Sixth Grade

My friends, please pray for me. I’m teaching sixth grade this year. You may think that as I say this, I’m sighing, shaking my head and casting desperate eyes to the heavens, and can you blame me? Sixth grade: ten months of hormonal drama; reproachful squinty-eyed stares; audible yawns; clogged pores; and body odor, oh the fragrant aroma of 22 adolescents in a small, contained space.

The prayers I most earnestly seek are not for patience or self-restraint (but I’ll let you know when I get the first parental phone call), but that when my class looks at the middle-aged lady standing at the front of the room – the one who let them play games when she substituted last year – that they will see Jesus; that they will know that they are accepted, appreciated and unconditionally loved. I pray that when I am overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of educating future adults for 1/13 of their formative education years, I will remember that my personal Guidance Counselor is the author of all wisdom and knowledge. I pray that I will never cease to be humbled by the fact that this year, to some of them, I will be the third most influential person in their lives, next to their parents, and that I will use that for His glory.

Friends, please pray that I care more for their hearts than their minds; that our class becomes a family; and our classroom – though it may well be windowless – be full of light. Pray that each of us will rejoice in one another’s accomplishments as though they were our own. Pray that we will take delight in learning together (even math) and be grateful for the privilege.

Please pray that I will share the Gospel all year without saying a word; that I will see each and every child through HIS eyes; that I will hurt when they do and recognize their misbehavior as pain. Pray that I am quick to hear, slow to speak and even slower to anger. Pray that (after I have shown them who’s the boss), I will always enter the classroom with a heartfelt smile and never without surrendering the day to my Savior.

“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” Deuteronomy 32:2

Love you more

When I tell my LuLu that I love her, she always answers, “I love you more.” Silly child. What does she know? She’s only nine.

“Just you wait,” I tell her. Wait until, far into maternal age, she prays for a baby only to be crushed every month for what seems like centuries. Wait until that stick finally does turn pink and she falls crazy-mad in love with a blob of cells no bigger than a pomegranate seed. Then, when she holds that scrunchy-faced little baby-love for the first time, she’ll refuse to give her up no matter how many times the nurse says, “Now honey, just let me take her to the nursery awhile.” When that warm bundle nuzzles close in the stillness of a snowy night, just the two of them in all the world, she’ll wonder how it’s possible that she loves her more today than yesterday and that the same will be true tomorrow. Eventually, that precious thing will choose a bottle over her breast and though once she could never have conceived being the nutrition source for another human being, the loss will overwhelm her. It’s already happening, she’ll think, my baby girl is starting to leave me. She’ll choke up over Toyota commercials with college girls and Hallmark ones with brides. She’ll drop her off at pre-school with a poker face, put on her sunglasses, run to her car and sob. Kindergarten will about kill her. Forget about fourth grade, age nine, her childhood half gone, then thirteen barely a quarter left.

“I love you,” she, a mother herself, will say to that daughter, sassy like she was. That darling stinker will jut out her chin and answer, “love you more.” Then, my LuLu will finally understand the inconceivable: that kissing boo-boos and adhering Band-Aids, making turkey sandwiches and sorting smelly socks, chauffeuring about town with an achy back and cheering from the stands with an even achier back are Miracle Grow for a mother’s love. She’ll know that if the universe were a vessel, it would be too small to contain her love. She will know that when I said, “I love you more,” it was true. And yet it is nothing.

I knew her from conception, but her Father knew her before. I feed her, clothe and teach her, He gives her life. I take her temperature and made her cinnamon toast; He heals her. I live for her; He stretched out His arms and died.

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Withered tree

Across the street stands the most impressive tree on the block, a massive fig buttressed by a trunk of snaked roots each thick as a man’s leg. Its dense canopy of glassy emerald leaves block all but the barest slivers of sunlight. One day, it’s proud owners found a note in their mailbox. “Your tree has an infestation,” the note explained. “Without treatment, it will die.”

The tree didn’t really seem sick. It had shed some leaves, but trees do that. Still, there was no reason to cast off the note without consideration. It could have been penned by an ambitious arborist, but more likely by a person who cares about trees, someone who couldn’t stand to witness the senseless death of such a beautiful one. As it turned out, the tree had fallen prey to a nasty crop of ficus white flies that were quietly defoliating it to death. Thanks to a dose of insecticides and an even heartier dose of fertilizer, a year later, the tree is more lush and alive than ever.

I’ve passed the tree at least once a day since its recovery, but it wasn’t until recently that I was struck by the thought of the neighbor who left the note. Wasn’t that nice of him? Really, though, why wouldn’t he. It took pen, paper and five minutes. I haven’t left any notes. I don’t pay enough attention to the trees. I’m too caught up in my own forest of worries, chores and obligations. It’s time to start writing notes, I think passing the tree one day. Here goes…

Dear friend, you are dying. Your soul has an infestation, a disease called sin. You were born with it; it’s a genetic epidemic designed to kill the entire human race. There is only one cure, it is free and it is abundantly available, but you cannot buy or earn it. It is offered to you as a gift.

I know you. You are thinking, “Glad all that religion stuff is working for her, but it’s not for me.” Am I just the ambitious arborist? As soon as you finish reading this, you will pour yourself a nice cup of tea or glass of wine, maybe fold laundry or take care of a few bills, indulge in a book or something on Netflix. That’s fine. You're probably not the one I’m writing to. Probably, you never worry about the future because you have everything you could ever need or want. In the worst of times, you are calm and hopeful. You have never, nor will you ever, struggle with addictions, anger, anxiety or depression. You have been spared hurt, loneliness or grief. You are incapable of envy, insecurity or resentment. You don’t give guilt the time of day. Your career, your hobbies and your wealth fill you with steadfast freedom, contentment and joy. Your spirituality, your family or your partner overwhelms you with a love that is infinitely forgiving, unconditional and selfless. You don't care what happens after you die and have no need for assurance that it's something good. You are probably the only human on the planet who does not need a Savior.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15: 5-11”


My iPhone freezes up, won’t turn on or off, just keeps blinking at me “slide to unlock.” The Verizon sales person holds down the power and home button simultaneously, and two minutes later I’m on my way with my “good-as-new” phone. I should have known. Re-boot, re-set. It’s always the first line of defense when things don’t work. Computer and printer won’t talk to each other? Power down. Power up. All better. Flat iron won’t heat up? See that red re-set button on the plug? Vacuum on strike? Un-plug. Push red. Start over.

I’m not making resolutions today. I’m just doing a re-boot. Negative thinking? Re-set. Bad habits? Re-boot. Grudges? Power down. January 1, 2015 I am restored to my original factory settings: love, joy and peace. I am returned to my Maker’s purpose in creating me: to love Him, worship Him and make Him known.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” -- 1 Peter 5:10

Happy New Year, y’all. Re-set! Re-boot! Re-store!!

Jesus Heals

One minute she was singing and dancing, waving her hands in the air, the next she was in tears. I’m used to that behavior, between the teen I live with and her peri-menopausal mother, except Camille was five, a kindergartner in the Sunday school class where Keith and I were substituting. A hug didn’t help the invisible boo-boo on her tiny pinky finger, but I was sure a Band-Aid would. Down the hall we went, to the teacher’s break area where I opened a dozen cabinets and drawers, turning up all kinds of consolation prizes: hot cocoa, Goldfish, glow sticks, donut holes, juice boxes. I offered them all, but Camille just shook her head and sniffled.

I opened the same cabinet three times before a big bag of gold crosses caught my attention. “Oh, Camille, look,” I held out one of the tiny crosses. “This is so much better than a Band-Aid.” Silly me. How often do I do that? Try to stick a Band-Aid on something instead of turning it over to God.

I pressed the small cross into her palm, took her on my knee and prayed. “Dear Jesus, thank you for suffering on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to. Forgive us for trying to fix things all by ourselves. Help us to remember to ask for your help in every situation and to know that you never leave us, especially when we are hurt. Please take away the pain in Camille’s finger. Amen.”

