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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)



Few parents would argue that raising kids changes your life. 

I am student to each one of my sons. The lessons continue unfolding daily. But today I am thinking of Joshua. He is seen pictured above eating breakfast on his 12th birthday. Yes, it's birthday cake.

As I muse what Joshua is teaching me, I can sum it up in one word. 


It’s a $50 word that simply means the ability to endure even thrive. Academics in social work and psychology write 5,000 word papers describing and dissecting what makes one child survive while others seem to whither in the face of hardship. 

At 45 with peri-menopause, joint pain and faltering memory already pressing in on all sides, I don’t feel so resilient. Yet, as I study the topic, I am reminded of how God has used trials to mold me, shape me and change me. 

I learned to believe that because I desire it so earnestly for my children. I am desperate to believe the trials they face will be used for good by God. If I don’t believe that for myself, I cannot truly believe it for them. 

Often it is our hopes for our children that force us to look at our own crushed dreams. And as we give space to grieving those dreams, God moves in and re-frames our traumas. Our children more than any others usher us into the throne room. There we are invited to worship in God’s Presence. It is impossible to remain unaffected. 

“Resilient people do have emotional and psychological scars that they carry from their experience. They indeed struggle, but they keep going, staying engaged with life and continue to function as a part of the world. Resilience is not the ability to escape unharmed. It is the ability to thrive in spite of the odds” Tian Dayton, Ph.D. in Emotional Sobriety

33. 12 years of Joshua

twenty one

Twenty one years ago today in the wee hours of the morning, I gave Matt the elbow and woke him up to fatherhood. This is the part he had been preparing for, the drive to the hospital with me in labor. He ran every red light and drove like Mario Andretti. 

Many hours later our first son entered the world, and our lives changed forever.  

The firsttime I saw his face blazes in my memory. Although breathtaking and beautiful, his color was grayish. His first APGAR score was 2. A score below 3 requires medical attention. The nurses and doctors hovered over him for more time than I liked. By 5 minutes his score raised to 7. Miracle. 

They brought him to me. A bundle of blanket and love. Too quickly Matt took him for the famous walk to the nursery through the waiting room of desperate grandparents and even a great grandmother. 

After they sewed me up, they wheeled me through the nursery so I could see him again.  He was in the NICU and my time with him was limited. They put a hallway a mile long between us. The first time I stood up after the cesarean, I cried. But pain was not to keep me from him and I walked that hall so that I could hold him. 

His first word: ball. His first bike ride. His first loose tooth. His first broken heart. 

When he was ten, we moved to Costa Rica. He fell on a nail at the playground after we had been there only six weeks. The nail stuck in his knee, deep. Someone took us to the hospital recommended to us by the language school we attended. The doctor spoke no English. I spoke no Spanish. He came at Matthew’s knee with a needle. And even though I kept yelling, he did not stop. Body language speaks every time and I got between that crazy doctor and the needle. “You don’t do anything before you tell me what you are doing,” I said to deaf ears.

They call it a Mama Bear for a reason.

Mothers fight. Mothers fight for their children. Mothers fight for their children on their knees.

Today he turns 21. He is a man. He is a man I am proud to know. His heart, his character, his sense of humor: all of this I love.

This morning I woke up before anyone else and sat with silence and a full heart. I remembered. Moments packed in a full life. Pearls strung together on a priceless necklace called motherhood. My heart overflows with gratitude and joy streams from my eyes.


31. 21 years of Matthew


his right hand

Sometimes a word comes in chaos.

The day begins with a last minute decision to paint the foyer. Did I say last minute? We have been back from Honduras almost 6 years. The foyer needed painting before we left. We rented the house while we were gone. Upon our return we bumped up the roofline, doubled the size of the house by finishing the upstairs, renovated the kitchen and put down new hardwood floors.

“We” means Matt. 

But did we paint the foyer? “We” did not. Pencil scribbling, handprints, bumps and cracks line the walls that say welcome to our home. Welcome to our beautiful mess!

Today is the day. I want a deep and edgy blue to welcome folks into our home. Matt said, “too much.” He’d rather use a paint color we have to save bucks. More on Dave Ramsey’s influence in our marriage later. 

We end up concocting a color from near-empty paint cans in the garage. And all my decorator friends are shrieking as they read that sentence. Yes, I texted you for help but, alas, you were not available on a dime - referring to time and money in this instance. 

As I am telling Matthew, our oldest, where the drop cloths are; I am texting my Mom. She is getting a medical test and I am worried about it.

Children are running in and out of the house. Sam is asking me to play the Honey-Bee Game. I’m tripping over the paint tray. Matt is the foreman and teaching in a loud voice about paint etiquette. Paint etiquette? 

We return from swim practice with ribbons. I’m applauding Joshua and Sam for their times when I notice Joshua’s eyebrows are scowling. What’s up? I ask. 

