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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
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City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
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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)


great things

A week ago God gave me a vision of what He has done for me. During worship, the glimpse came in less than an instant. My throat closed. My eyes teared. My hands went up. My spirit gave thanks.

Our family had entered our church just as the worship started. Who knows why in this instant God graced me with gratitude! And words cannot contain what that instant was like or what it did in the realms of eternity but I testify to it today.

In the instant of gratitude, I remembered.

I remembered a pregnant unmarried 23-year-old woman. Her nurse practitioner, Anne Moore, had just told her she was pregnant. She knew her life would never be the same. But Grace lead her to a Crisis Pregnancy Center. And they reminded her who her Jesus was and how He would care for her. 

That woman was me. 

Twenty years later with hands raised, I looked around the church at the two little boys with me and remembered and gave thanks for Matthew, 20, at UT. Matthew means “gift from God.” He is all of that. Grateful is a small word to describe a swelling heart underneath the flood of grace for his life.

I remembered a marriage that began with such a small seed of hope... mustard-seed hope. Two children, really, stood before their pastor, Scotty Smith, and pledged some heavy vows - vows they barely understood let alone had the gumption to actually accomplish. But Grace has chosen to give us twenty years together, three beautiful biological children, four Honduran sons and countless other “adopted” children. Jessi. Jason. Joey. Margaret. Anna. Erin. Sean. Robert. Jordyn. And many others.

I remembered a broken family returning from four years on the mission field devastated by the separation from the four boys who lived with us as sons and brothers. The loss threatened to shake our faith and take us under an emotional tsunami. But Grace unraveled us and wove us together again. 

My heart enlarged to receive God’s Spirit in gratitude. And all of that was BEFORE the the sermon! 

Lloyd told us the story of the demoniac in Luke 8:26-39. At the end of the passage is a heart-rending scene. After Jesus cast out the “legion” of demons into pigs, all of the people in the region were overcome with fear and asked Jesus to leave them. The freed man begs Jesus to let him go with Him. But Jesus sent him away saying, “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.”

They handed us all cards on which to write what great things God has done for us. This is my card... this blog posts describes in part what all God has done. It is part of a stream of grace. This stream is what Jesus has done for me that I could not do for myself. He reached in to a dead spirit and said, “LIVE!”

So often I let the chaos of life or the results of my sin or the consequences of the fall, suck the life from me. I am overcome with fear and often I ask Jesus to leave me. I am learning to let Jesus into those moments and not rage out against my perceived unfairness of life. He reigns in the chaos of this world.

I receive my marching orders: Go and describe what great things God has done for you.

I PROCLAIM and DESCRIBE to you a God who is at work... a Great God who is never surprised by sin or chaos or the fall. He loves you. Don’t in fear ask Him to leave.


letting go

On Sam’s first day of kindergarten, I joined the throng of parents trudging down the hall to the room where our babies would spend roughly 1,200 hours over the next ten months.

When the children stood for the pledge of allegiance, the teacher shooed the parents from the room. As you can imagine, I was the last parent out of the room. Literally walking backwards, I observed Sam standing at attention, hand over heart just like I taught him. One red-nosed little girl snuffed out large sobs. Some children just sat at their tables staring into oblivion. Some still worked on the sticker game the teacher had put out. The teacher held a small American flag in one hand and patted the sniffling girl with the other.

I’ll never forget the sea of faces as I turned around my back towards the kindergarteners. With a smorgasbord of expressions, parents gathered around the open door stuck to the floor looking for one last glimpse of their babies. Sadness. Horror. Triumph. Fear. Anticipation. Brows furrowed, eyes spilling over each parent gazed back at the blur of the past and into a future of unknown.

Because I have a 20 year old, I know a little about what this future holds: losing teeth, bad haircuts, break-outs and break-ups, first dates, proms, senior trips, college visits, career choices. This moment frozen in time held both the past and the future.

My friend, Hillary, hugged me and my tears spilled over.

I had cried off and on all morning. Earlier as I sat on the patio with Bible and coffee, Sam found me just like he always does. He came over with sleep still on his breath and the lovee still right up at his nose. He climbed up on my lap and said, “Mommy, I’m scared.” 

“What are you afraid of?” I asked.

“I am scared to go to kindergarten,” he said with the sage wisdom of an 80 year old.