Boo-boo all better!

your story

Back in the day before blogs, when the only place a writer could find an audience for her musings was in black and white, I was determined to have my own column. I was young and without much of a story of my own, but I convinced an editor I could open the phone book to any page, chose a name at random and convince that person to tell me their story. Imagine, you answer the phone and a stranger says, “I’d like to feature you in my column for the Tarrytown News!” Do you say: A) Who gave you my number? B) Why me? C) Will my photo run with the story? Or D) I was wondering when you’d call?!

Very few folks ever said, “no thanks,” but to my even greater surprise, after the column had run a few months, some actually were hoping they’d get the call. It was a valuable lesson - one I try to emphasize with my girls more than reading, writing and ‘rithmetic: Everyone has a story. Most people would love to share theirs…if only someone would ask.

If you ask the mom you’re chatting with during your daughter’s volley ball game (causing you to miss all three of your daughter’s points) if she loves teaching, she’ll tell you there’s no joy in it for her anymore, that she longs to be home with her own little children. The pretty freckled young woman doing your hair at Supercuts? She’ll be shy at first, but it won’t take long before she tells you she’s a recent widow who’s just moved to town from across the country with three small kids. The perfectly fit blonde who roller-skates like a rock-star at a home-school outing? The one you figure for a wealthy housewife? She’ll tell you that she and her husband had it all, lost it all and now live in a trailer with their two kids. She’ll tell you it was the best thing that could have happened to their marriage – that they moved across the country, started a business, have rebuilt their finances and are about to buy a beautiful new home.

If you have the time to hang around before dashing off to pick up the kids, the cashier at Staples will tell you that she moved to the U.S. from Peru, a few dollars in her pocket and not knowing a soul. She’ll tell you that she landed on the personal staff for one of the founders of AOL and lived in his Miami mansion. As an afterthought, she’ll tell you that before she left Peru, she studied investigative journalism. If you’re not in too much of a hurry, you’ll remember that a woman named Gina whom you’ve met at church a few times was an investigative reporter and is now a private investigator. The cashier, named Jeanet, will light up and say she’s always dreamed of being a PI. You will track down Gina’s phone number, ask if Jeanet might call to learn more about the life of a PI to which Gina will reply, “Yes, I really want to talk to her! I am working on an investigation and need someone who speaks Spanish.”

You don’t yet know how that story ends, but in the meantime, you’re gathering up more. Some will become part of your permanent collection; others will have just the moral you need in that moment. All of them will bless you and make you richer for having taken the time to listen (even if it makes you late!)

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19


Who’d of thought a girl like me would get mixed up in…network marketing? And if that weren't bad enough, it's an anti-aging cream, like how vain am I? But, hey, I love the product, it’s fun to sell, the company is on fire and I want a new front door, landscaping and built-in bookcases (just as soon as I repair the cook top, the Dyson, the pendant light and power wash the roof.) The best thing is, I’m learning a lot about life from network marketing, especially fishing!

“Come follow me, Jesus said. “And I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

I don’t know about you, but I find that just a little intimidating. Convince people to become Jesus freaks like me? Won’t that offend them? Push them away? Make them duck around the corner when they see me coming? Fishing, like network marketing, doesn’t have to be hard, if you understand and employ these basic strategies and principles:

1) Cast a wide net. Don’t set your sights on one big fish. While you’re wrestling with all your might to reel in that great big shiny one who’s twisting, writhing and resisting your every move, an entire school of voracious little ones is slipping past.

2) Don’t limit yourself to a small pond. Your entire world is an ocean teeming with hungry fish. They are everywhere: the hair salon, Starbucks, the grocery store, Jiffy Lube, Staples, the Thrift shop. Start by saying “Hello little fish. What’s your story?” and soon you’ll know whether or not that particular fish has an appetite.

3) Your job isn’t to catch anything. Your job is simply to be fascinated by the fish, to learn their greatest hurts, needs and dreams. Your job is to woo the fish - beautiful creatures that they are – and to love them.

4) Don’t take rejection personally. Some fish just aren’t hungry…yet (it can take up to eight exposures to your bait before hunger is stimulated.) Others are hurt and afraid. They’re not rejecting you – it’s your Boss they don’t trust.

5) Follow up is everything. Take notes, i.e. “Clown fish is a yoga instructor, Snapper fish is having surgery. Rainbow trout just moved to town and doesn’t know anyone. Sunfish hates leaving her kids to go to work. Drop them a note, give them a phone call, drive them to the doctor, invite them for coffee. Don’t try to catch them. (see #s 3 & 4)

6) Don’t worry about stolen bait. Sometimes a fish will appear hungry. It will dart around your bait. It may pause to give it a second look or even spend a great deal of time in careful consideration before it nibbles. It may even steal the bait and escape, only to land on someone else’s hook. Do not be concerned. There are other fish out there whose appetite has been whet by another fisherman that will eventually gobble up your bait, hook, line and sinker.

7) Tell the world you’re a fisherman. Don’t be shy about it. Wear t-shirts. Plaster bumper stickers on your car. Hand out cards. Host parties. Share your joy and delight at being a fisherman. Boast about the eternal job benefits. When a fish gets tired of the relentless pursuit by hungry sharks, she’ll know where to find a safety net.


Last year, I figured out life with a fish bowl and a bunch of rocks. You know the analogy: The fish bowl equals your life; the sand, stones and pebbles stand for your priorities. Put your priorities first – faith, family, pursuit of health and happiness– and the rest fits. Try it the other way around, and you end up with a great big rock tottering on top of your bowl.

Cliché I know, still, you’d have thought I invented it. Oh, this was going to change my middle-aged life! No more glorious Saturdays wasted on pebbles. Let the inside of the linen closet forever remain the leaning tower. Why make scratch when mix or frozen would do? There were adventures to be had, missions to be undertaken, friendships to be contrived.

I determined my girls would not be forty-something before they learned the rock lesson. They would understand now and remember always: size matters; don’t sweat the small stuff. I ran out and bought a fish bowl, brought a pail of sand from the beach, took some of the neighbor’s landscaping rocks in various sizes. A movie would be made. We’d be a YouTube sensation.

The girls labeled our rocks. “God,” they wrote on the biggest, “Family” next and “Friends” third. Then came “education,” “fitness” and “fun.” The pebbles and sand were things like laundry, cooking, cleaning, TV and electronics. We spent the morning with my iPhone shooting really bad video of a fish bowl, rocks and a pair of hands (mine at first until I saw my crone claws on video.) This, I vowed, would be the most important home school lesson I’d ever teach.

Except I lied. Not to the girls, but to myself. I lied about the size of my rocks. I wanted to believe God was the biggest, but I confused studying my Bible, singing in the choir and attending church with knowing God. Awakening religiously before dawn to work out, I worshipped the temple, not the Savior who dwells there, returning home to read my daily devotional in the remaining moments before the kids got up. Sure, I prayed throughout the day, little pebbles of prayer that fit in here and there, wherever I had a spare moment. Then one day, it struck me smack in the middle of my dollar store reading glasses – Jesus spent hours a day in prayer. Not ten minutes in the morning. Not a thought throughout the day. Hours upon hours. If HE needed to pray that much, how in the world could my snatches of supplication here and there ever be enough?

The next morning, I woke at five, and, instead of sneakers put on my robe and slippers. I turned on the Keurig and had a cup with my best friend, Jesus. I praised, confessed, thanked and told Him everything that was on my heart (including my building anxiety over not getting in my morning workout.) Then, for the first time, it occurred to me that never once in my snippets of prayer had I asked what was on His heart. So I did. There were no trumpets, no megaphone, no audible voice, but after a while, in the deepest corner of my heart, I heard. His spirit overwhelmed me. I filled a note page with names of people, answers to questions, ideas and inspiration that were not of me. The next morning, I woke at 4:30 still it wasn’t early enough. We had so much to talk about. His Spirit was filling all the places I’d tried to fill with so many other things: approval, control, fitness, food, perfection. All my worries and anxiety were gone. For two weeks, I awoke at four with delight, excited to hear what He would say to me. I’ve never felt so joyful or on fire. I was sleeping so much less but had so much more energy than ever. I wanted everyone to know, the answer to world peace was simple: wake up early and pray. I was a Jesus Junkie – I couldn’t get enough!

