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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

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Entries in parenthood (32)


mark of racism

Our family tailgated in front of the Lyceum in 2008.I was 10 years old. The air in the grove hung around me as thick as cotton. My eyes must have been the size of cotton bolls. They read the sign painted on a white sheet and hefted by a rotund man dressed in a suit and tie. It read: “hell, John, I’ll tote that flag.” 

I had been to Ole Miss campus before surely, but this was the first trip my memory would register. I tagged along with my good friend Rachel Paris. Her family would later have the chapel on campus named for them. 

On that weekend, I visited the Chi Omega house where Rachel’s big sister lived. I remember the smell of hot rollers and shampoo as the beautiful girls prepped for the big game. Seven years later, I would spend my junior and senior years living there in one of those rooms.

We tailgated in front of the Lyceum circa 1846. This icon of Ole Miss was the first building to constitute the university. In 1861the entire student body joined the confederate army. Later the Lyceum served as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers. The bodies of 250 soldiers lay buried a few feet away from where we picnicked. 

The confederate soldier greets visitors. The Lyceum is behind it but hard to see because of the trees.

And as my feet stood firm on this ground - this battleground - I took in the history as it played out in front of me. My mind tried to process the words and the red-faced adults fueled by anger and bourbon. 

My heart had already pledged allegiance to the flag of Ole Miss, to the concept of this institution, to the nostalgia that transcends words. The adults with me, one of whom had a jewish heritage, explained to me that an African American cheerleader had refused to carry the confederate flag. 

Yesterday I went to the movies with my two younger sons and my husband. As our Honda traveled through Franklin, Tennessee (yet another historic battlefield); we explained racism to them. Then we watched it on the big screen as “42” chronicled the legend of Jackie Robinson. For most of the movie a lump lodged in my throat. Finally tears slid down my face as Jackie lost it after yet another barrage of insults accompanied his turn at bat. 

In one scene a 10 year old boy watches the game with his father. His big eyes reflect the bewilderment of the rage around him. This poignantly portrays the birth of racism in a soul. The boy begins to copy the adults and scream out to Jackie. Then he watches as his hero, Pee Wee Reese, walks over to first base and puts his arm around Jackie. Which adult will the boy emulate as he matures? 

Racism leaves its marks on lives. The mark is as deadly as the bloodstains on the floor of the Lyceum. As I write these words, I feel scared. Putting my thoughts and my experiences of racism on paper feels like handling explosives. Shame still laces through me. What could a 46-year-old white woman have to say about racism?

A few weeks ago I read the thoughts of an African American pastor on his blog. He wrote about the recent uproar at Ole Miss. The Colonel Rebel retired and the Black Bear took his place on the sideline. My own reaction to this event belies the work still to be done in my heart. When I read about the shift, I hung my head low. A black bear. Really? 

Pastor Loritts called me out. He wrote:

Down the street from Memphis sits Ole Miss. Recently, a bit of a ruckus took place there over the issue of their mascot, and the Rebel Flag. In the middle of the “storm” I happened to be playing golf with an alumnus of the school, who’s a raving fan who also happens to be white. Dumbfounded he exhaled, “I don’t see what the big deal is, it’s just a name, a flag.” It’s no surprise that he doesn’t have any meaningful relationships with the other either. He just sees things from his side of the tracks, and has never bothered to get into the skin of the Other. If he did, he would see the big deal, because to the descendants of slaves that flag incites anger and hurt.

The mark of racism on my life looks like loneliness. I don’t have friends who are African American. My church is mostly vanilla. The elementary and middle schools my children attend are not diverse. And my life is less because of this. I want more.

I would like to get into the skin of the other. Ole Miss still holds my allegiance. My hope is that we can grow and become people willing to get into the skin of the other. 


ordinary days

What if our days are strung together by memories hanging side by side to make a life?

This past weekend we traveled to Knoxville for a soccer tournament for Joshua. His good buddy F traveled with us. This could have been just another weekend of soccer away from home. 

Matthew lives there and attends University of Tennessee. He is finishing up his junior year. My garage is full of coffee tables and dishes he will need soon enough. This average weekend brightened considerably by his presence with us.

On Sunday after both Joshua’s and F’s teams lost, we veered off our path to show F Neyland Stadium in the heart of UT’s campus. In the south football is a religion. Neyland is the third largest stadium in the country. Now F is a die-hard Tarheels fan. We secretly committed to changing his loyalty. Who could resist this kind of devotion to football?