“I know,” I said as I cuddled him up as close as I could. “Let’s get some chocolate milk.” 

I settled him in on the sofa and headed to the kitchen. As I stirred the chocolate into the milk, I let the sobs come. Soft. Quiet. Aware that I needed to show Sam a strong front, I cried quickly in the other room. 

Last year we launched Matthew, my oldest son, to college. Now this launching of a different variety continues the stretching of my mother-womb. For nine months, mothers nourish and shelter their babies. Then, starting with birth, we have to let them go. 

So much of parenting is negotiating endings, the unceasing process of disconnecting the strings that tie our children to us, preparing them for a life on their own. That has always been the ache and beauty of it for me – taking the deep breath and trusting somehow in the goodness of life, in God, in something beyond myself. – Sue Monk Kidd


11 years ago today

Joshua means Jesus saves. My Joshua turns 11 today. He lives life 110 miles per hour and gives 110% to everything he does. The last eleven years have been far richer with him in my life! 

Eleven years ago today, I slept in an uncomfortable bed at Baptist Hospital. Matt had missed the Brickyard, some NASCAR race, so that he wouldn’t miss the birth of his son. He was a little mopey about it and I did not understand that altogether. But boy I bet he was glad when little Joshua decided a little past midnight to make his way into the world. 

Joshua sat breach in my womb so a C-section had to be performed. Dr. Growden, a seasoned surgeon and OB/GYN, lifted Joshua out of me at about 3:00 in the morning. As he lifted the baby up, Joshua grabbed a hold of a blue surgical rag. All the way, up up up, he grasped it. Dr. Growden proclaimed, “I have never seen anything like that in all my years!” 

That dogged determination still marks Joshua on the soccer field, in the swimming pool, at Scrabble. He is a competitor. Yet, he is tender. Because he is eleven, I can still say this. He still gives me hugs and while he is beginning to prefer not to give a lot of public affection, he is a snuggle bug in private. 

God uses my children to wrap my story in on itself and to bring healing to parts I did not even know were broken. Recently while I spoke with a friend of a de-railing life event, I asked her what she wanted for her daughter in the area she was struggling. Sometimes, I said, we know better what we hope for for our children than for ourselves. 

In my life, God has used my hopes for Joshua to remind me what I myself need. As I have boldly hoped, in the face of odds hoped, God has shown me that to hope for him is to hope for myself. If I cannot trust that God can heal, lead me, how can I hope that He can heal, lead Joshua?

On this, the hallmark of the birth of my son Joshua, I give thanks to the Lord. The following verse was on his baby announcement.


the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

PSALM 118:23





Matt found this little nest in a fern hanging on our front porch. He said he went to water it and two eyes looked back at him. We actually discerned two little birds in the nest. They flew away but left one egg.con-verg-ence: noun \kən-ˈvər-jən(t)s\
: the act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity; especially : coordinated movement of the two eyes so that the image of a single point is formed on corresponding retinal areas

The reason I want convergence in my life is my desire for my life to point to ONE THING. The one egg in the little nest on the masthead of this blog is symbolic of that ONE THING. It is captured in the psalmist’s heart in Psalm 27:

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. verse 4

One way I seek this one thing is to bring all the parts of me to the bountiful table of grace. Early on in my life and walk with Christ, I only allowed the parts of myself that were “together” to come feast hiding those more unattractive, needy parts. The Pharisee in me ruled this table. Through pain and suffering, God has allowed me to become more grace-filled to invite all of me there. Sometimes when I see a particular area of sin or a “me” that I don’t much like, I visually invite that version of me to the table of grace. 

Before you freak out, this is not a Sybil-like experience, but the realization that I am made up of various parts. There is the part of me that is so terrified of snakes that I left a toddler (safe in a pack n play, ok) and ran for my life when one flopped out in front of me.  Matthew (now 20) played while I cleaned up the yard. About 15 yards away, I unwrapped the spigot that had been covered tightly for winter so that it did not freeze. As I unwound the wrapping, a snake fell out of it. No conscious decisions were made, I just fled. I looked back after about 30 seconds and saw my toddler in the pack n play and ran back and grabbed him. Screaming. Flailing. Crying. In that moment, I had to face the facts that given life-threatening situations, I may or may not protect my children first. Scary. True.