I wish I could say I were still jumping joyfully out of bed. Four a.m. is back to feeling stupid early, and some days, I just can’t do it. Still, even on my lazy days, I’m out of bed and on my knees (figuratively) way before the rest of my bunch because I have learned that no amount of exercise, caffeine, healthy food, antidepressants, sleep or chocolate can sustain me like alone time with my Savior does. When He truly is my rock, the other pieces don’t just fit, they become a symphony, a life that sings His praise.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7


Last year, I figured out life with a fish bowl and a bunch of rocks. You know the analogy: The fish bowl equals your life; the sand, stones and pebbles stand for your priorities. Put your priorities first – faith, family, pursuit of health and happiness– and the rest fits. Try it the other way around, and you end up with a great big rock tottering on top of your bowl.

Cliché I know, still, you’d have thought I invented it. Oh, this was going to change my middle-aged life! No more glorious Saturdays wasted on pebbles. Let the inside of the linen closet forever remain the leaning tower. Why make scratch when mix or frozen would do? There were adventures to be had, missions to be undertaken, friendships to be contrived.

I determined my girls would not be forty-something before they learned the rock lesson. They would understand now and remember always: size matters; don’t sweat the small stuff. I ran out and bought a fish bowl, brought a pail of sand from the beach, took some of the neighbor’s landscaping rocks in various sizes. A movie would be made. We’d be a YouTube sensation.

The girls labeled our rocks. “God,” they wrote on the biggest, “Family” next and “Friends” third. Then came “education,” “fitness” and “fun.” The pebbles and sand were things like laundry, cooking, cleaning, TV and electronics. We spent the morning with my iPhone shooting really bad video of a fish bowl, rocks and a pair of hands (my at first until I saw my crone claws on video.) This, I vowed, would be the most important home school lesson I’d ever teach.

Except I lied. Not to the girls, but to myself. I lied about the size of my rocks. I wanted to believe God was the biggest, but I confused studying my Bible, singing in the choir and attending church with knowing God. Awakening religiously before dawn to work out, I worshipped the temple, not the Savior who dwells there, returning home to read my daily devotional in the remaining moments before the kids got up. Sure, I prayed throughout the day, little pebbles of prayer that fit in here and there, wherever I had a spare moment. Then one day, it struck me smack in the middle of my dollar store reading glasses – Jesus spent hours a day in prayer. If HE needed to pray that much, how in the world could my snatches of supplication here and there ever be enough?

The next morning, I woke at five, and, instead of sneakers put on my robe and slippers. I turned on the Keurig and had a cup with my best friend, Jesus. I praised confessed, thanked and told Him everything that was on my heart (including my building anxiety over not getting in my morning workout.) Then, for the first time, it occurred to me that never once in my snippets of prayer had I asked what was on His heart. So I did. There were no trumpets, no megaphone, no audible voice, but after a while, in the deepest corner of my heart, I heard. His spirit overwhelmed me. I filled a note page with names of people, answers to questions, ideas and inspiration that were not of me. The next morning, I woke at 4:30 still it wasn’t early enough. We had so much to talk about. His Spirit was filling all the places I’d tried to fill with so many other things: approval, control, fitness, food, perfection. All my worries and anxiety were gone. For two weeks, I awoke at four with delight, excited to hear what He would say to me. I’ve never felt so joyful or on fire. I was sleeping so much less but had so much more energy than ever. I wanted everyone to know, the answer to world peace was simple: wake up early and pray. I was a Jesus Junkie – I couldn’t get enough!

I wish I could say I were still jumping joyfully out of bed. Four a.m. is back to feeling stupid early, and some days, I just can’t do it. Still, even on my lazy days, I’m out of bed and on my knees (figuratively) by 6:30 because I have learned that no amount of exercise, caffeine, healthy food, antidepressants, sleep or chocolate can sustain me like my Savior does. When He truly is my rock, the other pieces don’t just fit, they all make sense.


I don’t stand on street corners with a megaphone or a sign or fling scripture about like confetti or praise Jesus in casual conversation, and I certainly don’t proselytize strangers. Still, when I overheard the gentleman at Starbucks ask the fellow sitting across from him if he’d seen the debate this week, I couldn’t keep quiet.

You might not know there was a major national debate Tuesday night; I wouldn’t either if I weren’t part of a conservative Christian home school group. The debate took place at the Creation Museum between scientist John Nye and creationist Ken Hamm. Where I stand on the issue is not the point of this post (though for the record, if “evolutionists” believe “without God” and “creationists” believe “in six days,” than I’m neither.) This post isn’t about arguing how the universe came to be, and, for that matter, neither is the Bible. Like Scripture though, this post is a personal letter, an invitation to know God and to be loved by Him. This post is all the things I wish I’d said to the gentleman at Starbucks...

Dear Ron,

It was such a pleasure to meet you Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 in Naples. Did you watch the rest of the debate? Do you, like most people, think that John Nye won? I wish we’d had more time to talk. Correct that. I wish I’d talked less and listened more. There are so many things I want to know about you.

Like, Where are you headed from here in that RV of yours? What is it that you love so about travel? Will you and your wife ever settle anywhere permanently? How long ago did you start wandering? Did you walk away from your Lutheran upbringing all at once or was your leaving God a gradual process like my own? Why have you studied so many world religions? Is it that you are hoping one of them will ring true or that they will all eventually lead you home to the one true God?

I wonder, dear Ron, did you lose something precious and dear that made you ask what kind of a God would let you down that way? Or did you have a parent or role model who, with or without words, said, “prove yourself?” I can tell from the short time that we were together that you have done well, a solid education, a rewarding career, a wonderful life of adventure with your wife. A self-made success, I bet. Why would a man like you need God anyway?

Why? Because that is how you were made, how each and every one of us, was made – wonderfully and fearfully – made to need, made to long for, made to crave something greater than ourselves. Acknowledged or not, we all worship something. Our gods are the things we won’t let go of, can’t live without: our wealth and security, control of our lives, our intellect, our pride.

Why did you watch that debate anyway? Were you disappointed that Ken Hamm didn’t come across more powerfully? Do you wish he’d said something that erased every shadow of your doubt? Were you hoping, once and for all, someone would prove that God did create the world and everything in it, so that you, in good conscious, as a rational, educated, intelligent man, could return to the God you once loved? That book, that I told you about, the one whose title you didn’t write down? It’s called, The Case for Christ,by Lee Stroebel. Read it. Read Mere Christianity, by CS Lewis, too. And while you’re at it, give Tim Keller’s The Reason for God," a try. None of them will convince you.

No proof, no facts, no evidence, no eloquent arguments will ever convince anyone that Jesus Christ is the way to eternal paradise. Only the submission of heart and head will do that. Some call it faith, I call it surrender, and it has changed my life. I don’t care about converting you. I simply want everyone whose path ever crosses mine to know the incredible peace, joy and love that is totally free through Christ.

I may not ever see you again, dear Ron, but I know you will read this, and it will not be out of chance or random circumstance. You are reading this because God wants you back. He’s been trying to get your attention for a long time now. Since you discredit the love-letter HE breathed into the hearts and minds of men, He is writing this one to you, personally. He is saying, come back to Me, with all your heart. Don’t let anger or disappointment or pride keep us apart. You are running out of time. All those books you pour through? They don’t have the answers. I am the answer. I Am Who Am. Yahweh. Emmanuel. God with YOU, Dear Ron. Come home.

“The son said to the father, ‘I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his fingers and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15: 21-24

Not me

Talented, you tell me. Gifted you say. I lap up your praise greedy and hungry as a stray cat. I want to print your compliments and post them all over my walls, wear them like a sash, “Miss Good Enough. Miss Worthy of Praise.” You’re too kind. Oh, go on. No wait. It’s time I confess: I am not the author of this blog.