As we neared the stadium, we realized the gates were not locked. Quickly we ducked in. The sun shone brightly from a bluebird sky and warmed us as we sat in awe. Tennessee weather could not decide if spring or winter ruled the day. We reminisced football games of the past and how the McMurrays have already left a mark on Neyland Stadium.

At the top, we peered over the orange (what other color is there?) bars to see the ground far below. Joshua commented how easy it would be to climb those orange bars and take out on the larger steel beams. If I was Catholic, I would have crossed myself at the thought. 

“Please!” I begged, “y’all don’t ever do that.” 

They looked at me like I was crazy. I reminded them that just last summer one of them had gotten out on a roof and jumped from balcony to window. Raising boys is not for the faint of heart. 

Someone lamented that if we only had some paper we could fly paper airplanes off the top. Another spotted orange flyers from the Orange and White game of the day before. We grabbed up eight or so pages and went to folding. 

Matthew’s design - simple yet sophisticated - won the best air time. The jets dove straight down for the concrete sidewalk. One stealth design flew all the way over to the parallel roof. 

As I reflected on the weekend, this moment stood out for me. Releasing those paper flying machines off Neyland held hope and play. It was an unexpected adventure built by togetherness and creativity. 

I think it is a moment we will store in the scrapbook of our hearts. A moment strung next to the others making life.


transparent: 40 words in 40 days

Living a transparent life can be a juggle. 

I firmly believe that to live a life in Christ and to mature, one must be transparent. At the same time, revealing the deep places of the soul to a fool can prove to be unwise. Maturity looks like learning to discern those who are safe and trustworthy to bear the burdens of our soul.

We all approach life with a grid. And usually our responses are more about the grid than the things or circumstances causing our reactions. That means that we may react in a way incongruent with reality. We may misjudge people. We may judge circumstances incorrectly. 

Here is a real-life example. Recently as Sam (1st grade) walked out the door, I said, “We forgot to study your 5s!” He is learning to add. He was somewhat stuck on the 5 cards. He responded that his test would be that day. 

At that moment, he had to walk out the door to make the bus. We could not study. He failed that test, by the way. But when he walked out, Matt and I began a discussion that escalated us to “Sam may have to go to summer school.” That actually came out of one of our mouths. Names will not be mentioned to protect the innocent or crazy. The other one said, “He’s in first grade.” Oh, back to reality.

Our context escalated us and we had to work together to land back on terra firma. 

As we strive to live transparently with one another, we confessed areas where our grid had gotten warped. I talked to a few friends that day about it. And we scheduled a conference with Sam’s teacher for a reality check. 

Sam has since moved on to the 6s. And we are still checking in with our grid. We desire to live congruent lives that are transparent. 


spiritual fit

Sam sat still in the backseat eyes creased in mock concentration, bottom lip barely protruding. Usually he talks incessantly on the way to church asking questions and fighting with his brother. A long weekend of spelling review had sucked the energy from my fun-loving seven-year-old boy. 

You see Sam had bombed his spelling test. Sam’s teacher sent me an e-mail about it. Could we work on them over the weekend, she asked. She would re-test on Monday. 

Work we did. Several times a day we went through the nine words that gave Sam fits. More than one time-out kept us somewhat civil. Time-outs work for parents too. 

As I sat in church that morning, I knew I was in for some correction when Dr. Easley started off with this question: When did it become so easy to sin? The following 29 minutes exhorted me to repentance. Supernaturally, my spirit began to see how I had been throwing my own version of a fit not unlike Sam’s. 

What is the answer to a fit? To petulance? Rebellion? Is it to soften to the Good Hands attempting to mold you? I could see clearly that Sam’s resistance to review with me kept him from learning. I could not see as easily how my own rigidity and pride kept me from learning what God kept patiently putting before me. 

Sam aced his test on Monday. As I have slumped into the Everlasting Arms, God has mercifully received my spirit. The Potter’s Hands are always molding for my good, and they feel a lot more friendly when I soften to His love. 


22 years of marriage

The sunrise on our twenty-second anniversary of marriage took my breath away and sent me running outside with my camera (iPhone 5) in the twenty-eight-degree weather.  The scene unfolding before me reminded me of how God holds the universe together by his grace. It also reminds me how He has held us together for twenty-two years.

We have spent two days at a refuge spelunking the past year and eyeing the future with optimism and hope. Each year (almost) we have made it a priority to get away for our anniversary. This time affords us the opportunity to gather the blessings of the past year and to set some goals for the next one. After a few years this practice became habit and now it has become second nature.

We picked a verse for the next year. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” 

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