We banter back and forth. He’s got several ribbons and earned points for his team. But not a blue ribbon is in the bunch. Every time I say a positive, he counters with a negative and minimizes his accomplishment. He wanted blue. He is a competitor. I’m a mom. I sense something deeper at work. I don’t want to rob him of his gut-response or his emotions. And I want to teach him self acceptance. He’s pretty hard on himself usually. 

I end up asking him to read Psalm 139. The first time he read it, he says he really didn’t learn anything new. He says, “You want me to read it again?” 

I nod and ask him to ask God what He wants him to know. I’m sitting at the computer doing what I tell my patients not to do. I’m googling associated conditions of this medical test. My anxiety is growing like yeast bread rising inside my chest. 

Joshua comes back to me in a few minutes. His face is soft, countenance changed. "I think it’s right here," he says and with a finger he points to verse 10. “Your right hand shall hold me.” 

Even there Your hand shall lead me. And Your right hand shall hold me.

And the Word goes in and like hands it kneads my heart. I feel the lump of anxiety deflate like so much puffed up dough. Even there. Yes, even there.

I say, “How does that make you feel?”

“Pretty good,” he says. “Like if I’m good enough to sit there in His right hand, well, I’m pretty good.”

Happiness leaks from my eyes. I hold this moment - this moment when God speaks to me from the mouth of a babe. He comes and scoops up my child and holds him. Holds her. Holds me.


zealous play

Celebration is in the air. Graduates are flinging their caps. Schools are shutting their doors. Lifeguards are grabbing their whistles as throngs of kids sprint toward the water.

One moment frozen in time by the above photograph captures my heart. Some dozen boys took the “stage” at the 5th grade picnic and danced with all their might.  One mother approached me and asked how Joshua learned those moves. “He’s outdancing the girls,” she gasped. She pointed out how it would take hours and hours to learn all the steps to Party Rock Anthem. 

Yep. That and YouTube will set you right up.

You also need a little zeal. Little zeal is an oxymoron. These boys had zeal defined as great energy or enthusiasm. Feeding off one another and singing the lyrics (how’d they learn all those words?), they sang and danced with all the vigor of Bieber if not the finesse. 

I watched on the sidelines and listened to the chatter of parents enthralled. We recognized a rare moment caught between childhood and adolescence. A moment unstained by self-consciousness. A moment of children letting all that they are surface and interact with fun and tunes. Unhindered. Transcendent. Inviting.

Something called out to us. Something grabbed at our hearts. Something tugged our inner children to come out and dance and play.

“Play begets greater good. And the fruit of playfulness is always meant to invite others to the generous bounty of the party,” says Dan Allender in How Children Raise Parents.

In our stuffed-shirt, self-important world, we adults forget to play. Thank God our children remind us every so often. My children continue to change me for the better. Perhaps they really are raising me.

“You can’t have children without being transformed. You can’t let them play with your life without becoming an entirely different person, who then proceeds to become another entirely different person as you allow your children to mess with you. Every day that you get up and help your children dress, eat breakfast, and send them off, you enter a realm of prodigal play that is more serious than life itself.” Allender, p. 208.

Later that afternoon as I went about the serious business of exercise, I danced the entire four miles and improved my pace per mile by 1 minute and 30 seconds. My soul stepped on the clouds and my hands would not remain by my sides. Even with cars passing by and lawn-men gawking, my hands lifted skyward in praise of a God so wild as to let children instruct me.


13. Some dozen adolescent boys dancing with all their might and reminding me to play.


mothers love

Today a mother will hold the hand of a son with a traumatic brain injury. She will talk to him and know deep within that he hears her. Her words will call to him and summon hope. Every cell of her being calls him to heal. 

Today a mother of four boys will visit the grave of her own mother. She will sit in the rain and remember. Grief will mark her days. She bears the scars of the fall  - of cells that have rebelled and gone their own way. 

Today a mother prepares for another week of chemo. She checks the freezer for the meals brought by friends. Her daughter sits in her lap and she brushes the braids from her hair. 

Today a mother will dial up her son on Skype. Her daughter runs through their front yard and dark curls bounce. She lives in Honduras and the son in Illinois. This is the first Mother’s Day she will not greet her own mother and thank her. 

Today a mother will call her son. For 40 years plus they were separated. She chose life. She chose another family to raise him. They found each other. 

Today a mother will cry into her pillow. Her daughter is lost. Will she come home? 

Today as I thought about mothers - myself, my own, my living grandmother and the women who have mothered me - I pondered the failures and the victories. 

These are all true stories of people I know. Mothers fight for their kids. Mothers search until they are found. Mothers sacrifice, clean, cook, love and mold. No one impacted my story like my mother. No one continues to call me up to a higher standard of love than my own children. 

Today I thought of my children as arrows. Weapons in a spiritual war. I asked God for the strength to love them well and to launch them. 

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