Whatever you read that moved you? It had nothing to do with me. The truth is, I am terrified of writing, but sometimes, I do it anyway. Like running, the best part of writing is being done. Starting is peril. I never have anything to say, just some vague idea that nags until I take laptop in hand and slog my way through a sentence or two. Then, I sit and stare at the screen, type a few more words, get up and rummage the kitchen pantry for inspiration. Oh look, it’s time to make dinner! I try again in a day, a week, maybe more.

If you’re sometimes pleasantly surprised by where these posts end up, I promise you I am even more so. My job is just to type. I wouldn’t write a word if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit. It’s a wonderful mystery that I, on a quiet afternoon with my laptop, have the glory and honor of being overwhelmed by Him. Do not praise me for my words. They do not belong to me. My time, my talent, my body, my mind, my soul, my life – they are all His. Beauty only happens when I give it all back to Him.

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me but how to perform what is good I do not find.” Romans 7:18

polar plunge

I’m not sure if I was wallowing or drowning in my comfort zone, but it was starting to get dangerous. Sitting at the kitchen table in my fury red slippers and penguin pajamas, I watched the drizzle while sipping the cream I’d flavored with a little coffee. It might have even been my second cup, but who was counting?

We were still on holiday break. I’d lingered in bed late, shunned morning exercise and was trolling Pinterest, contemplating what else I might concoct to spike my blood sugar. The triathlon was behind me, and the post holiday pounds upon me. I was so deep into vacation, I needed a crane.

“Jump in the pool,” the voice in my head said. Apparently the voice hadn’t heard a weather report: fifty degrees and drizzling. The voice also seemed unaware that my pool is not heated. To a Floridian, that would be like jumping into Lake Michigan in January. For the next hour or so, the voice persisted. “Jump in!” it would say, and I, pulling my fuzzy robe tighter about my waist, would take another swig of coffee. Finally, when it said, “Jump!” for at least the tenth time, I said, “Oh fine.” My energy level was roughly less than a tree stump. It was either jump in the pool or have another cup of coffee, but what kind of story would that make? I recalled the enthusiasm of a former IKEA colleague in Copenhagen who had tried to convince me to join her in a little after-dinner dunk in the Baltic… in January…nude! “There’s just nothing like it,” she’d gushed, all aglow. “You feel so ALIVE!” She was one of those relentlessly joyful people you wish you could either emulate or smother. In any case, I concluded that jumping in the pool would, at the very least, make me less lethargic and might even help me find the motivation that had flown off a few weeks earlier on Santa’s sleigh.

I drained the coffee mug, considered my non-Danish neighbors and put on a swim suit before I pulled open the steamy slider door and stepped gingerly out onto the pool deck. Palm trees dipped and swayed in the wind and white caps rippled the pool surface. I shivered. My stomach muscles tightened. My jaw clenched. This is insane. I don’t have to do this. I’m not doing this. Why would I do this?

My last thought before hitting the water was, do crazy people know they’re crazy? I think I also shouted a profanity just before going under, and surfaced, stunned and sputtering, the wind knocked straight out of me. Just thinking about it makes me want to curse. If it were you in that pool – which it wasn’t because you haven’t lost your mind – what would you do next? Hit the hot tub or at least a steamy shower, right? Me though, I did what any crazy person would. I dove back in, bursting up through the surface shrieking. I was delirious! I was giddy! I was insanely exhilarated!

For the rest of the dreary day, I wondered how, short of throwing myself into a large body of frigid water, I could recapture that wide-awake-take-on-the-world kind of feeling. I thought about how often I do life clutching my blankie and teddy to my chest, all warm and cozy, refusing to relinquish my comfort. Especially, I realized, when it comes to sharing my love for Christ. I thought of all the times when the first t-shirt I grabbed from the drawer was the “Smile, Jesus Loves You” one…and I put it back. Sure, I’d wear it on a church retreat, but to a gymnastics meet? I thought of all the times I prayed for you before dawn in the comfort of my “prayer chair”… and all the times I didn’t ask if I could hold your hand and pray in your presence. I thought of one of my favorite Francis of Assissi quotes, “Preach the gospel at all times, and, when necessary, use words.” But for as much as I love that saying, it sums up my comfort zone quite plainly. I will drive you to a doctor’s appointment, make a meal for you, text you to say, “I’m thinking of you,” but tell you, face-to-face, that Jesus has saved my life? Share with you that I live in peace and joy every day, knowing with blessed assurance, that I will spend all of eternity in paradise? Why, I might as well jump into the freakin’ Arctic Ocean. Yet, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that I LOVE Ghiradelli fudge brownies, Patron Silver tequila, Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Strout, sunset over the Gulf, the scent of my daughter’s heads and the curve of their eyelashes on their cheeks when they sleep.

In his book, Reflections on the Psalms C.S. Lewis says, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses, but completes enjoyment; it is it’s appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed.”

And so, dear friend, should I be bold enough, next we meet, to share with you the gospel of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, please know that I am not preaching or proselytizing. I am, quite selfishly, making my own joy complete.

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Phillipians 1:20-21


I need a gimmick. Everyone’s got one. Eat nothing but McDonalds for 365 days. Or Starbucks. Or Subway. Do something new every day for a year. Run one full marathon a day. Winnow your possessions down to 50. Read the encyclopedia from A to Z. Follow the Bible to the letter on down to leaving the edges of your beard un-shaven, wearing clothes made only of natural fibers and stoning adulterers.

It’s January 8th. If there’s to be a book deal in 2015, I need to nail down my gimmick now. Talk to a stranger every day? Live in a Yurt? Speak only pig Latin? Shave my head? Give up the Internet? There’s nothing so remarkable about chatting with the cashier at Publix or the nice lady behind me in line. HOAs tend to frown on yurts in the yard. Latin is hard enough to teach speaking English. Head shaving – been there, done that; and to support me in giving up the Internet, I’d have to convince the rest of the world to personally telephone or mail me regarding all matters requiring my attention or attendance.

I know…I’ll give up worry: Woman Gives Up Worry for 365 Days. Blood Pressure Drops. Mood Improves. Relationships Strengthen. Like that would ever sell. Besides, it’s impossible. Worry is what I do. I eat. I sleep. I worry. Plus, it’s way too personal. I’d have to admit all the things I worry about. Like my clothes, my hair and the size of my butt. I’d have to share how much I worry about homeschooling– that I’m constantly afraid I’m not doing enough, not doing it as well as everyone else, that my kids are somehow being short-changed. I’d have to confess that pretty much, no matter what I’m doing, I worry I’m not doing it well or that I should be doing something else. “Wendy” and “Worry” both start with “W,” end in “Y,” and have five letters. Heck, they’re practically the same word.

I’d give up worry if I could, but it’s not like getting rid of an old couch. Just drop off your pack of worries at Goodwill and, hey, get a tax break while you’re at it. If I could just load up on fresh fruit and veggies, cut the carbs, pump some iron and watch all those unsightly worries fall away, I’d be at the gym at the crack of dawn daily. I could take a pill. Oh, um, confession here. I do. (I’m NOT however, going to confess what kind of an obsessively unpleasant person I am without it.)

I wonder though, how much of my anxiety is a shortcoming of my brain chemistry and how much is a sheer act of willfulness, a stubborn refusal to give up control over one single thing. As if I could do a whole lot better with the details of my life than an all-powerful God. I trust Him with my future, but as for right now, I’m worried about the six-weeks of Latin lessons I have to plan for a meeting tomorrow. I’m worried about the math books that haven’t arrived in the mail and how I’m going to manage teaching them when they do. I’m worried about how to squeeze all my responsibilities in to what feels like nowhere near enough time. Worry is what motivates me. If I hadn’t worried my way through college, career, 15 years of marriage and 12 years of motherhood, where would I be right now?