So that scared mother who had failed her baby... she has to come to the table of grace. The ugly parts of me that love to gossip. The liar. The manipulator. The smart aleck. The cynic. These parts must partake. In fact, the pharisee must come and eat. 

As these parts converge at the table of grace, I experience wholeness in Christ. 


honoring loss

As the arroz con pollo rounded the table, each person spooned a mouthful of Honduras on their plate. With the taste buds stimulated, our memories came alive. In this way, we honored the fifth anniversary of our return from Honduras on Tuesday, August 2.

We lived in Honduras for a little over four years and over that time four boys lived with us as foster sons: Franklin and Edgar (brothers now 21 and 19), Rodolfo, 12, and Junior, 9. We deeply cherish our experiences there. In fact, this blog exists to honor it and share the hope we have gleaned from it. You can find another post on the fourth anniversary of our return under “remembering honduras” posted August 2, 2010.

And so on the fifth anniversary of our return, dear friends we met while in Honduras shared a delectable Honduran meal to honor the day. Jennifer and Denny dropped in on their way from Austin, TX to Washington DC. They ooohed and ahhed over the chismól, a Honduran relish. I marveled at God’s providence in providing dear friends to accompany us on this important day.

Earlier that morning, overwhelming gratitude had greeted me at 5:00 and I sat with the Lord on our patio and told Him how thankful I was for all He had done. I recounted the people who have walked with us well through loss, grief and finding hope. Some of the ways He has healed me floated across my mind and I opened them like a loaf, gave thanks and ate of the bounty spiritually.  He spoke back to me through His Love Letter with Psalm 21:6-7:

Surely I have granted you with eternal blessings and made you glad with the joy of My Presence. For my daughter trusts in Me, her Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High, she will not be shaken.

As I got ready for bed that night, something in my gut said that this day was incomplete. I did not want it to end. Curious about that, I asked myself some questions. I realized that while most of me felt that gratitude and joy, part of me still held some deep sadness. I had honored the majority but avoided the sorrow. Honoring sadness and sorrow is a conundrum of hard work, discernment and just plain difficulty.

In fact, I would rather iron than sit with my sadness. On the anniversary, I had some quiet time and I could have chosen to attend to the sadness of soul. Instead, I pulled out the iron and caught up on about a year’s worth of ironing. I mean, it was ok and all but really it reveals to me the lengths I will go to in order to avoid feeling sorrow.

Haven’t we already done this, Lord. Haven’t I cried enough tears already? Do I need to be sad again? Is it ok for me to forget the loss, the feelings of desperation? 

Over time I had walled off the sorrow and for the sake of survival, given in to letting it sit behind a shell unattended. To truly honor the day and the preciousness of the loss, I had to knock a little hole in the shell and let the sorrow leak out. 

This morning, I wrote a letter to Junior who will turn nine in October. The youngest of our Honduran boys, he was almost four when we left. Couch it however you will, our leaving inflicted a deep wound to Junior, our other boys and maybe even other people. We as a family have certainly suffered and grieved. Grace and perhaps time will re-frame our sons’ losses and one day I pray they find healing. But the pain in my heart asks, why did we have to leave, especially young Junior? Why isn’t it enough that we want him and he needs parents. I won’t be able to answer those questions today. In fact, understanding is not required for me to trust God. Surrender is imperative. Naming the pride in me that says my plan would be better is compulsory. But understanding is a luxury I won’t have this side of heaven.

Dan Moseley writes, “losing someone significant involves a loss to the body as well. Loss is a physical experience. The body has ways of knowing that seem to ignore the mind and heart... When we spend time telling the story of loss, we are trying to cause the body to come to terms with the loss.”

I am telling this story today in hopes that my body, my spirit, my soul can converge in more healing. I am telling it to honor our time and experience in Honduras. I am telling it to bring glory to the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. Grief or sorrow over the loss will always be with me but perhaps I can avoid self-pity and a plethora of other pitfalls by the telling.

Moseley goes on to say, “It could be said that through remembering we come to ‘full body’ knowing. When we tell of the one we have lost, we are integrating our body, mind, heart, and soul so that all of who we are fully experiences the truth of the loss.” 

I wrote the letter to Junior more as an exercise for my heart and soul. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to give it to him. Writing it honored him as a human being and as a son I had the privilege to mother for a season albeit brief. May God help us as we attempt to walk out His will and love from a place of wholeness and truth.