he got home at 2 am from work, but he didn’t even hesitate: “There’s enough love in this house for one more.” Seventeen years later, I see that he was right. I...

Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

Breath of Heaven

It was almost 22 years to the day. I was 9 months pregnant and due on January 8th. That’s what THEY SAID; SHE had different plans. When the doctor finished his examination, he calmly stated that I would be having a baby, “TODAY.” “TODAY, as in TO-DAY?” “Yes, and we’ll need you to head to the hospital – NOW.” “What? That is NOT the plan.” “It is now and if you can’t assure us that you’ll head straight for the hospital, we can arrange for an ambulance.” I went out to my car,  a baby blue Ford Escort, on an absolutely frigid day in Chicago, ice and snow covering the ground. That little car needed time to warm up, so I sat reluctantly patient for a moment and waited, all alone. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I WAS GOING TO HAVE A BABY! The journey had been a long one. I had prayed for years, endured fertility treatments for years and I knew the magnitude of this event. The day had arrived and it looked NOTHING like I had planned. My husband was downtown in a pre cell phone age, and I needed to get word to him. Travel plans needed to be changed. I still had Christmas shopping to do. I was told that I could not even PACK my own bag; I needed to get to the hospital immediately. As I sat there in the car, overwhelmed in the moment, a song came on the radio. Now, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but the first time I HEARD it… ”...

when kids are pushing your buttons (like, all of them)

I was about to flip out, and that’s the ugly truth of it. I was in front of a little dude who was pushing all my buttons, simultaneously, and we were dancing on the edge of a power-struggle, the kind that renders everyone a loser. For those of you who work with children and students “from hard places” (as Dr. Karyn Purvis describes), you get this scenario. Or, maybe I should just stop at “who work with children and students.” Period. Anyway, as flashes of angry words exploded in my mind, (ones I’d have momentarily enjoyed expressing, to be honest) I felt a strong sense of clarity. I’d like to think it was divine intervention. Two calming and gentle words doused my frustration: “Not today.” This child, broken up by early rejection and thus defensive beyond belief, was not going to trigger me – not today. Yes, I wanted respect and eye-contact and verbal responses and a host of other things that would satisfy me – the Self that commands rather than connects and that is authoritative rather than his advocate. But, I was making loving him about his behaviors, and it’s just not about that. It’s about relying daily on a Source for love that is beyond our feelings. It’s about getting ourselves, our tendencies, and our triggers under control so that healing, hope-filled, life-changing Love can get from the Father to His child, through us. It’s about not giving up or giving in – not today – and then claiming the same two words tomorrow and every day after. Yeah, maybe that sounds simplistic – but living...

Why It’s Important To Forgive, Even When…We Don’t Want To

I can almost hear the sighs of exasperation. You are probably thinking to yourself, “seriously, she’s going to talk to me today about forgiveness? She has no idea what I am going through, what’s been done, what’s been said or how far off track things have gotten lately.” You know what, you are absolutely right! I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. I don’t know how bad it is gotten in your world lately, nor do I need to because I can tell you this, it has been a doozy of a run in my world too. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have stamped my foot (a lot here lately) and cried out to God that this just isn’t “fair”. This is just as hard for me to write as it is for you to read because I have been wrestling with God over this one and here’s what I’ve come up with. but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 ESV (underscoring mine) But. I never thought about it that way. But..if you do not, neither will your Father. But…I don’t want to. I still hurt from it. Oh my friend, you have no idea how much this pains me to write, but here it goes…we need to forgive much because we have been forgiven much. There, I said it. This is not to say that you agree with what has happened, but that you are cancelling that debt against you. When we hold on to that anger, resentment,...

Moms, Do You Ever Feel Locked in Instant Replay Mode

“How many times must I tell you …” Parenting would be so much easier if only we all had recording devices we could play back at will. When a behavior arises, simply fast forward to the appropriate statement, point the device at the infracting child, and hit play. Then walk away, problem solved. Imagine how peaceful our summers could be! Although I doubt that’d be effective. Shoes would still clutter the hallway and bedrooms would still look like someone swept through with a leaf blower. Because words by themselves are just that–words, and no child goes from toddler to adult overnight. In parenting, the key is to focus on progress not perfection, blanketed with equal amounts of patience, training, consistency, and accountability. Develop patience Children don’t learn overnight, and often, every step forward is accompanied with half a step, and sometimes an entire leap, backwards. But then again, isn’t that how it is with each of us? Habits, wisdom, and integrity take time to develop.  Our child may need to hear, “Put your plate away” twenty times before they begin to think of it on their own, then learn to follow through. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being defiant. It simply means they need to be reminded. A lot. Until that behavior becomes habit (then you can begin to tackle a new one). Train Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (ESV). In other words, don’t pester, nag, scream at, and belittle. Instead, train. 😉 When our daughter was young, I walked into her room...

For the one who needs strength for the everyday

The other morning as I was running, I listened to a broadcast by apologist Ravi Zacharias, in which he quotes G.K. Chesterton: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again;’ and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” Isn’t it a wonder to imagine a God who whispers to the sun morning after morning, “Do it again?” And to my pots and pans at the start of yet another meal, “Do it again.” And to my stack of papers to be graded, “Do it again.” And to my child’s homework needing assistance, “Do it again.” It’s a wonder that God’s character and purpose are not reduced or simplified by the eroding nature of everyday living. In fact, He exults in it and, I believe, even more wondrous is that He invites us to do so as well. But Chesterton’s words unsettle me, as they ring true in my heart: “…grown-up...