Seriously, I don’t know how NOT to worry. I’m a worry addict. Also known as a “control freak.” In his book, Addiction and Grace, Dr. Gerald May says, “To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace.” When you look at it that way, worry is what saved me.

Until a few years ago, I had no idea I was an anxious person. It was normal to feel as though an elephant were standing on my chest. Now I joke about being motivated by worry, but then it led to a crisis that landed me in a psychiatrist’s office. Diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I conceded that medication might help. One day, about a month or two after I started the pills, I was eating my scrambled eggs when my shoulders fell. Until that moment, I’d had no idea they’d been in a permanently tensed position. A few days later, I woke for the first time with an unclenched jaw. The medication cleared my head and calmed my nerves, yet still I yearned for something I couldn’t name -- something more powerful than pharmaceuticals. I longed for grace.

That was when I got back on the journey with Jesus I’d abandoned in young adult-hood. I wish I could say I’ve been worry-free ever since, but even on my most worrisome days with Jesus, I’m calmer and more content than I was on my best days without Him. Besides, I can’t blame him for not taking my worries. He would if only I’d let them go.

The only way I know how to give up worry doesn’t involve clever gimmicks. Getting rid of a bad habit means replacing it with a good one. It means crowding out the mettlesome words in my head with the wholesome words of Scripture. It means getting on my knees, sharing what’s on my mind with reckless candor, shutting my mouth, opening my heart and letting His grace pour in.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27

lemon loaf

The little boy, about two, climbed into the comfy purple velvet armchair across from me at Starbucks. His name was Johanes, a German-speaking cutie pie with big blue eyes, but it was his lemon loaf that caught my attention. To taste Starbucks lemon loaf is to fall in love with it's melt-in-your-mouth moistness, a zesty slice of sweet and tart topped with a tantalizing glaze. I’ve tried to replicate it, but there’s just nothing that comes close.

Johanes, in his blue cardigan with leather elbow patches, held his slice of lemon loaf with two hands then waved the wax wrapper at his father as to say, Get this distraction out of my way! He turned the lemon loaf over examining both sides then held it to his nose with his pudgy palms, closed his eyes and breathed in deep. At long last, he took a bite, crumbs raining down all over his outstretched legs. He leaned his head back against the chair and chewed. Eventually he took another bite, savoring it just as much as the first. He went on this way for nearly fifteen minutes holding the piece of cake out before him the entire time, covering himself in crumbs from the tip of his nose to his striped toes.

There was nothing else in the room for Johanes- no coffee, no laptop, no cell phone, no book, no pleasant conversation. Just a little boy and his lemon loaf. And when he was full, he took back the wax paper folding and creasing it around the leftover cake as though he were wrapping a present. And I wondered, what would it be like, if I lived my life the way Johanes ate his cake?


My diamond wedding ring was gone, and I didn’t know where to begin. It was Thanksgiving weekend. We’d been at my Uncle’s house and his club. I’d been cleaning my house, pulling boxes down from the attic, wrestling Christmas lights onto the bushes. It could be just about anywhere.

I was going to be a big girl about this. So, I’d lost my diamond. The house could have burned down. I could be sick – terminally – or worse, one of the kids could be. I didn’t figure God would be worried about a shiny rock, so I tried not to think about what was lost, but to thank Him for all that I had.

Half-heartedly, I looked around for the ring, certain it was gone for good. As the weekend wore on, I was vaguely aware of my irritability until finally, I heard myself with someone else’s ears. Who was that wicked woman cursing the Christmas lights and railing on Evie because there weren’t enough glass balls on the tree? Time out! I marched the family to the bedroom where they cuddled around me in prayer:

“Dear God, forgive me for being such a crank. Please help me let go of my ring and remember that it is nothing compared to the riches of Your Kingdom. Please keep me mindful of all those who have nothing. Please fill me with joy in this season of Your coming.”

I apologized to my family for my moodiness. Evie hugged me. “It’s okay to be sad. It’s your wedding ring. It’s supposed to be special to you.” With those words, Evie had given me what I would not give myself: permission to cry. Which I did, full on, snotty, shoulder-shaking, hiccupping sobs. Then, I wiped my eyes and announced it was time for family tree-trimming and hot chocolate (with Peppermint Shnapps for some of us.)

“First, let’s look for your ring for a while,” Keith said. I still didn’t believe we’d find it, though I was somewhat hopeful that eventually, with the help of a metal detector, we might. It seemed most likely it was outside, where I’d spent most of the weekend working on Christmas lights. As we trooped out the front door, the family headed for the bushes, and I kept looking at my scraped knuckles. Without a conscious thought, I started shaking the garland I’d wrapped around a pillar against the front of the house. I’d been shaking it for less than a minute when I realized it wasn’t making that metallic rattle anymore. I looked down and there, at my feet, on top of the landscaping rocks, was my ring. It was Keith’s lucky day. After that, there wasn’t one single thing I wanted for Christmas because I’d just gotten a diamond ring!

It was like the time the girls’ lost their scooters ( I'd been brand new at this prayer thing, but I didn’t know what else to do to calm their hysterics. I didn’t ask God for the return of the scooters. I don’t understand the mind of God, but it’s just never struck me that He’s much concerned over lost stuff, whether it’s a scooter or a diamond. Sad and lost children, on the other hand, that IS His business. So, I prayed for comfort. And, He answered.

“And this is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” 1 John 5: 14-15.

helmet head

I forgot my helmet this morning. It was completely unintentional - I always wear it when I cycle (and from now on, you'll find me wearing it when I Rollerblade, too!) I rounded the corner at the end of my street, and there was Don, tsk tsking and reminding me.

“I’m going right back for it,” I said turning my bike around. It’s not unusual for me to see Don during my morning routine, but I was way off schedule today, at least two hours. That Don! One day, He’s helping me up, the next He’s protecting me from future falls. I guess Don’s just right there when you need him! “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20


My friend was understandably thrilled when her son’s basketball team chose him MVP. “I’m just so glad he got the chance to be a champion. It’s really sad that so many people will never experience that.”

It’s beyond sad. It’s heart-breaking. Most of us will never win the Heisman, an Olympic Gold or even our community Dash for the Dogs. We’ll never know what it feels like to be on the Today Show, Late Night, the cover of People or the Akron Hometowner. We won’t win Oscars, Grammys, Nobels, Golden Apples or Mother-of-the-Year. We won’t be voted President of the United States, Chairman of the Board or HOA president (thank heavens!)

The tragedy is this notion we have that champion means first. Take this from the girl who was always last. Last to be chosen when teams were picked in elementary school P.E. Last in every single hurdle and relay race she ever ran that one year – who knows why – this slow poke went out for high school track. Last person in the world who ever thought she could ride her bike 150 miles or run a marathon or do a triathlon.

Yet, when I crossed the finish line Saturday at the Key West Tri, a few hundred places behind the “champion,” I couldn’t have felt better if I’d taken home the title myself. The victory was in doing something I’d never believed I could. There were 1,000 participants in the race and exactly that many champions. What a delight and privilege it was to be among them, the overweight woman who crossed the finish line sobbing tears of joy; the three girlfriends who crossed laughing arm-in-arm; the ten-year-old who kept pace with her dad the entire way, champions every one.

The truth is, everyone can be a champion, no sweat required. Just stick out your hand to Christ. Sometimes His victory happens miraculously – a sudden windfall in the face of debt, or a revised diagnosis. Sometimes His victory is won slowly – a gradual process of transformation, faith winning over doubt, triumph over addiction, forgiveness overcoming anger, peace transcending pain. And sometimes, to our devastation and bewilderment, victory is delayed until His kingdom, a 36-year-old mother with brain cancer called home to be victorious in His arms.

Every day that I run this race called life, I feel it drawing me closer, His promise of eternal victory. What joy, what triumph, knowing that in Christ, we are all champions. “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 1 Corinthians 15:57.

*Dedicated to my old Uncle Baldie whom I love dearly even though he’s number two, and who inspires me to keep on running the good race!


There I sat in the middle of the road, a tiny bit scraped and a whole lot stunned and shaken. One second, I’d been cruising along on my Rollerblades singing out loud, the next I was lying on the pavement.

My first skates as a little kid were the adjustable kind that went over your sneakers. As an adult, I graduated to cool with a pair of Rollerblades. Hard black plastic, sturdy and reliable, they’d taken me many miles along the Chicago lakefront with my best friend Michelle hoping we might meet a man with a boat (we eventually did but that’s a whole different story!) They’d taken me from Chicago to New York to Philly to Florida until last fall, disintegrating when I got caught out in the rain, and were replaced with a fancy white and purple pair. In all that time and all those miles, I’d never once hit the ground.

“I think I’m okay,” I called out to the runner I’d passed just moments earlier. “I hit that,” I said pointing. He was puzzled for a second, then bending down, he saw it, a white stone not much bigger than my thumbnail. He picked it up and threw it out of the road.

“Could you please get every stone off the road?” I asked. “No, but I can help you up,” he said offering me an arm. I’d probably passed him at least a half-dozen times in the last few weeks determinedly, pumping his arms and run-walking the loop. Every time, I would call out something like, “Looking good!” or “Keep up the good work!” Never did I imagine he’d be picking ME up off the ground!

We introduced ourselves as he helped me up. “I don’t mean to sound like an old man,” Don said, “but you should be wearing a helmet.”

“And elbow and kneepads,” I agreed. Don told me how he’d fallen a few times running and on his bike, “but don’t tell my wife.” Luckily, it was a cool morning and I had been wearing long pants and long sleeves. I came out of it with nothing but a tiny scrape at my elbow. Even the next day, my body was remarkably without bruises or a trace of soreness. It was my thoughts that were a little scuffed up.

It worried me that one tiny stone could bring me down so fast, without warning. Acorns, sticks, cracks in the road – hidden peril all over the place. What if I’d fallen on my head? Or broken a bone? So much for the triathlon I’m attempting this weekend. Speaking of, what if a stone got under my bike tire then – have you seen how skinny those tires are? I pictured myself at the bottom of a ten-bike pile up. For more than twenty years, I’d cruised along without fear of falling. Now, suddenly, endless possibilities of catastrophe taunted me.

After Don helped me up, I did another lap around the circle. “Got back on the horse!” I called when I passed him again on the other side. But I was going more slowly and looking down a lot more than usual.

Life is like that. One minute you’re cruising along. The next, you’ve lost your job or a loved one or gotten news that brings you to your knees. You’ll never know how many pebbles just narrowly missed your wheel. But for the one you hit, Don will be there to help you up. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1


So many images stand out in my memory of my cousin Jeff’s home – the quiet beauty, the simplicity, the meaning of every single object from a bowl to the hand-built staircase – but what stands out most is the note by the front door. On a dry erase board one might use for notes like, Went for a run, take meatloaf out at 5or Return Julie’s cookie sheet, someone, probably Jeff, had written, “Always be finishing something.”

I suppose the image is so vivid to me because I have such a hard time finishing anything: a hand-knit sweater – body, collar and one sleeve; a half-dozen short stories and novels in various stages on old floppy disks and computers; One Hundred Days of Gratitude halted at 97. “What happened?” asked a friend. “I was all set to shoot off flares and fireworks.”

“Oh, I just quit numbering them,” I said, which is true. Everything I’ve posted here sice then has been inspired entirely by a grateful heart. But I did give up on One Hundred Days of Gratitude 97 percent of the way through. It’s only recently though, that I’ve come to understand why. You can’t be grateful for the month of November or for one hundred days or for 365 days and then just quit. Or at least you shouldn’t. That would be like exercising for a month or a hundred days or a year and then saying, “Phew, did that! Done!” Gratitude is like exercise. It’s something you have to do day after day for the rest of your life, whether you want to or not. It only makes you strong if you keep at it.

The thought of numbering my posts from now until, well, the end, was overwhelming, so I just quit numbering. Maybe I was afraid I’d run out of new things to be grateful for. There’s an awful lot I’m grateful for every single day, but how many times can I write about them? But, after spending time with my friend Jennifer (, I realized I’ve only scratched the surface. Things I consider necessities are to her luxuries. Little things, like:

98. Toilet paper
99. Jeans
100. Light bulbs
101. Sneakers
102. Clean sheets
103. Underwear
104. Haircuts
105. Curtains
106. Pajamas
107. Lipstick

And so, I will carry on (without the numbers!) “Be joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Dear God, strengthen me through daily gratitude and sustain my grateful heart from now to Your Kingdom.


          If you read my posts regularly – back when I had regular posts – you may recall Jennifer, the woman my pastor tricked me into visiting in the hospital about a year ago Since then, we’ve thrown a bunch of money in her direction – rent, groceries, medical bills. We’ve provided transportation. We’ve cared for her kids. We’ve offered our sage counsel in parenting, health and financial matters. Some might say we’ve done a lot, but the truth is, we haven’t done anything that really matters.

Any kind and decent person with the means you have would do what you have done, Jesus would say. Charity. A disciple of mine would love Jennifer as a friend.

Friends spend time in one another’s homes. They have coffee or lunch (unless they’re home school moms) They commiserate over their kids (especially if they’re home school moms). They make one another laugh over silly texts. They share recipes, clothes and make-up advice. They know one another’s stories. They laugh together, cry together and encourage one another out of love, not obligation.

Friday Jennifer and I had coffee. The whole time, she called me “Miss Wendy” as though she were the child and I the grown up or her master. And I realized that while my charity may have put food on the table and kept a roof over her head, it hasn’t helped her to hold her head any higher. I might as well have just handed her a bag of groceries and said, “take these because you’re not worth my time.”

A lot of good gets done in the world by writing checks. But as a Christian, I am called to do more. I am called to give of myself not just my abundance. I am called to love profoundly, unconditionally and indiscriminately. I am called to love in a way I never could without a Savior who gave His life for mine.

as if

I’ve been busy. As if you haven’t. As if you’ve been waiting, wondering when in the world Wendy would post something witty and profound. If only I weren’t so lazy, I would dictate thoughts for my blog while carting kids around town. I would type a paragraph or two between the word problems and declensions. I would scribble down a few lines between dreaming up drills for my Wednesday morning class of energetic eight-year-olds (mostly boys who bewilder and overwhelm me.)

As if anyone who had their mind somewhere else half the time should be in charge of a child’s education. That’s how I did home school the first year, always awaiting the babysitter’s arrival so I could bolt out the door for a few hours at Starbucks with my laptop and my imaginary friends. As if whatever I wrote could possibly be more important that what I might teach, sitting eye-to-eye with my girls. As if anyone would care what I had to say five minutes later, let alone five, fifteen or fifty years. As if my time, my talents, my life are mine to do with as I chose.

I’ve never been good at finishing what I …. Oh, look at that pretty butterfly! “One Hundred Days of Gratitude” should have been called something like, “Grateful until the Next Thing.” But there is one thing I will finish stronger than I began. God willing, I will home school all the way to Pomp and Circumstance. I will teach my girls as if it might be the one thing I ever do on this earth that will last long after I am gone; as if it had eternal Kingdom implications; as if the time I spend sitting next to them at the kitchen table really matters.


Today, I'm joining this young man's mission and pray you will too...


It began, in the way that these things do, as a harmless little flirtation. Before long, a glance turned to a look turned to a need until I had to have you first thing in the morning, before I turned out the light and every chance in between. You occupy my every thought – well, at least the ones not occupied by the music blasting while I run, shower and drive; the Today Show blaring over breakfast; the local news at four, five and six droning while I chop, blend and sauté dinner.

But you, you are with me when I am blow-drying my hair, dictating a spelling test, in line at the produce counter or a red light. With one touch of that little white “F” on my phone, I am entertained by your all-you-can-eat shrimp lunch, and your passion for Phyllis Diller, and your Disney princess sing-along and your righteous outrage at what’s been done to James and the Giant Peach.

I love “liking” you, your kid’s self-portrait, your sassy haircut, your super-slim new self, your singing the national anthem or dancing a salsa. What we have is precious and rare. I have lunch with you when I’m passing through town or attend your church service or sweat by your side at boot camp. I pray for health, healing and happiness for you and all your family.

No virtual affair, this. You are more real to me than the orange monarch flirting with the red geranium outside my window. You are more entertaining than the joyful shrieks of my children tickling one another in the other room, who, because of my obsession with you, are rendered an interruption, an annoyance. I have eyes only for you, not the sunlight filtering trough the silver-edge clouds nor do I see the traffic light turn green. I will of course hear the unnecessary honking behind me, see the glaring red face in my rearview mirror and spend the next ten minutes irritated. Back at home with you, I am deaf to the rhythmic swoosh of the dishwasher, oblivious to the wondrous fact that it was loaded and started by someone other than me.

To give up what we have, would be devastating, even dangerous. Devoid of you, my mind vulnerable to the flickering flame of an idea, inspiration could ignite, imagination whisper its sweet breath, revelation explode laying my heart and soul bare. And yet, here I am without you, left alone with my thoughts. Oh what hath God wrought?

working mom

She puts on her custom-made, pinstriped Italian suit and leaves her sleeping baby for her dream job. On the southbound Metro North train, she checks messages on her Blackberry, reads three newspapers and edits a proposal. In the City with briefcase in one hand, Starbucks in the other, she makes her way carefully down 51st Avenue in high heels because New York women do not wear sneakers, not ever. Outside the office overlooking Rockefeller Plaza, Toby Maguire chases Kirsten Dunst down the street shooting a scene from Spiderman. In the twelfth floor conference room, she holds a meeting with her team. Their work has been less than acceptable; the client is not pleased, but it’s nothing to them. They’re not the ones the client calls at home after ten p.m. They resent the “smack-down,” her expensive grown-up clothes, her window office, her rapid departure most days at the stroke of five.

None of them will ever know that the suit is from a consignment store or that she spends her lunch hour on a park bench across the street crying. They imagine her day is done when she bolts out the door, barely making it home in time to give the baby her bedtime bottle. She folds laundry, finishes a report and falls asleep by nine. In the morning, when they totter into the office in their mortgaged Jimmy Choos two hours after she does, she imagines them the night before heads and hips bobbing in some trendy Manhattan nightclub. It doesn’t occur to her that they went there straight from the office about the time she was going to bed.

“Shut up,” the stay-at-home moms in her neighborhood tell her when she laments that she has to attend another client event, a Caribbean cruise. They imagine her in one of the cocktail dresses they’ve lent her – spit-up free – clinking wine goblets and chatting –uninterrupted – with Whoopi Goldberg who happens to be the ship’s godmother. She imagines them reading Goodnight Moon to their babies.

Eventually she leaves it all – the impersonal five-star hotels, the second-hand designer clothes, the red-eye flights across the Atlantic, the sixty-hour weeks (not counting grocery shopping, laundry and dirty dishes) – to stay home with her second baby, already two-years-old. Before long though, she thinks she can’t take another day of building block towers and knocking them down again. She puts her toddler in full-time pre-school, takes on a few free-lance projects, scores a trip back to Manhattan from Florida where she lives now.

Getting off the plane at LaGuardia, she is swept along by the current of people, all of them wearing black. The airport corridors are gray. Outside, the streets are lined with dirty piles of snow. When did all the color drain from the City? In the cab, she is choked by a hazy film of smoke.

Back home, she reluctantly agrees to be first grade room mom, but “only if no one else volunteers” (in the future, she will know better). After that, she concedes to Brownie troop leader, but only as an “assistant" (she's still not that smart.) She buys a Saturn crossover. At least it’s not a mini van, but when she starts chauffeuring school carpool, she regrets her vanity. Not enough to prevent her from getting super-long hair extensions, losing fifteen pounds, buying skinny jeans and spending every single second that her girls are at school trying to write a novel. She finishes it, starts a second, gets a few minor recognitions, but still, she is a long way from being published. She knows it will just take time, hours and hours at the keyboard for the next two or three years, maybe four or five now that she’s teaching Sunday school, frosting cupcakes, sewing Halloween costumes, chaperoning field trips, planning parties brought to you by the letter “P”, hosting spa-themed sleepovers, French-braiding hair, embellishing flip-flops for charity, making McDonald’s deliveries during the kids’ lunch hour, setting up book fairs, and supervising projects on animals, artists, astronauts, continents, discoverers, explorers, monarchs, pilgrims, pioneers, pirates and planets.

“Just exploring,” she says when she goes to the home-school convention. The girls have already met their next year’s teachers at the high-ranked elementary school where they’ve been lucky enough to win seats by lottery. When she leaves the convention with a crate full of books, a card-carrying member of the home educator’s association, she calculates she'll be nearing sixty by the time she publishes anything.

“No thank you,” she says when she is asked if she would teach a group of homeschoolers one morning a week. Teaching her own children has already whittled away most of writing time. She doesn’t even say, “I’ll pray about it” the way people do when they want to get out of something gracefully. A month later, prompted by nothing but an overwhelming feeling of obligation, she volunteers for the teaching role after all. Then, for the entire summer, she worries and wonders if it were the devil that made her do it. She can sense that her mother, who is always telling her she needs to make more time for herself, that she has to write, is concerned, too. Her worries only increase as the school year nears, all the planning and prep work pushing her novel farther and farther out of sight.

The first day of class comes and goes in a blur. She leads the kids in Charlemagne charades, chanting the seven biomes, performing mathematical calisthenics, running around a tree with a string as though they were satellites, doing a conga line to the parts of speech. At the end of the morning, when someone asks if she is tired, no one is more surprised than she when she answers sincerely, “I’m energized!” The next week, she can’t wait to see her students Bubba, Norman, Nebuchadnezzar, Jethro, Jeremiah, Sallie Mae, Lillie Mae and Henrietta, and they seem pretty happy to see Mrs. what’s-her-name, too. They all – teacher and students both – hopscotch, leapfrog and jumping-jack their way through Latin, math, geography, science and English grammar facts, they draw "–ish" pictures (clown-ish, cat-ish, flower-ish, fish-ish) and are fascinated by the infiniteness of the universe and its Creator.

She may be seventy by the time she finishes the first novel, and she has at least a half-dozen novels in her now waiting to be birthed. God willing, that’s just the beginning. She plans to live to the age of one hundred, but still, she sometimes worries she's running out of time. Then one day her daughter tells her that when she gets to heaven, she’s excited to read all the books her favorite authors wrote after they got there. In that moment, she realizes she will never, ever run out of time.

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Today, I'm guest-blogging over at the Florida Parent Educator's site. I'm especially proud of this piece and hope you'll do me the honor of reading!

Fresh squeezed

At my parents’ house in Tennessee where I spent the last month, mornings are my favorite time. I wake when the sun’s rays break through the fog to reach my pillow, linger in bed a few thoughts than go for a run through the woods or swim in the warm still lake. By the time I get back, the coffee is brewing and my folks are stirring, Mom sitting on the porch and Dad scrambling eggs or burning blueberry pancakes. Even though I know this is the daily routine, whether I’m there or not, it feels as if they are waiting for me, that their day can begin now that I am home and that mine will be better for being in the security of their presence.

When Lu wakes, she seeks me first before cartoons, Cheerios or even the bathroom, leaping out of bed and into my lap. She snuggles against my chest while I rub her back, stroke her cheek, sniff her head. Some mornings, I climb to her loft where she nests amid a mound of blankets and stuffed animals. When I whisper into her ear, “Mommy loves you,” she stretches and sighs, sits up with a smile, then scampers down the ladder into my arms, wrapping her legs around my waist like a baby monkey. For a few minutes, we sit quietly together, LuLu pressed against me, not asking for a thing, not arguing, not complaining, not one word, blessedly, mercifully quiet. Eventually, she’ll tell me to quit touching her hair and that my breath stinks. Still, I know that her first desire of the day is nothing but to be with me.

Home from the lake, I woke this morning anxious and alone, Keith at work, Evie at camp, Lu in her nest, Mom and Dad eating eggs two states away. There is so much to be done after a month away and a new home-school year underfoot. I am sitting on the lanai trying to corral my thoughts and tame my to-do’s when LuLu in purple polka-dot pajamas scampers through the sliding door and onto my lap. It hits me, how morning after morning, I wake hurrying headlong into the dirty breakfast dishes, un-made beds, piles of laundry and lists, oh the endless lists. Rushing right on by my Father who waits there for me, quietly, inviting me into his arms, to lay back against Him and breathe, drink from the cup of fresh-squeezed grace he pours out for me every morning.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” Mark 6:31


You are the sultry enveloping heat, the warm whispered breeze through the palms, the lighting, frighteningly magnificent, that tears the sky. You are the ruffled hawk gazing down from the oak, the scent of jasmine and gardenia. God, You are so beautiful, I whisper with outstretched arms.

“I am Edward,” the still small voice answers. Edward, wearing breakfast crumbs in his beard, whose shirt is stained and un-tucked over his large stomach. Edward who smells of urine and the streets where he shuffles head down, alone, battling the demons that wrestle for his soul. I met Edward, who lives in a group home in a not-so-nice part of St. Pete, at our downtown church there.

I tried to love Edward. I embraced him, brought him food and a Bible inscribed with his name, asked him to sit beside me at church. He lost the Bible within days but his grocery list grew longer and more specific. “Tomato soup please, and some of those microwave dinners, English muffins and powdered donuts, too.” I held his hand through the “Our Father,” but the next week he wanted to hold it through all of service. For the rest of the day, his scent clung, no matter how many times I washed my hands. When I moved to Naples, I did not find any Edwards at my country club church, and was relieved.

Sometimes, when I try to imagine what Jesus looked like, Edward springs to mind. I try to shake the image – I want my God handsome and charming. Yet I wonder how many who met Him saw Edward, dirty, homeless and half out of His mind. I see God in the beauty of nature or art, in music or architecture – even in my children (usually when they’re asleep), but I forget He’s present in the ugly. He’s in the squinty-eyed librarian who makes LuLu cry because we returned our books in the wrong slot. He’s in the greasy-haired teen who cut me off in the parking lot, holding his middle finger out the window and shouting. He’s in the woman with the acne-pocked face who lies on the sofa smoking and cursing at her children. I can’t do it, I can’t love them, I think, and God asks, “Would you love me if I weren’t beautiful?”

*Photo by Tom Stone


20) Getting my kids out the door at 7:30 a.m. on summer vacation
19) The fragrant aroma of 300 sweaty kids.
18) Cleaning the cowboy boots of the little girl who peed her pants.
17) Wearing the same Hanes beefy t-shirt five days in a row.
16) Gluing together cheap kits from Oriental Trading Company
15) Smiling pleasantly at the disgruntled parent who asks for the name of my supervisor when I tell her she can’t move her child to a different group.
14) Dancing like a member of the new Mickey Mouse Club.
13) Weakly plotted animated films starring jousting chipmunks.
12) The mother who’s picking up 12 kids from five different families without a claim card or any idea which crew they’re in.
11) Breaking up the teenage couple who seems to think a church filled with 300 kids is the perfect place for romance.
10) Trying to remember whether Sir Valliant is the horse, the hawk, or the bulldog.
9) Cleaning Goldfish crackers off the gym floor.
8) Playing duck-duck-goose outside on a balmy 115 degree day.
7) Rice Krispie bars, Chex Mix and Drumsticks
6) The bored and indifferent 14-year-old boy who has a surprising knack with little kids.
5) The sweet girl who, unprompted, gave her hula-hoop away when we were short one.
4) Turning tears into smiles with a Band-aid and a hug.
3) Holding the sobbing little boy who misses his daddy who left him when he was three.
2) The sound of a little angel singing, “Jesus is my savior” in the bathroom stall when she didn’t know anyone was listening.
1) The beautiful children, thank God for the children!


          A woman went to her pastor for advice. She was angry with her husband. Maybe he forgot their anniversary. Maybe he paid just a little too much attention to the leggy waitress at Applebees. I don’t know what he did, and it doesn’t matter anyway. The important part of the story is the pastor’s advice: “If you can’t forgive you husband,” he said, “could you bake him a cake or fold his socks?”

For a long time, I’ve been working on forgiving two people. One is a former “mentor” who tried to sabotage my career, getting me fired from one company and successfully blackballing me from another. The other is my sister. We’ve not spoken since a cousin’s wedding nearly eight years ago. Every now and then, my girls remember their mom has a sister, and they ask about Aunt Julie. She’s an architect in Chicago, I tell them. They think it’s funny that she’s younger than I but taller. Evie wants to see Aunt Julie’s sewing; Lu wants to sample her gourmet cooking. “Why don’t you ever talk?” they both want to know.

I don’t think either Julie or I could really tell you why. She might say I don’t understand her, that I expect too much, which is probably true. She might also say that we have nothing in common which is not very true and even if it were, we’re sisters. I’m not angry. I’ve forgiven her, I tell myself, but I haven’t baked her any cakes. Or called or even sent a note. I’m scared -- afraid that if I reach out, I’ll say the wrong thing, or she will and the chasm will widen. So we sit at this same impasse year after year.

In the absence of Alzheimers or a head injury, I don’t think I’m capable of true forgiveness, the kind that wipes all wrongdoing from memory and restores my heart and mind to the manufacturer’s original settings. The kind of forgiveness found in Christ. Still, forgiveness must be more than a feeling or a thought, more than something I say I’ve done without having really done anything at all. All I can think to do is pray, seven times seventy times, for a new heart, for my sister’s health, happiness and prosperity and that someday, we’ll sit face to face and talk. I won’t be sending a birthday card or baked goods, but at least I’ll be doing something. After all, forgive is a verb.


You’ve just served dinner when the phone rings. Your kids cut off your adult conversations every third sentence. Your friend pulls out the cell phone to text in the middle of coffee. Interruptions are so aggravating!

One morning, I was hanging out in my favorite coffee shop with my imaginary friends – the ones in my novel – when Keith, who was supposed to be at work, walked in to tell me he’d lost his job. Talk about an interruption. Just like that, I put the novel on the shelf and started making other plans. I’d get a job. We’d buy a franchise – something thrilling and useful like a donut shop or aluminum siding services. Whatever it took to stay in St. Pete.

I told this story not so long ago, the one about the four pelicans that took off right before me flying in the opposite direction of home. I was overwhelmed with the certainty that we were those birds, that God was saying “It’s time to go.” The journey down to Naples has taken me a long way from that coffee shop where I used to write, to my kitchen, couch or bed where I home school my girls, the last vocation I could have ever imagined for myself. The story hasn’t changed but my outlook has.

What if Keith had walked into the coffee shop that day to tell me he’d just won $590 million in the Powerball? What if Steven Spielburg pulled up a chair and said he wanted to buy the movie rights to my book? What if the Master of the universe tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to partner in building His kingdom? Suppose he hand-picked two little girls for me alone to teach and inspire, to train them up in the way they should go.

In the midst of all our plans, He taps us on the shoulder. We call it interruption when it’s nothing short of divine intervention. Abraham and Sarah were looking at retirement property when God told them to pull up stakes, and oh by he way, you’re having a baby. They never dreamed they would father a nation. Moses thought he’d left Egypt in his rearview mirror but God sent him back to get the rest of the clan. That stuttering soft-heart led his people to the gates of the promised land and went down in history as the greatest prophet of all times. Mary was practicing up-dos for her wedding when Gabriel told her God was giving her a baby bump first.

Dear God, thank you for reminding me that the only way to a significant life is through your intervention. Please help me to live out your interruptions with anticipation, gratitude and delight. “The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9